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June 4, 2008

I’m back in the US.

The week or so in Dijon was without a doubt one of the best weeks I spent there.  Despite having a couple 8 a.m. exams and some papers to turn in, I had so much fun fitting in all the “lasts” and the “to-dos” before I left.  Where to even begin?  I had a wonderful last lunch at one of my favorite restaurants in Dijon, and both Marie-Pierre (one of the other host moms) and Daniele had delicious last dinner parties for us.  I took a glorious last ride on the 5 bus back from campus with Sasha after we dropped off our last (last-minute) essays at the fac, and got to see my last film in French (Sex and the City -- dubbed!) on my last night.  There were firsts, too, as I had a lot of things I hadn’t yet done to fit in before the end of the week.  The first French barbeque, at Sasha’s house, one of the few homes with a big (beautiful) yard.  A bunch of us finally climbed the tower of Philippe le Bon, an ancient building that gives great views of the city, and – as we had all promised ourselves we would all year – I finally stayed up all night with everyone to get freshly baked pain au chocolat from the boulangerie at 4 am.  I bought cheesy Dijon souvenirs to put in my apartment next year, took an excessive amount of photos, and wandered through the city feeling almost dazed – so unbelieving that it was all coming to an end.

When I left back in September, I flew out of Newark airport in tears, terrified, having no idea what to expect all the way across the ocean.  I certainly never expected that I would be leaving in tears as well.  I am so happy, and so proud, to say that this year was truly among the best years of my life, and I think it always will be.  I learned French, and it really started to click in my last few weeks.  I lived with a complete stranger who became like a second mother to me, and I loved it and I was happy.  I ate foods I would never have even touched before leaving.  I saw some of the most beautiful cities in the world, and gazed at art and magnificent architecture that I can’t wait to see again.  I had some of the most bizarre and hilarious experiences I will ever have.  I met a lot of new and very different people, and I made seven amazing friends who I can’t wait to see next year at Holy Cross. 

The last few weeks there, I was sad about leaving, I knew it was happening, but it didn’t seem real.  This place became a true second home; Dijon became a city I knew better than my own town in the US.  The idea that my time there was over, that it would never again be a home to me – it didn’t seem possible.  I can never return to those same circumstances, to Daniele’s bright warm apartment, with Sasha and Jackie just up the street, a vibrant downtown only a few minutes walk. 

But that’s life, things change – you finish elementary school, you graduate high school, you move to a new town, you make different friends.  You go through so many experiences and situations you can never return to again, and it’s sad and seems impossible at the time, but it happens.  What makes it bearable is the potential for new experiences.  I may have left Dijon, but I have a new year at HC to look forward too, a graduation that will be hard, but also exciting, and should I choose, the opportunity to return France after school.

I’ll never go back to the same situation, but I can go back to something new in a country I now know so well.  I knew that as I took my last walk down Rue de la Liberté, knew it as I walked past the Arc and Place Darcy for the final time, and knew it as I hugged Daniele and said goodbye.  I still know it now as I sit here and compose this final entry.  Be it as a teacher, a student, or simply a traveler, I’ll go back.

So with that thought I leave you now, with a few thanks and a few wishes.  To everyone going abroad next year, be it to Dijon, to Spain, to England, China, South America, all of the other fabulous places HC sends students – good luck to you all, I hope you love it, because you will never forget it.  To anyone thinking about going abroad, but a little unsure – do it.  You’ll regret it if you don’t. 

And to everyone, to HC, to all the teachers, the advisors, host parents and real parents, to all of the chouettes (ha!), and of course to all of my readers – Thank You.

Kaitlin Juleus

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June 1, 2008

I recently received yet another email from my high school French teacher, Mme. Franc.  Her French IV class has been following my blog throughout this year, and back in January, they sent me a series of questions about my experience here in France.  I was happy to answer them, and even happier to receive another set of questions just a few days ago.  As my time in France comes to a close, these give me a good opportunity to talk about my favorite memories from studying abroad.

