Life in The Posh Lane: Au Revoir, Europe

Well, I do not know how things have progressed in Frostburg, but I can assure you that this semester has flown by in England. As we all brave the interim between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I can’t help but feel like I just arrived in the UK yesterday. I still have some time in England, but this is my last opportunity to write before the end of the FSU semester.

Mona Lisa
The Mona Lisa (Nick DeMichele)

I am currently preparing to go on a two week jaunt through Central Europe to sample some of the best Christmas Markets in the continent. Starting in London, Ms. Haylee Wilson and I will make our way to northern and then eastern France, Bavaria in Germany, both Salzburg and Vienna in Austria, finally ending up in Prague in the Czech Republic. For a total of sixteen days, eight trains, plus a flight, it will be our longest and most intense trip yet. Hopefully we will have many opportunities to pick up some (late) Christmas goodies for our friends and family back home.

We recently returned from a trip to Paris, France. It was certainly eventful, and I loved parts of the city. Other aspects – not so much. To begin, I expected Paris to simply reek of the effortless charm that it is associated with. The glamour and luxury of the cafes and “rues.” In some areas of the city I did, indeed, feel like I was in the City of Lights. The Ile de la Cite, which is the island in the middle of the Seine which houses Notre Dame, was my favorite part of the city. The island, as well as the area around it, is chock full of that Parisian architecture. The bridge weighed down with lovers’ locks takes one across the Seine, and Notre Dame dominates the island. The climb to the top was nothing compared to the Duomo, but was well worth it. Back across the Seine is the Hôtel d’Ville, the gorgeous seat of Parisian government. Aside from the Ile, Montmartre was a heck of climb but a cute neighborhood nonetheless. The Eiffel Tower dazzles during night and gave me chills as we walked from the Louvre through the Jardin d’Tulieres. Speaking of the Louvre, I am proud to say that Ms. Wilson and I were in line as the museum opened and proceeded to make a mad dash to the Mona Lisa before the crowds, where we able to get some great pictures with the portrait. We then backtracked through the rest.

Hayley and Nick at the Eiffel Tower (Nick DeMichele)
Hayley and Nick at the Eiffel Tower (Nick DeMichele)

Other parts of the city disappointed. The metro, while fast and efficient, is filthy and full of pickpockets. The train stations needed a stronger police presence and often felt dangerous. The suburbs outside of Paris are appallingly destitute and do not make a good first impression. While we were able to survive off of street vendors and a free hostel breakfast, the city lives up to its famous price tag. However, the dismal souvenir scene (as well as our frugal diet) actually led Ms. Wilson and I to spend less money in Paris than we had budgeted. If one is willing to rough it for a few days, Paris is totally possible on a budget. Additionally, I will say that we only encountered helpful individuals for the entirety of our trip. Granted, we did not ask for help much, and most of our communications involved us purchasing something. Even so, we did not encounter the infamous Parisian lack of empathy for travelers.

As I said, we will be returning to France for our winter trip. This time, we will be trekking to Lille, France, which hugs the border with Belgium, and Strasbourg, France, which belongs to the Alsace region of France, an area that has been both French and German throughout its history. After touring so many ultra-urban cities, I’m looking forward to some of the smaller cities on our winter trip.

My roommates will be returning to Sweden, Italy, and Russia for the holidays. I was fortunate to have such great roommates, and I am sure that we will maintain contact after our shared semester here in Newcastle ends.

I am quite excited for my return home in January, I must confess. It will be very good to see my family and friends. And my bed. Ms. Wilson and I have been talking about possible future endeavors as of late, but we need to get a special someone to get her passport before we venture back to Europe. After we have all of pictures developed, I doubt that we will have a problem with this.

My time abroad has been fabulous. If I had the credit room and finances to do it again, I would do it in a heartbeat. I would like to consider a possible summer trip to either get my fine art credit or finish my Spanish minor. I will hopefully be able to conclude my logged travels after my return to the US. I would like the opportunity to reflect upon the experience as a whole. In the meantime, I implore all students to study abroad. Start planning early and make it happen. I am thrilled that I was able to study abroad during my sophomore year, because I had much more flexibility concerning credits. Now I can return to Frostburg and focus on my majors. I have already recommended Northumbria to a student, and would like to echo that sentiment. Newcastle is a vibrant city with so much to do and wonderful means of getting to the rest of Europe. Whatever you choose to do, capitalize on the experiential learning emphasis at Frostburg. There is truth in it. My study abroad experience has made me mature as an individual and I now feel that I can confidently travel wherever I please and handle myself accordingly. I am eternally grateful for this experience and look forward to sharing it with other students, in the hope that they will embark on a journey of their own. Again, I hope to tell you all of my next trip, upon my return to the US. Until then, “so long, farewell, au revoir, auf wiedersehen.”

Featured picture: Nick in front of Luxembourg Palace in France.

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