A Day in Austria

Monday, August 3rd

Saturday night I rolled into the Salzburg Hbf train station, hopped off my train, grabbed a taxi, and headed to my hotel. I was on my own, no one to make sure I still had beside me, no one to ask if they knew what to do. Just me, myself, and I. And the three of us got to the hotel just fine on our own. After I got settled in, I went out to grab a bite to eat and then headed back to make my plans for the next day. I only had 24 hours to explore Salzburg, Austria and I was going to make the best of it. 
I had planned out to see the Mirabell Gardens and Palace in the morning, wander through the city a bit, and then grab a bite to eat. Now when I woke up it was pouring rain and showed no sign of letting up till about 3 pm and I couldn’t wait that long to go out and explore. Incase you didn’t know, there isn’t a thing I hate more then getting wet with my clothes on. I couldn’t tell you why, but I absolutely hate it. But for the sake of travel and exploration I braved the weather, grabbed my umbrella and off I went to see the city. 

I hopped on the bus across the street from the Motel One where I was staying. Bought a 24 hour pass for the buses and headed into the city. It was only a short ride before I was at my stop, I then had to walk another little ways before I got to the gardens but it wasn’t too bad of a walk surprisingly with the rain and all. After arriving at the gardens I came to the conclusion that my shoes were going to get soaking wet and that was just that. Lucky for me, my shoes were a pair of slip on-flats made by the brand, Crocs. I have a huge obsession with Crocs and when Mom said I couldn’t bring my new hot pink Crocs with me, I settled for a more stylish pair of slip ons. So even though they got soaked clear through I knew it wouldn’t hurt them any.

My good friend, Jacquelyn, told me I had to see the gardens from a top the steps looking out over the gardens and onto the Hohensalzburg Fortress. She was right, it was a spectacular view. Even in the rain and drizzle it was amazing. 

  The view and the painting from the steps.

After the gardens I ventured over to Salzburg’s version of Paris’s famous love lock bridge. There were far fewer locks on this bridge but the sentiment was still there. Many couples were huddled under umbrellas as they locked their own lock onto the bridge symbolizing that their love would last forever. On the other side of the bridge I stumbled upon a small market that lined the river. It was still early on, and I love markets so I had to walk through and see it. I didn’t buy anything but it was fun to see the different wood carvings, pottery, and jewelry they vendors were selling.

After this I kept walking and decided to look for a place to eat lunch since it was past noon. I could see the fortress off in the background so I wandered in that direction in the pursuit of lunch. I found a cute little Austrian restaurant on a street that looked to be their many shopping strip with shops and vendors lining the street. The restaurant also had an english menu so I knew I would at least have an idea of what I was getting. I decided on turkey strips on top of a mixed salad. It was actually really good, I even ate the green peppers which I’ve never been a fan of, but with the turkey they tasted great. They had an Austrian light wheat beer on their menu that wasn’t too pricey so I decided to give it a try. It tasted great with my lunch, but filled me up a little more then I would have preferred.

After lunch I wandered through the streets with all of the shops. I was in no hurry so I hopped in and out of shops that looked interesting. I found a cute little African shop that was selling anything from jewelry to clothing to perfume. The vendor was very sweet and had me try out two of his perfumes, which smelt great, but I couldn’t bring myself to getting them. I wanted Austrian things to bring home, not African. That will have to wait for a trip to Africa!

After a while of wandering I found the Saint Peter’s Cathedral and walked through the grounds there until I just happened to stumble upon the entrance for the Hohensalzburg Fortress tram ride up the side of the mountain. It was perfect timing so I went on in and headed up to the castle.

As many of you know I love castles, and everything royal. When my mother and I visited the Tower of London in the UK I though I was going to faint from being so excited. Looking back on that afternoon I probably looked like a little 13 year old girl as I gazed into the crown jewels’ cases instead of the 20 year old I am. But now like then, I didn’t care if I was too excited. So you can all now mentally picture me all hyped up to see the castle in the fortress. Once I got to the top I grabbed an audio guide and was lead through the castle from the beginning showing the fortress being built, to the old torture chamber, to the large spiral stair case that lead up to the best view in Salzburg. You could see for miles up on top of the castle, literally I could see till the next mountain began. The audio guide pointed out the Mirabell Gardens, many cathedrals and the Dome which is another tourist attraction in Salzburg. 

  My Austrian treat after the castle. 

After the audio guide tour I walked through the rest of the castle and fortress just to see what else there was. It was a fun way to spent a good chunk of my afternoon. After this I headed back down the mountain to go back through the shops and another market so I could get some souvenirs. Along the way I found a little shop where an artist was selling his paintings. I found one of his that was a water colored painting of the view a top the steps in the Mirabell Gardens looking onto the Hohensalzburg Fortress where I had stood earlier that morning taking in the amazing view. I knew it was the one so I bought my painting and headed back out to the markets to continue shopping. 

  A 1,000€ Austrian stein.. But no worries, they ship anywhere in the world. 

At a small market I got an Austrian pretzel that had bacon and cheese baked on top of it. It was absolutely amazing, better then any pretzel I’ve had back in the states! The brez-strind was a treat I would go back to get again and again. As I ate my pretzel I kept walking through the streets when I found a christmas ornament shop. They had a huge space filled with hand crafted ornaments like painted glass balls, painted eggs, and wheat ornaments. I bought a couple ornaments to take home with me. It was one of the things I was hoping to find while in Salzburg. 

  A Christmas lovers paradise. 

I then headed back to the hotel, I had been walking around all day and was tired of carrying around the bags with me. So I found the bus stop where my bus would be stopping and waited for a little bit till it got there. I grabbed some dinner to take back with me to the hotel and was in for the night. I wanted to start planning out my travels for Munich, Germany and I wanted to head to bed early since I was going to be up early training to Munich. Salzburg had treated me well and I’m glad it was my stop for Austria. I had traveled to my first city by myself and enjoyed it fully. I know a lot of people don’t think a 20 year old country kid from Indiana could travel Europe on their own, but I did. It was great being on my own and I would it again in a heart beat.

-Updates-

I am now on a train heading to Munich, Germany to meet up with my new friend Kelly Blake. I met Kelly through the Purpan program and we became close through our month at the University. She didn’t have any plans after her travels to Prague so I told her to come to Munich with me, and that’s what she did! I’m excited to travel Germany with her. My family has a lot of German heritage in it from my father’s side and its really surreal to be in the country that we came from. I know this will be an amazing three days to remember.

