Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Prague and Budapest for Spring Break!

This year I decided that doing some traveling on Spring Break was in order! A group of us decided that Prague and Budapest would be two really interesting places to visit during our break from classes and life in France.

Prague was our first stop and we entered the city with high expectations that were definitely met. We spent the first night exploring a bit of the city center by foot and getting a feel for it. The next day, we decided to get a guided tour through the city. We started at the ancient Astrological Clock in the city center. The clock had several dials and four figurines symbolizing things like death and vanity and has been standing for over 600 years! All around us were gorgeous buildings from many different eras like Baroque, Gothic, Renaissance, and many more! It was clear that throughout all the invasions of Czech Republic, that the preservation of history was very important.

We even visited a “haunted” church where a mummified arm hangs as a warning to any thieves thinking of taking the churches treasures! Our tour guide was extremely accommodating and even took us to one of his favorite local pubs for lunch. My friends had goulash, pork, or beef, and I enjoyed the only vegetarian option: a garlic-y potato pancake! We explored more of the city the following day including the castle where we watched the changing of guards. We also made our mark on John Lennon’s wall, in a part of the city that seems to be hidden.
Authentic Czech Lunch!

The next stop was Budapest where we stayed in a neat hostel with a very relaxed atmosphere! We went to a hummus bar for dinner (I was on cloud nine) and then went to a bar in old city ruins! The bar was really large and old and the quirky atmosphere allowed us to take a little rest from the constant tourist site seeing. We only had one day after that to explore the two cities (Buda and Pest) and we sure made the most of it. We climbed high to see great views, we visited a large market, and we visited another castle. Near there we found an old Hospital Bunker that was top secret until 2008. It was neat to tour the only hospital ever designed to survive a nuclear war!
Exploring Budapest

We finished off our trip in the baths of Budapest and relaxed our aching feet! Although it was a lovely trip, we were tired out from all of the exploring and were thankful to get back to Rennes.

What unexpected treasures have you found in cities you have explored?

My Mom and Chris Come to Visit!

My study abroad experience has been incredible and I have been so fortunate to make such close friends that can be considered family. I must say, though, that after seven months of not seeing any of my family members in person, I was ecstatic to see my mom and her boyfriend Chris when they came to visit me!

I felt so excited to give them a tour of my life in France and show them how wonderful it is here. We were able to see a lot of interesting parts of Rennes, including the Mairie (town hall) where we were given a private tour! We also got to explore Mont St. Michel, which I have posted about before. We had a picnic with a gorgeous view of the Abbey in the background and cute sheep in the forefront.

My favorite part of their stay was journeying to the beaches of Normandy and visiting American Memorial and Cemetery.  The museum and grounds were so well done and an excellent tribute to those who gave their lives for a more peaceful world. Going through the museum, you could read a war timeline as well as learn about the everyday items soldiers used and personal stories from certain families. The Cemetery was also very well presented, looking out over the sea.

After an emotional tour, we took a walk down to Omaha beach and reflected on what we had just reexamined. The impact this experience had on me highlights the idea that all of us are citizens of the world and we rely on each other. A lot can be learned from history and the individual stories of our ancestors.

My parents and I enjoyed being reunited and taking in so much history together. A weekend was too short but I know they enjoyed the remainder of their Eurotrip!

Mont St. Michel

American Memorial and CemeteryNormandy American Memorial

Les Chateaux de la Loire

There are so many interesting discoveries you can make on day trips. I had the opportunity to go on a school tour to Les Chateaux de la Loire, about 3 hours away from Rennes. Not only did I get to look through an ancient castle where kings have lived, but I also got to explore Leonardo Da Vinci’s last home and see his tomb!

The first stop was Chateau D’Amboise, a large and gorgeous castle with grounds of neatly groomed gardens and a lovely view of the river. On the grounds of the Chateau is a small chapel with ornate detail inside. Besides the amazing architecture lies one of the most famous artists in history, Leonardo Da Vinci! It was in this small town where the genius spent his last few years.

Before we discovered the story of Da Vinci’s last years, we had a tour through the Chateau D'Amboise.Tapestries dating back to the 1600s adorned the walls and authentic d├ęcor helped us understand what life for a king might have been like. It was interesting to find out that the Kings would travel from chateau to chateau in order to keep an eye on politics throughout the land. Every month or so, the entire convoy of the Royal Family and their servants would pack up everything within the castle and cart it to the next destination, a trip that often took 10 days!

After exploring the chateau and ground we went to a small restaurant, Au Coeur Vaillant, for the best French meal I have had! I can still remember the delicious potato and cheese casserole! With full tummies, we set off for Leonardo Da Vinci’s last house. The house was very neat to see but the models of his inventions were the best part! Not only were there small models of the inventions set up within the house, there were a few of the inventions made to scale on the grounds of the petit chateau! The most noteworthy was the medieval tank that you could get inside!

There are so many things to discover if you take the time to look around. What are your favorite day trip spots?
Da Vinci's Tank

Chataeu D'Amboise