My blog presence recently may have led you to believe that I fell of the face of the earth…but I didn’t…I’ve just been having a great time, but I’m finally sitting down to tell you all about it! Starting with…

LONDON!!! 

Oh my gosh London, where do I even begin? I just love it so much! On March 14th I got to meet up with best friend and roommate in London! How great?! She came all the way from California and we had a blast!!! Meeting up in the airport took longer than expected with a minimal 15 mins of free wifi but we eventually found each other and headed off to the hostel….that neither one of us looked up directions for haha. So, basically we took multiple modes of transportation and asked many random Brits were to find the hostel and eventually it all worked out! But hostels..hmm…so not a fan. Just over it. By the time we had dinner and caught up it was pretty late so we walked around and saw some of the “sights” by night and headed to bed before starting a big day on Saturday. 

On Saturday we headed out early and hit all the main tourist attractions including the tower of london, tower bridge, monument, St. Paul’s cathedral, Shakespeare’s theater in the round, Buckingham Palace, and much more, shamelessly taking tourist picture after tourist picture at each sight! :P After our full day of sight-seeing we headed back to the hostel to get ready to go see LES MIS!!!! In signature Ashley fashion we were pretty late leaving the hostel and my recently broken toe wasn’t a fan of the walk we were about to endure in heels, so we decided to take one of those cute little british taxis! We got there JUST in time to scramble in and find our seats! But, WOW…words can’t even begin to describe how great it was! I love Les Mis and seeing it live in London, wow there’s nothing better!!! 

Sunday was…MY BIRTHDAY…! :) We started the day by finding this great juice bar/coffee shop for breakfast, two of my favorite things in one, it was perfect! Then afterwards we rode bikes through Hyde Park!! It was so much fun! It was such a perfect day and taking the bikes was a great way to see the city! We ended up riding for about 3 hours throughout the city and it was just fantastic…other than some traffic mishaps with the whole “driving on the left side of the rode thing” haha. Our final stop for the day was taking a picture at platform 9 3/4’s inside King’s Cross Station before returning to hostel and then on to the airport to return to Paris. 

Now let’s talk about THAT experience…Being the generally organized and on top of it girls that we are we talked to the hostel the night before and they printed us out exact directions how to get to the London Luton airport we would be flying out of. To make a long story short…the hostel gave us COMPLETELY wrong directions, we ran through a train station with all of our bags only to find we had ran on to the wrong train, then discovered they sent us to the wrong train station, then ran to another train station, had to take a train to a bus station, took a bus to the airport, and RAN into the airport. What time did we arrive at the airport? 6:05. What time did boarding close? 6:10! This was a problem. A big big problem. We made a mad dash through all the usual airport procedures, had to pay 4 pounds to cut the security line then ran to our terminal. In the process both of us lost our shoes, Emily’s shirt was halfway unbuttoned, my passport was in my mouth, and I almost stole an airport security bucket. The whole day had led up to a 3 hour period of intense stress but we thankfully made it to our terminal just in time and our flight was a very fortunate 10 minutes late! 

All in all it was a fantastic weekend! I would even say one of the best of my life! It was so great to be able to finally meet up with my best friend and explore London together! Since it was my second time there, I got to show her around and revisit some of my favorite places, while also exploring new ones. Definitely a birthday weekend to remember. :) 

On Friday night, after a long day of midterms and presentations, we embarked on a journey to IRELAND! Wow was it great!!! Definitely my favorite place I’ve been to so far this semester! It took quite a long time to get to our hostel in Dublin (45 mins on Metro, 1 hr 15 mins on bus, 2 hours sitting in the airport, 1 hour 45 min flight, another hour on bus, and a 30 min walk) so we got in and went straight to sleep at 2:30 am. However, our sleep was more like a short nap because we had to wake up at 5 to catch our bus tour!

Saturday was just fantastic! We took a bus tour leaving from Dublin dark and early that went to the cliffs of Moher on the west coast of Ireland. We crossed the entire width of the country in one day! The tour was really great because we got to stop in a lot of places on the way to and from the cliffs and see the Irish countryside and farms and tiny villages. But the cliffs…WOW…so incredible! We spent 90 minutes there walking and hiking around and taking pictures, but of course the pictures don’t do it justice. They are so huge and beautiful and just great!! Our tour guide also took us to the mini cliffs at the Burren, and there we could walk right out to the edge of the cliffs, which was actually quite terrifying for me and my fear of heights combined with the crazy amount of wind, but the pictures are worth it. :)

We got back to Dublin at 7:30 pm and headed back to the hostel to run a hairbrush through our hair that had experienced 24 mph winds all day before going out for the night. We discovered a delicious and trendy BBQ place and were so committed to eating there we waited 45 minutes to get a table, which is actually quite unusual for Europe! After that we spent the night going to various different pubs listening to live music! This was so fun! The Irish people love their live music and the performers were all REALLY good!