1. What was the most memorable part of your time in France ?

Where to begin!  There have been so many memorable happenings.  I guess what I’ll remember the most, when in ten, twenty years I look back on this, is my host mom and the experience of living in a French home.  More than anything, that is what made me able to understand French culture, French people, and really learn the French language.  While I knew a bit about Daniele before I arrived in France, I still sort of expected that living with her would really just be like living as a tenant or something; the room would be mine, but not the home.  How wrong I was!  Daniele became like a second mother to me, I always felt incredibly comfortable in her – our – apartment.  We ate all of our meals together, watched TV together, hung out and chatted, she brought me on little excursions, I got to know her family, and she got to know me.  It’s hard to explain, because there aren’t many other experiences that are comparable to it -- to moving into someone else’s home and becoming a part of their family.  How often does that happen?  But that is what it was like with Daniele, I felt like her daughter; and despite the occasional language confusion, we really understood one another.

2. What level were you in when you began French at Holy Cross?

I tested into Intermediate 1, even after four years of high school French!  A lot of other people, including most of the kids I was in Dijon with, were at about the same level as well.  You don’t need to be a French genius to go abroad, I certainly wasn’t.  You just need to be motivated and willing to learn once you get there – and believe me, you’ll learn.

3. How long do you have to live in France in order to gain a full sense of the language?

Hmm.  Well, I was there for over nine months, and I can confidently say that in speech I am close to fluent.  I definitely improved steadily over the months, and it was really the last few weeks that I felt it all started to click – finally, I could understand the TV and radio perfectly, I could communicate with nearly anyone who spoke to me.  If I’d had just a few months more, I think I would have left perfectly fluent, in speech.  There is so much more to language than just basic communication, however!  Accent, for one thing (min is atrocious), grammar, writing; I improved dramatically over the months in these skills, but I think you need at least a few years and continuous study in order to become like a native speaker.

4. Were there any negative parts of your experience?

Of course!  But inevitably, the good has outweighed the bad so drastically that I’ve forgotten a lot of the negatives by now – within a few months, I’m sure I’ll look back and see this entire year as perfect.  Living with a host family, as much as I loved it, isn’t always easy; there is something unavoidably awkward about living in another home, as comfortable as you might feel in the house and with the family.  I was close to Daniele so I didn’t experience the awkward aspect as much as some other students, but it was still there.  And, of course, just like with your real family, you get on each other’s nerves sometimes.  What else…academically, I’m not sure how much I learned this year.  Classes there, as I wrote the last time you all sent questions, are SO different.  I think I might have learned more about French history my reading a book than attending class there.  But academic learning isn’t really the point of going abroad – the point is to learn the language, the culture, and to get by on your own, experience real life.  I definitely learned about all of those things, and gained in a way I never could in the classroom.

5. Do you use the subjunctive tense often?

Ohhh the subjunctive.  Sometimes, but not really that much, although maybe I just avoid it on purpose.  In truth, I found it isn’t used that much, even by the French.  One of my French professors there told us many French people don’t even know how to conjugate the subjunctive that well!  The funny thing is, after she said that, I started to notice it was actually true…

6. What is the name of the bar you went to in Nice? There is a student going this summer!

Ooh what a lucky student!  Nice is incredible, I hope you love it.  The bar was called the Bulldog Bar Pompei or something like that (super French name, right?), and it was on Rue de l’Abbaye in the Vieille Ville (the old town, for the non-French speakers reading this).  I went on a Friday night I believe, it was so much fun – really, that whole area is full of great restaurants and bars, it’s where you want to go at night.  Have fun!

7. When you come back to New Jersey, can you visit us?

Oh I would have loved to!  Unfortunately, I come back just as you are all in the midst of graduation practice and such, and I start work almost immediately after I return – so it’s really not possible, I’m so sorry!  But congratulations on graduating, have wonderful summers, have the best time ever in college, and don’t hesitate to contact me if you ever have any questions about study abroad – Mme. Franc has my email!

