Ireland Day 1 (Friday).

Ok, first of all… I realize I probably provide a few too many details in my blog posts, but this is all for my sake (of remembering everything) as well as for all of you… So bear with me 🙂 Hopefully you don’t mind!

So Ireland.. In short—Amazing! To be honest, the decision to go initially was really a “hey, it’s close, and it’s cheap” kind of decision. However, in the end it turned out to be the favorite trip of my life so far!

We flew up Thursday night after classes and Alexander’s friend Kristine graciously picked us up from the airport and drove us to her flat in Malahide where we’d be staying. We actually booked the tickets initially knowing the Looneys were going and having no idea what the hotel arrangements would be, and then it just worked out perfectly that one of Alexander’s friends was in town that weekend and had space available for us. Kristine and Jon own a flat in London, and rent a flat in Ireland and the two of them fly back and forth a lot for work purposes. We were very fortunate to catch them on a weekend they were in Ireland! However, another couple was already coming the same weekend for a birthday celebration… So it was tight quarters with 6 people in a 2 bedroom flat, but we all had a great time!

Malahide is a small coastal town to the north-east of Dublin, pretty close to the airport. Although we didn’t have time to do it, you can walk along the ocean up to other villages and it’s a really good walk. Malahide really contributed to how amazing and relaxing the trip was because we were essentially staying in a posh, cozy little beach village for the weekend. I loved it!

The first morning, Alexander and I walked down to the Malahide marina, and I committed the cardinal sin of traveling outside of the U.S.: I bought a latte from Starbucks. Kristine and Jon’s flat is actually only a couple blocks from the entrance to the grounds of the Malahide Castle so then we walked through all the winding grounds back to the Castle. The Malahide Castle was built in the 1100s and was occupied by the same family for over 8 centuries—up until the 1980s I believe… Now it is a tourist spot. You can pay to walk through the whole thing and the rooms are all decorated in “period furniture.” There are also some crazy small doors- seriously- doorways at or below my neck. How short were the Irish back in the 1100s??

After the castle, we caught the DART (which is the train in Ireland, but don’t let “DART” fool you, it’s in no way fast) down to Dublin. My friend Margie told me about a “big and tall” women’s store in Dublin, so we went looking for it… Sadly, it turned out to mostly be a “big” and some of the bigs came in tall. Too bad I’m not an obese tall girl, eh? 😉

Along the way we saw this giant spire and could not figure out what it was for because there was no sign. Later, we asked a taxi driver and were informed that it doesn’t have a name or purpose. He said many locals call it the “BFP” (which stands for Big-____-Pole… you can use your imagination!). We stopped to get lunch at an Insomnia Café (an Ireland coffee chain?), and then headed to Trinity College. Alexander convinced me it was worthwhile to see the Book of Kells exhibit, and he was right! I looooved it! It’s basically an illustrated version of the 4 gospels that was created around 800. The exhibit also had a lot of history of the beginning of Christianity, writing, etc in Ireland. I really want to get a book on it now. I did buy a Book of Kells book but it’s just all about the book itself and what the symbols mean, etc. Still very interesting. And I feel so bad for the city of Kells! It’s timeline basically consisted of being pillaged and burned down every couple of years.

After that we stopped by the Northern Ireland tourism office to find out about possible day trips up to Northern Ireland. The lady was extremely informative and helpful, but she insisted we needed to see some building in Belfast that is apparently really famous, that neither of us had ever heard of. And, also, apparently people in Northern Ireland are in love with Bill Clinton? I can’t remember how that fit in, but there was something about a Bush hating mural and love for Bill. Whenever people find out we’re Americans, they always comment on George Bush. Luckily, people rarely guess I’m from the states which keeps the angry “Do you support Bush?!?” questions at a minimum.

After that we caught the DART back to Malahide so we could freshen up and pick up a birthday gift for the other couple that was coming into town. We had never met them, but we knew we’d all be going out to dinner for the birthday and since we were essentially “crashing the party” by showing up on the same weekend, we wanted to bring a little gift along. The couple—Ollie and Jamie—were from London and we had a great time with them and Kristine and Jon. We had appetizers and champagne at the flat and then went out to eat at a Michelin-starred Thai restaurant for dinner in Malahide which was DELICIOUS. I’m not uppity enough to even quite know what michelin ratings mean, but apparently even getting one star is a very big deal… and there are 4 one-starred Michelin restaurants in Malahide (and I think 6 total in all of Ireland?). Afterward, we walked home and we all went to bed!

