My Grecian Valentine

I have never been a real fan of Valentines Day. Somewhere in history this feast day of a martyr that was beaten and beheaded turned into an event where everyone feels obligated to buy chocolates being held by over-sized teddy bears in order to demonstrate there love . . . what? I don’t know about you, but those things just never seemed to add up for me.

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That (blown out of proportion opinion) being said and set aside, Valentines Day was pretty fabulous.

Brunch on the roof!

Brunch on the roof!

The day began with a Sunny brunch on the school roof prepared by our lovely little “student council”. Complete with bacon, chocolate filled croissants, pancakes with nutella (syrup isn’t a thing here because of the obvious lack of maple trees but who can complain about nutella?), and baklava.  Apparently we just decided to eat desserts disguised as breakfast foods which I think we were all more than okay with. This was followed by some quality time with the sun by way of reading and napping.

After a shopping trip in search for shoes for one of my roommates, Milica, (in which I may or may not have expanded my skirt collection) was fruitless (or should I say “shoeless”), I became her doll for the evening. After picking out my outfit for the night, her dream of applying my make-up came true as we readied ourselves for dinner with some other ladies of the program. Like true “poor college students” we prepared a little pre-dinner dinner so we wouldn’t be as hungry and therefore able to share our pricier meals (maybe a little cheap, but hey, we’ve all been there). While eating, I popped into the lives of old roommates, Hannah and Anna, for a wonderful little chat.

After the chaos of getting six girls ready (and calling the restaurant to tell them we would be late), we all hopped on a bus, then a metro to arrive at the neighborhood near the base of the Acropolis where our restaurant was. However, we had neglected to actually find out the address of the place and only knew the rough direction. So much goes into planning your public transportation that it is easy to forget a little (and vital) thing like that. With the help (“help” being used loosely) from several strangers we were even more confused of where we were going and about a half hour late for our reservation at that point, we called the restaurant again to get the address and all agreed to hail a cab to take us. Walking down a side street to do so, Milica spotted a restaurant and suggested jokingly, “Why don’t we just eat there?” only for us to realize that that was, in fact, the very place we were in search of: Strofi. The host welcomed us graciously saying “You found us!” (apparently we don’t yet blend in with the Greeks). He then lead us to our seats which had been reserved on the first floor but since we were forty minutes late, a place on the roof opened up! One blessing after another! From our table we had a perfect view of the beautifully lit Acropolis accompanied by a full moon in the night sky. Simply wonderful.

My roommate, Christina, creeped on me gazing at my Valentine like a true Classicist.

My roommate, Christina, caught me gazing at my Valentine (aka the Acropolis) like a true Classicist.

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Fried Eggplant with fresh Tomato and Feta cheese

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Lamb wrapped in wine leaves stuffed with cheese

But wait, the night gets even better! Accompanied by some red wine, our dinner began. My taste-bud world was rocked by this eggplant appetizer (let’s all just take a moment to appreciate eggplant) followed by my first lamb experience while in Greece! I never wanted these flavors to leave my mouth. I highly suggest Strofi if you are looking for a wonderful view and dining experience while in Greece (thanks to roomie Annie for finding it!). It was well worth the adventure of locating it (which isn’t actually that difficult if you know where you are going. go figure).

All in all a beautiful morning, day, and night filled with tasty food and lovely company that would have happened even if it wasn’t the fourteenth of February.

 

 

 

“The greater the feeling of responsibility for the person the more true love there is.” — Blessed John Paul II

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Delphi: “Know Thyself” [γνῶθι σεαυτόν]

After a recent viewing of 300, the small group of us studying ancient languages and philosophy expected our field study trip to Delphi to look something like the first 1:03 of this: 

I think that it is safe to say that we all were pleased that it didn’t. Because it would have been more than a little terrifying to be greeted by such a creature. Instead, we looked out our windows of the mini coach bus to as view after stunning view of mountainous Greece drifted by.

The snow-capped mountain belongs to limestone Parnassus

The snow-capped mountain belongs to limestone Parnassus

We arrived at our destination with the sun and 60 degree Fahrenheit weather there to welcome us to this ancient site. Myth says that Zeus once sought to locate the center of the world (for what reason? who knows.) and set loose to eagles to accomplish the task (naturally). The eagles crossed paths over a stone identified as Gaia’s (Mother Earth) navel and thus the center of the world; Delphi.  In addition, the location of the Oracle of Delphi where people would travel across country to receive answers to their questions; but more on that later.

line of caterpillars that literally made one of our professors jump in fear.

line of caterpillars that literally made one of our professors jump in fear.

