Blog: “To Home, From Gnome”
Hello and welcome to “To Home, From Gnome”
This blog is about my travels to London and Paris with the class with the companionship of this little fellow, my very own traveling gnome, Francis.
Why a gnome?
Here is a little background information about Francis. When I was in high school, I was scared of gnomes. I had nightmares about them and I hated the Travelocity traveling gnome commercials. So my mother, who is always eager to play practical jokes on me, bought this little gnome figurine. She would hide it in my bed, in the fridge, in the shower, and other places around the house just to scare me when I came upon it.
It turns out this little joke helped me get over my fear of gnomes, which I am not entirely sure if that was her end goal or not. I named him Francis and Francis has moved with me throughout college and now, he will take on Europe with me. He will be present in every blog post throughout the next two weeks.
You met Francis, now time to learn a little more about me
I think it is about time I introduced myself. As I said above, I just graduated from my university. I loved my college experience and classes, but I am now the perfect of mix of excited and terrified of what happens afterwards and where I go from here.
My first stop on the life train is to Europe on this trip. This is my first time outside of the country and I must admit, I am intimidated and a little scared. However, I found a way to face my fears of gnomes, and now I am documenting my travels with one, so I am sure my fears of leaving the United States will disappear as well.
I wanted to mention what expectations I have for this trip or what I want to learn, but after about 20 minutes of brainstorming, I realized that my only expectation is to learn. I want to learn about the many amazing media outlets we get to tour, and yet I also want to learn about how to not be a disrespectful tourist. There is a wide range of topics I want to find about from this experience and I unfortunately cannot narrow down to a simple bulleted list.
What’s the title mean?
The title of this blog “To Home, From Gnome” obviously references how I will be using a gnome to help tell my stories, but I also titled it this because I want it to be for my family and friends that will want to hear about my experience. This is my way to give them the closest to a firsthand account that I can give.
I hope that this blog will be just as entertaining to read as it is for me to write. Here’s to a great trip and fun-filled two weeks!
Farewell for now!
A Very Long First Day
Today was the day of beginning the journey to Europe! So I suppose we should start from the beginning…
It all started at 3:30 PM in the Pittsburgh International Airport. After some hard goodbyes to loved ones, we went through all the standard procedures of an airport (security, bag checking, etc.) and there Francis and I waited to board. I have to admit I was feeling some anxiety and stress from not only worrying about my first international flight, but also because of how packed these two weeks are. So after what felt like an eternity (partially from a slight delay in our flight), I was able to board the plane and off we went!
On my seven-hour flight, I was able to get some sleep and also make a friend. His name was Dragan and he was a Serbian man traveling back home from business in the US. We sat together and exchanged our background stories and he comforted me not to worry about looking like a silly tourist while in London and Paris. As we flew into Paris at Charles de Gaulle Airport and I could see the foreign land coming closer and closer, Dragan must have seen my wide-eyed expression, for he quietly stated, “Welcome to Europe” with a proud smile on his face.
After arriving at Charles de Gaulle Airport, we then had to rush through security and to our gate that had already begun boarding. An hour and a half layover was not as perfect of a plan as we had hoped it would be since we were delayed. Fortunately, we all made it on the plane and were ready to go… but then we had another 20-minute delay because of possibly bad weather in London. We were supposed to land in London at 10:25 AM, but after all was said and done, we got there at 12:00 PM. But we finally made it to London Heathrow Airport.
We were then introduced to our fantastic tour guide for our trip, Vincent Lauferon, who is a tour guide for his company Awesome Guide. He was just the right amount of spunk that we needed after such a long journey. He and another temporary British guide, Jan, then gave us a bus tour of London, and I must say, I did not realize just how large of a city London is. The tour took about two hours and we still did not see the whole city!
After the tour, we visited the Tower of London. Here is a picture of Francis outside of the Tower and by the Tower Bridge:
Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed to take pictures of the Crown Jewels room, which is a shame because I think Francis would have looked very proper next to those fancy items. Overall, however, the Tower of London was a great and educational experience.
