Tag Archives: New Adventures

30 Things Before 30

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So here’s the deal, in less than three months I’m turning thirty. My friends and family know that I have not been handling this fact well or with grace. I’ve gotten better in the past month at accepting the inevitable, but I am still not happy about this. It’s funny how life doesn’t go as you expect. The last time I had a crisis was for my 27th birthday, which seems like ages ago. Ever since I was a little girl, 27 was supposed to be my magic age, when everything just fell into place and my life unfolded exactly as I had envisioned. My 26 year old self had a legitimate breakdown about turning 27, which looking back was a bit silly.

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My 27th birthday. I was boycotting it, but my mom planned an outing with my friends.

Here’s what I was supposed to have by the time I turned 27:

  • A well-established career (I did, in fact, have this)
  • A house/condo/townhouse of my own (at 27 I was living with my parents again)
  • A husband, or serious boyfriend (I was single and still recovering from a terrible break-up, and wanted nothing to do with dating)
  • A dog (I still pretend that the family dogs are actually mine)

I guess 1 out of 4 isn’t terrible…it could have been worse. Since turning 27, I’ve abandoned my successful career to follow my dream of living in France. With this decision, stability, security, and a real pay check disappeared. This year I have been financially poor, but emotionally rich and happy. Thinking back to my 27th birthday and realizing how nothing was how I thought it needed to be, it all worked out okay in the end. If I had had everything I thought I would have by the age of 27 I wouldn’t be in France today living my dream.

Unlike my 27th birthday, my 30th birthday doesn’t include anything specific. I don’t have a list, it just seems like a really big number. I don’t feel like I’ve experienced enough to turn 30 yet. For the first time in my life I feel like I don’t actually have a plan and I’m not sure what my future will hold, and it terrifies me. To help me embrace my final months as a twenty-something year old I’ve decided to a list of things I want to do/accomplish (because who doesn’t love a good list?). While this list does not include everything I hope to do this summer, it is a great start!

Things to do before I turn 30:

  1. Go kayaking in France, either on la Loire or le Cher: I spent my 29th birthday kayaking with my mom in Michigan, so
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    Kayaking at Kensington Metroparks, Michigan.

    this seems like an appropriate way to say good-bye to my twenties.

  2. Visit at least two new countries: My list of places I will be visiting this summer is growing by the minute, so this should not be a problem.
  3. Bike across a country (Liechtenstein): I have my friend Chris to thank for this item making the cut. He actually suggested it and now it is on our list for when he comes to visit.
  4. Get at least two new stamps in my passport: In order to remain in France after my visa has expired I must leave the Schengen zone, thus guaranteeing me one new stamp. Only one more to go…
  5. Finalize tattoo design: I’ve been mulling this over for years and have stuck with the same design and placement for 4 years, which means I am officially ready to actually get it when I am stateside in August.
  6. Make a decision about next year:…See previous post for this dilemma.
  7. Stop worrying about money all the time (while still being financially responsible): I tend to become obsessed once I get into a routine, and I know it is not healthy. Now that I am only teaching online it is really difficult for me to know when to say enough is enough and to stop teaching and go out and do things with my friends.
  8. Become confident in my ability to speak French: Give me a glass of wine and I can speak without any problems. In normal, everyday life I overthink it and make the silliest mistakes. Luckily, my French-speaking friends can tell when I’m thinking and force me to just spit it out.
  9. Speak French as often as possible: I’m actually very grateful for the number of friends I have made in France who only speak French (and the few who pretend like they don’t speak English). I need to force myself to spend more time with my friends and not getting so nervous that I won’t talk to them.
  10. Start watching the news (it turns out things have been happening in the world): In addition to being an informed citizen, it’s a great vocabulary exercise, as I’m only watching the news in French. I will still read articles written in English to gain a balanced perspective.
  11. Accept that fact that I am turning 30 (how is that even possible?!?): There are days when I am surprisingly okay with this fact, and then there are days when I want to build a fort out of pillows, blankets, and kitchen chairs and spend the day coloring there.
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    Geocaching, near Detroit, Michigan

    Rediscover geocaching and do it regularly: Matt actually inspired this one. Last week when we were celebrating my final day as a language assistant we got on the topic of geocaching and I mentioned that I had brought my handheld GPS with me. Within half an hour we were on the hunt. It was so much fun and I quickly remember how much I loved doing this five years ago (!!!!!).

