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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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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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Mail from home 2006 November 16

Posted by @jennyjenjen in Helpful Hints, Home vs. Sweden.
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One of the great joys of studying abroad is getting packages from home, and it manages to be somewhat pf an ambivalent thing; whereas one misses home quite a bit, it’s always nice to get a little bit of home while being away.

My aunt Jean has been sending me some cute cards, and I’ve really appreciated that. I’ve gotten once package from home before, too, which I sorely needed at the time; it included a few of my jackets! But it had been a little while since that last package, so I was looking forward to the next one.

I received a great package from home just the other day, and felt that it was momentous enough to document:

Stuff from home! Here was the bad boy. Packages usually get left at Skolgatan, apparently, although I was originally told that packages not small enough to fit in mailboxes were taken to the ICA Väst just behind Sernanders väg. One takes the slip that gets left in the mailbox and takes it to the listed location. There’s a little barcode on it and they just scan it and get it all marked up in the system (or something like that). Since I never know how big or small the boxes that come to me are going to be, I usually take the bus to go pick them up. It seems to take ten days, regardless of what USPS says, to get here to Sweden.

I had an idea of most of what was going to be in the package, but the anticipation of opening something from home was enough to keep me excited.

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Corridor living: kitchen duties 2006 October 17

Posted by @jennyjenjen in Corridor Living, Helpful Hints, Home vs. Sweden.
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“Kitchen duties” is a nice way to put it. In my hall, we call it something else:

kitchen bitch
That’s right. We make no politically-correct apologies.

Yeah, I was Kitchen Bitch this week. It entailed putting away dishes that were on the drying rack, taking out trash and recycling, and mopping and sweeping the floor at the end of the week. It’s really not that strenuous work at all, but taking out the trash is really disgusting – you’re emptying what twelve people are leaving in the trash cans.

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Gasques: food, drink, tradition, and more drink 2006 September 29

Posted by @jennyjenjen in Food & Drink, Helpful Hints, Language, Social Life.
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I’ve attended two gasques thus far during my stay at Uppsala, and they are one of the most entertaining and unique aspects of studying in Sweden. I’ve been looking for ways to describe gasques in a historical sense, but I really haven’t found much. What I can tell you, though, is that they are traditional three-course dinners here in Uppsala, and they’re a ton of fun. And lots of drinking!

lots of booze, baby my goofy friend Mathias and me
Left: Crazy amounts of alcohol + some absorption (good food!); Right: what crazy amounts of alcohol can do to you! (just kidding! That’s Mathias and me)

My first experience at a gasque was the Reccegask, a gasque mostly intended for the newcomers to a nation. The attendees gather in front of the main university building behind their nations’ flags, and parade into the beautiful hall for a number of musical performances and inspiring/funny/mildly interesting speeches given by a variety of important people in the nation and university communities. I rather enjoyed all performances, especially the great music (some swing and jazz!) and the funny speeches (although in Swedish, I fortunately understood virtually everything).

We then headed back to our respective nations. There was a small amount of time for mingling and drinking champagne before we entered the dining hall. Seats were assigned, which in my opinion makes it more fun; you meet new people and your table mate is a surprise.

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Life at the Student Nations 2006 September 11

Posted by @jennyjenjen in Helpful Hints, Social Life.
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At Uppsala Universitet, every student must join a student nation. The student nations are named after regions of Sweden, and Swedish students usually join the one that represents their background. However, for international students, we choose based on a whole other set of reasons!

Nations are basically places where students can congregate for activities and such. They were once looked down upon as promoting the more mischevious Those activities nowadays mostly consist of drinking, clubbing, and fika (conversation over a cup of coffee and a treat or two). There are also all kinds of clubs, choirs, and sports organizations at the nations. We spend anywhere from two to four nights at the nations, dancing sometimes but usually just socializing. I think that’s just because we’re international students and can get away with going out every other night.

clubbin at Snerikes oooh party at Värmlands
Left: (L-R) Ashley, Kerstin, Julia and Timo; Right: Uh, is that me? Um, not sure…

After some deliberation, I chose Värmlands nation. It was either that or Snerikes (Södermanlands-Nerikes), but since so many other exchange students I knew were joining Snerikes, I chose Värmlands. But as a member of a nation, you can go to any other nation’s activities, too.

One of the most fun parts of nation life is the gasques. A gasque (gask) is a formal dinner filled with three courses, plenty of drinking (snaps/schnapps, beer, wine), and lots of singing! I recently attended a run-through of what a gasque is like. We learned plenty of drinking songs, how to toast properly, and what the setup of your table looks like. It was a lot to remember, but as we were told by the organizers of the meeting, you might be too drunk by the end of the dinner to really know what you’re supposed to be doing. Nobody has any problem with that, anyways.

