Sunday, May 29, 2011

New Blog!!!

It's that day!  The final post of aupairist...

Why? you ask... Well it's because I've started a NEW BLOG!!!! WAHHOOOO!!! (Yes... I'm excited).  You can check out my new blog, Countdown 2 Done HERE!  It's a blog about my life back home and projects / goals I am completing!  If you're a follower here I'd LOVE it if you'd follow my new blog, or if you're not a follower of this blog it would be awesome if you'd follow my new blog!  Can't wait to start blogging about things I've already done since I've been home!  Hope you'll join me!

So long Aupairist!  It's been real!
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Friday, May 13, 2011

1 month post Europe!

This might be one of the more difficult posts to begin...

I've been home for a little over a month now and honestly Europe is starting to feel like a dream.  When I first came home everything here was new but familiar, the stores, my old clothes, my friends, my room, but now it feels as if I never left.  The longer I'm back the farther the past year seems to be.  It's like I'm looking through a telescope back at my life and my year abroad is just a speck of dust on the lens.  I'm so glad that I made a photo book that I can look in to make sure that I remember those unbelievable "I can't believe I did that" moments.

Now that I'm job searching and back with "the rents" I often get a little down on myself when I look at my peers who have jobs and have left the nest.  I have to remember that they had an extra year to find a job and get ahead on the "American dream" lifestyle I'm so craving at this point in my life.  The hardest part is to remember that I took that time to see a bit of the world and am so much better for it!  I have to remember to look up and see those faces of my Europe friends smiling back at me from behind a picture frame or to see that girl in the beret who spoke French and could connect with people from any culture.  I have to remind myself that where I am in my life now might feel farther behind than I'd like but that I am truly years ahead in experience.

I have gone through a bit of culture shock upon my return.  When I first got back I was so unbelievably good at eavesdropping!!!  I could understand everyone and had to get used to skipping my usual step of ok... what language or accent is that.  I had a funny experience in Target when I was trying to figure out what language this one woman was speaking until I listened close enough to hear that it was just "ghetto" talk.  I've also noticed how much of a hurry everyone is in.  When you have to take public transportation you get into a I'll get there when I get there mentality.  I get so frustrated when people are tailgating me or someone ahead of me.  Honestly, tailgating only makes people nervous and anxious.  There is no point to it except to prove how much of a jerk you are.

Tomorrow I'm going on my first trip since I've been home!  I'm driving 10 - 11 hours down to the Outer Banks, North Carolina for a week at the beach!  I'm pretty excited about it, it will certainly be different though, not having a luggage restriction or having to lug things onto 3 different forms of transportation to get to the airport.  Also, the only language change might just be a bit of a southern accent.  I've also noticed how much more people say to cashiers or waiters when they can speak the same language.  No wonder I could never pass for fluent... :-(

So, that's a little update of the change!  I'm currently a nanny (go figure) until I find a real job.  There will be a blog to follow this one, but don't worry, I'll keep you informed! ;-)

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Au Revoir Suisse

If someone had told me that by the time I was 24 I would be a single, unemployed, college graduate who still doesn’t quite know what she wants to do with her life and lives with her parents I would probably be pretty nervous about my future.  However, if you had told me that by the time I was 24 I would have met friends from literally all around the world, gone to 12 different countries, and lived in Switzerland for a year I would have more unbelief than the first prediction.  

Sure, moving to Europe has put off growth in certain aspects of my life, but I’m pretty sure that it has inspired growth in other possibly more important areas of my life.  I've grown in my ability to communicate with people, have travel skills that may have taken years to learn, and confidence in myself and my talents in many aspects of my life.  This year has truly been priceless and I still sit in disbelief that it's already over.  I feel like I have learned more in this year than any other year of my life and have more memories from it than the past 4 combined.  I've made great lifelong friends and truly gotten to know another culture.  If someone were to ask me if I'd do it again I would say absolutely with such certainty they themselves would sign up on an aupair website the next day!  

I'm so glad to have this experience in my life and it has truly shaped who I am now.  So, instead of getting depressed and overly upset about having to leave I am going to try to look to the positive because life is long and sweet.  So in my optimistic mood here are some quotes to leave you with. 

You never really leave a place or person you love, part of them you take with you ,leaving a part of yourself behind.
Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.” - Dr. Seuss
Missing someone gets easier everyday. Because, even though it is one day further from the last time you saw each other, it is one day closer to the next time you will
You and I will meet again, When we're least expecting it, One day in some far off place, I will recognize your face, I won't say goodbye my friend, For you and I will meet again” - Tom Petty 
How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.  ~Carol Sobieski and Thomas Meehan, Annie

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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Packing and Postcards

So, very unlike my original post of packing here this time around I have not been organized or as thorough at all!  My room was in complete disarray for at least a week before I had to move my things out, my bathroom had products covering my double sink counter and I had suitcases and clothing covering couches.  It was so un-Brittany like and I don't know what may have brought it on.  Perhaps I was still in a dream-like state about anything actually getting done or happening.  But just like in "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" Somehow or other, it came just the same.  

