Randall's Blog

February 11, 2010

Paris

Filed under: Uncategorized — randallhollomon @ 11:50 am

Paris is an absolutely beautiful city to explore both day and night.  It has that big city feel without the feeling of being cramped thanks to a long standing rule that has just been repealed which prohibited buildings from being built over 8 stories high.  The metro is complicated to get around in.  Going into it i was told that French people didn’t like Americans and resented speaking English, but i only found this to be true in a couple of extremely touristy spots.

Our trip to Paris was a bit of an adventure.  We had looked up train times to make it to Paris that had us running in trains with no reservations required all the way to Paris.  Or so we thought.  Turns out that the train we had booked doesn’t run anymore so they sent us to brussels where we had to pay for our tain to Paris.  It wasn’t to bad though just an adventure.  We arrived at our hostel in Montmartre located just down the street from the scenic Red Light district of Paris.  The desk clerk at our hostel was really helpful and turned out to be fluent in 12 languages including japanese and arabic!! I dont know why he isn’t working at the UN or something.

The next day we woke up and took a tour with Fat tire bike tours of Paris.  This group was really cool and we went on a 6 mile bike tour with a native English speaker and a bunch of Ausies.  This was a really good way to get oriented with the city as we went past the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, the Champs Élysées, and the musee d’Orsay.  We had lunch in the middle of the park where I got to experience a french Crepe.  On our return back to the tour starting point we got to take pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower.  Our tour guide told us we got the award for most creative pictures he had ever seen!!  That night we had an amazing dinner at a french bistro and were going to go to the Louvre because it was free that night, but, alas, dinner in Paris took too long.  We decided to head back to the Louvre anyway and saw an amazing view of the Eiffel Tower lighting up at night!

Our next day began with a trip up to see the sacre coeur basilica.  This provided us with an amazing view of the skyline of Paris, due to the hill the church was built on and the low height of most of the buildings.  The church was extremely commercialized and they were looking to get tourist money.  I saw little of anything that resembled a living church or one focused on God.  We did however meet a group of French youth outside the basilica that seemed to have their heart in the right place as the put on a performance in the name of Christ.  It was nice to see some elements of Christianity for a change in Europe.  On our way down from the church, Grant and I were stopped by these Africans who began tying something to our hands that was apparently a local custom.  When they finished they demanded money and refused to let me go until I gave them 4 Euro.  My colors were gay.  I was mad.  Anyway, we went from there to see Norte Dame which is and amazing church, and then preceeded back to the Eiffel Tower to take more pictures.  On my way there I rode in my first double decker subway.  After that we decide to go to the arc de triomphe and then walk down the Champs Élysée.  We found this awesome and expensive dessert place that is what I believe Collin Street strives to be.

The last day we found ourselves headed to the Louvre.  This is probably the most beautiful Museum I have seen in my entire life.  The way they lay our their collection is unique from anywhere else.  They have so much art and so many sculptures.  It is absolutely mind blowing.   After this museum we did a bit of souvenir shopping and enjoyed an uneventful ride home!!

February 4, 2010

Maastricht classes

Filed under: Uncategorized — randallhollomon @ 1:47 pm

On Sunday we explored the city.  We got to see a lot of random sights.  For example, Maastricht has like a little city zoo right down the street from our school with deer goats and other birds.  There was a weird bird man there who was throwing up bread and feeding Pigeons and ducks.  One of the ducks was the biggest one I have ever seen in my entire like he easily stood 2 feet tall.  From there, we walked up to a fort over looking Maastricht. Since this was in the middle of  days of snow this provided a beautiful view of the city, and I was upset that I had forgotten my camera!  There was a big hill behind the fort and we saw kids sledding down it.  It looked like fun but unfortunately we didn’t have a sled!

On Monday we started classes.  8:30 classes everyday are annoying, but ill get used to it.  There is a lot of work crammed into these 7 weeks of classes but its not too bad.  I feel like most of my time outside of class will either be spent planning trips or doing homework.  Such is the life of a traveler!  My teachers accent on monday wasn’t too bad but im NOT looking forward to having a quiz everytime I have a psychology class.  Anyway monday after class we decided to go play frisbee outside in the snow.  While we were out there it began snowing again and we made a snowman.  It was grants first snowman ever.

