Paris

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So I may have said tomorrow for when this post would get published, and that’s what it ended up being until now. Let’s get to it then.

We arrived in Paris on an early morning TGV from Luxembourg on New Year’s Day. We made our way to the hotel, and then left again, taking a Metro to the other side of the city, to what we assumed would be close to Versailles, since we were rather unsure of our Paris geography. It turns out the Metro does not go out nearly that far, so we instead found ourselves in the far south of Paris, and decided to walk back since we were still early. We walked over to the Seine and the wandered down that to the Eiffel Tower. We decided not to go up since the crowds were a bit overwhelming and the lines seemed really long. It was nevertheless a very impressive sight, and we figured we had to see it since we were in Paris after all. From the Eiffel Tower we walked up the Avenue des Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe, and we were all suitably impressed by it after managing to not die while crossing the massive no-rules roundabout that surrounds it.

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After this we walked back down the Avenue and were suddenly surrounded by a parade, which we stayed to watch. We also had a late lunch at a market in one of the parks it ran through. We finished the day in Central Paris by trying to find dinner in the form of some bread and cheese, but most of the stores had closed already, so it took quite a while. We eventually made our way back to the hotel for the night.

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Almost the entirety of Friday was consumed by visiting the Louvre, since we arrived early before it opened to have a shorter line, and stayed almost until it closed in an effort to see as much of it as we could. I should note now that both my flickr and my Facebook have many more pictures from our visit than this blog format allows me to present, so I encourage you to visit them. When we entered, we made a beeline for the Mona Lisa, since we expected the crowds there to only increase with time. We saw it and it looked basically like it does in pictures… anyways we were glad to be able to see the real thing, even if the crowd was already large.

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The museum was way larger than any of us thought. Apparently the museum only exhibits a small part of its collection, which seemed impossible considering the amount of art exhibited. There were also some rooms that had been kept as they originally were, when the building was still a palace.

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We also managed to see some ship related art, because we wouldn’t want to forget that. The indoor sculpture garden was also very impressive, as where the age of some of the Egyptian and Middle Eastern artifacts. Some amphora were also on the schedule, since after the marine archeology class, we know more about them then we ever wanted to.

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The entire museum can not really be summed up in one blog post, but needless to say we were incredible impressed, and it was definitely worth the trip. We finished the night by heading to a restaurant for dinner and then returning to the hotel.

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Our last full day in Paris found us visiting the major churches in the city. We started by visiting Notre Dame, which was a must-see. It was very beautiful inside, and the extensive history exhibits were also interesting. We also visited a museum that housed some of the ruins from the early history of Paris. The museum was cool because it was underground in the courtyard of the church. After grabbing lunch we slowly wandered to Sacré-Cœur, a major basilica at the top of a hill the gave a great overview of the city. This was also relatively close to the hotel so we headed back afterwards.

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On Sunday we took the train back to London through the Channel Tunnel, and then a bus back to Southampton, thus ending our brief European journey.

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Luxembourg

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So the next city we visited on the 30th was Luxembourg, where an uncle of mine lives. We spend all of the 30th traveling, since we had to take three different trains for the journey. We ended the day with dinner at my uncle’s apartment.

For New Year’s Eve, we took a walking tour of the city. Luxembourg has a rather scenic inner city, with the downtown area on a plateau accessible by old bridges across a valley. There is also a nice cathedral, in which we listened to a free organ concert. Luxembourg is not that big of a city, so we eventually moved back to the hotel to pretend to do homework and because the train the next day was leaving early.

Next up to start off 2015, we went to Paris, so expect that tomorrowish.

Stuttgart

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As promised, here comes Stuttgart.

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On the 26th, after the rather shorter train ride to Stuttgart, we were picked up by my uncle, and decided that we should go to the Mercedes Benz Museum, since it was close by. This was by far the largest of the car museums we visited, and had a lot of beautiful cars. It also included quite a few prototypes, which is always interesting. Mercedes also had a large truck and van division in Europe, which meant that they also had an exhibit with buses and trucks. This led to some channeling of childhood career dreams.

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We spent all of Saturday taking a walk through Stuttgart, making sure to look in the old indoor market and take a look at Stuttgart 21, the new underground rail station being built, which is currently the largest public works project in Germany.

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On Sunday, we celebrated my birthday with lunch in Stuttgart with my relatives. We ate in a restaurant at the top of one of the art museums in the middle of the city. We all loved the view, and the food was pretty great too. Afterwards we headed to the Weissenhof Estate, a showpiece of the International style from the late 1920s. This was interesting, and made sure we got some more culture.

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The next day, we went to the Porsche Museum before having dinner with my grandparents. The museum was smaller, but still had a variety of interesting cars, including many from Porsche’s racing history. There was also a factory showroom attached to the museum, which we visited.

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So with that, come back tomorrow for Luxemburg.

Cologne

So I pretty much left everyone hanging after the “More Munich” post. Now that finals are over, and I’m back in the US with not much to do, I’m going to aim to do a daily update for every other city we visited over the next four days. That should then conclude our journey. I may break up some cities if I have too much to write. Anyways, here we go, starting where we left of, with us leaving Munich and taking a train to Cologne on the 21st.