On a random note… British people that I’ve met tend to ask affirming questions a lot at the end of their sentences like “isn’t it?” “doesn’t it?” “wasn’t it?” As a result of spending so much time with Ollie and Jamie, I was already catching Alexander and I saying things like, “He didn’t leave much room to get around there. Did he?” “That was delicious. Wasn’t it?” Those aren’t very good examples, and probably don’t make any sense typed out (rather than heard in person). Oh, and also… They say “brilliant” a lot, so that word has now slipped right into my vocabulary as well.

By the way, my last post has links to both of my albums of Northern Ireland (which were all from a daytrip we took on Sunday). I’ll link to my two Ireland (dublin/malahide) albums in my next post, where I recap Saturday.

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The Land of Ire–Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Sorry I haven’t updated in several days—I’ve been in Ireland and Northern Ireland since Thursday night.  It has been AMAZING!  Full updates (and amazing pictures!) will come later, but by way of a short summary… Alexander and I have been staying with his friends Kristine and John in Malahide, a village right on the ocean and a little north-east of Dublin.  Kristine and John had another couple visiting at the same time (Oliver and Jamie- London natives!), and we’ve all had a great time together hanging out and discovering Malahide and Dublin.  Then, yesterday Alexander and I rented a car, and drove up through Belfast (in Northern Ireland) and around the Coastal Causeway (a road that goes all along the ocean on the North-east coast line of Northern Ireland—AMAZING!) up to the Giants of Causeway (“the eighth wonder of the world”) and then cut back down all the way to Malahide.  It was unbelievable beautiful.  Poor Alexander had to drive the entire time because I’m still not old enough to rent a car, but even he couldn’t stop commenting on how beautiful it was as he did his best to keep his eyes on the road.  We both think it’s probably the coolest thing we’ve ever done (although next time, we’ll actually bring a map, and leave earlier so we’re not driving through the middle of a random country without a map in the dark on the way home ;)).   

 

Anyway, much more to come later—including how we crossed a shaky rope bridge between two cliffs! Amazing!

Day 5- Last Day in Brussels- Back to London.

I decided not to set an alarm the last night, and I woke up about 10:45am.  Although it was nice to sleep, I was kind of bummed that I wasted valuable hours I could have been out and about checking things out in Brussels. My experience the night before with the  uncomfortable neighborhood we had to walk through to get to the city center and the crazy expensive dinner did not make me a very big fan of Brussels.   I was very tempted to just stay in the hotel room and take advantage of the free wifi and skip any further Brussels experiences.  Plus, I woke up in such a cranky mood (likely from being so exhausted from the trip) that I felt like I could breathe fire if I wanted to.

When I went to Alexander’s room, he was like “…are you ok?” and I explained that I was in an extremely bad mood, but prompt coffee and breakfast would likely remedy the situation.  Sure enough, there was a cafe right next to our hotel so we went in (kind a of a rundown area but crazy nice hotel).  I had a cafe creme and a chocolate croissant and I  felt miraculously better.  Then we took the stroll back down the same ….interesting…. street  to the city center.  Not as scary in the daylight, but still not my favorite way to get around.   The first thing I noticed was how many people were on bikes in the street.  It turns out, for some as yet unknown reason,  the streets were closed down for the day and people were all riding bikes everywhere.

When we got to the city center, there was a big festival going on.  People everywhere, loud music blaring in the square (oddly enough.. “Low” by Flo Rida….).  The really interesting thing about the music choice is that the festival had something to do with something sacred (I couldn’t understand the sign but I could understand the word for sacred!) and it just didn’t seem quite appropriate to be playing that song.  Of course, there were also huge beer tents and everyone was drinking beer in the a.m. and feeding beer to their dogs, so I guess not too sacred? 😉

We spent the morning exploring, taking pictures, and buying lots of chocolates 🙂  I had another amazing belgian waffle.  Seriously, I can never eat waffles in the U.S. again.  It is shameful what we call a “belgian waffle” in the U.S. because they are infinitely more amazing when you are actually in Belgium.  Oh, even just talking about it makes me want one right now.  So delicious!  For those of you who doubt my sense of taste due to my lack of smell… let me tell you, I DO have a very strong sense of taste… and I am salivating right now just thinking of those waffles.  Mmmmmm.