  13. Become a more outgoing and adventurous person: In many ways I have already accomplished this goal. I have no issue with traveling alone and planning trips around Europe. However, being willing to go to a concert in Tours by myself or to try and strike up a conversation with someone in a café/bar is something I simply have not been able to do. It is terrifying. I hope to at least try to talk to strangers more often.
  14. Ride a bike to a castle in France (Villandry? Amboise?): This has been on my list since 2007, but I’m yet to actually do it. Each time I come to France I say I’m going to do it, but haven’t. This summer is the summer. It’s 21km to Villandry and 25km to Amboise. The distance wouldn’t be bad for me, as I’ve done 50km on my bike in one day without any troubles. However, it is not an adventure I want to do alone, and it’s difficult for me to find friends willing to do these crazy things with me.
  15. Find a better balance between work and my personal life: This year I spent the majority of my time working, both as an assistant and an online teacher. I hope to find a better balance between my jobs and my personal life so that i’m able to actually do things with my friends.
  16. Visit the remaining châteaux de la Loire: (Chaumont-sur-Loire, Angers, Langeais, Brézé, Cheverny, Abbaye de Fontevraud, Brissac, Sully-sur-Loire, Valencay, Saumur). I already have plans to visit two of these castles–Chaumont-sur-Loire and Langeais–with Chris. Jeannette and I were talking about doing Angers when she is here in June. The other ones I haven’t come up with a plan yet, but I will.
  17. Go wine tasting in Chinon: I’ve visited the town of Chinon and the château, but I haven’t actually gone wine tasting here, which is just plain silly, as Chinon is one of my all-time favorite wines. It makes sense to stop in Chinon on the way to Angers, as they are in the same general direction and on the same general route.
  18. Visit the Natural History Museum in Tours: (I’m not sure how I haven’t been here yet). I’ve read many articles about this museum and have heard about it from a few people in Tours. It wasn’t until last week that I actually discovered where the museum is located. It’s ridiculously close to my apartment, so no more excuses!

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    Wine tasting in Traverse City, Michigan.

  19. Go wine tasting in Bourgogne: Living in the Loire Valley I have gone wine tasting many times. It wasn’t until recently when I ventured to Tracy-sur-Loire that I did wine tasting outside of the Loire Valley. At the end of this month I’m going to be driving through this region with Chris, so I decided this would be the ideal opportunity to do some wine tasting.
  20. Visit Monet’s house in Giverny, France: Again, this is something that has been on my list for many, many years. The reason I haven’t done it yet is that it requires multiple forms of public transportation from Paris, and traveling alone in France is terrifying for me. June is supposed to be one of the best times to visit, so I’m hoping Jeannette and I can make the trip together.
  21. Visit the remaining towns/cities in France with Tracy in their name: Tracy-Bocage, Tracy-sur-Mer, Tracy-le-Mont, Tracy-le-Val. So far, I have visited 1 of 5 towns with Tracy in the name in France. After Benoît mentioned that there were towns with my name in their name it became a personal mission to visit these places, simply to take pictures with the signs and walk around cute French villages. Normally, when I suggest a road trip like this, my friends look at me like I am crazy. My friend Trevor thought it sounded like a great idea, so we rented a car and went to Tracy-sur-Loire for the day. When my mom comes we’re planning to visit the remaining 4 towns/villages.
  22. Rent and drive a moped/Vespa: I’ve wanted to do this since I went to the Bahamas when I was 17. No clue where I want to do this yet, but I will be visiting many cities where this could happen.
  23. Make time to discover and enjoy all of the parks in Tours/Saint-Cyr: This week I walked to the park near my apartment and sat on a bench reading my book. It was so peaceful and just felt so French. I looked around and was amazed that my life has become sitting in cute parks in France reading. I need to do this more often.
  24. Visit the Château de Tours: It’s actually a museum, but I’ve never been inside, and it is literally at the end of my street. There are always exhibitions of some sort in the château and entrance is free. Again, why have I never made the time to visit?!
  25. Visit le Musée de Compagnonnage: Again, how have I not been here? It’s a really small museum, and is at the opposite end of my street than the Château de Tours. I believe it is free on the first Sunday of the month (which happens to be this weekend).
  26. Buy and play pétanque with everyone who comes to visit: On my first full day in France last summer I played pétanque. It was so French and so much fun. We drank sparkling wine and just had a blast being ridiculous (measuring the distance with sticks…). When I went to buy a pétanque set it was no longer pétanque season. However, I’ve begun my
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    Playing pétanque on my first full day in France last year.

