Something in the Water (Italy)

Well my Italy portion of my trip is already over 😦 On Sunday, Ben and I just relaxed in Zurich and waited for our trains. I then caught my train to Milan, which ended up arriving an hour later than expected. So I was in Milan in the dark, when the buses were no longer running. The Italian guys sure lived up to their reputation. Within five minutes of me arriving in Milan, some guy approached me, and after several, “Please, come to the disco with me,” replied with several, “No, I have to find my hostel,” he ended up buying me a metro ticket and made sure I got on the right metro to get to the hostel. I got quite annoyed with the stares I got from the men while I was in Italy. I noticed that many of the other women were wearing pants! Well, I refuse to wear pants when it’s 34 degrees outside; I just wish I could wear my shorts with a little peace. I also felt bad being in Italy and not knowing the language. I mean, really, the only Italian words I know are “penne con pollo,” so it was hard for me to communicate since that’s not always something you can fit into your everyday conversation. However, I’ve used my French here as much as I’ve used my English because most Italians seem to know French better than English (or at least the ones I’ve met), so I guess at least I don’t have to be that stuckup American girl who expects the world to only speak her language. I always wonder if that’s what they all think when we come and only speak English…

Monday was just not a good day for me. Everything I had to do in order to get to my hostel by the Cinque Terre seemed to go wrong. That morning, I got up early to catch the train to La Spezia. Maybe I was really tired or maybe I just wasn’t used to it but I almost had a heart attack when a big, black bird came and sat on my window sill. I don’t know how Snow White does it… Anyway, to get to La Spezia, you have to change trains partway through and my two trains were extremely close in time. Luckily, everything in Italy seems to be late (literally, I don’t think I got on a train that was on time for my entire week) so even though my first train was late, so was my second. As soon as I got on the train, I remembered that I forgot to validate those stupid tickets. I still don’t understand the point of validating a ticket when you BOUGHT the ticket with a date and time anyway. I was just hoping that no one would come through the train to check tickets. But unfortunately, luck wasn’t on my side that time. The lady checked my ticket and said I could either get a fine or get off the train. I don’t know who in their right mind would pick the fine when given the choice so I gladly got off the train. I had no idea where I was but I had an hour and a half to kill so I just walked in a random direction, bought food to make three sandwiches, got two yogurts and a whole package of cherry tomatoes (all for less than five bucks! It’s so nice to not have to spend an average of 18-25 dollars on a meal anymore) and I found a bench right by the water and picnicked there. I later found out the town I was in is called Chiavari; it was good to have fallen upon it by accident and finally have my first real taste of Italy! I got on the next train to La Spezia, only to find out that buses don’t run in the afternoon, so then I had to sit and wait for the bus for three hours. Then I GOT on the bus, only to find out that you had to get a bus pass from the train station; you couldn’t pay on the bus (unlike every other bus I’ve been on). So I tried to explain this to my bus driver, ask where I pay, etc. in French and English but she didn’t understand. So I just gave up and sat down on the bus without paying. Finally, I got to Biassa which is a cute, little town with not much to do. And I was stranded there since the shuttles to the Cinque Terre only leave in the morning. But the hostel was nice; my roommate was from Australia and seemed to know quite a bit when it comes to travelling.

On Tuesday, I took the shuttle to Riomaggiore, one of the towns of the Cinque Terre. The Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is also known as one of the best walks in the world. It’s a walk that runs from village to village with five villages total (hence the Cinque). There was one section that was closed off so we had to take the train instead, but other than that, I did the entire Cinque Terre! It’s not too hard of a walk; it’s just the stairs combined with the sun beaming down on you with no wind that’s not too fun. I sweat more than I think I ever have in my life, in places I didn’t even know it was possible to sweat. Even my eye sockets were sweating! But luckily, there was a beach in each town to cool off in. I think all of the Italians thought the tourists were crazy for doing the Cinque Terre in 34 degree weather. I’m so glad I did it though! It’s such a beautiful area of Italy that still isn’t that well-known. I spent the rest of the day in Monterosso del Mare, the last village, and spent my time on the beach and by the water.