Random sidenote: my bedroom window is open right now and someone with a think russian accent is singing something about butterflies.  Really?

Anyway, back to Belgium.  We ran into Adam and Krissi in the square, and some other students… and then this really weird parade walked by with this giant Devil guy and a bunch of people (including children) dressed in devil costumes.  We have no idea what it was.  So weird!  I need to figure out what the festival was about.

Anyway, shortly after that we headed back to the hotel to get our bags and head to the train station to go back to London.  When I went to Paris we had plug-ins at our seats but for some reason our train this time didn’t have power plugs.  However, the bathrooms did?!  I was very eager to go through all of my pictures but my laptop only has about a 10-minute battery life.  So, when my laptop got ready to die… I took it to the bathroom and sat in there for awhile with my computer plugged in.  There are LOTS of bathrooms on Eurostar trains so I assumed anyone who needed to go would walk on by when they saw the one I was in was occupied but no such luck.  People kept grabbing the handle and trying to open the door.  People not sure what the occupied sign means?? After people tried to open the door about 10 times, I finally gave up and went back to my seat.   Not long after that, we were back in London and on our way back to our separate flats.

So that is the non-climatic end to our trip!  I was so exhausted after all of that that I can’t even remember what I did once I got home… I think I went out to do something, ended up running into the Looneys, and got dinner with them at a cheap place nearby.  And then probably hung out at their house for awhile.

One problem I’ve noticed is that I am either (1) suffering from a severely bad case of 3L-itis (like senioritis but for last year law students); or (2) enjoying being in a new place too much to take time out to do any of the “study” part of “study abroad”; or some combination of the two.  I cannot get myself to do anything school related (besides going to class and reading for 1 of the 3).  I only read for the one class because he calls on people at random, and takes points off if you’re unprepared.  Even when I have 4 days off and I’m not traveling, and I have all intentions of reading for all 3 classes and maybe even starting an outline… I wait until 11pm the night before classes, try to read for evidence but get too tired, and then wake up early and finish it before class and stroll into tax having no idea what is going on (tax comes before evidence on school days).

I’ve always been a procrastinator but never quite this bad. And what do I do instead of taking time out to get my act together? Book more trips!

So far I’ve got Paris Round 2 + Barcelona, Spain + Amsterdam/The Hague, Holland all scheduled for October, and Berlin, Germany scheduled for November.  And I’m leaving for Ireland in a few hours… Oh my!

For all of the pictures of my very limited time in Brussels (from about 8:30pm-1:30pm the next day) click here.

Day 4- Strasbourg + Road Trip to Brussels.

In the morning I woke up, met Alexander in the lobby for breakfast, but then decided to take my food on the go because we wanted to run to catch the 9:30 boat tour (first tour of the day). They have a 70 minute boat tour through Strasbourg for less than 4 euros if you’re a student, and there are headsets that you can tune to English to learn all kinds of interesting things about Strasbourg. The english version was in an Irish accent and I imagined it was Colin Farrell the entire time, and he made some pretty entertaining jokes. Sadly, it’s been several days now and so much has happened that I can’t really remember much about the tour besides how pretty it was.

On the Boat Tour

On the Boat Tour

For the rest of the pictures I took on the boat tour, click here.

