A Second Home

And it’s finally come to a close. I am currently on my couch in my French home with my French family, sitting with my French dog and listening to the French sitcom blaring in the background. In just 24 hours, I will be sitting in my American home with my American family, my American dog curled up in my lap and an American TV show playing (or, knowing my family, an American game show).

It’s a bit surreal.

It hasn’t quite processed that I’ll be leaving this beautiful country tomorrow, but the truth is that my father and I booked me a flight for Thursday, June 27 at 8:45 a.m. (dad, if you’re reading this, I’m just wondering why we decided a flight that early in the morning was a good idea?) from Paris to Amsterdam to Atlanta. And though that truth hasn’t really hit me in the face yet, I’m sure it will when I’m checking my bag onto the Delta flight and waving goodbye to my family here.

ACP Picnic

Paris has become more than just a breathtaking city to me over these last six months: it’s become my home. I can wind through the streets of Montmartre without getting lost and find my favorite restaurant where the workers recognize me as a regular (36 Rue Lamarck—yes, I did just type that without pulling out my Paris address book), I can go into the Louvre more than once because I want to see that particular painting in the French section on the third floor, I can walk down the hidden street next to St. Michel and say hello to my favorite atelier in the city. I’ve gone from staring at my Paris map to learning the metro map by heart and from confusion on the bus in the suburbs to blending in as one of the locals.

And as I’ve gotten to know Paris, I’ve learned so much about myself. I’ve traveled alone and with people and discovered what I like and don’t like about both methods of travel. I’ve spent time with people from all around the world and learned so much more than I ever could have if I stayed in Atlanta for the semester. I’ve grown so much through this experience that I can say, without a doubt, that it will stay with me forever.

A few “merci”‘s for the people who have made this semester an enormous success:

Thank you, UVSQ friends, for the laughs, the nights out, and the wonderful times we had together. I couldn’t have dreamed up a more interesting, wonderful, and diverse group of friends. We are now scattered all around the world, but I’m already looking forward to a future reunion in Paris!

Toga Party success!

The Brits 😉

American Church in Paris…what would I have done without you and your incredible people? I walked into that church and it immediately felt like home. And ACP Youth: I have never felt so comfortable in a Young Adult group in my life. I will miss you all so much more than I can say.

To my best friends (you know who you are!), thank you for listening to my story, making me laugh way too much, and being my family. I can’t thank you enough for your love. We’ve all shared something together that we will never forget, and that’s something really special.

Gonna miss this one!
My favs xo
“Older brother,” and, more appropriately, best friend. Xo
Beautiful Cris!
The best people around!
Me and Bails being crazy in the Tuileries
Rubs ❀
My favorite Italian!
❀ Sorry we look so pale, Bails! Bad lighting…
❀ ❀

To my French family—I would have been lost without you. Thank you for your hospitality, for taking care of me, and for treating me like a part of the family. In turn, I have certainly become part of the family.

Lil’ French bro

+ French mom

And to my family back home—all of you, from Atlanta to Tennessee to Alabama—thank you for your love, your prayers, and your kind thoughts. Though I have been far away for awhile, you have never been far from my heart.

Love from Paris (and soon—Atlanta)!

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Seventeen days, six countries

When June rolled around and classes had officially ended, I carefully packed my RyanAir-approved suitcase and left Paris for one final adventure before heading back to the United States: a 2 1/2-week voyage that led me to Berlin, Munich, Linz, Prague, Krakow, Donegal, Galway, and London. Being me, I printed off every train, bus, and airline ticket, wrote down addresses, and printed out maps (all put in a folder in the order of my travels, of course). Everything was ready to go, and I was ready to see a part of Europe I had never seen before.

In Berlin, I couchsurfed with a wonderful woman named Kaja, who provided me with a comfortable couch, good conversation, and wonderful tips about her very historically-rich, lively city. After day one, I was hooked. There’s a unexplainable energy in Berlin, which is most likely why young people flock there. My guide on my Free Tour (an American from St. Louis!) was one of those people who stayed here for a short amount of time and extended it into a long-term stay. And I totally understand why. I was captivated by its history, charmed by its quirky and friendly people, and amazed by its willingness to overcome a painful past and become even stronger from it.

