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Christmas Break, Day 3: Versailles & le Louvre 2006 December 22

Posted by @jennyjenjen in American Holidays, Christmas Break, Helpful Hints, Travel.
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I went to do some of my own errands on the northwest edge of Paris on the morning of the third day. I made it to my destination on time (thanks to the wonderful metro system!), and after that I met my parents and brother outside the Notre Dame de Paris.

Notre Dame de ParisIt’s only slightly confusing getting to the Notre Dame from the metro stop nearby. Not many guidebooks do a very good job of it, as a girl I had met on my way there had discovered. She was also a visiting tourist, studying in Lyon. After walking around a little while and trying to figure out where we were, we finally got there and spent a while taking some pictures while waiting for my parents.

Last time I was in Paris we visited also the Notre Dame, so after just a few pictures and eating a quick lunch (mom and dad brought baguettes with them) we were on our way to Versailles. It’s easy to get to Versailles; just climb aboard the RER train and take the C line (it’s yellow) towards Versailles, which is the last stop anyhow.

This was our first visit to Versailles. Our last trip was too short for a trip to Versailles, which is definitely worth a good afternoon visit. It’s far enough outside the city that the train ride provides ample time for a snack and a chapter or two of a book.

For those of you unfamiliar, Versailles was once the capital de facto of the French kingdom and home to le Château de Versailles (or the Palace of Versailles). Its history as a château begins in around 1624 as a hunting château, and later became the property of Louis XIII. From there it was built up into a massive palace.

Versailles
The sprawling palace of Versailles.

On the way to the palace from the train station, one encounters several tourist traps (like a few souvenir shops and foreign men trying to sell knock-off watches and such) as well as a sea of cobblestone. The men selling knock-off watches are very good at detecting tourists who will stop and listen, and if you silently walk past them without looking them in the eye they’ll leave you alone.

an elegant staircase
Left: the palace is full of elegant staircases. Right: a hall of sculptures near the front of the palace.

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Christmas Break, Day 2: Paris & le Métro 2006 December 21

Posted by @jennyjenjen in Christmas Break, Helpful Hints, Transportation, Travel.
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After a good night’s sleep, we spent the next day figuring out what we would do the rest of the week in the apartment on Rue du Chemin Vert. We also spent a few hours walking around the outskirts of Paris for a quick appointment. I had the address and spent the a little time the night before figuring out which stop we needed to take on le Métro.

I’ve got to say that one of my favorite things about Paris is le Métro.

le Métro
One of the infamous signs for the metro.

The Parisian underground is definitely the best way to travel in Paris. It’s quite nice to go on foot most places, but impossible to get across more than one quarter in a timely manner. It’s definitely worth figuring out which metro plan is best for you when you visit; should you get separate tickets, or perhaps a pass? When we first came to Paris, we bought the Paris Visite card for one day. This time, we bought the five-day tickets. Since my parents and brother arrived before I did, they had already bought one day; but my father went and bought me one the day after I arrived. It was a great deal and we didn’t have to use any other mode of transport getting around the city. I’m not sure if it’s true, but I have read that if you are within the Paris city limits then you are never more than 1,000 meters away from a metro stop at any given time.

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Christmas Break, Day 1: Arriving in Paris 2006 December 20

Posted by @jennyjenjen in Christmas Break, Transportation, Travel.
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Paris before sunset
An apartment building on rue du Chemin Vert across from our window

So, as previously noted, I took a flight from Skavsta Airport to Beauvais airport just outside of Paris. I left at 5:10 in the morning to make it to the airport a few hours before my noon departure, just as instructed for all passengers so that everything can be ironed out without risking missing a flight. I arrived at Beauvais just a little after schedule, and my father’s friend Bertrand was waiting for me. Bertrand and his wonderful family live only 20 km from Beauvais, and he does his flight training there. He offered to take me to a train station from where I would take the RER into Paris and Le Métro to the apartment we were renting in the 20th quarter (20e arrondissement) of Paris. I used Bertrand’s phone to briefly call my parents at the apartment; they had already arrived in Paris.

