Tag Archives: Cats

Back in America For an Hour

This past weekend Sweet Briar, the program I’m studying abroad with, took us on a day trip to Normandy to see the D-Day beaches and the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

The land of the American cemetery was given to the Americans following WWII so I was technically back in the United States for a brief hour!

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Our professors even “allowed” us to speak English while we were there, except I forgot and kept speaking French.

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While there I realized that without the sacrifices of so many men and women, I would not be here in France today.

It is notoriously cold and windy in Normandy so the night before I had a conversation with my host family that went something like this:

Host Mom: “Emily, do you have a scarf?”

Me: “What? Of course I do!”

Host Mom: “No, like a real scarf and not just one that looks pretty? One made out of wool or something to keep you warm?”

Me: “Ha. No I don’t have one.”

Host Mom: “What about a bonnet?”

Me: “A what?”

Host Mom: “You know like a hat!”

Me: “Uh no.”

Host Mom: “Well what about gloves? Do you have any gloves?”

Me: “I’m from Texas…”

I'm sorry that I'm Texan and I don't understand the cold!!
I’m sorry that I’m Texan and I don’t understand the cold!!

Basically, my host family ended up lending me their ski wardrobe, which I was very thankful for because despite the clear skies and the sun, the beaches were still freezing cold and windy!

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Showing off my mittens

We were also accompanied by a couple of tour guides who didn’t really do much besides walk us down the beach and point out a couple memorials with all of the information about the landings written down on them.

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Our first view from the beach

We walked through the part known as Omaha Beach, where some of the American forces landed during the Allied invasion of German-Occupied France.

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I really like this seafoam

Then of course, no visit anywhere is complete without seeing and photographing the local inhabitants of today:

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Thank you hand, for distracting the cat long enough for me to snap a picture

Cultural Remark: French dogs are remarkably well behaved. Seriously, dogs get on the metro all the time and most don’t try to run after other dogs or show any interest in passing by pedestrians!

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Our trip to Normandy was in brief, very short. We spent about two hours total on the beach itself before we had to head back to the train station in Caen to catch our train back to Paris.

This past week I’ve also still been super busy with my internship here and a bunch of applications for internships and advising have come out recently so I’ve been working away on them instead of updating my blog like I should!

But I promise…

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Athens: Cat Gods, Greek Frozen Yogurt, and Silly Photos

This past week was vacation time for All Saints Day in France. I’m not really sure what the holiday is exactly, but hey I’m not going to complain about a week of vacation! Sweet Briar didn’t exactly let us off of their classes, but when we heard that all Sorbonne classes were cancelled for the week, we all decided to skip the remaining classes and take advantage of valuable travel time!

When planning the trip I knew I wanted to go to Italy. It seemed logical since I had an extended break and lots of cities in Italy that I wanted to visit. Then one of my friends said they wanted to visit Athens and I created what some called “Emily’s Mediterranean Death March” as it included 2 days in Athens, Greece and 2 days each in Rome, Florence, and Venice. How’s that for some productive traveling? Don’t laugh but I was definitely sick by the end of the week – most likely with the build up of stress that came along with the title “Trip planner.”

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Hey there Athens!

I took an easyjet flight to Athens (I’ll write a blog post later reviewing the various budget airlines and travel tips) and after a hesitant metro ride to the inner city (everything was in Greek!) we finally made it to our hostel and dropped off our bags. Then we climbed the giant hill that towers over all of Athens.

Ignore my face and Zeus' temple in the foreground. I'm talking about that mountain looking thing with the Acropolis on top.
Ignore my face and Zeus’ temple in the foreground. I’m talking about that mountain looking thing with the Acropolis on top.

Lots of silly pictures ensued on the march to the top, full of “goddess” and “contemplating life” poses, but this one has to be my favorite.

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The Rice Owl in front of the Acropolis!

Then we wandered around the touristy streets for awhile and stumbled upon a Greek frozen yogurt shop and we had to try some. The yogurt is just one flavor (Greek) but you get to choose your toppings.