Gorgeous canal

Waterfall in Victoria Park

Berlin will absolutely be one of the cities I return to in the future—I have always been fond of large cities (Paris, New York, Rome, London), and Berlin did not let me down. I’m already excited to go back.

Holocaust Memorial

War Memorial

Dome

After I left Berlin, I prepared myself for a very long train ride—11 hours—to Linz. I had two train changes, and after I got off the first train and onto the second, the conductor informed me that the final leg of my trip—Munich to Linz—was cancelled because of the recent flooding in Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic. But I wasn’t stranded—quite the contrary, actually. I had just made friends with a Mexican girl who was studying in Munich, and, after hearing my train was cancelled, offered her couch in her apartment for the evening. I gratefully accepted, and she showed me around her city that evening. I couldn’t have asked for a better detour—I got a glimpse of a city I thought I would have to pass through and made a beautiful new friend at the same time.

A night tour of Munich

Glockenspiel and New Town Hall
I made it to Linz the next morning to see my dear friend from high school and his friends he was studying with in Austria. This was probably the most relaxing leg of my trip—the weather was perfect, Austria was gorgeous, and the company was wonderful. I loved spending time in Linz, and I loved even more that I was visiting friends while I was there. 
Main square

Pretty ladies!

Thankful for this guy!

From Linz, it was easy to take a rather quick bus to Prague, where I expected to be spending an evening and a day exploring alone. I spent the first night walking around the river and seeing Charles Bridge and Old Town Square, two of the most popular tourist destinations in the city. I was quite captivated by the beauty of Prague—it is a truly picturesque place. Unfortunately, though, I arrived in the small city just after major flooding, so it was a bit empty, which made the atmosphere a bit sad. I was lucky to make friends with an American guy in my hostel, and we wandered around a bit, but the weather was poor and I found myself lacking for things to hold my interest. It was strange, especially after such wonderful experiences in Germany and Austria. 
Astronomical clock

Charles Bridge and Prague Castle

Despite this slightly disappointing trip to Prague, I was still impressed by the city and would love to return—but, next time, with friends or family and perhaps a better idea of what to do while there.

On Charles Bridge: for good luck and a return to Prague

Prague to Krakow included French practice with a Swiss guy on my overnight train, actually successfully falling asleep on an overnight train (a rarity! For those traveling in Europe by train, get a couchette when you travel overnight—you have a much higher chance of actually sleeping than a regular seat), and a joyous greeting by my beautiful Polish friend as I got off the train. Krakow itself was a very cool place to be—filled with wonderful people, delicious food, and interesting architecture. Aneta, my dear friend and tour guide by default, introduced me to Poland’s best food, beer, and people (her lovely roommates!), and I had a wonderful time with her.

Poland’s most important bell

Pierogi!

Aneta ❀

A very cool bar in the Jewish quarter

My second day in Krakow, I got up early and grabbed a bus to Auschwitz, the most famous concentration camp in the world. The Holocaust has always been something that has both fascinated and horrified me, and my trip to the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C. was my first taste of the reality of this terrible moment in World History. I have always wanted to visit Auschwitz, but when I arrived, I found that it was something I could have never fully prepared myself for.

“Work brings freedom”

Wall of Death

The almost 4-hour long tour started with a museum-type display in the barracks of Auschwitz I. I found as the tour went on that we were very much eased into the reality: posters and documents came first, the guide explaining where prisoners came from in Europe and how they were transfered to Auschwitz. Then we saw the belongings of prisoners: suitcases, glasses, shoes, pots and pans, even an entire room filled with hair. Still, though, we were in a museum setting. It was starting to feel more real, but almost surreal. After seeing the Wall of Death, the location where the Nazis killed prisoners in a line, I started to really feel where I was. And as I stood inside the smallest gas chamber of the Auschwitz complex, I imagined groups of people expecting a shower, only to receive a cleansing of deadly gas. It was quite an emotional moment.