Sunday morning we treated ourselves to an Irish breakfast then went on a tour of the Guinness storehouse, which was surprisingly interesting and educational! After that we took a quick peek at Trinity College and walked around Grafton street and did some shopping in cute little Irish shops before dinner. We found the BEST place to get dinner!!! It was a pub near the river and the temple bar district called the Porterhouse. It was so adorable! We had a table underneath the stairs right next to the stage where a traditional Irish band was performing! How great…sitting in a pub in Ireland, eating fish and chips, hanging out with good friends, and listening to an Irish band! That night we also went to the pub where they filmed the movie P.S. I Love You!!!

Monday we checked out of the hostel then had breakfast at the cutest little mom and pop coffee shop, it was sooo yummy! :) We spent the rest of the day seeing the Dublin castle, sitting on a bench in the sun at St. Stephen’s Green park, and soaking up our last moments in this amazing country before hoping back on the bus to the airport.

Ireland is beautiful, amazing, funny, cute, and I will most definitely be back some day! <3

Today we embarked on the adventure of finding/following Paris Fashion Week…I learned a few things and here they are:
1. Clearly I know nothing about “fashion”. 
2. No matter how good of a pep talk you give yourself before you get there, you will chicken out and not “just walk in and say you’re from a magazine”! 
3. I’m pretty sure at least half of the paparazzi don&#8217;t even know who’s “famous.” They just take pictures of the people in the crazy weird clothes.
4. If I had worn a ridiculously strange outfit instead of opting for the traditional parisian black, I might very well have been photographed by said paparazzi. 
5. Deciding to shove my still swollen and recovering foot into a pair of heels may have been the worst decision I have made this week. or this month. not sure which. 
6. When you end up not getting in to any of the shows, you decide that taking ridiculous pictures of you and your friends is a far better idea. Until you get home and realize how completely strange your face looks in all of them and have to cut your face out of your own photos from the day to save yourself the embarrassment. 

Today we embarked on the adventure of finding/following Paris Fashion Week…I learned a few things and here they are:

1. Clearly I know nothing about “fashion”. 

2. No matter how good of a pep talk you give yourself before you get there, you will chicken out and not “just walk in and say you’re from a magazine”! 

3. I’m pretty sure at least half of the paparazzi don’t even know who’s “famous.” They just take pictures of the people in the crazy weird clothes.

4. If I had worn a ridiculously strange outfit instead of opting for the traditional parisian black, I might very well have been photographed by said paparazzi. 

5. Deciding to shove my still swollen and recovering foot into a pair of heels may have been the worst decision I have made this week. or this month. not sure which. 

6. When you end up not getting in to any of the shows, you decide that taking ridiculous pictures of you and your friends is a far better idea. Until you get home and realize how completely strange your face looks in all of them and have to cut your face out of your own photos from the day to save yourself the embarrassment. 

A lot of people have been asking for an update on my foot situation so here it is. :) My broken toe is healing slowly but surely but the rest of my foot seems to be getting worse. It is super swollen and bruised. I think I may have damaged something else due to all the walking and trying to avoid putting pressure on the broken part. ISA is making me an appointment for this next week to get it x-rayed so I will find out then exactly what is wrong. This has definitely been the hardest part of this whole experience for me. There are so many things I want to do and places I want to explore in Paris but for right now I have been spending WAY too much time in my apartment or at school. It is so hard to do things and be independent when I can barely walk and the things I have seen and done have been in a lot of pain. I have also been getting some really bad migraines so this weekend has so far been devoted to staying inside resting my foot, getting rid of a migraine, and catching up on some homework. I’m trying to be patient and stay positive but it’s really difficult when I feel like my time here is so short and there are so many things I want to do. 

I’m Coming Home!

Finally booked my flight to come home! I’ll be back in America on May 17th at 7:15 pm! It’s so crazy to think I have already been here for almost a month!!! I have 91 days and 20 hours left in Europe!! So excited to see all the adventures I can have in the next 3 months, but excited to come home to family and friends and tell them all about it too! :)

I love you Wilma Bryan!