I’m attending my first gasque hopefully this weekend, if there are still spots available at the Reccegask at my nation. If not, I already have reservations to attend the International Gasque at Stockholms nation.

Who goes to Sweden and doesn’t stop at IKEA? 2006 September 3

Posted by @jennyjenjen in Corridor Living, Food & Drink, Helpful Hints, Travel.
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There is no such thing as a complete trip to Sweden without a visit to IKEA. No. Such. Thing.

IKEA, for those of you who aren’t terribly familiar with it, is a Swedish home furnishing retailer that specializes in cheap – yet functional – furniture. It was founded by Ingvar Kamprad, and the name IKEA stands for Invgar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd (you can read more at Wikipedia). There are all sorts of ideas behind it, going as deep as the foundations of modern Swedish society to as light as making a stylish life affordable. We were mostly just there for a little style and some meatballs!

After quite a bit of pondering about when we should go to IKEA, we finally picked a day and set off. I went with Christian, Kerstin, Timo and Katharina, all German students. We knew it was going to be a very fun trip.

ingång!
Ingången (the entrance) to IKEA

IKEA in Uppsala is located in Boländerna, which is a two-bus journey (one has to switch buses in town to get there when coming from Flogsta), so I would highly recommend visiting by car as opposed to taking the bus. We commissioned Christian for the driving task, since none of us have cars ourselves. We figured it would be less of a hassle, anyways, having to carry things back. Christian thankfully obliged.

I had my eyes on a few specific things when I got to IKEA, but there was one thing I couldn’t resist checking out first: kitchens!

IKEA kitchen another IKEA kitchen
I can’t quite express in words to you how much I love kitchens.

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Finding a bicycle 2006 August 29

Posted by @jennyjenjen in Helpful Hints, Language, Swedish Lessons, Transportation.
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On my second day here, a German exchange student named Kerstin arrived. The next day we were sitting watching television when we decided to go look for a bicycle; Uppsala is a pretty pedestrian-friendly city, and a bicycle is a must-have for any student (or really, anyone at all) in Uppsala. It was a Saturday, and there would be flea markets and the shops would still be open, so we ventured to town on the bus and got off in the city center.

After picking up some newspapers at Pressbyrån and then finding a place to get some coffee, we sat down and looked through newspaper advertisements for anything about used bicycles. We found a neat place called Saluhallen, which I’ve visited quite a few times since my arrival. It isn’t the cheapest place in the world, but it’s not bad, either.

Saluhallen
Saluhallen in Uppsala

We called one man who we later figured out lived way too far north for it to be anything less than a hassle to visit, but that was all that was good in the newspaper advertisements. We were beginning to get a little frustrated when we picked up a free newspaper that was sitting at the table, Uppsala Tidningen (which turns out not to be that bad of a newspaper; it reminds me of the Colorado Daily, but better). It was then that we discovered two advertisements for damcyklar (women’s bicycles) and herrcyklar (men’s bicycles), both with the same number; so, we figured we’d check it out.

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Arrival in Sweden and the First Few Days 2006 August 29

Posted by @jennyjenjen in Helpful Hints, Language, Transportation, Travel.
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After three flights and more than a day and a half without sleep, I arrived at Arlanda Airport just north of Stockholm at about 2:00 pm. I had no problems with getting my luggage, although to fly from Manchester to Arlanda I had to check my carry-on that I had with me from Denver to Chicago and Chicago to Manchester. My luggage came out near the beginning, so I was all ready to go right away. After freshening up in the restroom quickly, I headed out to catch the bus to Uppsala. I actually missed the first one that was there (and the driver wasn’t going to stop for me, oh well), but waiting an extra 15-20 minutes was no hassle after having traveled over 14 hours.

Right off the bat, I was speaking plenty of Swedish. On the bus ride to Uppsala, I met one of the people who was coordinating the international student activities, a student who was an exchange student himself in the States. He told me how to get to the offices I needed to get to once I arrived, but it ended up being unnecessary as I needed to hail a taxi to help me with all the bags I had once I got there (later, I found that one of my friends coming to Uppsala had brought more than I had, and what I had was virtually nothing compared to his luggage!).

After getting to the international office I quickly found out that it was closed. (Ugh! The hours discussed in the booklet were for the following week, and since I’d arrived early, didn’t apply to me.) I left my luggage with a receptionist next door and headed to the Studentstaden office to get my key. If I were to do it over again, I probably would have been better at reading my acceptance packet (there are so many different resources for telling one how to get along when you arrive, but the best instructions to follow are the ones that come in the acceptance packet!). I should have left my luggage at Västgöta Nation while I went to Dragarbrunnsgatan 42 (the Studentstaden office) to get my key, then check into the international office.

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