The next morning, I got on a train to Florence. On the way, I made a stop in Pisa to get my picture of the leaning tower. What I didn’t realize was that it was a 25 minute walk to get there from the station. So carrying all of my stuff in the hot weather, I slowly made it to the tower. Very busy, but cool to see! Then I got on the train to go to Florence. Now, walking the Cinque Terre in 34 degree weather is hard but it’s possible. But walking through Florence (on flat ground) in feels-like 42 degree weather is nearly impossible. I didn’t even know a temperature above 35 degrees actually existed when it comes to weather. But unfortunately, it does. I talked to the other people in the hostel about how there was so much we wanted to see and do but it was actually physically impossible. After walking for half a day, all you could do was lie on your bed and try to keep cool. I had no energy to do anything or talk to anyone. I will never again complain about our Saskatoon 27 degree weather with no a/c! I would have done anything to be thrown in a snowbank. And I found out that hot Janelle=crabby Janelle. I really didn’t like Florence. Maybe it was the weather that made me feel like that, but all I can associate with it is negative thoughts. I did like the Duomo, but other than that, there wasn’t anything that really blew my mind. So I will skip over Florence.

On Friday, I was SO happy to go to Rome and be in 34 degree weather again. I saved some money and took the 3 hour train instead of the 1.5 hour train. But a half hour after the train was supposed to leave, we were STILL sitting in the Florence station, trapped in a train with no air conditioning. Everyone was just sweating! And we had to continue like that for the next three hours until we got to Rome. Now I know that maybe saving my money isn’t always the BEST idea… I got to Rome and I was absolutely starving since I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. So I went with a girl in my hostel (Christine) to get gelato (obviously). Now, I’ve had my fair share of gelato and I’ve made a point to always get a different flavour (so far lemon, melon, strawberry, watermelon, peach, grapefruit, coconut, raspberry, banana, mint, coffee, and chocolate), but this was by far the best gelato I’ve ever had! After our gelato, we walked to the Vittoriano, a beautiful monument. Then we went to the Roman Forum and the Colosseum, which were awesome! I absolutely LOVED Rome! I wish I could have stayed longer! Every building was absolutely beautiful and it was just so fascinating that so much of it had such a huge history. Christine and I split up so I went to have my first pizza in Italy (so good) and then I went to the Trevi Fountain before going back to the hostel.

Saturday, I walked to the Pantheon and then went to the Tazza d’Oro for the “best coffee in the world.” I got iced coffee, which was actually ICED COFFEE. Like frozen coffee made into a slush, not like Timmy’s with added cream and whatnot. And all I can say is WOW! I don’t know coffee that well but I knew that this was some good stuff! After my coffee fix, I walked to the Vatican, the smallest country in the world. I wanted to see St. Peter’s Basilica but unfortunately I forgot about the “no exposed shoulders or knees” rule so I was forced to head back to my hostel to put on (gulp) jeans. Shani, another girl in my room from New Zealand, had arrived at the hostel at the same time so she joined me. We went back to look at St. Peter’s, which was huge! It was neat being able to see so much of Michelangelo’s work! Afterwards, we walked to the Pantheon before finding a restaurant for dinner. 10 euro for all you can eat buffet and a cocktail, what a steal! The buffet was all deep fried haha, it was the weirdest buffet I’ve seen: deep-fried cheese, onions, peppers, broccoli, etc. It was good though and definitely worth it! The best part was dessert: deep-fried apples, yum! Shani and I walked to the Trevi Fountain and threw a coin in. Apparently if you throw in a coin, you should have luck in finding love. So it better work!! We then headed to the Spanish steps and took in the atmosphere. It was great! And it was fun having someone to explore with, as it can get boring doing it alone all the time.

Sunday morning, I had to leave Rome to go to Venice. On the way there, it rained (thank goodness!); I don’t think I’ve seen rain since I was in Paris… But then it also rained most of the time I was in Venice. And that’s when my throat started to get sore and my nose started running nonstop. I was sick in Venice 😦 I walked around for a bit and then I got an unlimited waterbus pass and then just took it everywhere; I could have stayed on it all day long! It was just a big boat that went through the grand canal but it was so relaxing and it was probably the best way to see Venice. I went out for dinner before heading back to my hostel to get to bed early so I could fight off this cold. I woke up the next morning feeling better but still not great. I decided I would spend the morning in Murano, an island known as the glass island, where beautiful glass products are made. I would have bought everything if I could! Unfortunately, I don’t think I’d be able to carry it for the rest of my trip without breaking anything. Also, many of the items were a little out of my price range. But I did get a glass Christmas ornament so that should suffice. I had my last pasta lunch before going to the train station so I could leave Italy.