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The train was rather scenic, taking us along the Rhine valley, probably one of the prettiest routes in Germany. The route is notable for the amount of castles and forts built along the river, as you can sort of see in the picture. Upon our arrival, we had dinner with my family (grandparents and aunt), before going out with my aunt to a Christmas market for some socializing and Gluhwien, a German take on mulled wine that was everywhere at the markets.

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Monday found us taking a walking tour of the city, making sure to walk past and into Cologne’s cathedral. We also managed to walk through the shopping street and most of the other Christmas markets before returning to go retrieve Spenser from the airport. After a heartfelt reunion after a whole week of not seeing one another, we again had dinner with the family.

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The next day, we went on a day trip to Essen and the Zeche Zollverein, a former coal mine and coke plant that has been converted into a park with several museums that reflect the area’s industrial history. My grandparents grew up in Essen, and my grandfather had trained as a coal miner, so we were able to get a very detailed tour and explanation of the area’s history. The historical museum was interesting, trying to illustrate a complete history of the are from prehistory to the present. The entire thing was also in one of the old buildings with most of the machinery remaining. There was also a scenic viewing area on the roof, which afforded a view of the entire area, which gave a good view as to the extent of the industrialization.

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Additionally, the Red Dot design museum is located at the site. This was fascinating, since it had many of the home products that had won the prestigious industrial design award. It served basically as a showroom of excellent design, making many mundane items dramatically less boring. I don’t think any of us had been so excited about shower fixtures or stoves before. We all agreed that when furnishing a house, it would be probably be best to go back with a notebook (and maybe a blank check). This was also in the old boiler building for the mine, so it again was full of old machinery.

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We followed this up by going back to Cologne.

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Per German tradition, much of the celebration for Christmas occurs on Christmas Eve, so that is what we spent most of the day doing. Much celebrating was had. Presents are also given on Christmas Eve, so that also happened.

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Christmas day had us celebrating with the entire family, including my cousins. We had a lovely meal after a morning walk. We also spent awhile playing cards. Marshall managed to make a friend on the walk through the park also.

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Come back tomorrow for Stuttgart!

End of an era

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So I’m writing this procrastinating finishing my packing, with Spenser and Marshall having already arrived home after leaving at 5 this morning to catch their flights. It is with bittersweet feelings that we leave Britain. We made a lot of friends here, and had a swell time. We managed to travel through almost all of the island, even if it felt like we just skimmed it. On the other hand we now get to fly back to our families whom we haven’t seen for four, bordering on five, months. So to all our friends in England, we hope to see you soon sometime, maybe even in New York.

On that note, I’ll finally have time to sort through all my pictures from the trip, so expect to see a lot of pictures and stories on the blog in the near future.

More Munich

So, this will be a longish blog post here. It has been almost ten days since I wrote the last post, and we’ve been busy every day since then. I’ll try and approach this chronologically.

On the 17th, we went out to Technische Universität München to meet with my uncle, Hans who is one the glass blowers in the chemistry department there. We walked around the campus a little and then headed out to lunch. Afterwards, he demonstrated some glassblowing for us and showed us his masterpiece he had to make as part of his studies. We then wandered back to where we were staying.

On the 18th, we had a bigger day, again going relatively far north of Munich to see the aviation department of the Deutsches Museum in Oberschleißheim. This took us right through an old palace, which was very pretty. The museum itself was surprisingly large, and included a large variety of German prototype planes (similar to the US X-plane series). This were very interesting to see. Also in the museum was a large collection of aviation engines, mostly gas turbines. Of special interest to some of our classmates was the radio-control airplane engine display, which included a small Wankel engine. After our visit to the museum we returned to the city for a tour of one the largest breweries in the city, Paulaner.

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The next day, we went to Munich’s modern art museum, the Pinakothek der Moderne. This had a lot of modern art, and also a rather interesting section on modern industrial design. Also included was a good section on modern architecture. After touring through the museum, we walked around in the city some more, making sure to stop by the beer cellar belonging to Augustiner, on of the other major breweries in Munich. We returned to base, and then drove with my uncle to spend the night in Kitzbühel, where they have a vacation home. We had a lovely dinner in an old inn and then got ready for the next day.

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The 20th found us starting with a light breakfast, before going on a hike up to a favorite chalet of my cousins. The hike included some incredibly scenic views as we watched the fog burn off the mountains. We even managed to see some snow, but not too much. We then hiked down to another inn for lunch, before returning and packing up our things. After making sure to forget my laptop charger, we went to Kufstein, where there was a Christmas market inside an old fortress. This obviously had a really great atmosphere, and gave us some incredible views of the sunset in the Alps. We then returned to Munich to get ready for our early journey to Cologne.

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You can once again visit the flickr page for more pictures, or check out my facebook. I’ll be updating the blog some more soon, but I figured it was better to get at least some of this out there. Stay tuned for what we did in Cologne.