Also there to greet us was this line of caterpillars. Clearly something mystical was at work here to produce such a creepy phenomenon. However, upon further research (as in looking it up on Wikipedia) it turns out the little critters were marking their trail to food.  But watch out! They will most likely give you an allergic reaction.

To begin our walk up the hill of the archaeological site, we saw ruins of a Roman Forum built in the era of the Emperors Nerva and Trajan along with treasuries dotting the way. Treasuries held the material riches that would be sacrificed. Naturally the most impressive one was the Athenian Treasury. Looks pretty good for being over 2400 years old, right? Originally built in 490 BC to commemorate the Battle of Marathon and was reconstructed much much much later for our viewing pleasure.

Athenian Treasury

Athenian Treasury

Making our way through the winding paths, we found our way to the place that brought people from all areas of Greece: The Temple of Apollo. If you are wondering how the heck Apollo came into to the picture, you are in luck because it is story time. A great dragon named Python once occupied this same land Zeus deemed the center of the world (apparently Gaia felt that her belly button needed protecting). Having nothing better to do, Apollo slew the beast and the people then built a temple in his honor. Here the Oracle of Delphi resided. Young maidens were chosen to be the mouthpiece of the god Apollo. Once a year the Oracle would provide prophecies. She would enter into a trance and speak in cryptic hexameter from the first person of Apollo to give the questioner their answer. Of course the answers would be vague and ambiguous and interpreted to mean whatever you wanted to hear. Carved into the front of the temple were several maxims, one (the most famous) being “γνῶθι σεαυτόν” translated to “know thyself” with a disputed meaning. Here I challenge you to reflect on that phrase to see what interpretation is reveals itself to you.

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And so we turn some corners and arrive at the Theatre. It’s thirty-five rows of seating are carved into the side of the hill were constructed in the 4th century BC. A visitor even graced us with song as his voice bounced of the marble and filled the valley.

Theatre

Theatre

the Stadium

the Stadium

 

 

 

 

And then we come to the Stadium at the end of the Sacred Way. But nothing too exciting there; just your usual games of races etc.

 

 

 

Everything (from temple, to theatre, to stadium) in this once thriving location points to a cathartic experience in order to better understand oneself and what lays ahead.

 

 

 

 

A short distance from the main sanctuary was the “poster child” of Delphi known as the Tholos located in the sanctuary to Athena Pronoia (Athena of Forethought). A round building was constructed around 380 BC and is beautiful on the edge of the mountain.

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After a trip to the museum, we settled in the town of Delphi were we had time to explore. We didn’t wander long before we found our way to the cliff-side to enjoy fresh air, green grass, wild almonds, and gorgeous mountain sites as we perched on boulders. Words cannot describe how wonderful it was to soak in the privilege of gazing upon such beauty in ancient wonders — both man-made and natural — and give thanks .

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Almond Tree

Almond Tree

I don’t think that I could have been more pleased with a trip. Delphi was gorgeous in more aspects than purely Classical. I suggest it to anyone travel in Greece. It’s not everyday that you have your breath taken away by an archaeological site, olive groves from a bird’s eye view, and caterpillars participating in a conga line. Goodbye Delphi, I will always remember our beautiful weekend together!

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Sanctuary of Delphi

from a cfe window

from a cafe window

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Sanctuary of Athena Pronoia

“The Study of philosophy is not that we may know what men have thought, but what the truth of things is. ”

― Thomas Aquinas

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Socrates, Soup, Symphony, and Springs

This last week was filled with activities all across the (Greek Culture) board. From onsite class to lentil soup to a beautiful concert and an elaborate series of transportation to reach a well known hot spring.