On Tuesday, classes were more of the same.  I was interested to find out that our International management class was taught by someone who is maybe 5 years older than the rest of the class.  She sits among the students and blend in. Honestly a random person would not be able to pick out the teacher in the class. That night we decided it would be a good idea to ” dribble” a soccer ball in the halls.  This was fine until we start playing a more… physical version of the game and some dutchman from the front desk came and yelled at us to cut the crap.  I couldn’t take him seriously though because he had a funny accent.

Wednesday I have the worst schedule in the world.  First class at 8:30 AM second class at 6:30 PM but I used the time to get a phone do homework and help finish planning a trip.  Anyway we are heading to Paris today for a trip that should prove to be eventful.  Im excited to see such a beautiful city and eat delicious food. 🙂  Ill let you know how it goes!

January 31, 2010

Maastricht Orientation

Filed under: Uncategorized — randallhollomon @ 12:09 pm

Maastricht is a very interesting city.  It has the beauty of an ancient European city yet maintains the modernism of Western Europe.  One thing I find interesting is how unfriendly Europe is to cars.  Most of these cities were built with roads that were supposed to be walking paths and are thus too small for a car.  Since they are not going to tear down the old buildings most of the streets are forced to be one way.  Also the government charges a tax that accounts for 80% of the price which makes prices about €1.40 per liter which is almost $7.30 per gallon.  As such you see VERY few large cars in Europe.  And a very small number of cars for the population just in general.

The CES (Center for European Studies) workers that are in charge of orientation all seem very nice.  They have been great tour guides the past couple of days. Maastricht seems like it will be a pretty easy city to get around and is really a beautiful city.  For a city with a population larger than Waco, it is VERY compact.  This is probably because no one has a car and public transportation is not as convenient so the city was built based on how far someone could walk or bike.  One of the interesting things about the city is it has lots of old, beautiful churches but very few religious people.  They feel that it would be a shame to tear the churches down, so they have converted them from everything from a bookstore to a bar (although I hear the bar didn’t last long.  Why they feel it would be disrespectful to tear a church down but not turn it into a bar is beyond me, but I guess it’s just European.

After our tour of the city on the first day we went to an American WWII cemetery just outside of Maastricht. This was on Dutch soil but owned and operated by the US government.  They had over 17000 soldiers buried there when it was first opened.  However, the US government gave families the option to bring their families home and so the site only contains approximately 8000 graves now.  It was a pretty sombering experience especially when considering thats more people then have died in all of operation enduring freedom.  The graves were marked with a beautiful stone cross or star of david.  The caretaker told me that one of the reasons the US government cannot do this type of cemetary anymore was because their was nothing to do with the graves of those who weren’t Christian or Jewish.  I thought this to be someone of a travesty but its interesting to think about.

The second day of orientation we took a trip to man-made caves just outside of Maastricht.  These caves had been dug since the 1600s for the natural resources.  at one point they had nearly 200km of caves running under the Netherlands and Belgium which made a way for thieves to escape in and out of the country.  However during a recession a few years ago they allowed the blasting of some of them and are now down to a mere 80 km.  There caves were not as cool as natural caves but were still interesting.  They had a lot of cool charcoal drawings and markings from the year they reached that place in the cave.  The cave was used as an evacuation site during the allied invasion of this area in 1944. There were some interesting remains from that which include ovens, a water storage tank, a toilet system, and a church.

The final day of orientation was a trip to the small German town of Monschau.  We ate a traditional German meal of shnitzel which had a mustard sauce made from the local mustard mill which was amazing. After that we took a tour of the town and discovered that it was a tourist city.  Apparently their main customers are Belgians and a lot of the things they sell were made in Belgium and then marked up to sell to the tourists.  They also gave us a sample of gingerbread which turned out pretty bad.  It was really hard and tasted slightly like licorice.  The entire day there was a very strong snowstorm that hit Germany.  On our trip over there we drove through really intense snow and it looked like a winter wonderland.  The entire scene was gorgeous.  After our tour it began snowing again so we went inside and had coffee and locally made chocolate truffles that were awesome.  On our way back we drove through this massive evergreen forrest which covered in snow was just incredible.  I wanted to sleep on the bus but the scenery was just to good.  We passed someone riding a horse through the snow and a castle covered in snow.  Europe is so much prettier than most of America.

