Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Winter Break in Germany


Christmas ended up being really nice. We all Skyped our families and hung out around the apartment. It was a totally lazy, junk food filled, comfortable day.

I Skyped with my family while they opened presents, then called my family in Colorado, then Skyped with family in Texas. The worst part of the day was waiting for everyone in the US to wake up so I could talk to them.

The next day we woke up early to catch our train to Frankfurt. Once in Frankfurt, we picked up our rental car, and ran to check into our hotel.

That day, we visited our first castle, Marksburg. This castle has been lived in for 700 years and has never been destroyed. It was here that we got our first taste of winter in Germany. It was cold. It hadn't even snowed yet and we were freezing. We took a tour of Marksburg, then went back to the car as fast as we could to turn on the heater.

The next day, we woke up to snow falling. The roads were slick so we had to drive slower than we would have liked. We visited four castles, but we weren't able to go into any of them. They were beautiful from the outside, but it would have been nice to see more of them.

That night we stayed in Mannheim. The next morning, we went to Heidelberg to see their castle. It didn't open until mid morning, so when we got there we had a couple hours to kill. We started with a nice breakfast at Starbucks. It was so cold outside that early in the morning. Heidelberg was absolutely beautiful, though. I would like to go back and see it when it's a bit warmer and I have more time to spend there.

Even after Starbucks, we had some time before the castle opened. We drove up one of the mountains to see an amphitheater that was built to present Nazi propaganda. It was so incredible. You may not know this about me, but my favorite thing to learn about in all of history is the Holocaust. I think it is so interesting. I've read personal accounts and memoirs and history books all about it. This is why coming to Germany was so exciting for me.

Anyway, this amphitheater was huge. It's called Thingstätte. Standing on the stage, I could just imagine the kind of things that went on there and the people who had sat in the stands listening to what was being taught. The rallies were probably amazing. They still hold festivals there today.

Also on the mountain was a nice tower that looked out over the town and had a clear view of the castle on the other side of the valley. It was open, so we climbed to the top to take pictures. It was very cold and icy up there.

Thingstätte was probably my favorite part of the trip so far. When we came down the mountain, the castle was finally open. After finding a place to park, we took a bus and a train to get to it. Once there, we took a tour. It was kind of nice. So much of the castle has been destroyed, but what was left was neat. There were so amazing views of Heidelberg from up there. Heidelberg is a very picturesque town.

From Heidelberg, we made our way to Stuttgart for the night. The next day we visited Hohenzollern castle. It was on the tippy top of a mountain and I don't think I've ever been as cold as I was that day. I thought I was going to die up there. (Or maybe just lose a few toes.) At the car, the temperature was -8° Celsius (17° Fahrenheit), but I think it was probably colder than that at the top, plus there was wind chill.

The castle itself was beautiful. It felt more like a palace than the other castles we had been to. Also, there were two chapels-- a Catholic chapel and a protestant chapel. I'm not sure why. This particular castle overlooked a major trade route and would help protect the merchants who passed by.

Inside the castle, it wasn't much warmer than outside, but at least it was protected from the wind. In some rooms, the snow was coming in through the cracks in the windows. We were on a German tour, but we had talked to the tour guide on the way to the castle so she knew we spoke English. She was kind enough to repeat a lot of the tour to us in English.

By the end of the tour, Lizette and I were miserable. I'm sure I've experienced colder temperatures, but I've never spent several hours in freezing temperatures before. I don't like to be outside in the snow at all. (We'll call this whole trip an opportunity for me to grow a little.)

When we finally got back to the car, we turned the heaters on full blast. It took a solid hour for my feet to feel normal again. Thankfully, our plan for the rest of the day was just to drive through the Black Forest. We got there just before it got too dark to see anything. We took the road called Schwarzwaldhochestraße. The forest was beautiful, especially with all the snow on the trees. The Black Forest was more white than black!

Our GPS (we named her Frau Helga) took us on every back road to get us home that night. It was pitch black outside and a lot of the time, I think we were the only car on the road for miles. It was snowing pretty heavily for awhile, so I was nervous until we made it back to the hotel. (Joe is a really great driver and wasn't even a little bit worried.)

The next day, we went to Ulm. The Ulmer Münster (Ulm Cathedral) is the tallest cathedral in the world. (At least it will be until (if) the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is completed.) It stands 161 meters tall. On a sunny day, visitors can climb to the top (768 steps!!). Unfortunately, we did not visit on a sunny day, so we only got to climb 70 meters. (Which was quite the workout all by itself. I was definitely out of breath and a little dizzy.)