Afterwards we checked into the Holiday Inn Bloomsbury and were finally able to rest for a couple hours. My roommates, Holly and Emily, and I only needed a couple minutes because then we were back up and exploring the city on our own. We took a little walk around Bloomsbury and through some of the parks; it was so lovely and refreshing to just be out in the open air for a while.
Our group then met up to go to dinner at the Bloomsbury Kitchen & Bar where we had a wholesome British meal. Unfortunately, Francis was not invited to this party, but took some pictures outside afterwards.
I cannot wait to keep exploring London even more this week, and I will be sure to keep everyone posted on what happens next!
Farewell for now!
From Buckingham Palace to the London Eye
Our first full day in London was a whirlwind, so be prepared for a long read!
We began Monday morning with a trip to the London Underground (AKA “The Tube”), which is most of London’s population’s main mode of transportation. Pittsburgh has a partially underground railway system called the Pittsburgh Light Rail, but more commonly known as the “T” or “Trolley.” The Pittsburgh Light Rail does not hold a candle to the Tube, however. The Tube has 11 different lines and hundreds of stops. Every move in the stations is systematic and there are always people coming in and out, rushing to get to the next train. It truly was one of the most intimidating transportation situations I had ever been in.
The stop that was closest to our hotel was Russell Square and we took that to Leicester Square. We walked through the square, which ended up being one of my favorite areas in London. Leicester Square is a spot famous for movie premieres and scenes in movies. It also has a casino, theatres, and London’s Chinatown nearby. Francis even made an appearance there; I had to chase the paparazzi away.
Next we walked toward the National Gallery. The architecture of the building and other surrounding ones were breathtaking. It was wonderful to walk through such a luxurious district.
We then continued our walk to Buckingham Palace for the 11 AM Changing of the Guard ceremony. We walked along the Mall, which is the famous road that leads to the palace. This gave us a chance to see how beautiful the parks in London are. The greenery makes the city feel alive and fresh. It almost made me forget that I was in such a large city at all.
The crowds get rather large at Buckingham Palace for the Changing of the Guard, which I found surprising since it is a ceremony that happens every day. There were many tourists, but there were also some British citizens as well, so it was fun to be a part of.
At about 12:30, the ceremony concluded and we walked toward Westminster Abbey and Big Ben, where we bought some lunch. Like the area around the National Gallery, it felt like such a clean, prestigious place to be.
We then caught the Tube again and walked to our afternoon lectures at The Hangout, which is an organization under City University London that helps students create their own startup companies. We participated in a lecture with Barbara Schofield, a Senior Lecturer at City University London. She did a great job getting us up to speed on what is currently happening with British media. After Barbara, James Probert, a BBC Sports Researcher, spoke with us about what it’s like to work with BBC and how he was able to get to his position. It was refreshing to hear someone say that a job you love may not be in the field you get your degree in and that it’s still okay to pursue it.
After our lectures, we went to a pub called Nicholson’s on the South Bank where I had my first encounter with fish and chips. I must say; it was quite a fantastic dish and I see why it’s a staple meal in British culture. After dinner we went to ride the London Eye. I thought I’d be nervous with how high we got, but it was too cool of an experience to be nervous for. Francis seemed to agree as he joined my class and I in our bubble.
Afterwards, we took the Tube home and got some well-deserved rest. I’ll be sure to keep posting about the rest of the London adventures soon!
Farewell for now!
Last Excursions in London
5/13 – 5/14
The last two days in London were so full of adventure that I decided to write a combined recap of them, so here we go!
Tuesday began with a walk around our neighborhood of Bloomsbury, where Vincent showed us around the streets and even Charles Dickens’ house, which is now a museum. Bloomsbury is such a cool little area that seems to be conveniently located in the middle of most places we wanted to visit.
We then walked to our Social Media Roundtable discussion at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR). Senior Lecturer in Public Relations at Birmingham City University and former Point Park University professor, Kathleen Donnelly, was our moderator, who organized a panel of public relations professionals for us. The panel included Pamela Mounter, who works with CIPR, Rebecca Kerry, a Global Customer and Shopper Marketing intern and a student at Birmingham City University, and Anton Perreau, who with with the public relations agency, Battenhall Agency. This lecture was my favorite media visit so far. The discussion with the panelists really inspired me to look at how I want to create my own strategies for public relations work.