Italy was a great country to visit: lots of history, so beautiful. The culture reminded me a lot of France; Italy is still very dirty and I didn’t get the warm welcome that I got in London and Switzerland. However, it was still an awesome experience! I loved every place I went to (minus Florence); I just wish I could have stayed longer, especially in Venice since it was cut pretty short. Now I’m off to Croatia to see some more beautiful sights! Hope everyone enjoys the tiny bit of summer we have left, and good luck with everyone who’s going back to school or work! Love always

Something in the Water – Brooke Fraser

Ambitions (Switzerland)

Wow, I’m already getting close to the halfway point of my trip! On Sunday evening, we got to Geneva. We were planning to couchsurf our first night there. For those of you who don’t know what couchsurfing is, it’s basically a facebook for couches. You write to someone and ask if you can stay on their couch for a night or two. Anyway, there was someone who had said we could stay at his house but forgot to tell us where his house WAS. I had asked him before we got on the train and was expecting a reply once we got to Geneva. But when we got there, we had no reply. Meaning we were stuck in Geneva with no place to stay. I was at the point where I would gladly find a park bench and use it as a bed, but we found the closest hostel and got two spots in a six-person dorm. Is it ever expensive in Switzerland! I was always warned that it’s the most expensive place in Europe but I still wasn’t prepared for what I saw. Usually when things are expensive, my first choice is McDonald’s but even THAT was pricey. We decided to go to an Indian restaurant. Ben got daal and I got tandoori chicken. Of course the servings would be tiny! So our meal came to about 43 dollars for the two of us, and I was still hungry. That night, we went for a walk by the lake and to our surprise, there was a fair, which was really weird because on the train that day, I was saying I was sad cause we were missing the Ex. So we GOT the Ex, but in Geneva!

The next day, we got breakfast for free from our hostel so we ate as much as we could so that we didn’t have to eat again until supper. We went to the tourist office to get a walking map, and toured ourselves around the Old Town, which was very cute! Afterwards, we split up for awhile and I went to the flower clock and the jet d’eau, which was so cool! We then met up with Helena, my friend who was also an au pair in Rambouillet three years ago. It was so great to see her again! We reminisced, and just seeing her brought back memories that I had totally forgotten about! It’s too bad the other girls weren’t able to join us, but I’m glad I at least got to see someone. She took us to an amazing restaurant that gave awesome portion sizes, and because we hadn’t eaten all day since breakfast, we were easily able to finish everything. We went for a walk by the lake before heading back to Helena’s for the night.

Tuesday morning, we got up extremely early to go to Gruyères. We went to the cheese factory first, where we got to see how cheese is made, and we got free samples! We then went for lunch and this time I splurged (cause you can’t go to a cheese factory and not have fondue!). So that’s what I had. It was so filling but so good! For dessert, I had meringues with Gruyères cream, which was delicious. After lunch, we went to the Gruyères castle before heading to Broc. I’ve decided that when I retire, I’ll get a place in Broc. As soon as we got off the train, all I could smell was chocolate. It was amazing! I thought I died and went to heaven. But in Broc, the houses were normal and I’m pretty sure in heaven, the houses are MADE of chocolate… Aren’t they? Anyway, we went to the Nestle-Cailler house of chocolate. The tour was so cool! And at the end, there was a tasting room and we were allowed to eat as much chocolate as we wanted! I ate until I thought I was going to be sick; I don’t think I’ve ever gotten to that point before… I also don’t think that I’m used to this chocolate because Cailler condenses their milk for their chocolate, and the milk comes from the cows in the Gruyères area (where we were before), whereas most other companies use powdered milk. So this chocolate was VERY rich and filling, I definitely noticed a difference compared to the chocolate at home. After the tour and tasting room, I went and bought hot chocolate (cause you can’t go to a chocolate factory and not have hot chocolate!), even though it was about 28 degrees outside. The hot chocolate was basically a melted chocolate bar. It was SO thick and creamy; I almost couldn’t finish it! After we were finished, we caught the train to Bern, Switzerland’s capital. In Bern, we couchsurfed with Christina and Ursula, who were definitely the best girls to have our first couchsurfing experience with. They were such nice girls and if it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have done half of what we did on Wednesday. Our first night, they took us for a walk to the rose garden and the bear pits.

