About Me

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This is a little spot to call my own. I'm here to blog about what is on my mind and my plate! This is a place to share my journey to becoming a healthier and stronger me!

Monday, May 31, 2010

I want to vs. I have to...

The events of the past weekend have definitely changed my perception of my time in Europe. As you all know, the first two days here were rough to say the least and my day trip to Baden-Baden was a complete thrill. The highs and lows of the first week in Strasbourg have not gone by unnoticed. In looking at the big picture, I realized that the difference really comes down to the fact that I now look at this entire 6 weeks as something I want to do vs. something I have to do.
Polyculture at its finest.
Sunday morning brought some unpleasant weather but also the chance to partake in a "Discovering Alsace" tour provided by the university. The rain held off long enough for the group to tour around a small town called Rosheim. Lot's of photos were taken, but I am fond of the candid.
Our tour guide for the day is an assistant director at the SU Strasbourg center and he was excellent! Very knowledgeable about everywhere we toured and willing to take on as many questions as we had. As we approached our second stop, and lunch, I had a fitness/nutrition blogger geek session when I realized our bus was being diverted because of a local triathlon! I was so excited and distracted by the runners approaching the finish line I almost lost my group! Eek!

We ate lunch in Obernai, France at a restaraunt called "La Halle aux Bles". I had the vegetarian option (the pictures did not turn out). You can use your imagination for this though: picture a pound of butter with a side of vegetables, oh and bread of course :). The other veg-heads and I were joking about how the vegetarian option was more filling than the omnivore's dish!

The third stop on our excursion led us to the top of a huge mountain where we came upon a chateau-fort from the middle ages!

The view from the top was breathtaking. I am convinced that no camera, no matter the cost, could ever capture the scene we had a chance to take in. Here is my feeble attempt though just to give you an idea.
The town where the chateau is located is called Haut-Koenigsbourg.

On the way back to the bus I found a health store! Who knew that the people in the mountains of France loved protein powder and health bars as much as I do?!?
(Health)
The last stop of the day was by far my favorite! I went to my first wine tasting in Blienschwille on the "Route du vin" (road of wine). We were taught the basics of tasting wine and were offered 5 different kinds to try. Not to worry, I bought two bottles for my host mom and I to enjoy over some fine food.
I tend to prefer fruitier white wines over full-bodied red wines and therefore purchased a Pinot Gris and a Grand Bru Winzenberg. They are both delicious! I returned home after a 12 hour day absolutely exhausted. My host mom graciously fed me and then sent me to bed :). I slept like a rock.

I really do love it here. Since moving beyond the initial adjustment period and culture shock I have really come into my own here. I feel very comfortable now and I can even start to notice an improvement in my French skills! Score!!

Okay, I must race to class now, but I want to leave you all with my favorite picture of the day:


(A glass of wine is good. But a glass of wine from Alsace is better!)

Until next time,
~Jenn

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Klaus!

Bonjour friends!! I have been on quite the trek today. As I mentioned previously, I planned a trip to Baden-Baden, Germany to go hiking and visit some hot springs. Although I never made it to the springs I definitely partook in my fare share of hiking. Clearly when one knows they are going to hike all day, they carbo load the night before, right?

I ate among friends and discussed our impending travel while enjoying a delicious vegetarian special. I do not remember the name of the dish but it involved a lot of cheese. Go figure. :)

This morning I awoke bright and early because I was so eager to get a jump on the day. I dressed, ate more bread (with butter this time), packed up my backpack, and put on my most touristy outfit for what surely was to be an epic day. After 2 trains and 2 buses and a whole new country in front of us, my crew of 5 fellow SU abroaders landed in Baden-Baden ready to explore to our hearts content. But, of course, we all stopped to eat first. The only vegetarian option was a tomato and mozzarella sandwich, which I devowered in 5 minutes flat. Travel makes one hungry, I am convinced of it.