Today the world has lost an amazing woman, my great grandma Wilma Bryan. After over 100 years she went home to heaven this morning to be with our Savior for eternity. While I am sad and will miss her so much, I am resting in the peace of God which surpasses all understanding. How amazing that she gets to hear The Lord say “Well done my good and faithful servant.”
Today more than any other day I have realized just how far away I am from home. It’s hard to be away from my family especially during this time but I am also learning that God is the God of all nations and is with me wherever I may be in the world! I am so thankful for all the years I got to spend with her and for what an amazing example she was to me throughout my life!

Bloggin bout Belgium!

Yay! First international trip of the semester successfully accomplished! We just got back to our apartment from our weekend trip to Brussels, Belgium and had a blast! I still just can’t get over how easy it is to travel all over Europe!!! Haha well relatively easy….we had a few complications on the way there but made it just on time!!!

On Fridays I have class until 5:30, which means I don’t get home until around 6:15 so we purchased our bus tickets for 8:00pm. Maggie and I were pretty last minute on the packing in typical Ashley fashion haha but got out the door right on time! However…..the metro broke down on our way to the bus station and we had to get out and find a taxi! Of course the neighborhood where we got out of the metro had ZERO taxis and we walked for a good amount of time before we found one! Once we finally got one, there were some major communication struggles with my lack of French knowledge and after one failed attempt we ended up at the right location and met up with our friends just in time to board the bus! Whew!

We spent most of the weekend walking around the city and seeing the major attractions, while making it a point to try ALL of the famous food and drinks Brussels has to offer. I’m still so full from all the food we ate…mainly the deliciously delectable waffles, yum! Their main tourist photo spot is the “Mannequin Pis” statue of a little boy peeing. I don’t really understand the significance and thought it was pretty strange, but of course we went and saw it! And the statue itself is so so tiny!

Brussels is a really fun quirky old city and actually rather small. On Saturday we covered a really large portion of the city and never used public transit. It’s really fun to just walk around and explore without too much structure. We stumbled upon a lot of really cute areas and even established some “regular” spots we frequented. In 2 days we went to the same coffee shop 3 times, a restaurant twice, a chocolate shop twice, a waffle shop twice, and the Grand Place about 10 times! I loved the Grand Place! It’s essentially the center of the city and has amazing buildings all around the square. We went into a museum today and discovered that the buildings were built in the 1400’s!! We first discovered this area during the day and thought it was great, but went back at night and it was even better!

I seriously just feel so blessed to be seeing so much of the world and experiencing all these new places, people, and cultures. Speaking of…the language was really interesting in Belgium! Dutch and French are the most common languages for the country but we basically spoke English the entire time because almost everyone we came in contact with knew English and was willing to speak it. This is definitely a big difference from Paris where it’s all French all the time, unless you are just making a fool out of yourself in which case they will begrudgingly speak to you in English.

All in all it was a really fun weekend spent with friends exploring a new city and I couldn’t be more delighted. I’m also happy the hostel all worked out since I was the one in charge of organizing it for all five of us! First hostel experience, check! Can’t wait for all the new places we will see and explore in the coming months!

Doing homework at home is hard. Doing homework in PARIS is ridiculous. However, I did sign up for this whole STUDY abroad thing…. soooo bummer! Not such a fan of the studying part….like at all…yeah….ok back to the Econ homework…

Appreciation!

If there’s one thing I’ve learned while abroad, it’s appreciation. Not that this is something I never knew before, but leaving home and starting life in another country can really teach you so much in a short amount of time. Not only have I learned to appreciate all the beauty, monuments, sightseeing, culture, French quirks, and views in this city, I have learned to appreciate things at home as well. I think far too often we fantasize about other cultures and traveling the world to the point that we hold their culture higher in our minds than our own, or find it so intriguing and interesting, that we fail to realize what it is we have at home that’s so amazing (at least this was the case with me). In the last two weeks since I’ve arrived, I have already experienced so much, but I have constantly been reminded of the many blessings I have at home as well.

I miss playing with my puppies. I miss coaching 7 of the most beautiful high school cheerleaders I have ever seen. I miss hearing them laugh, and watching them grow as a team and as individuals. I miss fighting with Parker for my spot on the coach and listening to his crazy stories. I miss Dawson and all his continuous 501 films shenanigans. I miss talking with my roomie and doing almost everything together. I miss my twousin and the way I can relate with her more than anyone I’ve ever met. I miss my family and all of our parties and adventures. I miss nekter and juice it up and banzaii bowl….well actually just healthy food in general. I miss driving and singing in my car. I miss Huntington Beach…NOT Riverside. I miss cooking with my aunt. I miss watching countless episodes of the Dick Van Dyke show and I miss working out.