On Wednesday, Ben and I went back to the rose garden and bear pits since we couldn’t exactly see them the night before. The bears were so cute!! A couple of them were swimming and fighting in the water, I could have watched them all day! Afterwards, we walked to the clock tower, walked around the old town (which is a UNESCO world heritage site), and went to the Münster cathedral. We then met up with Christina so she could show us around. We rented bicycles (for free!) and biked through the town and along the river. I was paranoid the entire way because I’m pretty sure the last time I rode a bike was in France three years ago, when the family took me biking. But everything was fine! Then we set our stuff by the river and jumped in! It’s a local thing to do; you walk upstream as far as you want and then just float downstream back to where your stuff is. It was kind of like the river tube ride by the Nipekamew sand cliffs. I loved it! It was so relaxing and refreshing, as it was 31 degrees that day. After a couple of times doing that, we rode our bikes to a restaurant that’s over the river; the rapids run right under its deck. We just shared a piece of pie and got some refreshing drinks. Ben and I bought some groceries so we didn’t have to buy another meal, and then we spent the rest of the day relaxing on the deck and in the house.

Thursday morning, we got up to catch the train to Interlaken. We got settled in our hostel, the Tent Village, which is a community of tents with bunkbeds inside. So far, it’s been my favourite place to stay! It’s been warm during the days but at night, it gets freezing cold! I was brought back to when I was younger, trying to keep warm in the tent trailer when we went camping in the mountains. We walked around Interlaken all afternoon. It’s a cute little town similar to Banff; it’s so awesome being completely surrounded by mountains, I love it! By law, it’s quiet time everywhere in Switzerland at 10pm so we just hung out with our roommates, two girls from Chicago, and socialized with the hostel staff, who are also from the US. Our tent was complete with slugs and snails, and the hostel bar was complete with mice so we were for sure roughing it! However, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I forgot how much I missed taking our trailer into the mountains and relaxing there.

On Friday morning, we just spent the whole time at the hostel. I lied on the hammocks and just relaxed before my big adventure. It was nice to have half a day to do nothing instead of always walking around and exploring! At 1pm, I got to go on my canyoning adventure! It was located in Grimsel, about a 40 minute drive from Interlaken. Our group was pretty small; there were three French people and two Koreans, so it was easy to get to know everyone. Our adventure started with a ten minute hike up the canyon, which was difficult because of the limited movement that our wetsuits allowed. Then, we repelled down a 50 metre cliff; we were attached by a metal pole on the side of the highway haha. We did some waterfall slides, many jumps, and a zip line that undid itself when you stopped holding on so you’d just fall into the water. My heart was pumping especially fast when I was about to do a ten metre jump off a cliff into the water. All I could think is that I was going to hit the rocks and not jump far enough. I was also quite nervous when I had to shimmy along the crack in the rock, with my back against one side and my feet against the other. But I did it all! And I’m still alive! Although I definitely felt it in my thighs the next day… I don’t think I could have done it if it weren’t for my guide, Iain, though. He for some reason reminded me of Matthew McConaughey with a Scottish accent. So of course I needed to show him the strong, brave, and confident woman that I am :p When we got to the bottom of the canyon, we had a nice picnic with sandwiches and beer. We then got in the van and Iain said within about twenty minutes, we’d all be completely out. He was right; everyone in the vehicle passed out by the time we made it to Interlaken. It was such a great time though! I’m glad I spent my money and did something, instead of later thinking, “I should have done that!” Especially in Interlaken; there was so much to do! That night, Ben and I walked into town and went to Hooters for some much-needed onion rings. Then we went back to the hostel to get ready for our early morning the next day.

Saturday morning, we got the bus and train to Winterthur, a town about twenty minutes away from Zurich. We used it as our homebase and couchsurfed there, as we weren’t able to find a place in Zurich. Our hosts, Christof and Steffi were so awesome!! They had a gorgeous apartment; Christof is a web designer/programmer and Steffi is a pharmacist. Ben and I went to Zurich for the afternoon but we weren’t really feeling it. It wasn’t like all of the other towns we had visited; I think it is more specifically aimed towards tourists. We went back to Winterthur and went with Christof and Steffi to one of their friend’s housewarming parties. We had to go out and buy our own meat and drinks, and then all the meat was cooked on the BBQ. We got to meet Steffi’s sister and sister’s boyfriend, and many of their friends. After dinner, we went to the Winterthur Music Festival! It was awesome to see some live music and to talk to some more people. I thought it was an awesome night, I had so much fun! The couchsurfing experiences almost seem to be the best experiences!

