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Veronica: Travels and more

March 9, 2010
Travel is a really important thing when you’re studying abroad, and I think I should tell you about my experiences (in a practical way). For the Montpellier integrated track, there is a week long winter break. So, three friends and I went to Italy. Weekend trips are easy to plan, but a week long trip is harder than you would expect. It got kind of stressful for more than one reason. There is a lot to think about and take into consideration. How are you going to get to the airport from the train station; do all of your flight/train times harmonize, or do you need to find somewhere to stay, do you need to rush…things like that. Also, an important thing that I learned is that the way people plan is the way they travel. If they are kind of hard-headed when they plan, they will be worse when you travel. If they are laid back planners, they will be flexible travellers. If they are illogical when planning, travelling will be a mess. Pay attention to the way people plan because those qualities will be amplified when you’re out there doing what you organized. I wish I didn’t have to learn this the hard way, but I did. Also, my trip ended up costing between $300-$400 more than planned. So be ready to spend more money than you anticipate. Things just don’t go exactly as you think. Be prepared to traveling to go wrong. We didn’t have any issues (except we ended up having to go a day early to Lyon because our flight was at 7am; this was minor), but a lot of people we talked to after getting back missed flights and cabs cost ridiculous amounts, and had to buy new tickets for planes and trains and things like that. One thing I advise, is if you fly out of Lyon, DO NOT use the train station–airport shuttle bus. It’s expensive, and the most ridiculous thing ever. It was such a joke. Awful service. Seriously, do not use it. Take a cab. Walk. Something. Just not that.

So, traveling is not as easy as it seems. You’ll run into problems no matter what. Be flexible. Understand that things aren’t as structured as they seem they should be. Flexibility is key.

And Italy was so much fun. I went to Rome, Florence, and Venice. Rome is the best city out of the three. The drivers are crazy, which is interesting. And there is something old/famous no matter where you go or if you’re looking for it. They build around ancient pillars and stuff, so they’ll just be anywhere. Next to a building, in a parking lot, etc. It’s really cool. Venice was pretty, but I wasn’t a huge fan, actually. It was really cold because of the water, and it’s really hard to get around unless you take boats, which costs a ton of money. We only saw one monument/place in 2.5 days because it was so hard to find anything. Also, there are parts of the city that feel really sketchy and dirty and unsafe, and there is no indication that the area is changing until you are already there. If Venice is something you want to see, do it, but I didn’t think it was that great.

Rome

Florence

Venice

Also, the program organized an excursion this past Saturday to Saint Guilhem-le-Desert. It is such a beautiful village. It was actually voted one of the most beautiful towns in France. Such a nice place. And we went to the Clamouse cave. That was cool too. Short tour, small cave, but definitely the prettiest cave I’ve been too, and I’ve been to quite a few. If this is an excursion option when you are in Montpellier, do go. It’s really nice.
It snowed here last night. And when I say snowed, I don’t mean flurried like you would expect here. I mean really snowed. I felt like I was back in Minnesota. Nimes, a town nearby, got 10 inches. It hasn’t snowed that much here since 1974, I was told. I got stuck in it for two hours and it was cold, and wet, and terrible. It was gorgeous snow though. And snow on palm trees is quite an interesting sight. I would add an image of it, but it seems I’ve reached my quota.

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