Category Archives: Travelling

Off to the Dominican Republic

By   April 15, 2009


Be back Monday night!

Tentative Travel Schedule

By   April 4, 2009

I’m trying not to go crazy with stress about David’s job placement but I am seriously scared that someone else is going to want Chambéry and David will end up in Caen or Nantes or Paris (no offense to anyone who lives in those cities – it’s just that they are really far from my work!) And then we’d have to find two apartments and live apart until May 2010. ::sigh::

I know there is no use worrying now since I can’t do anything about it. But Toulouse was just replaced with Saint-Denis (yes, Saint-Denis in LA REUNION) on the liste définitive, which leaves only Digne-les-bains, Chambéry and Lyon in the southern half of France. All the rest are in the northern half. Usually, the candidats choose the city that is closest to their current domicile so that they won’t be too far away from their family. This is actually why Saint-Denis was added to the list. But what if someone from mainland France actually wants to go there and that person in La Réunion must then come to France??

I know for a fact that someone ranked higher than David who lives in Ardennes wants to move to the south where there’s sun, so he’s going for Digne first and Chambéry second. And if one other person wants to move to the “south” s/he will choose Chambéry (which isn’t actually the south and there’s not much sun there anyway) because geographically, it is furthest south after Digne. Lyon is most likely out too, since there’s a candidat who lives in Lyon who is also higher than David on the list. I know I’m over-thinking this and should just stop, but I can’t.

I’ve tried to keep my mind occupied with my trips this spring and summer, but they are starting to stress me out too. I’m worried about the Dominican Republic in an extremely irrational fit of paranoia because of what happened to Céline et Sarah. And the others are hard to plan because I don’t know where I’ll be living in a month, so it’s a bit difficult to buy train and plane tickets when I don’t know my city of departure!

April 15-20: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic [brother’s wedding at Riu Palace Macao]

May 18-30: Milan, Lake Como, Genoa, Nice, Monaco, Cannes, Aix-en-Provence, Montpellier, Nîmes, Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, Carcassone, Toulouse, Cerbère [train & road trip with Michelle & Jason]

June 7-15: Istanbul, Turkey [with Jason to see Martha]

July 20-August 9: Michigan, Virginia [sister’s wedding at House Mountain Inn], Washington D.C.

I did buy a GPS though, and I made all the hotel and car rental reservations for the May trip. That’s something, at least…

As 2008 Ends…

By   December 31, 2008

I’ve got 2009 already planned as the Year of Travel. The second semester begins January 19 and finishes at the end of April. We’re going to the Dominican Republic during spring break for my brother’s wedding. I’ve got a few exams – maybe two days? – to proctor in May & June, but in the meantime, I’ll be visiting Milan, Lisbon, and all the southern cities of France with Michelle, my roommate from Flint whom I haven’t seen since early 2006.

I’m also going to Istanbul to see Martha (she of Freiburg fame), probably at the beginning of June. Then in July, we’re going to Quebec City, Montreal, Michigan, Virginia and Washington D.C. for my sister’s wedding. August will be my month to recuperate before going back to work mid-September. I haven’t decide yet where we’ll spend Christmas. I’d love to go back to Michigan, but it all depends on how much I can save over the year.

Since I’ve always been really good at saving money, I believe I have enough saved already for these trips. And luckily, travelling in Europe can be so amazingly cheap. A roundtrip ticket to Lisbon from Geneva is only 60 €. I can fly to another country for SIXTY EUROS. That’s how much we just paid for an electric fondue pot. And I hope the TSA really does end or at least amend the ridiculous liquid ban in 2009 so that flying won’t be such a pain (especially for those of us who only take carry-on). It’s usually cheaper to fly in Europe rather than take the train, but at least there’s no liquid ban on trains!

And to help me get through the long flights across the ocean, I decided to buy myself a Sony Reader with my Christmas money and gift cards. I didn’t have to pay very much for it, and it will allow me to be an even better light packer with my personal rule of carry-on only (except when going to Michigan of course, so I can bring back more goodies to France.)

And now I’m looking on to 2010. Unfortunately, it will bring the end of my job in September, but I also hope it brings us one step closer to immigrating to Quebec. I still have so many places to see in Europe before we leave for good though. Strasbourg, Munich, Prague, Krakow, Bratislava, Ljubljana, Split, Dubrovnik, Athens, Edinburgh, Belfast, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo, Helsinki, Tallin… and I can’t forget Lille, the D-Day Beaches, and Mont St. Michel in Northern France…

Living in Europe certainly has its perks when it comes to travel. I don’t want to regret missing out on all of these places because we never know what will happen or where life will take us. Maybe we will move to North America within 2 years, maybe not. Either way, I want to take advantage of what I can do now in case it becomes impossible in the future. I’m not going to put things off any longer. I need to start living for today instead of next month or next year. Anyway, that’s my attitude going into 2009!