“Athens On Site” is a class that quickly became my favorite. Each class we meet at a different location in Athens to explore a historically significant site (pretty self explanatory, I suppose). Last week, we had the privilege of having two of our classes in the Ancient Agora.  The Agora is the meeting place and political center of a city. The Agora of Ancient Athens, specifically, was the first place in the world to have demonstrated democracy and has archaeological finds that document the 7th – late 5th century BC (which includes the occupation and reoccupation of several different empires) making it high on the list of “Super Vital Archaeological Sites”. You can feel that the soil is rich in history as it seems to seep in through your feet as you grow in appreciation for your surroundings. Our first day was rainy, working out well for us to visit the museum that is constructed to model an ancient stoa which is a public building where merchants would buy and sell as well as religious gatherings and displays of artwork would be present. The next class, we walked the paths of the Ancient Agora as our professor shared with us the value of the ruins we saw (if you want to know the details, google can help you out or let me know. I would love to share my notes with you). It seemed appropriate to learn in this place where the people of Antiquity exchanged ideas and Socrates himself taught his philosophy to eager (or annoyed) listeners. You can even walk past the place where he was imprisoned and eventually put to death under the charges of impiety and corruption of the youth.

Socrates' prison . . . or what is left.

Socrates’ prison . . . or what is left.

The monument that brought the most attention was the Theseion or Hephaisteion. This temple was built in 460 BC as a dedication to Theseus, the hero and founder of Athens (mythological grey area) and later converted to a Temple of Hephaestus, the protector and god of laborers; and even later, transformed into a Christian Church dedicated to St. George (who was a knight, by the way) in the 3rd century AD. It is the best preserved temple in Greece, thanks to the many purposes it had (shout out to Christianity for preserving things!). “Why is this seemingly simply building so stunning?” you ask. Well it isn’t my photography, it’s a little thing Pythagoras likes to call the “golden ratio”. It was explained to us that the Greeks lived seeking perfection in everything (art, philosophy, poems, etc). In a word, metron (μέτρον). This word means more than just “measure”, but the beauty that lies within dimensions, proportions, and balance rather than monumentality.  The golden ratio represents the proportion that yields the most aesthetically pleasing products.  Take it or leave it (there is a whole lot of math that I can’t explain to save my life to back it up); but you have to admit that this is a beauty.

Theseion/Hephaisteion/Church of Saint George (from the rear of the building)

Theseion/Hephaisteion/Church of Saint George (from the rear of the building)

On a completely different train of thought, let’s talk food! I am a big fan of cooking, however due to my habit of straying from instructions, “recipes” usually have a 50/50 shot of turning out well. My goal was a lentil soup over rice that would resemble that which I hold so dear from Madison’s beloved Mediterranean Cafe. Although I didn’t have a blender to make it the preferred thickness, I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. I highly suggest it because it actually wasn’t demanding at all other than just time to sit and let the flavors get to know each other. The roommates even approved. My cooking skills were humbled this week with a bad batch of hummus. Important note to chickpea lovers: boiling and “de-shelling” once dried chickpeas is an important step and should not be skipped; soaking them is not enough. But hey, now I know!

It looks disgusting, but I promise it was tasty. (http://myhalalkitchen.com/mediterranean-lentil-soup/)

It looks disgusting, but I promise it was tasty. http://myhalalkitchen.com/mediterranean-lentil-soup/

Friday night was a program outing to the Megaron – Athens’ Concert Hall for a concert performed by the Athens State Orchestra. The program was titled “έρωτας και πεπρωμενο” translated as “Love and Destiny”. I am not so sure I got that out of the music, but I felt pretty cultured when I identified the Cupid and Psyche sculpture in the program as the exact one I saw in the Louvre about three weeks before. There was a featured harpist who definitely knew what she was doing as she performed an encore after more incessant clapping than I think I have ever heard. It was wonderful to hear such seamless and soothing music. Not something I do as often as I would like!

Thanks to our awesome program coordinators, we were up close and personal with the Athens State Orchestra.

Thanks to our awesome program coordinators, we were up close and personal with the Athens State Orchestra.

With the weekend at our fingertips, we all decided to take a trip to a sunken hot spring lake that is known as a year-long spa: Lake Vouliagmeni (Βουλιαγμένη). Important note to winter Greece travelers: this is a blatant lie. The water is warm, true. But the 60 degree Fahrenheit water doesn’t quite do it when it is 50 degrees and breezy outside. That being said, we all had quite the fun adventure. To first get to our destination, the fourteen of us walked, took a trolleybus, rode the metro, and bused. By grace alone we all made it to the Lake without getting lost nor losing anyone along the way. Although it wasn’t ideal weather, we rolled with the punches and enjoyed the day away from the norm. The brave swam for a while (as the two other people there and the workers looked at us like we were insane . . . maybe rightfully so) and after warming up with some hot drinks, we all headed to a nearby city for dinner where we parted ways and then back to home sweet home in Athens. On the return journey a helpful couple helped us navigate around a demonstration that was happening at the Hellenic Parliament. Thanks, locals!