At first, the spiral staircase was completely enclosed, but after maybe 20 meters, there were windows that were open to the outside. There was snow on the steps and it was still snowing, so it was pretty chilly up there. I'm afraid of heights to begin with, so anytime we climb a tower or any spiral staircase I find it challenging. I've never climbed one with windows to the outside that went up so high. I was hanging on to the center column for dear life.

When we finally reach the landing, we were all out of breath, but the views were amazing. I would like to try to climb to the top one day, so hopefully I'll make it back to Ulm, Germany.

From Ulm, we made our way towards Füssen, where Neuschwanstein Castle is located. We barely missed the closing time, but we're hoping to make it back later in the trip.

Again, Helga took us on every backroad in Bavaria to get us to Füssen. It was snowing and everywhere I looked, it was just fields of beautiful untouched snow. We passed through many small towns where the townsfolk were out building snowmen or sledding down the hills outside of town. 

The town of Füssen is really cute. It didn't stop snowing the whole time we were there. I walked the streets for a little bit after we arrived and there were kids and families out in the streets playing in the snow together. It was such a pleasant evening.

On Christmas Day, we hit the 4 month mark of being in Europe. The halfway point is coming up soon too. I find myself feeling more homesick than usual. I long for the familiar. In Poitiers, I've gotten comfortable, but it's not familiar to me like home is. I know that so much will be different when I return because that's just how life is. While I'm living my life here, everyone I know has lived their lives too. I won't be the same when I get back and its likely that the people I know won't be the same either.

I've got 4 more days in Germany, then I'll be gone in Poitiers briefly before we take off on another trip. Unfortunately, that trip won't be any warmer than this one has been!

Je t'embrasse,

Click here to see the rest of my pictures from Germany!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014



I cannot believe Christmas is already here! (Well, tomorrow.) I feel like it got here so quickly. December was a busier month for me-- especially the last 2 weeks.

Last week marked the end of my first semester in France. I gave my last presentation and took my last test, and let me just say that my group killed it in this class. We were basically awesome. (If you want, you can ask me about it! I'm more than a little proud of what we did.)

Friday was an emotional day for a lot of people at FBS. Most of the students were leaving Poitiers for the last time that day and weekend. I said goodbye to some good friends. It was harder than I thought it would be to see them all go.

I took Friday night to walk around Poitiers with a few friends. Poitiers is such a cute town. I love walking down the streets to see the Christmas lights. We went through the park and to City Center. We walked for a long time before we finally said goodbye.

Parc Blossac

Next semester, I get to meet all of the incoming students and start over with new friendships. I'm a little nervous about this, but I'm sure it'll be great.

I may have mentioned in the last blog that we were going to be spending Christmas in Frankfurt, but we had a slight change of plans at the last minute. We could not find anywhere in Frankfurt that would take us in over Christmas. So, we decided to spend Christmas in Paris and then leave for Frankfurt a few days later than we had originally planned.

It has turned out to be great anyway. I think I'm slowly falling in love with Paris. Everyone seems to have this idea that Paris is the be-all end-all of perfect, romantic cities. I've always been skeptical. It's nice, but at first it just seemed like another city to me. Now that I've been here several times, I'm beginning to feel the magic. (But, Barcelona will always have my heart.)

Our first day here, we went shopping for ingredients for our Christmas feast. Shopping is sometimes so difficult because the things we're familiar with using are oftentimes not available. We made due and had a wonderful dinner on Christmas Eve.

After the grocery store, we visited Galeries Lafayette. It's an enormous mall. On the top floor there is a landing outside on the roof that has a great view of the Eiffel Tower. The inside of this place is magnificent.

When we left the mall, we started walking towards the Champs-Elysees Christmas Market. It stretched the entire length of Champs-Elysees. There was so much to see! It was cold outside so I grabbed some vin chaud (hot spiced wine) and started walking. There were so many booths offering all kinds of things. It was a beautiful experience.

That night we lazed around the apartment until bedtime.

On Christmas Eve day, we started at the Catacombs. After standing in line for nearly an hour and a half, we finally got to go down. The first little bit of the tour is just long winding tunnels. When we finally got to the grave area, I was so excited. There were so many more bones than I had imagined. They seem to go on forever and ever and ever. They aren't just piled around haphazardly; there's an artful order to it all.

We went briefly to the Eiffel Tower, but decided that a ride to the top wouldn't work with our plans. So, we headed back to the apartment to cook dinner before we left for midnight mass.