(A fellow vegetarian enjoying the German sandwich!)
We also split my very first chocolate croissant which was every bit as delicious as I had hoped. The bread is a lot softer in Germany and also seems to have less oil in the mix. Therefore the croissant managed to be effortlessly decadent without leaving us feeling gross. Post meal, the group and I spent a solid 45 minutes at the train station trying to figure out how to reach the castle we read about online.The main problem was that none of us spoke a peep of German. May I just say that all German words look alike? Good, I am glad that is out there. I digress...so after said 45 minutes we finally gave up a grabbed a cab with a very pleasant man named Klaus. (Sitting next to Klaus in the front seat! Can you see him in the mirror??)
He spoke pretty much no English except for the words "castle" and "ya". He took us to legitimately the middle of no where and pointed to the top of the mountain and said "castle." Before departing he gave me his phone number on a business card (which is how I found out his name.) NBD (no big deal) I now have a contact in Germany! Haha! As we hiked to the top of the castle, which we all believe was actually a fortress of some type, we stumbled upon the most breathtaking panoramic view of Germany I could have ever imagined.
Sitting on top of the fort I could not help but reflect upon my life at that exact moment. It was one of those times where you can completely acknowledge your life in the present and really realize how lucky you are. I mean it was Germany! Unreal!!

After we left the castle we hiked around the backwoods/mountains for another 2 hours. I was completely in my element and could not have been happier to be trekking through a forest. Once we left the green zone, we walked through the small town Klaus drove us through hours earlier. While walking down the street a man from his balcony shouted "Bravo!" at us. I am assuming it was because we looked like we had just come out of the boondocks alive! :)

The next hour was spent waiting for a bus that we never thought would arrive. The hours and a half after that was spent trying to navigate the most complicated bus system ever. We really could not wrap our heads around how such a small little town could possibly have so many bus routes! The map looked like the D.C. metro lines x 100! Oh, and of course they were all in German and all the names looked exactly alike.

By the time we had figured out where to go we found ourselves with some time to kill before heading to the train station. So we did what any good college kids in Germany do...found German beer! (The look on our face is nothing more than utter relief for finally figuring out the bus system!)
I ordered a supposed "wheat ale." But what it was actually called was Paulaner Kristallweizen. (I dare you to say that 5 times fast!)
Oh, did I mention we were also starving by this point? I learned today that the German equivalent of a vegetarian meal is a tomato and mozzarella sandwich. How did I learn this? By ordering my second one of the day. Seriously. The ride back to Strasbourg was a blur because I was so exhausted. We ran into the group of SU students who went to Heidelberg for the weekend at the most remote train platform ever near Offenberg, Germany. I think the stop was called "Auffenweire" but after a meticulous Google search I have learned that my spelling was so off Google can't even find it.

The group was headed to dinner upon arrival in Strasbourg. I joined in after purchasing my host mom a bouquet of flowers. Tomorrow is "le fête de mére" (mother's day) and I wanted to express my gratitude for all of her help throughout my first week here.

Everyone was apparently craving Mexican food, which I honestly did not know existed in France, but I was wrong. We ducked into a Tex-Mex restaurant right beside the Cathedral in the center of Strasbourg.

My meal may appear boring, but let me assure you, after a day of cheese and bread greens were exactly what I needed. Dessert followed dinner, as it always seems to in France, and my friend and I headed for gelato. This is the best 4 euro cone of bliss I have ever encountered. It is great for so many reasons, including that they shape it in the form of a flower!

My cone was a mix of chocolate, tiramisu, and chocolate chip. Divine. Oh and mom, don't worry, I promise we will go here when you come visit!

Ok, so if you made it this far, congrats! You made it through this longgg post. Desolée but I just had to recap this day! Oh, and if you were counting, I had 4 meals today not including snacks. NBD.

Must. Sleep. Now.
A tour of the Alsace region is in store for tomorrow followed by a regional wine tasting event!

Until next time,
~Jenn

Friday, May 28, 2010

Faire la lessive! (Do the laundry!)

This day is entertaining for so many reasons. For starters, I ate another huge chunk of le pain for breakfast along with German yogurt! Now, as a vegetarian I really do not consume that much dairy, apart from my cute little Laughing Cow Wedges, so eating a carton of dairy first thing in the morning was not pleasant but I was desperate for something other than bread! It was mango flavored and even contained little pieces of fruit in the container. C'mon, how does one say no?