Most of my pictures from this endeavor are from the bus stops which seemed to be a significant part of the trip. Good thing we are fun people!

Most of my pictures from this endeavor are from the bus stops which seemed to be a significant part of the trip. Good thing we are fun people!

The one picture of mine of the Lake. Google has better. Clearly not the ideal sunny beach day.

The one picture of I have of the Lake. Google has better. Clearly not the ideal sunny beach day.

 

 

 

 

 

If this is the average week in Athens: sprinkled with history, delicious food, lovely music, and road trips to new places with wonderful people; then I think the semester will be quite the — to quote Bilbo Baggins — “unexpected journey”.

 

 

“From failure you learn. From success, not so much.”  -Meet the Robinsons

“Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, not even if your whole world seems upset. If you find that you have wandered away from the shelter of God, lead your heart back to Him quietly and simply.”  -Saint Francis de Sales

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Living of the Edge [literally] in Nafplio, Greece

For every class that I am taking here in Athens we have a field study where we go and explore a different part of Greece for a day or two. Our first trip of the semester was to Nafplio (Ναύπλιο), Greece. This seaport town in the Peloponnese was the capital of the First Hellenic Republic at the beginning of the Greek Revolution in 1821. It was the capital for only twelve years before that title was moved to Athens where it now remains. In mythology, Nafplius (Ναύπλιος) was the son of the sea god, Poseidon, and was said to be the founder of Nafplio. Makes sense, as much as a myth can. But really Nafplio comes etymologically from the Greek words “to sail” and “ship” to mean something along the lines of “Good-sailing City”. Makes even more sense (words, I tell you. they never cease to amaze me).

After a two hour bus ride with my fourteen peers and our three Modern Greek language teachers, we made our way through this picturesque city to find our lovely rooms. Hotel Mariana was nestled near the top of a hill overlooking the cities rooftops.

Our little courtyard with the Palamidi Castle in the background.

Our little courtyard with the Palamidi Castle in the background.

The view from my bedroom window.

The view from my bedroom window.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next was our trek up the 999 steps to the crest of a hill where the Palamidi (Παλαμήδι) fortress is nestled. This castle was built in 1714 and was under the control of the Turks for a good one hundred years until the Greeks gained control. Legend says that there were originally 1000 steps until Theodoros Kolokotronis’ horse got a little too excited after the victory over the Ottomans and crushed one of the steps.

From the top of Palamidi.

From the top of Palamidi.

Bastion of Saint Andrew (Aγιος Aνδρεας).

Bastion of Saint Andrew (Aγιος Aνδρεας).

 

 

 

 

 

Every doorway you went through lead to even more steps, rooms, bridges, etc. Much exploring was done and as some one who quite enjoys climbing, wandering, discovering, and historical buildings, I had a pretty good time. As I was traversing, I found a protruding (and stable) ledge that was just calling my name. I climbed past a tree and seated myself enjoying the 65 degree Fahrenheit weather and fresh cool breeze. Later, I was approached by my teacher who was shocked that I chose to perch on this ledge. Apparently I was about 700 feet from the ground! I think it’s safe to say that I don’t have a fear of heights.

On my ledge. If you look closely in the upper left corner, you can see my Greek language teacher.

On my ledge. If you look closely in the upper left corner, you can see my Greek language teacher.

 

 

 

 

Much of the rest of the trip was up to us to wander the city and inspect by ourselves. We all met up later to have a dinner of souvlaki (σουβλάκι) together followed by gelato. Hours spent peering at the many trinkets offered in this cute town followed by sitting, sipping, and speaking at cafés. My favorite discovery was the Church of Aghios Anastasios. Saint Anastasios was martyred on February 1st, 1655 and is the patron saint of Nafplio. You were not allowed to take pictures inside, otherwise I would have of the beautiful images and wooden tabernacle. A beautiful place for a break and some prayer. Another great thing was all these little shrines, most to Mary, placed sporadically throughout the town.