Gas Chamber #1 in Auschwitz I

Auschwitz II-Birkenau

Birkenau is the camp in all the photos we see in textbooks and museums, and I recognized its barracks, train tracks, train platforms, and entrance right when we arrived. Birkenau was the most difficult part of the tour by far because the camp was kept entirely in its original state. I saw the remains of the gas chambers that the Nazis destroyed to attempt to cover their tracks; the living conditions of men, women, and children who were brought to the camp; and the train platform where people where divided into those who would live and those who would die. Needless to say, I was quite affected by the end of the day. I was so thankful for Iori and Mehek, my two new friends, because that would have been quite difficult to conquer alone. I am glad I went to Auschwitz, because it was something I think everyone should see and experience, but I cannot say that it was an easy trip.

Living conditions in Birkenau

It was unfortunate that I left Krakow after a day as solemn as that, but I was looking forward to spending 5 days in Ireland visiting one of my favorite people. I hopped on a plane, met up with a friend in Belfast for a quick dinner, and got on a bus to head a bit further south to Donegal. 

Patrick and I at Horn Head

And, boy, was Ireland gorgeous. My wonderful friend Ruby lives in a very small town in a beautiful part of Southern Ireland—Donegal, which is quite close to the border of Northern Ireland. Her mother was sweet enough to give us tours of Glenveagh National Park, the Glebe House, Horn Head, and Rathmullan’s gorgeous beach. Patrick and I spent time reading and watching too many movies while Ruby worked, and we even visited her at her lovely restaurant a couple nights. I felt so at home in this gorgeous country—everyone was so sweet, and I couldn’t get enough of those killer views.

Rathmullan’s beach
We headed off to Galway for a couple days, which was just wonderful. Charming streets, a gorgeous river, and street music on every corner welcomed us to one of the nicest towns I’ve been to in a while. Rubs, I hope you’re reading this, because you’re the only one who will understand when I say how much I miss Germ. 

Galway!

River cruise in Galway

It was not easy saying goodbye to Ruby and Patrick, but on Wednesday I braved my RyanAir flight and headed to London. I was thrilled to see Alex and spend the evening walking down the Thames and chatting with one of my best friends. It was fantastic to spend time in London again, especially with someone who knew it better than me, and I was happy to have the opportunity to get my tourist photo with Tower Bridge. 😉
Londonnn

Tower of London 
Alex!

Being a tourist in his own city

And then it ended. I got on the MegaBus the next morning, struggling to say goodbye to this wonderful guy, and headed back to Paris for my last week in Europe. It’s amazing how quickly those 17 days went by, but I knew they would fly away. And in the process, I learned more about myself than I expected to. I love spending time by myself, but I’m not the hugest fan of traveling alone. I want to share new places with my favorite people. I really hate airplanes, buses are survivable, and trains are wonderful. I adore big cities filled with noise and people, but I really enjoy a small, quiet town with a gorgeous backdrop. I don’t like hostels very much, but I love couchsurfing. I like spending lots of time in one place rather than jumping from one city to another every two days—that gives you time to get to know the locals and the city and really form an opinion about that place. 

One thing was confirmed that I absolutely knew before—I am so in love with traveling.

For more photos, visit my Facebook.
To follow my travels and adventures at home in Atlanta, see my Twitter and Instagram.

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Momma in Paris

Why, yes, my mother flew across the ocean and visited me in Paris! I was thrilled to have my mom see my city and spend time in Europe for the first time in several years. I planned out an itinerary, waited for her arrival (which, thanks to the buddy pass, was delayed four times), and we set out on the town as soon as she flew in.

Versailles!

Mom and I enjoying the gardens 

On top of the Eiffel Tower

Meeting my best friends 🙂

Of course, it was impossible to do and see everything in four days, so I tried to pick the things that were the most important for someone who had never seen Paris before, and the things that would be most important to her. We spent all day Monday in Versailles gardens, since it was the most beautiful day, and she was so thrilled. I knew, after seeing le hameau de Marie Antoinette the last time I walked through the gardens with Johnathon, Laura, and Nicole, that my mother needed to spend serious time there. And it was so worth it. Like me, she is ravished with the simplest of things, and it was breathtaking for her to just sit in the gardens and watch the otters and baby ducks run around in the pond.

Enjoying really expensive coffee (but so worth it!)