Our Christmas Eve feast consisted of salad, corn, mashed potatoes, and roast chicken. It was incredibly delicious and we had a good time together.

Not long after finishing, we went to Cathedral Notre Dame for mass. It began at 11pm. It started with a choir that sang all of our favorite Christmas songs. The actual mass began at midnight, but we were exhausted and decided to skip that.

The organ and choir mix was breathtaking. We didn't have good seats, so we couldn't see anything, but just hearing that music was magical in itself. Near the end, there was an organ solo. It was so powerful and emotional. It felt deep and dark, then it would swell into a booming crescendo.

There was easily 1,000 people in attendance. The seats were packed and there were people sitting on the floor (like us) and standing in the aisles. The service was being broadcast onto a screen outside the church also so there was a crowd watching from there.

We got back to the apartment at around 1:15am. You know how boring we are when it comes to the nightlife, well, tonight we actually went out past our bedtime. We went a little crazy and went to church!

Have a Very Merry Christmas!

Je t´embrasse,

You can click here for the rest of the pictures from Christmas in Paris!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Semester's End


Another week has come and gone. I only have two more days of class this semester and I am so ready to be finished with this last class. I had class last Thursday and Friday and again Monday and Tuesday. Today is my day off this week. Tomorrow I have a presentation to make and Friday a test to take.

Tests here are kind of odd. I hadn't taken any the whole semester and then these last two weeks I've had to take three. In two of them, they gave us a list of questions and told us to pick 5 to answer and write about. So they're really not very hard at all. If you pay attention is class, which I do (most of the time), you can pretty well write a satisfactory answer. The other test I took was our French Exam. I was a little nervous about this one. We learned quite a few irregular verbs with irregular conjugations, so I was worried about remembering them all, but I think I did really well.

Basically, not a lot is going on here. Ah, but we did go bowling! Alois, Lizette, Joe, and I went Saturday evening to the bowling alley here in Poitiers. It's way outside of city center, but it was worth it. We had a good time. That was the last time we were going to be able to hang out with Alois before he moves back to Germany. He's leaving this weekend after classes are over.

Lizette has been working on our travel plans. We're going to Germany!! We'll spend Christmas in Frankfurt and New Years in Munich. We're renting a car so that we can drive the countryside to see all of the castles and landscapes. Roadtrip!! I have missed cars so badly. There is nothing more therapeutic for me than taking a long drive. I'm especially excited just that we get to have a car.

I'm also excited for the concentration camp we get to go to! The Holocaust is my favorite part of history, so I've always wanted to go to Germany. I'm hoping I'll be able to go to Poland to see Auschwitz while I'm in Europe. I'm currently reading two books about the war to prepare myself for this trip. I am beyond ecstatic for Germany!

It's almost counter intuitive that we're going to a cold and snowy place for Christmas when we could be going to Spain or Portugal where it will be warm. Even with the snow, I am incredibly happy to spend this season in Germany. Come to think of it, we probably should have saved the warm places for the winter... oh well. Too late now!

You want to hear something sad? I have done a very minimal amount of Christmas shopping this year. I've bought 3 things so far. Haven't even started on my family. They're definitely not getting anything in time for Christmas or even New Years. (Their presents might make it to them by Valentine's Day.) That's so sad because I love buying Christmas presents! I've really done a terrible job this year. (I have bought wayyy too many Christmas chocolates, though. Those Ferrero Rocher balls are just too darn good.)

Sorry these have been short and boring the last few weeks. It's crazy, but when I actually have classes I don't get to do anything exciting. Imagine that. Things will pick up again. Next semester, I'll be busy in the second half of January and first half of February, then I have a crazy long break, then I'll be super busy in May before I come home!!

On Christmas Day, we will have been in France for 4 months. This semester went by so fast. I'm not complaining though; I got to do some incredible things the past 4 months. I'm glad it's not dragging on forever. I need the days to keep passing because every day I know I'm that much closer to being in the states again. I will enjoy every day here and look forward to making it back home.

Je t'embrasse,

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Thanksgiving Week

Bonjour, mon ami!

It has been the best of weeks. I had so much fun with my family here. I loved guiding them around Paris and showing off Poitiers. I'm pretty sure they had a good time too! (I'll warn you now, this is a really long post.)