May 22, 2008

London was excellent…I can’t believe my last trip is over!  I only had about three days, but there were so many awesome things to see and I was with some of my favorite people in the world – the trip couldn’t have gone better.

First of all, I got to take the Eurostar train there.  It was a little less glamorous than I expected (who knew the Chunnel only takes about 15 minutes to go through), but in a little over two hours there I was, dragging my bag through London’s St-Pancras Station.  I got the tube over to Earl’s Court, and arrived at our hostel to find a very sleepy Kristen inside!  Kristen was a champ – she’d gotten in from the US at 7 that morning, must have been completely jet-lagged, but still got up to do some exploring.  We did a quick tour of some big sites, Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus, before meeting Alicia and Jen when they arrived around 6.  Sooo exciting, to be with so many of my closest friends again!

The next morning, we were up and out by nine.  We did our own walking tour past the big sites – Trafalgar Square, Whitehall, Parliament and Big Ben, then entered Westminster Abbey.  I’ve seen a lot of gothic churches this year, and I must say Westminster was among the most beautiful, in part because it was so well kept.  Upon emerging to find that in appropriate London fashion it had started to rain, we headed over to the British Museum for some indoor sightseeing.  The British Museum is not very British, one could really argue it is an exhibition of stolen goods, but for that afternoon I was sort of happy for all of their plundering.  The friezes and sculptures from the Parthenon were absolutely incredible.

That night we took a double-decker bus (classic) over to the Millenium Bridge and walked along the Thames, stopping to catch the Tower Bridge lit up, the Globe Theater at night, and gaze longingly at the far-too-expensive London Eye ferris wheel. 

We awoke Sunday to slightly sunnier weather, and headed over to the Tower of London, the site I was looking forward to the most.  Whenever I’ve read about the tower, I always imagined just that – a tower, situated along the Thames, covered by tiny windows from which doomed prisoners watched the yard below.  My vision was not quite right, it turns out.  The Tower was more like a complex of towers, holding all sorts of fascinating things.  We saw the Crown Jewels, got a guided tour from a real beefeater, and gazed at the lawn where Anne Boleyn lost her head.  This was like Disney for history geeks -- I was in my element. 

After trying, and failing, to get tickets for that day’s performance of Romeo and Juliet at the Globe – sold out – so then took the tube over to Kensington Gardens, where we caught a glimpse of the palace and debated whether or not it would be inappropriate to go play on the Princess Diana Memorial Playground.  (The oldest person on the playground was clearly about 11, so we finally decided against it). 

Monday was our last day – Kristen left early in the morning, and I had a train for Paris at 3, so Jen, Alicia and I got up early to get to the Globe before I left.  This was the other sight I couldn’t wait to see, and I was not disappointed.  There was a great exhibition displaying the history of the theater, how they rebuilt it using entirely Elizabethan methods, even how they make the costumes the actors wear now.  A tour of the theater was included with admission, so although I didn’t get to see a play, I did at least get to see the interior of the theater.  I have to admit, I can’t wait to go home now and rent Shakespeare in Love!

Finally, it was around 2, and I needed to get back to St-Pancras.  We arrived a little earlier than necessary, so decided to take a quick detour from St-Pancras to the train station attached to it – King’s Cross.  Oh yes.  We found Platform 9 ¾.  They have a sign, and a luggage cart going halfway through the wall.  What an awesome ending to one of my favorite trips.

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May 12, 2008

What surprise, in this past week there were yet another two holidays here in France.  Which somehow meant: five day weekend!  Which in turn meant: trip!

Wanting to see a bit more of France before the big departure, and grab some beach time as well, last Wednesday saw Jackie, Sasha and myself setting off early in the morning by train to Nice, in the south.  A slightly delayed switch of trains in Marseille, and several hours later there we were, in the center of sunny, pastel-colored Nice.  (Ah, the magic of the TGV).