After the tour, we went to the Museum of the history of Strasbourg, which turned out to be free on weekends, and sadly we only had time to get through the 1600s before we had to leave to get lunch before boarding the bus back to Brussels. Interesting fact learned: the first newspaper ever was in Strasbourg! That explains the international journalism school on the boat tour 😉

For lunch I bought Tarte Flambee (on the recommendation of an undergrad friend- Justin Miracle). It’s kind of like a mini-pizza but a thinner/flatbread kind of crust.. and… very uniquely delicious? I was slightly disturbed by the ingredients. I just got the classic one and it was in french but it included a cream sauce, cheese, onions, and … lard? I hope lard means some kind of meat because it looked kind of like little pieces of bacon. Even if it was just pure fat, it was pretty delicious. I also bought a banana and dark chocolate crepe…. one bite was like HEAVEN. I used to not like Dark Chocolate but the digestives in London have converted me and now I’m obsessed with Dark– I’ve “come over to the dark side” so to speak 😉 I had some milk chocolate the other day (which I used to love) and it was bleh. Mmmm talking about this makes me want more dark chocolate now!

Tarte Flambee (and the crepe to the right)

Tarte Flambee (and the crepe to the right)

Anyway, so I took all that food on the bus, and we began our 7 hour journey to Brussels on the bus with no bathroom. We did stop for a 45 minute break in Bastogne, Belgium… but that was already like 4+ hours into the trip.. AH! Also, we had to pay .40 euros to use the WC, and the woman working the bathroom was playing that “Kissed a Girl” Katie Perry song on a little radio. So random! The stop was also another USA memorial which was actually pretty cool to see. (Although, we drove through the cute town of Bastogne through all the nice shops and PLACES WITH FOOD to the isolated memorial where I ended up buying a big bag of sour gummy bears to hold me over until we could get real food. I wish we could have stopped in the town, but there aren’t many places to park large tour buses in tiny europe towns).

The Memorial in Bastogne

The Memorial in Bastogne

I think we made it to the hotel somewhere around 8ish, quickly unloaded our belongings and headed to the City Center for our food. Super nice hotel, slightly not so nice walk down to the city center… when you’re starving and it’s late at night and you are walking through a kind of run down neighborhood in a foreign country and sticking out like a sore thumb… kind of adds to the creepiness. But we made it and the city center was very cool. There was a big festival going on so it was packed down there. Alexander and I found a cute (and very expensive) place for dinner. I was so exhausted and so hungry, and when I opened the menu and saw the prices after we’d already got our drinks hot tears started running down my face. I had been looking at all the menus as we walked down the street trying to find a cheap place and we ended up at the most expensive one. However, the food ended up being good, and it was a nice, relaxing dinner so I managed to suck up my tears and feel ok about it 🙂

Next we ran into some fellow students and went on an adventure to find this famous statue which is basically a little boy peeing. Apparently, the original statue in the 1600s got smashed, and the guy who smashed it went to jail for LIFE. Can you imagine? “Yeah.. I killed a bunch of people.” “Yeah… I smashed a statue of a little boy peeing.” Seeing it was like seeing the Mona Lisa… it’s this tiny little unassuming thing that if you just saw it and didn’t know it was famous, you’d probably just walk on by.

Manneken Pis

Manneken Pis

After that, I think we got waffles from a stand (amazing!), some Leonidas chocolates (because they are a lot cheaper in Belgium- where they are actually from- than in Santa Monica), and headed back to the hotel.

That’s the end of Day 4!

Day 3- Strasbourg.

When I woke up the morning of Day 3, I actually woke up on time because my alarm actually went off at the appropriate moment. “Time to get up! The time is.. 6:30.” I love getting awoken by a voice alarm rather than a loud, disturbing beep!

I packed up and had another delicious breakfast in our Luxembourg hotel, and braced myself for the freezing cold wait on the street corner because surprise, surprise… at 7:58, when we were supposed to be leaving at 8:00, less than 10 people were in the lobby. However, Dean Gash printed off a list of the next 5 trains to Strasbourg and went over to warn everyone that they were getting left behind if they didn’t get outside promptly, and miraculously everyone started trailing outside. We were on the road to Strasbourg by 8:30. A lot of the countryside between Luxembourg and Strasbourg actually looked a lot like driving in the Northwest or maybe even parts of the east coast. It was only when we passed small towns and the buildings were obviously a lot older than anything in the States that I would remember we weren’t in the USA.

