Weeks Five & Six

The last two weeks have been filled with travel, and more officialization. I’m slowly starting to feel like I belong here, in as much as one can ever belong in a temporary and foreign place. For example, I finally found a really good grocery store, thanks to advice from an acquaintance, called Edeka, which has fresh produce and a huge selection. I also bought an expensive pair of shoes that will hopefully last.

I also bought a used bike off of Ebay Kleinanzeigen (similar to Craigslist), because being at the mercy of the bus system was really starting to drive me nuts, plus, I need the exercise. Actually the bike helmet and U-lock cost me more than the bike itself. I admit the bike is a tad large, but its size also makes it powerful, and I think it will work out (if not I can always resell it). Plus it was really a great deal for everything that came with it.

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For 89 euros: an aluminum road bike with fenders, pedal-powered lights, trunk rack, 2 panniers, double kickstand, 2 hand pumps, 3 rain ponchos (why?), some tools (but not for everything), and 2 spare tires

Anyway, having nothing to do for these two weeks, since my classes don’t start till Oct 24th (so late!), I decided to spend part of the time travelling. I have always wanted to see Paris, and it’s just about 2.5 hours train ride from Saarbrücken. Then I visited a friend in Grenoble which is another 2.5 hours or so from Paris. It was nice to spend some time in France using my French language skills, which are better than my German skills– things just felt a little more comfortable because of that. I am really looking forward to being that good (or hopefully even better) in German… but it’s going to take a lot of work.

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Obligatory Eiffel Tower pic (I have so many…)

Paris was gigantic– the monuments are massive, the metro is extensive, the people are numerous. It’s dirty in the way that big cities are dirty, and the people are distant in the way people in big cities are distant. No one was rude though, and I only got hit on once. Because the Musée d’Orsay was open late on Thursday and the Louvre was open late on Friday, I ended up being out for literally 12 hours a day for the first two days (to the point of getting blisters from walking so much). Unfortunately, I had gotten sick the weekend before I went, and all of this walking did not help me recover. I am still coughing/sneezing a little as a result, but it was worth it. The late Thursday/Friday days allowed me to see almost everything that was at the top of my list, but with a city so huge, of course, there were may things I still missed that I will have to come back for.

By the way, I stayed at Le Village Hostel Montmartre, and it was a great experience, so I can recommend them. They were very clean, comfortable, great location next to a metro station and the Sacré-Cœur, and they had free croissants (while supplies lasted) which probably helped cut down some of my food costs.

In terms of monuments, the Eiffel Tower was, of course, a must-see (though I didn’t have time to go up it this time), but the Arc de Triomphe was my favorite. It was so huge, which somehow made Paris feel all the more like a world class city to me. In terms of museums, I was very glad I budgeted a full day to the Palace of Versailles, because it was definitely worth a visit (as was the Louvre of course), but I think I enjoyed the Musée d’Orsay most of all. This museum has the largest collection of impressionist art in the world, and the impressionists are definitely amongst my favorite painters, plus, the temporary exhibition on the Second Empire they had was very interesting as well.

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Clock in the old railway station that is the Musée d’Orsay

Apart from that, I actually happened upon a harvest festival, the Fête des Vendages de Montmartre, at the Sacré-Cœur, which proved to me that the French are just as good at a party as the Germans.

Long story short, I ate a lot of good and expensive food in Paris. Although I didn’t have the forethought to reserve any high class restaurant experiences, my favorite place that I ate at was Le Bistrot des Campagnes, because it was a delicious no fuss dining experience (no reservations required) for a good price. By the way, if you are planning your own trip to Paris, make certain you plan around lunches, because from 3pm-7pm everything is just closed, and you don’t want to be walking around in search of an open cafe.

As usual, the phone pics don’t do the incredible food justice:

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After a fun but hectic time in Paris, I took the train down to Grenoble, a smaller town at the foot of the Alps, to visit a friend. This was the perfect way to wrap up my vacation. Although it was a little cloudy, the Alps were still breathtakingly beautiful, and getting out into the fresh air was exactly what I needed after the smokey bustle of the big city. I could see myself living here, and just hiking all year round. But good food and good company are what make life so sweet. =)

To wrap up… it turns out that when I am bored, I have a penchant for spending a lot of money. In fact, I’m quite embarrassed about the costs these last two weeks, because I’m sure I could have gotten some things for cheaper, or avoided getting them at all and still been fine. I’m sure that once school starts, I’ll be too busy to do this though, so hopefully I can reign myself in the next few months.

Approximate costs these 2 weeks (er.. can we not talk about this?):

  • €100 – shoes
  • €20 – clothes (socks, scarf, tights)
  • €89 – bike
  • €100 – bike helmet and lock (maybe I could have gotten these for cheaper)
  • €120 – groceries (lots of pantry staples that should last)
  • €15 – cookware
  • €12 – notebooks/etc. in prep for classes
  • €456  Total

Approximate costs for travel (aaaaaah what have I done!):

  • €250 – train tickets
  • €130 – Paris hostel
  • €30 – Paris metro tickets
  • €45 – Paris museum tickets
  • €30 – small souvenirs
  • €30 – some gifts
  • €94 – dining out a few times
  • €60 – more food at the festival, bakeries, etc.
  • €669  Total
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