Also, somehow or another I think I'll be able to fit all of my things into my suitcases.  My replacement Emer has a pretty good technique I think I'll post on once I do the actual packing.  Now everything is just thrown into my suitcases until I leave in 2 days and 21 hours... 

So I was able to collect postcards from EVERYWHERE that I went (At least all that sold postcards).  It's quite a collection that's for sure!  Looking back on them makes me smile from all of the crazy things that happened or things that went wrong or things that were so amazing!  I've also blogged about every place I've been to!  I think I might have to print out my blogs so that I can read them in the future.  Perhaps I'll make my own little book of it.  I'm currently putting together an Apple Photobook that is going to be beautiful.  It'll be a great way to show people what all I did.  Course, I could always just say, ya know?  I do have a pretty awesome blog you should check out.  ;-) 

So that's it for packing and postcards!  Look for a Goodbye post soon!

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Saturday, April 2, 2011


Well, my final voyage had arrived and what a great day trip it was!  My friends Jenna, Chelsie, Rachel and I went to Annecy for the day to enjoy the picturesque European town,beautiful lake and mountain backdrop.  The town was full of charming shops, flee markets, tourists and excellent photo ops!  It was absolutely beautiful and my friends and I couldn't help but exclaim every few minutes or so how glad we were to be there!   

 There was a bit of a fiasco at the toll where Jenna had to jump out of our car and run a few Euros back to Rachel before the French driver behind her got too irritated.  After that we followed the Autoroute to Annecy.  We parked the cars a bit outside the city and walked to the center.  Annecy is known as the Venice of France because it has many canals that flow through it.  My favorite part of the city was the large green field just off the lake where people seemed to flock to sit and enjoy the 70 degree weather.  We purchased some sandwiches and ate them while bathing in the gorgeous sunlight!  It was definitely a day to soak up the Vitamin D!  

 After we shopped for a bit we headed back to the cars and on to a medieval looking bridge to take some cute snapshots.  After that it was another hug from my friends to say goodbye.  
Soon I'll be hugging them for the last time in a very long time.  I've truly made great friends here who have been absolutely amazing and have made my time here extremely well worth it.  I am going to miss them more than a thousand trips to Paris, a view of the Alps or any gelato or chocolate.  I wish I could just pack them instead of my clothes or shoes or anything I've collected here because they are what make my world go round.  Chelsie, Annie, Rachel and Jenna you guys are amazing and I will miss you all so much.  A part of my heart will always be with you! 
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

2 Weeks, wait, for serious?

Is it seriously possible that I only have a mere 2 weeks, 14 days until I grab my bags, throw them into the car and hop on a plane back to the US of A? ... I know right? Crazy town!

I feel like I'm already in a dream-like state. I've gotten past the holiday homesickness, the 50 more days (this is never going to happen) am I ever going to go home state, and am now into the 2 weeks, I am actually starting to pack up my things and move out reality of moving back home. I feel like (and I'm sure most can agree) that once I'm home this whole year will seem like a big dream. Almost like, did that actually happen? Oh wait, I have pictures to prove it!

Sometimes, I'll be walking or riding on the tram and will just think wow, this whole experience has been such an unbelievable adventure why do I want to go home so badly? Then I'll start to think wow I don't want to go home, I have amazing friends and a great job and the flexibility to travel and learn things that I never would have if I hadn't come here. But then I'll think, I miss my family and friends at home and can't believe that it's been almost 11 months that I haven't seen them! So yes, I certainly have some mixed feelings going on. Some days I feel like crying because I don't want to leave but other days I am so happy and feel like laughing about all the crazy things my friends and I have done. I suppose those feelings will probably come home with me too.

It's so strange to think that I've gone through all 4 seasons, every holiday (except Easter), and have gotten to learn so much about not only Swiss culture but about European culture as well. I was thinking last night that I probably know more about Swiss geography than all of my US friends now and probably a lot more about European geography as well. Before I came here I wouldn't have been able to tell you where Belgium or Denmark is and now I've been to both of those places! So, since I'm soOo worldly and knowledgable now ;-) I thought I'd write a bit about the differences between Americans and Europeans!

So the first thing that I'd say (Excluding the UK and Ireland) is how reserved Europeans are. Americans for the most part are pretty outgoing and after a few beers will talk to most anyone. Here however, I've discovered that Europeans usually stick to their own group of friends and will only talk to other people if someone else starts the conversation or if they have mutual friends. Although, my french professor did tell me that I am "trés calme" for an American. Probably because she hasn't seen me getting my English on hah.

