This twenty-year-old is ready to conquer the world. Sort of.
Let me conquer the City of Lights first.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

An Introduction... or a Conclusion

It's been more than two years since I've returned from my European travels, and I'm amazed that this blog is still relevant to readers worldwide. From queries for "biere maximator" to "i met bill buckner", my blog somehow stumbles into the mix.

If you'd like to read more about my misadventures, I invite you to visit my current blog at

Friday, June 16, 2006

“I am a citizen, not of Athens or Greece, but of the world” -Socrates

Hello Kiddos!

Two weeks in Greece have come and gone. Let me recap...

The island of Corfu in Greece was my first stop and it couldn't have been more different from Paris : no rain and good weather! I met up with my friend Liz there and we stayed at the famous Pink Palace Hostel. In addition to hanging out at the beach, Liz and I explored Corfu Town, the main port of the island, where we climbed a fortress and I reflected on the fact that Greek sounds a lot like Spanish, the weather is Mexico-like and the island itself somewhat resembles Lisbon. The highlight of my time there was the infamous Pink Toga Party where we partied like the ancient Greeks (I even got a plate smashed over my head!). My misadventures included burning my lip, losing my shoes and falling up the stairs...

Then it was off to Santorini, which included a flight to Athens and then a ferry out to the island. But it wasn't all smooth sailing. I somehow managed to get food poisoning as we were leaving Corfu. The Greeks think ahead, though, and thankfully the rest stop at the port had beds for rent where I tried to recover in between the flight and the ferry... I was out of commission (ie unable to even sit up) for about 48 hours. Just another part of travelling, eh?

In Santorini, we visited an active volcano (it didn't look anything like the ones in science books!), swam in sulfur hot springs (stinky!), and even rode a donkey (terrifying!) up to the top of island to watch the sunset. The top of the cluster of islands known as Santorini is filled with white houses that have blue roofs. From the water, it looks like the islands are covered with snow. Cool.

Ios was our third and final Greek Island. The word on the European cobble streets is that Ibiza, off the coast of Spain, is the number one party island. Ios is number two. There wasn't much to do other than lie on the beach and get crazy at night, but Liz and I both managed to find some water sports (Has anyone ever heard of fly fishing? You lie on a rubber raft, with a string tied to a boat. The boat speeds up and the rafts lifts out of the water so you are flying!) The atmosphere was incredible : fun, friendly and laid-back. The island is filled with backpackers who are working at the bars to make a little extra money. They are just like everyone else, looking to have a good time and meet people. Everything was perfect until... I BROKE MY iPOD!!!! That iPod got me through some really great times and some really hard times... I'm really at a loss without it. Life goes on?

Then, Liz and I had two days in Athens. To be frank, I was disappointed. A modern city with ancient ruins. If you want to see that, you're better off going to Rome. (By the way, one night out in Athens, I met a guy who had dated Bill Buckner's daughter. That's what travelling around Europe is all about!)

So now I'm Prague, safe, if not sound. We finally met up with Missy and Caitlin who we were supposed to have been travelling with since June 1st! (They couldn't find a flight out from Spain for a while and then when they were finally booking it, someone went into Caitlin's bag and took her cell phone, jewelry and passport. Then, later, on the way to the airport, her wallet got stolen! That girl has some bad luck!)

Anyway, I'm off to go explore this city (finally!). Hope all your summers are still going well.... Keep in touch!



PS I'll be in College Park the weekend on July 23rd. Will you?

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Paris reflections

I writing you all from the very beautiful island of Corfu. What I should be doing is sitting out in the sun, but you all know me...

Studying abroad, while it may fuck me in the end in terms of credits, was an amazing, life-changing experience.

Some of you got my sobbing phone calls back in January when I was about to take off for this great adventure... To leave College Park (where I had a lot of great things going on) and go to a new place, without a friend or any kind of support system, and not knowing at all what to expect, was probably the hardest thing I've ever had to do. Little did I know where the next four months would take me.

I've had the opportunity to study French in Paris, seeing the Eiffel Tower from my classroom window, and to get to know the city inside and out. This is something I started talking about doing when I chose to learn French at age ten. I also been lucky enough to travel - to different regions of France, to Ireland, to England, to Portugal, to Spain, and to Germany. I've gained a whole new perspective on International Affairs and my image of "the American" has of course been shifted.