The delightful little hostel/budget hotel we had booked at the recommendation of Lets Go! was situated ideally five minutes from the beach, and the lovely woman who ran the place was happy to give us beach mats and towels.  Nice is famous for its pebble-covered beaches, which sound disappointing in comparison to sand, but were actually pretty cool.  By three that afternoon, the three of us were lying in the bright sun, on a stretch of beach that ran along the bluest water I’ve ever seen. 

As though the beach weren’t enough, Nice quickly proved to have much more to offer.  We rented bikes for an hour one afternoon, and pedaled down the Promenade des Anglais to the harbor.  The old town proved to be filled with fun markets and beautiful squares – I had a lot of delicious, Italian-inspired dinners (Nice is very close to Italy and it shows – I thought it looked just like Florence.  And the French accents there are very different.), and Jackie and I even waited on line for socca, a chickpea-crepe that is special to the region. 

Nice’s train station turned out to be a great convenience as well, as it gave us easy access to some of the other great towns of the Riviera.  We found ourselves in Monaco one afternoon, standing in front of the church Grace Kelly got married in, and sipping fancy (overpriced) drinks at a café in front of the casino.  Another morning saw us in Cannes, watching the prep for the upcoming film festival and keeping an eye out for stars (no celebrity sightings, sadly). 

Beach, sun, beautiful towns, glamorous stores and people – it really was everything I expected, and the weather could not have been better.  My favorite part, I think, was Friday night, when we came upon a hopping bar in Nice’s old quarter.  Stepping inside, we found ourselves sitting at a table up front while a cover band played American rock.  The band was excellent, the French people were singing in their hilarious accents, and we all sang along too. 

Another perfect weekend abroad – the Jersey shore will have a lot to live up to this summer.

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May 4, 2008

Yesterday was among my favorite Saturdays in Dijon.  The day started out sunny and hinting at warmth, just as I and everyone else here had been hoping it would.  Why?  It was finally the day for the Bourgogne bike tour we have all been talking about for months.

After picking up my rented bike from the tourist office in the palace, I zipped down Rue de la Liberté (bikes are just so fast and easy!) to meet up with everyone at 9:30 in Park Darcy.  And we were off.  Seven of us flew through the streets, single file, past apartments and cars until finally meeting up with the canal that runs through Dijon and the rest of the region.

The canal is ideal for biking.  Not only is it flat with clear, car-free path to follow, it is also a great way to see the people and activities in Bourgogne.  There are pretty, petite villages to stop at and wind through, lots of other bikers to say bonjour to, cows, fields, birds, pretty houses, pretty flowers – it’s all so beautiful and all so unlike anything you would come across in the US.  Although the canal is quite old, it remains a popular destination for tourists, who take boats along it throughout the summer.  Some of those boaters were out already – I actually saw how the locks, which lift the boats up the canal when the elevation changes, work.

Thirty miles of biking, a delicious picnic lunch, lots of sun (don’t worry mom, I put on sunblock!), and only one fallen biker (she was ok) later, we were back in Dijon, at Lac Kir, the lake the canal runs by.  Where everyone in Dijon was out lying on the sand in bathing suits.  I rode quickly to my house, put on my suit, dropped the bike off, and met everyone back at the beach within a half hour.  And there we all lay in the sun, 7 in a row, until dinnertime.  Because another advantage of living in France?  It’s so far north that the sun stays out dramatically later than it does in the US – you get a lot more time to enjoy a beautiful day. 

May 2, 2008

It’s May and it actually feels like it!

For the past few days, Dijon has been sunny, gorgeous, and at least 70 degrees.  Yesterday – May 1st – was a holiday in France, like our Labor Day.  Since everyone had the day off, Nanou decided to bring us on an excursion.  I was a little nervous – the last few excursions have been dampened a bit by nasty weather – but I woke up on Thursday to find it sunny and clear, if a tad chilly.  We set off towards the Jura, in Franche-Comté, to the south-east of Bourgogne – home of pretty mountains (the border between Switzerland and France), lots of outdoors-y activity, and my favorite type of cheese, comté fromage.  Our first stop was a former salt mill in Arc-et-Senon, a small town surrounded by cow pastures and distant hills.  For many years, saline was carried down from the hills to the mill, where they then harvested the salt from it.  Now the mill is a museum to architecture and salt-making – I bought a salt shaker, my first purchase for the kitchen of my senior apartment next year. 

