Eif(Fall) Tour in France

That was a really bad pun.  Sorry.

So recently, the whole UP Salzburg program took a tour through Ulm (Germany), Metz, Reims, Verdun, Paris/Versailles, and Strasbourg (all France).  If the over 800 photos and videos I took during this week meaning anything, it’s that this trip was pretty good.

We were greeted by pretty bad weather throughout most of the trip, but it was a ton of fun regardless.  

Freitag (Friday), 23. November 2018

We left just before 7 am on Friday the 23rd (so I’m a little behind on this blog post).  Our first “real” stop was Ulm, but it was only for a little while, on the way to Metz, which is a 7 hour drive (Salzburg to Metz).  

We only stopped briefly in Ulm, mostly just to check out the Ulm Münster, which is the tallest church spire in the world.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I can tell you it was HUGE.  We couldn’t even see the top because the clouds covered it:

Ulm Münster

We hung out in Ulm fairly briefly; we mostly just checked out the cathedral and wandered around the city, and we also ate lunch.

We also found a museum about “Bread Culture,” which we all got a good kick out of (like where else would you find a museum about bread?) and a funny sign about currywurst (which is definitely my favorite meal to eat here.  Seriously, if you’re ever in Germany or Austria, try currywurst.  You won’t regret it.):

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dscn1864.jpg
“Museum of Bread Culture”

Anyways, after checking out Ulm for an hour-ish, we got back on the road to Metz, where we would spend the night.  When we got into Metz, we got a little lost about directions to our hotel, but eventually, we did get to it alright.  The first thing we did was head back out to go check out the Christmas markets.  We spent quite a few hours there, and it was a ton of fun.  We got some good food – Natalie and I got a raclette, which is basically a sandwich with melted cheese that’s scraped directly out of a melting cheese roll.  It was phenomenally good.  Ordering was a mess because I took French for three years and remembered how to order, but when it came to “please” or “thank you” (as well as most other responses) my brain automatically went to German.  Anyways, I hung out with Natalie, Brittany, and Chloe, who I hadn’t really travelled with, and they were a ton of fun to spend time with.  Then we headed to this big island thing that was filled with Christmas lights, where we met up with another group of UP people.  I spent most of the night messing around with my camera – I really wanted to see if I could get bokeh photos of the lights.  Thankfully, my friends allow me to take pictures of them to see if it works:

So after checking out the lights for awhile, we headed back to the hotel and got some sleep.  

samedi (Saturday), le 24 novembre 2018

The next morning, we woke up pretty early to get breakfast and hit the road to get to Verdun.  

Verdun has been on my “must see” list of places for years, and it was so interesting to actually finally get to see it.  The ground is still heavily cratered and damaged due to the 40-60 million shells that destroyed the land during the battle.  We visited a destroyed city, Fleury, which was hit by over 90,000 TONS of shells in one day.  The city was absolutely demolished, and the “city” (as it is today) is pockmarked with placards of what used to stand where (i.e. farms, schools, etc.).  Like Mauthausen, it was incredibly sobering – knowing that hundreds of thousands of soldiers MY AGE or YOUNGER had died horrible deaths on that battlefield for the sake of pretty much no gain of land was very sad.  That being said, the memorials and the museum at Verdun were very well done, and the museum was probably the most interesting and well done museum I’ve ever been to.  It was absolutely fascinating:

One very memorable quote from the museum, which I feel really shows just how horrific war is, comes from a young German soldier who was fighting at Verdun.  He sent a letter home to his mother, saying:

Mama, warum hast Du mich zur Welt gebracht?  Warum muss ich solches miterleben?

This translates to “Mama, why did you bring me into this world?/why did you give birth to me?  Why must I witness such things?”

The stories of the soldiers affected me deeply.  I read another quote from a letter from a French soldier to his wife back in France – he said something along the lines of, “This battle is of the likes of hell.  Do not worry for me, I will be safe and home shortly.” And next to the quote, it read that the man died that very afternoon. 

