I am using this blog to tell everyone what I'm thinking and doing beforehand, during and after my exchange year in Finland for 2011.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Eurotour - Day 9

In a lot of the hotels we got wakeup calls and at this particular hotel, the phone wouldn't stop ringing no matter how many times we picked it up, a few minutes later it would start ringing again! Very annoying! We watched Chicago on the bus as we drove through the Alps which were breathtaking! We stopped at a little city called Sisteron which I absolutely loved, definitely one of my favourite stops of eurotour! After the craziness of Paris, Sisteron was so quaint and peaceful. We had free time and I walked around with Jackie, we found suspicious looking stairs and decided to see where they would take us. We wandered the beautiful streets and came down to this little man made lagoon sort of thing where we ran into Krisse and Connie sun-baking. I went to get money and Jackie found a stray cat that didn't seem to like her!

We then waited forever for our lunch to come out and did the games on the back of our place-mats to pass time, well I did. Everyone else was much too cool for that. We had a bit of a ABC 90's kids show discussion between us Aussies and that was good fun! Who remembers Magic Mountain? I had completely forgotten about it! Ok getting off topic, we were back on the bus then and as we started winding down this huge hill we could see the whole of Cannes at the bottom of it. Everyone was standing up being thrown around the bus trying to get a glimpse of the incredible view. We stopped in Cannes for a little while to go to a perfume factory, that was interesting but everything was so expensive so I didn't buy anything. We drove another 30 minutes to Nice and unloaded everything into our hotel and had dinner.

The view from our Hotel


Cute little backyards. 

Watching the tourists! 

At Lunch

The view!!

Trying to photograph Cannes but failing.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Eurotour - Day 8

I dragged myself to breakfast and I had broken one of my thongs the day before hand so I just went barefoot and a man staying at the hotel asked me if I was too poor to afford shoes and then did this hilariously scary chuckle to himself. We had quiet time on the bus and everyone was more than happy to oblige, we stopped briefly at a liqueur factory in Grenoble and watched a small 3D film about the history of the place. It was interesting but the general consensus afterwards was that most of us fell asleep during it. Then we had the opportunity to taste some of the liqueurs. We arrived at the hotel in the evening and thankfully we were on the 1st floor so no lugging the suitcase up 5 floors, I think this was the only place we stayed where I didn't have to carry my suitcase up at least 2 flights of stairs. The hotel was at the base of the French Alps and it was amazing!  There was a pool and a volleyball net that we could use and a computer with Internet too!

Lots of sleepy people!

I'm sorry Mathaus but you look hilarious!

A scene from the video we watched

Don't we all look so alert and awake?

Eurotour - Day 7

Today was our free day and night in Paris to do whatever we wanted! I teamed up with Ana and a few other exchangers but somehow there was a bit of a miscommunication and they left without us so we went with a big group that was going to go to the Notre Dame. We caught the metro and when we got on, a guy with a saxophone and another with a clarinet got on too and just started jamming right in front of us! We got off at the Notre Dame station and then started walking. On our way we stopped at a touristy stand and I popped into the post office to buy some stamps for my postcards. Once the lady had finished being terribly rude to me I posted my postcards and discovered that I was alone. I was in such a big group that no-one could notice that they were short a person. I headed towards the Notre Dame because that's was where we were going but turns out they had already turned back to find me and so I never found them. 

A little annoyed but never to be discouraged, I decided that there was no use wasting my day looking for people in a city as big as Paris so I slowly walked back up the long street and ate a delicious crepe on the way and tried not to spend hundreds of dollars on touristy things. I jumped on a train and got off at the Louvre. I'm not a big art fan but I really wanted to be able to say I had been to the Louvre and that I'd seen the Mona Lisa. It was free because I had proof I was under 18 so I didn't feel bad only spending about 40 minutes there. It was surprisingly easy to see the Mona Lisa, I thought I would have to wait a while but I got in pretty fast. Paris made me feel very small, not because of its size but because it was so strange to be looking at a painting that millions and millions of people have looked at before me. I took photos of things that had been photographed so many times before and I knew that they would be photographed another billion times in the future. It was quite a strange feeling especially compared to the feeling I get when I go camping and I see desert outback that maybe only a hundred thousand or so people have ever experienced. I realise this is a bit of an underestimate but it feels that way sometimes. 

