Ok, so I've been slacking... I know, I know... But I've been sooooo busy... Not an excuse, I know, but I'll make up for it now, I promise. Ok, on the 8th of October I left the lovely green expanses of Ireland for France... I had decided to spend a month in Paris studying french because mine was not great, ok, it was bad... ok, OK! It was worse than bad, leaving Ireland I thought the people at the French border were going to take me into custody for offending their national pride... However, once I got into Paris (while, Beauvais...) I found that I could actually communicate! While a long way from being pretty, my french was functional (although my vocabulary was severely lacking...) which made me feel quite a lot better. So I spent the next couple days in Paris, exploring and going to the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triumph, although I avoided the Louvre and Musee d'Orsay because I wanted to save those for while I was living here (give myself something to do on the weekends. I love Paris, it is old, beautiful and full of amazing things to look at everywhere you turn. I was sad to leave, but I knew I would be back soon so I didn't worry too much.
On the 10th I got on the train down to Carcassonne to hang out with Keith (my uncle) for a couple days. Well, what was supposed to be a six hour train ride turned into a ten hour trip... It turns out that the train running just ahead of mine on the track hit a car at a crossing and so we were delayed while they got everything cleaned off the track... Long, drawn out and boring for the most part, it did have it's amusing points... Like the guy that spent the first two hours of the ride getting smashmouth drunk and the next hour and a half sleeping and slooooooooooooooooooooooooowly sliding out of his seat until he had his shoulders and head on one seat, his feet on another and his arse on the floor between the two... That position probably would have been really comfortable if he were in, say, a hammock, but apparently it wasn't to his satisfaction because after about three minutes of this he half woke up out of his drunken slumber and slid off both seats and onto the floor... Perpendicular to (and completely across and blocking) the asile. The elderly woman sitting next to him had had enough by that point, she got up (with some difficulty seeing as how he had basically caged her in) and walked past me to go find the conductor (stopping briefly to appologise to me and explain that she had to do something about him because he smelled very bad and she couldn't handle it anymore, at least that was the gist I got, she was speaking in very fast French...) When she came back with the (very unhappy looking) conductor he proceeded to attempt to get the gentleman (and I use that term loosely) to vacate the isle.... First by very politely saying "Excuse-moi", then when that didn't seem to have the desired effect, adding some light nudging with his boot to the polite request... After about three minutes of gentle proding and still no response (and I mean ABSOLUTELY no response, at that point I was kinda worried he was dead...) he progressed to some fairly violent kicking and requesting (in a much louder voice) "monsieur, s'réveiller, sil-vous plait!!!". Finally after three or four minutes of this the man finally woke up enough to drag himself into a semi-seated position and listen to the conductor tell him (in a much more polite voice and with much nicer terms that I would have expected) that if he didn't sober himself up enough to stay in his seat that he would be disembarking at the next stop, very unceremoniously, and with assistance if necessary... At about that same time, the train finally started moving and about 20 minutes later I finally arrived at my stop. Keith was an extraordinary host. He spent the next three days showing me tons of great things in Limoux and the surrounding area. I had an excellent time and saw so many great things, Thanks for everything Keith!!
The day before I was supposed to leave Keith and Cynthia's house I still had no idea where I was going to spend the week before I had to be back in Paris for the start of classes... It was the week of the finals for that rugby world cup so there were no cheap hostels left anywhere in france, and trains were SOOOOOOO expensive, that and the fact I'm stingy, led me on a search to try and find somewhere to go that was A: Interesting, and B: Cheap... So I figured that I would just go on the Ryanair website and see where they had cheap flights to and work my way out from there... After about an hour of searching it hit me, POLAND! I bet you're asking yourself, good lord! Why Poland of all places?! My answer is, Why not? I had wanted to add Poland to my itinerary from the very beginning, but I just wasn't going to have enough time, plus, it was WAY cheaper to fly to Poland, hang out for a week, and fly back into Paris than it was to hang out in France for a week, so Poland it was! I flew into Krakow at 11pm and managed to find my way to the hostel I had reserved (The Bling Bling Hostel..... Now there were cheaper, and there better, but I ask you, how on EARTH could I possibly NOT stay in a place called the Bling Bling hostel?!?). I spent three days in Krakow, my first day there I went on a day trip to Auschwitz. What an amazing experience, you know, you hear so much about a place, and you think you're prepared, but being there is a whole other thing altogether. It was a four hour tour of both Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II - Birkneau, we had an amazing tour guide who passed on SO much information and I feel so blessed to have been able to go there and hear the real story. I think that anytime someone has the opportunity to visit a place like that they absolutely should. As George Santayana said "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." My next two days in Krakow were spent exploring the city and the old center, Krakow was mostly spared from the bombing of WWII so there is so much of the old architechture still existing, it is a beautiful city. I was lucky enough to be in town on a night when the Krakow Orchestra was performing Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" in an old church, it was beautiful and worth every penny of the 25Pzl (or 7$) that it cost me. I had planned to go from Krakow straight to Warsaw and spend four days there before going back to Paris, but a few fellow travellers told me that there wasn't a whole lot to see since Warsaw had suffered so much heavy bombing during the war that the whole city had to be rebuilt and there was almost nothing old left so I searched around and decided to spend three days in Zakopane instead. Zakopane is in the very south of Poland, and is a ski resort town during the winter, so of like Poland's version of Aspen.... Pretty funny if you think about it... Anyway, I arrived and it was beautiful, a very small town, houses with very tall, very pitched rooves like you see in the pictures of ski chalets in Switzerland, a very cool place. It wasn't quite season yet, so there weren't any big crowds yet. My second day it snowed, I mean IT SNOWED... Six inches in one day, it was beautiful (not to mention a great change since my trip had been soooooo warm up until that point)! I spent the next day in the mountains playing in the snow and hanging out with a very cool Irish guy that was staying at the same hostel I was. Zakopane was beautiful, and I would love to go back again some day... I went to Warsaw on the 20th and spent the day at the movies (I saw Knocked Up and Stardust, both in English with Polish subtitles) because I wasn't feeling very well and just wanted to relax and flew out to Paris that night.
I started classes on the 22nd of October and I am really enjoying it, I am learning a lot and quite enjoying being back in school. I am staying with a host family, my host mother is very nice, although a little (or maybe a lot) quirky and she doesn't speak a word of english which makes for a steep learning curve! Library is closing so I have to go, but I will write more again soon, I promise, Love y'all! :X