I then will be flying from Munich to London Thursday evening to stay the night before heading out Friday morning for the states. My good friend, Sam, connected me with one of her travel friends who lives in London, Amy. Amy had actually been to my house last fall to see the pumpkins and ride a tractor with my dad for the first time. Being from London she had never experienced that. I was at Purdue at the time so I didn’t get to meet Amy, but I’m glad that things have worked out so I’ll be able to get a drink with her Thursday night before traveling back home. It really is amazing to see the connections you can make while traveling abroad. 

I know that none of this would be possible without Christ. My faith has grown so much throughout these past three months and I owe it all to God. He has kept me safe and happy; providing me with enriching experiences and showing me the beauty He has created around the world. I leaned on Him a lot this summer for strength when I was feeling lost or uncertain and I was always reassured that I was in the right place. Last year, a year ago today, I was baptized and openly committed my life to Christ in front of my family and congregation. The past year has been amazing. I would never have thought that I would be here, in Europe by myself, last year at this time. God has a funny way of doing things, but I can truly be thankful for all He has done through my life in one short year. August 3rd, 2014 is my rebirth through Christ and is a day I will never forget.

God Bless,

–Bre

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“Affording” to Travel

Saturday August 1st,

I was recently asked by a friend back home; “Where did you get the money to travel the world all summer?!” This is a funny question to me. For her I broke it down to three parts of travel, and one main point. The first two weeks I traveled with my mom and she paid for our expenses. It was an amazing experience to travel through London, Paris, and Marseille with my mom and I would highly suggest it to any mother-daugther duo. It strengthened our bond, and pushed us far out of our comfort zones.

 

 Momma & I in Marseille, France at the end of our trip.  

The second part of my travels this summer was the two month portion of my study abroad and internship where everything was covered by the cost of my summer tuition which I paid in May. I received a great scholarship that nearly cut the cost of my summer studies in half through Purdue University. Every trip I took during those two months was paid for by the University here in France. 

  

Then there is the last two weeks of my travels where I am going to Greece, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany before flying out of London. This part I am paying on my own, out of my savings with some help from my parents. But here’s the most important part of this whole thing; in all honesty I’m probably going to be plum broke by the time I graduate college, but aren’t all college students these days? If I would have waited to when I could “afford” to travel Europe I would be in my thirties, most likely married with children. And at that point I wouldn’t spend the money on traveling, it would have gone into savings. So to answer my friend’s question on “where did I get the money” I didn’t. I just made it work, and so far it has. If you’re someone reading this blog and wanting to travel then my best advice is to make it happen. If you wait till you can afford it, you’ll never do it. And with that being said, I couldn’t afford not to take this trip.

  

What I have gained in the past three months is something you can’t put a dollar sign around. The experiences, memories, and friendships aren’t something money can buy. You can’t pay for this kind of independence and self confidence I now have. And at the end of the day, when it’s all said and done money is paper and plastic. It’s materialistic and has no real value to it. Whereas the life lessons I’ve gained while in Europe have a lot of very real value that will last me a lifetime.

  

Now sure money makes things easy, but its pretty easy to find the cheapest train ticket around and ride it to your next adventure. So if you are like me, wanting to see and experience more and your a college student, look into your university’s study abroad programs. They are affordable, get you out of the states, and put you in a place to make the experience anything you want it to be. So step out of your comfort zone, meet new people, see new sunsets, and learn to really live your life. 

  Sunset in Toulouse, France 

-Bre 

Switzerland Travel

Saturday August 1st,
Geneva, Switzerland
The past three days I have been staying at Hotel de Geneve in downtown Geneva, Switzerland with my good friend, Morgan Gutwein, whom I have been traveling with for this past week. The first day we arrived to 75 degree weather with a drizzling rain, which is a far cry from the 99 degree, humid weather of Athens, Greece. It was a nice change of pace and very relaxing. As we exited the airport we walked to the connected train station to take a 6 minute, 3 Franc train into central Geneva. This was such a great save considering a taxi would have costed us 50 Franc! At the central station we only had about a 7 minute walk with our luggage to our hotel. 

  Morgan & I on our first night in Geneva.

After we had got all checked in and settled into the cozy little old styled room we would call our home for the next three days we headed to the Plaine de Plainpalais. This is a town square where they hold local flea markets. Since it was almost 4pm when we got to the market, most things were put away and vendors were packing up. We both wanted to see the market in full swing, but with the time and the rain it just wasn’t in the cards for us. So we headed back to the hotel to plan out our next two days in Geneva. 

On Thursday we decided to head to a local market in the morning to get some groceries to save money on food for the next two days. Eating out is extremely expensive in Geneva. Then we wandered around different parts of Geneva for a couple hours. I truly think the best way to discover a city is to just let yourself get lost in it, and experience the wonders it has to offer. So we did just that for a couple hours, then took a train to the Palais de Nations, also known as the United Nations. Before we took a tour through the United Nations we visited the Broken Chair monument which Geneva has become famous for. The monument is for all of those who have lost their lives due to land mines. It is positioned directly in front of the UN building so it was easy to see both in the same afternoon. 

  

After that we walked around to the side of the UN gated area to enter through the visitor entrance. We went through security, told an officer my information, got an official name badge with a horrible photo of me on it, and then we were on our way to another building to find our tour group leader and the rest of the group whom we would be seeing the UN with. It was a quick walk and we were on our way to visit three main conference centers. The first was a new one called Room 20 where a lot of large UN meetings are held. The second was the old League of Nations Conference room, also known as the Peace Room because so many conflicts are send to this room to be resolved. One for example was the seize fire act between North and South Korea, the room is key because it has two doors on either side of the room so both parties can enter at the same time. The last room we saw was the Assembly Hall where all of the major meetings of the masses are held. Throughout the tour I learned a lot about the UN and it’s many functions. It was certainly a great stop for Morgan and I to take while in Geneva. 

  The United Nations in Geneva. 

Later that evening Morgan and I walked along a local Carnival that Geneva was hosting. It ran along both sides of the lake, but we only visited one side of it for the night. It was fun to see the differences in the rides and food, and then see the similarities. Then we walked out on a rock path along the pier to watch the sunset over the Alps.