It’s crazy how much more appreciative you are of things when you don’t have them anymore…or at least won’t have them for a while. I guess the old saying is true, “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.” But, I have also come to appreciate so many things about Paris. I love crêpes and fresh bread. I love that some of the most beautiful spots in the world are only a metro ride away. I love that I can travel the world on my weekends. I love the pace of life and the French peoples’ ability to slow down and enjoy moments with each other. I love the glistening of the Eiffel tower. I love the architecture of the buildings in the city center. I love the winding streets with shops and cafes around Notre Dame and Saint Michel and I love that I live in the city of lights if even for a short while.

Traveling can teach you a lot about the world, but I think it may teach you more about yourself. Having new experiences, seeing new places, and doing new things all over the world can really change and shift your perspectives and give you a newfound love for the things all around you. I love home and all my family and friends and miss them a lot, but I also love Paris and know I will be sad to leave. But, for know I’m just excited to spend the next 3 ½ months exploring the city and the world around me and discovering more of the beautiful world and people God created.

Here I am back on the train heading to Paris after a lovely weekend in Bordeaux! I’m so glad I was able to spend the weekend with Camille and her family and friends! I got to Bordeaux on Friday night around 12:45 am (so technically Saturday) and Camille and her friend Marie picked me up from the train station and took me to her house in Merignac (a suburb of Bordeaux). The plan was to go to bed right away then wake up the next morning and have an early start….hahaha…yeah well obviously if you know me that didn’t actually happen!

I think we woke up around 11! Haha well anyway we ate a small breakfast then lounged around a bit and had a big lunch with her family! It was delicious! Seriously I was so excited to be eating with a French family because that means lots of good food! For the last 2 weeks in Paris I haven’t been eating a lot and when I do its just sandwiches or a baguette or something because food is SO EXPENSIVE in Paris!! Now I know why the Parisians are all so skinny…their food is too expensive! I’ve already lost weight since I’ve been here! Even the grocery store by our apartment far from the centre of the city is pretty expensive. So yes, haha so glad to eat with a French family. Each meal begins with some bread and pate, then the main course usually consisting of some kind of meat and vegetables, then after some cheese, and after that some dessert! YUM!

Eventually we got around to showering and getting ready for the day and headed out on Camille’s scooter. We went to the city of Bordeaux and did a little bit of shopping before meeting up with her friends for the night! They took me to a few really fun places and it was cool to see what exactly the French people do and where they go versus the typical touristy things my friends and I have been up to in Paris.

On Sunday we slept in even later and woke up around 2pm hahaha….I guess my first week of school really wiped me out!! We again had a big lunch with her family that was absolutely delicious and was followed by crêpes…can’t get any better than that! Afterward, Camille was my official “tour guide” of Bordeaux and we went around to all of the touristy places so I could take pictures and see all the famous buildings and such of Bordeaux. It was actually super fun because I got to take videos and pictures while riding around the city on her scooter. This was also great for my foot because I mostly rode the scooter all weekend instead of the immense amount of walking in Paris, so I think that helped with the healing. Hahaha and after I finished taking all my touristy pictures I essentially went on a food tour of Bordeaux. Camille took me to a chocolate place where we got macarons and chocolate and then we went to a coffee shop that is known for having the best muffins in Bordeaux so of course I ate one, and then we stopped at a little place outside where I tried some other delicious French thing I can’t remember the name of! Later we went to her friend’s house and had some more crêpes…I think it was some sort of holiday or something where people normally make crêpes haha but I’m not sure. SO MUCH FOOD! But so good haha!

Today Camille was supposed to go to school but she ditched so that we could hang out some more before I had to go back! We went to the cutest little restaurant today in the city and I LOVED IT! It’s a small “mom and pop” restaurant and the husband and wife are the only ones working. They make all the meals themselves from their own recipes and apparently the menu changes often based on what they want to serve that day. I had something that was essentially some thick pieces of toast with pesto, tomatoes, mozzarella, and some sort of paste made from olives served on top of a salad with crème fraiche and parmesan cheese. Yummy yummy yummy! Then we shared what might possibly be the best chocolate cake I have had in my entire life!!!! Oh j’adore!!!! We finished up the day by visiting some of her friends at their apartment and then Camille and her dad took me to the train station.

I suppose I could sum up this entire post by saying that basically I ate all weekend in a city in the south of France haha! However, I want to mention really quickly something interesting about France that I’m not sure a lot of people know. Almost all students in France have to learn English and by the time they are my age they have been taking it for around 10 years! However, only 2 of Camille’s friends ever speak to me in English! They really don’t like to speak it and it’s practically like pulling teeth to make them have a conversation with me! I think this has been my biggest challenge since I have been in France but especially this weekend. I love to talk and get to know people but a language barrier is a really hard obstacle to overcome. I know a little bit of French and am in a class right now in Paris so hopefully I’ll be learning a lot more but it is really difficult when you can’t converse with people. For a lot of this weekend I just sat and listened to people speak in French and tried to pick up as much as I could but it’s really difficult and really exhausting! However, I definitely think I learned some new things and could sometimes follow the conversations. I wish I knew more so that I could meet more locals in Paris, but it is really difficult and although they know English they still won’t speak to me. Hopefully by the end of the semester I will know a lot more!