Moving on, another HUGE difference is how much more casual Americans dress than Europeans. I mean it could be because I'm usually in the city but most people are dressed pretty fashionably. Even at the University my class is at I have yet to see more than 1 person in sweats. Also, the number of people with designer bags! Seriously, I must have just forgotten my Louis Vuitton at home.

Speaking of Louis Vuitton, Europeans are really into accessories, well, that and stripes. Nearly everyone (men included) wears a scarf (well, maybe not everyone... but most). However, if you have a striped scarf, now that is chic! Hah. Also, skinny jeans and boots! I mean during the winter it was as if that one trend just exploded in Geneva. Guys maybe not the boots, but skinny jeans, Cha. Good thing I read up on that trend before I came and invested some in the skinny jean category and I actually like them! To think, I used to believe I couldn't pull off a skinny jean, wrong. However, now that spring is poppin' up it's more skinny jeans with flats. Also, in an attempt to pull off a biker / bad ass / hard core look the leather jacket is insanely "in" right now. I even bought one and I'm pretty sure I'm in love. It's so soft and lightweight but warm and makes me feel like I'm too cool for school. Perhaps the Europeans are on to something?

So now that I've completely said way too much about fashion, onto something a bit more personal, PDA that is. Yes, Europeans love them some public displays of affection. From a couch in Starbucks, to the trams, everywhere there is a couple fully enclosed in some serious snogging. I don't know what it is, but so many people here think it's totally ok to have a full out make-out session within feet of another person. Umm excuse me while I relocate myself so that I don't have to gag at the sight of your apparent adoration for each other.

Ah so, one thing (among many) Europeans have so so right is transportation. I have never had much of a problem getting from one place to another without the use of a car. But, it doesn't just stop at trains, busses, trams, metros, planes, ect. It's also beyond common for people to ride scooters, smart cars, roller blades, bikes, skateboards or vespas arounds town. I love in the summer when the sidewalks by the lake are filled with people moving around one way or another getting exercise and transportation. So great!

So, after a year abroad those are just some of my observations. It has been so remarkable to get to see what goes on across the pond and to feel like I'm, at least in my head, an honorary European.

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Versoix and the Red Cross Museum

I do believe that part of this whole going home / countdown / leaving current country of residence is trying to get to places that I feel like I should see before I leave. Two of these places was Versoix and the Red Cross Museum.
My friend Jenna and I had planned to go to Versoix on a Friday afternoon and walk around a bit before she had to pick up one of "her kids" from school. I had heard that it's a small village with a chocolate factory, one street and a train station. We took the time to walk near the lake, then up to the Chocolate Boutique where I found one of my favorite souvenirs to date, a small tin with a picture of Geneva, Lucern and Zermatt on the sides. These are all places that I've been to in Switzerland, that, plus the added chocolate inside was a big selling point for me! I can't wait to fill it with tea bags or other small packets once I get home (and my own place).

After our chocolate finds we headed back around the town before I went with Jenna to the International School to pick up her kid. Yes folks, that's it! Super exciting blog about Versoix. The only neat thing about it is that it's exactly across the lake from my house so I had been curious at to what was over there for a while.

Anyway, the next day I headed out with my friends Annie and Jenna to go to the Red Cross Museum. We got a little distracted by some shopping in Geneva (where I found the BEST brown leather jacket that I am absolutely in love with... just ask Jenna) but eventually we did make it to the museum. It was pretty interesting and we did get a sweet student discount of only 5 francs!

Afterwards we went to a Thai place for dinner and then an Irish pub where I pretty much re-solidified my love of beer (I had given it up for 6 months). I did beat this Irish guy at arm wrestling (although to be fair I did use two arms, and he may have let me win...) but I did get a free pint out of it! Mulligans may now be my favorite pub in all of Geneva, it's like a cross between Jake's bar and Kildare's for my West Chester readers (Both my favorite places in the Dub) that, combined with actual Irish people and it's certainly up there for being on my facebook "Things I will miss" countdown. We will absolutely be back for St. Patrick's Day. Perhaps will even dress up and pass out umm clovers like Valentine's Day (Watch that for a laugh)

Who knows?


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Tuesday, February 22, 2011


I do believe that I have reached the end of my travel desire, at least in Europe. Although, perhaps it's just a combination of the dreary weather and my ever approaching departure date. My last two trips have both been epic failures compared to most of my adventures. Lausanne was unfortunately another travel that had the motivation akin to a 6 year old to clean his room.

My friend Annie and I had planned to go to Lausanne, see the sights and then meet up with some other friends for dinner and karaoke. We ended up delaying our arrival in Lausanne until 4pm due to a late night before and a general lack of sleep.

Once we finally got through Geneva, Starbucks, and took the train to Lausanne we really didn't know what to do. We began walking in the general direction of the shops to see if anything was going on. Nothing was so we decided to take the metro to the lake and see the view. We weren't sure how you bought a ticket for the metro so we just hopped on and hoped for the best. At the next stop we saw two guys who may have been ticket checkers so we quickly bailed the train and waited until the next one. Perhaps we were a bit paranoid, but we didn't know what the deal was with tickets and decided we didn't want to know. Once the next metro came we again hoped on and made it to our destination.
Once we were outside we could see what could have been a beautiful scene, the lake, mountains and trees but unfortunately it was really cloudy / foggy / hazzy / winter so we couldn't even see the water and only a small glimpse of the snow on top of the mountains. Eh, oh well. We walked around a bit more and after deciding that there wasn't anything to do hoped back on the metro (this time with tickets) and went back to the Starbucks area.

Once we reached the Starbucks we got into the absurdly long line and Annie went to see if there were any open tables. There were none so we decided to go search for a different place to get a coffee and relax until my friend Jenna was going to come and meet us.

So now, if you'll allow me I'd like to rant a bit. Switzerland has the most obnoxious store hours I've ever had the unfortunate pleasure of knowing. During the week it isn't all that bad because stores are open until 7pm however on Saturday they all close at 5pm. Yes, that is correct, on a Saturday when people are out with time to spend to do things like grocery shop or shop in general everything closes at 5pm. So in a city like Lausanne or Geneva, after 5pm where do you go before dinner (around 7:30pm) but after all the stores have closed? That's correct, you can go to a bar, Starbucks or McDonalds. Hence why every Starbucks after 5pm in any city in Switzerland is packed! Especially in the winter when it's cold and you can't just go sit in a park somewhere. (End of Rant)

So, after our failed attempt at a table at Starbucks we went up the road a bit more and found La Durée, a fancy macaroon boutique. Yes, us Americans have our cupcake boutiques, but the French (or Swiss French) have their Macaroon boutiques where people will spend around $2 for one tiny macaroon. I bought 3 (Vanilla, Chocolate and Salted Caramel) and they were absolutely delicious.
After purchasing macaroons, we went a bit farther down the road to the only other open option, McDonald's. Why Annie and I have ended up at McDonald's on both of our trips we don't understand but it is unfortunately where we decided to get a coffee and hang out for the next 2 hours. Once Jenna was finally on her way we walked back down to the train station to meet her.

Next we headed towards Les Brassieres for dinner. We each got meals that you wouldn't find in the U.S and after finishing our Mushroom Omelette, Thin Crust Pizza type meal that I can't remember the name and Spinach stuffed Eggplant we headed back out into the cold to find a karaoke place.

Jenna had been to this place before, but what is a trip without at least an hour or 2 of wandering trying to find somewhere right? Eventually we were able to find the place after a kind person lead us in the right direction. Once we were there we waisted no time finding a bottle of wine to share and get some liquid courage in us. Then we signed up to sing 3 songs, "I will survive", "Ain't no mountain high enough" and "Don't stop believing". Once that was done we waited until our turn to proudly belt out some American tunes! An hour later it was our turn! This was my first karaoke experience so I was pretty nervous. I didn't stop shaking the whole time, but I put on a smile and danced with the music while holding the mic hoping that I didn't sound too terrible.

It was actually quite exhilarating and I really wished that we could have gone again. Unfortunately, we had to leave to catch our train back to Geneva in time to take the night bus. 2 hours later I was back home. Perhaps we'll go again but if I'd guess I'd say that the next time I'll be partaking in karaoke will be back in the US where my American accent won't give me an advantage.

Well, in terms of trips I don't have much planned, but that won't stop me from leaving thrilling blogs about leaving after a year in a new country and perhaps a one month back post. I am also thinking of starting a new blog once I get home but more on that later!


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Thursday, February 17, 2011


First, I'd like to apologize that there is only one picture of Lyon on here. The week before this trip my camera underwent an unfortunate schmelting... I mean... crash and collapse accident resulting in a completely broken screen but working camera. So if any of the pictures in my next few blogs look a bit unbalanced it's due to the fact that I own a touchscreen camera and don't have a view finder... (or buttons that I can see since it's a touchscreen).

Ah but, the show must go on. My friend Annie and I decided about a week or so ago that we both wanted to go to Lyon, France for no other reason than "I heard it is nice". Our original plan had been to go to Nice, which resulted in many a joke about how "nice" it is, but after discovering it was a 6 hour drive we changed our minds. Thus, we decided on the under 2 hour drive to Lyon. So we piled into her host family's Audi turned up the heated seats and off we went in the direction of all signs pointed towards Lyon.

