I can’t believe that its the second week. It’s crazy… I feel like I’ve been here for a while, yet I also feel like its going so fast! School work is really catching up and the reality is that I’m in a STUDY abroad program. Haha! Thus, the studying begins. We’ve had a few quizzes and lots of reading, but nothing too crazy yet. Otherwise, we had a fantastic week and were so ready for a simply relaxing weekend! Similar to last week, the school organized another little trip. This time it was to the natural hot springs in Amneville, France. On Friday, once class was over, we got on the bus and took a quick ride to the hot springs. We walked in the door from the freezing cold and saw what look like giant hot pools and hot lazy rivers. Everyone was so excited. We changed and jumped in. It might have been the most relaxing thing that I’ve done my entire life! There were dozens of different pools and therapeutic jets that massaged your back and shoulders. We had a few hours to hang at the hot springs and showered to get back in the bus.
The bus dropped us off at the train station and we got on a train to Strasbourgh, France. We got there and headed to our hotel. It was so nice to have a hotel, even if it was a few euro extra. We also had a small group of just four girls this weekend which made logistics and decision making a little easier! We had our own room with a shower and privacy. You never know how much you can appreciate those things! We got dinner at a placed called Hippopotamus, just burgers and sandwiches. We saw 4 different people get sung to for their birthdays and got to know each other better. After dinner, we explored the city of Strasbourg. It was the most beautiful city. Several times, I could not help but asking, “Is this real?!”. It was so quaint that it almost seemed unreal. Especially at night, the streets were lit and some of the Christmas lights were still up. We just explored and walked around until we decided to stop for coffee or drinks. We walked past a few bars that were filled with old men, then we came across the cutest place ever. It was very artsy. There were wooden tables in one area and then giant cushions on the other side. People just took their shoes off and sat on the cushions. It was pretty funny! We saw a group of business men walk in, take their shoes off, sit on the cushions, and order drinks. We chatted and just enjoyed the chill, eclectic atmosphere. I tried a really good cremant from the local region. (Cremant is champagne.) It was fantastic!
We went back to our hotel to get ready for a fun day the next day! Saturday, we woke up and one of the girls still wasn’t feeling the best. So, we set out to find crepes for breakfast and told her to rest. We went to the front desk, trying to find the best crepe shop and learned that the French don’t actually eat crepes for breakfast. Most crepe shops don’t open until noon. We found a pastry shop and I got this amazing almond pastry and a cup of green tea. On our way back, we got Erica a quiche. After she ate, we headed for the local market. It was a bus ride and walk away, but so worth it. The coolest experiences are those where you can really see what the locals do on a daily basis. A few blocks were closed off and filled with stands with fresh produce, herbs, cheese, meats, fish, tea, coffee, soaps, and all kinds of things! We bought some soap made with olive oil for our host mom. Of course we had to try some local cheese. The guy gave us a taste and we bought a block for later. After walking the market, we were really hungry for lunch and headed back to the city. On our way, we came across a little boy and his grandpa playing soccer outside of an old church. We also passed a few pastry shops and I picked up a macaroon, my first macaroon, to try after lunch.
Next, we had lunch at this Italian place with student discounts! Woohoo for pasta, a desert, and drink for only 7E!! I got a mini tiramisu for dessert and tried my little macaroon. I was so set for the day! On our way back to the city center, we accidentally ran into the giant cathedral that we had been wanting to find. We stepped into a little souvenir shop and the owner was this adorable middle-aged, warm lady. She immediately said hello and started speaking English. Curious, we asked her where she was from… if I remember correctly, she was from Romania and had studied in Edinborough. Eventually, she ended up teaching high school English and ended up in Strasbourg. She told us about her two daughters and her very interesting life. Like any cute European lady, she gave us life advice and was so sweet. She gave us postcards that she had painted and said she was so happy to have met us. We left and as we were walking out, we wished we would have invited her to dinner. So, we went back and asked her to dinner. Unfortunately, we found out that her husband was home sick and that she had to go back to make him dinner and take care of him. Tears welded up in her eyes and we could tell how touched she was! What a wonderful encounter with the cutest lady. We left the shop to see the most enormous cathedral that I’ve ever seen and might ever see. It was towering, and again, so ornate and detailed with little peaks and sculptures. You can’t help but wonder how long it took to build and how much patience the builders and sculptors had to have. We went inside and split up to quietly enjoy the peace. I couldn’t help but think how my family would really appreciate this experience. I lit a candle for them and said a quick prayer for safety and love.