On a personal level, a lot of things have happened for me that didn't quite fall into place back home. I had a single, solid group of friends. (At Maryland, I do sometimes struggle to balance Greek and non-Greek friends and in high school I was part of a lot of different groups.) Without these four people - Beth, Erin, John and Jeff - my time in Paris would've been a lot more lonely, a lot less funny and, simply put, boring. I also met a really great guy and I hope that we'll remain great friends. Honestly, he woke me up, he made me feel. And that's a great thing. If nothing else, I come away with a lot of incredible memories and a big hope for the future.

Anyway, I think it's time to head back to the beach. Can't wait to hear from all of you about your crazy summer beginnings!

- Julie

Thursday, May 25, 2006

April showers bring May.... more rain & new adventures!

Hey there, kiddos!

Classes ended on Tuesday and I have finals tomorrow and Saturday... so obviously I decided the best use of my time would be to send you all another update :) This is another long e-mail, so here's the link to the pictures. They are on facebook, but you don't need to be a member to see them.

Speaking of finals, the french system is really silly, in my opinion. When they write exams, the goal is that you will be able to fill in about half the answer, not that you will be able to answer everything correctly. In other words, a 100% is not the the thing to strive for, a 50% is! Tomorrow I have an oral exam where I have to read aloud a text and answer then answer questions in an interview format... in French. On Saturday, my exam, which apparently makes up 70% of my 10-credit class grade, is scheduled to take three hours.

There's a part that has grammar, but it's not grammar you can study for. They can ask "what's the noun form of clear?" (clarity). WTF? Then there's this thing called a dictee that they loved to do. The teacher reads a text and you have to write it down without ANY mistakes. That means all the accents have to be there, every letter of every word... it's out of 20 points and every time you make a mistake, that's another .5 off... The last section is a "resume", where the teacher reads a text of let's say, 30 lines and you have to sum it all up in 10 lines. Again, all of this IN FRENCH. Ugh.

Anyway, let's start from the beginning... I got back from Spring Break and the next weekend I was off again. This time to Perigord, a region in the middle of France, known for its foie gras. I did try it, but I didn't think it was anything special. We went to the Lascaux caves, which have ancient cave drawings, and to a chateau formerly owned by Josephine Baker, an American who came to Paris and became famous as a singer and a cabaret performer. The trip was organized by my program and on Saturday night, my friends (Erin and Jeff) and I bought a big bottle of whiskey. This was a weekend where many of you were off at formals. Well, since I went away for a weekend, got drunk in a hotel room and got some ass, I'd say it was my own little formal. ;)

The next week, my mom came to visit me. We flew to Bremen, Germany, for the weekend, where my grandma's two sisters and their families live. Has anyone heard of the story about the Bremen Musicians? Well, they're from Bremen, Germany. I used to watch the movie when I was little, so I was excited to see them... ( Dinner on Friday and Saturday night was ridiculously, stereotypically Russian. We had caviar and cow tongue and lots of fatty food. And my family forced me to take vodka shots. Also, my family owns a nightclub, along with some casinos, in Bremen, so on Saturday night I checked out "Russian night". It was open bar for me, since I'm a member of the family, and some Russian guys hit on me. The "discotheque" stayed open until 6am and my mom found me the next morning, passed out in the bathroom. Oops. The other exciting thing was that my great-aunt's house was ridiculous (I can't think of another word, the whole weekend was just ridiculous) - inside, there was a pool, a sauna and a tanning bed!

My mom and I returned to Paris where we did touristy stuff. I finally visited Musee Rodin, which I really liked. It has different sculptures. My favorite is Le Baiser, (, which shows a couple intertwined... kissing. Maybe being in Paris for a semester has gotten to me?

The next weekend I went to Troyes, (pronounced twah), where my exboyfriend, who has been teaching English there for the past year, lives. It's a really, really small town and it convinced me that pretty much all of France, other than the coast, and Paris, looks the same. It's all country, with small towns, with wooden houses... and cathedrals that resemble Notre-Dame.

