The Last Teary-Eyed Post
Well, it has been a long but memorable road people, but it had to end at some point. This is the last post about my travels in France and I just wanted to sum up my experience. I returned home on December 19, and the days and hours leading up to it were very emotional, happy and sad. Saying goodbye to all my new friends, that by this point, seemed like friends that I had for life was one of the hardest things. Then packing my bags and finding things that seemed like I just unpacked yesterday was tough too. It was nice to see my family and return to the life I once knew, but leaving Aix meant ending an important chapter in my life.
I honestly do not have any bad memories to speak of, and my experience there was the most memorable in my life. I learned a lot about myself and the person that I want to be someday. I have a different perspective on the world now than I did before and the slow lifestyle of the French has taught me patience.
I plan on returning to France and Aix one day, they have both become second homes to me and even now I miss them. I know that my time there after my trip will never be the same because all of those people I came to love and call my family will not be there and I accept that fact. I guess that is the beauty of a trip like this, it is a fleeting moment in time that has its own special place with me or anyone for that matter.
I really want to thank everyone who helped me get there and I met along the way. Mom, Dad, Dr. Morgan and all the other professors at Thiel who helped me, my Grandmother, Dominique my host mom, Peter, Sally, Kelsey, Marie, Brandon, Professor Mobed, and the list continues. I could type for days all the people I want to see/thank one more time.
As some closing statements, I really recommend that everyone who has an opportunity to, go study abroad. It is an experience that is worth every penny and you will never experience anything quite like it even if you go later in life just for tourism. The people you meet will change your life and you will change their lives too.
Well, that will do it everyone. As I end this blog I essentially leave/end the last part of the trip. I am glad so many people got to read and enjoy my blog; it has been a pleasure sharing with all of you. Thanks for your time and safe travels for any future ex-pats or study abroad enthusiasts.
Also: If anyone would like to ask me about my trip or any questions about studying abroad, please contact me on my Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/kristopher.karr
Goodbye for one last time,
Here are some photos from a trip I took to Marseille before I left. As you can see it was beautiful day and I really enjoyed the visit.
A little more of Amsterdam
Paris and Amsterdam
Soon after Morocco it was time to meet Kasey, my sister in Paris for a weekend then a weekend in Amsterdam after that. I took a train to Paris and back and I can safely say it is my favorite way to travel. It was easy to sleep and very comfortable. Once in Paris, I met with my sister at our hostel and we headed out to explore and take in some sights. Instead of a step by step retelling, I am going to give you my general synopsis of Paris, because everyone already knows the sights to see I am assuming.
Honestly I enjoyed Paris, but I would never study or live there. The whole experience is very cosmetic and touristy. The sights are fun to see and the city itself is beautiful, but it is the most expensive city in France and the least “French” in my opinion. As some advice for future honeymooners or study abroad students, do not stay in Paris, but DO VISIT Paris. Go for a few days but stay elsewhere. Normandy and Provence are beautiful places during the Fall and late Spring and you will experience far more than in Paris and have a great time. That is all I have to say about Paris and despite my ranting, I did enjoy the city with my sister.
Also, A big thanks to Marissa Phipps and the Western Reserve High School French class for following the blog. Here is a shirt for you that was the least trashy one we could find and it came all the way from Paris to boot. (Not that you normally wear trashy clothes, just all the shirts in Paris looked like they came from Jersey Shore.)
Before we traveled to Amsterdam, my sister had a week in Aix with me. She stayed in an apartment in the city; which my friends and I really enjoyed, but the man living below her could have/should have killed us. Anyway, my sister enjoyed her time in Aix, and soon it was time for the Netherlands.
Amsterdam is interesting place, with ornate gingerbread houses and narrow canals. The Dutch are very blunt and direct with very little context in what they say, but are nice people nonetheless. Our hostel was interesting and was situated right down town so we walked anywhere we went.
One big thing in Amsterdam is Bicycles. There are more bikes in the city than cars and I have the pictures to prove it. This lead to my sister and I renting bicycles and joining in on the fun. During our bike trip we decided to tour the Heineken factory.
I’m sure everyone has heard of the infamous “Red Light District” and “Window Shopping”, well it is very real and far more elaborate than you would think. Hands down the most interesting area I have ever been to, yet the most bizarre. Unfortunately there were no cameras allowed, not that any of the pictures would be acceptable to put on the blog, remember there is always Google kids.
After a few fun days it was time for me to go back to class in Aix and Kasey to return to Philly. We enjoyed our time in Amsterdam and hope to return one day. Well I have finally come to the end of my trip. The next post is the last about the trip and the last post in the blog.
I know it has been far too long, but I am finally back! As I said before my time here is ending, actually it has ended since my last post. I got back to the U.S. December 19 and honestly it is bitter sweet. Anyway, there is still a lot to tell before I end the blog so do not worry! Now, let me tell you about Fez, Morocco!