Anyway, it was a great weekend in Bordeaux but I’m excited to return home to Paris also! I’m starting to feel more at home there and there is that comfortable “homey” feeling to our apartment now that we’ve been there for a while. Now for another week of school and then a weekend in Brussels with my study abroad friends, hooray!!!

Traveling, Traveling, and Traveling Some More!

I am currently on the high speed train from Paris Montparnasse to Bordeaux to visit Camille and I am so excited!!! I am so blessed to have friends all over the world and be able to visit them and travel to new places! Since I’ll be on here for a few hours I thought I’d catch up on some blogging. By the way this high speed train really is HIGH SPEED, it’s crazy!!!
In my last post I talked about some of my struggles with adjusting to life here and being sick. I think it’s just one of the phases of culture shock that hit me all of a sudden! I am feeling better now and am really happy to be here! I’m sure there will be other times where I have new things to adjust to but I think it’s just all a part of the experience.
Yesterday I woke up and ran some errands around Paris and visited the ISA office across from Notre Dame then got a Nutella crêpe and walked around for a bit then headed to class. Exploring little bits and pieces of Paris each day and discovering new things is one of my favorite things about being here!
So now to the main point of this post haha….it is so incredibly amazing to be able to travel all over the world while I’m here. I have formed a pretty great group of friends and last night we began to plan some trips out of the country together! Next weekend we are planning to go to Brussels, Belgium late on Friday night and return Sunday night. We are taking a bus so that will be an interesting experience haha! We found a lot of things to do while we’re there so I think it will be a lot of fun! We also have tentative plans for a holiday weekend to Dublin, Ireland and then Spring break in Italy, Croatia, and Greece!!!! Then I am going to London for my birthday and meeting Emily there after months of not seeing her and she is coming back to Paris with me after, and eventually I want to make it to Germany to visit Sol! Ahh it’s seriously just the coolest thing ever! I’m so excited for all the adventures that await me and for all the amazing places I will get to see and experience with friends who share a mutual love for travel!
To anyone thinking about studying abroad….JUST GO! It is a once in a lifetime experience and SO worth it!! Even though I’ve had a lot of difficulties since I’ve gotten here I would do it 100 times over and recommend it to anyone!

P.S. Yesterday Maggie and I were really lame and went to an American diner in Paris called “Breakfast in America”, but you would be surprised how the random cravings for American food can hit you all of a sudden haha. Plus it was nice to be relaxed and be able to speak in English with waitresses from America!!

Hmm…

I am beginning to have my first waves of I don’t like France culture shock. I am having fun of course but I have been really sick for the past couple days…I fainted and haven’t been able to keep any food down. Maybe my body is just trying to get used to everything here…idk. But being sick and not eating and having to go to these 3 hour classes while navigating through the city is making me miss California.

I think my apartment is also contributing to my frustrations here. Our apartment itself is small (which is the norm in Paris) but it is also really far away from everything. Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements or districts that start with 1 in the center then move out in a snail shape towards 20. We are in the 20th…so it takes a good amount of time to get anywhere which really shortens the amount of things I’ve been able to do and see so far. It takes at least 45 mins to get to any of the places I want to go then another 45-an hour to get home. Not only that but our neighborhood isn’t the greatest…there is nothing to do here and we don’t really have shops or cafés to go to. We live 2 metro stops from the edge of the city. I’m not sure why my roommate and I got put so far out of the city center because a lot of other people in our study abroad program live in way nicer areas of town and have shorter commutes but we’re all praying the same price. Also, I really want to wash my clothes but the directions for our washing machine are in 6 different languages…none of which are English or French and it’s all filled with water right now! But, oh well! I still get to live in Paris for 4 months which I am thrilled about! :)

Anyway…kind of a downer post but just wanted to share some of the difficulties study abroad can pose. I’ve always heard that when you’re feeling culture shock or homesick you need to get out and do more things which is perfect because this weekend I am traveling to Bordeaux, France to stay with one of my French friends at her house with her family which will be fun because I haven’t seen her in almost 2 years! I’m also hoping that getting a change of scenery and pace will help things and that I will get over this sickness quickly!