  Lake Geneva at sunset. 

The next day, Friday, Morgan and I went on a run along the major river running off of Lake Geneva. It was a wooded trail path that provided a challenging run with spectacular views of the river and surroundings. Then we had lunch at the hotel and got ready to head to the other side of Lake Geneva. We had heard from friends and reviews that paddle boating on Lake Geneva is great so we decided to give it a try. We found the rental company pretty easily, rented our paddle boat and off we went. Lake Geneva is one of only three natural lakes to have blue water. And it was truly a gorgeous blue, green that was super clear. We could see down quite a ways has we paddled out of the cove and into the main part of the lake. We might have been the only paddle boat out as far as we were but we were up for the challenge, well except when a steamer tried to run over us, but I would just call that a minor glitch. After the waves that followed the steamer we had smooth sailing, literally. 

  

All in all it was a great afternoon spent on Lake Geneva just relaxing a paddling along. After we got out though, let me tell you, it was not as smooth. I think when I first stood up and hopped out of the boat my knees almost gave out beneath me. We had been paddling around for about 3 hours and with the trail run on top of that, my legs were shot. It was an interesting walk back trying to venture through the carnival on this side of the lake with wobbly knees. 

At the carnival we walked around for bit. We saw a couple painters that we stopped and looked at their art. I hadn’t found a painting for Switzerland yet so we were on the prowl for the next great thing. Lucky me, we stumbled across one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. A man was sitting on a stool, paint spread out in front of him and he was finger painting on glass; adding the finest of details with a paint brush. It was double pained glass that gave the paintings a 3D effect since he painted on two surfaces that were stacked on top of one another. The one I choose was a super cute and colorful painting of the Jet d’Eau, which is the largest fountain in Europe and on Lake Geneva. It was a great piece to add to my collection. 

  

After our adventures at the carnival we ate dinner and went back to the hotel at a decent hour since we were both exhausted and I had an early train the next morning. Geneva was an amazing city in Switzerland that I would return to in a heart beat. It doesn’t have a ton of touristy things to do, but I just loved experiencing the city. If it wasn’t such an expensive country I could have seen myself living off of Lake Geneva. The atmosphere is great and the views are incredible. One day I want to come back and go skiing in the Swiss Alps.

  Traveling the world, but always remembering where it all began. 

-Travels-

I am now on a train heading to Salzburg, Austria. It is an 8 hour train ride along the country side with one change in Zurich before continuing on. I am officially on my own. Morgan dropped me off at the train station, gave me a hug and said see you in three weeks. She is heading back to Paris, France to catch her flight home, and I’m continuing my Euro Trip solo. I met a young woman, Ursella, who is from Austria and was switching to the same train as me in Zurich so we stuck together until her stop which was about two hours before mine. She had lived all over the world the past 11 years and was now returning home for a job and to be close to family. When I told her I was from Indiana she said that her ex-boyfriend lived in Illinois and completed his undergrad at a school in Indiana. As it turned out he is a Purdue Alum. and she had visited Purdue several times. It never ceases to amaze me how small of a world it is.  

But this small world philosophy of mine is not really what the world is; which I’ve come to see here in Europe with how different everything is in comparison to Indiana. Most people are probably scared for me to travel through Europe on my own, but I’m honestly not scared. Hopping on and off trains, checking in and out of random hotels, and conquering the newest city’s metro have become second nature to me. And up next is the lovely city of Salzburg, Austria. I love this and the freedom it gives me. If I could have a hundred summers just like this one I would, and it would never get old. 

-Bre

Olympic Dreams

Wednesday July 29th,

-Panathenaic Stadium-

  

Monday afternoon Morgan and I hopped on the train outside our hotel and took the half hour ride into downtown Athens where we got off and walked another 10 minutes to the Panathenaic Stadium. This stadium is the only one in the world this size that is built entirely of marble, but that’s not the real reason it’s famous. Back in 1896 the Panathenaic Stadium hosted the first modern Olympic Games for Greece. This was where the games began that we have all come to know and love. This afternoon was epic for me to say the least.

Now not a lot of you know this, but I once had dreams of being an Olympic hopeful. Yes I know almost every kid at one point in their life thinks they are going to go pro or be in the Olympics but it was different for me. I started racing about as soon as I could run. I used to race my dad through the fields at our home in Northern Indiana. At first I was left in the dust, but eventually I started beating him.. bad. I’m pretty sure this is when I first fell in love with racing. Before the glory, the ribbons, the records. Back when it was just me and dad. But you see, I didn’t out grow those dreams of the Olympics. I still wanted it bad, but by the end of my high school Track and Field career my body thought differently. I had been through foot surgery, multiple back injuries, and experienced more joint pain than an 18 year old ever should, so I turned down the scholarship offers and walked away. I knew that if I couldn’t compete and give it my best then I wouldn’t.

But you see I never stopped loving the sport, the passion is still deep inside me, and that was very evident yesterday stepping foot in the stadium. It was so exciting for me to be in a place where so many Olympians had competed, and others had visited looking for inspiration. I walked up to the last row in the center of the stadium and just took it all in. Every last detail was amazing. To think of what an honor it must have been to have competed for your country in the original games is mind boggling. It truly was a great day to be a Greek in one of the greatest stadiums in the world. I might not be an Olympian, but I was able to represent my univeristy and sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha, in a truly remarkable place. That feels a lot like winning to me.

  Representing both Purdue & Zeta Tau Alpha at the stadium. 

And then I stepped foot on the track and it all came back to me, it was great. Morgan and I set out to run around the track where so many Olympic athletes had before us. At one point Morgan said, “Hey this isn’t a race.” But for me insticts and old habits must have just kicked in. It felt like I was back running the good ole 400 meter dash, which had always been my favorite race. I guess I really can’t put into words what this afternoon meant to me besides saying it was amazing and maybe one of my favorite afternoons yet. I’ll always be a die-hard fanatic with the Olympics, and this trip to Athens, Greece just made it ten times worse. 

  Running on the track. Can you tell I was excited?

It was hard to just sit down and relax the next day after just an exciting trip to the Panathenaic Stadium, but we hadn’t really had a chance to just enjoy Athens for it’s natural beauty and weather. Over the previous two days Morgan and I did so much sight seeing that we really saw all of the things we had on our main list that were must-sees. So that next day we relaxed, bronzed, and took a couple laps around the pool at our hotel sky-deck pool. It had a great view of the ocean and mountains far off in the distance, and of course a clear sky with great rays. It was nice spending this time talking with Morgan about our internships and lives over the past month. You never realize how much can change till you spend a month in a foreign country with people you don’t know. 