I think im going to like this Maastricht a lot.  I believe Baylor has taken a very stong group of people on this trip and I look forward to building more friendships with them as well as Euopeans.  In a way im glad this group session of the trip is over because now we dont have to move in a large tourist mob.  However this means I’m going to have to start paying for and planning trips myself which could be interesting.  We will see how classes are when they start tomorrow.  I only have 28 days of them all semester so it can’t be that bad right?

January 29, 2010

London

Filed under: Uncategorized — randallhollomon @ 12:36 am

I have decided to create a blog to keep everybody informed about my trip to Europe.  I hope to update it as often as possible and at least after weekend trips.

Anyway my trip to London was amazing.  We arrived on Sunday after traveling for most of the day and went out for dinner on our town.  Interestingly enough bacon in London is Canadian bacon and they like to put it on hamburgers.  Overall the food was good though.  After that we took a long sightseeing walk in the cold starting at Trafalgar square and heading down to Parliament past the prime ministers residence on 10 downing street and to Parliament.  We preceded across the westminster bridge all the way to London bridge.  It was a beautiful walk and an amazing city to see at night.

The next day we woke up and took a charter bus out to Stonehenge and bath in the British country side.  On our way out of the city we had a very knowledgeable tour guide give us the highlights of london which was really interesting.  However she said all of her “R”s like “W”s which was quite humorous when she talked about breweries.  The london countryside is full of beautiful countryside.  Due to their desire to be agriculturally self sufficient most of the forests have been removed but the farms are indescribable.

Our first stop was Stonehenge which was full of beauty and steeped in mystery.  The guide told us that a lot of people were underwhelmed with the size of the rocks but I thought it was quite impressive to see anyway.  It was COLD.  I had assumed England would be warmer than the mainland because it was surrounded by water, but Stonehenge was on a plain and the wind came in and bit you.  I was a bit disappointed we didn’t get to walk through the stones but it was good.

After Stonehenge we got to go through more of the countryside until we came to the ancient roman town of bath.  It is fueled by hotsprings coming out of rock which are the only natural ones in England.  It is a very posh area of England and seeing it for the first time is breathtaking as it is built in the side of the mountain.  The baths themselves were cool but not overly impressive.  However the city had an incredible abbey right next to the baths that was really cool.  We ate at a fancy tea place that had really good lunch surprisingly.

After our tour we attended Le Miserables.  I was excited to get to go but unsure how I would like a musical.  I wound up thoroughly enjoying the musical and it concluded what was an enjoyable day.

The next day we had a day all to opurself and so we began by heading to the tower of london.  I had been there once before but it is still a really cool landmark and I was glad to get to go back.  We were able to take some really good pictures.  I got picked to do a research survey when we visited the crowed jewels which was cool.  There were also some reinactors in one of the towers that we talked to for a while and learned a bit about the times and games they played.  That was really cool.

After the tower we went to the albert and victoria museum and the natural history museum where we took fun pictures and saw some of the main exhibits.  The albert and Victoria had surprisingly good sculptures and made me ready to go to the Lourve in Paris.

The next day we went back t0o parliment and westminster to take some pictures and see westminster abbey.  We decided however that it was too expensive to go into Westminister so we took some picture before eating lunch at an Italian place which took over 2 hours.

London is a very interesting place.  A different language is spoken on every corner as it is a global city.  Londoners always seem to be in a hurry and get upset when you get in their way.  Unlike New York, most of the city seems to close at 11 and unless you are in picadilly it is hard to find anything open after that time.  I found it interesting to see that in a big city.  Also, because of high gas prices and a congestion tax, it is rare to see anything on the streets but luxury cars and work vehicles.  None of the beaters that you see in America.  Overall, I believe Londoners are friendly, but we received a lot of stupid American looks.  I blame Grant.

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