After lunch with the panel and Kathleen, we then walked to the King’s Cross train station. The station is constantly busy and large, and it reminded me of what Grand Central Station is like in New York City. King’s Cross is also the famous station in the Harry Potter series and where the magical Platform 9¾ calls home. I’m not much of a Harry Potter fan myself, but it was fun to see all of the people who are gather around and take pictures.
After some exploring, we then walked to The Guardian for our next media visit. We met with Photography Editor Roger Tooth and Education Coordinator Margaret Holborn. It was really interesting to learn more about the paper and how quickly the staff has to put things together. I have worked with our school newspaper, The Globe, but to see a real, successful international paper was a real treat and put things in perspective of how much work goes into the print and web versions of papers.
When the visit concluded and we walked back to the hotel, we were able to enjoy some free time. A small group and myself decided to take the Tube back to Leicester Square to visit Chinatown and the shops on Oxford Street. Francis was not much for shopping, but did take some pictures with the entrance into Chinatown.
Oxford Street is very long and has stores that stretch all the way down it. There were a variety of stores, including H&M, Top Shop, and Primark. They were all fun, fashion stores that seemed targeted toward people our age, so we had a great time shopping and purchasing things. I bought a pair of funky sunglasses to replace the ones I had accidentally left at home. We concluded the evening with some dinner and then headed back to the hotel.
Wednesday started with a trip on the Tube to Finsbury Square to have our media visit at Bloomberg. We toured the building with and had presentations from Toni Parsons, a producer for Bloomberg TV, News and Media Recruitment Coordinator Carly Stewart, and EMEA Recruiter Sarah Mann . The media visit itself was great and educational, but it was really the aesthetic and architecture of the building that gave it the wow factor. It looked almost futuristic and really what I pictured a newsroom/company in London to look like. I was upset that we could not take pictures, but I am still happy I was able to see the inside and learn from such a successful company.
At about noon, we left Bloomberg and were able to split off for free time again. My group was quite ambitious and had many places we wanted to see on our last day there. We ended up visiting Kensington Gardens and the outside of Kensington Palace, catching the Tube back to go to the National Gallery, and then catching the Tube again back to King’s Cross to visit the Harry Potter store and the British Library, and then afterwards headed towards Baker Street to visit Regent’s Park. We were able to do it all and Francis was there for some pictures:
After spending some time relaxing in Regent’s Park, a couple others and myself headed back home and stopped in for dinner at the pub across the street from our hotel. I had my last fish and chips meal and prepared myself to say goodbye to London. Although it was such a long tiring day, it was really great to push myself and go see the city. I may not have seen all I wanted to, but that is what my return trip will be for, whenever that happens; hopefully in the near future.
Be sure to keep reading to hear about my adventures in Paris next!
Farewell for now!
Ooh la la, Paris!
Here is a recap of my first day in Paris! Enjoy!
Early birds get the worm, and that’s what my class and I did on Thursday when we traveled from London to Paris on the Eurostar train. We departed from our hotel in Bloomsbury at 4:30 am for our 5:40 am departure on the train. My roommates and I were far too excited to get enough sleep the night before, so waking up came way too soon. Fortunately, we traveled to St. Pancras station via bus, making it a little bit easier.
Once we were checked through security and customs and waited patiently to board, we were on the train. It was my first time on a train, so as exhausted as I was, I was also ecstatic. My enthusiasm soon lost the battle against exhaustion, however, as I fell asleep about a half hour into the ride. Francis was awake long enough to snap a picture as we left London.
Soon I awoke to being just a couple minutes outside of Paris. We arrived at the station Gare du Nord at about 9:15 am. As soon as we got off the train, we were immersed in the French language and I was terrified. I know some French, but not nearly enough to make it through the crowds to the bus comfortably. Luckily, I did make it on the bus, where we began our tour of the city.
Vincent had the bus driver take us all through the city to sight-see. We drove past the Opéra national de Paris, Musée du Louvre, Musée D’Orsay, on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, past the Arc de Triomphe, and many more famous monuments and streets. I could feel the history of radiating off of every inch of the city. Paris is unique and beautiful because of how much of a rich history it has and that it keeps the aesthetic of older times and does not choose to make more modern buildings. It truly is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.