The craziness began for me two Fridays ago. Their plane was scheduled to land in Paris at 10 am or so on Saturday, but there wasn't a train from Poitiers that would get me there early enough to meet them when they landed, so I had to stay in Paris for the night. It was quite the ordeal just getting there. So many things went... not exactly wrong, but definitely not as planned. By the time I got to my hotel room, I was exhausted mentally and physically.

Early the next morning, I set out for the airport. Paris Charles de Gaulle is incredibly, overwhelmingly huge. However, the place makes for some darn good people watching (one of my favorite pastimes). I arrived quite early so I had plenty of time to observe my fellow man.

When they finally arrived, we hit the ground running. From the airport we had to catch a bus to take us to Gare Montparnasse, then took the Metro, then walked the rest of the way to the hotel. I told them before they arrived that it would be a hectic day, but I'm not sure they were expecting all of that. (I also warned them about the many millions of stairs they would encounter, but I'm not entirely sure they took me serious about that either. They learned.)

After we stowed our luggage at the hotel, we started with Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris. Of course it was beautiful. This was the first time any of the three had been in a church that old or that ornate. It was a good place to start.

From there, we went to Sacre-Coeur. Even though they had just seen a church, I wanted them to see this one. The views from the top of the hill are incredible and the inside of the church is exquisite.

Montmortre Cemetery is not far from Sacre-Coeur, so we walked in that direction. Even on my second visit, this place amazes me. It's completely surrounded by loud city streets, but it's situated below ground level, so it's like entering a whole new, quiet, peaceful place.

We ended the day at the Eiffel Tower. I took them to a Metro station across the river from the tower so that we had to walk around a building before we could see it. Turning that corner and seeing the tower for the first time is the most wonderful thing. Gracie was so excited to see it. Like me, she expected it to be so much smaller than it actually is. We stopped to take the customary pictures as we walked closer and it loomed over our heads.

When we made it to the tower, we decided to get in line to go to the top. I don't know how long we stood there, but it seemed like ages. The line was moving so, so slow. When we finally made it to the elevator though, it was worth it. I hadn't been to the top yet, so I was experiencing this for the first time with them. By the time we got to the top, it was dark. This didn't dampen our spirits. The city is beautiful at night-- especially from that high up. It was really windy and cold up there, so we didn't stay on the outside deck for long. (Also, Gracie and I are mildly afraid of heights. I say mildly, but I mean that I was a shaky mess and could barely bring myself to even touch the railing to look over the edge.)

On our way to the bottom, we stopped at both the second and first floors. On the first floor, there are glass floors over the area directly under the tower. It was cool to look down on all the people, but walking over them took a certain amount of willpower on my part.

After a pizza dinner at a lovely little restaurant, we went to the hotel to turn in for the night. They were absolutely exhausted. Quite honestly, I'm proud of them for making it through the day without a nap.

The next day we set off for the Louvre. (I think Annie might have been very angry with me if we had not visited the museum.) We went through the Egyptian exhibit and the halls of statues. Annie loves mythology of all sorts, so she especially enjoyed seeing the old statues of all of the gods. I thought we were going to have to leave her there. My dad, Gracie, and I would walk through the room, stopping at a few interesting things, only to look back and see Annie stopping at every. single. statue. This is fine of course; I'm glad she enjoyed it. (For some reason she has a thing against Aphrodite, so she was a little perturbed at how many statues there were of her.)

Of course, we went upstairs to see Mona Lisa. This time, I was feeling much better about life, so I'll say that I felt a little more appreciation for the masterpiece. We walked through a couple halls of paintings before heading to the Decorative Arts exhibit.

The Decorative Arts is such a vague name. Last time, I walked through part of it that was mostly furniture and trinkets. This time, we went through the other part and it was much more interesting. There were rooms of tapestries, bronze, silver, and gold rooms, and my favorite-- the Napoleon Apartments. The apartments were very ornately furnished. It reminded me a lot of the palace we saw in Madrid. The chandeliers in the this place were magnificent. Each room we went through, they got bigger and more striking.

It doesn't sound like it should be, but walking through a museum for hours like that is exhausting. I know why they say you can't see it all in one day. I think next time I visit, I'll turn on the pedometer on my phone to see just how far I actually walk.

We had one last stop to make before we had to catch the train to Poitiers, so we took off towards Arc de Triomphe. I realized this time around, that I really don't know much about many of things I see. From this point forward, I will try to be more informed on the things I am visiting.

Even though I was seeing nearly everything for the second time, I didn't mind one bit. I loved watching my sisters and dad experiencing everything for the first time. Paris is a wonderfully magical place.