This was quite possibly my most unprepared trip thus far. If you're an avid reader (like there are any), or just know me personally, then you know that I'm a bit of an over-planner, pre-travel anxious mess. Well, this trip I was completely the opposite of normal and if I'm not putting anyone into a state of shock by saying this, I liked it. That's right, I, Brittany, set off on a trip, without a plan, map, or any idea of what to expect once we reached Lyon without having a panic attack!

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, I'll continue.

Annie and I started out well, in that we continued to see signs for Lyon. Then we started to see signs for Paris and Dijon but no more for Lyon. This posed a problem since we hadn't brought a map or any kind of direction device. So, we did the obvious choice and turned around. Eventually we started to see signs for Lyon again and we made sure to pay closer attention so that we wouldn't miss any exits. We continued to follow the signs all the way to the "Ville Centre" (city center for those non-french speakers) and then to find parking. Once we were parked we grabbed our bags, closed the doors and headed up to the street level.

From there we looked around and decided to walk back towards where the majority of the people seemed to be. It's a strange thing to go somewhere new because you don't know where the best sights are. We just decided to follow the crowd which lead us to a shopping street with a lack of restaurants for our growling stomachs. After discovering that most restaurants' kitchens were closed (it was around 2pm) we decided to just head back to the McDonald's and disgracefully grab a burger and fries. Yes, I know, here we are in a city known for it's food (or so I learned after the fact) and we waited 20 minutes for a burger at McDonald's. Not one of my proudest moments, but I digress.

After lunch, we walked in the direction of the river and followed it for a bit. We were beginning to get pretty bored with Lyon and started to walk back towards the car to see if there was anything of interest going on there. That's when I heard a band playing off in the distance. We followed the music and rounded an alleyway to find a band complete with distressed clothing, bass drum chairs and an overly loud trombone. We listened to it as we looked off to the right and saw it, the ville centre.

There among the gray was another McDonald's, a Starbucks and an H&M, all in the same block. This I have dubbed as the city center for most European cities. If you can find all of these near each other, you my friend, have found the hot spot for tourists. (Unless you're in Italy where there are no Starbucks). I'm pretty sure that this works on most cities, at least in Europe.

After trying to shop for a bit but getting impatient by the crowds we started to walk back towards the car. Since we didn't find anything else that we wanted to do we decided to book it back to Geneva.

Once we were in the car we decided that there was no way we were going to get lost. We paid attention as intently as we could to the signs and only had to make one U-turn!

So, as lame as that may sound, that was our trip to Lyon. Not full of as much excitement as usual, but ya know what?, I wasn't stressed out or anxious the whole day and in my world that counts as a pretty successful trip!


Monday, February 14, 2011

Gstadd Ski Trip

If I remember correctly the last time I went skiing was maybe 9th or 10th grade, when I was 14 or 15. That was approximately 8 or 9 years ago. I don't remember being outrageously awful or not being able to do anything without panicking or falling, nor do I remember having to slide down an icy mountain on my butt. So, when I signed up to go skiing in the Alps I thought it was going to be a lot of fun! Woo! However, the reality was a lot more paralyzing.

The morning started out all right. We had arrived with 45 aupairs to our Chalet in Gstadd with only a minor delay. Then we found the perfect room for my friends and I and began to get dressed for a half day of Skiing! We grabbed our gear and started walking to the lift. Some people were able to skiing down the hill at our chalet but no way was I going to try that, I couldn't seem to remember anything from before. I was starting to get nervous about the day and skiing again. I decided to go with my friends (who have been quite often this season) up the mountain. I assumed there would be a bunny hill or somewhere that I could get my "ski legs" again.

Once we reached the top of the mountain I looked down at the steep slopes and suddenly realized that there was indeed no bunny slope. This was indeed the Alps, not exactly meant for beginners. So I decided just to try and see what happened. Well after my first crash and burn I decided there was NO way I would be able to make it down the mountain. Unfortunately, unless I wanted to spend $300 on a rescue sled to come get me that was the only way to get back down. This was the point where I embarrassingly took of my skis and either slid down on my butt or walked down the mountain. There were a few moments when my friends encouraged me to try again but after another wipe out I decided that wasn't the best way to tackle it.

Finally, after 3 hours, 3 crying fits, 1 snowboard sled idea, 2 rounds on my butt, much walking, more crying and shouts of "I really can't do this" I made it to the bottom. Worst. Idea. Ever. After that I felt so bad for holding my friends up I just walked back to the chalet drank a lot of tea and had a good chat with my friend Becky.

Once everyone else came back we started to prepare our cheese fondue dinner, talk, play games and finally go to bed. I fell asleep still feeling like I was falling down the mountain.

The next day I really absolutely didn't want to go again. I was terrified that I would die. literally. I decided to go with the other beginners and Paul who was going to help us out a bit more. I learned that most of them had similar stories from the day before so at least maybe I wouldn't be the only one sliding down on my butt.