After a ride through the city, we visited a place where we had a great view of the La Tour d’Eiffel. I was so eager to get outside the bus to take pictures that I completely forgot to bring Francis out with me. Don’t worry though; Francis met the tower a little later in the day.
After our quick stop for pictures and to exchange money, we got back on the bus to go over to tour the Quartier latin and Notre-Dame de Paris. Again, because of enthusiasm, Francis was not able to meet the grand cathedral, but he will soon. The Quartier latin was such a bustling place filled with people of all ages, but especially younger people, which was fun for us. We walked over to Notre-Dame and basked in her beauty. I’m not Catholic or really actively religious, but that cathedral can bring out spirituality in many people, including myself. It was simply breathtaking.
We then split off into groups and had our first Parisian lunch. It was a little bit of a struggle, but we somehow got through it. I found that if you are nice and polite to the waiters and waitresses, they are just as nice and polite and willing to help in return.
Afterwards we went back to our hotel to relax for a bit. Unlike in London, I did actually take this time to relax in the room and get ready for the evening, which included dinner and a boat ride on the Seine River. The hotel is conveniently located in District 18 in Montmartre. Montmartre is famous for the Moulin Rouge and being the Red Light District of Paris, as well as where many artists and writers came to live.
For dinner we went to Bistro de Montmartre, where we enjoyed a three-course meal. It was amazing; one of the options for the main course was duck, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The French really do know their food. The atmosphere was also great, with an older pianist playing us songs during dinner. I really felt like I had finally made it to Paris.
With full stomachs and cheerful moods, we took a boat tour to see the city at night. Francis was finally able to see the Tour d’Eiffel. The ride was a little chilly, but absolutely delightful as we passed monuments and people enjoying Parisian night life. It was a great way to end such a long first day.
I will keep everyone posted on how the rest of the stay in Paris goes!
Farewell for now!
Je t’aime, Paris!
5/16 – 5/17
Friday and Saturday were such busy days, but so fun! Here’s a recap of what happened:
Friday was the first full day here. We started the day out with a trip to CELSA Sorbonne, which is just a couple minutes outside of Paris in Neuilly-sur-Seine. We participated in a lecture with a graduate student and teaching assistant there, Juliette Charbonneaux. Juliette talked with us about what French media has looked like in the past and what it is presently. There were a couple points that stood out for me, particularly that journalists in France get a 30 percent tax reduction if journalism is their steady source of income. The reason is to keep people interested and protect the field of journalism. This was shocking to me because the United States does not try to give journalists that kind of security, especially freelance journalists. France seems to be more involved in preserving the culture of public journalism they have installed.
Next, we split off into groups; the first group got an hour break for lunch then had a lecture with the president of Ketchum and the second group got a two-hour break for lunch and activities and then went to Ketchum. I was in the second group, so we went to lunch at a brasserie, which is a restaurant that serves single dishes instead of courses like in many cafes, and then walked further down the Rue de Clichy to the Opera House where Francis got a picture.
After peaking into the popular department store Galeries LaFayette, we walked back up Rue de Clichy to Ketchum. We met with the president of the France branch, Philippe Beteille. It was in a small conference room and the atmosphere was comfortable and relaxed. It felt more like a discussion and friendly chat, rather than a lecture. Mr. Beteille informed us on how PR in France is not quite as respected as it is in the United Kingdom, and therefore they have to earn the trust of the companies they work with. It was surprising to me because advertising in France is so strong, so I had assumed public relations would be just as strong of a force.
After Ketchum, we had some time to relax, then a group of us walked down to the Mogador Theatre to see Disney’s La Belle et la Bete, which is Beauty and the Beast in French. Francis was excited and snapped a picture before the show. I found that because I could not understand the words of the dialogue or songs, I paid more attention to body language and how the words were said. It was great show and I now get to say that I saw a live show in Paris.
Saturday was also quite busy. We started the day with a hike up the hill of Montmarte. We passed many famous artists’ apartments, including Van Gogh’s and Picasso’s. Montmarte is my favorite district in Paris because of how close and intimate it feels. The streets getting narrower and the squares are not quite as large, so people are more interactive with each other.