My ex-boyfriend came into Paris the next week for his birthday. I finally got to walk around the Luxembourg Gardens, which were beautiful! Probably my second favorite place in Paris, after the Eiffel Tower. We went to see The Da Vinci Code. (I thought it was okay, and it was really cool to be able to recognize a lot of the places in the film, but I didn't like Tom Hanks. Also, they had French subtitles for the English parts, but no English subtitles for the French parts, which was interesting...)

Then, Ben, aka Baconstud, my best guy friend from Maryland came to visit. We did a lot of the touristy stuff again (Notre-Dame, Eiffel Tower). We also went to a bread festival that was going on, had a picnic in the park - bananas, nutella, wine, cheese and bread - , and I got to most of Musee D'Orsay, which has a lot of the famous impressionist paintings. Monet and Van Gogh are there. Ben's friend took us to a vegetarian rally (I felt like such a fake).

So, that about wraps it up for now. In between classes and visitors I've managed to go out almost every night. (Also, Jeff and I discovered after Spring Break that Highlander, one of our usual bars, will broadcast Red Sox games, which start at 1am our time, if we ask. Gotta get my Red Sox time in!)

I really am having the time of my life and it's sad to see this coming to an end. I'll save my reflections for after I leave Paris, next thursday. I'll be back in the states on June 26th . I'm going to some Greek Islands, Prague and Amsterdam before I leave Europe. I'm planning a trip to College Park (maybe July 20th??), so let me know if you'll be in town!

Congrats to all the graduates! Enjoy the beginning of your summers! Stay in touch!



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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Spring Break 2006!

Hello Boys and Girls!

I know it's been forever. Now, in addition to not having an Internet connection I no longer have a laptop, so I really am cut off from all of civilization. I'm warning you all now that this e-mail is kinda long, so if you just want to look at the pictures, they are at it's hosted by facebook, but you don't have to have an account to view them...

Anyway, spring break has come and gone. It was a crazy ten days of travel to Lisbon, Madrid and Barcelona...

Lisbon couldn't have been more different from Paris. Paris was cold and rainy the morning we left, but Lisbon was absolutely GORGEOUS. Lisbon is very hilly (apparently seven hills) and our first adventure (after meeting up my friend Liz from high school) was climbing up to St. Jorges' Castle, with an amazing view over the whole city... We also visited Jerónimos Monastery, built in an architectural style unique to Portugal, and visited the Belem Tower, which sits on Lisbon's bay. Our last night there we saw a fado (translated it means destiny or fate) musical performance. It's kind of sad poetry set to music and the style originated in Portugal in the 1820s. We obviously also took in the local culture at night ;)

Our craziest adventure happened our last morning in Lisbon, when my friend Beth and I decided to go to the beach before catching our flight. On the way back on train, we tried to save some money by not buying a ticket. This was all fine until the conductor came on the train to check for tickets (and give out heavy fines to those who didn't have them) My bright idea was to go to the back of the train and hope that our stop would come up before the conductor could make his way to us. It soon became obvious that that wasn't going to work, so my second genius plan was to get out at the next stop and run up to the front of the train where the conductor had already checked tickets. It would have been amazing if it had worked, but alas we couldn't get back on the train fast enough... We bought tickets, got on the next train, and then HAULED ASS all over hilly Lisbon to try and catch our flight. We made it to the airport ONE MINUTE before check-in closed!

Then it was onto Madrid. I have to admit, we probably couldn't have picked a worst time to visit - It was the week before Easter and pretty much everything was closed. Our first night there, Beth and I attended a seder at the equivalent of a Jewish Community Center. The synagogue had a guard at the door and we were interrogated before being let in. We caught the tail end of services and for the seder, met a bunch of American students... Everything was in Spanish and Hebrew, but the tunes for the songs were the same. ("Wherever you go, there's always someone Jewish...")

We visited a LOT of cultural sites in Madrid: the Royal Botannical Gardens, the Prado Museum (it contains the famous Velazquez piece, Las Meninas, as well many of the Black Paintings by Goya), the Reino Sofia Museum (modern art - it includes many Picasso pieces, including the Guernica, also has stuff by Miró, Kandinsky, Dalí, Bacon...), the Royal Palace..... and we drank a LOT of Sangria. We spent Good Friday in Madrid and there were a lot of crazy processions for Easter.... People walked around wearing the white hoods the crusaders wore (which is where the KKK got the idea from). Karen (my big sister from ZTA) met up with us and off we went to Barcelona...