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Church of Aghios Anastasios

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a peek inside the mini shrine.

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Marian shrine along the water.

A beautiful weekend and a wonderful way to spend my first weekend in Greece. Nafplio was such a lovely, pretty, and relaxed city that I would gladly visit again but after two days I was ready to head back home. And it was then on that bus ride back to Athens that I realized I had made the transition into picturing my awkward room in an apartment on a dirty street in a foreign country as my home. My comfortable, mismatched  home.

“The world’s thy ship and not thy home.” – Saint Thérèse de Lisieux

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Arrival in Athens: A Whirlwind of Travel

With a wake-up call at 4:00am, I hopped (or rather dragged) myself into a taxi to head to the airport for what would be a great feat of traveling for some one who has never traveled alone. A forty minute cab ride took me to the airport where I had difficulty trying to print my boarding pass until a nice woman helped me out. After a a quick last French croissant, I boarded the first leg of my flight which would take me to Germany. There, I disembarked my plane and shuffled my way through the crowd to find my connecting flight to Athens that was boarding as I arrived at the terminal (phew). This time I got a window seat which was a great grab as flying out of Germany was absolutely stunning.

Flying over the Alps (maybe).

Flying over the Alps (maybe).

Never has the term "mystery food" been so true as it is while flying with foreign airlines.  Who knows what I ate, but it was tasty.

Never has the term “mystery food” been so true as it is while flying with foreign airlines. Who knows what I ate, but it was tasty.

I then ventured to baggage claim, onto an hour bus ride, then a struggled my luggage onto a trolleybus that arrived a block from my hostel. I was welcomed by a friendly Greek who showed me to my room that I would be staying in for the night. After thanking God for getting me through a crazy morning of travel safely, I lightened my load and set out to explore the city. The rest of my classmates were arriving the next day but there was no way I was waiting a day to see the acropolis.

 

 

First I walked past the Panathenaic Stadium. This site was were the athletic events in the Panathenaic Games were hosted in antiquity. Later rebuilt in marble in 329 BC, then renovated again in 140 AD, and finally excavated and refurbished for the revival of the Olympic Games in 1870.

Panthenaic Stadium

Next was the Temple of Olympian Zeus and its neighbor, Hadrian’s Arch.

This temple was commissioned in the 6th century BC but wasn’t completed until the Roman Emperor Hadrian’s rule in 2nd century AD Why did it take so long? Well, differing opinions of rulers during the Athenian democracy, stolen pieces, changing the building material, etc. prolonged the process by quite a bit (obviously). It’s roughly 60 foot tall columns are made of local limestone at first, then changed to Pentelic marble and are topped with the Corinthian order. You can just imagine how massive the completed temple was in the Classical period!

Hadrian’s Arch was constructed in about 131AD as a gateway from the “old” city of Athens to the “new”. The inscription on the on the side facing the acropolis reads “This is Athens, the ancient city of Theseus” while the opposite side says “This is the city of Hadrian, not of Theseus”.  Theseus was seen as the original founder of Athens and Hadrian saw his rule as a rediscovery of the city.

Temple of Zeus the Olympian

Temple of Olympian Zeus

Hadrian's Arch

Hadrian’s Arch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next was the hike up the side of the Acropolis. I had to restrain myself from spending money on the actual tour and going to the acropolis because I knew we would go as a class. So seeing it from a distance had to do for the day. First “discovery” was the Theatre of Dionysus. This site belongs to about the 4th century BC where festivals in honor of the Olympian god of revelry, wine, and a sense of duality, Dionysus.

Theater of Dionysus

Theater of Dionysus

Theater of Dionysus

Theater of Dionysus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here we come to the pictures of the Acropolis. Since I am sure to make a post dedicated to our trip to the actual site, I will spare you the history lesson for now.

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On the south side of the Acropolis (seen behind me). To say I was excited is an understatement.

The Acropolis from the Areopagus Hill.

The Acropolis from the Areopagus Hill.

The Ancient Forum

The Ancient Forum

I have craved to see these monuments in real life since I first opened my textbooks years ago and nothing but Mass could pull me away. And so I trekked down the side of the hill to weave my way through the city of crazy drivers to find the Cathedral of Saint Dionysus for an evening Mass. Dionysus was an follower of Saint Paul and was the first bishop of Athens. I was lucky enough to find myself at an English Mass in a surprisingly stunning church.