Once we got to the top, we saw Le Sacre-Coeur, which is a grand church that looks over the city. Francis and I were in awe as we gazed at it. After a couple minutes there, we were able to get lunch and shop around the market close to the church. I bought myself a famous Chat Noir print and a couple souvenirs. I felt so Parisian glancing through the artist’s work and just enjoying the beautiful day.
We then climbed back down the hill and took the metro to Musée du Louvre, which was absolutely breathtaking. The Louvre is Napoleon’s old palace, which seemed way too large for just one man and his wife. The works in the museum are prestigious and some of the oldest, but unfortunately it is just too large to see in one afternoon.
So after seeing some of the works and halls we wanted to, we went and sat our in the Jardin des Tuileries with many other Parisians enjoying their day off. We then did a little exploring and shopping and split off into smaller groups and got some dinner. My group wanted to take part in Nuit des Musees, which is Museum Night, where people can get into museums for free. We went to the Musee D’Orsay, which I liked more than the Louvre. Musee D’Orsay focuses on Impressionism art and more recent works, plus it was in a cool old train station. It really was a great time and a great way to end the day.
Thank you for reading through my long and fun-filled days! I’ll keep everyone posted on what we do for the next 3 days in Paris!
Farewell for now!
When in Paris
Sunday was the first day we were really able to relax a little bit, so my roommate Carson and I slept in and had an easy start to the day. We then traveled over to Notre Dame, where we found a panini stand for some lunch. The woman working the stand did not seem fond of her other American customers, but she did seem to like us. I think the difference was that we were polite and attempted to speak a little bit of French, while the other customers just barked in English at her what they wanted. It was nice to see that our efforts were rewarded.
Afterwards, we wanted to find Musée de Cluny because Carson wanted to go, but after some walking and wandering, we decided to just walk around and explore the city instead. We stumbled across a small art festival, where we bought souvenirs. We also found an ice cream stand and enjoyed some French ice cream. It was nice to not feel the pressure of having somewhere to be and wandering for a while.
We then walked over to the Louvre and the Jardin de Tuileries and sat in the shade and watched the birds and the people for an hour or two. The muttered conversations and the sounds of birds all blended together and I became relaxed like I would at the beach listening to the ocean. It was one of the most wonderful moments I have had abroad so far because it was the first time I was able to really breathe and feel the new air around me.
We headed back to the hotel after our relaxing afternoon to meet up with the rest of the group for dinner. We traveled to the Grands Boulevards to eat and walked around for bit. I could see why the boulevard was so grand; the area was beautiful and full of shops and cafes. We even explored the Passage des Panoramas, which is a small alley-like covered passage where people shop. Paris has so many little wonders and gems throughout it that it is hard to catch all the things that make this city great.
After dinner, we then took the Metro over to Les Champs-Elysées and walked down the street to the famous Arc de Triomphe. Many tourists do not realize that Paris actually has five arches in the city that celebrate triumph; the others are scattered throughout. We were going to take a tour to the top of the Arc, but it was closed for tours, even though we were booked for 10 pm. Many of us wanted to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle, which is does every night at 10 pm, 11 pm, and 12 am, so Vincent had us run to the Metro to try to catch it at another spot in the city. Unfortunately, we could not make it in time, so we just decided to walk down closer to the tower and sit on the lawn for the 11 pm sparkle. It was stunning to see. The flashing lights encapsulate all of Paris’s sparkle in a brief 5 minutes.
I’ll be sure to keep you posted on our last 2 days of media trips for Monday and Tuesday and then we traveled to Normandy!
Farewell for now!
Wrapping up in the City of Lights
Here is a recap of our last two days of media visits and excursions in Paris for this trip!
Much like Sunday morning, Monday morning was a slow start for Carson and I. We leisurely strolled from the hotel into Montmarte. We stopped at a boulangerie for breakfast/lunch and then sat in a small park on a bench to eat. It was interesting watch everyone pass around us going about their routines for the beginning of the work week.