This morning, we got up and we’re planning to spend our last day together in Zurich before going our separate ways tonight. Ben’s headed to London and I’m on my way to Italy; it should be a fun time! If I had to use one word to describe Switzerland (besides expensive), I would choose cute. It had cute houses, cute buildings, cute people, I just loved it! It’s definitely worth spending the money for. And my favorite destination in Switzerland was by far Interlaken! I probably could have kept myself entertained there for days! I hope you all are doing well! Love always

Ambitions – Joe McElderry

Choices (London and France)

Now it’s been a full month since I left, how crazy! On Monday, I made my way to London! It was about a two and a half hour train trip under the ocean. I was expecting to see sharks and jellyfish but I was disappointed to see nothing of the sort 😦 Just a big, black tunnel that made my ears constantly pop. Finally, I arrived at St. Pancras Station. The first thing I noticed about London was how clean it is! No more having to watch every step I take in order to avoid stepping in the presents that the dogs left behind. And I love the cars! I don’t know why, I don’t even like cars… It was also weird to be able to talk to people I don’t know in English! I’m so used to approaching someone and only speaking French, so that was nice! I got to London around 2:30 and went to find my hostel, Clink78. It’s actually really close to the train station so I didn’t have to worry about the metro very much since almost all of the metros stop there. I found my bed in my 14-person dorm and it actually wasn’t that bad! After getting settled, I made my way to the will call office so I could pick up my Olympics ticket. I then headed to the Hard Rock to get my drumsticks before going to Hyde Park. I had to go through security before getting in but once I got in, it was so cool! They had some kind of chocolate tour and then they had four huge screens, each playing a different event of the Olympics. There were people everywhere! I made myself say hi to the first Canadians I saw and you’ll never guess where they were from… Regina! So they gave me some of their leftover tattoos since I didn’t have any, yay! After Hyde Park, I went to Buckingham Palace and watched the guards move (I thought they weren’t supposed to?). It started raining so they had to move into this little hut thing. I then went to the Big Ben and Parliament Buildings, which were gorgeous! London’s architecture isn’t as breathtaking as France, but I really enjoyed those buildings! I also got a nice view of the London Eye, didn’t go on though. I spent too much money on souvenirs… (so much for no more shopping!).

Tuesday, I woke up and had breakfast. I sat with this guy named Cameron who was from the UK and has never left except for Belgium, which I found absolutely insane. He said it’s not weird at all for EU citizens not to travel Europe. His accent was sooo strong though; half the time I felt like he was speaking a different language! After breakfast, I went to the London Tower and walked across the Tower Bridge, then walked along the river. I didn’t really do anything specific, but there was so much going on everywhere because of the games so it was always easy to find something to look at or to do. I then went to the station so I could head to Olympic Park. They said to leave at least three hours before your event so I was ready (and had been counting down every minute before then) by 4. I was impressed at how organized they had made everything; they kept the crowds moving smoothly and I seldomly had to wait (except for getting back to London). We had to go through security, just like you would at an airport. No drinks or liquids unless they’re less than 100mL! The Park was so cool! I heard someone beside me yell out, “This feels just like Disneyworld!”And was he ever right! There was that magical feeling you get, like a kid gets on Christmas morning, or that we all get at Disneyworld. It was just so awesome to be there, it almost didn’t seem real! I found my way to the Aquatics Centre and got in nice and early (so I could watch them dive beforehand). Only a true fan would know Alexandre Despatie from across the Aquatic Centre, just by seeing him holding his lavender towel 🙂 I was second row on the balcony, which were considered the best tickets. But when I sat down, I couldn’t believe I paid THAT much money for the view that I got. Sure, the seats WOULD have been awesome… If the staircase wasn’t right between my seat and the diving boards. Literally could not see a thing! So I made friends with the two girls from Great Britain who were sitting behind me (they bought cheap tickets for the women’s diving and said those seats were better than the expensive seats) and then I moved beside them once the diving started. I was able to see the entire competition, yay! The diving was great! It was just too bad when Alexandre’s knee buckled during his last dive, causing him to slap across the water, and making the entire crowd go, “Ooooooh,” in unison. I felt bad for him but he was happy with his overall performance, considering he lost three weeks of practice due to cracking his head open a month before the Olympics. After the medal ceremony, I was heading out of the Aquatic Centre and heard, “Canada!” So I met Phil and his son Justin (who’s about my age) who are from Montreal but moved to London in 1997. They invited me for drinks so we got some beer and strolled around Olympic Park. They were really nice guys and it was fun to meet some Canadians! I then headed back to my hostel, which took forever! We had to wait outside in the rain while they slowly piled us onto the Javelins. I didn’t mind, but it was pretty difficult to enjoy myself with everyone around me complaining. The next day, I went to St. Paul’s Cathedral and then walked through Picadilly until I made it to Westminster Abbey. After my back and shoulders could no longer hold the weight of everything I brought (and bought!), I went to the train station and waited to go back to Paris.