  The view was gorgeous. 

Another thing I never realized how much would change are my taste buds. I think I’m going to surprise my mom when her pickiest eater comes back home not so picky anymore. I have grow accustomed to eating fruits and vegatables daily, which I never used to do, and actually enjoying them. Along those lines, Tuesday evening, I had my first tradition Greek gyro. Pita. Tzatziki. Tomato. Lamb. Onions. Pita. It was heavenly. I mean this was one good gyro. I really think I love traveling so much because I love eating all of the food. I would go back to Greece in a heart beat just to eat another gyro.

  

All in all at the end of the day Morgan and I could easily say we had an amazing time in Athens, Greece. It showed me so much, yet left me wanting to see so much more. But don’t worry guys, I’ll be back to tour the islands. 

  Athens sunset.  

-Updates-

Morgan and I got up this morning at 4:50 to head to the airport in Athens to catch our flight to Geneva, Swtizerland. It was a rainy day when we got here so we just settled into our hotel, did some souvenir shopping (which is expensive if you didn’t know), and got dinner. We explored a little bit to get familiar with the area and we are starting out our day tomorrow morning with a run, breakfast, and then heading to a local farmer’s market. I’m excited to see what new adventures Switzerland has in store for the two of us. 

  Diamonds aren’t a girl’s best friend, her passport is. Loving the endless possibilities this summer. 

-Bre

Greek Goddess

Sunday July 26th,

  The Greek flag atop the Acropolis.

Saturday night Morgan and I caught our flight from Toulouse, France to Athens, Greece. The plane was slightly delayed by about a half hour but the rest of trip was smooth sailing. When we arrived in Athens we landed at the far end of the strip, unloaded ourselves with our carry-on luggage and then everyone was bused to the airport. This was the first time I’ve ever left a plane and not went straight into the airport, it was an interesting way of doing things. After Morgan and I retreived our luggage we found a taxi and were on our way to the Poseidon Hotel, about 40 minutes from the airport. Since we got in late we unpacked a little, planned out our Sunday travels, and hit the hay.

Sunday morning we woke up pretty early to start the day off with traveling to the Monatiraki Flea Market, I heard it was best to hit it up Sunday for great deals and better quality. And we certainly weren’t dissappointed, there were streets upon streets of the market place selling everything from the tacky travel trinkets to the authentic Greek souvenirs, luckily I think Morgan and I had a good eye for the good stuff. I walked away with authentic hand-made Greek sandals, a couple souenvirs for my friends back home, an adorable gold plated opal ring, and a croquet knit top. (Sorry mom, the top is a little scandalist, but I couldn’t resist). The best part was that I got a deal on just about everything, I saw the prices and in most cases after talking with the store owners for a bit they either through in something for free or cut down the price which was really neat. At one jewelry store we ran into an older man who told us he just went by “Papa” and to tell the clerk that “Papa said 40% off.” He was the sweetest man complimenting Morgan and I and just trying to get to know us. At the end Morgan walked out with two bracelets practically for the price of one. Papa even gave us each a kiss on the cheek as we left the store, and wished us a happy day of shopping. He wasn’t the only person who was exceptionally nice to us either. Every Greek person we talked to or asked directions from was exceptionally nice. Greece is the first country where I’ve felt this welcomed and cared for. 

  The shop where I bought my sandals.

After our steal at the market we came back to the hotel to change and walk across the 6 lane high way to the “beach”. No worries there was a cross walk so we made it safe and sound. But as far as the beach goes; you could call it a pile of rocks with some water for a better description. I’m really not exaggerating either, the locals even say there isn’t a beach to be found on Athens. But it worked just fine for catching a few rays, Morgan and I even got some up close and personal entertainment. Just before I was getting ready to head back to the hotel these two Asian women break out in a fist fight right on the beach. At one point of of them was literally hitting the other in the head with a rock. I’ve never seen a fight in person before and it was the craziest thing in the world. Luckily a Greek woman ran up and pulled them apart yelling in Greek the entire time. Too bad the only words I’m thoroughly familiar with are “Zeta Tau Alpha”, so I was pretty lost with what was going on.  

  
Back at the hotel we got ready and headed back out to the trams to find our way to the Acropolis. I was as giddy as a fat kid on his birthday right before cake time. I love history and the ancient sites have always been a dream of mine to see. I even watched a short video the night before about the secrets of the Parthenon. One secret being that the geometric looking figure doesn’t have a single straight line on it. Every pillar and stone is slightly curved for the structure to withhold all of the pressure. The sites on the Acropolis are all undergoing a massive restoration, especially the Parthenon which is endanger of collapsing. But besides the metal bars and new plastered caps on the cracked pillars, the Parthenon was everything I had hoped for. It’s symbolism of strength and beauty were ever so present when looking through the pillars as the setting sun snaked it’s way through the structure. It truly was a work of art. 

  Flexing for the Greek Gods in front of the Parthenon. 

This is the very reason why I found my art piece for Greece today. When walking down the hill from the Acropolis towards Plaka Morgan and I stopped at a couple street artists painting views of the Parthenon and other sites on the Acropolis. I fell in love with a gorgeous painting of the Parthenon with the sun setting in the background, just as it had that evening. It was gorgeous, homey, and truly embodied the Greece I was coming to love. Even though it was my first day in Greece, it seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up such a great painting. So I now have a new piece to add to my collection. 

  
After we made our way through Plaka we ventured over to Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Morgan and I both bought passes for just 6 euros to get into every archeological site in Athens making exploring this fun city a lot more enjoyable without the extra expenses. It was fun seeing this ancient ruin that was once set on fire in an attempt to destroy it, although you can’t see that part of it today. It is still a gorgeously architectured monument. I even through up a Usan Bolt lightening bolt for good ole Zeus, the god of the Olympians and the sky. While we were walking around Plaka a lady stopped Morgan to ask her where she got her top from, it was a croqueted one from the market here in Greece. We ended up talking to this lady and her friend for probably about 20 minutes just about the states and the different connections we had; like her sister used to be a professor at Purdue. It was so fun just to sit and talk with her even if it was just for a short moment, the people here in Greece truly are the sweetest people I’ve ever met. 

