After three weeks straight of a combination of mid-terms and traveling, I finally have a day off to catch up on the blog. Who knew studying abroad would be this exhausting?!? Probably won't be getting a lot of sympathy though...tough crowd.

After a week of mid-terms, Lorenzo de'Medici gave us a week off for vacation. My group of friends decided to do what's called the Northern Loop consisting of Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Prague (each city will have a separate post). Instead of going through the student travel company Bus2Alps, we decided to plan the trip on our own, a big undertaking to say the least. With planes, trains, and hostels booked, we set off Thursday night (10/18) the for our first destination: Paris.

We woke up Friday and set off for the Château de Versailles, or Palace of Versailles, just outside of Paris. The 17th century building was the center of political power in France when Louis XIV moved here from Paris. The palace has 2,300 rooms with original and replica pieces from the time period, and is estimated to have cost $2 billion to construct. Outside the palace is almost 2,000 acres of gardens, including the house of Marie Antoinette. No luck trying to find a "For Sale" sign anywhere on the property...
Outside the front gate
"Backyard" at Versailles
Late Friday afternoon we went to the Musée du Louvre, the museum that houses Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa and Venus di Milo statue. The Mona Lisa is a lot smaller than I had imagined, although it was still pretty neat to see the original. After walking around the museum for a few hours, we went to get an authentic French dinner where I experienced my first escargot. Très bon! Thank you Nikki for treating me to birthday dinner!

Despite the rain on Saturday morning, a few of us went on a four hour bike tour of the city of Paris. We couldn't have looked like tourists anymore than we did riding around with ponchos on. The tour brought us to see the Eiffel Tower, a complex of buildings called Les Invalides that houses Napoleon's tomb, the Musées du Louvre and D'Orsay, and a few other sites.

After a brief stop at Louis Vuitton for the girls (although they did have a Louis golf bag), we went to climb, well, take an elevator, to the top of the Eiffel Tower. The Tower was a lot taller than I expected it to be, and the view from the top was amazing until the clouds set in and it started to rain again.

Saturday night we went out to a restaurant and formally celebrated my 21st birthday as my real birthday was in the middle of mid-terms and I spent it studying. We found a little Italian restaurant by our hostel that was surprisingly some of the best Italian food I've had in Europe. After some lasagna, spaghetti with muscles, and a few glasses (or bottles) of wine, some of us went back to the Eiffel Tower to see it light up at night.

Standing under the tower with its golden glow was amazing. The overcast conditions actually paid off for us, as the lights illuminated the fog around the top of the tower. The five of us passed around a bottle of champagne and watched the tower in amazement. I even broke out a few Frank Sinatra songs on my phone to set the mood. It was an incredible sight and an amazing night.
Not a shabby way to celebrate my 21st birthday
As if Paris wasn't great enough, Sunday I got to go to Disneyland Paris to take a break from the traditional European culture. The park was decorated for Halloween so we all enjoyed the fall atmosphere that we're missing out on back in New England. It wasn't quite the same as Disney World back in the U.S. but we still had a great time going on all the rides (Tower of Terror, Space Mountain, Rocking Roller Coaster, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc.). We had dinner at the Rainforest Cafe to celebrate my friend Alyssa's birthday and then headed back to the hostel.

We had half a day left in Paris Monday morning, so a few of us went over the the Notre Dame Cathedral for a few hours. Construction began in 1163 and is one of the most well known cathedrals in the world, and I could certainly see why due to the sheer size of the church. The stained glass windows were massive as well. We grabbed a baguette sandwich and some macaroons, grabbed our bags from the hostel, and caught our train for Amsterdam. Second class seats were all sold out, so we were forced into the first class cabin where we got free sandwiches, snacks, and wine, but we were most excited over the free WiFi that actually worked!
11/6/2012 05:50:48 am

I buy you your first escargot and don't even get a nod in the blog?! ouch eric! haha

11/8/2012 02:13:09 am

I thought I put that in there, you got the nod now though!


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