A Little French Countryside

A Little French Countryside

Amazingly Huge Grapes from Luxembourg

Amazingly Huge Grapes from Luxembourg

Our first stop in Strasbourg was the Human Rights court. Everyone was exhausted from getting up so early and the long bus ride, and again it was warm in the room, so we were all fighting to stay awake while a lawyer from Turkey tried to explain the Human Rights court system. I found the talk very interesting but it was definitely a struggle keeping my eyes open. I’m sure it was the vending machine coffee for .50 euros (which was DELICIOUS!) that kept me going! Honestly, my favorite part of this stop was the cheap vending machine coffee and the photo op with a chunk of the Berlin Wall outside the building.

Human Rights Court

Human Rights Court

Berlin Wall

Berlin Wall

Then we were off to our hotel and free until dinner. I had a really cute room with (dangerously low hanging) wood beams overlooking the street. If I leaned out my window I could see the Cathedral. Alexander and I quickly left to go try to find a crepe for me (I really wanted one with chicken and tomatoes and cheese like I’d had in Paris) but sadly the one place that gave us hope was closed until dinner by the time we got there. Ultimately, I bought what I thought was a chicken panini that turned out to be a 3 cheese panini. One of the cheeses looked a lot like chicken! It was still tasty, but I was really craving chicken!

The View

The View

Then we met up with Adam and Krissi, and Dean Gash and his family, at the Cathedral and found out you could pay 2.30 Euros if you were a student to go to the top. 325 tight, winding steps later… We were at the top with the best view of Strasbourg. It was absolutely amazing, but we all got super dizzy walking down. I really expected my legs to be super sore at some point after that, but it’s been several days now and I still haven’t felt any soreness.

Cathedral Notre Dame de Strasbourg

Cathedral Notre Dame de Strasbourg

For all of the pics I took inside and on top of the Cathedral, click here.

After that we basically walked around the town with Adam and Krissi for the rest of the afternoon. I saw a giraffe bowl inside a coffee shop and went in and bought it on a spur of the moment thing, and inside this man was holding the cutest little puppy I’ve ever seen– a little miniature something, I couldn’t understand the breed in French, but his name was Charlie which made him even cuter. The owner let me hold him and I did not want to give him back afterwards. When we had to leave I said “I feel like the love of my life just walked away” and Alexander was like “It’s ok, I know I can’t compete with that.” Haha.

Charlie! 3

Charlie! ❤

We had dinner in a restaurant that looked like a cave and served “Alsace-style” food (Alsace is the region of France where Strasbourg is). It consisted of “Alsace Onion Pie” and salad, then what looked like a ripped in half chicken with some pasta, and then what looked like a tarte flambee with some kind of cooked fruit on top (I didn’t taste it, but it was either apples or pears). If you know me at all, you probably know that (1) I can’t handle meat that still looks like an animal on my plate (this has nothing to do with me feeling bad about eating animals), and (2) I don’t like cooked fruit in desserts. So, not my favorite meal, but the restaurant and atmosphere were cool and many people liked the food so it was all good 🙂

After dinner, we ended wandering around trying to find a dessert place, ending up in a slightly sketchy area, and then returning from the area we originally came from and just getting some ice cream at a pizza place. A lot of people were going out after that, but I decided to just go back to my room and sleep because it was already pretty late by then, and I like sleep!

Days 4 and 5 to come later!

Frustrations and Blessings in London.

As a temporary side note before I begin talking about Strasbourg… I am so happy to finally be in the “Pepperdine House” for classes. Until now, we’ve been meeting in a class room of Imperial College where the chairs are very small and very hard, the desks are barely wide enough for our laptops, the internet would not work on my computer, and there was no AC. However, the Pepperdine House is equipped with all of the amazing modern conveniences of America: padded chairs, big tables, internet that works, AIR CONDITIONING!!! In short, it’s lovely.

