Saturday, June 12, 2010

Euro Tour!

Watch this space...when i'm finally unpacked, organised and no longer tired there will be a lovely recount fo my Euro tour. For now all you need to know is: IT WAS FABULOUS!!!!!!!!

Well i'm going to start now and it will probably take me awhile but here goes...
My Euro Tour began on a Sunday when Claudia and I drove the 1.5 hrs to Millau to meet the bus. Because we live so close to where the bus was coming from my Rotary told me that it would be cheaper and easier to make the journey to Paris with the bus. We met the bus at 12 and started the trip stopping only three times along the way to pick up Meg, Kim and Jess (the three other Australians in my disctrict here). We had a pretty comfortable trip and arrived at our hotel for the night at about 8pm. We stayed about 30kms out of Paris in a tiny hotel but it worked out a lot cheaper than catching the train. I stayed in a room with Kim and cludia and we were all pretty excited about the next day.

Monday we woke up pretty early ready to start our first day of the tour. We had to be at the first train station at 9am to pick up the others and we got there a bit early so we went for a walk around the streets. When we got pack other exchange students started to arrive and we had a bit of a hugging and card exchanging frenzy. Afterwards we went on to two other train stations to pick up the rest of the group. In total we had about 56 exchange students and majority of those were Australian since this is the Southern Hemisphere trip. We were also joined by New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Ecuador, Bolivia, Thaliand, Taiwan, America and Canada. We were given a bit of free time to buy lunch and then went on a bus tour of Paris. We saw quite a bit of Paris but it was only from the bus and we stopped only twice; once opposite the Eiffel Tower to take pictures and once to see the glass pyramid outside the Louvre. After the tour we drove to the youth hostel in Reims. Because it was the first night we played some getting to know you games after dinner before crashing in our rooms.

After a pretty early start we drove to Strasbourg for the day. First thing we went and saw the Cathedral and it was absolutely gorgeous...i don't even know how to describe it but it was beautiful. Afterwards we had free time and Caitlyn, Jaclyn and i did a bit of shopping and then bought lunch. We also bought giant pretzels! The afternoon we went on a boat tour along the river and everyone had headsets to listen to the tour. The best part was changing the languages, especially to the kids versions which sounded like a pirate. We stayed in a youth hostel in Strasbourg that night and we were allowed out for a little bit after dinner. Caitlyn, Jaclyn and i wandered around Strasbourg and had a fun night.

Today started with a really early start and then a four hour bus trip to Munich. Along the way we stopped at a road stop to have lunch and i had my first experience with having to pay to go to the toilet...50 euro cents to pee? i don't think so!The weather today was also pretty wet and cold which just seemed to add to the length of the trip. When we got to Munich we had a bus tour and we stopped at the BMW museum. It was pretty cool to see all the new motorbikes and cars but the rest of the tour was pretty boring and it was really hard to take pictures from the bus when there were raindrops all over the window. We got free time in Munich despite the rain and everyone ended up pretty soaked. We all got a group picture in the rain. The youth hostel was pretty good and i got fries for dinner so i was pretty happy about that :)

Day four started a bit later than normal so we got a bit more of a sleep-in. The weather was still wet as we got on the bus to head to Linderhof castle, about two hours away from Munich. The castle was absolutely gorgeous all the interior was filled with gold, paintings, procelein and beautiful chandeleirs. The gardens and fountains outside were also stunning and even though it was a small castle, compared to some i've seen, i think it was the most beautiful. Back on the bus we were in for another 2-3 hours to Innsbruck, Austria. This city turned out to be my favourite place of the entire trip and i fell in love with Austria. It's such a beautiful country but i can;t really explain why i loved it so just seemed to suit me so much. We did a tour on bus and on foot and the view of the mountains from here was amazing. I also indulged and spent quite a but of money in Austria as i bought an Austrian hat and traditional Austrian dress. For dinner that night Simon, one of the guys, and I dressed up and it was probably one of the craziest things i've ever done. I don't know where i got the confidence from but it was a lot of fun and everybody was staring at me. The meal tonight was also great...a real roast and then ice creams for desert. After dinner and the journal everyone sung their national anthems and it was really good. My personal favourite was South Africa because it is sung in four different languages. The New Zealanders also did the haka which of course everyone loved.

Day five was probably the most bus heavy day of the whole trip and it was pretty tiring. In the morning we had four hours in the bus to reach Verona, Italy. Funnily enough as soon as we crossed the border into Italy we left behind the cold, wet Austrian weather for hot, sunny Italian weather. About time!!! We didn't spend long in Verona but we got to see Juliet's house, the wall of love messages and of course the famous balcony. Afterwards we took the chance to eat some fruit and get our first taste of Italian gelatto...some people had up to 7 scoops that day. The fruit was also great, especially after the youth hostel food which lacked any kind of fruit, vegetables and cereal. We spent another three hours in the bus in the afternoon and spent the time watching Napoleon Dynamite before arriving in Lido di Jesolo were we would eb staying two nights. The hotel was quite nice but the room was really tiny and i slept on this bunk bed thing suspended from the felt just a little bit instable. For dinner i got my first taste of Italian pasta and then we got to go out. The town at night was so pretty and i really liked this city. It had such a nice vibe and it wasn't too touristic. I think it's somewhere i'd like to go back to one day.