I went to class as planned at 9:00AM and concluded the morning seminar with an announcement that we did not have to come back for the afternoon class! I knew I needed to get some things accomplished to feel like "me" again and so I promptly headed out for a solo excursion to le supermarche. I purchased very little, mostly snacks to tide me over between meals. But I must mention that I also grabbed some fresh goodies for lunch because 1. I need to stop eating entire french baguettes mid-day and 2. because it is a lot cheaper than buying french baguettes every day! I made lunch at home today after returning from my first ever run in a foreign country! Cross that off my bucket list! :) I took my map of Strasbourg with me to avoid getting lost and ended up covering a lot of le centre ville. Although I walked a good portion of the time, I still managed to cover 3.60 miles in 54 minutes. But now I have killed two birds with one stone. Navigating the town will be much easier now and I scoped out some great running paths!
I concluded lunch the only way I know how to these days...avec un petit pain smeared with Nutella! And then, to distract myself from eating the entire jar in one sitting I conquered one of my biggest obstacles in Strasbourg.
The Laundry
The washer is cute enough right?After my host mom explained how to use it, in French mind you, I loaded this baby up and proceeded to fiddle with all of the buttons for a solid ten minutes. Once it started I realized it was going to take a hour and a half to wash my clothes so I packed up my things and headed to the SU center to get some reading done. When I returned, it looked like this outside: Clearly not the best weather to line dry clothes. But did I think about that? No of course not. I proceeded to hang everything off the 4th floor balcony and relish in my accomplishment. When I finally got around to looking up I realized my fool's errand and promptly began removing said things (all while praying I did not drop anything because it is a long way down). In conclusion, my room now looks like this:
One day soon, I too will have clean, dry clothes. When that happens I will surely let you all know. In the meantime, can we just acknowledge how grateful I am to not have put this chore off until everything was dirty? Then what would I wear?!?

Until next time,
~Jenn

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

New Attitude!

Hi everyone!
So sorry to have started off my jaunt to Strasbourg on such a downer note. That is not to say that the first 48 hours were not the scariest and most out of my element I believe I have ever been, but I think there is something to be said about the power of positive thinking. Therefore, I am coming to you live, from my apartment, with clothes, shoes, and all ready to show you the town!

I have not done extensive sightseeing yet, as I have class chaque jour from 9AM-10:30 and 2PM-3:30. But, I have taken advantage of my morning break and done some walking around. This includes plenty of wrong turns and misreadings of my map, but hey, I am a fresh transplant so I am still learning the ropes...and the language!

Here are some snapshots of my humble abode avec tous mes choses! (with all of my things). My dresser and mirror. The desk, complete with a fresh rose, and pictures from home. My closet with all of the clothing I brought (aren't you proud...that is all of it!)

My favorite part is by far the balcony. Because I am situated on the fourth floor (walkup!) the view is incredible. Perfectly Parisian with a touch of German influence. The comfortable bed comes in close second to the balcony though. ;)
Oh, and thank goodness for earplugs and eyemasks because I sleep with the balcony window open for fresh air and the pidgeons just love to make noise at all hours. Coupled with the fact that it does not get dark until nearly 10PM (I am very far north) and gets light around 5AM I would be so sleep deprived without my little eye pillow! Good call mom!

Once upon a time this little place was home to a food blog. Remember those days of intricate meals?! They are but a distant memory now that my food options are drastically different and almost completely out of my control, but since my host mom slept in this morning I was able to sneak in some breakfast pictures! Prepare yourself for carb overload!Breakfast was a fresh croissant and a small peach. (oh and major caffeine withdrawal :( with no Starbucks in sight) Don't let that cup fool you. Although my host mom does have a coffee machine it produces close to one OUNCE of coffee per filter. I have been dragging...and I know why!

In other news, once I started taking pictures today I just couldn't stop! Lunch was a 5 euro bio (organic) vegetarian sandwich that was more bread than anything else.I also bought a fresh cup of fruit (just apples and strawberries) that escaped the camera.

After lunch and an afternoon session of class I took myself on a sightseeing tour of Strasbourg. It is supposed to be rainy and gross the rest of the week, so I knew today was the day to see the town! C'est moi in front of the Council of Europe!
My first gelato experience of the trip! Which did I choose??Tiramisu! It was rich and creamy and oh so decadent. A perfectly refreshing treat after an exhausting day.

Something from the kitchen smells awfully good right now. My tummy is rumbling!
Until next time,
~Jenn
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