A very sharp contrast to the very frustrating experience that continues whenever I try to get ANYTHING DONE when I am not on campus. I have no phone to call the U.S., and I have no solid internet connection and that makes it incredibly difficult to do simple things like (1) remove fraud alerts on my credit cards; (2) pay my U.S. cell phone bill because I still haven’t been able to cancel it; (3) buy tickets anywhere for any form of travel. Ugg. And when I’m sitting here, so frustrated I’m ready to throw large objects from my 3rd story window, I think about how ridiculous it is to be so frustrated about such a silly thing as the internet. We Pepperdine students have a friend–the spouse of a student who just graduated–who suffered from a terrible brain stroke back in April and by a miracle survived a 15 hour brain surgery and is slowly beginning to talk and walk. She feels completely normal on the inside, but her body is not responding how she would like it to on the outside. She’s facing this monumental uphill battle, and I’m freaking out over lack of internet and phone access. Perhaps it’s good for me… I need to learn to stop being so ridiculously impatient, and I need to learn to not take so many things for granted.

Music in Europe; Photos of the Lux War Memorial.

First, I just wanted to make a comment about the randomness of music in Europe. Everywhere we go, the music is always American. All the restaurants, all the shops, all the city squares. The rare exception is Spanish music which is occasionally playing in a completely non-Spanish location (ie an American bar in Strasbourg run by a middle eastern guy. The one place you’d expect to hear American music (or maybe middle eastern music?) and they were playing a mix of songs in Spanish!). It makes me wonder two things: (1) does anyone else have a music industry??; and (2) if everyone hates America so much, why are they listening to our music all the time??.

Generally, the songs are hits from the 70s, 80s, or 90s. Occasionally they are more recent hits (ie “Low” by Flo Rida blasting in Grand Place (the main market square) in Brussels). Oddly, the most time and place appropriate music I’ve heard so far was that Katy Perry “I Kissed a Girl” song playing on an old am/fm radio in a random rest stop bathroom in Bastogne, Belgium where I had to pay .40 Euros to use the WC. I say time and place appropriate only because the UK is closer to Belgium than the States are, and that song is a current hit. Obviously, not time and place appropriate in the sense of me using the women’s bathroom in the middle of nowhere, Belgium. (and also the kissing a girl part, I don’t kiss girls ;)).

When we were walking through a square in Luxembourg City, “When a Man Loves a Woman” was blasting. Really, Luxembourgers? When we came out of dinner at a little place down an alley in Brussels, a guy with his guitar was surrounded by a crowd on a corner as he performed “Hotel California.” It’s everywhere! We went to an Irish Pub in Belgium and they were playing CHER. I don’t know why I find this so interesting… I just would expect to hear something other than American music SOMEWHERE, and it’s nowhere to be found! Anyway, so that’s my random tangent on music in Europe.

The other thing I wanted to do in this posting is to post a few pictures from the war memorial in Luxembourg. I realize this is kind of an awkward combination for the post, but I really wanted to share some pictures to go with my earlier post discussing seeing this.

5,076 Crosses for 5,076 U.S. Soldiers

5,076 Crosses for 5,076 U.S. Soldiers

Unknown Graves

Unknown Graves

Flag

Flag

General Pattons Grave

General Patton's Grave

General Patton actually died after the Battle of the Bulge in an unrelated car accident, but he was buried here in the memorial with his troops on Christmas Eve 1945. Originally he was buried mixed in with everyone else, but there was so much foot traffic it was making all the grass die on other soldier’s graves, so they moved him here and placed his grave at the front of all the other soldiers. An appropriate place since he generally was right on the front lines with his troops.

Day 2- Luxembourg.

My morning started when I received a text message from Alexander: “Can you bring me my blue shirt?” I had packed some of his business clothes in my hanging bag, and we were in separate hotels. Somehow the night before when trying to set my cell phone clock one hour ahead, I forgot it was on a 24 hour clock so I set it to 11:30 (when it was actually 23:30), and I set my alarm for 7. When Alexander’s message came in my phone said 19:30 (which is 7:30pm) and I was so confused, and my alarm obviously didn’t go off. And I thought I was being smart by remembering to set my clock ahead 😉

I hurried to get ready and head down to get some continental breakfast before we had to leave. The food was SO GOOD! Just your basic coffee, juices, fruit, croissants, etc. , but it hit the spot! Now comes the primary frustrating part of the trip: we were supposed to leave by 8am, so those of us who were on time went outside to wait for our bus and it was FREEZING cold out. I didn’t bring a winter jacket because I didn’t expect it to feel like winter! Luxembourg is further south than London! So anyway, we were waiting on the corner freezing waiting for the rest of the group to show up. This was a routine occurrence throughout the trip–people not showing up on time, forcing others to wait out in the cold and causing us to miss briefings at the EU. I got on the bus when it finally came and loudly proclaimed “I regret the day I was born!” …I said it sarcastically, but I AM a bit of a drama queen ;).

