Hey Jay! Or I should say, Bonjour!

Even though I haven’t had (or spoken any French) in about 4 years, I was thrilled to arrive in Paris and discover that I still have a firm grasp on basic communication. Whether it was asking for directions or ordering something in a cafe, so far everyone has seemed to understand me and will communicate with me ‘en francais’ which I love.

I’m sorry I didn’t update you straight away. I started my trip a week ago in London. I met a new friend there who also works in the healthcare industry, which was the right touch to kick off my trip. I did a lot of sightseeing on Saturday, but I also caved to Alex’s great suggestion of seeing a show there…so I saw two. I was in the rafters of Phantom but soaked up every note as it’s my favorite musical and have never seen it live. I also managed to snag great seats at the Royal Ballet. The rest of my London stay was pretty typical, although a bit rainy and cold for my tastes. I had several friends that I’ve met online who offered to take me for coffee to warm my bones – that certainly helped! The ash cloud threatened to prolong my stay (the horror!), but Heathrow reopened in plenty of time to get me to Dublin.

With the help of super-detailed directions from my friend who is studying abroad this year, I managed to catch a bus downtown and then walk across Trinity to the local women’s choir rehearsal. They were prepping for a competition that weekend, so they were rehearsing in full force. What a treat! After their rehearsal was over, I got an impromptu tour of Trinity as we headed across campus to my friend’s apartment.

The next two days were a complete blur of Irish brogue and being bombarded by Guiness from every direction. We decided to take a tour outside of Dublin my second day, so the first day we managed to tour Trinity, and visit Dublin Castle, the Chester Beatty Library, the National Library, Museum, and Gallery of Art (phenomenal!), Christ Church Cathedral, St. Patrick’s, and of course shopping on Grafton Street. I also tried Irish stew for the first time, after a humorous discussion in the pub about whether there was wheat in the stew (they thought I kept saying “meat” until i wrote it down!). On Day 2 of Dublin, we took a bus tour called “Wild Wicklow” to Glenolough. We stopped several times in areas that are well-known for being used for filming in movies like Braveheart, PS I Love You, and Leap Year. The view was incredible from the tops of the mountains looking down to the Guiness estate, which we passed. We wound around some crazy country/mountain roads, and saw someone cutting and stacking bricks of peat as well as assorted deer, cows, horses, and sheep (so cute). Once in Glenolough, we hiked around an ancient cemetary and viewed both the upper and lower lochs. There are no words to describe the views – and my poor measly digital camera does not do it justice. This place is a must-see!

Like I mentioned before, London and Dublin were wonderful, and I was nervous about heading to my first country where English is not the main language. However, all the stereotypes of Parisiennes (and the French in general) are so wrong. It is like being stereotyped as a redneck because we’re from the South. Everyone here is gracious, kind, and willing to try to communicate in broken French or English, whatever works. I hope we can always gives others the benefit of the doubt; maybe they are inclined to be rude, but because I ask politely and smile and am patient in line, they appreciate my efforts and reward them. Or, they are genuinely nice and helpful anyway but many are too busy to see it in a different language?

My first full day in Paris was jam packed, to say the least. I wanted to stay topside in Paris so I could soak up as much culture as possible. I started with a 2.5 mile walk from my hotel to the Louvre..then to Notre Dame, the Bastille area, in search of a restaurant across the Seine (which was unfortunately closed), back to the Centre Pompidou, up in the city to the Opera, and up the many, many. MANY staircases to the Basilica de Sacre Coueur. After I hoofed up all the stairs into the cathedral, on a whim I then decided to climb up to the dome. Silly choice – but 5 euros and 300 MORE stairs later, I was awe-struck by the beautiful views of Paris laid out in front of me. I am going to the Eiffel Tower tomorrow, but I don’t know if it can compete with today’s views. I stood for nearly half an hour gazing in every direction! (And at the end of the day, I think all that walking added up to 12 miles).

So, week 1/4 of my trip is complete. I’m so in awe of everything that I am seeing and soaking in. I’m so grateful for this opportunity, which is really opening my eyes to some new cultures and perspectives (and has done so since day 1 in the airport).

I’ll try to catch up with you again soon!

Au revoir,