Saturday, November 24, 2012

Hannover Zoo

Yesterday I spent my day with my host family. I joined them for breakfast, after which my host dad gave me a tour of his company. Then, we picked up his daughter from school. After spending some time at the house, we all gathered into the car and headed over to the zoo! By the time we got there, the zoo was only open for another hour and a half, so we moved FAST. It was just fine though- we saw and did more than I thought!

I am mostly just going to put up pictures, but my favorite parts of the day were going into the Pelican exhibit (eh, nobody was around to stop us- it was a bit scary though because those things can seriously take a giant nip out of your leg!), watching the polar bear show and visiting the underwater world, and checking out the cool monkey house.

The evening was lovely when we returned back to the house. I spent a lot of time with my host mom and host grandma drinking coffee and eating home baked Christmas cookies! They were delicious (sehr lecker)!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Paris, je t'aime!

I haven't written on this blog for a little while now because I have been so busy with my research project and course work. Right now I'm in the process of finishing my final poster presentations for about half of my classes, and I'm also preparing to begin work on my final research achievement paper on emotional expression/recognition.

HOWEVER, I did have a pretty amazing weekend. I went to Paris! Finally! I've only taken French since 7th grade! On Friday my friend Quinn and I had a morning flight and arrived in beautiful Paris around 2:30 in the afternoon (there was a layover in Frankfurt). I realized when we landed that I had written down directions to the wrong hotel! I can't believe I didn't double check before leaving. Thank God Quinn had all the right info so we took a bus from the airport to the Paris Opera. From there, it took us a little while to navigate the metro system (and find a metro station), but eventually we arrived at the (right) hotel. After dropping off our stuff, we headed to a French restaurant to get food and drinks. However, the kitchen was already closed so we just ordered drinks instead before making our way over to the Eiffel Tower :) I was very happy that I was able to make use of my French skills there!

It was so exciting to see the Eiffel Tower from afar on our way over (after stopping for Chinese food first!). It is so beautiful that sometimes it looks surreal. Every hour, the tower lights up and sparkles at night. It really is breathtaking.

Aren't the lights so pretty?! Also, there were also hundreds and hundreds of bear statues in front of the tower. The bears represented our world and each one was a different country. I really liked the Netherlands bear!

After spending some time admiring the tower and walking around the main plaza, we walked all the way to the Arc de Triomphe (located in the main center of Place de Charles de Gaulle). It is a famous monument that honors the men who fought and died for France during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. It serves as the important center for victory marches, including marches by not only the French, but also Germans (1800s) and Americans (allies with France during the World Wars). It was stunning at night, especially with its glowing lights against the black sky:

Since we were right there, we walked along Champs-Élyséés, admiring all the stores. At one point I stopped and watched an entire breakdance routine! These guys were amazing. I took 2 videos but I can't seem to upload them successfully to this page! Regardless, they were very fun to watch and they got a lot of laughs out of the huge crowd that gathered around them.

I went into a Virgin Records store and browsed around for a little while. There were also some really beautiful Christmas lights outside of some of the stores (Christmas in Paris!!). It was getting late though and we had a long day the next day. We began the long walk back to the hotel. By the time it was close to midnight, it was so foggy outside that you couldn't even see the top of the Eiffel Tower! The Seine was pretty at night because some of the boat houses cast lovely reflections on the water.

Fortunately it did not rain as I had anticipated on Saturday. Saturday morning, after a very French breakfast of croissants and other breads, cheeses, and jellies, we made our way over the The Louvre. On our way, we passed some BEAUTIFUL pathways and parks. Some of the trees on these quiet side paths had leaves with vibrant colors of greens, reds, yellows, and oranges. I really liked that about Paris: how the city can be so busy, yet has all these parks and paths set aside that are quiet and reflective. What I also loved were the number of bridges over the Seine connecting the parts of the city. So many of the bridges had locks on them. You are supposed to write a message on the lock, hook it to the bridge, and then throw the key into the water! Before finally reaching the Louvre, we also passed the Musée d'Orsay. We ended up going there Sunday, so that's coming later :)


The Louvre was immense and very beautiful. For those not familiar with it, outside the Louvre are more beautiful open gardens and paths with fountains and quaint little benches. It also has the glass pyramid entrance that lights up at night.