We finally got to board the bus!

We finally got to board the bus!

Aaaanyway, so we finally made it to the Courts of Justice, missed our aforementioned briefing on the case we were going to hear, but luckily a woman walking by who knew about the case gave us a 5 minute run-down of what was going on. The case had to do with the use of the term “Bavaria” with beers. Apparently the EU passed some kind of protection for Bavarian beers that required a beer to be from Bavaria to use the term Bavaria. But at the time it was passed, there were already beers using the term who had the term trademarked. The lawyers came out first but they were all in black robes so we thought they were the judges. Then the judges came out in maroon velvet robes. We all had headsets because the people were speaking in Italian, Dutch, and Czech. The first Italian speaker was talking so fast that he had to be told twice to slow down, and the english interpreter (who I was watching through the window) was visibly freaking out as she was trying to keep up with him. When he finally sat down she turned off her mic, breathed a big sigh of relief, and put her head down! Since the actual talk about the case was pretty technical, I took the opportunity to change the channels on my headset and listen to some of the other languages and watch the interpreters as they spoke. Some of them were very intent, looking out at the speaker, and using hand motions, and some of them had their head down as if they were reading something. I couldn’t figure out what language “EL” was, but I thought it sounded like something close to italian but wasn’t italian… and I liked it. Turns out it was Greek!

Lawyers taking their seats in the Court of Justice!

Lawyers taking their seats in the Court of Justice!

With Our Headsets in Court

With Our Headsets in Court

My Lux Hotel Room

My Lux Hotel Room

This was so much prettier in person!

This was so much prettier in person!

Me in front of the Royal Palace

Me in front of the Royal Palace

After the hearing we sat in a room where a girl explained to us how the Courts of Justice work, and then we took a short tour of the building. Then we went to lunch, which we had to pay for ourselves this time. I got a salad that I thought was 4.40 in Euros and it ended up being 9.70 in Euros (so about $13). Combined with the other stuff I bought I think my lunch was about 12 Euros total. Afterward I heard people got sandwiches from a stand outside the cafeteria for only 1.70! Anyway, the point of that story = expensive cafeteria food lunch in Luxembourg.

After lunch we headed back to the hotel to change out of our suits and go on a tour of Luxembourg. We picked up two tour guides who took us to the Luxembourg American Cometary and Memorial (which I already talked about) and then took us on a walking tour of Luxembourg City. For those who don’t know, although the country of Luxembourg is extremely small, there is more than one city. When we got to the center of town, we were let on our own for the rest of the evening. I tried to find a Luxembourg flag tshirt to no avail, and then went to dinner with Alexander and the Looneys. Alexander has a friend who lives in Luxembourg so she met up with us (along with one of her coworkers) and they showed us around the city.

The craziest part was when we went down to the Grune (sp?) which is kind of an old town part of town that way downhill from the rest of the city. Since we were with locals, they showed us to the elevators and we didn’t have to walk down a steep path. It was beautiful down there at night, and I lagged behind the group to try to take a photo on a little bridge. I knew the second the group was out of sight that I should go catch up but I really wanted that photo! ..Sure enough, seconds later a very tall man was right beside me, trying to talk to me in French. I told him I only spoke English, and he said he only spoke French. However, when he asked me my name (in French), I responded. Doh! So my whole “I don’t speak any French” cover was blown. Then Adam appeared and the guy asked me if he was my boyfriend (in French) and I said no. Then I was kicking myself thinking I should have just said yes! Because that got him really excited and he grabbed my arm saying we should go to the discotheque. Thankfully, Alexander appeared right then and I pointed saying “Copain! Copain!” because I couldn’t remember how to say “This is my boyfriend.” So then the man (Daniel) started apologizing to Alexander saying he didn’t know I had a boyfriend and he just thought I was extremely beautiful and he never sees women like that in Luxembourg so when he saw me by myself he wanted to talk to me. Haha. I still don’t know if that was a normal encounter or if I was in danger. Moral of the story = don’t (be beautiful and) stand alone on a bridge at night in a foreign country. As many of you know, that is my second lesson of my europe experience, right after “Don’t take pills from strangers” from my flight over to London 😉

The Picture that started the Daniel Encounter

The Picture that started the Daniel Encounter

Shortly after we headed back to the hotels, parted ways with Alexander’s friends, and went to our separate hotels to go to bed. That was the end of Day 2!