Sylvie et Emeric Autour du Monde

By   October 29, 2008

Back in July, two of David’s friends took off on a tour du monde (trip around the world). This seems to be pretty common as I’ve heard of many French people/couples who do it. I have no idea how they afford it though!

Sylvie & Emeric started their trip in New York, with visits to Boston, Baltimore, Montreal and D.C. Then they flew down to Chili, Bolivia and Argentina. Currently, they’re in French Polynesia. Then after a month in Australia & New Zealand, they’ll spend 4 months traveling throughout several Asian countries. Finally, they’ll finish with a few days in Finland and Sardinia before returning to France nearly an entire year after they left. They are keeping a blog throughout their trip (if you read French or just want to see pretty photos): SEAM…

I love to travel, but not for more than a few weeks at a time. I miss home too much. I miss my cat, my books, my own bed – just the familiarity of things, really. I’d love to visit all those countries too (and many others), but not in one trip around the world. Plus I would have a really hard time deciding which countries to go to and which ones I couldn’t possibly fit in because of lack of time or money. Basically, I want to go everywhere and see everything.

I’m pretty fortunate that I have already visited several countries: Canada, Ireland, England, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France (just Paris, Provence and my own région though), Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Italy and Egypt. And thanks to my siblings’ weddings and friends who live overseas, I will be visiting these places in 2009:

  • Dominican Republic
  • Turkey
  • Scotland & Northern Ireland
  • Washington D.C. (and maybe Boston)

The European destinations are really cheap thanks to low-cost airlines and free accommodation. The ones across the ocean – not so much. But those are for the weddings, so seeing family is more important than saving money.

Provençal Villages, Arles & Van Gogh’s Room

By   July 11, 2008

We’ve returned from our week in Provence!  Last year we mostly visited the larger cities (Avignon, Orange, etc.), so this year we visited many of the smaller villages in Vaucluse (74), and then drove down to Salon-de-Provence and Arles in Bouches-du-Rhône (13).

The beauty of Provençal villages never gets old to me. The colors, the flowers, the countryside, the weather, the tranquility – all of it makes me want to move there tomorrow.

The last village we visited, Séguret, is considered one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France. And I would have to agree. Even the town’s mairie has an adorable sign above its door.

Another reason I love traveling in France is all of the historical information you come across. Of course, it’s always amazing to see Roman ruins that are thousands of years old, but I’m more interested in the people who lived here. I had forgotten that Van Gogh spent some time in Arles and that Nostradamus had settled in Salon-de-Provence, but the cities definitely reminded me.

Right next to the arena in Arles is a reconstruction of Van Gogh’s room, which you can visit for 2,80 €. It was actually really neat to see.

Obviously we didn’t make it down to Camargues or over to Aix-en-Provence like we had planned. Maybe next year…Now it’s back to the real world of catching up on paperwork, e-mails and blogs!

The rest of the pictures are here: Provence 2008 Photo Album

French Postcards from the Early 20th Century

By   July 8, 2008

David & I are down in Provence for the week at his mom’s cousin’s (Bobby & Martine) house in Sarrians, in the département of Vaucluse. The weather is perfect (hot and sunny), the sound of the cigales (cicadas) is so relaxing, and we have trips to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, Salon-de-Provence, Aix-en-Provence and L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue planned. I have no idea why there are so many hyphens in these names.

Today we went to the big Provençal market in Bédoin, where I limited myself to only spending 6 €. This afternoon, we were looking at some old postcards that were sent between the eventual grandparents of Martine around the time of World War I (most of them date to 1914.) I think they are the coolest things ever. [Click on images for full size pictures.]

A sampling of the fake color photos on French postcards of the early 20th century

Happy New Year, April Fool’s, French Army, and babies in a bag.

Lesson for boys: Romantic things to say.

French penmanship. Can you read this?

Even if you can read the words, can you understand what it means?  “Je viens de recevoir ta lettre à l’instant et je te fais réponse de suite pour te tranquilliser au sujet de ta lettre du 1er août. Je ne t’en parles pas sur ta dernière lettre car ce n’est qu’à la derniere que je te fais réponse…” Uh, what?

The best part was finding a series of postcards with this guy on them:

“Look honey, I’m opening your letter with care.”

“And now I’m holding it close to my heart.”