 Because we are studying for the semester in Germany, Quinn and I were able to get into the Louvre for FREE! This was fantastic news and my wallet was very thankful. We ended up staying in the museum for around 2 hours and saw a LOT. There were the paintings, of course, but there were also sections dedicated to rooms and rooms of Greek/Roman art, Ancient Egyptian artifacts, African art, and South American/Mexican art. And yes I saw the Mona Lisa!!


Would a trip to France really be complete without playing with French puppies? I found a pet store on the way from the Louvre to the Notre Dame. Of course I went in and spoke entirely in French to the vet there, which I'm really proud of! I wish I could take all the animals home with me, but it was fun to play with them and hold them for a little while =)


After that precious adventure, we stopped and had amazing Nutella crepes.

We then walked onwards until we reached the Notre Dame Cathedral! I have visited a lot of famous churches and cathedrals since my time abroad, but being in the famous Notre Dame has a special place in my heart. The stained glass windows are enormous, and the cathedral also houses relics from famous Saints in their immaculate Treasury Room. I definitely spent quite some time in the cathedral admiring every next beautiful item, or window, or structure that encompassed the entire building. One day I hope to go back and make my way up to the tower. The line was very long at the time and the weather was a bit overcast, so hopefully I will have more luck next time. Regardless of weather, everything about the Notre Dame is just beautiful.


                   A piece of Jesus' cross is contained in this golden closure.

After the Notre Dame, Quinn and I really wanted to see the Catacombs. After pushing though a HUGE rally on the school system and budget problems, we finally made it to the Catacomb find that it was closed. So now we had to figure out what else we would like to do. We decided to head over the natural history museum for a little while. The area on the way to the museum had some more beautiful paths and gardens:


However, when we got to the museum, we saw that the exhibit we wanted to go to was also closed. Since we had a few hours to kill before meeting my friend Marisa from Wellesley, we took out the map and looked at some options near where we were going to meet Marisa. We decided to make our way to the Bastille monument and get dinner in the area.


 The night sky was a beautiful blue with all of the lights reflecting in the city. Seeing the Colonne de Juillet (July Comumn) was really nice: it isn't enormous, but it is a monument to the 1830 Revolution and subsequent fall of Charles X. In the whole Place de la Bastille area, we found a small French restaurant and ordered delicious French food (I had salmon and a salad). Then we made our way over to the Latin Quarter to meet Marisa!

Marisa is studying abroad for a semester as well, and it was really so nice to see another student from Wellesley. She took Quinn and me around to the popular bar spots and we all talked over drinks and shared our abroad experiences thus far. So many more memories were made that night- our French waiter at the first bar is to thank for that. I don't have any pictures of this, so you'll just have to take my word for it: he kept coming by our table being very flirty with me and asking me a million questions. At one point when I was washing my hands in the rest room, he kicked open the ladies room door and walked right over to me, pulled me close to him, and confessed his love for me. It was hysterical but also rather strange. Marisa said a lot of the French waiters are like that (or some French boys in general), but it was a really funny experience! After we left that bar/restaurant (much to the waiter's dismay), we made our way to another small bar and sat outside. I don't even remember everything we talked about, except I met one of my research advisor's (from Jacobs) friends! He was sitting at the table next to ours and I spoke to him in both German and French. He would speak only German and French to the three of us as well, which is very helpful and great practice. He had so many interesting things to say. What a small world meeting my adviser's colleague...

It wasn't extremely late when we eventually left, but I was exhausted! What a fun night. Again, it was so nice seeing another Wellesley friend and catching up. We all had a great time!!!

Fortunately I was able to sleep in the next morning. Checkout wasn't until 10 or 11. After breakfast, Quinn and I headed back to see the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe in the daylight.


There was also a Christmas Market along Champs-Élyséés! The weather was awful though- pouring rain and foggy. I wish I could have stopped some more to buy a few things, but I will just have to wait until the Hamburg and Bremen Christmas Markets. I still thought all the stands were pretty though! It must be really stunning on a clear night with all those Christmas lights in the market stalls.

Next we headed over to the Musée d'Orsay!

 I really enjoyed this museum. The art work was more "nouveau" and "impressionist" than the art work at the Louvre. I got to see some of the famous paintings by my favorite painter Georges Seurat. In the museum I was able to see his "Petite esquisse," "Le cirque," and "Une Baignade, Asnières." I also saw more works by van Gogh and Picasso. There were of course beautiful sculptures there as well, but the museum certainly had a great focus on the development of paintings over the hundreds of decades.