    search and will buy a set this spring/summer.

  27. Be happy with my body: This is something with which I’ve always struggled (and will continue to struggle). I have severe body dysmorphia issues and am never happy with how I look. I used to be obsessed with my weight, but have since moved on to being happy with how my clothes fit and how I feel. I’ve been going to the gym everyday for a few months and feel like I am finally starting to see the results. I will continue to go to the gym and to make healthy choices so that I can wear the dress I brought with me for my 30th birthday with confidence.
  28. Accept the fact that every time I cross something off my list of places to visit, I add three new places: I’ve made lists for as long as I can remember. I wrote my first bucket list at the age of 13 and haven’t stopped. When I began making these lists it was more like a goal to see if I could cross everything off the list, rather than viewing each list as a new adventure. I oftentimes feel overwhelmed by all of the places I want to visit, but haven’t been to yet. But then I step back and think about all of the places I have been and feel extremely grateful.
  29. Visit the D-Day Landing Beaches and the American Cemetery: This is something I have studied extensively, but haven’t actually visited. In the past, I have explored only Paris and central France. Since moving here, I’ve branched out more, but not as much as I would like.
  30. Watch the sunrise and sunset on la Loire on the same day: This is something I find every relaxing, but haven’t taken the time to do in far too long. I’d love to get up early, walk to la Loire and just drink my coffee and wait for the sun to rise and then spend the day discovering my city.

Here’s to making the most of my final months as a twenty-something!

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Biking along Lake Michigan/Lakeshore Drive in Chicago, Illinois.

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Prague: Part II

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Prior to arriving in Prague I did a great deal of research about what to see and do. When I travel I try to find a nice balance between touristy things and unique/local things to do. As a result, I consult guidebooks as well as other blogs and personal suggestions. I had an extensive list of things I wanted to see and do around Prague, which meant that I was going to be very busy for the next couple of days.

One of the off-the-beaten-path things I wanted to do was find some of the David Cerny sculptures. Several of these sculptures are well known, while others are not. His sculptures are often controversial, which meant that I had to see them! Throughout my journeys I discovered three different installments. St. Wenceslas Riding a Dead Horse, Piss, and Tower Babies. I found each of these sculptures to be interesting and I wished I had more time to find the others.

My next stop of Wenceslas Square. I spent far too much time searching for this destination. After nearly an hour and stumbling upon many other interesting sites I discovered that my adventures had actually begun that morning in Wenceslas Square. While in Wenceslas Square I also discovered that there is a Czech brewing company called Budweiser. This caused me to add “Budweiser” to my list of topics to research. I believe that the main reason I struggled with locating Wenceslas Square is because it is less of a square, and more of an large, rectangular, island in the middle of a major boulevard. At one end of the ‘square’ is a statue of St. Wenceslas riding a horse (not dead!), in front of the National Museum. I was very disappointed to learn that the National Museum was closed for renovations, as the building was stunning.

 

I also stumbled upon the Main Train Station (which I didn’t know at the time and returned to actually find it the following day), a statue of Woodrow Wilson, the Jubilee Synagogue, and some other interesting buildings.

My next stop was the Dancing House a.k.a. Fred and Ginger. Other than a restaurant, there’s not much in this building that is open to the public. As a result, I did not visit inside. However, on the outside it truly was interesting to see. To get to Fred and Ginger I took the metro. What struck me as most surprising about the public transit in Prague was how inexpensive and clean everything was. A 24-hour pass was under $5 and included all public transit (bus, metro, tram/streetcar).