After a while of sitting, we started to head back toward the hotel, when we took a detour down to the Cimetiere de Montmartre. This cemetery is quite different from most American ones; the plots and graves are above ground, much like in New Orleans. Many of the graves are rather old as well; some dating back to before the United States was even a nation. Francis and I felt a bit uneasy there, which surprised me because I’m not usually one to get uncomfortable in cemeteries. The only explanation I could come up with that a) I was so close to the dead and their graves with them being above ground and b) There is no way that I could know anyone in the cemetery, making me like an unwelcome, unknown guest at the party. It was a beautiful, spiritual place, but I just did not feel like I belonged there.
To contrast our holy, spiritual visit, we walked up to the Boulevard de Clichy because I wanted to see the Moulin Rouge from the outside. The Moulin Rouge is a famous cabaret in Paris that is placed right in the middle of the red light district. The location is known for its promiscuity, but Francis and I wanted to see the Moulin Rouge for ourselves. We did not stay long because we did not have much time, but I’m happy I can at least say I’ve seen it.
At 2 pm, our group departed from the hotel for our media to Agence France-Presse (AFP), which is a global French-based news agency that acts much like the Associated Press does in the United States. The visit was quite interesting because our speakers, Paris Correspondent and Deputy Head of the International Service Angus Mackinnon and Director of AFP North America David Millikin, talked with us about how AFP is beginning to market itself as a consumer product rather than an agency that sells to other news services. In the competitive world of the Internet, it is becoming more difficult to direct people to a certain brand or company, even if it is a company like AFP. What really stood out to me in our meeting was that they were curious what we thought they should do and asked us questions about how we get out news. They realize that our generation is who they need to reach now, and as young professionals, it seemed like we were a competent group to ask.
After AFP, we traveled by Metro and the Réseau Express Régional (RER), which is a longer commuting train that leaves Paris, to go to France 24. France 24 is a French broadcast station, which started in 2006 and has three channels in three languages: French, English, and Arabic. We first met with the Deputy Director Benoit Laporte, who then introduced us to Sylvie Rottman, a senior producer and Deputy Director of English Service Françoise Champey-Huston. Although the organization is young, the producers explained how it already making strides in international media and earning the trust of audiences even more than other large news organizations. I was impressed by how much they have accomplished in such a short amount of time.
Tuesday, we headed out on the Metro and RER again to Disneyland Paris. Everyone was really excited because not only did we get to meet with some of the Public Relations department in the morning, but we also got to enjoy the park afterwards. We met Irma Smits, who works in Press Events and Production, Public Relations Director Martine Stuben, Senior Publicist Stéphane Cunnac, and International Press Relations Representative Damien Vayne. What was most impressive about Disneyland Paris’s public relations was that in a little over 20 years, they were able to take a negative French public opinion of the park and not only turn the French people’s opinion into a positive, but most European’s.
After our meeting, we had a rainy, but otherwise fantastic day of enjoying the park and buying souvenirs. Disneyland Paris is definitely worth going to when visiting France! It’s the perfect size for a day trip and gives a taste of what the Disney culture is like.
Now we say goodbye to Paris and hello to Normandy and St. Malo! I cannot wait!
Farewell for now! (Especially you, Paris. I’m coming back to you at some point)
To Northern France we go!
5/21 – 5/22
For our last couple days of our journey in Europe, we traveled to Normandy and Brittany. On Wednesday, we took a four-hour bus ride to Normandy. It was difficult saying goodbye to Paris, but I know I will be back at some point.
We arrived in Normandy in the early afternoon. We stopped in a small town called Arromanches-les-Bains. What was most interesting about this village was the beach, where remnants of war could be found. The beach was so rich in War World II history, particularly post-D-Day operations, and I was honored with the opportunity to walk on it.
After a quick lunch break in Arromanches-les-Bains, we continued our trip to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial and Omaha Beach. As if I wasn’t humbled enough at Arromanches-les-Bains, I could not help but feel overwhelmed at such an important place in world history. I was standing in the place where thousands of men died in a single day and the water was red with blood for days after June 6, 1944; a place where men ultimately gave up their lives to end World War II. France had given the United States the land afterwards, so the American flag could be seen flying in the wind around the memorial. I wanted to cry; it was the first time I had seen the American flag waving in two weeks and it was the most comforting moment I had the whole trip.