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Raspberries and white chocolate

Dinner that night was Moussaka. Now say that three times fast:

It reminded me a lot of Shepard’s pie as it was mostly a combination of potatoes and minced meat.

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It tastes even better than it looks

Then I’m not sure if this is a Greek thing (it probably isn’t) but the restaurant earned my eternal gratitude by giving us free dessert in the form of tiny scoop of ice cream in a shot glass.

This may not be Greek, but I love them for it
This may not be Greek, but I love them for it.

The next day we headed over to Zeus’ temple.

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Greek ruins are really impressive. I almost felt like I was inside a Percy Jackson movie and that Zeus and Athena were going to pop out at any moment, but the ruins were also a little disappointing, because they were well ruined. All that was left of Zeus’ temple was the few columns you see in the picture above, which left me feeling a little like this:

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Although I don’t think Hades would be too upset about the current state of Zeus’ temple.

I mean I know it’s unrealistic to wish that the ruins weren’t so ruined, but they were still really interesting, especially when we visited the Acropolis museum and got to see pieces of the Acropolis that had fallen off or had been stolen over the years. Then I got tired of seeing Greek ruins and decided to become a nice un-ruined Greek (uh Irish actually) statue.

Don't ask how I got up there
Don’t ask how I got up there

Lunch the next day was Gyros. I actually walked out of one restaurant we had tentatively decided on because they didn’t have gyros.

What? When I’m in Greece I need my Greek food!

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Check out that Sprite can.

Now there definitely weren’t as many stray cats in Greece as there were in Turkey, but these cats kept showing up smack dab in front of ruins, making them the most picturesque things in the entire city.

Here’s Hephaestus cat, contemplating the next mouse trap he will build for his home at the Temple of Hephaestus in the background:

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Hephaestus cat

Then there’s Zeus cat who is about to throw some lightning at me unless I give him some catnip…

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Zeus cat

And Athena cat is perfectly content to see that her temple still inspires about a million people a year…

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Athena cat in front of the Acropolis

I really enjoyed Athens and it was probably just the area I was staying by (right next to the Acropolis) but it almost felt too touristy, especially for late October. It was hard to imagine myself living there, as grocery stores were hard to find and we didn’t see much besides restaurants and souvenir shops that would indicate that people actually lived there. I loved the ruins though and would love to return one day and visit Delphi, Santorini, and other Greek isles.

To finish I would like to leave this extremely relevant video here in regards to both travelling in general and what I was imagining Zeus’ temple to be.

I’ll post about Rome, Florence, and Venice shortly!

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Seeing Istanbul through cats!

I don’t know how one city can have so many stray cats.

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Bosphorus University Cafe. Can you see them all?

In America, if you see an animal in the street, you pick the dog/cat up and you take it home and post lost animal signs everywhere until the owner inevitably comes to pick it up. If you did that in Istanbul, you wouldn’t have any room to sleep because every square inch of your house would be full of stray, homeless, animals!1779901_822624227753926_299665312_n Most of them look pretty well cared for though.1897856_821423467874002_371038843_n Even gorgeous.1890552_10152676204657786_951863118_o Some live in mosques.

Blue Mosque cat
Blue Mosque cat

Some prefer museums.

Hagia Sophia Cat
Hagia Sophia Cat

Some are very philosophical…

Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia

Or at least like posing for the tourists… mosque catSome liked to chill inside cafes like the rest of us…

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Bosphorus University cafeteria

Some hide from the tourists…

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Hagia Sophia gift shop

And most are very sweet and tame.

toki cat And here’s one guy having fun for you dog lovers… 1529885_825132247503124_551902269_o

All in all the people of Istanbul seem to love their strays. We often saw food set out for the dogs and cats and the people even protested their removal in 2012!

Decided to make this post a little less serious since the last one was so heavy! If you enjoyed this please subscribe (click Follow blog via email in the column on the right!) to receive this blog’s updates via email! Also, I love getting feedback so please comment!