Categorized | Living, People, Travel, Travelogue

Adventures Abroad! The Romance of France

Wayne resident, St. Mary’s Presbyterian church member and Main Line college student Missy Pearson has agreed to take abroad for not one, but two semesters! Missy will be sending us her travel adventures and pictures as the Loyola University (MD) junior participates in her university’s oldest study abroad program at Katholieke Universitat in Leuven, Belgium. Pearson and her classmates are experiencing the beautiful countries and cultures of Europe for this entire school year. Missy reports she is busy studying diligently with her international classmates in the recently remodeled Loyola University student house. Thanks Missy for taking the time to share the experience of a lifetime! Dank u wel!

September 2008

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

This article is a few weeks overdue but like the beginning of any school year we have all been incredibly busy since arriving three weeks ago! The Loyola students and I have landed on the morning of August 26th. As we approached Brussels, we descended through the endless clouds that I’ve come to associate with Belgium. But one thing I’ve learned is that no Belgian is going to let a little rain ruin their parade. As we arrived at baggage claim, we came face-to-face with the BELGIAN OLYMPIC TEAM arriving home from Beijing! So, we were welcomed to Belgium with fanfare and a party, maybe not for us exactly, but exciting none the less. After five days of adjusting to the time change, unpacking our clothes, registering at the stadhuis and university it was already time to depart for France!

We began our week long adventure in Paris. Our first day was a walking tour of the city in stifling 90 degree weather. We climbed to the top of the Arc De Triomphe, visited Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, Invalides and so much more. We then had a scrumptious dinner with our Loyola director and his wife at a restaurant close to Notre Dame and enjoyed some of the most delicious cheeses I have ever eaten. We spent Sunday morning at Saint Chapelle, which was probably my favorite church we visited during the trip. Did you know that in the 15 stained glass windows 1,113 scenes are depicted?!? It was full of light and GORGEOUS! We then took the Metro to Sacre Couer which offers one of the most incredible scenes in Paris. That afternoon, a group of us bought some baguettes, wine, cheese and apples and had a picnic at the foot of the Eiffel Tower! It was so picturesque, like something out of a dream. That night we took a boat ride down the Siene. Paris is such a romantic city. The banks of the river were lined with people enjoying the warm evenings, dancing the Salsa and watching the light show that illuminates the Eiffel Tower every hour.

Delacroix at the Louvre

Delacroix at the Louvre

Monday we spent over five hours in the Louvre. One of my favorite paintings was Liberty Leading the People painted by Eugene Delacroix in 1830…it’s on the cover of the new Coldplay album, that’s probably why. It was an exhausting experience but so worth it. I can’t get over how many pieces of art are contained in one place. That afternoon we found the most incredible English bookstores. I have never seen so many books in one place! I bought Edith Whartons’, An Age of Innocence and we had yet another picnic, this time in the Luxembourg Gardens. Tuesday was spent at the D’Orsay contains countless paintings by VanGogh, Degas, Monet, Serat…ahh soo incredible! I remembered being impressed by the D’Orsay when I went for the first time about eight years ago and the second visit was just as memorable. That afternoon I met up with three friends from Loyola who study in Paris and I indulged in my first crepe and cider of the trip along the Champs Elysees.

Wednesday we went to Versailles and then continued on to the coast town of St. Malo. Versailles is breathtaking but it was disappointing because it was raining and we couldn’t explore the gardens much. St. Malo is on the coast in a fortified city. We had dinner and then walked the ramparts at night. The best part was when we saw a shooting star. Sometimes I can’t believe all the incredible experiences I had in just one week.

Mont St. Michel

Mont St. Michel

The next day we awoke early to visit Mont St. Michel, a church located on a mountain that I cannot begin to explain how magnificent it was. The view goes on for what seems like forever. The water surrounding the church is so vast and leads into lush, green fields. We went exploring around the island at low tide and stumbled upon a chapel that jutted out on its own. From the windy point at the bottom of the mountain we looked directly upwards towards the steeple on top, this proved to be one of the most memorable perspectives of Mont St. Michel.

The last two days of our trip were mostly about WWII and the invasions at Normandy. I didn’t have as high expectations for Normandy as I did for Paris. However, the beaches of Normandy and the town of Arromaches were so stunningly beautiful and so rich in history that I couldn’t help but become absorbed in the important role this region played during the liberation of Europe beginning in June, 1944. We visited Pont de Hoc, the American Cemetery at Omaha and some of the German forts that still remain. The open fields that end in dramatic cliffs overlooking the English Channel were not only beautiful in the setting but when standing in the American cemetery at Omaha beach I couldn’t help but be overcome by the events that took occurred at that very place. For anyone who ever visits Normandy, the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial contains a very-well appointed museum detailing the events leading up to June 8, 1944 and the cemetery commemorates those who fought so bravely in the most respectful way possible. We spent our final night in Arromaches, where there are remains of the port built by the Allies to be used as an entrance point for supplies after they secured the Normandy beaches following D-Day. And, I SWAM IN THE ENGLISH CHANNEL!! It was a tad cold but very much worth it. Who knows maybe the Mediterranean will be next!?!

While France surpassed everything I could have imagined, I’m so glad to be back in Belgium. Since having rented a bike for the year, I’ve taken advantage of exploring the town while the weather is still nice out. I recently learned that Belgium has more restaurants per capita than any other country in the world. So, the very nature of Belgium is one of socializing over a meal (and a beer perhaps) in a market square or maybe on a more quiet side street–but everyone seems to really enjoy themselves and their friends. I have seen this not only in Leuven but also in Bokrijk and Bruges. Once the school year starts I am sure I will continue to learn more and from yet another perspective, I can’t wait!

Next stop, Luxembourg!!!

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1 Comments For This Post

  1. Anne McDermott Says:

    How cool.
    I would have killed to be abroad with these experiences eons ago!
    Alas, I guess I’ll live vicariously through Missy.

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