After Verdun, we headed to Reims, where we hung out for a little while.  We checked out the Christmas markets (spoiler alert – this post includes a lot of Christmas markets), the Reims Cathedral (where the French kings were crowned) and got food:

After spending a little bit of time in Reims, we headed to Paris.

Paris was pretty interesting at the start, to say the least.  If you know anything about the news in France around the time of this, there were HUGE anti-Macron protests going on.  On our drive in, tons of the toll stations had been taken over by protesters, and they were holding up the toll blockade things so we could go through without paying.  They waved and told us to honk the horn, and there were protesters on tops of bridges and in other places.  Before we got into Paris, we were warned against going to tourist destinations (i.e. the Eiffel Tower and Champs-Élysée) because the protests were particularly violent this weekend.  

Chloe, Natalie, Brittany and I got food first, at a little French pizza place, and the guy there was SO excited to speak English and he was also pretty excited that I tried speaking French.  My French was a MESS and I could barely get by but at least I tried! And then what?

Well, Chloe and I decided to head to the Eiffel Tower anyways.  

Chloe and I had both been to Paris and seen most of the things we had wanted to see, so we hung out for most of the weekend.  Anyways, on this trip, a bunch of the metro stations were closed because they had been taken over by protesters, which made our excursion much more difficult.  So we had to get at off a different stop and walk.  However, what would have normally been a 20-30 minute turned into an hour and a half long walk of sketchy streets, since most of the streets we should have taken to get to the Eiffel Tower were shut down by police.  

We got to a big opening and saw TONS of police cars flying down a large street (probably 30 or more police cars, some armored trucks too).  They blocked off a bunch of intersections in the area, but we got through without much trouble.

Here’s a blurry picture of a few of the police cars.

When we got down a little closer to the Eiffel Tower, we started seeing some protesters.  Chloe and I stopped talking because we didn’t want them knowing we weren’t from there (they’re very far-right protesters that are against fuel tax hikes, which were caused in part by American policy, but that’s a whole lesson so I’ll skip that).  Anyways, pretty much as soon as we got close, a protester came up and asked me something in French.  I took French for three years but totally forgot everything when I started taking German, so I just explained, in French, that we don’t speak any French.  Thankfully, he was very nice about it and left without an issue.  We ended up seeing a lot more police but ended up getting to the Eiffel Tower successfully, where there were NO PROTESTERS!  I’m not sure if they “quit early” or were forced out by the police, but there were no protesters AT the Eiffel Tower.  Thankfully, because of all of the protests, pretty much no one was at the Eiffel Tower – it was almost empty.  

We ended up walking around the Champs de Mars and taking some pictures with statues and whatnot.  Chloe danced around and we listened to music and talked – it was a really wholesome, fun night, and I got some pretty cool videos out of it.  (I’ll link my youtube video at the end of this post).  After awhile at the Eiffel Tower and just walking around and hanging out, we decided to head back to the hotel, but the metro station was closed so we ended up Ubering.

dimanche (Sunday), le 25 novembre 2018

On Sunday, we took the metro to the Ile-de-la-Cité to see the Notre-Dame de Paris, and a group went to Mass there but I felt very under-dressed, which was unfortunate because I wanted to go really badly.  However, I realized afterwards that a lot of people were so I kinda just missed out on going, but it gives me a reason to go back to Paris at the end of the year, I guess.  Anyways, while people were at mass, I went to a café with a small group of students, our Residence Director, Kaitlyn, our bus driver, Stravko, and Professor Weiler.  It was a lot of fun and it was a really good group because I hadn’t traveled with this group or really talked to them all that much, so it was nice just getting to relax with all of them. Afterwards, Gaby and Ari rented electric scooters (spoiler alert – later I do too) and they were a ton of fun to rent.  

We headed back to the hotel to get to the bus, and we went from there to Versailles.  Versailles was pretty cool but pretty underwhelming – it was gorgeous, yes, but the people there were fairly disrespectful, rude, and it was overall just too cramped to be able to enjoy it all that much.  Professor Weiler also mentioned this – she said it was one of her least favorite museums just because of how crowded it is – every doorway bottlenecked and evolved into aggressive tourists shoving their way through.  Pretty upsetting, but I guess it’s to be expected.