God absolutely orchestrated this trip for my mom. Though 5 days wasn’t really enough for her to see Paris completely, she got a really good taste, and, what’s more, she was able to spend a few evenings eating with my host family, which was probably the best parts of the trip. As I translated back and forth,—English to French, French to English, repeat—my mom got to know the people I spend all my time with here in Paris and got to eat some of the best French cuisine she could have possibly tried. She soaked up every moment, even when there was too much French to understand and I couldn’t translate fast enough, and she raved afterwards about how wonderful they were. Those evenings reminded me why I’ll be missing Paris so much—though the gorgeous city has captivated me, it’s the people here that I hold the most dear.

After a full week of sightseeing—the Eiffel, Notre Dame, Saint Sulpice, Montmartre, the Louvre, the best gardens in Paris—we were exhausted. But it was hands-down one of the best weeks I’ve had in Paris this entire semester, because I shared my favorite city with one of my absolute favorite people. And now, when I look back on my first experience living in Paris, I’ll also include my mom; I’ll be able to call her and say things like “remember when we walked around Montmartre together and ate delicious food at my favorite restaurant?” And that’s a precious, precious thing.

Tennis together!

First macarons!
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Minding the gap

A weekend in London: though brief, I couldn’t have asked for a better two and a half days. The shock of signs and shop labels written entirely in English wore off quickly as I soon became accustomed to speaking my native language and exploring a city I had long wanted to visit. I stayed with my beautiful, dear friend Lucy, who graciously toured me around and introduced me to all her fantastic friends.

Happy Literature major with the Globe
Inside of the Globe (Credit: Alessandra Scarcia)

During the performance  
St. Paul’s
St. Paul’s from the end of the Millenium Bridge

Buckingham during the Changing of the Guards

Me + Westminster

Westminister Abbey
Just one of my many shots from Poet’s Corner in Westminister

❀

This girl ❀

I think what I loved most about London was its energy; the city itself is not that magnificent. Next to Paris, it’s quite unattractive (no offense, London. I don’t mean it as an insult). But the atmosphere, the monuments, and the energy were all irresistible. I found myself absolutely enamored with Westminister Abbey (freaking out slightly too much as my audio guide announced my arrival into Poet’s Corner: the best writers in the world are buried in Westminister), Houses of Parliament, St. Paul’s, and the gems inside Tate Modern. And don’t even get me started on Shakespeare’s Globe…when I bought my ticket for an afternoon showing of The Tempest the morning of, I walked around outside, marveling at the outside structure. When 2 p.m. rolled along (well, 2:15 p.m…I was slightly late since I didn’t take into account the long distance I had to walk between Big Ben and Shakespeare’s Globe), I entered the theater with a massive grin. And throughout the excessively spectacular performance, I couldn’t stop smiling and reveling in the fact that I was spending my afternoon at the Globe. 

Being Tourist-y

High Tea

And though I might dare to say that was the best highlight of my trip, it certainly wasn’t the only one. Saturday consisted of Camden and Portobello Markets, Kensington Gardens and Castle, Nando’s (with a spotting of David Beckham’s son), Harrods, High Tea (I am currently imagining the delicious taste of the clotted cream and scones as I type), and Once: The Musical at the Phoenix Theatre in West End (with my best friend, who was in town for a little over a week). A packed and very very happy day.

Stage of Once: The Musical before the show started (Credit: Alessandra)
Intermission with my bestest friend
Hanging out with our favorite actor at the stage door! (Credit: Alessandra)

London is definitely a place where I would love to spend some serious time, exploring and getting to know the city. It impressed me much more than I thought it would, and I already can’t wait to return.

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A week down south

I have a friend, Lorena, who I met years and years ago at a performance of Legally Blonde at the Fox. She’s from Toulouse, and when I spent some time in Italy a couple years ago, she invited me to come visit her. Unfortunately, it was a bit tricky, so I waited until this year. Our school vacations worked out perfectly, and what a wonderful visit to the south of France!
Capitole

Though the weather wasn’t exactly any better than Paris (I believe I picked a bad week, because it’s normally significantly warmer in the south), but the company was good and I really enjoyed experiencing a city that was much smaller than Paris, much more “human sized,” as my friend Lorena called it, and much more personal. 

