How much french can we learn and wine can we drink in the 4 months we are here? Guess you will have to read to find out.
Day 80 – 4/3/2019
Rue 16 went on a journey to visit the dirty dub over the weekend, what a trip it was. After a bit of logistical confusion, we showed up a day earlier to Dublin, Ireland than we originally assumed we would. We got in late Thursday night, meet up with Abby and settled in to prepare for the weekend to come. On Friday, we went and visited a fishing village 30 minutes away by train. The weather was great, which was a pleasant surprise for Ireland. We wandered around the harbor, seeing all the boats, fresh fish markets, and a seal circling a fishing boat. I felt as though someone had taken the village out of a movie, it was exactly what I had anticipated it looking like, only better. Next, we left the harbor and found ourselves walking through the neighborhoods perched on the hills lining the coast. Hunger set in and we decided to hit the restaurant with the longest line, correctly assuming it would have the best food. What else would this restaurant be serving than fish and chip? We all got our box of the local specialty and sat on a wall that looked out over a park and the harbor. After a day by the sea, we made our way back to Dublin for a night at the pub. In Europe, you see Irish pubs in every city you visit. Some are better than others, but NO ONE does it like they do in Dublin. Live music, good music too, everywhere we went. The first bar we went to was a little bit more laid back and conversational. The second bar was packed to the gills and had great performers. Our large group took up the area around the stage and sang along to every song they performed. I would have to say that the Temple bar area of town may be the coolest bar scene I’ve ever experienced. We slept in the next morning and then tour guide Abby showed us around her city. We wandered through town and visited the famous Trinity College. With its meticulously groomed lawns and trees. It was a very pretty and unique campus, filled more with tourist than college students. Next, we made our way to the city park, that was as green as you can imagine. With perfect lawns and beautiful blooming flowers. We wandered around there for a while and took in the flowers from a park bench. After our stroll, we did as any tourist would and made our way to the Guinness brewery for a self-guided tour. This was by far the coolest tour of the trip. It showed you how the entire brewing process went. It was interactive, with a pool of the wheat, a waterfall of their mountain water supply and huge HD video boards showing how the entire process went. I wish I was a better writer and could accurately depict how cool this was. The tour ended in the “Gravity Bar” which is a room on the top floor with a 360 view of the city. There, included in the tour was a free pint of beer. It was the perfect way to end the tour and start the night. Again, that night we went out to hit some more pubs, and again the live music lived up to the hype. It was another great night to complete a great weekend. We flew out the next day at 12:30 and managed to get back to Montpellier around 2:30 AM, it was a long travel day but well worth it for the fun we had over the weekend. Little bit different sign off for this post, decided to cheers the Irish way. Slainte
Day 72 – 3/26/2019
Decided that we couldn’t wait for the weekend to begin travels and hopped on a train up to Paris on Wednesday morning. Almost missed the train because apparently shuttles here don’t run until 8:30, love socialism. With some creative logistics and a taxi cab driver that could win the Indi 500 we made it to the station and boarded our train. It was especially important that we made it as the stakes were high. In Paris, we were meeting some girls from back home, whom I shall refer to as the Floco girls. The 6 Floco girls were on spring break and decided they couldn’t go the whole semester without us, hence their trip to Paris. Not sure that’s the whole truth, but oh well, it makes me feel better putting it that way. It was an easy trip for me and Andrew, as the girl had done most of the planning for us. We simply got to tag along, with the only requirement being that we be fun and funny, as per usual. Our early Wednesday train gave us basically the entire day to explore Paris with them. The first stop of the day was Sacre Coeur, an old church perched on a hill above the city. We must have been feeling the need for some spiritual healing as our next stop was yet another church, Notre Dame. After our enlightenment we walked along the river a little way and found ourselves at the famous Louvre museum. We decided to go into the house of the Mona Lisa, not because of our appreciation for the art, instead we needed to appreciate modern plumbing. A short stroll through the park later and we found ourselves at the Champs- Elysee’s. We walked the street that leads up to the Arc de Triumph. We made two pit-stops along the way. First was at footlocker so two of the girls could get some fashionable shoes that didn’t make them want to amputate their feet. The next stop was the infamous Laduree, for the colorful macaroons. They each got one and said it was well worth the arm and leg they paid for them. After some group photos by the arc we made our way back to the Airbnb to begin the night. We had all bought tickets to