Anyway I wandered around the Louvre for a little while longer and then came out a different door, very confused because it felt like I had barely walked 100m and I could barely make out the entrance I had walked that far! I caught another train to the Arc De Triomphe and tried to take a picture of myself with it with little success. I then spent 20 minutes trying to figure out how to actually get to it, I knew there was a tunnel but where was it! Eventually I found it and I just took pictures of it for a while and decided it was too much of a hassle to pay to go the top. I'd already seen the city from up high anyway. I watched two guys take pictures of each other in front of it for a good 15 minutes and then one came over and asked if I wanted a picture. This was why I was a little apprehensive about letting strangers take photos of me. Sure you can do a bit of profiling but you can never know can you.

I then walked down a street that seemed to be mostly car and motorbike shops. There was a Lamborghini on the side walk and I just couldn't deny myself a picture with it! I spent a while shopping then and I found a nice dress and embarrassed myself in front of the lady selling it to me, what's new! I was having a great time and I found a cute little market selling fresh fruit and veggies and then realised I was a bit lost, I found a map and realised I had walked a long way! I headed in the direction of a Metro but seems I choose the wrong street and ended up on the very outskirts of the tourist end of the city. We were given touristy maps and they had  big red circle around the city that was sort of, you don't need to pass the red circle because its all business centres and nothing touristy. I had passed the red line. Luckily I found a hotel and asked for directions and managed to get back to a metro and catch it back to the hotel.

There was a meet up at the Eiffel tower so I was going to change and go back there but I ran into some people so I tagged along with them, it was nice to be back with people! We went to Rue de Rivoli and shopped a bit and found some food. Then I caught the Metro to the Eiffel tower and all day I had caught metro after metro with no problem but I had decided to take this line that was a letter and not a number because it would be faster but its not the same thing and I had to walk forever to get to it only to realise my ticket didn't work because its not the metro! So it took me about 40 minutes instead of 5, whoops! I found Ana and Sophie at the Eiffel tower and although I'd had a good day, I was just glad to be back with them! We hung around waiting for the light show and we all had crepes, I think it was about number 50 for me?! The light show was so cool even though it was still pretty light when it happened. We gathered as a group then to try and find a club that we could go to. Someone knew of a gay club near the Notre Dame and so as the exchangers students we are we thought it might be funny to go there. On the metro there, one of the girls in our group got fined 50 euros for giving here ticket to her friend to use again. Tip for travellers - just buy a day ticket! They are only about 3 Euros and I used mine about 20 times.

We never found the club, we just spent 50 minutes walking around trying to find somewhere that looked fun. The trains in Paris stop at 2am and start again at 5am. It was about 1.30 and the group I was with wanted to stay out all night but I was exhausted and done with trying to find things when we had no clue what we were actually looking for so I caught a train back to the hotel, in the dark, on my own. Not a decision I am particularly proud of but all was well in the end. That was the end of my rather eventful day in Paris! My highlights would have to have been the Mona Lisa, the Lamborghini (parents; I will have my license soon?) and the Eiffel tower with all the sparkly lights! My favourite thing about Paris was the Metro, it was so easy to get from place to place and it was so cheap! I also really loved the food! I know this is a very detailed post but it was probably my most eventful day and I had lots of thoughts on Paris and I wanted to write them all out. 

On the metro, excited for our day! 

Notre Dame

Mona Lisa! 

The Lourve

Arc de Triomphe

Success? NO.

One of my highlights  

A little bit of Oz in Paris. 

Crepes at the Eiffel tower, definitely needs a picture!

Happy to be re-united! 


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Eurotour - Day 6

Something I fell in love with on Eurotour was those pastries with chocolate in them (name anyone?) they had them in almost everywhere we went at the breakfast buffets and the ones at our hotel in Paris were particularly delicious! We were going on a bit of a sightseeing tour today and first stop was the Palace of Versailles. In my journal it says VERSAILLES!!! It really was incredible, I wandered around with Ana and there was a lot of people but not as many as I expected. You get a free audio guide at the door and they are really informative and it was actually really fun to learn all about how the French royal family used to live back in the day. When we went back to the bus there was all these people trying to sell us stuff and they do not let up. Even if you give them no attention whatsoever they keep pestering you. A few times we would see a huge group of them sprinting in one direction and then you would see some police officers walking towards where they are running from. This happened a bit in Venice too.

