Sunday, February 05, 2006

My trip to France

Wow... I am finally home after a very busy few days in France and then at my Dad's cousin's house for the weekend. Last Saturday I left for Osnabrueck and spent the night with an exchange student, Marie (coincidentally from France). We went out to the movies and saw Harry Potter 4, which I thought was really good. It was a little creepy that Harry Potter indeed really does look like Rob, my high school sweetheart. The next morning I caught the train and spent almost 12 hours riding all the way south, through the Rhine Valley (that was really cool!!!!!... see the map to see the route of the train) and across the boarder somewhere near Stuttgart. That night, at 10 pm, I pulled into the station in Verdun, France and met Trevor. It was really great to see someone from home and I really enjoyed getting to know Trevor better. We talked until 5 in the morning and then slept in a little.

Monday we walked around Verdun. Verdun was the site of a very important battle in WWI with a lot of casualties. The 90th anniversary is this year, so there is a lot of talk and stuff. We visited a rather impressive cathedral (the picture of the stained glass window) for such a small town (approx. 30,000 inhabitants) and then a museum which explained a little bit about the Battle of Verdun. I was having a terrible time remembering my high school french (6 years!) but after about 2 days, I could understand a lot. By the time I left I could understand about the same amount of German that took me 4 months here to learn! On the other hand... my speaking skills are horrendous... vitually non-exsistant. Getting German and French mixed up was my biggest problem, but I am proud of the fact that I can say that I know 3 languages well enough to get around! Monday night we went to a Rotary meeting for Trevor's club and saw a presentation about the 60th, 70th, and 80th anniversary celebrations of the Battle of Verdun. Then (starting at at 9:15 pm!) we had dinner which lasted for over 2 hours! Unfortunatley the food wasn't all that great... the wine was good, as was the chocolate and the quail, but I guess it is a well know fact (???) that french food is much better on an international scale than the food eaten domestically. The bread was great (baguettes!) but I couldn't eat that much white bread every day. ... I actually was homesick for German food!

Tuesday morning we woke up early and caught the train at 6 am to Paris (so cool!!). We spend the whole day there, just seeing the sights. Sacre de coeur, the bohemian quarter, the painters, the moulin rouge, Notre Dame, Le Louvre, Champs d'elysse, l'arc de Triumph, and finally the Eiffel tower. (Please excuse my terrible misspellings... but trying to translate between 3 different languages and with the british english here, I have no idea how things are spelled anymore.) But, it was a really neat day of sight seeing. I even ate chocolate croissants and cafe au lait at a cafe across the street from the Notre Dame and a real Crepe at the Eiffel tower! We got back home late, caught a few hours of sleep and then had to get up early, after so much walking around Paris, to go to school. I find French schools not that different than what you find in the movies (that is if you have ever seen a french film... by the way a really good one won awards at the Grammys? last year, and it was actually about a french boarding school). Then wednesday night we went to a bar and celebrated a birthday of one of the foriegn language assistants (there is a whole gang of them at the schools in Verdun, hired by the government, and a really neat alternative to exchange programs!). There were a lot of cool people from all over the world.

Thursday morning I caught the train early and traveled a more direct path (instead of through the georgeous Rhine valley) towards Dortmund, where I spend the weekend with my Dad's cousin, Bobby, and his family. It was nice to see them again after visiting them in the first few weeks I was here. I spent most of the time at the house, trying to recuperate from France, but on Saturday I went with Bobby to a city called Soest, which has not changed a whole lot since the medeavel times. We took a tour and walked around a bit on our own. It was a really neat place. In these types of towns, the streets are built in circles, supposedly so an army cannot march directly into town but will get confused. ...I definately got very confused. But Bobby supposedly knew the way!

So, finally I'm back home. It is strange to think that this past weekend was exactly half way for me in my year. 6 months behind me, 6 months in front of me.... I even finnished up my first diary book today and will start a new one soon, but this time only in german. I can't help but think about how much I've seen and learned in the past 6 months and how much more is to come! I know it will only go by so much faster (and my english will only get worse... hang in there with me folks!)


Grandpa Volzer said...

Sure was a GREAT difference in subject matter between last weeks blog and this one. Diversity is superb! If you have twice as many life experiences this next half of your trip as you did the first half, you probably will average it out as a totally grand experience. Or if your math skills are better than mine a double grand time. Love, Grandpa Volzer

Grandpa V. said...

Had a business conference with a gentleman this afternoon and somehow made your language problem come up in the conversation. Turns out he knows SIX languages and assures me that the problem does exist. Whats more, he assures me that it will get worse the smarter you become. At least I think that is what he said-----he was mumbling a bit !! Love, Grandpa V.

Grandma M. said...

Grandpa said he saw your BLOG yesterday but didn't tell me! Did you have to pinch yourself that you were really in Paris? I hope you can still speak in English when you return home. Wait until you get to write your first essay in college......Ha!

Dad said...

What a fantastic trip to France! Glad you got to spend some time with Trevor. You will find that the bond of classmates (you only have about 200) can stay with you for many , many years - just think what fun that will be at your 50th class reunion to say remember the day in Paris we had!

On the monumental architecture of small towns; you can now appreciate what it must have been like in the 1850's - 1870's to erect something as grand as the Lima Presby. Church or the the large column building now part of Elim, amoung the farm fields, woodlands, and simple "frontier town" of Lima. We just simply skipped the walls, because we didn't need to fortify towns at that point, as they did with Jamestown, etc. To think of how we improvised fortifications were made of tall logs sharpened at the top, in lieu of massive stone walls.

Love & Miss ya' - Dad