We all crammed in the car to drive to an easier slope. I was still freaking out and told myself that I'd only stay until noon if it was awful and find a way back. Once we got there we put on our skis and nervously slid down a small hill to where we could practice. Paul taught us how to turn and stand in the skis. This was a huge improvement already and I nervously practiced all the way down the mountain. Once I got down (without falling) I was so excited that I could actually do it! We all took pictures and headed to the T bar to go back up the slope and do it again.

The rest of the day was spent slowly skiing down the mountain doing turns the whole time and taking breaks at the restaurant. I ended up staying until 4pm and didn't fall the whole day (although there was one point that I was going down backwards and almost fell). I did happen to fall off the T bar once (an upside-down metal T that pulls you up the mountain) but not again on the mountain! I'm so proud that I ended up going again, although I'm not planning on going skiing in Switzerland again. The moment I returned my rental skis was such a relief!

Overall, I'm glad that I went but wouldn't want to do it again. Perhaps in the hills of PA but it's just a little too intense here. I'm perfectly fine accepting that in the things that I am not talented at skiing is listed. The list of things I can do contains things of much better value than that to me.

Signing off,

- B

Sunday, February 13, 2011

London Round 2

Following a business class Eurostar trip we tried to put our morning misfortunes from Paris behind us and move on to greater things. One of these things happened to be the fact that our hostel was right across the street from the train station (less lugging of our suitcases)! Plus, it was right right next to an Irish Pub! So even though we were there later than expected, and short of as much cash as we thought we'd have we were still trying to look on the bright side!

So once we checked into our hostel, waited until we could go up to our room and drop our luggage, we went out to explore a bit of the city. We went to Trafalgar Square and got some cloudy pictures before we went into the National Gallery. I think by this point we had seen so much art that as much as we tried to appreciate it we really just wanted to move onto bigger and better things.
Then we found ourselves walked up towards Leicester Square, through Soho and onto Oxford Street. Unfortunately, it being a Sunday, stores were closing early so we decided to hit up the Pub next to our hostel for some Irish grub and drinks. I decided to go with something that almost resembled Bangers and Mash but that were unfortunately not on par with the dish I had in Cork (but let's be honest here...). My sister decided that she was in the mood for another White Russian (since the ones we had in Paris were so divine). Unfortunately, the pub we were at wasn't really the "cocktail serving type". So my sister tried to tell them what a White Russian drink was (even though she herself had no idea). What she ended up with can best be described as a chocolate milk with some vodka.
We laughed so much at her poor looking beverage and I felt like I needed to go set the bartender straight on what the beverage is actually made of. After trying to describe the drink, I concluded that they did not carry any coffee liqueur so they wouldn't have been able to create it anyway... ah well..

The next day we set off to find cheap tickets to see WICKED!!!!! This was one thing that I was absolutely looking forward to and could not wait to see!! So we ended up in Leicester Square again, asking multiple vendors for tickets and striking out each time. This was until we got in line at a vendor who didn't have a very long line and found tickets for around 30 pounds for the next evening! This just proves that "If at first you don't succeed, just try, try again". We were so thrilled that finally something had gone right we hoped onto the tube grinning on our way to a walking tour!

I had taken the same tour during the summer and was excited for my sister and Jenna to learn the same humorous London stories and history that my travel partner Chelsie and I had laughed about. Unfortunately, we highly underestimated the temperature and froze the second half of the tour but that still didn't stop us from finishing it out and moving onto another Pub for some fish and chips! (nom..)

After, we went to check out Harrods (which was having a huge sale and was incredibly crowded). We didn't make it passed the makeup section (where I was able to finally replace my Clinique mascara for a reasonable price) and then decided to leave and go to Oxford Street. Even though we were all pretty poor we still wanted to do a little of what we do best, shop! I found a beautiful purple Longchamp makeup bag for 13 pounds that I love!

Afterwards, we headed back to the hostel to freshen up before we went to meet on of the Texans who we had met in Paris who happened to be in London the same time we were. We grabbed some Thai food then headed to a club called Tiger Tiger. None of us were really in the mood for clubbing but that's were we had planned to meet Paul so we were stuck. It ended up being a pretty big deal in the night life scene and we were all dressed in clothes that would only pass for a small corner pub, not exactly the tighter or shorter outfits that surrounded us. Alas, we stayed and ended up hanging out with Paul until later than expected. We even missed the last tube and had to take a bus back to our hostel. Fortunately, thanks to my excellent travel skills this was cake.

Speaking of cake, the next day we went on a tour lead by yours truly of "The City". It's a separate part of London actually called the city where London originated. (But I said cake right?) No, we're not in Versailles (you may pat yourself on the back if you get that far reaching allusion), but we did find a couture cupcake boutique where we procured delicious sparkly cupcakes!
Afterwards, I lead them through "The City" and on to Tower Hill. Unfortunately, we got there with too little time for my sister to do the tour (which I felt pretty bad about since it was one of the things she really wanted to do). After taking some pictures of Tower Bridge we got back on the tube for "home" to get ready to see WICKED!