We caught our train to Poitiers that evening. Gracie was excited about riding the train. It was a first for all three of them. When my dad was younger, his school would take the third grade class every year on a train ride to Abilene. He was so looking forward to taking that train ride, but by the time he made it to third grade, they had discontinued the line so he never got to ride a train. Last week, he finally fulfill that dream.

We only spent two days in Poitiers, which is plenty. I had class all day Monday and Tuesday morning, so they were on their own exploring. Monday we had lunch and dinner with Lizette and Joe. I'm glad my family got to meet the people I spent most of my time with here. We had a good time with them.

Tuesday evening, we took another train to northern France. We based our travel out of Caen, Normandy. Caen had quite a bit to offer. We visited an incredible church with ceilings like I had never seen before. (Yes, I realize that I have a strange obsession with ceilings.) They were stunning. This one also had an organ like I had never seen before. Instead of being over the entrance, it was hanging on the wall in the main aisle.

We had an interesting discussion on what it meant to be an architect back when these churches were being built. Can you imagine the kind of pressure they must have felt? They had to have known that their buildings would be standing long after they were dead and gone. I bet it's an incredible feeling to leave a part of you behind to be shared with so many people and to know that they will marvel at your creations. It seems that modern architecture is not meant to last for generations like it was back then.

We visited Caen Castle, which houses two museums-- Musee des Beaux-Arts and Musee de Normandie. The fine arts museum was only so-so. There were some beautiful pieces, but it was quite small. The Musee de Normandie was interesting. There were many old artifacts from the years. It started with the vikings and made its way through history. My favorite part was a small display on the making of lace. Have you ever wondered how it's made? Go watch this. It is an incredible process. I have a new-found appreciation for lace to say the least.

My dad decided to go take a nap at the hotel, so the girls and I went shopping that afternoon and then went to tour the women's abbey. The Abbaye aux Dames has a very interesting history. Our tour guide was very informative. It goes like this-- William the Conquerer and Mathilde were in love. Unfortunately, they were cousins five times removed, so it was illegal for them to be married. They sent a man to negotiate with the Pope to get permission for them to marry, but there was no luck for eight long years. Finally, the Pope agreed that they could marry if they would construct two abbeys-- a men's and a women's. Of course, they agreed and construction began.

The women's abbey was used to house nuns for many years, but then the Hundred Years War broke out and it was overtaken by soldiers. They damaged much of it. The towers were destroyed and later rebuilt. Today many of the rooms are empty of any furniture or art because the soldiers took these things to sell. After the war, the abbey was used as a hospital for many years. Today, it houses government offices. I enjoyed walking through it and learning of its previous inhabitants.

Many of the rooms that are in use today had to be covered in tapestries because the echoes are too loud without them. When the nuns were using these rooms, the echoes were never a problem because they were in a silent order. Can you image not talking ever? There was one room (I believe it was the library) where they were allowed to talk, but only to confess sins or to resolve disputes. They lived interesting lives.

The next day, we hopped on a train to Bayeux, where the buses run from town to the beaches. Once in Bayeux, we stopped at Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Bayeux. It was a wonderful church. Outside, in the courtyard, there was a a ginormous tree called the Tree of Light. It was beautiful with the cathedral in the background.

We also sought out the famous Bayeux Tapestry. The tapestry tells scenes from the life of William the Conqueror. What makes the tapestry so magnificent is that it is nearly 900 years old and is around 70 meters long. (That's 30 meters short of an American football field.) In the museum, we were given an audio guide that told us the story as we walked the hall. (Which was convenient, because I could never have deciphered what was going on.)

From there, we took a bus to Omaha Beach and the American cemetery. I was in absolute awe of this place. To look down at the beach and imagine our troops fighting on this hill hurt my heart. The cemetery sits right on the edge of the hill so you can see the ocean from there. The graves are very uniform and beautiful, with two American flags flying over them. (Very similar to Arlington.) The memorial was amazing. We were there at noon, so we got to hear the bell toll twelve times and a few minutes later, the National Anthem played loud throughout the cemetery. It was a sobering moment.

There was a path down to the beach, so we took that. The girls had never seen the ocean (except from the plane) or been on a beach before, so that was fun for them. We looked for shells and touched the water and everything. (It was cloudy and the water was really, really cold, but we had a good time down there.) I couldn't image running up those slopes, I was out of breath just walking to the top. All I can say is Thank You to every one of the troops who have served our country so bravely.

When we had seen everything, we went to the Visitor Center and watched a short movie about some of the people who were buried there. It was touching and I'll admit that I cried. It told of these young men who left their families and wives and children to fight for the freedom of people they had never met.

