Friday, September 07, 2007

Traveling Solo with Wise Eyes

After much planning and anticipation, I took my
first-ever solo trip to Europe! The first leg of the trip was spent studying French for 2 weeks in a little village in Loire Valley called Sancerre. It was such an exhilirating experience. Having taken many years of French in school, I found that the language came back quickly. I got really good at telling everyone Je suis etudiante en Francaise, parlez lentement s'il vous plait' (I think it means I am a student of French, please speak slowly...)

When I wasn't in the classroom studying, I was running through vineyards to train for the upcoming Berlin marathon. I also loved walking around the village, meeting the locals and giving directions to the tourists (in French no less...)

Here are several of my new friends. Guilliame is the local Boulanger (baker). I bought the best poppy seed baguette every morning so we got to be close pals! I also took a field trip to Le Chevrerie (goat farm) where I tried my hand at milking.

Sancerre is in the middle of wine country. Even though I don't drink wine I certainly appreciate the effort and intricate process it takes to turn grapes to cabernet
season after season. My fellow students and I had a rousing night out (every night actually) to celebrate our new friendship and toast another grand bottle of Sancerre's best offerings! I ate the rice, pasta and bread since I was carbo loading for my race.

On my way to Germany I made a couple of stops. I stayed with a lovely family in the north of France for several days. I continued to practice my French though the household also spoke German and English. I was continuosly delighted by the hospitality I experienced every step of the way.
I visited grad school pal Willem, who lives in Rotterdam. We took a jaunt to Amsterdam one afternoon.

I joined the hospitality organization called SERVAS and had the pleasure of meeting Luzy. Her family lives outside of Berlin and they opened their home-in-the-woods to me. I had a relaxing few days walking Jasper, their Golden Retriever and playing duplo blocks on the floor.

The day prior to the marathon I suspended my race rule (stay off my feet, drink water and relax). I am in Berlin after all so I spent the morning sight seeing. What an interesting city this is. I looked forward to covering many of the same spots during the race tomorrow!

Berlin marathon is my 24th time running 26.2 miles. I am often astonished by that fact myself! What thrills me is having the opportunity to combine my love

of running with travel and meeting new people everywhere I go. The world becomes a much smaller and friendly place with each kilometer I run.

Next stop was Zurich. I took my tired yet ever eager marathon legs to Switzerland for the last few days of the trip. After a day of making my way around the city, my SERVAS host and I went took the train to Lucerne for an exhilarating hike in the Alps.

Breathtaking, isn't it? The view of Lake Lucerne was indescribable. Bettina is a student and speaks 4 languages in addition to English. I thought this was a grand way to end my trip!

Oh one more thing...Matt and David were also in Lucerne! The RxBandits gave a show, David traveled along to sell the band merchandise and Megan flew to Germany to support Matt and travel herself. My last night in Europe was spent listening to the Bandits play music and showing off my digital photos.... :)