  The Temple of Olympian Zeus

Morgan and I then ventured through Plaka to find a place to eat dinner. We got stopped by a man who told us if we ate at his resturant he would give us 10% off our meals, and since we are two broke college girls we couldn’t turn down another chance to save some money. And it turned out to be a great end to our first day in Greece.

Preview & Updates:

Morgan and I have tow more days left in Athens, Greece and with most of our sies accomplished in the first day we are going to relax and see everything else at a nice easy pace which will be nice. Then we will be flying out Wednesday morning to Geneva, Switzerland for another three days before we part ways and I head off to Austria solo. It’s already been such an exciting time traveling and I can’t wait to see what else the world has in store for us. 

-Bre

The Good in Goodbye

Thursday July 23rd,

As I say my final goodbyes to my host mom, Fabienne, I can’t help but not feel blessed. This past month I was blessed with a wonderful host family, a great internship, and an unforgetable experience. No part of leaving can take that joy away. 

Looking back on my last week of my internship, which was really only three days of working, all I can think about are the vines. Vines, vines, vines. France has vines like Indiana has corn, and I think that’s part of the reason I felt so at home here. I worked in the vines pruning during my last week for the first two days, and then on Wednesday I spent the day capping, labeling and boxing up over 2,000 bottles of wine. And let me tell you, that’s a lot of wine! Then Wednesday night I worked with Elise and Adrien to take the back labels off 600 bottles. the Uijttewaal’s have two brands of wine, the Saint-Hilaire and the Gemeillan. We put the back label of the Saint-Hilaire wine on the Gemeillan wine bottle, so as you can see this was quite a problem. During the time we joked about how we should just leave the labels and claim it’s a new marketing strategy or I would jokely point out that we had been at it for an hour and a half with 200 bottles done and 400 more to go. We ended up calling it quits for the night right about the 400 mark and went inside to have dinner. 

Later that night I started packing up all of my stuff and getting ready to move back to Toulouse Thursday morning. As I was out by the computer printing off all of my tickets for my travels for the next two weeks, Fabienne came inside and gave me a going away gift of two bottles of my favorite wine vintage (2009) and one bottle of wine from my birth year. It was such a special gift, definitely one of the coolest I’ve ever recieved. She also handed me my internship evaluation packet and told me their was an envelope inside for me, told me goodnight and left. When I went back to my room I found 200 euros in the envelope for me as payment for my internship, not only that but they also paid for me to ship a box full of stuff home so my suitcase wouldn’t be so heavy as I traveled through Europe. It was such an amazing gesture and I had no way to repay them. They had already gave me a home, and fed me for a month and now they were doing all of this for me. I was a stranger to them a month ago, and now we’re like family.

So to say I’ve had an amazing two months in France would be such an understatement. I’ve learned so much about the wine industry, studying at a French univeristy, living the life of a French person, and growing leaps and bounds as a person. This experience in France has touched my heart in ways I can’t even describe, from the people I’ve met, both French and American, to the places I’ve seen. I know I am walking away from Queyrac a better person. And yes saying goodbye is never an easy task, but when there is so much good in it, it’s hard not to be happy to have just been able to be apart of something like this. Something life changing.

And as I’m now on my much traveled Bordeaux bound train I can reminisc in the past, and look forward to the future all at the same time. Once I hit Toulouse this afternoon I’ll be reunited with everyone from the program; people who I will miss so much when we all leave on Saturday and go our seperate ways. And then on Saturday Morgan and I will be boarding our plane and heading south for Athens, Greece and a week worth of fun, adventure, and memories. The bond I have with this crazy girl is just that, crazy. She is one of my sweetest people I’ve met with a fun personality to match, and then of course there is her love of American and Ronald Reegan that just makes her a top notch travel buddy. I can’t wait to write about all that will come of these next two weeks. I will be traveling through 4 countries in 14 days before returning to London, England to catch my flight back to the states. 

 Updates:

  

I FOUND MY FRANCE PAINTING! I was so excited when I went to a market in Soulac, a small town 20 minutes away from Queyrac, last weekend. I have been searching for two months now for the perfect painting. Now of course there were plenty of great paintings in Paris, but as much as I loved the Eiffel tower, I knew my time in France would mean so much more then what that painting could embody. Elise, her freinds, and I found thi street artist outside on a corner with a small booth selling his paintings both on canvas and wood. I loved his work on the wood slabs. He paints his images by creating layers of spray paint for the contrast and different shades. I have never seen this before and really enjoyed the different pieces he had. I ended up choosing a wooden painting that had vines in the background, a wine glass, and grapes. It was everything that could ever remind me of my internship this past month and my time in France so it was a perfect choice. 

I can’t wait to find four more original art pieces in Greece, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany to complete my collection for the summer. The whole idea behind collecting art from every country I travel through is so one day, when I have a house of my own, I can have a travel room. My own little space of serenidty filled with my memories of travels; especially my art to decorate the walls and fill the cabinets, all with a story of their own. So until next time, Happy Trails to all of you back home.

  
-Bre

The road less traveled.

Thursday July 16th,

Bordeaux

Everyday life is getting to become more of the normal at the Château, which is sad since I’m leaving next week. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This past week was pretty awesome not gonna lie. It started off with a weekend full of planning travels, helping around the house, and just relaxing. I even got in a long run along some fields behind the property that had an absolutely gorgeous view. Then Monday morning I worked 3 hours in the vines with the rest of the workers whom my host dad likes to call “the team”, then I headed off to Bordeaux. I was so excited to see my good friend, Darcie. We were planning to meet at the train station in Bordeaux around 2 pm so I went with Fabienne to the station in Lesparre to get my ticket and head her way. Once we got to Lesparre, Fabienne came with me and ended up purchasing my train tickets for me. It was such a nice offer; most host families wouldn’t do that so it was very sweet of her. 

After thanking her I had a half hour delay in Lesparre, delays are entirely too common for Europe railways (this one was caused by kids throwing candy on the train tracks). Then I hopped on my train and headed for Bordeaux. I arrived right at 2:15 pm and was hoping Darcie wasn’t left waiting too long for me. This hub had free wifi so I got on right once I was in the station to let her know I was there. After a bit she responded that her ride was running a little late, two hours late, so I set off to explore the town on my own till she got here. I soon figured out that the area by the train station isn’t the best neighbor for a 20 year old girl to be just strolling through so after a bit I walked back to wait at the station. 

