Monday, August 30, 2010

France: The final recap!

Here's the final recap of my trip to France:

Day 9: This was another wonderful day! We started off going to the adorable hilltop medieval village of Perouges where many scenes from the film Monsieur Vincent were filmed. It was absolutely
unreal that it's a functioning town. It looked fake it was so lovely. We all really enjoyed walking around and looking at the very old church. Next we went to Chatillon-sur-Chalaronne which has a church where Vincent was pastor and he formed the mission here. We got off the bus and one of the Daughters of Charity was there to greet us. Father Ed said this was a new development and that we should just go with it. She
took us to the home that Vincent stayed at and that now the Daughters in that area stay. It was in this town that he worked with the sick and he realized what he can do on a larger scale with the Gaundis at more parishes around the country. We watched a video in the room that Vincent stayed, got to walk up the same very steps that he did and look at some items they have collected there. The Daughter spoke in French and Father Ed translated and for some reason I was incredibly moved. I teared up! It was just such an amazing experience being in that room and interacting with this woman that has given her life to live Vincent's mission! At this point, I knew exactly why this trip was so important and what it would mean to me. After our time at the church
we had some time to walk aroundand shop and look at all the gorgeous flowers. We had a great group lunch together and then we returned to Lyon. I decided to enjoy some alone time before our dinner cruise. I checked out the cathedral and some shops by myself and then went for a run by the river. I was practically bursting to do something active and it felt great to run in the beautiful scenery and blend in with the people that lived there. Then we had our dinner cruise with the whole group which was a great experience. Lyon was one of my favorite stops. The vibe reminded me of home.

Day 10: We drove to Tournous and made a stop at a Romanesque Church which
was incredibly different from all the other churches we visited. There were interesting medieval frescoes and a cool crypt. I walked th rough a free exhibit and looked in
some shops before we took off. Next stop was Beaune which is a major wine city. It's very small and cute. I went off with a few
folks for our independent lunch and got another delicious quiche and a sweet treat and we ate it in a park before we went off exploring. We eventually went our own ways and I stopped in a church that had medieval tapestries and I found a couple of good gifts to bring back home. Then the group met up and visited a hospital that was like the ones that Vincent worked in. After that we got to go to a wine tasting which was really fun! The wine cellar was like a maze and some of us even got lost. We tried all sorts of wines and I picked one to bring back home to share with my family. Later on we went out to dinner at a restaurant that was a in a 13th century cavern. It was very cool and we had a delicious meal of chicken in a creamy cheese sauce with mashed potatoes. So wonderful!

Day 11: I started getting sad on this day that the trip was coming to a close. I was ready to come home and get back to normal life and see "my people" but I was just enjoying the trip so much I didn't want it to end. We started the day at the AMAZING market in Beaune. it was beautiful and everything just looked so lovely. I bought lots of things here to get rid of my euros! I gota big chunk of cheese and some pretzel bread to eat for dinner later, caramels for rob, more mustard and soap for me. I think I seriously teared up while I was walking through because i just didn't want to go! Then we made a stop at a church that had a 14th century exposed painting that portrayed a "dance with death" relating to the Plague. The church also had an absolutely unbelievable garden that we got to walk thrgouh. Again, I might have teared up. Then we had our closing lunch in an outside restaurant. We had the most unbelievable food! It started with these flakey cheesy pastry
things that i can't even describe. Then we had a caprese salad that was perfection. Then we had beef bourguignon. To die for! and on top of that there was a cheese course that just blew my mind. probably the best thing i ate the whole trip. and it ended with an almond stick and sugared fruit cup. After lunch we went to Joigny to see some final Vincent sites like the Gaundi Chateau. Then we went to the airport hotel in Paris. I ate my cheese and pretzel bread and we all played cards till late. It was nice to end the trip all together. The next morning we went to the airport and we were on our way!

It's hard to explain the impact that this trip had on me. I'm so passionate about DePaul and this just furthered my connection to the university. It also changed my understanding of the mission. Being able to see and experience where it all started, really made me think deeply about what it means to be Vincentian. The idea that we must not just do things but do them well really stuck with me and I can really apply that to my work and everyday life. Overall, i feel so grateful to have been given the opportunity to experience this and connect with so many people throughout the university. Now I'm ready for my next trip!