Anyways, the art there was pretty cool.  I was kinda upset that it was the winter, because the Garden of Versailles was pretty gloomy, plus the fountains weren’t on, but it wasn’t much of a problem:

After Versailles, we headed back to Paris, where we got a guided bus tour by a very nice lady who told us all of the cool places to visit, but I’d already been to quite a few.  So after this tour, we spent the night in and hung out.  I also locked myself out of my hotel room when I left my key on the bed while I went to the store to get food – I’m not sure if it was this night but I’m pretty sure it was; since it’s been a week and a half since it happened I’m not sure exactly though.


lundi (Monday), le 26 novembre 2018

We woke up pretty early again, this time to go to the Louvre.  I’d seen a lot of the Louvre exhibits that we went to, but it was a fantastic tour regardless.  Our tour guide did a really good job (it was the same lady who did our bus tour the day prior) and she took us through all of the main exhibits.  I got some pretty cool pictures at the Louvre, and a lot of videos, but I won’t include the videos because a lot of them take up space. Anyways, I learned a lot about the art – for example, any marble statue that is supported by a tree, a stump, or really anything for that matter, while the subject is standing, isn’t the original art piece – it’s a Roman copy of a Greek bronze original.  I’d already seen the Mona Lisa before, so I didn’t bother forcing my way through the crowd – instead, I stood at the back of the room, raised my camera up, and took a picture, so it’s a little blurry because the room is HUGE.

Anyways, once we were done with the Louvre, I went to lunch/brunch with another group that I haven’t really hung out with before, and it was a lot of fun.  We checked out the Christmas market right next to the Louvre, and after that, Brittany, Natalie, and I went to meet up with Chloe, and Brittany and Chloe went shopping for a little bit while Natalie and I explored around a little bit.  We saw some dancing trees, which was interesting(?) to say the least:

After this, we met back up with Chloe and Brittany, and we all went to get hot chocolate and macarons from the oldest (and most well known) maker of macarons, Ladurée.  I didn’t buy any because they were kinda expensive, but I was offered a bite of one of the other ones and WOW they were delicious:

We hung out for a little while and wandered around, and Chloe needed to get clothes for her mom for Christmas, so we all helped her look for clothes and gifts for Christmas.  After this, we headed back to our hotel and hung out for the night.  It was a pretty great night – a lot of food, weird inside jokes, funny videos and some weird impersonations.  I really enjoyed this trip because it gave me a lot of time to get closer to the three of them.  Anyways, after hanging out for a little while we all headed to our separate rooms and fell asleep, because the next day was a free day.

mardi (Tuesday), le 27 novembre 2018

We woke up early on Tuesday to grab breakfast and head out.  Since Chloe and I had already been to Paris and seen most of the things we wanted to see, we kinda just adventured around.  I went to the part of Paris that she had stayed in when she stayed in Paris for a month, and it was really cool.  There were art installations and cool little shops to the side:

Remember those electric scooters that I mentioned earlier? The really cheap, quick ones?  Well we decided to rent two of them and ride them along the Seine.  It was a lot of fun, and since they’re so cheap (1.50 euros for 10 minutes) we made quite a lot of distance (5 miles, because they go around 25 km/h).  We tried to head to a Christmas market near the Eiffel Tower but turns out it wasn’t open yet, but we saw some pretty cool sights on the way:

Thankfully, the weather brightened up for the one day we decided to really walk/scooter everywhere!  After not finding the Christmas market and wandering around, we decided to go to the Christmas market by the Louvre.  Unfortunately, when I went to lock my scooter at the Jardin du Luxembourg (so I’d stop being charged), I almost got pickpocketed!  Chloe and I had split up so I could get better reception – I only walked down the street, next to the Jardin du Luxembourg, and I was approached by a big group of 5 or 6 people.  My big mistake was that I knew not to sign the boards but didn’t realize it was a pickpocketing thing – whenever I was told “Don’t sign the boards” I assumed it was some sort of money scam – “You just signed up for this, so now you need to pay.”  So when they covered up my bag with their boards, I reached down to my camera bag to already find one of the women grabbing my camera.  I hit at her hand and yanked my camera/bag back, and sorta pushed her away and yelled a lot of obscenities at her, which I won’t include the phrasing here (and the rest of the group) and they played innocent, which made me FURIOUS.  The lady who had grabbed my bag yanked her hands back and held them up in the “I didn’t do anything!” gesture, to which I yelled at her about trying to take my camera.  They started to walk off, but Chloe was down where they were walking, and I was still pissed off, so I decided to follow them.  They had this big guy with them (I can only assume to stop people who got pickpocketed from taking their stuff back, but I’m not sure), and he got mad that I was following them, so I told them that I was telling Chloe that they’re thieves, and I flipped them off the entire way down.  They tried to ask Chloe (I was pretty surprised that they even tried after I had JUST told her that they were pickpocketers, so I applaud their effort?).  I checked, double-checked, and triple-checked that I hadn’t had anything stolen, and we ended up finally getting to the Christmas market.  The pickpocketing attempt made me mad throughout the rest of the day (and into the next day) but I made a HUGE scene about it on a VERY crowded street so I hope it put some fear into them because I’m pretty sure everyone along that street, which was bumper-to-bumper traffic, knew what had happened.  Anyways, once at the Christmas market, we got raclettes (those sandwich cheese things) and AH I wish they had them in Salzburg.  They’re SO good.

We ate our raclettes in the Louvre statue garden and I took a lot of pictures, of birds, Chloe, statues, pretty much whatever.  We had a lot of time to kill between then and when we were supposed to meet with Natalie and Brittany, so we hung out here for awhile, bird watching and talking.

We also found this really cool treeline, but Chloe and I saw a BIG group of high-school aged kids moving towards it, so we BOOKED it to get pictures while it was still empty.

After this, we headed to the Seine to hang out until Natalie and Brittany got out of the Musée d’Orsay.  It was such a nice day out, and we ended up being spotted by Kate and Abby (two other UP students) from a nearby bridge.  I heard someone calling my name and thought it was Natalie and Brittany, but nope!  It was pretty funny bumping into other UP people (we also bumped into Joy immediately after) when we were able to go anywhere in the city all day.  

I filmed most of the videos this weekend in slow motion (I had an idea for a project I wanted to do, which I’ll link later)

Once we met up with Natalie and Brittany, we headed to the Musée Rodin, which was really cool.  There was this big garden thing with tons of Rodin sculptures, including ”The Thinker.”  We hung out here and checked out the art for a pretty solid amount of time, but it was really gorgeous art.  I noticed that Rodin’s sculptures often have pained expressions on their face, and I’m not sure why that was, or if he had something going on in his personal life.

After hanging out at the Rodin Museum for awhile, we headed to the Sainte-Chapelle, but it was closed unfortunately, and the weather turned pretty sour so we headed to get some dinner and then back to the hotel.  

mercredi (Wednesday), le 28 novembre 2018

We woke up early yet again on Wednesday to head to Strasbourg.  It was a long drive, and by the time we got there, it was around 2:30 ish, so we dropped our stuff off in our hotel and went out for a “Batorama” boat tour through Strasbourg.  Unfortunately, the weather was pretty bad so a bunch of my photos were hampered by rain, but it was fun nevertheless.

After the boat tour, Andrés and I wandered around Strasbourg and the Christmas markets for awhile, then we ended up bumping into another group of Salzburgers and wandered around with them for a while.  I took a lot of pictures, but since it got dark early, a lot of them came out badly.  Here are some that didn’t come out too badly:

We got food at a Christmas market and ended up heading back to our hotel to meet for a group dinner at a different hotel.  After that, we headed back to our own hotel for the night.  

jeudi (Thursday), le 29 novembre 2018

On Thursday, we headed to the European Parliament (Parlement Européen).  It was really fascinating, and I learned so much about inter-European politics; since Strasbourg has had such a tumultuous history (It was controlled by the Germans, then the French, then the Germans again, then the French again) it was chosen as the “Capital of Europe” to bring countries together. 