4 Countries in 5 Nights = Very Exhausted Girl!

Last Tuesday night I slept in Great Britain, Wednesday and Thursday I slept in Luxembourg, Friday I slept in France, and Saturday I slept in Belgium… WOO.

I’m going to try to recap all of the events, but for now I will just start with Day 1, and I will come back later to gradually write about the other days.

The first day (Wednesday), we caught a 7am train from St. Pancras in London to Brussels. There was a slight delay due to everything being backed up from that Channel Fire a few days ago (in one of the tunnels that goes under the channel between the UK and “the Continent”), but otherwise the ride was smooth and we made it to Brussels without any problems.

In Brussels, we boarded the bus that would practically be our second home over the next several days, and went on a mini driving tour through Brussels. It made me really wish we had one of those entertaining tour guides like we had on the London bus tour, because we didn’t know what most of the stuff we were driving by was. However, we did see a giant sign that said “What language should the EU speak?” and I was like “English… Duh!” After all, the sign was in english… that kind of makes it obvious right? 😉 The EU actually speaks something like 27 languages, and it’s a big deal to them that everyone gets to speak their own language, so in their court rooms and stuff they have head sets and interpreters and everyone speaks their own language and then you can listen to it in your own language on the headset. More on that later when I talk about the court case we saw in Strasbourg! Europe definitely makes me feel LAME for only speaking one language. Everyone I meet over here can generally speak at least 3 languages. In Luxembourg, children are on their 4th language by the time they hit middle school (Luxembourgish, French, and German are all learned in elementary school, then they start learning english).

Anyway… Back to Day 1 in Brussels… Next, we went to check out the European Parliament. This mainly consisted of (1) waiting in a long, slow line to get cafeteria food, and (2) sitting in a very warm room, being tired since we all got up between 4 and 5am, and because we just ate a huge lunch, and listening to a woman with a very strong Portuguese accent try to explain the EU to us. Tired + full + warm room + not so exciting topic = recipe for law students dressed up in fancy suits falling asleep during the speech. Honestly, I know pretty much nothing about how the EU works so I did find the session informative and interesting, but when you’re full and tired, how they choose the number of seats each country has in the parliament isn’t exactly the kind of topic that keeps you on the edge of your seat 😉

Lunch in the EU Parliament Cafeteria

Lunch in the EU Parliament Cafeteria

(The great thing about this photo is that, except for the fruits and veggies which were for Alexander, I ate everything else… I was so hungry!!)

Me at the EU Parliament

Me at the EU Parliament

Triumphal Arch--Taken on the Bus Tour

Triumphal Arch--Taken on the "Bus Tour"

Next we toured the building which was pretty cool and provided some good photo ops 🙂 Then, we boarded the bus again and headed to Luxembourg. Luxembourg is a tiny country between France and Belgium. Due to a slight room arrangement fiasco, I ultimately ended up in a room by myself in the “nice hotel” with the married couples across the street from the hotel where most of the students were staying. Technically the nice hotel was a 4 star and the other a 3 star, but aside from a nicer lobby with a 24-hour desk clerk, I didn’t notice much of a difference between the hotels (I saw Alexander’s room in the 3-star, and it was just as nice as the 4-star). We had a few minutes to get changed and then we headed out for a group dinner at a place called something like “Brasserie Guillarme.” It was a cute place, delicious, and plenty of food to go around! At the end, we had a chocolate mousse that basically tasted like dark chocolate cake batter. DELICIOUS!

After dinner we had free time to go out, but by then it was already pushing 11 and I chose bed time for how I would spend my free time.

So anyway, that was Day 1! I’ll write more tomorrow!