Once we left the museum (which by the way we also got into for free!), it was time to head back to the airport. With Marisa's help, Quinn found the metro line that would take us back to Charles de Gaulle airport. Then we began our way back to Bremen!

I had such an incredible weekend. I wasn't sure if I was going to make it to Paris this semester, but I'm so happy and thankful that I did. I feel like going was a great accomplishment and the fact that I did so much in two days makes that accomplishment worth even more. I feel refreshed. Cheers to great friends, great travels, and to the absolutely gorgeous city I will return to one day soon!

À bientôt! <3

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Bremer Freimarkt

17 days in the last 2 weeks of October, Bremen celebrates its traditional Bremer Freimarkt. It was first held in 1035 and is the oldest fair in Germany. I went with friends about a week ago, but last night I went again with my host parents. It was so much fun! I learned some new German vocabulary, drank new kinds of beer, ate new foods, and even went on some of the rides with my host dad (we both love roller coasters). Essentially, Freimarkt has given me a couple fun nights. Here are some of the pictures from my celebrations:


 One of the traditional German festival goodies is Lebkuchen (gingerbread). You can buy these heart shaped cookies with different messages on them, so I bought an "Ich liebe Dich" one for my boyfriend, and my host mother bought me one that says "Darling." They really aren't good to eat, more for admiring how pretty and traditionally German they look!

My host father and I went on that looping roller coaster as well. It was well worth the 6,50 euros per person. I had so much fun- I have no idea how safe those carnival rides actually are, but I love rides and definitely took a chance! So worth it!

This is my friend Fiona and me a week ago after buying Lebkuchen and chocolate covered fruit!

When my friends Fiona, Quinn, Jeff, and I had gone to Freimarkt together, we drank the traditional Glühwein, which literally translates to "glow-wine." To be clear, I am not drinking two- one is Jeff's because he was so kind to take this picture. Quinn and I also went on that ride over there called "Airwolf" which was fun- it was such a long ride though- I feel like festivals in the U.S. never let you stay on the best rides for too long. This was certainly a different experience!


That sign in the first picture says "Rossbratwürstchen." That means horse-meat. My host parents really liked it when they tried it, so of course, wanting to experience a new German-something, I tried it last night too. It actually wasn't bad. It tasted like a hot-dog (or from what I can remember of a hot-dog, considering I haven't eaten pork or beef in almost 8 years).

 I also tried a new kind of beer: I don't remember what the name of it was, but it was very good. It was a light beer with strawberries at the bottom. It even came with a spoon so you can scoop them out. My host parents and I also went on the ferris wheel together and saw all of the Freimarkt from the very top. It was so beautiful, but a little terrifying considering there were 8 people total crammed into a very small ferris wheel seat that did go quite high up. Oh, and I learned that ferris wheel in German is Reisenrad! The swings were also cool- they go a lot higher than they look- about 100 m up into the sky.

The best part was getting into the Bavarian House. THAT was an experience. The tent was huge. There were two bands, one on each side of the tent that would take turns playing songs. They sang traditional German songs, as well as American songs (they played "Sweet Caroline!"). It was tons of fun- people kept coming up to me clinking my beer mug and singing and giving hugs. There was also a lot of dancing. My host parents were having a blast as well singing the songs and talking to all the people coming up to us. The German guys who were coming up to me were fascinated when they learned I come from NY. I had to reject a few dance offers though ;)

The guy with the red bandana was named Matthias. He had me cracking up for most of the time I was there because he did this bizarre pogo-dance for every song. My host parents and I couldn't stop laughing. The guy in the last picture---yeah, I haven't any idea who that was. He just grabbed me and insisted on us taking a picture. Okay!

After the Bavarian House, my host parents and I went to the Maus Haus. This is literally a small bedroom-sized room with a giant glass tank in the center that houses 300 mice. It was really very cute watching them run on wheels, sleep on each other, and climb little structures like fake trees and castles. One of the mice kept running in a circle. The animal care-taker in the room said that particular mouse only runs in the evening, and will only run in the left direction. Very strange. I was disappointed I wasn't allowed to take pictures though. It was a bizarre sight.

I finally got back to Jacobs after midnight. I had originally believed I would be back at 10 pm or so. I was really tired, but as usual, I had a great night with my host parents. I look forward to seeing them again!!

Ischa Freimarkt! <3