A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Sianieee

Day tripping around the Alsace

What Katie did... (in Lyon) The Alsace and venturing over the border to Luxembourg

semi-overcast 15 °C

What did Katie do...?
So my lovlies since my last update I have been on a few weekend/day trips, the first of which was to Lyon which was really fun as my friend Katie came to visit from London. We had an entertaining weekend of of films, fun, the standard Lyon chocolat viennois and formule midi at Paul and a wee bit of sightseeing.
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Once again it was that magnificent "trompe d'oeil" wall that just stole our attention and entertained us quite a lot more than it probably should have.

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Another source of diversion was during our night out dancing when a young gentleman was trying to a girl we were with. He was trying quite hard, a little too hard I might add. After several failed attempts he then made one final stab at getting her attention, appealing to his brute force and "immense strength" causing us to rather insensitively break out into giggles and quite vocally suggest this might not be the case.

He took great offense and after a few more minutes of continuing to brag about his immense strength he agreed to prove it by doing thirty press ups in exchange for a kiss. Of course, we did not seriously think he would just get down on the cobbled floor and do thirty press-ups. And of course he didn't.

However, ladies and gentlemen, what he did do was thirty press-ups on top of two bollards, yes bollards. Feet perched on one, arms outstretched with his hands on the other one.

And what happened after this silly, if slightly impressive feat? Did he get his kiss? Or the girl?
Well, no. This is real life, not Hollywood.

Luxembourg
We also went on a trip to Luxembourg City which that particular day had decided to adopt the Cheshire climate.
Before we went to Luxembourg however we went and stayed the night in Tati's aldea near Longwy.
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I really liked Luxembourg and everyone was really friendly and amazingly trilingual. We even found coffees bigger than a thimble which made for a nice change. One of the trilingual men we met in a cafe bought all of our drinks just because we moved tables for him and the rest of his family and friends.

It was one of those film moments when Erika went to pay and we were told that the bill had lready been taken care of!
We subsequently decided that either they were really really grateful we had moved or that amongst the other numerous languages that man spoke, one was in fact Spanish and that he had heard us discussing how cute him and his little girl were. Either way, free coffee!
I did like Luxembourg in spite of the weather BUT it was a very teeny, tiny capital city.
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Colmar
The second day trip inspired by a rush of "pleassse can we escape Nancy" angst took us on a spontaneous Easter Monday trip to Colmar in the Alsace. It was about 2 or 3 hours away and we travelled through snow, rain and various villages which ranged from quaint to hideously ugly
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However, we arrived in the dull outskirts and prepared ourselves for a very disappointing day. It didn't look promising but luckily on arriving in the centre we found a lovely, charming colourful town with an Easter market and lots of European flags (though not a Spanish one in sight bizarrely) and some nice views
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Posted by Sianieee 09:54 Archived in France Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

I got what in Gothenburg? Got stuck that's what...

Yes. I do love a pun.

sunny 12 °C

So, I've just arrived back to Nancy after an eventful few weeks in other parts of Europe.
However before I detail my adventures in the land of caviar, rye crackers and Estrella crisps
(you Russian lovers know what I'm talking about of course), I shall tell you all about what happened even before I left France.
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Lou's visit
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So, my lovely little (though in saying little I am choosing to ignore the fact she now towers above me) sister paid me a visit and we had lots of sisterly like fun.
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We were convinced these two buildings were different ones. One a church and one a castle. 'Nuff said.

We also travelled twice through three countries in just one day...just to get the airport and back. This is pretty much where the fun (and blogging) begins. The journey there to pick her up, although tiring after an early morning 10 mile run, went quite smoothly with both of us leaving our respective houses between 9 and 11am and arriving in Nancy at about the same time...PM. However we passed the time watching City of God and trying to avoid random, weird train strangers/potential stalkers.

This is how one such scene played out...

A man sits down opposite us facing the red neon sign which reads "Destination Metz"
PS (potential stalker): Excusez-moi, vous parlez francais?
Me: Oui
PS: C'est le train pour Metz?
Me: Oui, je crois (pointing (rather pointedly) at the red neon sign)
PS: Merci, pardon.

So far so not so creepy. However during the next 15 minutes we had to don our best forced smile as we were posed a range of not so impersonal questions (all followed bizarrely by "pardon/I'm sorry" and an apologetic smile).
After this babble of questions in a very French English he then swapped seats to face us and stared for a very uncomfortable, very long five minutes. To our great relief, after several expletives he ran off the train.
So aside from this unwelcome interaction we, with the help of a thermos, pasta salad, grenadine and biscuits, passed the time quite well.