I then walked along the Vltava River toward Charles Bridge. I reached a bridge that was filled with tourists and I assumed I had reached Charles Bridge. I was truly unimpressed with this bridge, but took the required photos anyway. I then continued on my journey toward Old Town. As I was approaching Old Town I saw another bridge that was slightly more impressive. It turns out, this bridge was actually Charles Bridge, not the first bridge I saw! This bridge was more impressive, but still not that impressive. There were many other sites I visited in Prague which I thought were much more noteworthy than Charles Bridge. I walked across Charles Bridge and took the required photos along the way. The one awesome thing about this bridge is that it offers an amazing view of Prague Castle.

Old Town was probably my favorite part of Prague. The history is fascinating and the architecture beautiful. While in Old Town I visited the Astronomical Clock, Old Town Hall, several gift shops, and ate lunch at a vegetarian restaurant, Maitrea. Here I found a traditional Czech meal, Svíčková, but made with a meat substitute. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal and ginger-lemonade. I made sure to visit the Astronomical Clock Tower, which offered a birds-eye view of Old Town, and much of Prague.

Because of what I was able to see from the top of the Astronomical Clock Tower I decided to go on a few extension adventures. One of the things I decided I was going to walk to was the Prague Metronome. It was on my list as something I wanted to visit if time allowed, but I didn’t realize how close it actually was to Old Town. The Metronome was definitely worth the trip. My only disappointment was that the metronome was not functioning when I was there. I also spent some time exploring the park/garden where the metronome was located.

My next stop was the Powder Tower. As I was making my way there I stumbled upon a random marching band and parade. Anyone who has ever traveled with me knows that this is a regular occurrence. I tend to find random festivals/protests/parades wherever I go. I’m not entirely sure what the purpose of this parade was, but it turns out they were also heading to the Powder Tower. Apparently, the Powder Tower marked the beginning of the Royal Route in medieval Prague. The view was nice, but if it had cost more than a few USD I don’t know that it would have been worth climbing.

I then decided to find the Žižkov Television Tower. Turns out, it’s in a slightly scarier part of Prague. However, because I was exploring in the afternoon, with plenty of daylight and many other people out and about, I knew it was okay. The tower is interesting, but the real reason I wanted to see it was because David Cerny has sculptures on it…babies! I also discovered many beautiful churches on my way.

Having walked what felt like many, many miles today, I decided to go back to my hotel to drop some things off and to charge my cell phone. My final adventure of the day was going to be visiting Charles Bridge and Old Town when it was dark. It was a very different experience and definitely worth doing. Because it was chilly, I decided to get a glass of mulled wine. It was delicious! After walking around for a bit, I decided to stop and have a drink. Because I was in Old Town I had a seemingly unlimited number of choices. I discovered there was a speak-easy style bar. I love speak-easies, so it was decided. It had a very familiar feel to me, and an impressive drink menu. I felt like I was back in Detroit at Cliff Bell’s, but paying much less! A drink that would have cost me $12-14 in Detroit cost only 135CZK (about $6)!

After enjoying a few tasty beverages it was time for dinner. I had done my research and found another vegetarian restaurant, Estrella. This one was even smaller than where I ate lunch, but just as delicious. After dinner I headed back to my hotel because I would be getting up early the next morning to visit Prague Castle.

All things considered, I think this was a very productive and enjoyable day in Prague.

Prague: Part I

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Following my super exciting weekend in Paris I was off on yet another adventure. I’ve traveled alone before, but always within the states. This trip marked my first solo trip to a non-English/French speaking country. I was a little intimidated about this opportunity. While I knew that in the end I would have an awesome experience, I had a long way to go before I would feel like my trip was a success.

Charles de Gaulle airport (CDG) remains the most overwhelmingly intimidating airport I have ever visited. Every time I’m there I am overcome with a great sense of stress and panic. This time was no different. The one big difference was that I would be traveling within the Schengen region, which meant not having to clear customs.

This was also my first time flying with Czech Airlines. I did my research so I was feeling comfortable about flying with this airline. I also learned that they are partners with AirFrance and Delta which helped to alleviate any lingering concerns. The flight was very short–about 90 minutes–from Paris to Prague. The flight was uneventful, but figuring out how to get from the airport to my hotel proved to be a slightly more challenging endeavor.