Morocco was a different place to say the least. The people are very nice and you were always welcomed into anyone’s home with tea known as “hospitality”. During my time in Morocco I stayed in riad which is like a really nice hostel. I cannot speak highly enough about the service we got while there. The first evening we explored the Medina of Fez. The Medina is the market place essentially and was a whole other world. Something cool about shopping in Morocco is that nothing has a fixed price so you find yourself bartering for the best price (pro-tip if you ever go to Morocco). After a long day of travel and exploring we headed in, because the next day we were going to the desert.
It was a nine hour car ride to the desert but we got to see some sights on the way, including: monkeys, the king’s palace, and the gorgeous Moroccan mountains. We eventually reached Berber and took a break for food, but soon it was off to the desert.
There was short drive to small settlement on the edge of the desert where we would ride camels into the desert. The ride in was very cool, for it was in the middle of the night by moonlight and of course because of the camels (Note: camels are the clumsiest, most awkward, and uncomfortable animals to ride). After one uncomfortable hour later, we reached our Berber camp in the desert. The Berbers hosting us were fairly nice and humorous and good cooks to boot. We were at the camp with a few other people who were all nice and from all different backgrounds. It was interesting sitting around the fire and conversing with all these different people.
The next day I decided to wake up early and explore the desert a little. The sand dunes are a sight to behold, to the unknowing eye they would be confused for mountains. It was easy to see how one could die out here.
Soon enough it was time to head back to Fez and return to France. One interesting thing that happened on our return though, it snowed in the Mountains on our return to Fez…..
That is it for Morocco; there are only two posts left, Paris and Amsterdam with my sister and my closing thoughts and experience.
Road Trip Part 2
Thus far the road trip had gone well, but little did we know it would only get better from Bordeaux on. The next stop on our list was Nantes. I am not going to detail a lot about Nantes but I will say our apartment and the mechanical lifelike elephant were very cool and we had a nice “family” dinner in the apartment (thanks Sally).
After one night in Nantes, we headed to Mont St. Michel and Normandy the next day. The countryside on the way up to Mont St. Michel was nice, and the small country roads were a welcome change that reminded me of home. The colors of Fall had made it to Normandy and brought back the memories of Pennsylvania Falls passed. The most pleasant surprise was seeing Mont St. Michel on the horizon. The large island village/castle/church was really a sight; surrounded by mud flats at low tide and ocean at high tide it is always changing. On the island there are forty-four people who currently live there. It consists of a small village at the bottom and a cathedral/castle at the highest part. The nicest part was getting into the castle free because we were students. I will post a few photo sets of just Mont St. Michel after this post.
Happy with Mont St. Michel we threw our heaviest coats on and headed to Bayeux (it is extremely cold in Normandy). After some more country driving we made it to the small town of Bayeux. Bayeux is the kind of town you would want to grow old in. The populace is very friendly and welcoming, and the shops remind one of times long gone. There is a huge and beautiful cathedral in the center of town that is my favorite church to date. The first night in Bayeux we went and tasted cider and calvados (apple brandy), which were both very good. Our hotel room was an interesting royal blue and gold, furnished in a 70’s style so as you can imagine it was “one of those rooms” and it four people to a bed again.
The next day was spent at Omaha Beach and the U.S. Soldier Cemetery. As a little history for all you non-patriotic, Communist, hippies (just kidding) Omaha Beach was one of the main American landing beaches for D-Day on June 6, 1944 and was the beginning of the liberation of Europe during World War 2. Anyway, we were fortunate to have a sunny day in Normandy (rarer than Bigfoot and a Unicorn combined) so I was able to get some nice pictures of the beach and cemetery. The beach was beautiful but it was sobering being in such a place, not sad, just this strange feeling knowing that this beautiful peaceful place was once a horrendous battlefield (sorry got a little deep there). The cemetery was very well kept and a great tribute to the men and women who had served. I will dedicate photo uploads to the beaches and the cemetery.
After one more night in our hotel it was time for the nine hour drive back to Aix. Not much to tell here really, we made it back okay. MOST IMPORTANT THOUGH……….THE TOYOTA MADE IT OK!!!!!!!!!!
(NOTE: more pictures from the trip below this post!!!)
Thanks for reading about the trip and sorry for taking so long to update in between posts. I have to detail my travels in Morocco and my trip with my sister, Kasey, in Paris and also my upcoming trip to Amsterdam. My time here is coming to an end very shortly (t-minus three weeks) and it is a very bitter sweet feeling. Thanks to everyone who has been checking in consistently, hang in there for a little bit longer as I complete my trip.
As always, miss and love everyone back home and have a great Thanksgiving!
Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery