Marcie, Beaucoup!

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller

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A Little bit of Family in a Little bit of France

A couple weeks back (slacker blog status right here) I was fortunate enough to have my mother and one of my sisters come visit the country of France. Now, I say country of France because that is what we saw in the 6 short days they were here. We went from Rouen (Northern France) down to Nice (southern France) even hopped over to Monaco for the day, and ended in the city of lights and love: Paris. So, it was definitely FRANCE.

They arrived late Saturday afternoon to Rouen, exhausted from the trip over and ready for sleep. BUT their time was limited in Rouen, so we dropped their belongings off at the hotel and went out for a little exploring. Given the terrific location of the hotel, they were able to see the sights of Rouen in less than an hour, so the rest of the time was spent walking in and out of shops, stopping at my favorite creperie for some lunch and even a little souvenir shopping. And, of course, my mom navigating using her camera and saying “wow you were right they really only wear black” just loud enough for all to hear.

**SIDE NOTE: just saw a dog walk by with a scarf on. Not even a small dog. A mutt of sorts. We could all take a lesson from Europeans and treat our dogs better…rather, dress them better***

It was only a matter of time before they crashed, so we headed back to their hotel. After some wine and reading sitting poolside, Abby and I ventured out to Delirium for their famous red beer. (I should really start getting commission for the amount of customers I bring them)

We woke up to Easter Sunday and Catholic France buzzing around getting ready for the days activities. After a quick breakfast in the hotel, we made our way to my room back in mont-saint aignan (to show my mom the ever so scenic school and room I was living in), grabbed my bags and headed for the train to Paris. A missed bus later, we made the train to Paris with minutes to spare, yet still giving us a generous amount of time to make the train to Nice. Once on the train, we settled down with our groceries (brie cheese, apples, baguettes) and prepared for our 5+ hour train ride to the south.

So I know I usually have something to say about the public transportation, especially the train rides, and while this one was efficient as usual, the best part was the INCREDIBLE views it afforded us. We travelled by the French Alps and weaved our way through the most southern parts of France. It was absolutely gorgeous. #trainsFTW

We had almost 3 full days in Nice, which were spent:

-          Day 1 in Nice

o   Exploring what there  was to see, including the beautiful castle & waterfall, promenade de anglais and getting lost

-          Day 2 in Nice

o   MONACO – costing only one euro for a scenic (slightly terrifying) bus ride  it was a no brainer.  We mosied to the Monte Carlo Casino, had drinks at Café de Paris, practically lived the dream

o   Story: my mom saw one of the little tourist trains making its way through the city and took it upon herself to ask our waiter at Café de Pariswhere  the train picked up from. He told us it was “just over there” pointing to the Royal Palace. Little did we know, the Royal palace was practically on the other side of the country (granted it was probably only a mile away) and a long walk up to the ever so quaint and beautiful Monaco Ville.

§  So Monaco Ville is not only where the Prince & Princess live (in their castle, obvi) but it is also a cute little town (if you can call it that) 4 streets wide with small little alleys holding tourist and specialty shops galore. No Royal village would be complete without a church, museum and of course, exotic gardens.

o   In making our way through Monaco Ville, we failed to find the train that my mom was searching for. Abby and I kindly broke the news to our mom just as we turned the corner and saw the stand for the tickets to get on the train.

o   We hopped aboard the next train, and 45 minutes and a corny audio player later, realized that we saw literally EVERYTHING that the train ride took us to, just by foot and without any knowledge of what we were really seeing.

-          Day 3 in Nice

o    Beautiful weather brought us a whole different side of Nice, including the flower market ( Salaya Marche au x Fleurs) and old Nice.

o   We stopped for lunch on the Beach, did some souvenir shopping, ate some gelato and took in the sun we had been deprived of for so long

o   Later that night, we caught our train back to Paris and prepared for the crazy one day in Paris we had ahead of us

-          PARIS

o   I have truly mastered seeing the vast city of Paris in 24-48 hours.  Deciding that a hop on/hop off bus was silly given the efficient metro system,  I led the crew through city and managed to show them

§  Notre Dame Cathedral

§  Pont de Arts (lock bridge)

§  Louvre

§  Tuilleries Garden

§  Musee de Orsay (we went in- DEFINITELY better than the Louvre if you ask me!)

§  Montmartre

§  Sacre Couer Basilica

§  Eiffel Tower

·         (somehow managed to go when there were NO lines and took maybe 30 minutes to do the whole thing)

·         Also, shout out to my mom, who valiantly took the stairs to the first level. 350+ stairs later, she was rewarded with a warm café to wait while Abby and I trekked to the top

·         Fun fact: they sell champagne at the top of the Eiffel Tower. Now that’s business at its finest.

·         Managed to also see the tower sparkle in all its glory for the first time of the night at 9pm (it is actually light until 9pm…and its only april… I (along with my eyes) are confused.)

o   And we ended the day with a traditional French dinner,  wine and all.

-          And before I knew it, they were gone the next morning, with pain chocolate and Kinder stuffed in their suitcases.

To be able to travel the world is one thing. But to travel with the people you love is a completely different thing. Yes, it is frustrating and annoying. Fights are had (we are sisters after all) but mainly memories were made. I’m so lucky to have had them visit my home for the past four months and share a little piece of my experience abroad with them. Feeling completely blessed, Au revoir! 

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Woof. So I’ve been a bad blogger. Honest to goodness, I really have no excuse. I haven’t been doing that much traveling. Nor have I been swamped with school work. I guess I am just taking things in, slow and steady. And reading a lot (can’t put a book down problems)

So. Since I’ve last posted, I’ve been up to, yes reading, but also staying put in France for a bit. After all, this is the country where I’ve dedicated my time to. I should get to know it as well as I can. After my sister and mom visited, life started picking up here, in Rouen, and back home. Like, I registered for classes for my senior year. WHAT.  I also had the lucky opportunity to have a group presentation for my cross cultural management course. Now, this would have been a walk in the park…if we all spoke English. But, like I said, lucky me being the only English speaking kid in the class.

As much as I may have complained while working on this project, it was a “table turned” experience. Now I know how every international student comes when they come to Bentley and are nervous to respond. Well duh. English may not be their first language. It was eye opening and taught me a lot about  being an outsider. AND  it was a win win situation. I helped them with their English (which consisted of kid cuddi songs and American reality TV vocabulary) and they helped me with my franglish. 

That weekend, the culture connections group at our school organized a day trip to Etretat & Honfleur. Our first stop was Etretat, which is a very small town on the coast with INCREDIBLE cliffs (what I like to think are the Cliffs of Moher of France) The views were beautiful and vast, providing several panoramas for my iphone. But really, in all seriousness, it was unreal to see this all natural beauty of a thing just hanging out on the coast. Pictures work better than my words in this situation. Moving on…

Next stop was Honfleur, a lovely little seaside/port town. Lots of boats and seafood, decorated with colorful cafes and cobblestone walkways provided a new England-ey feel for the afternoon. Of course, no trip would be complete without a bit of rain, which followed us around for the majority of the afternoon. However, there was no “raining” on our parade, and we still walked in and out of shops and art galleries for the afternoon.

The next day, back in Rouen, I had a visitor for the day! My friend Jamie came to visit. We go back a long ways (aerobics with our mothers?) but the short of it is that we played field hockey together during high school and currently, she is studying in Paris. (I seriously don’t know what took us so long to meet up) Anyway,  she arrived shortly after I was able to sneak in a run (INCREDIBLE weather we have been having) on a beautiful, seventy degree weather day.  We did the basics of Rouen, sat in the sun, caught up on life and reminisced on our good old field hockey days ( and trip to Quebec with our French class!) Overall, it was  a perfect afternoon with great weather and great company.

So classes, yes those existed this week. It felt like I was actually back at Bentley and had some academic responsibility. And, this works timing couldn’t have been worse. As I was hunkering down for my final on Tuesday, I was also constantly scrolling through my newsfeed/twitter feed….which led me to start to read tweets about the Boston Marathon bombing.

I’m going to keep it brief, as I know it has all been said. But there was nothing worse than finding out your friends were potentially in danger, and knowing there was nothing you could do about it.  My heart sunk, and it is still hurting for all those that were impacted. #Bostonstrong

A final later, it was time to head out for our second running dinner. Now, I don’t remember if I have blogged about this before, but basically, a running dinner is a progressive dinner. Appetizer one place, main dish one place, dessert one place. Our culture crew puts together French teams to host, and the international students go from place to place.  It is a great night filled with home cooked food and French students that are interested in getting to know international students. What more could an international student want? Needless to say, it was a great, wine filled, night.

Then I had ANOTHER visitor. This time, a camp friend: Molly! Recap: we work at Camp Stella Maris together and she is studying abroad in Ireland) She arrived late Thursday afternoon and in the less than 24 hours we had together, we managed to fit in all the basics of Rouen, and of course, the FOOD. 3 course meal, followed by a red beer at Delirium, pain au chocolate for breakfast, kebab for lunch - we ate like queens. Before I knew it, she was off to Paris and I was off to study for my French final. Or so I thought.

Once again, I checked my news feed, as I had been doing more frequently this past week given the events, and held my breath. More news flooded my social media sites, and I knew I was in for a night of distraction. Bentley, my university, was on lockdown all day Friday – providing for quite the scare and worry. There was no threat directly to the campus, but officials wanted to be sure the students were safe, as the city of Boston was on lockdown and the Watertown shoot-out happened just about 3 miles away from the campus.  I knew all my friends were safe, but the doom and terror that loomed so close to my campus and home for the past 3 years couldn’t help but shake me to the core. Following the news up until they caught him (WOOOOO #BOSTON #AMERICA), I could finally rest, knowing I wouldn’t wake up to more sadness.

SO, moral of the story and my long post:

Visitors & the scary events that occurred in Boston made me realize that it is really the relationships we have with other people that make this world such an incredible place.

Without the friends that I’ve made here in Rouen and the ones that have visited me/I’ve visited, it would all just be pictures and souvenirs. Instead, it’s a plethora of memories, inside jokes and stories to be told to grandkids in the future.

Without the friends that I’ve made at Bentley, that campus that was put in danger this past week would just be a campus full of brick buildings. I’m lucky enough to have it be the community in which I’ve encountered the most genuine friends, colleagues and mentors that have accompanied me in the “college” journey.

So, that’s far enough sappiness aside. A week and a half of putzin’ around France and a week in Italy (YES ITALY – if you have been to Italy get ready for an inbox asking for help!) and one final week before my return to the States (WHATTT) but for now,  AU REVOIR!

Side Note: don’t mess with Boston #Bostonstrong 

Filed under Bentley Bostonstrong france rouen etretat honfleur studyabroad travel

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The land of…well….Amsterdam!

Shortly after I returned from Amsterdam, my friend Sarah & I embarked on a quick visit to the Netherlands. Now, everyone has their own assumptions on what Amsterdam is like- but most commonly, people think about marijuana & prostitution (sorry mom & dad) However, I’m here to say that while those things exist, and boy do they exist throughout the city, there is also so much more to be appreciated about Amsterdam.

Now, what else is there to this city that is known for its “cafes” and the Red Light district? Here are a few things:

-         Tulips! They weren’t out when we were there due to the FRIGID weather, but they are everywhere in tourist shops and there is a museum, so they must be pretty!

-         CHEESE. Okay so I love cheese in general and I know that France has baller cheese, but who knew gouda could be so great

o   Story: Sarah & I had just finished seeing the Anne Frank house and it was too early for dinner but we were right near a killer pancake house we were told to go to, so we had to some time to kill. Wouldn’t you know that we stumble upon a Cheese Museum and just the shop itself has free samples of EVERY kind of cheese they have in there. We may or may not have tried every kind of cheese and been blown away by it. Thinking about it now makes me miss it! Definitely one of the highlights of the trip.

-         The Anne Frank House (Huis as they spell it there): it was a beautiful museum and such a somber experience to walk through the very building that housed innocent refugees from the Nazi terrors.

-         Albert Heijn: an awesome grocery store that has delicious fruit smoothies and STROOPWAFFLES.

-         And of course, the canals and bikes. Bikes and canals. They were everywhere!


So a little more on our trip….

-         We opted for a unique housing experience, forgoing a classic hostel for a nice LITTLE hostel-boat! Our room was barely big enough for the two of us, but we were never there anyway so it didn’t really matter. The second night the wind picked up so there was a bit of rockin the boat, but what’s a stay on a boat without a bit of seasickness?

-         Day 1 was spent on a free walking tour, seeing the Anne Frank House, the cheese museum and enjoying a BACON and APPLE (two of my favorite things) PANCAKE

-         Day 2 started with the Heineken Experience, where we learned, among other things, that people usually don’t like beer because of the way they drink it and learned the proper way to do so (avoiding the foam of course). The Heineken experience was followed by a walk through the Albert Cryupt Market on to Vondel Park… eventually making our way to the IAmsterdam sign


All in all, it was quite the experience. Amsterdam is unique in its ways and unlike any city. Maybe it was the Dutch language, maybe it was the dizzying canals, but it is a city of its own. With thoughts of stroopwafel and gouda from my stomach, Au Revoir! 

Filed under amsterdam studyabroad annefrankhouse netherlands travel bentleyu

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My life as of currently

So I’m going to be real with y’all. I’m experiencing a little bit of writers block. But it isn’t like I don’t know what to write… you know when you haven’t seen someone in such a long time and you don’t even know where to start? That’s how I feel about this blog…except this blog isn’t a person so that is a little weird.


What I’ve been up to:

-         A little rendezvous to Amsterdam with Sarah

-         Katie (friend from i-town/studying in Ireland) visits

-         Mom & Abby visit Rouen, we go to Nice and a day in Paris


There is so much I could talk about for each one of those posts, and my posts have been VERY long lately, so I’m making the executive decision to do separate posts for them. So…what do I write about for this post, you ask?

-         I could get all philosophical about time coming to an end… I started writing about that, but it’s the same old tale about time moving fast, I’m growing up, the real world is scary yadayadayada.

-         I could take you through my last few weeks here and how PUMPED I am to take on Italy and find the best gelato/pizza as a last hurrah before I leave but I am getting hungry now just thinking about it

-         I could write about how I’m approaching my senior year of college after my fourth summer at Camp Stella Maris (more about time flying etc nothing you haven’t heard before)

-         I could write about how thankful I am for this experience and give a huge shout out to everyone that has supported me. Alright let’s go with that.


Through this whole experience, my appreciation for the relationships of my friends and family has grown tenfold. My friends back at the bent continue to act interested in my stories and allow me to live vicariously through them and patiently understand my wish to be in two places at once. My friends here in Rouen have put up with my OCD trip planning and have quickly adapted to my bizarre ways. My family- specifically my parents- have been more supportive than I could have ever imagined. While this will probably be talked about more thoroughly in my last post, they have truly “given me the world” (corny, whatever, it’s true…alright so maybe they just let me see Europe but hey.) This post goes out to everyone who has supported me in this wild adventure I’m on. So here is a big old cheers to you (the one reading this!) And, until next time, Au Revoir from Rouen!

Filed under studyabroad travel Rouen france amsterdam thanks

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Lucky Enough

So, this post is a little late, but between traveling, finals (a little early, right?!) and school, life has been a litttttle crazy. The good kind of crazy, of course! 

This post is dedicated to the homeland of all homelands: Ireland. In the beginning of March, around 36 hours after the whole Spain/Portugal ordeal, I found myself in yet another airport- ecstatic to make the journey to that good ol’ emerald island. I have wanted to go to Ireland for quite some time now- it is, after all, where us Dineen’s originate from. The guy at customs even said so! After looking at my airport, he told me I had an Irish last name and asked where the family was from. Between his accent, being in Ireland, and maybe a little exhaustion I just awkwardly smiled and told him I had no clue (turns out we are from County Cork, but I’ll chat about that more later) and continued on my way through the airport.

So, if you have read my blog, you know I have a thing with public transportation. It is all so efficient and great in Europe, so I love seeing how each country varies. And while the public transport in Dublin wasn’t so rockin, their airport is GORGEOUS. They even have a twitter account and favorited one of my tweets. I mean, come on. It doesn’t get much better. Once I got over my fascination of the airport, I found my way to the end of the terminal, searching for my friend who was meeting me there.

The cool part about this trip was that I was lucky enough to not only have one, but two friends in/around Dublin that were generous enough to have me stay with them for two nights each. The first part of the week I spent with Katie, a teammate turned incredible friend via the glorious world of Field Hockey, who was studying in Maynooth, Ireland (45 minutes outside Dublin). So when we both figured out that we were studying abroad this semester, we knew we had to visit one another (she comes to France tomorrow!!) The second part of the week would be spent with Molly, one of the awesome human beings brought into my life via Camp Stella Maris, who is studying at University College of Dublin.

So, after tweeting about my encounter at the customs desk (#imhome) I looked up from my phone and found Katie! We made our way to Maynooth with a teeeeeny pit stop in Dublin, where I was able to get a quick feel for the city via bus. Now, here is where I would tell about my minor run in with my bff car-sickness, but I’ll save the details from you….s/o to Katie for being a champ while I sat in silence wishing the nausea away. 

We made it to Maynooth, (without voming!)  cooked up some tacos (hey, we missed them) and planned out our next day. 

Monday, after Katie went to class, we headed out to Dublin for some sightseeing and the Guinness Factory! We started off at Trinity College, walking through the court yard. The campus was so pretty- to think that people actually go to school there, on that gorgeous campus, in the middle of Dublin- lucky lil ducks! Next, we hit up Grafton Street, where shopping is at its finest. We took a little pit stop for some gelato- Katie was smart enough to get hot chocolate with a scoop of gelato, but I went straight for the Baileys Irish Creme gelato. After all, when in Ireland… And it was sooo yummy! Even if it was 30 degrees out, a numb hand was totally worth it. Grafton street end right at St. Stephens Green. St. Stephens is gorgeous. It literally feels like you are walking through a movie, with the insanely green grass sprawling about. We wandered around the city for a bit longer until we decided we had enough of the cold and turned to find the Guinness Factory. 30 minutes of figuring out where we were/how to get there, we made it! We spent the rest of the afternoon learning all about the brewing process, the company history and the culture of Guinness in Ireland. In the Guinness Academy, we learned (and I somewhat failed) how to pour my own pint! And yes- I even managed to finish that pint of unique beer. I mean, it may have helped that we finished the pints looking out on the incredible view that the Gravity Bar affords. 

Tuesday, I made my way to UCD to meet up with Molly! So, for anyone who went to/works at/knows about CSM, you know how we camp people can be, and our reunion was nothing short of hugs, soft screaming and making a scene. Followed by non-stop talk about camp, despite the fact we were chillin in Dublin. Our time together couldn’t have come at a better time given that all the new staff was just hired (any new staffers reading this, shout out to you!) and its a crazily exciting time at camp. It was best for human kind that we were together, so our campiness was contained. But we also knew my time in Ireland was limited, so we departed for Dublin. 

The afternoon was spent wandering in and out of the streets of Dublin. Much to my surprise, Dublin is a small city, so I was easily able to see the majority of what Dublin has to offer. We spent some time checking out St Patrick’s Cathedral (said a prayer for CSM of course!), going in and out of shops (let’s talk about Penneys. Like seriously? everywhere needs one of those) The day was ended ever so magically with guinness stew & cider for dinner, in an irish pub, with live irish music & dancing. I’m pretty sure life couldn’t have gotten much better. 

Wednesday, Molly and I met up with Katie & her friend Megan (it was the best of all worlds!!) and went on a day trip to Cork & Blarney. Our first stop was the  Rock of Cashel. I didn’t really know much about it, but basically it was a castle/cathedral. It was beautiful and soooo old. The ride there was scenic as well- lots of green fields that you always hear about…some sheep too! The next stop was Cork City- where my family was from! We were only given an hour to explore there, so we hit up the English Market, where there was a bunch of vendors selling fresh food, and walked the streets. I made it my mission to find a coat of arms with our name on it…and figured it wouldn’t be that bad, given that our family started in Cork. FALSE. Mission not accomplished. But that was quite alright, as our next stop was the one and only BLARNEY STONEEEEEE! 

The whole day was leading up to that glorious moment. I’m not one to be afraid of heights, but standing at the top of the Blarney Castle I couldn’t stop shaking. It was such an incredible moment, and one quite special to me. My grandfather, at the age of 80, was able to make it up those stairs and leaned over to kiss that very same stone that stood in front of me. I didn’t care what anyone said about people peeing on it or it being gross. It was about tradition, heritage, and family. Now for those that have heard about it, it is a process to kiss the stone. You have to lay on your back, lean back and kiss the area upside down. Luckily, there is a man there to help, and bless his soul, because he coached me through the whole thing. First up was Molly- so I was able to watch and learn. Then I was up. Show timeeee. Kidding. But really, I leaned over, gave the stone a nice lil kiss and boom it was over. Yet it really wasn’t. As I write this in my room in Rouen, I still feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to visit Ireland. 

The sights were one thing, but the entire feeling of being in Ireland- it was the first city where I felt like I was welcomed. Everyone is so incredibly nice, outgoing, friendly and willing to help. Sure, the weather may be gloomy, but the people certainly aren’t. Leaving was sad- it was like I had a little taste of home without traveling across the Atlantic, and needless to say I wasn’t read to leave. However,there was just something about Ireland, that makes me know that I have to return in the future. 

They have a quote that says “If you are lucky enough to be Irish, you are lucky enough” After my incredible visit to Ireland, I know for sure, I’m lucky enough. 

Filed under ireland dublin cork blarney blarneystone lucky travel studyabroad campstellamaris friends luckoftheirish

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Hola! Bonjour! Obrigrada! Sup dawg! That pretty much sums up the cultural experience of speaking Franglish (French/English) Spanish and Portuguese in one week. Okay fine so I spoke a lot of English and attempted the other three… But that’s irrelevant really. What’s important here is that I, and my little crew, made it to Barcelona, Madrid and Lisbon for part one of our break and are still here to tell the story! Now that’s something to celebrate. (Side note: it’s not the dangerousness of the country I was worried about- they were all completely safe for tourists! It was the whole going to those places on our own knowing little Spanish etc kinda thing!!)

For the sake of your time (and mine) I’m going to get all organizational on ya and have a little system for each city!

Transport: Ryanair flight from Paris to Barcelona Friday pm

Barcelona, Spain
- Sagrada Familia aka a gorgeous church that has been and still is under construction for the past 80 years. It kinda looks like a drippy sand castle- in the best way possible.
-all of Gaudi’s architecture aka really cool curvy stuff… Great description I know… Refer to pictures for my lack of adjectives
- The Beach of course! The perfect ginormous beach. It was sooo sunny and pretty the day we saw it, so we were convinced it was a good idea to put our feet in… Later, thawing out in the sun, we realized why we were the only ones… But it was still great!
- Parc Güell, probably one of the highlights of the whole trip. We made it there right before sunset and holy cow was it gorgeous. Not only was the park beautiful, full of mosaic structures and benches, but there were also incredible views of the city. The sun was shining as we took it all in and it couldn’t have been more perfect!
- TAPAS it was here in Barcelona where we first tried the incredible concept of tapas. For those that are unaware, as I was, tapas is little plates of appetizer like foods. The fan faves are patatas bravas and tortilla espangol (sp?) Patatas bravas is like home fries with a mild hot sauce on it… Aka perfection. Tortilla espangol is what I think of as Spain’s attempt at quiche… It’s egg with potatoes in it but in the shape of a quiche slice… That’s really the only way to describe it.
- Sangria! Oh my goodness sangria. I’m not a wine gal, so I was a little hesitant, but after making the plunge, there was no turning back. Not to mention it was usually cheaper than water at most places!
Fun facts:
- to make the most of our little time there, we splurged on a bike tour, which worked out perfectly. We were able to see all the city and didn’t want to chop our feet off at the end. Plus, riding bikes is fun!
-Saturday night we went to Ice BARcelona…. See what they did there? Anywayyyy, it was a little box full of ice with drinks in ice glasses, parkas and sun zero temps. And ice age was playing on the tv. Now that’s my kind of bar.
- the public transport here is GREAT we def used it the most out of the cities we visited
- they speak Catalonian, which is like Spanish, but it isn’t…

Transport: Ave high speed train from Barcelona to Madrid Sunday AM

- Okay so for sake of my spelling, it works better for me to just explain instead of name. Basically, the first day we got there we explored on our own trying to find a famous market that is only on Sundays… Well we never found it, but we found the majority of the city! We walked down Gran Via… Similar to a Times Square if there were to be one… We made our way to the squares- plaza mayor was the most notable one.
- the next day we smartened up and took a walking tour and saw everything in more detail, like the royal palace, all the squares, monuments etc
- el Prado (something I can remember and spell!!) was an art museum we went to when it was raining… It’s second to the louvre which is a pretty big deal plus free admission so we decided to check it out. Not too shabby, and shelter from the rain!
- parc el retiro: pretty pond, fountains, flowers and of course the Palacio de cristal
- thanks to a recommendation from my friend (thanks olivia!) we went to cafeteria San gines for chocolate con churos. Aka thick hot chocolate to dip churos in. It shouldn’t be legal.
- tapas at El Tigre! ( thanks Erica!) which was more like you buy a drink (sangria… Surprise surprise) and they give you complementary tapas. Probably some of the best tapas we had. And, they played high school musical two ( i swear it was a real bar) I was in heaven.
Fun facts:
- we saw the oldest restaurant in the wholeeee world
- at the plaza mayor, we heard these duck like noises coming from people… Turns out they are these little noise maker things you put in your mouth… The only thing that stopped me from buying one was my lack of Spanish bartering skills.


- Alfama, which is an area that is filled with small streets and tiny houses/ apartments, where everyone knows everyone and you need a tour guide to show you the way or you could get lost for dayzzz
- tower of Belem, basically an old defense mechanism they used back in the day. Not what you think of when someone says tower, but still very very cool!
- Monestarie of St. Jerome, which was a Monestarie and church… Absolutely incredible architecture… The stone work was so beautiful and intricate. Have I mentioned how gorgeous it was?
- St. George’s castle. We were lucky enough to have a view of this gem from our hostel and on our last day, we finally made the hike up the hill. It was gorgeous and provided us with incredible views of the city. And we had the chance to walk through the castle exterior… Bringing me back to all the magic treehouse books I read about castles. I was prepared to slay a dragon if the need arose.
- fish. Which I’m not a huge fan of, but when in Lisbon… And it was great!
- pastesis de Belem, which is a custard pastry of sorts made in this world famous pastry store… So we of course went. I’m not a big custard girl, but with a little powdered sugar and cinnamon, it was great!
- on our last night, we decided to brave a Lisbon grocery store and make our own sort of dinner with the plan to go out for dessert. So we made our own tapas for dinner, along with “homemade” sangria… All costing us 4 euros each. DEFINITELY worth making the food instead of going out.

fun facts (lots of these sorry!)
- Lisbon is known for the beautiful tiles that adorn the city. I thought maybe it would be one or two buildings but no. They are everywhere and all so unique.
- we hopped on the free walking tour game again… Something that will be done in all other cities I go to.. And it was a great way to see the city as we knew absolutely zeroooo Portuguese, except for thank you (obrigada for the girls, obrigado for the boys) our tour guide was from Lisbon and wanted to give us an authentic view of the city, none of that touristy stuff.
- the portuguese are known for being hospitable and this was definitely true. Our hostel was incredible and so well kept and for such a low price.
- we met up with my friends moms coworker and her friends that were in Lisbon traveling from the states. It was there book club annual tradition. They were sooo great and fun and full of stories from their travels. I pray there is a book club like that when I’m older.

So that’s about it for now, I’m sure I will remember more and edit it later, but that’s the scoop… Now I’m off to Ireland to visit my friends and take in my most celebrated heritage just before st patties day! So, top of the morning to ya, and until next time, au revoir!

Filed under lisbon portugal spain madrid barcelona studyabroad bentley travel

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The Good Life

Cliche, well sure, but I’m full of cliches these days. Which is why I have to say I am honestly living the good life. I’ve always been fortunate, but not to the extreme that I have felt lately. It took a couple train rides for me to get there. 

So, as you may have seen via twitter (@mdizzled) or on my facebook, my Dad came to visit me!! His visit came at a perfect time, as, while I hate to admit it, I was feeling a littttttle homesick. Don’t get me wrong, I love it here- but subpar skype sessions and failing imessaging just isn’t the same as being on the same continent as my family and friends. He arrived early Saturday morning. Now, you should know right here and now that he cheated. He cheated on the whole “American in Europe” thing because he somehow was allowed to use his iphone (3G and cell service) in France. Therefore, whenever he didn’t know where to go, what something meant or how to say something, he could just google it. For any study abroad student, you know that is so cheating! I’m not saying we are roughing it by any means, but he didn’t have to go through the process of figuring things out the old fashioned way. So he was able to get himself from the airport to  the hotel in Paris that we were staying at, which is quite the hike. There is usually some sort of public transportation and walking involved, but without a wink of french language knowledge, I was worried for his fate. He made it there in one piece, jet lagged and all. 

Rally, he said. And “rally” he did. My father refused to give into jet lag like any avid traveler, and wanted to stay up through all of Saturday. So, we started on an adventure throughout Paris, checking out the major sites. First- the Eiffel Tower. Last time I visited it was closed, so I was really looking forward to going up to the top with my Dad. However, we weren’t feeling up to it after making it to the first level via stairs, as it was absolutely freezing and there was a gigantic line up. So we continued on to L’Hotel Invalides- aka the war museum and Napoleons Tomb.The war museum consisted of some brief history behind WW1 and WW2, somewhat interesting, but not exciting enough to keep my dad from falling asleep watching one of the movies. To wake up, we decided to face the cold.  Then, we ventured over to the Champs Elysees and saw that “big arc thing” (Arc de Triomphe) and made our way back to the hotel where we proceeded to sit slash take a litttttle nap before our first french dinner. 

For dinner, we ate at La Table Lauriston, a small restaurant down the street from our hotel. To say the least, it was incredible. The highlight for me was definitely trying escargot. That’s right. You heard me correctly, SNAILS. And it wasn’t bad! Perhaps it was due to the fact that it was drenched in oil and garlic, but it wasn’t half bad and something I would definitely eat again. For my dad, he would probably say the Baba Rhum, aka a sponge cake, with whipped cream, drenched in rum. And, of course, the wine! We left full and content, yet longing for our beds. 

Sunday, we yet again ventured out into Paris with the intention of catching a 4 or 5 pm train back to Rouen, as I had class Monday morning. After filling up on  a classic french breakfast of croissants, pastries etc at the hotel, we made our way to our first stop: Montmarte. I’ve been told by several people that this area is a fan fave, but haven’t had the chance to make it up there. The most famous sites are the Sacre Couer and Moulin Rouge. For my dads visit, we just visited Sacre Couer. I shouldn’t say “just” though, as along with the incredibly gorgeous basilica, there is a beautiful view and great culture within the area- tons of shops, cafes and so much more to discover. It was the perfect way to start our day. Next, we made our way to Notre Dame, which had the bells down from the tower as a part of the celebration for the 850th anniversary of the cathedral. After a quick pit stop for my dad’s first crepe, we ventured over to the Louvre (note to self and others: never visit on a sunday. i repeat, never!) It was incredibly crowded, making it difficult to appreciate the atmosphere the Louvre has. Nonetheless, we found Mona (Lisa), Venus (de Milo) and some other friends before heading out. At this point, it was right around 4pm. Instead of going to Rouen for dinner (which would have probably been a fail, as everything is closed on sunday) we stayed in Paris and caught a later train to Rouen, making it back just in time to tuck my dad in and head back to school. 

Monday, after classes, I met my Dad in Rouen for some sightseeing….rather, sampling of French cuisine. We saw the main sites, but I was sure to make my Dad sample my favorites and the classic french items, like eclairs, choquettes, macaroons and street sandwhiches and of course KINDER chocolate. I know, it’s German, but really people, it’s incredible. Even my mom  told me she loved it over skype! That night, we went out to La Couronne which was definitely a wise move on my behalf. Not only was it the oldest inn in Rouen, but it also offered the classic french meal, including several courses and an overall (3 hour long) experience. First came the bread. Then the entree , plat principal, cheese and dessert. And, of course, for johnny boy, the wine! I can’t say that either one of us had a favorite, but the whole experience was so authentic, French, and fun!

Tuesday, we started off the day with picking up a rental car. I had warned my Dad that it was going to be manual, but I probably should have warned him of the size of European cars, the French roads, and lack of signage. Luckily, we had google maps to guide our way up to NORMANDYYYYY to visit the D-Day beaches. An hour and a half later of holding our breath and praying to the travel gods, we made it there in one piece. My dad is a huge history buff, so we checked out the Caen Memorial, which was a museum all about the events leading up to, D-Day landing/Battle of Normandy, events after. I have never learned so much in a day! And I could be making this up, or it could be an allusion, but I feel like I learned entirely different side of WWII and other events from that single museum due to the fact it was in France- something I had yet to really experience. One of my history teachers in high school used to say that history was taught to Americans from an American perspective, without taking other perspectives into account. And I couldn’t find that more true here. After reading up on the events, we decided to see it all in person and make the trek out to the beaches themselves. Short on time, we had to chose pick only one beach to visit, so we made our way to Omaha Beach. As we approached, we saw several statues, signs, memorabilia for the beach, but nothing quite compared to walking along the sand, seeing the vast distance the USA soldiers covered, and looking up at the huge hills they had to conquer. It was breathtaking, to say the least. 

Continuing our trend of seizing the day, we made one last unplanned stop: The Normandy American Cemetery. Looking back, this definitely should have been our first stop, as it closed at 5pm. We made it there just around 5:06 pm, a pinch late, just like a Dineen does. The Dineen’s that we are, we didn’t let that stop us. We walked up to the gate to find a worker there. Upon saying hello to him, I took notice to his baseball hat, which read “home of the brave” and was decorated with an American flag and eagle, and I just knew we were in good, (American) hands. My dad explained that he was leaving the next day, and after some prodding, the man let us take a quick look around.

The Cemetery was beautiful. I had never been more proud to be an American, especially in France, than I did walking on those grounds. It was an incredible feeling that I will never forget- a feeling that I know those who created it wanted  visitors to get, and to never, ever forget those who fought. 

We said goodbye to the kind man and made our way back to Rouen….which was seamless until the last 10 minutes when we had to fight our way back into the city through traffic and find a gas station…who knew they were so hard to find?! At this point, we had missed the earlier trains and settled in on the 8:59 train, which landed us back into Paris a little after 10. By the time we had dinner, we made it back to our room just in time to see the Eiffel Tower turn on the ever so magical sparkling lights at the strike of midnight from our window- a perfect ending to an exhausting, yet wonderful weekend. 

While my dad sometimes drives me crazy, it was so nice to have him here, and to show him around the life and area I’ve become accustomed to. I’m not one to get all sappy, but my dad and I have this thing with train rides. Long story short, there was one in Disney World where I got to meet Minnie Mouse etc etc, and then to finish our trip back from an incredible day in Normandy, after a 4 day weekend of father-daughter quality time with a similar train ride seemed all too perfect. 

The next day, I boarded yet another train- this time without my dad. Good Life by One Republic came on my iPod and for the first time, I really listened to the lyrics and YES it is corny but no I don’t care. Those words hit home so hard, as I have never felt so lucky to be living this life abroad. On that note, I’m off to Spain & Portugal for the week in the morning, so it’s off to bed for me. Until next time, Au Revoir! 

Filed under France normandy d-day beaches paris notre dame sacre couer montmartre study abroad travel