Cathedral of Saint Dionysus

Cathedral of Saint Dionysus

I got a little lost on my way home, but thanks to friendly locals and a map I found myself safe and joyful in my hostel skyping a friendly face. I may have gotten lost once, but considering how many times I could have messed up by missing a flight, getting on the wrong bus, or missing the appropriate stop; I’d call that a success. All in all, I cannot think of a better way to say “γεια σας Αθήνα!”

“For the Lord God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

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Paris Day Three: As Low-key as Sight-seeing Can Get

Exhausted from the previous day’s excursion, Krista and I took this day a little slower, polishing off the last few things on our “to-do” list. We started this day’s adventure with a visit to an open air market. Here I purchased my first “abroad earrings”. A brief aside: wherever my sisters traveled outside of the country, they returned with a pair of earrings from the respective country. Now that I am abroad, I can add to my “earrings from around the world” collection myself! These Parisian earrings are my first!

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We then followed up with a lovely breakfast of orange juice, coffee, and croissants at a little cafe near by. The owner of the cafe, we found out after we said that we were from the U.S., was going to a Michael Bublé concert later that night. That, combined with the best croissant I have ever had made this cafe my favorite of our visit.

Breakfast

There is a reason France is known for croissants. Over the course of three days, I consumed at least five.

After a lunch meeting up with an old friend of Krista’s whom she met while studying abroad in Australia; a visit to the Palais de la Decouverte was our afternoon. Here we learned about the strange creepy ways of ants and listened to a demonstration on static electricity in French. We bid farewell and started our trek up the Avenue des Champs-Élysées to visit the Arc de Triomphe in the sunset. Commissioned in 1806 by Napolean, this Neoclassical arch was built to commemorate his victory at Austerlitz. Many selfies proceeded from here, but I will spare you of that plague (as well as ourselves of embarrassment).

450 Arc du Triomph straight on

With the sun behind us, and a bit of the evening to spare, Krista and I decided to head back to the Eiffel Tower for an encore to bookend our trip. Lucky for us, we got there right before the hour mark when it starts to twinkle.

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What a wonderful way to spend three days before heading to Greece! From eating mysterious items that we can’t pronounce, to wandering in random Churches, to hunting down beignets. I am so blessed to have a sister willing to show me the ropes of travel and navigation in a foreign country. Stay tuned to hear of the semester in Greece!

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” ― Ernest Hemingway

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Paris Day Two: From Notre-Dame to the Louvre (Saint Denis, pray for us!)

The Day of Walking. Krista and I set out in the morning for a day that would bring chilly hands, cafe stops, sore muscles, and impressive sights.

Our first destination was our most coveted destination, the Notre-Dame Cathedral (“Our Mother”) on the Île de la Cité. Wow, from the two 43 foot in diameter rose windows to the flying buttresses, to the many side alters, this Cathedral was probably my favorite destination. Everything was beautiful. I had to fight the urge to sing like Esmeralda while exploring the corners of the Cathedral.

Notre-Dame Cathedral

Notre-Dame Cathedral

Close up on façade of the front entrance depicting Saints including Saint Denis, a patron saint of France and walking, holding his head! read here for more information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denis

Close up on façade of the front entrance depicting Saints including Saint Denis, a patron saint of France and walking, holding his head!

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Madonna and Child statue front and center. Where they belong.

From the North

The French Gothic architectural style of the outside was stunning, but let’s journey inside for a few more pictures that don’t even come close to doing it justice. 

Marian altar

Marian altar

view up the nave to the altar.

view up the nave to the altar.

Next, we headed across the way to La Sainte-Chapelle (“Holy Chapel”). This weightless chapel was built to house Louis IX’s collection of relics, including the crown of thorns. These stunning stain glass windows depict scenes from the old testament on the ten windows lining the nave and new testament scenes (including the Passion in the center) at the front apse. Naturally, some was under construction, but gorgeous nonetheless.