The journey back however was not quite so fun...
Just to give you an idea of our timetable:
Nancy - Luxemburg 19.00 - 20.30
Luxemburg - Frankfurt 03.00-04.50
6.30... Lou's plane takes off and my return journey begins

Although, this was never going to be the most fun, we thought: Why not find a nice restaurant? Have a drink in a bar? Pass the time doing something fun until 3.00? A spot of night tourism perhaps?
I had been to Luxemburg just a week before and thought it a lovely, harmless miniature capital city. Which of course is all perfectly true EXCEPT in the immediate area surrounding the train station of course.
Did this appear during our research on the internet beforehand?
Did it mention that the entire area would be populated by men and a few scantily clad women?
And did it mention that the only bars in the vicinity would be strip clubs?
No, in fact it did not.

Well, our first backup plan of staying in the train station failed miserably when we realised the entire room was filled with not so mentally stable townsfolk. There was a man and a woman fighting and screaming...we weren't sure if they were yelling at each other or at me and Louise to skedaddle off to where we came from.
Then some confusion ensued after a woman cattily asked if another woman's bag was a bin to which she replied:
"YOU KNOW PERFECTLY WELL THAT IT IS NOT A BIN. WHY DID YOU HAVE TO PROVOKE ME? WHY?".

This lasted a good five minutes.

This prime example of rationality then spent the next 10 minutes trying to get everyone to certify her absolute sanity by making us all agree that she had been provoked. Of course I agreed with her. But I shall just say one word. Duress.

I tell you, in that moment we made our excuses, au revoirs and we left. And I had never been so happy to find a Mcdonalds. It shut at 1am which left us with just two hours to kill in a freezing cold deserted bus stop, jumping at every group of men who passed by, whether they spoke to us or not. Oh and then we almost missed the bus since it turned out there were two bus stops named Gare Centrale quai 1 on different sides of the station. Excellent.

So that was the end of a nice trip that had otherwise been quite uneventful.

Sverige
And now to my volcanically eruptive stay in Sweden (see what I did there?). This was my first time setting foot in Scandinavia although I have always wanted to go since my Dad travels there a lot on business (though mainly to Norway) and I used to collect the Kroner coins he brought back. Although coin collecting is of course a solid basis for travel to distant lands I did in fact go to Gothenburg to visit a friend I met in Russia.

I was very excited, not just about being in a new country but about seeing Cicila and practising my extensive knowledge of Swedish (Skål för vänskap...cheers to friendship) which I had gained as a result of a tipsy beach party in Petrozavodsk. Anyway, it turns out, nobody ACTUALLY says this in Sweden which took my stock Swedish phrases down to about...erm...zero.

So there I was in the airport when I heard Easyjet announce that, due a volcano in Iceland, they had cancelled some flights to Alicante and other places located equidistant from Iceland. There I was cradling my rucksack, trying desperately to visualise a world map, thinking that maybe something wasn't quite right here, that Sweden is definitely closer to Iceland than Alicante.

However, I was actually allowed to fly to Gothenburg and it was only the day after that the entirety of Northern European airspace was closed down. But I didn't really think much about it, it was only Thursday and I had another five days before I flew back. And how much trouble could one little volcano cause anyway...?

In the meantime Cicila and I both found out that old habits die hard...old habits being: intense crisp eating (well, snacking in general), tea drinking, series watching, inane chatter, watching (and rewatching) Zoolander and just generally being silly.
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We bought these crisps the first day. By the second day there were none left.

We also did a fair amount of walking (and not just to buy food) and I had a chance to see the Swedish houses, which were really cute and colourful! Gothenburg was a really nice mix of city and country.
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We of course incorporated the walks with some silly antics!
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We also went out dancing one night and when people tell you that Scandinavians speak English well, it is no lie! About four or five people professed to having "rubbish English" but I think they were just being modest.
(N.B. I do like to...you know...give back and am now proud to inform you that I have at least five phrases in Swedish including the oh-so-useful:
I am/You are German/English/Swedish
I am/You are NOT German/English/Swedish
as well as the oh-so-untrue:
I understand everything. )

When we were out I met lots of Cicilia's friends who seemed nice and we also met a group of Norweigians who seemed very...erm...friendly, one of whom however was very very drunk and kept trying try out his not-so-smooth moves on us. At one point tried teach me Norweigian by talking to me in Norwegian incessantly. At which point I turned to Cicila and said in Spanish (it turns out Russian would have been a better option)
...Este hombre no me gusta para nada, me molesta bastante" (basically this guy is getting on my last nerve.)

It turns out Norwegians and Swedes can communicate without swapping language aside from a few vocabulary confusions (foreplay/preparty for example) so the conversation had been in English, Norwegian and Swedish. However, I had forgotten that we were in a country of language geniuses, and as could only happen to me the man turned round and said

"¿Porqué?" Why?. Oh yes, he had worked in Barcelona for two years and had in fact understood my scathing attack on his conversation.