We went to the Overlord Museum next. This museum had uniforms and personal belongings of the men who had fought. There were also many tanks and other vehicles used in the war on display. It was neat to really get a feel for what it might have been like to live in that area during the war.

All that day, as I was walking through the museum and cemetery, and the streets of Bayeux, I was struck by how recent the war really was. This year, they celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Landings. This isn't some ancient war fought by ancient peoples. The remnants of the war are still there today. The people affected by the war are still alive today. I've never been in a place where I could see the effect of war so clearly. This whole day was one of my favorites because of everything I felt and learned. (It should be noted that this was Thanksgiving Day, but we did very little to actually celebrate it. The closest I came to a turkey was the ham in my omelet at lunch.)

The next morning we left our hotel in Caen bright and early for Mont Saint Michel. We arrived in Pontorson and then took a bus to the Mount. (I won't even get into the frustrations I had that entire morning. I could write a book about everything they're doing wrong at that place.)

We got to Mont Saint Michel at around 11:30 and set out to explore the the town. Mont Saint Michel is situated on a large rock in a bay that has the largest tidal ranges in Europe. The first buildings were built in 709. From there, many buildings were added to the rock including an Abbey church and a monastery. It was used as a fortress during the Hundred Years War and was at one point used as a prison. Today, it serves as a major tourist attraction, as it is "The Wonder of the Western World," but also, it is once again used for its original purpose where monks and nuns live.

We began our time here in a small church. It was tiny, beautiful, and old. Through the back door there was small cemetery. We continued on and stopped for a visit into a Viking's residence. It was three stories tall-- a common room, a room for the wife, and a room for the Viking. The ceilings were low and the beds were short, so we came to the conclusion that this particular viking was a small man.

The roads kind of spiral upwards towards the abbey and we eventually found ourselves there. We had to climb several sets of stairs to enter the church, but it was worth it. The views from the top of the mount were breathtaking. We entered the church right at noon. I tell you this because we entered to find a small crowd watching something in the center of the church very intently. Immediately, I saw what held their attention and hurried over to get a better look.

A monk had just entered and was standing directly under the dome with a long rope in his hand and black robe and hood covering his head. At first, he pulled on the rope a little at a time gathering momentum to ring the bell. After a few tugs, the bell began ringing. It was a beautiful moment. I stood in unbelief at what I was observing. I was so excited to have taken part is something so wonderful.

When he finished ringing the bells (I wish I had counted the tolls, but I was fairly busy being mesmerized), he hung the rope on the wall, donned a white robe over his black one, and exited the church through a side door. It was quite the experience. Everyone was watching with rapt attention to what he was doing.

We were then able to walk through the many rooms of the abbey. We saw the crypt, the cloister, the kitchen (with enormous fireplaces), and the Knights' hall. The whole place was very large-- we probably didn't even see half of it.

When we made it through the whole thing, we took the path that led us around the tops of the walls that surround the town. It was windy and cold, but the views were amazing. Since the walls were erected for protection, there were holes every so often where one could look out and fight the enemy if necessary. The rock was fortified very well as it was never taken by its enemies.

We found lunch in a small restaurant along the wall, then continued on in our exploration. We made it to the end of the wall and descended into the streets once more. We stumbled upon a narrow alleyway that led to more alleys. I cannot resist something like this, so we climbed to the top and spent a little time sitting at the top of the stairs. (It was so narrow, my dad had to shimmy sideways to make it all the way to the top!)

We then made our way back to the mainland to catch our final train of the trip. It took us to Charles de Gaulle airport where we then went to our hotel.

Their flight left at 9:20 the next morning which meant we needed to be at the airport at around 6:30. Our day started with a very early alarm. We made it to the airport with no problems. They checked in with no problems. I said goodbye to them right before they went through security.

I am so thankful they got to come to France to see me. I had so much fun with them and I hope they had a good time too. It's a little funny-- they were here for the 3 month mark of my stay in France. From here, I only have 6 months left. Tomorrow will mark 100 days of my living in France. I'm encouraged by how quickly the first three months have flown, but also a little scared that I won't have time to do everything I want to do. There is very little that scares me more than the uncertainty of my future.

In other news, I got my schedule for next semester (finally) and am so excited to begin planning future trips. The rest of this semester will be spent finishing up group projects. Woohoo.

99 days down, 178 to go!

Je t'embrasse,

Here's the link to this week's pictures!