“And now I am actually reading it with this ridiculous smile on my face.”

“It’s a new day, as evidenced by my suddenly green tie, and I’m writing you back with this large feather pen and a pensive, yet still corny, look on my face.”

“And to prove how much I love you, I’m including a FLOWER in my letter!”

Like I said, these postcards are the coolest things ever.

Happy 400th Anniversary, Quebec City!

By   July 3, 2008

Quebec City is 400 years old! Quebec City was founded by French explorer Samuel de Champlain on July 3, 1608, making it one of the earliest established settlements in North America.

Some of you may know that I adore all things Quebec. The language, the food, the landscape. It’s just a great place. When or if David & I decide to leave France, Quebec is at the top of my list of places I want to live in. It’s a perfect combination of France and North America for me – it has all of the things I love about both.

I studied at Université Laval in Quebec City during the summer of 2003 in a special program for French as a Foreign Language. In fact, it somewhat served as my study abroad even though it was not technically “abroad” and I actually drove there from Flint. My best friend, Bradley, went with me and I mostly remember us just taking random funny photos all over campus and getting lost in the suburbs of Quebec City at midnight after hopping on the wrong bus. And we attended French classes everyday, of course!  Well, I did, at least…

Tunnels connect the various buildings on campus so you don’t have to walk outside in the winter. Or so you can play around with your camera after classes in the summer…

Most of the tunnels have beautiful murals painted on the walls, all done by university students.

On the St. Lawrence, the most recognizable building in Quebec City is the Château Frontenac, which is actually a hotel and not a real castle. It sure is pretty at night though, eh?

There seemed to be a new festival every weekend during the summer, so there was always something to do. And the ramparts around Old Quebec are still standing, so you can walk on top of them around the city. It’s also classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Another reason to love Quebec City is the extremely low crime rate. NO murders were reported in 2007. As an American from the 3rd most dangerous city in the US, I find that amazing.

And just FYI, the Fête nationale du Québec, a.k.a. la St-Jean, is June 24 and not July 1st, which is the Fête nationale du Canada. There is a huge difference between the two!

Adventures in Germany

By   June 28, 2008

I just returned from a wonderful week in Germany. Last Friday, I traveled through Switzerland on my way to Freiburg for the EWCA conference. Because the Euro Cup is being hosted in Switzerland & Austria, I saw many, many flags and soccer signs all over the place. My favorite was the huge soccer ball above the jet d’eau in Geneva.

I met up with Martha, my co-presenter and good friend from Michigan, at the station in Freiburg and we made our way back to the hotel to finish preparing for our presentation (“Tutors, Training and Border Crossings: Beyond the Textual Relationship”) the next morning. We stayed in the hotel restaurant most of the evening and were treated to polka music and a tour group singing beautiful Welsh songs. Their bus driver actually got me to lead a conga line at one point.  Needless to say, I wasn’t able to accomplish much concerning our presentation, but I had a lot of fun!

The next morning at breakfast another presenter started speaking to us in German because she saw my last name on my name tag and assumed I was German. I should have been prepared for that with my very German name at an English/German conference! Anyway, we presented at 8:30 AM Saturday morning (not our choice of time slot…) We were a little stressed because our third presenter couldn’t make it to Germany due to a family emergency, but we managed to pull it off. After attending a few more presentations, we decided to head to downtown Freiburg and be tourists. I had never been to the Black Forest area of Germany before, and I have to say it is very beautiful. I adore the architecture there.

After a short stop in Triberg, home of the world’s biggest cuckoo clock, we came to Annecy for a few days because Martha had never been here. It was really nice having a friend from “back home” in my “new home.” Luckily the weather was really warm and we were able to stroll around the lake and just enjoy summer. (The week before, it had still been raining and a little chilly – now the weather is perfect here!)

Next we decided to go to the Bodensee (Lake Constance) and we drove through Switzerland to get there, taking the scenic routes through the countryside. Swiss towns are so pretty too! We stayed in a small town called Uhldingen and took a boat over to Insel Mainau on Wednesday. We spent most of the day just wandering around the island among the beautiful flowers and trees.

Later that night, every German citizen was glued to the TV watching the Germany-Turkey game. We didn’t even have to watch it as the loud cheering told us when Germany scored. Even in a small town, there was plenty of noise and fireworks for hours after they won. And the fact that the prime ministers/presidents of each nation attend these games shows how serious Europeans are about soccer. Can you imagine Bush at a soccer game in the US??

Thursday morning we drove to Hechingen where the Hohenzollern castle sits on top of a large hill. Then we finally made it to Reutlingen, where Martha lived with her family 8 years ago, after passing through every other German town ending in -ingen.