see a band called BLOW at a venue just a stones throw away from the Airbnb. After consuming responsibly in preparation for the concert, we made our way there. It was not quite the crowd we were expecting, however we got there early and grabbed some drinks at the bar. Apparently European people don’t dance but that didn’t stop us from doing it. I would say if my parents heard the music they would call it techno, personally id call it electric indie. The concert had a great light show that would have induced a stroke on anyone over 40. We loved it. After the concert we made our way back to the Airbnb and continued the fun there. Andrew unfortunately had to leave early the next morning to Barcelona to see his family and couldn’t join us for the day’s adventures. We all awoke seemingly early considering the beverages we had the night before. But rise we did, as we had to get to the Eiffel tower before most of the girls had to leave the city. The Eiffel tower was great and after a photo shoot in front of it we went and got breakfast before we all had to head our separate ways. We returned to the Airbnb to grab our bags, then 5 of the girls left for the train station. This left me and Abby, as we are heading to Bordeaux for the weekend. Currently we sit on a train leaving the big city on our way to an area where wine is more plentiful than water. We have a wine tour planned for today and are excited to explore the region and of course the wine.
Friday and Saturday, I was in wine country of France, Bordeaux. By I, this post is Erik, sorry Andrews family / friends. After everyone went their separate ways in Paris, me and my friend Abby were the only ones left and decided to make our way to the world of wines. We got in to Bordeaux mid-day Friday and just hung around until our wine tour that started at 1. The tour included 4 tastings at two different chateaus. The first vineyard we visited was owned by an older man who got bored with his printing company and bought up a few vineyards around the world. This one was his favorite and home. It rest on 24 acres, which for all of you pickup driving farmers may seem small but is actually 3x the average size of a vineyard in the area. They are often small because of how labor intensive the work is, as all the grapes are still harvested by hand, almost no machinery is used in the cultivating. We got to tour the fields a little and learned about the type of grapes they grow. We also got to see where the wine is made and their cellar where they keep it. In Bordeaux they are only allowed to grow 6 different types of grapes, most farmers only grow the three most popular. Don’t ask me what they are called, between the thick accent of the tour guide and their unique names I forgot. Almost all the wine made in Bordeaux is a blend of different wines from those 6 grapes they can grow, this vineyard was no exception. Their wine was mostly Merlot, giving it a “sweet, black fruit flavor and aroma”. The wines at this vineyard were very good, the first one we tried was meant to be easy to drink so it can be consumed on its own, the second was more “complex” and meant to go with a red meat dinner. I liked both a whole lot more than the 2 Euro bottles I have been used to drinking. After we drank our glasses dry we made our way into a little village surrounded by vineyards. It was a town of no more than 2,000 and is visited by over a million tourist a year. There we got a short tour of a church and then had some free time to explore on our own. We took advantage of the time by getting a meat and cheese plate and white wine to accompany it. Our next stop was the second vineyard, a family owned estate that sat on 7 acres. Here again they had a mostly Merlot blend but with an added less used grape to give it a different flavor. The wine here had much more complexity to it. By that I mean it’s not something you would drink on its own. Thankfully than had appetizers that they served with it, to “accompany” the flavors. I think they meant neutralize as this was a strong wine, with a black pepper taste and kick to it. Here again, we got to tour the vineyard and the facilities, which were smaller than the first. The tour guide here new her stuff and was more than happy to give us a science lesson on the process. This was the end to our tour and we all hoped back in the van and headed back to the city. Saturday was spent mostly exploring the city and avoiding the protest. The city itself is larger than I had expected but was a nice, typical French city. All the buildings that lined the river had slate roofs on the front and clay on the back. There were markets all over the place and plenty of French people city outside restaurants enjoying drinks, food, and conversation. We both had to leave early the next morning as Abby had to catch a 7:30 train and me a 8:30. I had a interesting travel day. I was supposed to have a 4-hour train ride home and be back in Montpellier by 12:40. That’s not how the day went, as an hour and a half into my ride the train stopped on the tracks with a dead engine. After and added 6 and a half hours with my only meal being a canned tuna and pasta salad, generously provided by the railway. Finally, I got back to Montpellier around 7pm. Oh well, it was out of my control and made it back in one piece. Hard to be to upset about it. All in all it was a great weekend for the Rue 16 boys, as always Cheers!