The church just had this overwhelming calm to it despite the amount of people wandering and taking pictures. Everyone, no matter religion, had a certain amount of reverence and respect for the space. It was a wonderful place to remind me of how important my faith is in my life and the people and events that have really shaped it. I had a few moments to sit and reflect and it brought me right back down to earth.
After the beautiful church, we stopped in a few shops and tasted different foods. Then, we hit the shopping district and were right at home! There were so many reasonable stores. We ran around the stores looking at everything, like little kids and candy. It was so fun! Running low in our budget and tired of dense, greasy meals, we opted to hit the local grocery store! It was the best decision ever! I got a whole container of fresh strawberries, a ham and cheese sandwich, a bag of carrots, and water. After we got back to the hotel, we ate our dinner and laid down for what we thought was just a quick nap. We had planned to go see a concert that night, but when we woke up after 2.5 hours and were kind of groggy, we decided to enjoy a chill night at our hotel. It felt just like a great sleepover. We laid on the bed and talked and laughed and had a great night. We turned Taylor Swift on and jumped on the bed- it was the most freeing, relaxing night. What a great group of girls when you really feel like you can be goofy and just be yourself! Sadly, we had a morning train to catch, so we went to bed.
In the morning, we went to the train station to find that the train to Nancy, France only came every 2 hours, so we had about an hour to hang, so naturally, we went to a McDonald’s, one of the only places open on a Sunday. To my surprise, I realized that these people are not joking when they say “McCafe”… in Europe, its the real deal! The little McCafe had coffees, teas, cappuccinos, and espressos, but they also had pastries, including even cheesecake and macaroons!
After, we caught our train to Nancy and were there in a little over 1.5 hours. I am really starting to enjoy the train rides. It’s a great time to read or sleep, but either way, you are on a train and you have no choice but to relax. It’s some part of the day that you can feel guilt about just hanging and relaxing. We got to Nancy and wandered towards the city center. It was pouring rain, and unfortunately, our friend, Erica, was still not feeling well. The city center was gorgeous – all white marble and stone buildings outlined in gold, statues everywhere! We enjoyed it for a few minutes and quickly realized that we were hungry. Only a few places were open, being that it was a Sunday, so we popped into a cafe for a sandwich. After lunch, we realized that we had seen most of what there was to do in Nancy other than a museum. We were still pretty tired and didn’t want to get back to Luxembourg too late on account that we all had homework we had been putting off. So, back to the train station we went, and finally back to Luxembourg.
When we got back, it was still pouring- the entire walk home. We unpacked and decided to take a walk to unpack the weekend. Susanne and I walked around Esch and really enjoyed just chatting and walking. Walking really can be a great thing! Here, we walk a lot, but intentionally talking a walk is just something that doesn’t normally happen. When we got back to our house, we went upstairs to give our host mom her soap. Of course, like usual, she had a cake in the oven and motioned for us to sit down for tea and cake. She asked us to call our other “Esch girls”, Stephanie and Catie so they could come over to join. But, they didn’t answer, so we enjoyed cake and homemade lemon cello with our lovely host family. I am really starting to get used to French and can understand it fairly well now. It was a fantastic way to end another great weekend! Ready for another school week ahead. This week, it’s our friend, Danny’s birthday, so his host family is throwing a surprise dinner for him on Monday and on Tuesday our Student Faculty Council is throwing a “Midnight in Paris” party. Looks like I might not get much sleep this week… when in Europe!