After wandering through the streets of Reutlingen, I can see why she loved living there. Everything about southern Germany is so beautiful and peaceful, minus the occasional rowdy soccer fan. And I loved being immersed in German – though whenever I try to speak German now, French comes out instead.

I returned home by train yesterday (by way of Stuttgart, Zurich, Biel and Geneva) to still-beautiful weather in Annecy. It’s good to be home and to be finished stressing about the conference, but I am missing the lower prices of everything in Germany, and Martha of course!

I’ve uploaded the rest of my pictures to a web album on my site: Southern Germany – June 2008

Adventures in Berlin & Budapest

By   April 26, 2008

I’m so exhausted, but I wanted to upload my photos from my week in Berlin & Budapest. Both cities were definitely worth visiting. Berlin was über cheap, but rather sad because of its history (both WWII and the Cold War). Budapest’s architecture was beautiful, but it felt a bit too foreign to me since I know about five words of Hungarian.

In Berlin, I stayed at Helter Skelter hostel, which was fine except for the annoying boys who snored all night making it impossible for me to sleep. I went to the Käthe Kollwitz museum and then did a 4 hour walking tour of East Berlin, which included Museum Island, the Berlin Cathedral, Memorial to the Victims of War & Tyranny (sculpture by Käthe Kollwitz), Bebelplatz (site of book burnings during WWII), the French Huguenot Protestant church & Catholic church built directly across from each other, Checkpoint Charlie (so so fake!) & small section of the Berlin Wall, the SS headquarters (which is now just a flat lot), the site of Hitler’s bunker (which is no longer there), the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (how ironic and sad is it that the company who painted the blocks with anti-grafitti paint is the same company that made Zyklon B for the gas chambers???), the Brandenburg Gate & the Reichstag. On the second day, I went to the Pergamon Museum and saw the Gate of Ishtar. Then I headed up to Bernauer Straße, where there’s another section of the Wall that is still standing. Then it was over to Charlottenburg Palace and the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.

Berlin, Germany Photo Album

In Budapest, I stayed at Aventura Hostel which is the best hostel I have ever been to. It didn’t feel like a hostel, but rather like I was staying at a friend’s place. I highly recommend it if you ever go to Budapest. The first day, I wandered around the Buda side of the Danube (a UNESCO World Heritage site) where there are a lot of castles, museums and the palace. The next day I stayed in the city center and saw St. Stephen’s Basilica (as well as his mummified hand – so bizarre), the Great Synagogue (Europe’s largest synagogue – of course the largest in the world is in New York), the Opera House, and the Hungarian National Museum (which had very few translations in English…). My final day was spent at Hero’s Square and the Szechenyi thermal baths, followed by a walk around Margit Island.

Budapest, Hungary Photo Album

I managed to not go over my budget at all and even came home with 20 forint (which is not even 8 euro cents, but still!) Now it’s back to worrying about finding a job and not going broke this summer…

Off to Germany and Hungary

By   April 20, 2008

I leave this afternoon for Berlin and Budapest. I won’t be back until late Friday night, and I probably won’t get online much during the week. I’m excited about seeing two new countries but I’m not so excited about flying. If only it weren’t so much cheaper and faster than taking trains. The liquid restrictions make me so incredibly angry (LIQUIDS CANNOT BLOW UP A PLANE!) and I hate the way flight attendants treat passengers. Granted, I would hate being a flight attendant and having to cater to random people all day long, but still…

I will have to fly again in January or February of 2009 when my brother gets married in the US, but I’m hoping to not fly anymore this year. At least I know in June we’ll be driving to southern Germany so I can co-present at a Writing Center conference in Freiburg and then head over to Munich and Neuschwanstein Castle. We’re also planning another road trip to Provence in July, to my beloved département de Vaucluse, but also to Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Montpellier and Carcassonne. Thank goodness David has family in the south so we have a free place to stay!

My other travel plans include Rennes & Mont St. Michel in Brittany and the American Cemetery in Normandy. I figure 6 hours on a train isn’t too bad. Plus I’m still dying to see Prague and Dubrovnik. Not sure how I’d like spending 13 or 16 hours on trains though… Ooh, unless I could do Frankfurt & Dresden before Prague and Venice, Ljubljana, and Zagreb before Dubrovnik… Ahh, must find job and save money first!!!

But really, what’s the point of living in Europe if you’re not going to visit all these cool places that are so close? I know we won’t live here forever, so I’m trying to see as much as possible before it’s too late.

A vendredi soir !