Next morning we got our biggets sleep-in of the trip and it was really nice not to have to pack my suitcase. We drove a short way to the portt o get the boat to Venice. We got such a nice view of Venice coming in on the boat. The day in Venice tourned out to be one of the hottest of the tour and the two hour walking tour was a bit overwhelming. Everyone was tired and a bit fed up by halfway through but Venice is a very beautiful city. Quite a few people got sunburnt here but luckily i was wearing a hat i'd bought and a t-shirt so i managed to escape it for once. After the tour it was time to do some shopping and we bought some more gelatto. I also found an op-shop and had fun looking at all the random things there. I bought a pair of white pants and i also bought a white dress which i plan to try and tie-dye with my friends...we'll wait and see how that turns out. We then got the chance to have a gondola ride and it was absolutely favourite thing that we did in Italy. Some of the godola men were singing and it was so cool. We got the bus back and after dinner some of us headed to the beach with the two adults who were with us. We played games on the sand until we got kicked off because it was a private beach.

The next day started with four hours to Florence. We had time for lunch and i bought even more gelatto and then Jaclyn, Caitlyn and I sat down in the shade to rest for awhile. It was here that we got caught paying 3 euros for crappy little string bracelets because the man tied them on our wrists before we could refuse...clever of him really but i guess thy're good reminders of our time in Florence. We did another two hour walking tour here and the higlight was the church. It was beautiful with lots of paintings. In Italy women have to have their shoulders covered to enter the church so some people got caught out here. We drove some more to Monte Carlo where we stayed the night and after dinner everyone swapped pins. My blazer is getting pretty full now.

Next day started a bit later and thankfully it was only 1.5hrs to Pisa. We were given four hours free time here to spend however we pleased and Jaclyn and I first stopped ot take the typical touristy tower can you not? Afterwards we spent time wandering and checking out the stalls and then i bought...yep you guessed it...more gelatto. Afterwards Jaclyn and I sat down and talked for awhile and watched the other tourists taking photos of the tower. In the afternoon we had four hours to San Remo and i was in a room with just Jess. That night it was James's, one of the boys, birthday so we had a special thing for him after dinner.

Day nine was time to head to Monaco which is a small principality totally circled by France. Because of the little space they have they build upwards which is very different to the sprawling style of France. The nice weather continued and the tour here wasn't as long which was good. We got to see the church and the gardens and the palace before we had some free time. Our free time was mostly spent eating and shopping and then we had four hours to Caderousse in the countryside of France for the night. The place was all out on its own but we had lots of space and there was even a playground. Angie, a tiny Argentinian, and I acted like little kids and ran straight to the swings. Some of us also played some ball games on the fields before dinner. That night i also had a bit of a panic with my bag but it all worked out in the end. I had borrowed a little hard-cased suitcase from my host family and they had left the combination on the right numbers so i could open it. Sometime between putting my bag on the bus that morning, and getting it off that night the combination had been changed and it had locked itself. I had never really taken in the combination so i pretty much panicked and tried all the same number combinations...i had pretty much resigned myself to trying all 999 combinations when someone, i think it was Jess, had the bright idea of trying 123 and when i tried it my suitcase was i relieved! After dinner everyone dressed up for a kind of fashion show thing and we were all dressed up pretty crazily. Most of the guys dressed up as girls and the girls as guys and i ended up in 1950's was one fun night.

Next day was only two hours to Lyon and it was nice to be back to France and speaking French...a language i can at least somewhat communicate in. I really love Lyon as a city and i guess it comes from the fact that there are about a billion second-hand bookstores that i kept dragging Jaclyn into. There was also a big bookstore filled with english books and i bought, and have now finished readin a couple. I think my love for books has gone crazy this year and i have so many here that i have no idea how i'll get them all home. After maccas for lunch, and awkwardly ordering a sundae with no topping, we looked in some clothes shops searching for a dress. I ended up trying on only one and although it looked ok it didn't really fit so my search ended unsuccessfully. We then had a two hour tour of Lyon and it was quite good. After the tour we travelled two hours and stopped at the lake at Annecy. It was really pretty and we got some good pictures there. We then continued another 1.5 hours to where we would be staying the night at a ski town. Tongith i stayed in a room just with Jaclyn and it was quite nice....the shower was a bit weird..the temperature was fixed. Tonight was the last night for some people who were in the district there so we had a little but of a get together and it was a bit sad.