On Thursday morning, Ben came to Paris! I met him at Starbucks and then we stopped at my apartment before I gave him the big tour! We went to the Notre Dame, the Pompidou Centre, the Louvre, and through the Jardin des Tuileries. Lots of walking, so Ben was sure ready to pass out by the time we got home. I was impressed that he was able to stay up til 10! On Friday, we went to Versailles. We first went to an Italian restaurant for pizza and chocolate mousse (so good!), then we went to the castle grounds to relax in the sun. After Versailles, we went to Rambouillet to go to the Celtique! This time, no one I knew was working there; I was quite disappointed. That status that the girls and I worked SO hard to get was gone. No more being the important customers who were greeted upon their arrival. Now we had to wait. And wait and wait until someone came to serve us. Just like we had to do the first time we came three years ago. How sad… After the Celtique, we went for a walk in the castle grounds and stopped at my school before heading back to Paris. On Saturday, we did a walk from Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe to Trocadero to the Eiffel Tower. By that time, we were both extremely tired so we went back to the apartment for dinner, then went to the Sacré Coeur for a bit before trying to get to bed early.

Sunday morning, we woke up extremely early to pack up and leave the apartment. We went to Hillsong (for my last time) and then went for lunch with Beatrice. Now we’re finally on our way to Switzerland! We’re heading to Geneva first so in about three hours, I’ll be there! Now the adventure begins! And now I’m ACTUALLY backpacking! I have my little university backpack, and I have about six shirts, one pair of pants and one pair of shorts to last me for the next five weeks! I’m actually quite impressed that I was able to put that and a sleeping bag in my backpack! We’ll see how it goes… I hope everyone’s doing well! Love always

Choices – The Hoosiers

Hey You (France and Vimy Ridge)

Can’t believe I’ve been gone for 4 weeks now, where does the time go? On Tuesday, I went to visit the first family that I was with when I au paired. Alexia and Julien hadn’t changed much except for being three years older. It’s just hard to believe that Alexia’s sixteen now and she’s starting to learn how to drive! It was great to see the family again, and I managed to speak French for a full five hours! Catherine said my French was really good so that made me happy! Although after about 2-3 hours, I was mentally exhausted; it’s hard on the brain to speak, think, and listen in French for so long cause you have to use it constantly. They took me to the Abbaye des Vaux de Cernay, an old abbey from the 12th century. It was so pretty! I would have posted pictures BUT the computer in my apartment has broken down and the owner hasn’t bothered to come fix it. So now I can no longer upload pictures unless they’re taken on my iPod 😦 hopefully I can get to a computer soon to put some up! After the abbey, we went back to the house to play poker. It was a good time! I also left my suitcase with them so all of the shopping I did was for nothing and now, any shopping I do, I’ll have to carry with me. So no more shopping!

On Wednesday, I went on strike. That’s right… Wednesday was August 1st and the day before, I found out that my one-month metro pass was expired. I paid for one month because I’m in Paris for one month but I guess their months are from the 1st to the 1st, so I ended up paying one month for just over half a month. I was so not impressed… So I decided that I wasn’t going to use the metro. I don’t know who I was trying to prove my point to but it’s probably just because of me and my stubbornness. I’m a Taurus, it’s not my fault. So I walked to the mall to eye shop (no, it doesn’t count) and on the way, I found an English pub so I walked in and asked if they could turn on diving. At the time, they were playing cycling (which people were watching) but they changed the channel on all the tv’s just for me! Alexandre Despatie and his partner Reuben Ross got 6th place, but they weren’t expecting a medal in the first place. The REAL event to watch is THIS TUESDAY, August 7th, probably between 12pm and 2pm your time on either TSN, Sportsnet, or possibly CTV!! You might see a lone Canadian girl cheering in the crowd (that would be me). Anyway, after diving, I went to the mall and then walked back home. The entire trip was about 8km, so that was a good way to get rid of the crepes and croissants I’ve been eating! :p Afterwards, I went to the Sacré Coeur with Laura and Kelsi since it was their last night.

