On to London, on to Home

07/08/2016

Where to start? For the past week, I’ve been staying with a cousin (my first cousin once removed, on my dad’s side of the family) in Standish, a tiny rural “village” in the west of England. Today I fly home out of London Heathrow, back to the familiar streets of Ann Arbor and the well-known terminals of Detroit Metro Airport. A few days ago I was in London; a week ago I was leaving Germany to start this next and final leg of my travels. There’s still so much left to say.

In this trip, I did as much as I possibly could, spending a day in France, a beautiful weekend in Italy, and many days practicing and solidifying my German. This week, I’ve done my best to cope with the subtle differences between American and British English, and I saw as much of London as could be packed into three days there. I met up with an exchange student I knew from my freshman year of college, and crashed in an American friend’s hotel room with about a week of advance planning. Everything came together perfectly, and all at the last minute, as things tend to do.

This trip has had so many ups and downs, and has challenged me and forced me to grow in so many new and different ways. I could have easily passed these months in Ann Arbor—instead, I’ve had the adventure of a lifetime. I’ve built new connections here, and worked with those I had. And—I’ll miss it. The friends I made and met up with here, the international nature of Europe as a whole, the chance to speak high-level German on a daily basis. I wish it didn’t have to end.

Never fear, though—there are travel grants and unique course offerings at my University that may be just what I need to get myself back over the Atlantic sometime in the coming year. I don’t know exactly what’s waiting for me when I get home, but I know there’s still plenty to be seen in the States. And whatever else happens, now that I’ve had a taste of Europe—even just a small one—I know one thing for sure. I AM coming back.

Okay, enough with the sentimental rambling. Here are the photos of England that you’ve all been waiting for!

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Thanks for reading.

Xoxo,

Susan

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When in France…

6/26/2016

Another goal of mine has always been to learn French, but, even more than that, to visit the country. My family traces its roots back all over Europe, but I identify myself most closely with the French side of things. This was a milestone I needed to clear while I was here, and especially since I was already so close to the French border…

Mannheim’s really not that far away!

Mannheim’s really not that far away!

Today, I made it happen. Together with four of my fellow students at Goethe, all of whom were willing to face a pretty early start-time, we passed some pleasant morning hours on two trains that brought us across the border.

Into. FRANCE!!!

Into. FRANCE!!!

From the tiny, charming, historic town of Wissembourg, we hopped onto a bus that took us up into the mountains, past rolling valleys, pastures of sleepy cattle, and purple vineyards. Our real goal was not just to say that we’d made it to France, but to actually see something there—namely, a beautiful and ruined castle called Fleckenstein.

From the minute I saw the trailer, I HAD to make this trip happen! (Video courtesy of Fleckenstein’s website!)

The castle featured lots of stairs, stone with curves where the water had worn it away, and railed platforms where we could climb up and stare out at mountains, mountains, MOUNTAINS.

Everywhere I looked, I found something beautiful.

Everywhere I looked, I found something beautiful.

 

This must have once been a tower!

This must have once been a tower!

And these MOUNTAINS…

And these MOUNTAINS…

Once we’d seen all there was to see there, we grabbed a bite in the castle’s café and spent a little time exploring the nearby hiking trails, which also featured plenty of climbing rocks—and intrepid climbers! Upon arriving back in Wissembourg, we wandered downtown, just to see what we could find.

The answer? One of the most picturesque places I've ever gotten to explore.

The answer? One of the most picturesque places I’ve ever gotten to explore.

The town square was full of activity…

The town square was full of activity…

The church was quiet and cool and beautiful…

The church was quiet and cool and beautiful…

There were flowers everywhere we looked...

There were flowers everywhere we looked…

I had the best cheese of my LIFE, for FREE!

I had the best cheese of my LIFE, for FREE!

And of course we ate some CAKE!!

And of course we ate some CAKE!!

We could easily have passed the whole afternoon in Wissembourg, and then some, but due to the timing of the trains, we had head back after only an hour or two. Still, we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day. It was just a brief glimpse across the border, but it was enough! (And by that, I mean, enough to make me want to come back.)

Ciao, FRANCE!

Next time…I’ll speak FRENCH!

Xoxo,

Susan

Into the Schwarzwald

6/11/2016

You know that moment when you’re traveling with a group, and then you turn around and find your group isn’t there anymore? Well, that happened to me on Saturday afternoon. My newfound friends (mainly other German students from U of M, and one girl’s hallmate) had spent the morning on an ICE train from Mannheim, and the lunch hour doing—what else?—eating lunch.

Anytime there’s pesto, you can believe that’s what I’m going to order… :)

Anytime there’s pesto, you can believe that’s what I’m going to order… 🙂

After that, we strolled through the Augustinermuseum, where we saw some absolutely beautiful works by a Dutch painter who worked in the 1800s.

They. Were. AMAZING.

They. Were. AMAZING.

A little later, while I was busy and distracted with reading a sign in some really tough German…

A little later, while I was busy and distracted with reading a sign in some really tough German…

My friends ditched me! Can you believe it?

To be honest, though, I wasn’t too disappointed to suddenly find myself alone. There’s something quite nice about traveling by yourself—in a big city, in a small town, whatever.

You get to take your time,

You get to take your time…

...to stroll...

…to stroll…

...and you see things you might not have found otherwise.

…and you see things you might not have found otherwise.

Not sure what my friends got up to all afternoon—quite possibly, they spent the time looking for me—but I passed the afternoon in the lovely University library, right next door to the city’s theater and, like, ice cream. Don’t worry, I restrained myself…

The library was rewarding enough!

The library was rewarding enough!

Xoxo,

Susan