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Krista and I then wandering down the Seine River to explore a local market (one of Krista’s favorite past times). Along the way we ate some crepes and about an hour later, some french fries (of course). One thing we learned during our brief stay in Paris is that there is no shortage of restaurants. You never have to be concerned about missing an opportunity to eat because there is always another restaurant. And you are always hungry because between every meal you are burning off all the calories you just gained from walking (or at least that’s what I like to think). We took our time meandering through random streets and investigating neat-looking churches that we came upon. Eventually, we made it to The Louvre. Fun fact, Friday evenings from 6:00pm onward, admission is free to any under 26-year-old regardless of nationality. Booyah! The sheer volume of artwork was amazing in itself; not to mention seeing some pieces of the Temple of Zeus, Olympia, the Mona Lisa, Venus di milo,  the Code of Hammurabi, and many other treasures (I didn’t take pictures of everything, but let’s be real, you can just google it).

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The Louvre exterior

Apollo taking a "selfie" of himself slaying the python (actually the sword was probably made of another material that did not last through the years).

Apollo taking a “selfie” of himself slaying the python (actually the sword was probably made of another material that did not last through the years).

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Cupid and Psyche by Antonio Canova
This is one of my favorite Greek myths.

Cupid and Psyche by Antonio Canova

Cupid and Psyche by Antonio Canova

As noted far above, this was a day that ended in two young women feeling as if they were about 87 years old as they crawled into bed that night. But then again, at least we still had our heads about us! See what I did there? If not, take a look at this little synopsis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denis).

Saint Denis, pray for us! Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, pray for us! Saint Joan of Arc, pray for us!

“The world is thy ship; not thy home.” – Saint Thérèse of Lisieux

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Paris Day One: Smells Like Paris

I said farewell to the good ole USA on Wednesday, January 8th at 6:10pm to start my first-time experience over seas. This flight was just shy of twenty-two hours after returning to Wisconsin from a Student Leadership Summit in Dallas the previous five days (shout-out to SLS14!). Up until ten days ago, I had never been on an airplane before. Since then, I have taken five flights. You could say I am a pro. Regardless, I felt more along the lines of Jim Halpert before his new job: “I am leaving early today for Philly, because tomorrow is the first day of my new job. So I figure I’d get in at 5:00, check into a hotel at about 6:00 so I can get a real good night of restless sleep and nervous puking.” Luckily, only half of this quote was my reality (the restless sleep part, just for clarification). Eight and a half hours later and on a grand total of five hours of sleep the two previous nights, I found my sister who has been in Italy for the past three months and just like that, we were ready to live it up in the City of Lights.

After squeezing out luggage in a tiny closet of our hotel by defying the laws of physics, we hit the streets with a map and a plan . . . well more like a loose list of sights we were interesting in visiting in three days. With Krista’s savvy navigation skills, we found our first destination: Basilique du Sacré-CœurTranslated as Basilica of the Sacred Heart. A basilica dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and has held perpetual adoration for over 125 years! Bronze equestrian statues can be seen of both Saint Joan of Arc and King Saint Louis and although you are not allowed to take pictures of the interior, I can promise you it is stunning.

Basilique du Sacré-Cœur

Basilique du Sacré-Cœur

While enjoying a tasty late lunch of cafe and beef bourguignon, we discussed our next plan of action. Silly us, what better way to start off a trip in Paris than a trip to the Eiffel Tower!  Holy iron latticework, Batman! But seriously though, the Eiffel Tower has 18,038 pieces held together by 2.5 million rivets.

Eiffel Tower Eiffle Tower and Seine

Food bed&essence of broccoli

We had to get creative with our utensils.

Ready to turn in for the night, we made our way through a grocery store to find some (more reasonably priced) dinner. In French style, we began looking through the various cheeses. We settled on some Camembert and a baguette from a bakery down the street. Little did we suspect that this cheese would taste and smell eerily like broccoli. Apparently not knowing French caused us to miss the “CAUTION: contains essence of broccoli” label. Thankfully we had also purchased some strawberry-rhubarb jam and yogurt to sate our hunger.

the cheese stands alone

Poor little cheese then needed a time out on the window sill so we could have reprieve from its pungent assail on our olfactory senses.

By the end of the night, the anxious Jim Halpert in me had completely dissipated and was replaced with Sophie and the gang. 

Through pure grace was I able to make it through the day without collapsing from exhaustion. I owe that one to prayers and adrenaline. That night definitely wasn’t a restless sleep.

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine of Hippo

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