However, instead of getting angry he bought me a cocktail so it turns out being extremely rude to your fellow man might work out to your advantage. Though I'm not sure that's any kind of lesson to take away from my embarrassment.

I did eventually make it back to Nancy, four days later as luckily I had ended up buying two lots of return flights.

And, in these extra days we did actually manage to write our project outline for our volunteer project in the Dominican Republic this summer.

Ta ta for now!

Posted by Sianieee 09:28 Archived in Sweden Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Roma!

When in Rome do as the...erm....Spanish.

sunny 19 °C

Well hello there young uns.

So for those of you who don't know I have recently voyaged (voyage=fly with ryanair) to Rome. This was not only my first trip to Italy but my first trip to a country where I didn't speak the language. Ergo, I was apprehensive.

First things first: I understood about three hundred times more Italian than the first time I went to Russia. So that was the first hurdle avoided. Phew! Plus everybody appeared to speak at least a little Spanish. That might be because half the city of Rome appeared to be Spanish. Seriously.


And I thought it was the British that travelled in packs without speaking the language...

The first reason we went to Rome was because my housemate Ester's brother is doing Erasmus there and he very kindly let a group of us stay in his flat for a week. It turns out Pablo (Ester's brother) and his flatmatmates were really really nice and hospitable and really made an effort for us to see everything and enjoy ourselves, which we did. A lot.

And the second of course is Ryanair.
This was my first experience with Ryanair and well, what can I say. You get what you pay for. But its so damn cheap who really cares? (Speaks the eager consumer to the death of the environment).

We drove to Frankfurt (entertained by Tati) and arrived at the airport which was home to some unusual translations.
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I'm sure I could be come a millionaire by going round restaurants and tourists sights and correcting their translations

From Frankfurt our flight was problem-free (that is if you consider sitting on a plane for two hours subject to a tirade of recorded advertisements problem-free of course).

We arrived extremely tired at around 11pm at night after about 12 hours of travel,When we arrived in Rome we took a bus from the aiport to the centre.
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Outside the airport. 18 degrees! This was quite the shock after leaving from the Nancy winter!
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We ended up eating a Mcdonalds and the women who served us turned out to be pretty fluent in Spanish and English. I do hope that is not what is awaiting me as a language graduate.

Then we arrived at Ester's brother's house which was full of people which is how it stayed the whole week. So safe to say there was never a dull moment...which of course always makes for the best travel experiences (no irony intended). It was a really good week.

To sum up, we spent a lot of time sightseeing and saw:

The colosseum
Outside...
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...and In
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An illuminated cat. Just thought I'd sneak that one in there as it was so utterly biazarre.
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The Vatican
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The Vatican Museum. Wow.
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The most expensive street in Rome
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The Spanish Steps
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The Roman Forum
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The Pantheon
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La Cúpula
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The Oldest Church in Rome
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Some nice streets
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The Tiber River
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Some nice views
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Including some rather odd trees
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The Spanish Embassy
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Every other tourist spot possible
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And aside from sightseeing we:

Ate Italian ice cream
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and Tiramismuuuuuu
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Did a spot of night tourism
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Partook in el botellon (i.e. drinking in the street) a l'espagnol or of course a la chav
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And salimos de fiesta of course. (Partied)

Incidentally, there are quite a few funny stories/anecdotes/bizarre incidents to report:

  • One night, a little tipsy we got home soaking wet from the rain and as I was washing off the mascara which had smudged down my entire face I managed to knock my new nose piercing out and it broke. You see, the problem as it is a relatively new nose piercing it heals quite quickly and I still hadn't quite got the hang of changing the piercing and couldn't find my other stud. To cut a long story short, I had to repierce my nose and then dose up on sugary cake to stop me from fainting.

  • The icing on the cake to our super cheap flights (la cerise sur le gateau...new phrase I've learnt :) ) was during our route home; we had to fly via Venice which had a rather militant Ryanair staff. So we were forced to spend over half an hour unpacking and repacking our bags so that not only did it fit into the handluggage holder but so that it didn't way a gram over 10kg.

  • I met a Catalan who insisted he wasn't Spanish...and very patronisingly explained to me where Cataluña is and why he would prefer not to speak Spanish. Which incidentally he seemed more than happy to do when he was unsuccessfully trying to grind up against me. No. Thank. You.