I was so happy to be able to meet Lorena’s family and friends and spend the week with them. It’s amazing to me how we were brought back together to spend a week exploring her city and spending time with good people. Four years ago, I would have never guessed that we would have been reunited in Toulouse, catching up on years worth of life stories and making memories for years to come.

St. Sernin

And it makes me realize—I have made friends here that live across the world (literally) from me, who I love dearly and enjoy spending time with. I have no idea when I will see them again after I leave here, and though I expect to see them again eventually, no one knows what the future holds. 

My favorite church in Toulouse by far—Jacobins

When I think about how I will be leaving Paris in a month and a half, tears surely rolling down my cheeks, a chapter in my life will have ended, but so many new doors will have already be opened. New friends all around the world in addition to new opportunities at home and even back here in Europe. I’m not sure anymore of my exact plan after graduation, but I know that God has something good up his sleeve.

Whether it be grad school, traveling, teaching, or working, I know God will put me where He wants me to be. And as the change comes, I trust more and more in Him so that I am confident in the fact that His change is what’s best for me. 

St. Aubin

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. —Jeremiah 29:11

Enjoying the beautiful day by the river

  

Lorena!
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Snapshots of Bliss

Being able to accurately describe how wonderful the last couple weeks have been would be a daunting task. I have ventured to Bretagne and Normandie with people that I can call my family; spent time laying out in the park, catching up with friends under the new Spring sun; and ran around Paris with my favorite people in the whole city. I’ve finished a French novel, almost finished another one, and am starting yet another. I got fined for having the wrong ticket on the metro but was cheered up by a movie day with a good friend and cheerful, joking French men working at the office where I payed the fine. I went to my favorite restaurant for the fifth time and Pompidou for the fourth, sat in awe of Sainte Chapelle for the second, and bought something at the Zara on Champs-ElysĂ©es for the first.

Mont St. Michel in the rain

Adventuring in the abbey of Mont St. Michel
American Cemetery in Normandy

Chloé and I at Normandy Beach
Honfleur

Étretat

Étretat

The photographer hard at work

That sky!
Toga Party!

Bailey ❀

My city in the Spring

Cris 🙂

Some lovely people exploring a beautiful church

Sainte Chapelle

Some of my favorite boys

And more of my favorites 

This is what happens when Nick has control of the camera

And the best part of it all? Springtime is here in Paris, and leaves are starting to emerge on those trees that have been dead for four months. We’re all shedding our jackets for light sweaters and trading our boots for sandals. The fashion of all-black attire is changing into bright colors. Everyone is happier and everything feels newer. 
And I couldn’t be more blessed with beautiful friends, a gorgeous city, and a lot of things to be thankful for. 
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Rediscovering Paris



Sunday Sun on the Sein







It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.
—Jeremiah 10:12

Leah and me ❀
Eiffel 

This weekend, a friend came into town and it was time to play tour guide. With the largest list of tourist attractions in the world and an even greater will to put a check mark next to every item, we set out on a Friday afternoon with excitement in our hearts. And I was expecting to have a good weekend, but what I got was so much better than expected. Instead of solely playing tour guide, a plastered smiled on my face as Leah beamed at every new attraction, I actually was just as excited as she was, seeing the Eiffel Tower almost for the first time, actually experiencing the splendor of Notre Dame, and relaxing at my favorite Montmartre restaurant with the feeling of true happiness (accompanied by some absolutely wonderful people).

Goofballs ❀
And it reminded me: in the same way that I was seeing Paris for the first time—its grand buildings, beautiful architecture, and charming streets—I should be seeing Jesus like that every single day. Sometimes I get into a routine, not stopping to just sit in absolute awe of His splendor and majesty. Just as I looked up at the Eiffel (something I have seen countless times at this point) with fresh eyes and a new perspective, I need to look at Jesus with my hands held out, acknowledging His incredible omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, and thanking Him for loving—unconditionally!—someone like me. 

Sunny Sunday at the Louvre

I couldn’t be more thankful this weekend for wonderful friends, a beautiful city, and an amazing Savior who is constantly teaching me.

Saturday Paris exploring







“It is about the greatness of God, not the significance of man. God made man small and the universe big to say something about himself.”
— John Piper

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