This was a great time to call my mom since I still had some time to kill before Darcie would be in. This past week was the Marshall County 4-H fair and was the first time I’ve missed the fair in 20 years. Even at 6 months old I was in attendance all throughout the week so it was hard not being there. Mom filled me in on everything that had gone on so far and how the family was doing which was great to hear. After a short bit Darcie was here and we were on our way to do Bordeaux in two hours. We a map, a slight game plan, and a will to see it all and with that we were off to see the sites. 

We saw several things ranging from the Grand Theatre of Bordeaux to the Monument aux Girondins to the famous Ste-Catherine street lined with shops, tourists and many street performers. Throughout the next two hours we walked around taking it all in, and talking about our host home experiences. It was great talking to another American again after living in a French home for two weeks. Darcie is also going to be a junior at Purdue University in the fall so it’s been awesome getting to become so close with her and knowing we can still keep in contact while at school. 

Since we were in Bordeaux and both on winery internships, it was a must to stop and get a glass of wine. I choose a rosé and Darcie went with a white wine. The typical idea of Bordeaux wine is dry red wine, but in truth the Bordeaux region for wine is so vast that you can make many different types of wines and it still be labeled as a Bordeaux wine. This was something that I didn’t realize until living in the Bordeaux region of Médoc. Now since we only had a couple of hour to do Bordeaux we had to head back to the train station to catch our trains back to our host families. 

  
Vacations and Vines

The next day was Bastille Day (July 14th) which is France’s Independence Day. My host family didn’t really do anything to celebrate this but I was busy the whole day looking up flights, trains and hotels in Austria and Germany for my solo travels after the internship. Throughout that day and the rest of the week I managed to get everything booked, including an amazing tradition hotel in Munich, Germany that is just 2 blocks away from the famous Hofbräuhaus beer hall by the old town hall. The location is perfect for finding great beer and food; two of my favorite things so you could say I’m a little excited for Germany. 

Then I worked Wednesday and Thursday I  the vines with the team again. Wednesday was the usual pulling up wires and adjusting the vines, but we were in a newer vineyard with shorter vines and wires. 7 hours of bending over my back was shot. Thursday we had to prune the vines in the same vineyard. Vines don’t naturally want to just grow up straight out of one main shoot which is needed for optimal grape production and harvest. So we had to prune all of the extra shoots and branches off the woodstock, which was 7 more hours of bending over short vines. Luckily my host family went on vacation this weekend to the Netherlands for a couple days so they gave everyone Friday off, my back much appreciated this. 

My Road

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler, long I stood and looked down one as far as I could to where it bent in the undergrowth. Then took the other as just as fair, ad having perhaps the better claim because it was grassy and wanted wear. Though as for that passing there had worn them really about the same and both that morning equally lay in leaves no step had trodden black. Oh I kept the first for another day yet knowing how way lead on to way. I doubt if I should ever come back I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence. Two roads diverged in a wood and I- I took the one less travelled by and that has made all the difference.” –Robert Frost

I choose my road for this summer to take onto Europe and find an internship abroad while all of my friends stayed in the states and found work or internships there. The traditional, right move was to find an internship in Indiana. I choose the road less travelled by. I think so far it has made all the difference as well; my growth and experience would simply not be the same had I stayed and choose the other path. This Robert Frost poem has always been a favorite of mine, talking about independence and choosing a path that’s right for you. Europe was the right path for me, I wasn’t sure at first but now I beleive it. I’m glad this summer had been one for the books. I’ll be able to look back years from now knowing I was young, a little reckless, definitely adventurous, and held my own against the world. 

Preview:

This weekend I am staying at the host home and helping Elise out around the house and winery since her parents are in the Netherlands. We will be celebrating her 21st birthday which is actually not for a couple more weeks, but it the best time for all of her friends (whom all speak english) to come up and get together. Then next week I will be working the first half of the week finishing up my internship. Thursday the 23rd I will be taking an afternoon train back to Toulouse to give a presentation over my internship and host family experience. Then Saturday the 25th Morgan and I will be flying out to Athens, Greece to start our travelling adventures. With everything booked all we have to do is decide on touristy things to do, what food we want to try, and just enjoy the trip! 

-Bre 

Wild Child

A while back I was asked by another student on this trip, “Why France, why did you choose Europe?” I have been asked this question so many times, yet never really had the right awnser. So I guess to anwser that question, I choose Europe because I needed more. I needed more culture in my life. I had to know what else the world had to offer me. I wanted to feel the wind beneath my wings and just go. There were other countries, other trips, but this one gave me the opportunity to do more on my own and experience a summer on my own terms. I love Indiana, it’s my home, and will forever be where my story started and where my life is rooted but I have always had this yearning to experience more from life then what I’ve found in Indiana. So I set out to Europe this summer to see the world in a new light, and fall in love with new sunsets. 

  Sunset from the tractor in South France. 

When thinking of my time here so far a couple Kenny Chesney lyrics come to mind that have really embodied my adventerous spirit, “Got a rebel soul and a whole lot of gypsy wild style. She can’t be tied down..” For those of you who don’t know me very well I am through and through my mother’s wild child, and she deserves a lot of credit for never trying to tame me. I think she always knew I was born to run with the wind.

  Hiking the Pyrenees Mountains. 

I have a need to see it all, experience everything, then turn around and do it all again. I’m not sure what I’m exactly looking for while on this trip, but I think I’m going to figure it out before I return to the states. I’ve already grown so much in just the past 9 weeks I’ve been in Europe. I’m confident in my surroundings yet 98% of the people around me, I can’t communicate with. I have become a pro at traveling by the railways and have truly grown to love seeing the country side going 150 mph from point A to point B. I’ve even figured out the metro routes and the stops along them in Toulouse, London, and Paris like a local and I only been in those cities for a short stay.

There’s just something about being entirely on your own that gives you a yearning to be free. No one knows me and it’s likely I’ll never see a single person again that’s on my train right now. Chances are once we hit Bordeaux, they are gone and that it just that. They don’t know who I was or who I want to be, I’m just another person passing by that they see as they continue on with their lives and that’s kind of crazy to think about. Back home, chances are when I go somewhere I will see someone I know, or I’ll see people again and they will remember me. But when I’m on my own here in France no one knows me, there’s no judgement, or atleast I don’t see or hear any. I am who I am, and everyone is okay with that, often times in the states I feel so tied down as the person everyone sees me as and I forget about who I am and who I want to be. I love that that is all clear here.