The ride over to the train station was a little bumpy; I get rather motion-sick, and it had been months since I’d ridden in a car for any longer than ten minutes. It didn’t help that the flight had some interesting turbulence and a bumpy landing. Nor did I get much sleep the night before. I felt a little better with some orange juice and a snack at the train station. We tried calling my parents again, but nobody answered. We assumed everyone was probably sleeping, but since the stop was so close to their house and I had their address, I figured it would not be too difficult to just find my way over there.

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Flying RyanAir 2006 December 20

Posted by @jennyjenjen in Christmas Break, Helpful Hints, Transportation, Travel.
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One of the great things about my plan to spend the year here in Sweden was that my family planned on meeting me in France to spend the holidays. Upon first consideration, it was a good idea considering I would be able to share some of my travels with my family. It would also make the entire year a little easier for me; I would see my family and have an escape from Sweden for a little while, but I would not suffer some extra detachment from home upon return from Colorado had I decided to just go home for the holidays.

Sometime in the fall, I booked my flights with RyanAir. Though it’s possible to get flights with RyanAir for only a few cents plus $25 or so in fees, I took a flight that cost roughly 1,000 SEK or about $130. That included my one-bag allowance for checked items.

I’d heard a lot about RyanAir in terms of it being somewhat of a flying cattle car. It was my first experience with RyanAir, so I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to the flight. It turned out that, yes, it felt a bit stuffy and crowded in the plane, but the flight experience itself was not too terrible. There was one pretty dreadful landing, but everyone was safe so no harm done. There were no free refreshments, but what usually comes free on a plane (chips, soda) were not terribly expensive.

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Julgask at Värmlands 2006 December 20

Posted by @jennyjenjen in Food & Drink, Social Life, Swedish Holidays.
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I made it to my third and final gasque of the term with a julgask (Christmas gasque) at my nation, Värmlands, on 2 December. I had unfortunately forgotten my song book and was upset at myself for that, because it’s tradition to write in each others’ song books (and as I discovered at this gasque, it’s also tradition to bite each others’ songbooks!). That’s okay, though, I had a program for my table neighbors to sign.


This was my place-setting! It’s a pepparkaka (a gingerbread cookie, except Swedish gingerbread is thinner).

This gasque was a little different from some of the other gasques in that it was a julbord. A julbord (literal translation: Christmas table) is like a smörgåsbord (literal translation: sandwich table), except that it’s designed especially for Christmas. Amongst many other goods, we had plenty of lax (salmon), inlagd sill (pickled herring; not to be confused with surströmming, which is fermented Baltic herring!), julskinka (Christmas ham), knäckebröd (a hard, typically square bread), and leverpastej (liver pâté).

Left: me and Sebbie! We were tablemates!; Right: Kalle and Andreas

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Bringing Thanksgiving to Flogsta 2006 December 11

Posted by @jennyjenjen in American Holidays, Food & Drink, Home vs. Sweden, I miss..., Social Life.
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Ashley, Bergin and I first started thinking about Thanksgiving in August. We were settled down at Djurgården for our first trip to Stockholm when we sat down to have a beer and talk about home. We talked about getting a turkey, making mashed potatoes, rolling out dish after dish of casserole and watching some American football. It came up every once in a while, especially when we were homesick. It seemed like it might not have happened with all the crazy schedules and the troubles we’d heard others mention about getting hold of a full-sized, whole turkey.

Luckily, our dreams somehow became reality with the help of Ashley’s practiced turkey-cooking skills and our combined efforts with some fellow Americans, a few Canadians and a handful of Swedes. There were at least a dozen attendees! We made mashed potatoes, green bean casserole (thanks Mom for the recipe!), mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, you name it! The only thing that was missing was cranberry sauce, but that’s okay. We had a great meal anyhow. Ashley’s turkey was spectacular and she did a wonderful job organizing the whole dinner, not to mention cleaning up her corridor for it.

Thanksgiving #3
Looking down the table at a successful Thanksgiving

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