We walked around the cemetery and memorial for about two hours until we headed to Pointe du Hoc, which is now a ranger memorial site. The site is a cliff that stands between Utah Beach and Omaha Beach. It was a place that was heavily attacked, as craters from bombs are scattered everywhere around the area. We were able to explore the concrete bunkers that the German army had built and occupied. The bunkers were uncomfortable and cold; they did not feel like a place that men could live in, yet somehow German troops had.
The memorial sites really knocked the wind out of me and made me appreciate all that I have. I wanted to be there with my family more than anything and just hug them. After a long afternoon of our hands-on experience with learning about World War II, we headed to Bayeux, which is also a small town in Normandy. It was an adorable little town that surrounded an enormous cathedral called the Bayeux Cathedral. Francis had to stop to pose for a picture with it.
We checked into our cozy hotel that felt more like a bed & breakfast and then went to dinner where we reminisced about the day and realized that we only had one more dinner together after this. The trip had gone by so fast and we all just enjoyed each other’s company.
The next day we left Bayeux and headed toward Brittany, which is the province next to Normandy. We began our adventures by visiting Mont Saint-Michel, which is an island with a giant old monastery right on the edge of Normandy. It looks like a fairytale castle and is beautiful. Francis took his tourist picture outside of it before we went in.
The monastery is rich in history, as it has been there since the eighth century. It truly was a delight and treasure to walk around, as well as the little shops and buildings that sit outside of it. I felt like I was in a Disney movie but better. Unfortunately for us, however, the rains came in and we got soaked. Luckily, we headed to St. Malo, the last destination of our journey, where were able to check into our hotel.
St. Malo was such a picturesque place. We stayed in the old part of the city, which is surrounded by walls and is a real life fortress. After getting dried off, a group of us took a walk around and Francis was able to get a picture. It is really exciting to say my last night in France was spent in an old fortress city. We had our last dinner together and joked and laughed all about our experiences. Afterwards, some of us went down to the beach and enjoyed the night. It was a spectacular way to end such a life-changing trip.
Be sure to stick around for my last post to wrap up the trip and my last thoughts!
Farewell for now!
Home at last
5/23 and days after
It took about 14 hours of traveling, but I made it home at last! Pittsburgh has never looked so beautiful to me (or Francis either for that matter). England and France were breathtaking and amazing, but there really is no place like home.
I have been back in the United States for several days now, and I am finally realizing how different the cultures are between this country and Europe. There are many things I miss about London, Paris, and Northern France, especially the food. It has been difficult to go back to American food that is not as healthy or fresh. It’s been nice to not have a language barrier, however.
As for media, I found I was enjoying British and French media more than American media. Like the food, it felt more trustworthy and honest, like I was not being fooled of what the content was. I have found myself checking the BBC over CNN and other American media outlets. I’ve even looked at France 24 to try to get some international coverage. Overall, British and French media, as well as their cultures, have made me more aware of the rest of the world. In America, it sometimes feels like I am in a bubble, hearing the same stories with the same perspectives, and I feel like there is something lacking. I did not think that I was so uncultured on other parts of the world, but this experience has shown me that I have so much to learn and that sometimes, I just need to go to other places if I want to learn more, either physically or through their media.
The most eye-opening part of the trip for me, however, was how fascinated I was by the language and dialect differences. I want to know more about why places speak differently and where those roots come from. Although I just graduated, this has made me more interested in learning different languages and even possibly doing some studies in linguistics. I would have never known this interest if I had not taken this trip. It could lead me down a new career path and I am astonished these two countries and their people in such a short amount of time were able to open my mind to different avenues of learning and education.
In two weeks, I went from scared of traveling to other places and trying new things to someone that has tireless wanderlust. As much as I want to live in the United States and call this place home, I want to explore the rest of the world now. I want to meet new people and hear about the culture from them, instead of in books or on the Internet. I could not be more thankful for this experience and the people I experienced it with. I made friends that I never want to lose and met some really impressive and wonderful people that have helped changed my life.
I’m excited to see what life has to offer next and I cannot wait to start planning my next trip to Europe!
Thank you to all that have read through my adventures and farewell for now!