(Andrew) The classic abroad experience that consists of living off 5 euros or less per day and washing clothes after they fail the smell test was put on hold the past week with my family being here. Having them here was better that I could have imagined and not just because I got free food and my clothes washed. I was able to show my family the life I’ve been living for the past couple months and explore with another level of freedom because we had a car! Our first day together was tough because they were very jetlagged, so we called it a day very early and were well rested for the next day. When we woke up, we got in the car and drove to Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert, which I previously wrote about, so I could show them what I had seen a couple weeks before. Everyone was impressed with the tiny French homes, cobblestone streets, crystal clear water, and desert mountains in the background. After lunch and a hike, we piled back in the car to head back to Montpellier and call it a day. The next day, our hiking continued as we decided to hike a mountain close to Montpellier called Pic Saint Loup. From a distance, the mountain doesn’t look too daunting but as soon as we arrived at the base, we found that looks can be deceiving. The hike up was nothing but loose rocks that slipped out from under your feet almost every step. Although it was tougher than expected, we made it to the top for some awesome views. We could see the city of Montpellier with the Mediterranean in the background to one side, and the start of French Alps on the other. Pictures were taken and snacks were eaten before we decided to head down the mountain and back to town. My family left the next day for San Sebastian, Spain while I had class for a couple days. I met back up with them on Thursday in Barcelona where we spent our first day walking around the city. Day two brought us to Parc Guell, The Bunkers that overlook the entire city of Barcelona, and Sagrada Familia which I personally believe will never, ever be finished. Our last day we decided to take it easy, sleep in, and head to the beach for a couple hours to get some sun. It was so nice seeing the fam for two weekends and it was much harder saying goodbye. But knowing I get to see them again in less than 6 weeks is great. Cheers!
Day 64 – 3/18/2019
Wow has it been to long since we have posted! No need to worry we are still alive and have managed to stay out of prison. Last weekend I (Erik) was the lone ranger from the chocolate factory that voyaged beyond the yellow jackets and baguettes. Me and a friend from the program, Charlie, ventured to land of the adventurous. A place with the cheapest food and beverage so far. We flew out early on Friday morning to the beautiful Lisbon, Portugal. There we were greeted with the warmest weather yet, making it all the more exciting to explore. We had most of the first day to walk around and explore. We mostly walked the narrow streets of the old town and hiked up to an out-lookout castle on the hill. We were sure to stop at as many little Street side bars serving the traditional Ginji shots. In Portugal they live the jimmy buffet way and know that it is always 5 o’clock somewhere. These little shots are all over and there is always a short line waiting to take this sweet cherry shot out of a chocolate shot glass. The old city was incredible, with amazing tile work and the trolleys climbing the steep hills. We then had to go get ready for our pub crawl which we signed up for. We ended up going with a Scottish girl with the voice of Brave heart, and her French-Canadian friend who were in the same room as us. The pub crawl brought us all around the city, as we followed the leaders and their bright yellow umbrellas. Felt like an elementary school field trip except all the kids were drinking. The next day we woke at a decent time and went to the newer trendier part of the city. We spent most of the day seeing the sights along the river that meets with the see just a couple miles down. Here we saw two very cool towers that seem to exist only to be a sign of wealth and power to those who enter the port. They were exceptionally beautiful, offering a remarkable vantage point of thee entire city. Near the towers were an old monastery, it was free to enter the chapel and we took full advantage of that. The inside was all painstakingly detailed stonework from floor all the way to the top of the tall ceilings. The other site we went to in a newer government building up on the hill. Offered a great vantage point but was under construction and left a little to be desired. On a positive note, we found a botanical garden on the hike up and wondered through the perfectly groomed greenery. I was shocked to see a peacock just strutting around, it walked past me without a care that I was there. We decided to grab a couple beers on the path along the river and watched the sunset with most every sight within our view. It made me question for a minute why I don’t live in a place such as that. That basically sums up the weekend in Portugal as we had to leave early Sunday to catch out 6AM flight. So far, I think Portugal would have to go down as my favorite place I have visited. So now I’m sure you are dying to know what else we have been doing since our last post. Andrews Family came this week and got to explore the quaint little city we call home. Ill leave much of the details up to Andrews post, however I too got to spend a little time with them and will share. On Saturday, me and the Embersons, minus Ty, went to a little village up in the hills. It was a picturesque little village with a creek running through the middle that supplied fountains throughout the down with cold mountain water. We wandered through town for a while with tour guide Andrew giving us the history he had learned from a previous trip there. We had lunch then embarked on a hike along step rock cliffs and through thick bushes. We arrived at the top to a 360 view of sheer rock faces and the village nested in the valley between. It was a great day, perfect for avoiding the congestion of the protest in Montpellier. We are going to Paris again this Wednesday to meet up with some friends from back home. Then on Friday I will make my way to the wine country, Bordeaux. Hopefully I don’t drink the cellars dry during the duration of my stay. This again is where me and Andrew will part ways as instead of wine Andrew will meet back up with his family in Barcelona for stiff sangria’s. Stay posted for updates, as always, Cheers.
Day 59 – 3/3/2019
28 hours in Barcelona, Spain. That’s what we did with this past weekend. The impulse decision to book a cheap bus turned out to be a great weekend. Weather was superb with temps in the 50-60 but feeling much warmer. Our pasty white skin got enough sun as we spent almost all our time outside. I our short time there we accomplished much as the 22 miles walking we logged can speak to. We were able to spend a morning hanging out at the beach, we stood out a little, mostly because we were the only ones in t-shirts as locals walked around dressed as if a blizzard were coming. After baking for awhile we ventured to the La Sagrada Familia, a magnificent church that has been being built for almost 200 years. My bet is that in never gets finished. The church really was incredible, with massive towers that shoot into the sky and an entrance that makes in look like you are entering a giant cave. Park Guell was our next spot, a great space to look into the smog and pick out all the beautiful buildings we had seen wandering the streets. From there you truly get to see just how expansive the city of Barcelona is. The park was just down the hill from the bunkers, basically an old military bunker that is now crawling with teenagers drinking wine and smoking some funny smelling tobacco. Wasn’t quite our scene so we didn’t stay long, instead choosing to descend the mountain we had climbed to get there. At this point our swollen feet needed a rest and we took the metro to the Arc and hung out in the park surrounding it as the sun set. Finally, it was time for us to catch our bus back and we made our way to the bus station to wait for our departure. This is were we experience maybe the most cliché scene I was warned about before coming. We were lying like bums on the floor when we hear a man yelling for the police as he had another man trapped in a headlock. They wrestled a little and the trapped man freed himself and bolted for the door, cased by a pack of other men they vanished into the city. I figured there were enough people going after him and decided to look after my own interest and closely guard our bags. I must have looked intimidating enough to keep away prospective thieves as no one came near! No more incidents occurred as we boarded our 11:30 pm bus back to Montpellier. We got back here around 4:30 and decide to forgo the hour and half wait for the trams to start running, instead opting for the 9-Euro Uber ride. Finally home we charged in, ripped our shoes of and slept until noon today. Overall great weekend, not quite the typical college weekend in Barcelona but a great one at that. Cheers!
Day 56 – 2/28/2019 (Andrew)
Turns out you can have fun by yourself too! My roommate-less weekend started on Saturday with a day trip to the small village of Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert. To me, it felt like a classic village in the South of France with little cobblestone streets, a creek running through the middle, and little shops on every corner. When we arrived, we went on a tour of the village to learn more about to village and its history. The main attraction was the beautiful church built a thousand years ago that is still being used today. After our short tour, we were given a two-hour lunch break that was used to hike up to the top of the mountain that overlooks the city. It was 70 degrees so after a trip up and down the mountain some friends and I decided it’d be a good idea to jump in the river that ran through the valley. What was once a good idea became a bad one when we felt jumped into the frigid water and then had to air-dry because none of us brought towels. Oops! Exhausted from being in the sun all day, we hopped back on the bus to Montpellier and went to bed for about four hours. My Sunday started early with a 2:15 AM alarm to catch a bus that would take me to the Alps to ski for the day. I walked the two miles at 3 AM anticipating what my day would be like. Everything I thought was completely blown away what I arrived at Alpe d’Huez. The mountains were absolutely incredible. Prettier than any mountain range I’ve seen. I rented my gear and hit the slopes alone for the day. It was so fun to be able to go wherever I wanted and just be alone. The day was even better because it was 45 and sunny so I was able to ditch my jacket and just ski in a sweatshirt! I made the most of my day on the mountain and hopped back on the bus barely able to keep my eyes open. My first weekend alone was a success! Cheers!
Day 56 – 2/28/2019 (Erik)
Separate post coming at you this week as me and Andrew went separate ways this weekend. For me it was a journey to the land of canals gondolas and carnival. I traveled to Venice Italy over the weekend to explore the winding streets with Ellie. It started with a 1am bus ride to Barcelona, Spain on Friday. My flight left there at 9:50 and I got int Venice around noon. I hardly knew I was even there as the entire area was covered with a thick blanket of fog. You could barely see the length of a football field and the city was rather spooky, with very few people around and the fog cover. It was exciting to explore the city in these conditions and we spent much of the day just wondering. After a little while I got the good fortune of being pooped on by a pigeon, which according to Italians will grant you great luck. So, I will have to wait and see if the Italians are right. We got a nice dinner on the island and then returned to our hostel where we met a group of mostly Australians and played some cards with them. We woke up thee next day and headed to a city that was transformed overnight. On Saturday the city was clear of thee fog but had instead been flooded with people. There were masses of people many of whom were in mask of full out, extremely ornate costume. We decided to take a ferry ride to an island called Burano. It was truly a beautiful little island. All the houses were painted in these vibrant colors so that when the fisherman come back, even in bad weather they can find their houses. We walked around there for a while, the whole time it seemed like a movie set to me. I couldn’t believe such a pace would exist. After a hot chocolate to warn up we went back to Venice, and stumbled upon a parade, with everyone dressed up like medieval knights. After the parade we fought the crowds and walk through the pedestrian version of rush hour traffic, taking an hour to get back to the train station. The same walk the day before took only 15 or so minutes, just to give you an idea of the crowds. We had dinner on thee mainland then went back to see the carnival at night. It seemed we had got there after all the big shows, but we did stumble upon a pop-up rave. Everyone was in animal themed onesies and looked like they were having a “wild” time. I woke up far later than I would have liked the next morning and rushed to my flight. I got through security 15 minutes before the gates were supposed to close, thankfully nothing in Europe is on time and my flight was to begin boarding in 20 minutes. I found myself with 8 hours to kill until my bus left from Barcelona. I did my best to make the most of it. I went to their Arc and sat in the park there for a little while and read. Then I headed down and walked along the beach for a while, soaking up the sun. Andrew and I plan to go this upcoming weekend, so I didn’t want to see to much. At this point it was time to start heading to the bus stop and after hopping on and a 5 and half hour trip I was back to Montpellier. Thankfully there were Ubers up at 2 am and I took one back and fell asleep as soon as I hit the pillow. I got to experience, at least briefly, 3 countries over what was a great weekend! Cheers! – Erik
Day 45 Part 2 – 2/17/2019
Two post coming at you on this wonderful day! This weekend, we took a break from hopping on planes, trains, and automobiles, and decided to enjoy our little city in the South of France. It sure was nice to be busy with absolutely nothing to do and nowhere to be. Our blissful Saturday started with a trip to our favorite, and the city’s best market, just around the corner from our apartment. Navigating our way through the crowd on people, we picked up some veggies, fruits, and more. We also checked out a man’s collection of pins that were for sale where we saw a pin in the shape of Wisconsin with a cow and a little farm on it. Crazy to be halfway around the world and still be connected to the Midwest. After our weekly market trip, we packed up our backpacks equipped with bread and wine and made our way to the beach for the afternoon. We met up with some of our Irish friends to enjoy the afternoon sun while looking out on the Mediterranean filled with sailboats. It was truly something out of a movie, but that movie is kind of our lives now. Every weekend seems to surprise us by being too good to be true. Guess we’ll just have to get used to living in a movie for the rest of the semester! I don’t think either of us will get sick of it. Cheers!