The European Parliament was really interesting, because for their parliament, rather than grouping people together by country, they group them together by political affiliation.  In other words, all Christian Democrat groups of different countries are together, all socialist, all far-right, etc. are all grouped with like-minded people, so the countries intermingle.  Furthermore, they also have representatives who do not agree with the basic fundamental idea of the EU so they have a voice as well in trying to shut down or limit the power of the EU.  We went on a very interesting day, where high-school-aged students from various countries were in the parliament (like a mock UN or a mock government thing), so we got to listen to students’ opinions on their countries’ involvement in the EU, how they felt about the Euro, etc.  One of the schools from Austria was just outside of Salzburg!  After the tour of the European Parliament, Chloe, Natalie, Brittany, and I headed back out to the Christmas markets and to explore Strasbourg a little.  Also, I’d never had roasted chestnuts, but they were SO GOOD.  

After wandering around a little, we checked out the inside of the Strasbourg Cathedral.  It was gorgeous, and they had a massive Nativity scene on the side.  I wish I had better pictures (and more) but it was so dark inside that almost all of them came out blurry.

After the Cathedral, we went to get lunch at an Italian restaurant, got scammed out of a couple of Euros, and Chloe went to buy a hat, while I bought some chocolate merengue things.  Delicious.  Anyways, we went back to adventuring around and we wound up on a bridge, where we took some pictures.  Chloe and I finally wore striped shirts on the same day (we always wear striped shirts just on different days) so we went out in 30/40-ish degree cold to get a picture.

After this, we headed to a plaza thing and split up – Chloe and I went ice skating with a bunch of other UP people and Brittany and Natalie went shopping.  Ice skating was a ton of fun, and we ended up meeting a family from Portland!  A mother and her children were speaking English next to me, so I asked where they were from, and they said Oregon, and before I could ask where in Oregon they were from, they asked where I was from (typical Oregonian selflessness) and I told them Sacramento, but going to school in Portland.  Turns out the woman and her husband went to OSU!  They were travelling for 7 months because their parents all passed away in a short time period so they decided to drop everything and travel the world with their children, and they decided to finish their trip in Strasbourg, since it has the world’s biggest Christmas market – they were heading home in a week.  It was really nice meeting someone with such a connection to the place that I go to school in. 

Anyways, after ice skating around for awhile, Chloe and I met up with Brittany and Natalie, and we headed back to our hotel.  We hung out for a long while and had a pretty good night, then went to sleep because we had to wake up early the next day to take the bus the rest of the way back to Salzburg.  

Overall, Fall Tour was a ton of fun.  It reaffirmed the love I have for my friends and allowed me to make new ones in hanging out with new groups of people.  I love the little Salzburg family that we have and I can’t explain in words just how great this group of people is.  

So what’s next?

Well, the semester is just about over.  I’ve got a trip planned to Dublin with a group I haven’t travelled with, then my family is coming out and we’re travelling around for a week and half, then I might take a little solo trip to Slovenia or Bulgaria (or both?) or something for the New Year.  Not quite sure yet.  Anyways, then, mid-January, my German class is going to Berlin, which is like my favorite city in the world, so that’ll be a ton of fun.  I’m pretty pumped for the next couple of weeks.  

On a sad note, I’m really sad to see the nurses (and the lone non-nurse, Chloe) go.  It’s been so much fun getting to travel and experience new things with them and I’m incredibly grateful for them.  They’ve added so much fun to this semester and I just love them.

Anyways, that’s all for now.

Avec l’amour de la France/Mit Liebe aus Frankreich/With love from France,


P.S: Here’s my Youtube video about Fall Tour!:

And here’s my channel!:



French: Je voudrais = German: “Ich hätte gern” = “I would like”

Photo dump!  Yes, a lot of them are blurry.  Oh well.

2 thoughts on “Eif(Fall) Tour in France

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