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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Golden Treasure

Yesterday, lucky us, we found a Belgium waffle stand in Paris. #sohappy #Ilovebelgiumwafflesmorethananything #iftherearebelgiumwafflesiamtheretoo #maybeiwillmarrythem

Friday, June 7, 2013

France Week 5 aka Belgium

Welcome to Belgium: The waffles are five star, the people are warm and friendly, and the atmosphere is such a mix of people and cultures. Here I am in the Grand Place de Bruxelles (Brussels). The Grand Place is basically just a wide open square in the middle of town where everyone gathers. It feel like the heart of the city. While in Belgium, here is what I noticed:

1. Waffles! Seriously, truly, truelove, so good. I could have only eaten waffles while I was there and been so happy. They are so unreal it is ridiculous - better than any pastry in France any day. Out of all the perishable things I wish I could bring home to my family, this one is top on the list.

2. The architecture was unlike anything I have ever seen. I basically took a ton of pictures that look pretty much all the same because I was so fascinated with what I was seeing. We took a boat ride down the river in Bruges and learned a petit bit about the history. I could just imagine the streets bustling with trade and the people of the past.

3. Brussels is one of the capitals of the European Union. The city is the walking definition of cosmopolitan. We met a guy who spoke 15 languages, and although he is an outlier, just walking around the streets you can hear many languages weaving together. And, we got to tour the European Union Parliament. I absolutely loved learning about European politics. And I might even go as far as to say that foreign politics should be taught in high schools. It was fascinating to see how other governments work and realize that different governments work for different groups of people with different historical backgrounds. The parliament building was designed so that people would have many opportunities to meet and interact with their coworkers just by walking the halls. There really was such an atmosphere of peace there, and it was fascinating to see how all these different countries can all work together so well. I am not saying the European Union is perfect, but it is a pretty amazing system. I was talking to my host mere about it, and she pointed out how difficult it has been for some countries to manage their economies with the euro as their money system. Next spare time activity: learn more about the EU.

4. Tout le monde rides bikes. Which is great. I am a bike advocate. I love bikes. Biking is my favorite way to travel actually. Someone should invent a foldable bike that can fit in a backpack. Someone probably has.

5. I feel like maybe swans are native to Europe. They are everywhere.

6. I got to see a piece of the Berlin wall which was way cool. Another thing to add to my to learn about list: the political implications that accompany the Berlin wall and what exactly doe it symbolize to different groups of people?

Basically, I loved Belgium. But mostly, I loved learning about other cultures, peoples, and politics...and eating waffles.

Loving me some Belgium

The EU Parliament

Some modern art in the EU parliament.
If you touch it in one spot, the entire structure moves
in different ways symbolizing how what happens in
each country affects the rest of Europe.

Belgium is also famous for their fries.

The Berlin wall.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

France: Week 3 and 4

This is me in France looking out my window after church today at one of the first sunny days in Paris in the past four weeks. In the past two weeks I have learned quite a bit about French culture, French language, and about life. I took a weekend trip down to Marseilles and met this missionary couple that taught me so much simply through their example. As I watched them interact with the YSA's they were called over, they radiated with love. What is more, they shared that same love with each of us. They even made us a super good lunch so we could go on a day trip with the rest of the YSA kids. At the top of the city, outside Notre-Dame de la Garde, I asked the wife is she was excited to go home, back to America, in two weeks. She said that actually she wasn't. She loves it here, and is really going to miss all the people. What an example she was to me of just living and loving wherever you are. Afterward, we sat inside the beautiful cathedral and listened to the music. I honestly haven't been homesick since. As Sister Dalton reminded me "What-e'er thou art, act well they part."

I have tried a lot of crazy food (most of which was crazy good) and seen some little towns that were voted the most beautiful in France. They were absolutely gorgeous! I decided I prefer to hug people instead of kiss their cheek, and would rather be served by an American waiter than a French waiter any day. In France the tip and the tax are already included in the price, and waiting tables is not all about the customer. Call me spoiled, but I find it rude when a waiter isn't extremely nice. Also, the water in the Mediterranean, at least of the coast of France, is so extremely clear! Pistachio is my new favorite flavor of ice cream. Modern art just barely beats impressionism in my book. And seafood is only getting better and better - fish has probably won out as my all time favorite meat. Muscles are pretty great too.

So I have been here for a month now, but it really just feels like a blink of an eye. I can't wait to each American breakfasts again, although I sure am going to miss the bread and croissants and cheese. And the Kinder Beuenos aka the my new favorite candy bar (plus the other Kinder versions). They really need to start selling those in the US of A.

Photos from Week Three

Just a sign I found somewhere in Lyon.

The remains of a Roman village.
We got to go through and explore all of it.

Off the coast of Marseilles.

Notre-Dame de la Garde is definitely my favorite
cathedral I have ever seen.

Photos from Week 4

Escargot was not that great.

The precursor to shopping malls these were
hidden between streets.

Modern art!

Always a rainy day at a castle.

Duck. was. seriously. so. good. (sorry it is

This village was voted the prettiest in all of France.

The pilgrims would climb these stairs on their knees.

When in France...try fois gras?

Whew, was that enough pictures or what?