I decided to take the bus, followed by the metro, followed by walking to reach my hotel. On a good day navigating from point A to point B proves to be somewhat challenging. Today was no different. Navigating the public transit was no problem. However, walking from the metro to my hotel proved to be a much more challenging task. After many wrong turns I eventually reached my hotel.

My hotel was not as nice as my hotel in Paris (which was super surprising). but served its purpose. After getting settled in it was almost dinner time. Because I was unfamiliar with the area I did not want to do too much venturing. I decided to ask at the front desk for a dinner recommendation. When I told the receptionist I was a vegetarian he was at a total loss for recommendations. I ended up wandering around the few blocks surrounding my hotel. Eventually, I found a restaurant with a temeph option and decided that was perfect.

While the Czech Republic is part of the European Union it does not use the euro, but rather uses the Czech koruna (CZK). Once CZK is worth about $0.04. This means that prices initially appear much more expensive. However, after converting the CZK to USD the prices were much more reasonable, even cheap! Dinner and three drinks cost under $14!

After dinner I called it quits as I wanted to get a good night’s sleep so that I would be ready for a long day of adventuring.

It’s Been Awhile

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Wow! I didn’t realize how long it had been since my last post. Life has been both eventful and uneventful over the past couple of weeks. Below you will find a quick summary of what’s been going on in my life. Next week I will post more thorough updates on my life.

Let’s start with the reason I haven’t been able to update in some time. Last week, I had an accident involving my laptop and a glass of water. Needless to say, it was out of commission for nearly one week. The good news is that my patience seems to have been worth it. My laptop (for the time being) seems to be working just fine. Fortunately, I have a comprehensive insurance/protection plan on my laptop that covers liquid damage. My plan is to continue to use the laptop as long as it is properly functioning. Being in France makes the timeline for repairs much longer than normal. Almost one month ago I dropped and broke my iPad. I am still waiting for it to arrive in France…The moral of this story is that technology hates me!

Other than dealing with broken technology my life has been relatively boring. Two weekends ago Matt, Ben, and I went to Loches for a Medieval costume exhibition. I will post pictures and tell more about that trip next week.

Last weekend was la Journée du Patriomoine and we were able to go to the top of one of the towers of la Cathédrale de Tours. It offered an excellent view of the city. Again, pictures will come next week, as well as a full synopsis of the day.

Tomorrow I am headed to London for the weekend. I feel completely unprepared for this trip, but am looking forward to a low-key weekend. The one experience that I must have is visiting the wooden hippo on the River Thames. 🙂

The apartment hunt is also in full swing. I’ve only ever been apartment hunting once in my life (during college), but it is much more stressful than I remember. I’m keeping my fingers crossed and an optimistic attitude toward the whole experience. Next week is my first meeting for my position. Here’s to hoping that everything goes smoothly.

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La Loire at twilight.

The First of Many Firsts

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While preparing for my year abroad I tried to set a number of goals for myself. Taking the risk of moving overseas was huge for me. On the outside, I seem very outgoing and motivated, but internally I am reserved and scared. The fact that I followed through on this opportunity was huge.

Another goal that I set was to truly immerse myself in the language and culture, which also means that I will speak only in French. This goal was relatively easily achieved beginning on my first day, as there was a French family visiting Matt and Benoit for a few days. If you ever want to test your ability to speak another language try interacting with children who speak that language. Wow! That was a challenge. By the time the family left I was interacting with them comfortably (while still making mistakes, but being okay with that).

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I also would like to do at least one new thing each day. Some days will be more monumental than others. The task might be as simple as going to the mailbox alone (which I did!). Another relatively major first was playing pétanque. I had taught my students about pétanque, I had seen pétanque played in movies, but I had never actually tried playing it.

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Needless to say, pétanque was everything I had hoped it would be. I was surprisingly good at it, much like feather bowling. We started out having three people on each team (one child per team). Watching tiny French children play pétanque was one of the cutest things I have ever seen!

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I know there will be many more firsts throughout the year and I am eager for each of them!