The next stop was a photo stop for the Eiffel tower! I never had the big Paris dream like a lot of girls my age do but it was still so incredible to be seeing such a famous landmark! We took lots of pictures and then it started to pour with rain so the rest of the tour was in the bus. I admit I was drifting to sleep by then and can't really remember where we drove. Our group had a booking to go up the tower and when we got there we had to go through security gates and have our bags checked. Bit of back story now, it was freezing. It was rainy and cold and I had shorts and a light cardigan on, I'd decided I would bring my big Australian flag to keep me warm but then I forgot to take it out of the bus and had to buy a poncho at the gift shop. Back to the security, anyone who were carrying any country flags; had them confiscated. In a group of 80 or so exchange students from a handful of different countries, collectively we were carrying quite a few flags. All of them had to be thrown away, I was so glad I had forgotten my flag because that would have made me furious!

We headed up in the lift and then we had to wait a while to catch the 2nd lift that would take us the the very top. The view was incredible, even form the 2nd floor you could see the whole city sprawled out in  front of you. We could see people riding their bikes and playing soccer and they were like ants! We finally got to the top and admired the view and took some photos before waiting forever in line to get back down. It is a lot of waiting and I think from when we started and to when we got back to ground it was about 3 hours but so worth it! The rest of the evening was spent trying to find some food. You would think this would be easy in a city as big as Paris but we had a hard time finding anything. Eventually we found a nice little Chinese place and then I finally got to sleep!

Yay! Versailles! 

Typical jumping Eiffel tower photo! 

D1430 Newbies!

Thanks for crashing my lovely photo Ana!

From level 2

Waiting to go up

From the very top! 

At the top

Chinese in France! 

Catching the Metro home

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Eurotour - Day 5

Somehow even though I woke at 6.45 I still managed to be late for breakfast and had to throw some rolls into a serviette and dash back to the bus. We were driving to Belgium and the traffic was crazy! Crazy traffic to me is Melbourne at rush hour and that has NOTHING on the crazy traffic I saw while on Eurotour! We finally arrived in Brussels and it was a lovely warm day. We had free time to wander the streets and try chocolate, waffles and French fries. I didn't get any French fries but I can report that the waffles and chocolate are as good as their reputation! Brussels is the capital of the European Union and all the main EU meetings and stuff happen there. This meant that a lot stores had stuff from all the EU counties and I found a Finnish flag, badge and sticker. Very weird buying touristy things in the wrong country. One problem that arose quite often in a lot of place we were at was that most stores had a limit for what you could use your card for and also ATM's seemed to be a dying breed. I think I spent about 50 euro's less than what I was going to in Brussels just because I couldn't find a damn ATM to get any cash. We had a delicious lunch and then had to start driving again, this time to Paris! We arrived in Paris just before sunset so we could see the tip of the Eiffel tower in the distance, so exciting!

European Parliament

There were puppies on the side walk!

I had a ridiculous messy and delicious waffle

Missä olemme?

The view from our hotel room

Eurotour - Day 4

The morning was spent driving to the Netherlands! When I think of the Netherlands, I think canals and windmills and cows everywhere but no country can be as cool as it is in the movie's can it? IT WAS! We stopped at a little cheese and clog factory and watched a guy who was wearing converse clogs give a short demonstration on how to make clogs. We then got to attack the souvenir store before spending some time taking pictures in the giant clog. We had a short talk on how they make cheese too and we got to have a bit of a taste of all the nice cheeses. There was one covered in garlic and olive oil and it was so good. We went down to the beach next where we were having lunch but we got to run through all the little stores first. So many cool things and I have no idea how I didn't buy everything! We had lunch and then drove to Amsterdam, really cool city! Definitely one of my favourites that we visited.

First we went on a boat tour through the canals and the guide told us all about why they built the houses they way they did and a bit of the history of the city. There is a big sort of hook thing that extends from the top of most of the houses and that was so that when people moved they could put their furniture in the higher levels because the staircases were much too thin. There was also two sets of doors into most of the houses, one for the owners of the house and one, which was normally lower than the other, for the servants to enter the house. There were lots of house boats tied to the sides of the canals and people live in their house boats all year round! They were very different to Australian houseboats! 

Then we swapped groups and I got to spend some time in the Anne Frank museum which was chilling but a really good experience. Our hotel was quite a way out of the city and it was dark and freezing when we got there so we were not happy to hear that they hadn't gotten our key-cards ready and we had to wait ages to finally get inside! I went to take a shower and had a brief moment of "whoa how the heck do I work this thing" before I realised that it was just like an Australian shower and I had grown so used to Finnish showers which are so much easier to regulate. 

Converse clogs! 

My roomie and I in a giant clog!

One of my favourite photos from the whole eurotour.

Just posing with a cute house

Public urinals :/


Actual houses

Being a bit silly with Ana in Amsterdam.
Ana also has a really good blog that is really worth reading!