  
This summer has been all about living in the moment and doing things for me. I often forget that in life if you don’t take care of yourself, then who will? So Europe has been my me time. My time to do what I want, meet new people, and fall in love with traveling. And to say I’ve fallen in love with the journey is an understatement. I came to France to study abroad, but the adventures outside of that have meant more to me than any of the classroom time. I thought I would come to Europe, see some sites, and come home satisfied with my travels, but so far it’s only left me wanting to see more. It’s lighten a fire within me that scares me and excites me all at the same time. It scares me because I’m a flat broke college student, doing the unthinkable and traveling Europe for the summer. It excites me because even with that, I’m still doing it and loving every second. 

To the people who said I was crazy to “throw away” all of my money to travel, you’re right. I’m crazy to do it, but the richness I’ve gained is something no amount of money will every bring me in life. I’ve always been a little off-kilter, and wild. But learning to live without abandoned and love with all I have are just two of the joys I’ve gained  from this experience.

  Park Güell, Barcelona.  

So here’s to living up the rest of the summer, drinking lots of French wine while I’m legal, and learning more about myself with each passing day. I’ll see you in three weeks America. 

-Bre 


Solitary Confinement 

  
Friday July 10th,

Working in the Vineyards 

If someone told me I could only take one thing away from this internship experience I already know exactly what it would be and I’ve only be here for two weeks. No its not the homemade food, fun family time or even the wine every night.. although all of those things have been amazing. It’s that after this I know for certain I could never make it in solitary confinement. That probably sounds a little odd to you I’m sure. Here’s the reason behind it:

 When I get up at 7am I am greeted by my French host parents and then I set out for 4 and a half hours of working in the vines with 5-6 French people who only speak French. Then I come back for lunch where my host parents mainly just speak in French unless I ask my host mom something, then she will respond in English. Then I normally head back out for 3 more hours in the vines before my day is over. When I come back home my host sister, Elise, is normally back from her internship. Elise is the only person in the town that I’ve been able to hold a conversation with. So that means that everyday I spent about nine and a half hours, give or take a few, not talking. At all. Not to mention but during this time I’m also trying to listen to the other people’s conversations to see if I can tell what they are talking about which 9 times out of 10 gives me a headache from trying so hard and I end up not figuring anything out anyways. 

Even though I’m surrounded by people all the time, for most of the day I can’t even talk to anyone. This is especially hard for me because as most of you know, I love to talk. Going from talking all the time to barely saying a word has been so weird for me. I would have thought it would have made me depressed  not talking for almost 10 hours a day, but it hasnt. It’s just wierd.  I’m not going to lie though, when everyone in the field is all talking and going on about something and I have no clue what they are talking about it can make you a little sad and left out but, I can handle that for a month. It does get awkard though when I hear one slip up and say, “Brehna” which is how they pronounce my name, when they are talking about me and I’m just like, “I don’t know what your saying but I know it’s about me.”

I think you could even go as far as to say it could be used as punishment to place someone in a cell with 5 people who all speak the same language and the other person doesn’t. Luckily I know enough French to get by and with the help from Elise I can talk to my host family in the evenings very easily. But in the end it would win out that me and solitary confinement would never, in any circumstance, be an option. 

Weekly Happenings

I was orginally planning on blogging more often but with early mornings and late nights with family dinners I haven’t been on my blogging game as much as I would like to but, here’s the recap from my life in France since my last post. Last weekend I had the opportunity to meet the man Elise interned with her freshman summer and meet his daughter, Julie. We spent Saturday at the beach and explored Queyrac a little bit. Sunday we didn’t end up going to Bordeaux so we just hung out at the pool. Elise and I are still planning to make a day to go to Bordeaux to see the city we just have to plan that out. You can’t not go to the wine capital of the world when you live an hour away, it’s a must see. 

 Elise and I at Soulac Plage this past weekend.

Then this week I worked in the vines every morning and most afternoons, apart from bottling once this week and getting an afternoon off. On Wednesday I labeled and boxed up 600 bottles of wine with Elise for the afternoon which was really fun. We talked about her school, Purpan, and how it’s a private university so she still has to pay to go there. We also talked a lot about our dad’s and their farms which was really fun to see how similar they were. Both of our dads work all the time which is a norm globally to make a farm succesful, yet still make time for their families. I know I have personally seen the passion Adrien has for his cattle and winery which reminds me so much of my dad whenever we would talk about anything related to the farm. It’s almost like I can see a little bit of my own dad when I look at Adrien which is really comforting since he’s 4,077 miles away (yes, that is the exact mileage from Queyrac to Bourbon). 
Plans and Previews

This weekend I am staying at the host home again. A new family is moving into the rental home across the road so I’ll probably help clean that out and get it ready with Fabienne and Elise. Elise’s brother is also coming up on Saturday for his birthday to have a dinner with the family so I’ll get to meet him and his girlfriend. Other than that I plan to just relax by the pool and plan out my last week of travels. I know what days I’m going where, I just need to find hotels and decide between training or flying for each stop and then book those accordingly, so I guess I actually have a lot left to do with those plans. Even though there’s a lot left to plan I have no doubt I’ll be able to get it all figured out in no time. I am also still needing to find a cute market in France to get a painting from for my France artwork, but hopefully I’ll be doing that soon so I can share that with you all as well. Then this next Tuesday is Bastille Day here which is France’s Independance Day. I’m excited to see if we go to any parades or festivals and see how my host family celebrates this day in comparrison to the Forth of July in America. Many more posts left to come. Eight weeks down, four more to go with my adventures across Europe!

-Bre

Vines & Bottles

Friday July 3rd,

  My new home in Queyrac, France.

