Side Note

I’ve done a poor job of keeping this updated, and I apologize for that. Between traveling, coming home, this past semester filled with homework, a part time job, and then the holidays and family time, finding time to write has been rather difficult.  On a good note, I have one last post that I never published from my travels coming up.  There’s so much about my time abroad that I didn’t have the chance to write about. I wish I could do a better job of relaying my experiences, but I’m about to embark on my last semester of college so I rather not make any promises.  I can say that I have not forgotten about this niche of mine and will return as the opportunities arise.

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When In Rome: The Colosseum and The Roman Forum

There is no place like Rome.  I had high expectations for this visit, and was very excited to have this opportunity.  I was definitely not disappointed.  It was beautifully amazing.  The people were friendly, the food was delicious, and the views were breathtaking.

The Colosseum

A tour for 25 euros included viewing the Colosseum and the Roman Forum with the bonus of getting to skip the entrance lines.  From the tour guide, I learned that about 700,000 men were killed throughout the time of the games.  Many different animals from various parts of the world and the unique plants that trekked along with them were brought to the Colosseum.  The gladiators were trained with specific fighting techniques depending on their body type.  The armor they received would provide certain advantages or disadvantages.  Usually the opponents of the favored gladiator were handicapped: their arms or feet were tied or they didn’t have weapons or shields to fight back.  The animals that were brought in were usually starving, and the scent of the female species would be rubbed on the victim so that he didn’t have a chance.

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The holes along the columns of the Colosseum were created by the removal of the marble that was stolen as it was very valuable at the time the Colosseum was no longer being used for the games.  Some of this marble was used in building St. Peter’s Basilica within the Vatican City.

The name ‘arena’ we use today for entertainment facilities comes from the Latin word arena meaning sand.  Sand was used in the Colosseum to soak up all the blood that was shed.

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Being in a place such as this just ignites more curiosity into the past, and it also inspires by what was achieved, what should be avoided, and what can still be done.  Seeing this place firsthand provides a better opportunity for the imagination to recreate the situation of days long gone.

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The Roman Forum

The second part of the tour included a walk through the hill where the first Emperor lived.  It was a beautiful site.  The Emporer also had his own large outdoor entertainment center where small scale gladiator games were played.

IMG_2334The Emperor had a magnificent view of the city, as you can see.

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We also had the opportunity to walk along the road the Romans would take parading after a victory or angrily storming after a disappointing match at the Colosseum.

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This was all unlike anything I’d ever seen before.  It made for a very interesting time.

Paris, France: Day Two

Crêpes au Sucre

Crêpes au Sucre

That was my delicious breakfast on Saturday (July 20th) morning.  I would describe it as a pancake and buñuelo hybrid, very good.  The restaurant was right across from the Louvre, so it was a convenient stop.

The Louvre is definitely a must do in Paris.  It is a huge museum, so we could not stop to admire every piece.  We actually only went to one section of the museum, and even then I probably only saw one side of the hallways that we walked through.  But, it was still incredible.  Everything from the structure of the building to the floors and ceilings and well the work inside of course are all full of detail and simply should be admired. Continue reading

Paris, France: The First Night

It is now time for Paris! On Friday morning, we went to the train station and asked about reservations for the train to Paris.  Unfortunately, the train we wanted was already full and the next available one was leaving from Brussels around 1 pm.  It was about 9 am when we arrived to the Leuven train station, so we decided to buy our high speed train tickets and go to Brussels to wait there.  It was an extra 30 euros for the high speed train along with our Eurail pass.  Waiting in Brussels was nice; we bought some pastries from Panos and  had some easy-going, interesting conversations while doing some people watching.

The second train ride to Paris was a quick one, and once we arrived the hotel was easy to find just around the corner of the train station.

View from the hotel window
View from the hotel window

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Drinking Water and Breweries

Our first field trip for the program included several different tours. It was a long day filled with traveling on buses and bicycles, climbing up and down stairs, and plenty of walking. Our first tour guide was from De Watergroep Company, which is the source for drinking water for the Flemish speaking part of Belgium. The two main stops we made were at different water catchments that included both a horizontal and vertical well.

The Champataine Drain at Chaumont-Gistoux

The Champataine Drain at Chaumont-Gistoux

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Amsterdam Trip

This weekend we took a short trip to Amsterdam.  Two friends and I walked to the train station in Leuven and caught three different trains to Amsterdam taking us about four hours in travel time.

The Train

The Train

On the Train with my Eurail Pass

On the Train with my Eurail Pass

We each had a Eurail Pass that we bought in the US; all we had to do was activate it and write the day of travel on it.  They stamp it on the first ride, and simply check it for each connecting train.

The train ride was very scenic.  The following are a few pics of just that.

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Amsterdam Central Station

Amsterdam Central Station

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We then arrived at the Amsterdam Central Station, and took a short walk to our hotel.

Near the Hotel

Near the Hotel

Unlocking the Room

Unlocking the Room

A Quadruple Hotel Room

A Quadruple Hotel Room

The main purpose for our trip was to see the Ann Frank House.  So once we were checked in we grabbed a map and made our way there.  It was a fairly short route from our hotel.

IMG_2007 IMG_2009We waited in line for about an hour, and then took about another hour touring the home.  It was a very interesting tour.  I’ve yet to read the diary, but this trip has definitely spiked an interest in history.  Well, I’ve always found it interesting, but now I want to know more details.  So, I hope to read it once I get back into the states and have some leisure time.

The rest of our stay in Amsterdam consisted of mostly a lot of walking through the streets.

By a Canal

By a Canal

By The Shopping Mall

By The Shopping Mall

Inside the Mall

Inside the Mall

The following is one of the meals I had while in Amsterdam. It was a very good chicken and avocado sandwich with a warm tea. I’ve been slightly sick since I landed in Belgium. The change in weather hasn’t helped much. So I had the tea with hopes that it would soothe my sore throat, which it did slightly. I also made a visit to the pharmacy while in Amsterdam for that precise reason. Hope I get over this soon, so that it won’t damper anymore of my trip, not that I would allow it to.

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Overall, it was an enjoyable weekend getaway!

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Interestingly enough, once we arrived back in Leuven we got lost walking back to our dorm. We had to do some extra walking as we looked for the church that is by our rooms, but there seems to be a few cathedrals around here that all look similar. We took out our Leuven map and must have looked hopeless; some kind people offered us directions. Nonetheless, a bit tired, but we made it back and now have a day before class starts again on Tuesday.

Forever Alive in Our Hearts- Abel David Jr.

First, there was stillness.  In an initial stage of shock or disbelief, I sat there.  Then the anger and sadness rose and rose until it overtook every inch of my body.  Why him?  I could not understand.

“You’ve got a few years left,” the doc had told him.  So, maybe I should have expected it.  It was inevitable, but not to me.  You see, to me my uncle was invincible, a man that was strong and that would not put up with anything from anyone. Continue reading