Monday, August 23, 2010

France: the recap! Part 2

day 5: i had the entire day off from group activities so i got to spend the whole day with vanessa. we met up early and went to the louvre. i got free tickets through the program. i was pretty excited. we got there really early and went straight for mona and then went to the winged victory statue and venus de milo. after that we went into decorative arts and ended up in napolean's apartments. that was the coolest thing we saw! we really enjoyed them. then we left. the louvre isn't really my thing after all. it's just not the type of art i enjoy but i'm still glad to have seen all the famous stuff! after that we tried walking to the bon marche market but it was closed :( so we found a street market and i bought soaps and the most amazing cheese ever!!! then we grabbed a small lunch nearby and people watched. after that we walked to the luxemburg gardens and soaked up the sun. the gardens were probably my favorite site in paris. i absolutely loved them. then it was time to say goodbye to nessa. time flew so quickly but it was really just wonderful to spend time with her! later that night i went to a cheap dinner with valerie. we got pizza which was good because i was having a french food overload. we split a pizza and a bottle of wine and only spent about 10euros each. love it!

day 6: we had to get up SO early to leave at 5:30 a.m. to catch a train to dax. dax is known for it's annual bullfighting festival and it has many other spanish influences. we made a stop for lunch and i got a quiche and a chocolate crossiant and then we got a short tour of the area. vincent went to school there for a short time and we got to see the house he lived in for awhile. we made a stop in the tiny town that vincent was born in and got to see the baptismal font that vincent was baptized in. that was pretty cool. after that we went to pau where we were staying and had dinner. the hotel was in the middle of NOWHERE and there was nothing to do. it was pretty rough but it was good to have an early night after our early morning.

day 7: we made a stop in toulouse where we visited a couple of very cool churches and saw the university vincent studied at. we had an independent lunch and i ended up having chicken and frites with some terrible white wine. i wasn't too impressed. the city is cool though. it's kind of dirty/gritty compared to the other places we visited and i liked it. seems like it's a lot of students. they have a big beautiful square that had a market set up when we arrived. after that we went to carcassone which is a medieval walled city. i was really excited about this stop but when we went for a tour i realized how insanely touristy it was and immediately was grumpy. i took some alone time to walk around the area and then went back to the hotel for quiet time before dinner. we had a group dinner at the hotel and then some of us went for a nighttime walk around the city walls and then grabbed a drink. probably my least favorite day.

day 8: this day completely made up for my crabby day! we had long bus rides through countryside and i enjoyed the quiet time to myself. we made a stop at the pont du gard which an amazing roman aqueduct in great condition. it was a great stop to make! then we went to avignon which i immediately fell in love with. it is another walled in city but so much better than carcassone! it's not touristy really and it's more spread out. it's the old papal city. me valerie and john grabbed sandwiches and walked up to the garden on top of a hill top. we sat in the shade and then took some pictures of the view. after that we did a bit of shopping and i finally found a store with mustard and honey! all the others i checked out were always closed. i was very happy! then john and i got crepes! yum! then we drove on to lyon which is a pretty big city. we went to a fancy restaurant for dinner that had terrible service but the worlds yummiest asparagus soup and then went for a walk along the river. i like the feeling of lyon and was excited to explore the next day!

one more update to come!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

France: the recap! Part 1

I just returned from the Vincentian Heritage Tour that took me all around France to follow in the footsteps of St. Vincent de Paul and learn more about the university's mission. I was so lucky to have been chosen and I'm so grateful for getting to experience this wonderful trip! Here is a summary of the first few days with pictures below!

day 1: we arrived in paris after a brutally uncomfortable flight and immediately did a tour of the city. we made a pitstop near notre dame for lunch. i had a delicious quiche with bacon and then we walked around the area and spotted owen wilson checking out the cathedral! so cool! after a shower and a short nap i went for a short walk in the nearby promenade which is filled with pretty flowers and great sites. then we had a group dinner and then i promptly hit the hay! i was pretty overwhelmed with the city but excited to check out sites in the days to follow.

day 2: after a delicious breakfast at the hotel we went to the Vincentian Motherhouse which has a small museum with some incredible relics like Vincent's shoes, robe, watch and other interesting items. the highlight was the chapel that holds Vincent's remains. They have a very creepy realistic wax efigy of his body but underneath his remains are kept. it was pretty amazing to be able to see that. we also went to st. sulpice which had a Vincent chapel and a beautiful fountain in the front. We went to the Daughters of Charity Motherhouse which has a beautiful chapel that has Louise de Marillac's remains. The Daughters live to fulfill the mission of St. Vincent de Paul by serving the underprivileged. We got shushed out of the chapel so it wasn't as moving as the Vincentian Motherhouse. After that I went with some coworkers to explore and find dinner. We ended up at a one dish place that only served steak frites. you sit down and they ask you how you like your steak and then bring you a salad. they bring out half the steak and a serving of frites at the beginning. it had a delicious mustard basil sauce on it that was perfect. after youre done with that portion they bring out the rest of the steak and more frites! it was to die! one of my favorite meals for sure. i really bonded with one of the women on the trip and ended up spending a lot of the trip together.