  • Another charmer at the party decised to start a conversation with me along the lines of:
    SI..TE..HABLO...EN..ESPANOL..ME..ENTIENDES?
    IF..I..SPEAK..SPANISH..DO..YOU..UNDERSTAND?
    So I replied that yes I did speak Spanish and there was no need to speak so slowly.
    ...15 minutes later when he was still speaking to me at the speed of what I can imagine would be a tortoise's if they indeed spoke. I asked him to stop and when he didn't asked him a few more times. He didn't take to this kindly and ignored me for 15 minutes before tapping me on the shoulder and telling me: "Eres muy borde!" which roughly translates as "You're quite a stroppy lady".

  • We were very maturely making "your face" jokes when a lady told me. "Don't worry. Tell her you don't have an ugly face. Tell her you have a funny face. Because you do. And there is nothing wrong with having a funny face.

  • I also managed in my perfect Italian (here the irony is intended) to get the price of my drink reduced by half. (My Italian consists of speaking Spanish in a terrible mock Italian accent.)
    It went something like this...
    me: Vodka Coca Cola...quanto?
    Barman: Dieci
    me (gesturing pathetically with a note): Solo cinque. (Smile).
    And just like I had a half price drink. Probably the first and only time that has worked.

  • I would like to add that this is the same night I managed to get an Erasmus card by fooling a Spanish man into thinking I was Spanish (by telling him my mother is Welsh when he asked about my name). Not sure if this is a credit to my Spanish skills, my blagging skills or to his immense stupidity. I don't exactly have the pinta española.

  • Before I tell this last little anecdote I should mention I have lots of American friends...so I know the protagonist is an exception :). An exceptional idiot.

    During a spot of night tourism we were walking through Rome when a group of Americans...lead by a rather drunk rowdy idiot yelled at us for directions (he seemed to think we were Italian). So I replied and said sorry we didn't know and this is how the conversation went from there....

    American: Oh you're British...Awesome. We're on the same team.
    Me (confused): What team is that then?
    American: We hate the f

  • ing French.
    Me: Actually I live in France so I don't hate the French.
    American: F
  • YOU. F
  • ENGLAND. YOU'RE AMERICA'S BITCH. I HOPE OUR F
  • ING COUNTY BOMBS YOUR F
  • ING ISLAND.

    If you're wondering if I accidentally deleted the part of the conversation where I provoked his absurd comments. You are quite mistaken. It really happened like that.

    So in the immense pressure I then, attempting to be witty, responded like this:

    You know the typical American stereotype?

    Well, you're it.

    Yes that was my cutting comment. My secret weapon. My wit.

    And with this he did however shut up and walk away but I think that this was more out of confusion than in awe at my comeback.

So that's all folks. A little long. A little dull. Western Europe just isn't quite so full of surprises as Russia.

Ciao

Posted by Sianieee 03:15 Archived in Italy Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Ever so slightly belated first update

Finally back to the entertainment...

all seasons in one day

So...this time round I have been pretty poor on the email front. Long gone are the days of 3000 word stories of turmoil and tripping in Mexico and instead will be replaced by short and snappy (ok, longwinded) tales in La Belle France. Intrigued? Read on...

For those of you who don't know I'm currently working as a French assistant in the University Nancy2 (which surprisingly is in Nancy). The French word is Lectrice and much to my surprise this isn't really an assistant but more like an actual teacher. Yes. Thats right. Me and my undergraduate degree in languages (not Anglophone History) are in fact designing the curriculum and teaching a Master's English History course, setting the exam and marking it. ALONE. I feel I would command more respect however if I weren't 5'2" and constantly running around the classroom, waving chalk like a mad person. Oh well. There are some things you just can't change.

Anyway as I have been extremely poor on the update front in this post I will summarise the last six (terrible I know) months through a slightly sub par photo montage.

I arrived with my Mother dearest and Father dearest.
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We toured the town...
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and moved me into my new flat :)

My new flat is located in this street, in this town. In summer in sparkles. In winter it drears (drear=invented verb from the adjective dreary. Add it to your dictionary.)
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And yes, Santa Claus(es) did in fact come to town. On motorbikes...

Then I met some new people like Erika from Indiana and got to know Catherine from my University in the UK.
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Within a few days of meeting Erika I (accidentally) tried to poison her with some translucent noodles.

My colocs (flatmates) finally moved in :)
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Mi Estercita and Julieeee

Then my Brummy friends came to vist and we had a funfilled weekend in Paris
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Then I went to visit Natalie in Lyon, saw Kasabian and got photo happy in front of an exciting wall
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We went on some day trips
Metz

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Strasbourg
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I met some more people. We ate fondu.
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And drank together on numerous occasions
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So there it is. The last 6 months of my life inadequately summed up in photos.
Oh yep, aside from training for the marathon that is...
May 9th. Be there or be square. Or sponsor me. Info to come. As are the aforesaid intriguing tales...i.e. whats actually going on in my life here.

Posted by Sianieee 06:29 Archived in France Tagged living_abroad Comments (1)

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