Thursday afternoon, I went out for coffee with a friend that I had met in church three years ago, Beatrice. She’s originally from Kenya but hasn’t left France since when she came five years ago. It was so great to see her again and to spend time with her that day, and again on Sunday!

On Friday, I got up way too early to catch the 7:20 train to Arras, a town about 45 minutes north of Paris. I sat at a little café to wait for everything to open and then I caught a taxi to Vimy. The taxi driver kept complimenting my French and said I hardly had an accent!!!!!! You have no idea how hard I’ve tried to sound French, to perfect that “r” noise that comes from the back of your throat: the sound that seems so weird to use because it’s never been used in the English language, but is needed in French so you don’t sound like a foreigner. How many times did Emmanuel tell the kids, “Help her with her r’s; she has to have them perfect before she leaves!” So the fact that I hardly had an accent anymore was a huge compliment! Vimy Ridge was absolutely amazing! I started by taking the tour through the tunnels and trenches. Because the Germans occupied the hill (that the monument is now on), we weren’t able to attack above ground because we would be seen. Therefore, tunnels were built in order to move the soldiers forward. Railways were also put underground to bring in supplies. It was really neat to be able to walk through, but it was tough to imagine how it would have been 95 years ago, under such different and difficult circumstances. On the way to the tunnels, the soldiers had to walk through a field containing all of the graves that were dug in advance, ready to be used (by many of them) once they went into action. The soldiers weren’t allowed to talk to each other and had to stay underground until given the message to move to the trenches. They waited for 36 to 48 hours in the tunnels with only 24 hours worth of food (the attack got postponed because of a snowstorm). To communicate with each other, they used phones but with wires running along the wall, they used morse code, pigeons, and runners. Pigeons mate for life so they would keep the male underground and send it up with a message attached to its leg for it to find its mate and at the same time, deliver the message. In another area, there was one pigeon, Cher Ami (he’s on Wikipedia), that was shot and lost one eye and one leg, and still managed to deliver the message, saving 200 Americans during World War I! Runners were a volunteer position and they were highly respected since during peak war periods, they usually wouldn’t live longer than 3-5 days. They would go in groups of two to run and deliver the message, many times getting killed in the process. Soldiers would sleep in dugouts that were in the sides of the trenches, usually with their feet hanging out because they weren’t very large. Also, the distance between our trenches and the German trenches was about 25 metres! So they were actually able to yell back and forth to each other. I found myself tearing up many times throughout the tour; words can’t even describe the feelings I felt. After the tour, I went to the monument, which is dedicated to all of the Canadian soldiers who died in France. On the monument, there are the names of 11,285 missing soldiers, whose resting place was then unknown. It really is a beautiful monument and area; definitely worth visiting! I always hear how I should be proud to be Canadian and be thankful for my freedom, and we have our Remembrance Day every year, but only until that moment did I actually FEEL it; it was so overpowering and it’s indescribable but I hope that every Canadian has the chance to feel what I felt at some point in their lives, because it’s amazing. I can now truly say I’m proud to be Canadian and I’m so thankful, and I UNDERSTAND. Those kind of things you can’t just learn in school or from a book, you have to learn from your heart. After I left Vimy Ridge, it started to rain so I spent the afternoon in a café before catching the train back to Paris.

Saturday, I didn’t do much except clean the apartment and buy groceries. Sunday, I went to Hillsong for church, then went for lunch with Beatrice. We spent as much of the afternoon as we could in the jardin du Luxembourg, then headed to her church when it started raining. After church, we went to the movie Brave which was so awesome! I heard good things about it, but I wasn’t expecting it to be as good as it was. I then went home to start packing! This afternoon, I leave for London; I’ll be there until Wednesday! Hope you’re all doing great! Love always

Hey You – Pony Pony Run Run