I must say, Wicked was everything I thought it would be and more (cliche, but true). Except for the English accent, it was really amazing. (There's nothing wrong with an English accent, we're just used to hearing it with an American accent). Following the performance we went back to the hostel, set every alarm possible, and went to sleep praying that we'd be able to make all of our connections and flights the next day.

After walking, training, training, flying, training, bussing, bussing and walking I was finally home to find out that we all made it safely back to our prospective homes. So even though we had a few minor catastrophes we all survived, and things could have undoubtably gone far worse.

With Love,

- B

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New Year's Eve (Paris part 2)

Prior to this trip I had to endure two full days of babysitting for a friend. This was a pretty easy task since both boys are over 10 and can pretty much entertain themselves. Unfortunately, it made the two days prior to my most anticipated trip all the much longer. I was looking forward to this trip for many reason, 1. I was going to see my sister again after 7 months 2. I was going back to two places I have already been so I already knew my way around and 3. New Year's Eve, in Paris... do I really need to say more?

Finally, it was the morning of my departure from Gensgens, Switzerland and I woke up before my alarm and used the time to check my computer. I was then greeted by the first bump in the road on another glorious adventure. Glaring back at me from my computer screen was a message from my mom. "I found your train tickets on Jennie's floor". My first thought was why would my mom want to joke with me about that. Then I checked facebook and saw another message from my mother, "I found your train tickets in Jennie's room, what do you want to do about this?" Surely my mom wouldn't go far enough to joke both on skype and facebook (and it's official if it's on facebook). So there I was, hardly leaving the house with my heart racing and anger coursing through my veins. I remember thinking "How could she have forgotten the train tickets... I reminded her at least 5 times NOT to forget the train tickets!... of ALL things, SERIOUSLY!!!!" Then I took a deep breath and tried to steady myself before I went into another panic attack. "OF ALL THINGS!!!!!" Needless to say, I was pretty upset.

Then I got into the taxi and started my journey back to Paris.

My flight was on time and arrived to Paris on a cloudy Wednesday morning. My sister's plane had arrived 30 minutes or so ago. Now I just had to get off the plane, grab my baggage, find out where my sister's plane came in and then figure out how to get into the city. I hadn't thought that it would be difficult. I mean, how big could Charles de Gaule airport really be? Again, my good intentions were met with unfortunate circumstances. CDG Airport is huge, with 3 terminals separated by a metro train. After waiting for my baggage for an hour I was starting to worry that my sister might have started to try and find me. I had tried her cell 3 times, each call costing my phone $4 (Even without her answering). Her phone appeared to be off and she hadn't responded to any of my text messages. To a person with mild anxiety issues this was really bad. I quickly made my way to an information counter to ask where a flight from Philadelphia had arrived. The kind employee told me that it was at Terminal 1. I then started walking off quickly until I realized I had no idea which terminal I was in or where terminal 1 was. After turning around, the information employee had already started writing me directions to terminal 1. I quickly thanked her and started a run towards the airport metro line.

I was already on the verge of tears when I made it to terminal 1 and still had no idea where to look for my sister. She had now been at the airport for almost 2 hours. I quickly circled around the food and shopping area then made it to the next floor where I asked another information employee where the flight from Philadelphia was in a very shaky voice, "Excuse me... I'm looking for my sister, she came in on a flight from Philadelphia... and I don't know where she is." She just looked at me and bluntly told me to go to Arrivals. Well, yea of course it would be in arrivals... I knew that. Then I tried to find the elevator that went to arrivals but not before running around, my eyes damp with the coming tears, and visiting the Information counter one more time. Eventually I found the elevator and went up to where I prayed my sister still was. As soon as I got off the elevator I saw here, standing in the middle of arrivals with two bags looking as if she had no cares in the world. I ran over to her dropped my bags, hugged her as the tears, hyperventilating and poor attempts to say how relieved I was to find her began. Most people were looking over at the scene I had just caused. My sister just stood there asking me why I was freaking out? Since I was having difficulty breathing we decided to get in line to change our money.

That was how our trip began.

Our next task was to find my friends Jenna and Rachel at a cafe near the Eiffel Tower. Finding their location proved much easier with the use of a cell phone and knowledge of Paris. My sister, having never traveled in Europe before now got to experience how big a pain it is to travel somewhere without a car, using public transportation carrying all of your luggage. Add on top of that multiple metro stairs, metro changes, multiple suitcases and a very tired, hungry and jet-lagged sister and we were both extremely relieved to find the cafe my friends were at. Our moods were both lifted once we had some food and coffee.