day 3: this was one of my favorite days. we took a bus trip to folleville. the mission has its origins in a sermon that Vincent gave at the church here. it was my first glimpse of french countryside and all the beauty that comes along with it. i really enjoyed getting out of the city to the quiet of folleville where i could focus on soaking up this moment. there are castle ruins on the grounds too that were pretty cool to see (pic below). then we had the most wonderful lunch. this was my first non jetlagged group meal and i really enjoyed it! we had a delicious meal including a cheesy crepe mushroom casserole thing and a chicken dish and a decadent dessert. so yummie! after that we drove a bit to amiens to see the famous cathedral. i really wanted to stick around in amiens longer because it looked so lovely but we only visited the cathedral which is ENORMOUS! its so grand and overwhelming. i loved having the opportunity to see that. after that we headed back to the city and i connected with vanessa, my bff currently living in germany who came to visit! we caught up for awhile and then ventured out to dinner and ended up at Bofinger which is supposedly the oldest brassierie in Paris. i started with the onion and cheese soup (holy moly!) and then got steak and green veggies. we shared sorbet afterwards. it was funny though because i don't know any french at all and saw the word porc and figured id just go with that but the waiter kept trying to tell me that it was pork foot. when i finally realized what it was i went with the steak instead! it was like a breath of fresh air having nessa there. i didn't have to think about what to talk about or worry about making good impressions. we talk almost everyday on gchat but being in person is so much better!

day 4: in the morning the group went to a few churches and the original site of St. Lazare. afterwards i met vanessa for some site seeing! we grabbed quiches and raspberry tarts from a nearby bakery and sat in the sun to enjoy the quiches and took the tarts for later. that quiche is still one of the best things i ate the entire trip. we took the metro into the city center and went to notre dame and then ate our tarts in the courtyard infront of it. they were SO good. the rest of the day is a blur - i don't remember what order we did the following things in - we sat in the park behind notre dame and listened to live jazz, got gelato at a famous shop, shopped at some souvenir stands, visited a famous plant market and then went to champs elysees for some shopping. we ended up at the arc de triomphe for photo ops. after that we tried to go to the bistro nessa ate at on her last trip to paris but it was too full so we went next store which is owned by the same company. it was one of the most decadent and delicious meals EVER! we both started with lobster salads and then i got shrimp ravioli in an artichoke foam. crazy. then we split an amazing chocolate tart. all so wonderful! then we busted a move to get to the last boat cruise on the seine. i got free tickets for us through the trip. it was a bit rainy so the boat was totally empty. we tried to sit outside but we kept getting wet so we watched from inside and went out for the big sites. we were both so full we could barely move! afterwards we caught the eifel tower light show at midnight. so lovely :).

more updates to come!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Recap of the craziest vacation EVER!

i just returned from Hunky Dory and it was quite the week! the vacation was literally doomed but we still somehow managed to have lots of fun. it started off last weekend with driving through an intense rain storm, the arriving at hunky dory to discover the boat needed a new battery - mr. j went to buy one and then it disappeared - stolen, lost, forgotten - we still don't know! then there was a gas leak in the boat, then rob's brother-in-law threw out his back, rob's cousin had a minor tubing accident and there were also bear sitings so we were freaking out about that. then there was a tornado/crazy storm that took out 48 trees and 4 cars -all jensen cars :( and left us with no electricity or water on and off for the rest of the trip. it was a HUGE downer and really upsetting to see the resort so messed up. i've never seen a storm like it. we watched it all go down from the lodge - trees snapping in half and being uprooted and canoes being lifted and blown into the water. no one was hurt but it caused so much damage. luckily the neighbors and friends pulled through and worked so hard to get everything up and running. that night rob's cousin's girlfriend got in a car accident on her way to pick up his cousin and totaled her car! it was one disaster after another! but miraculously by the next day a lot had been cleared up and breakfast was still served on time. but the drama didn't end for long - the day before we left rob's dad dislocated his hip! he had to be taken to a hospital to get it put back in place and he didn't get to come back with us. one of his sisters drove him back the next day. luckily he's doing alright now. we found out that night that one of the neighbors suffered a mild heart attack and on the way home rob's brother got pulled over for a speeding warning too! i know it sounds like i'm making it up but it all happened! totally doomed i tell ya.

despite all of this craziness we still had a lot of fun. i saw more animals then ever before up there - lots of eagle sitings, huge snapping turtle, tons of chipmunks, a snake, a baby squirrel, finches and more. i skiied a lot, walked and ran a few times, canoed and even got a little tan without getting too sunburned. and ofcourse - ate my little heart out. however, the best part was baby luke being there! i LOVE him and loved every second i got to hold him and make him laugh. it was sooo fun to have a baby around. i can't wait to see him in october - he will be so big by then! it was also great to spend so much time with rob's brother who will be leaving for bali in about a week. he will be gone for 10 months so it was wonderful for all of us to have so much quality time. it was also perfect to spend so much time with rob because i'm going to be leaving for FRANCE TOMORROW!!!!!!!!!!!!! i'll blog all about it when i return on august 15. see ya!