Today I have a weeks worth of work in here at the Chateau Saint Hilaire Winery where I have been living with my host family, the Uijttewaal’s. They have all been so kind to be this past week, taking me in and making me feel so welcomed in their home. On Monday after work I went to a really fancy winery called Mouton Ruthschild, which was about a half hour drive from home. Elise, my host sister, and I met up with three other students from Purpan whom are living and interning in the Bordeaux wine region as well. It was really neat getting to spend some time with three French students and see how they all interact with each other. I was greeted with a kiss to each cheek from each of the French students. In class back in Purpan they made us practice this and I now understand why, it can be surprising when you don’t see it coming. It’s also a good idea to take off your sunglasses; the first time I did this I had mine on and they awkwardly hit the other person’s face. Just a little tip if you plan on traveling around France any time soon. 

 The winery from earlier this week.  

The winery we went to was so grand, everything was very expensive and well manicured. Every last detail was perfect, they’re parking lots were even nice pebbles with stone lines laid out for the parking spots. The insides of the cellars and buildings were decorated and evenly modeled between traditional and modern wine making. In French wine there is a tier system that was started way back in French history to rank the different top wineries based on their mansion, price, and quality. The Mouton Rothschild winery is one of the top tiers and it was so interesting to experience a winery like that. One perk was that since we were five student’s who sought out to see their winery, they gave us a wine tasting of a 200 euro bottle of wine for free.

  It’s not everyday you get to draw your own glass of wine straight from the barrel, but then again living in a winery it is. 

Vines

  Everywhere I look, I see vines. It’s almost like Indiana but without corn!

Throughout this past week I have spent a lot of time in the vineyards raising vines. I talked about this process some in my last post so I won’t touch on it too much but it has been easier for me to raise the vine wires as the week has gone by. My hands and back on the other hand are not as pleased, but it’s been a lot of fun learning a new trade in agriculture, and what better way than at the bottom where the whole process starts. The vineyards are not as I expected them to be here in France, when I first knew I would be interning in a winery I instantly thought of the winery and vineyard off of “Parent Trap”. Granted this is an American winery in a movie, but I was naive enough to think that this is what it would look like. But contrary to the movie the vineyards are all spread about around the countryside of Queyrac. The winery’s cellar and tanks are all still at the house along with the room for wine tasting and tours. It’s really neat to drive around and have Adrien point out all of the different vineyards that are theirs.

  

When I am out in the vines I am working with a group varying from 4-6 French men and women. They have all been so sweet to me this first week by helping me in the vines if I fall a little behind on my row or bringing extra crackers and French cookies for me to snack on when we take a water break. The workers only speak French and since my French is rather poor its been very hard to try and communicate with them. Yesterday though, they started trying to talk to me more and ask questions; I guess they were getting curious about this random American girl that kept following them around. They figured out my age and asked about my family back home and if I had been “skyping” them, the word is the same in both languages so that made it easy. One of the women even brought an English-French dictionary to help us out with trying to talk to each other. In return I learned about their families and how old each of them were. The youngest was a man named Mathew who was 22, and the oldest was a women, Veronica, who was 50. Veronica knew a little bit of English  and was amazing in the vines. I mean she was 50 years old and out hustling everyone else, to say the least I was impressed. 

Besides the little bit when we try to talk to each other in the vines, I spend most of my time in silence. Which for me, that means a lot of thinking, praying, and singing country music in my head. I think if everything in school was put to the rhythm of a country song I would remember every last word! This trip really has been an amazing time for me to grow spiritually, being completely on my own I really have to trust that He has my back and will guide me through all of my endeavors. With so much time while working to look at the beauty at which He has created and while talking with God it’s hard not to grow in my faith. 

  He who tills his land will have plenty of food, but he who follows empty pursuits will have poverty of plenty. -Proverbs 28:19

Bottles

Today I spent a little bit of time outside the vines and in the barn helping Adrien fill an order. A restaurant was picking up an order of 60 37.5 mL sized bottles of wine for at the restaurant to serve. Your typical wine bottle is around 70 mL so these are quite a bit smaller. Everything was done with the processing and bottling of the wines except for putting the medal caps on top of the corks and glass to complete the product so I grabbed the bottles of wine and placed the cap on them and handed them to Adrien to run them through the machine that seals them off. Then we boxed them up, stacked them on a pallet and wrapped them in plastic for shipping for when the semi came to pick them up. It’s fun seeing how the packaging is done in the wine industry and I really enjoyed working with the bottling. 

Later this afternoon I rode Fabienne’s bike down the road to my host family’s rental home. It was so nice to get out and ride a bike again, it’s probably been two years since I’ve road a bike and I was a little rusty when I first hopped on but got the hang of it by the time I was out the drive way. A family is renting the rental home this weekend so their was a little bit of cleaning left to do in the house. Elise was already outside mowing when I got there, but hopped off and showed me what I could do to help get the house is shape for the family coming in. I started off by cleaning off the ceiling of all the spiders and their webs, then vacuumed the floors and wiped down the windows. I’m sure my mama would be proud of my cleaning if she was here to see it. While we were cleaning Elise and I had fun listening to some music and talking about some different things between the French and American cultures. Elise is studying this fall in Washington State so she’s practicing her English on me, which I don’t mind since I struggle with my French. 

Later tonight the family that Elise interned with last summer is coming up to Queyrac to spend the weekend here. They are from Southern France and we will be going to Bordeaux on Sunday and will be spending the day Saturday showing them around the area which I am excited to see as well. 

Fun Tid Bits:

 The Atlantic Ocean is so gorgeous on this side of the world, and only 15 minutes from my home. 

~The English music that’s played on the radio is mostly songs I’ve never even heard of.

~A dirt road can make you feel at home even 4,000 miles away. 

~”bomn” is used often in Southern France and it means “well”.

~Working in vines is a lot like working in pumpkins back home. 

~It’s often high 90’s but without Indiana humidity it feels quite nice.

~My host home doesn’t have air conditioning or fans, yet it’s stays so cool throughout the days and nights because of its cement walls. 

Preview:

As I mentioned earlier, this weekend I will be adventuring around the Queyrac region and then visiting Bordeaux. Next week I will be working again with my host dad, Adrien. Then that weekend Adrien and Fabienne are taking Adrien’s mother to the Netherlands to see her family, so Elise and I are on our own to hold down the fort and take care of anything that happens at the house. Elise mentioned going to a beach that’s about an hour away that is really nice to meet up with one of her old roommates this weekend as well. I originally was planning to try and see Italy during a weekend while on my internship but it’s looking to be too far of a travel for only two days, guess that just means another trip to Europe in the future! 

It’s been a great first week at my internship and I’m looking forward to the next three to come! 

-Bre