The last full day of the tour was spent in Geneva, Switzerland and our first stop was the United Nations building. We went on a tour of the building and i found it really interesting. It reminded me of all the things we did in legal studies and i'm sure Ms Connolly would have loved it. I also ended up with some swiss francs after buying a pin in the gift shop. We then drove further into Geneva and looked around for awhile. Almost everyone bought some Swiss chocolate and i splurged on a swiss army's really cool. By this time we'd said goodbye to the guys who were leaving that day and it was quite sad. I'd become quite good friends with some of them so we all made plans to get together sometime before the end of the year. I'm also going to Victoria to visit some of them when i get home. We drove 5 hours to Dijon, France that afternoon and it began to sink in that it was our last night. After dinner i borrowed my friend Erin's beautiful black dress and we had a bit of a disco. We also had to get up and say our favourite part of the was so different for everyone but it was obvious everyone had had a fantastic 11 days.

Early morning next morning as we headed to Paris for the end of the tour...we stopped for lunch at a rest stop on the way and then we had another hour to drive before we got to Paris. When we got to the first station and had to start saying goodbye almost everyone cried as we came to the realisation that we might never see some of these wonderful people again. We had become quite a tight group and it was pretty much summed up by a hearfelt speech made by one of the Agentinian was so sad. After the first stop we had two more stations to drop people of at and it didn't really get easier..soon enough it was just me, Jess, Kim, Meg and Claudia left on the bus. We left Paris at 2pm and travelled all the way back to Millau. We stopped along the way to drop the others off and at 11pm Claudia and I were the last ones left at Millau. Our counsellor picked us up and we had the 1.5 hour drive back to Villefranche de Rouergue. I don't think my counsellor realised exactly how tired we were because he asked a lot of questions and i was finsing really hard to think and concentrate in french. By the time i got home my host parents were in bed but they'd left the house open for me. They thought they'd wake up when i gpt home but they didn't so i went up and went straight to morning they had to come peek into my room to make sure i'd gotten cute?

Well that's my story of Euro Tour..12 super busy, amazing, fun-filled, joyous days!!!

Now i also have some news from this week so i might as well add it onto this post. Monday was my last day at school before the holidays so we basically just watched movies and ate cake and what-not. We also took some photos and my french got complimented by all the teachers who i won;t be having after the holidays haha Tuesday i went and did some sightseeing with my host family and one of their friends. We went to see this chasm and went down into it and went on a little boat to do a tour of the river that runs thorugh the underground. It was really cold and wet and practically like a cave. Afterwards we went and saw this bird place and watched a show with all the eagles, parakeets and cockatoos before going to another town to see another castle. The weather here is still up and down which is quite disappointing for me for being almost summer (summer doesn't officially start here til next week). Some days it gets up to high 20's but most of the time it's still mid teens and wet. Wednesday my host family and i made the trek to Toulouse to finish my visa requirements. Being 18 before i came on exchange is quite a hassle. We drove most of the way and then left the car at a shopping centre and took the metro into the city. I loved the metro and it was quite fast and convenient. We then headed to the OFII office and i was taken into the medical part to have my checks. My host family waited int he waiting room while i went in with a lady and she looked at all my paperwork, measured me and weighed me. She then took me to get my chest x-ray, which they use to check for tuberculosis and other things like that. I had to get undressed and then stand against a really cold machine, then take a deep breath and hold it whole she took the x-ray. Coolest thing about all that was that i got to keep the x-ray, even if it was a pain carrying it around all day. After that i went on with a nirse and answered more questions about if i'm pregnant and why i'm in France. I felt quite prous to be able to go in and answer all these questions on my own. Then i briefly saw a doctor who just ticked and stamped my forms and then it was on to the final room to put all my paperwork together and put the thing in my visa. Now that's all over i'm quite relived. We spent the afternoon in Toulouse looking through a museum and going to see the Garonne before heading home. That night i went out with friends for the first time since i've been here and my friends were so excited when i finally said yes i could come. We went out for dinner with my class and two teachers and it was a really nice evening.

Well i think that brings everyone up to date finally with my goings-on. My next post will be of all my Euro Tour pictures but i'm still trying to put them all on facebook so it might be awhile. I'll probably have some more reflections soon as well because time is starting to pass me by and before i know it it will be January 14th and time to get on a plane to come home. It's really starting to hit home now too because all the Northern Hemisphere kids are heading home and just 5 months ago they were where i am now...scary eh? In just 6 more months i'll be heading home and all the kids in Aus now who are just starting to plan their exchanges will be heading out and my year of a lifetime will be finished. Living in the moment and taking all the opportunities i can is my plan. This is seriously the best decision i have ever made and i thank everyone in my life who has helped me, supported me, and who put me int he position to take this opportunity and live this experience. This has really opened my eyes and started my life anew. I will be forever greatful for what you, and this experience has caused me to grow into.

love and kisses

1 comment:

  1. Melissa your trip has brought back some very happy memories. To think I thought I was young at 19 to be travelling Europe and you are even younger!! I had no doubt that you would enjoy your year away and that everyone who would meet you would love you! Keep doing what you are doing - enjoying each moment. Also you have no idea what your future could hold. It may hold you travelling the world or living OS for a time again. You are so young with you whole future in front of you. Thinking of you heaps with lots of green envy! Love Aunty Lee