Bon Anniversaire! (From Annecy)

While the south of France has been filled with sunshine and warm weather up until November, over the past two weeks Aix has begun making the transition to winter, bringing with it cloudy skies and rapidly dropping temperatures. Instead of taking the weekend to escape the cold weather, my friends and I decided to embrace the incoming winter season with a trip up north to the beautiful town of Annecy! Fondly nicknamed “the French Venice,” Annecy is a beautiful and historic town situated on the edge of the French Alps and centered around a crystal blue lake, complete with no shortage of beautiful architecture and canals. This town is not just the perfect place for a weekend getaway, but also the perfect place to spend a birthday, which is exactly what we were going there to do!

We began our weekend/birthday festivities with a beautiful bus ride through the French countryside, which took us to our Airbnb that resembled nothing less than the home of a 19th century French noble. This Airbnb was selected by none less than the birthday girl herself, because what is a queen’s birthday without a castle? We spent our weekend enjoying our temporary home, exploring the cobblestone streets and beautiful lakeside, and eating as much as we could stuff ourselves with. As a Vermonter at heart, the Annecy landscape, complete with the mountain-surrounded lake and autumn foliage, reminded me of home… despite Vermont’s devastating lack of castles.

While every second in Annecy made me feel like I was living in a real-life fairytale, this trip for me was more importantly a reflection on the relationships I’ve built since coming abroad. Spending a weekend in a beautiful place, surrounded by people I didn’t know the names of just two months ago, and celebrating one of my best friends, I felt overwhelmed by love and appreciation. I went abroad for many reasons. For the culture, for the language, for the learning experience… but being able to share this experience with new people and learning how to form deep connections in different situations has only allowed for deeper personal growth.

So instead of this being a post to the town of Annecy (although its beauty should not be overlooked), this is a post for my friends. As we enter the last month of our abroad semester, I can already feel that the last few weeks are going to fly by. Instead of being sad about the end of this chapter I hope to cherish every moment of my time left here, in this beautiful place and surrounded by the amazing people I’ve met along the way. Starting a new life somewhere, even for just a few months, can be both terrifying and thrilling, but being rewarded by new experiences, new memories, and new life-long relationships could not be more fulfilling. These newfound friendships have helped me grow both as my own person and as a global citizen and only make me more excited for my future travels and what new people I may meet along the way.

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Talia in Paris

(Not to be confused with Emily)

Did you even study abroad in France if you didn’t see the Eiffel Tower? Obviously not. That’s why last weekend I, and some of my friends, decided to make the journey to Paris!

We started off with a quick plane ride to an airport outside of the city (we’re ballin’ on a budget, so direct to Paris was a no-go), where from there we took a bus into the city. We found our adorable boutique hotel located just a block away from one of Paris’s most famous landmarks: The Arc de Triomphe. But at this point it’s around 10pm, we’ve been traveling all day, and we’re not ready for all the major tourist attractions. So where do we go first? CHIPOTLE.

YES I know that may sound weird to some. But for three American students that have now been in Europe for two months there is simply nothing more exciting than an American chain restaurant (especially when it’s Chipotle). And let me tell you those burritos were CONSUMED. Due to the fact that DU is located within walking distance of the original Chipotle I have had no shortage of Chipotle burritos in my life and I can confidently say I’ve never eaten one as quickly or ferociously as I did in Paris.

But there’s far more to the Parisian experience than just Chipotle burritos. Just like every other day I’ve spent in France, we began our morning with a cappuccino and croissant, aka French Fuel. We explored the city, window shopping, taking pictures, and admiring the architecture, before taking our first stop at the Eiffel Tower! Although we didn’t have time to wait in the line to the top of the tower, we enjoyed the view of the tower and the famous Seine river from the park, complete with crêpes and, of course, another cappuccino.

To top off an amazing day of cultural experiences, amazing views, and good food, we headed to a French restaurant where we ate our body weights in meat, cheese, and pasta. Recharged and full, we spent our night on an “exclusive” speakeasy crawl throughout the historic city. We visited secret bars throughout Paris from different eras in time, including an American-themed 1920’s bar and a modern tequila bar hidden in alleys or in cupboards in the back of restaurants. At the end of the night we collapsed into bed for a quick power nap, before catching our 6am train back to Aix-en-Provence. For only 24 hours in the vast city of Paris, I don’t think we did half bad.