After we paid our bill we all went outside to go and see the Eiffel Tower! It's the first thing anyone wants to see when they go to Paris and I knew it would be no different for my sister. We then had an impromptu photo shoot before deciding to go find our hotel. Again we boarded the metro with all of our things.

We headed towards our stop in hopes of finding an easy way to our hotel/apartment. After all, the directions said it was only a "7 minute walk". Once we were at our stop we found our way above ground and tried to find our bearings. The next two hours would then be filled with much walking, asking people, frustrated words, "Let's just take a taxi" and many breaks to sit on our luggage. No matter where we went we could not find any roads that matched our directions or anyone who seemed to know where our hotel was. Eventually, we all decided to just take a taxi that could get us where we needed to go. It was then that the taxi driver told us "it's just a short walk over there". Off we went towards our hotel which had we actually been able to find the road would have only been a "7 minute walk."

We decided that Rachel would stake out the local grocery store while we checked in since we had a 3 person apartment and 4 people staying there. Check in went smoothly and we went up to our apartment. After seeing that there was a double bed, couch and pull out bed Jenna went and got Rachel. Our apartment also had a bathroom and kitchen complete with supplies and a dishwasher!

Once we had unpacked and relaxed we decided to go see the Moulin Rouge at night and find a bar to get some drinks. After the best White Russians I have ever had we went back to our apartment to hang out and go to bed early.

The next day was full of shopping on Champs Elysees, hair cuts, more food and a finale of a pub crawl in the Mont Martre District. That was quite possibly the highlight of the day and we met a lot of nice people and had hopefully my final night out until we can take the morning metro "home". Fortunately, we met some charming Texans who were nice enough to even walk us back to our apartment. I won't go into to many details but the night was filled with lots of laughs, dancing and talking and lead to a pretty tired / hungover New Year's Eve.

So, since it happened to be New Year's Eve we had to find something that would be ultra-chic to do for the evening so we had made reservations at a small restaurant just off of Champs-Elysees during our afore mentioned shopping spree on the famous avenue. As soon as we all were awake and showered we shot over to the Louvre to do some art viewing / crowd passing / "well, I think an hour in the Louvre is long enough, let's get a quick photo and peace out". After our epic trip to the Louvre we headed on over to Musée Dorsay and did precisely the same thing, went over to the most famous painting then sat and decided we all would rather go back to bed and left. That is precisely what we ended up doing actually. We didn't want to be tired for our dinner and Champagne toast to 2011 in Paris might I add!

So after a power nap and some showers we got all dolled up in our Parisian finest and went to town in our heels and party dresses ready to impress! We had a delicious dinner with wine and dessert and then around 9pm decided to go look for a bar to hang out in until around midnight when we'd walk over to the Eiffle Tower give a toast and head back to a bar somewhere!
Well, what actually happened was far less glamourous... :-( At 9pm we did indeed leave the restaurant but we ended up walking over to the Eiffle Tower, meeting some other Americans on the way and finding a cold Mexican beer in our hands. We still had a good 2 hours until midnight and not a bar in sight. Well, like anyone with freezing peep toe heels we crowded together near a tree and tried to keep warm as we disparagingly waiting until midnight. By the time it actually was midnight we were so cold that the champagne was not cheers worthy and we quickly bolted to the nearest metro (umm train) station.

Here was another block in our far from perfect evening, the amount of other people who were cold and wanting to go somewhere else was so huge that we had to wait in a near mosh pit experience for the train, the train which happened to take us farther from our apartment and meant we had to be shuttled towards a metro and then another metro to get back. But wait! We had wanted to go to a bar afterwards to continue the celebrating right? Ha, well after our super cold not so fun evening we decided (minus Rachel) to call it quits for the night. It only took us 2 hours to get back to the apartment so by that time we were fully ready to crawl back into bed. New Years Eve 2011, done.

The next day we slept in and then went to both Mont Martre (our third trip, I love that area) and then Notre Dame and the Latin Quarter. Besides freezing on New Year's Eve I think that our Parisian experience was quite fulfilling, eh?

But wait... there's more!

Our train had been scheduled to leave at 8:15am. I woke up at 8:13am. There was certainly a problem with that. Apparently, there was some glitch with the itouch and iphone that the alarm did not work on January 1st or 2nd. Our train was on the 2nd. So, due to that malfunction we missed our train and after freaking our made it to the train station and explained the situation. Well, the was no sympathy for us and we were told that the next train had seats in business for the low price of.... get this... $350... each. Business class! Free food! Score! Umm... no. That is not what we were thinking. Actually I remember the feeling of dread and immobility as being close to swallowing a large rock.

So after finding no other options we sucked it up and purchased the most expensive one way train ticket I've even purchased. However, we were fortunately able to get to London! Although, that is another story.