Our flight to Barcelona was at 7 in the morning and when we got there, we were all dead but our hostel wouldn't let us check-in. So I had my first sleeping-in-a-park-like-a-bum experience. At least it was sunny out.... In Barcelona, we walked down les Ramblas, which is the street in Europe where you are most likely to get pickpocketed. We also made it to the beach... our last time at the beach, Beth and I went topless. Hey, when you're in Barcelona, do as the Barcelonians!

Barcelona is Gaudi's city, (an architect), and I absolutely fell in love with the buildings he designed. He has a sort of Art Nouveau style and his stuff looks like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. The Sagrada Familia is a modern church built in the style of ancient cathedrals - that's to say that it's very contemporary looking, but once finished, it will have taken over 100 years to build! He also planned Parc Guell and the apartment buildings named Casa Batillo and Casa Milo, which are just so cool...

So, I'm sure you are all sick of reading by now... My spring break was a lot of fun and you can bet I'm getting ready from Spring Break 2007!!

Hope finals are going well! To all you graduating seniors, congrats! Stay in touch!

see ya,


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

man, oh man...

I'm back in Paris after an exciting ten days of travelling for Spring Break. All I have to say for now is that the mullet is alive in well in Spain.

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

reunions in london, giraffes in strasbourg, and april in paris...

Mes chers amis,

How are you all? I hope you all had the BEST spring breaks!

Last time I wrote, I was getting excited for London trip, and it really was so much fun. I met up with Laura, Avery, Mindy (and had lunch with Jackie!)... Friday night we went to London's Absolut Ice Bar, where everything - the cups, the walls, the actual bar - is made out of ice. We wore Eskimo suits and took an absurd amount of pictures... We saw the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, had a traditional English lunch (fish and chips) at a local London pub, watched Les Miserables in London's West End (like Broadway), rode the London Eye (the world's largest observatory wheel - basically a huge Ferris wheel - where you could see all of London) and took a boat down the Thames. Other sightseeing included Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. I would say my favorite sight in London is Big Ben which, for me, really symbolizes London. It was crazy fun running all around London with some of my best friends from Maryland!

Last weekend, I went to Strasbourg with my program. We visited the Strasbourg Cathedral, they tried sauerkraut with sausage, and we sampled flavored beer and regional wines. On Saturday night, we went out to a bar and ordered giraffes, which are a mix between bongs and kegs... they resemble huge test tubes and hold about 10 beers... Good times...

What to say about Paris that I haven't said before? The city is becoming more and more beautiful every day and I'm enjoying every moment here. This is actually the first weekend in about a month that I haven't been travelling, and in the past couple days, because it's finally warm-ish out, I've been walking all over this city, exploring its many streets and sights... They say there's nothing like April in Paris, and I'd have to agree!

The hardest thing here is the fact that I live far from all of my friends and my classes, and my roommate and I usually do our own things... However, I've solved this problem by sleeping out. I'm so thankful to my friends who let me crash! We go out pretty much every night, and the thing that I love is that every night is different. You never know who you are going to meet, what crazy adventures you'll encounter....

An example: A couple weeks ago, as I was waiting for the night bus (like the circuit) with John and Jeff, a guy asked to use John's cell phone. John's a nice kid and gave him the cell phone. The guy takes off running with it! John, who's drunk, tries to run after him, but trips and fells TWICE in the middle of the street. Jeff, who loves fighting, takes off also. What choice do I have? I take off after all three of them, and am about to call the police as soon as I can figure out where they went. I'm running down the street and I see the guy coming towards me. I hold out my hands and tell him to stop. I tell him to give me the cell phone.... and he does! Ha! The guys hate that story because I saved the day, without any fighting involved. Who knows why he gave me the phone? I was just glad no one was hurt...

I'm trying to experience every moment to the fullest, as cheesy as that sounds... No regrets... I can't even describe how incredible being abroad is!

I miss you all so much... Keep me updated... I want to know how things are going in your lives....

Also, Spring Break for me started on Friday afternoon and I'm leaving tomorrow for Lisbon. I'm also going to Madrid and Barcelona. I've never been to Portugal or Spain and I can't even explain how excited I am!

Signing out,


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