Classic French lunch of steak-frites was followed by a stop in Besançon, a town similar to Dijon, to see what Nanou and the host-moms kept calling “le citadel”.  Everyone was expecting the typical chateau-like building, a standard excursion stop.  Upon climbing a big hill and walking through the huge gates however, we quickly realized this was so much more than a glorified fort.  The citadel was filled with – museums and zoos?  I got to pet baby goats, watch monkeys jumping through trees, and then head over to the French Resistance museum (both Dijon and Besançon were in the occupied zone during WWII).  The day ended with a walk through the town – at this point, the air had grown warm and it felt just like a summer evening.  The perfect addition to any summer evening?  Ice cream, of course, which we stopped for at a beautiful outdoor brasserie before heading back to Dijon.

April 27, 2008

Spring has come to Dijon – finally!  For weeks now, the sun has been setting later and later, and the leaves have been bursting from the trees, but the constant cloud cover and average temperatures have put a damper on the situation.  In the past few days, the clouds have disappeared and the temperatures have gone up (Summer dress time, anyone?).  I just hope it lasts.

As spring becomes more pronounced, the approach of May – my last month – does too.  I’m so sad to leave, but trying not to think about it too much – I have too much work, as well as a lot of fun plans coming up, to be sad.  The next three weekends are going to be full of great adventures; next weekend we all head out on a bike tour, followed by a trip to Nice and Monaco with Jackie and Sasha, and then meeting up with Jen in London, as well as Alicia and Kristen (who are flying all the way from Massachusetts for their first European visit!).  On the more serious, less exciting homework front, I also have a couple of assignments to contend with, as well as the start of my ICIP paper.  Every student who goes abroad needs to do some sort of cultural immersion project, and I’ve chosen to do mine on museums and art.  Originally, I was going to volunteer at the Musée des Beaux-Arts here in Dijon, which fell through in the end, so instead I’m going to write about some of the tours and art workshops I’ve attended there.  Should be fun. 

So in other words, these last few weeks are going to fly by.  I am going to miss it so much, but I’m doing a good job of making the best of the little time that remains.  And although I’m having a hard time envisioning being back in the US, I have lots of good things to look forward to this summer – working in New York City (where a lot of my friends will be as well), eating barbecue (you miss it here in France), and of course, going back to HC in August!

April 18, 2008

I finished my thesis proposal!  Yes!  Now I can finally get back to more entertaining writing…

I’ve been looking forward to April for a while.  Not only because of the two week break taking place in the middle of the month, but also because of the arrival of my parents during that break.  They got to Dijon on Saturday afternoon, just as the sudden warm weather and sunny skies were getting swept away by clouds.  Oh well.  I was far to excited about seeing them to even notice. 

Their week got off to a great start as Daniele, my host mom, was kind enough to invite them over to dinner that night for a true French meal and a chance to see my home (and of course meet her!).  The dinner went well – I think everyone was initially a little nervous, but the food was delicious, Daniele was in her element as hostess, and Jackie and Sasha were kind enough to come and help out with the translating.  The visit to Dijon flew by, however.  We visited some nearby sites on Sunday (had some great quiche in Flavingy), and before I knew it, Monday morning – and the next leg of our trip – had arrived.

We were en route to Normandy.  By 3 in the afternoon, we were on the coast, as the imposing form of Mont-St-Michel rose before us on the road.  In a lucky turn of events, we found the clouds were rolling away as we arrived.  Mont-St-Michel, a huge fortified abbey built up on a small, rocky island just off the coast was for many years only accessible on foot when the tide was low.  Now there is a causeway that lets cars come and go, but surrounded by miles of waves and sky, the mont retains an otherworldly, ancient feel.

A few hours passed in Mont-St-Michel (and touring its incredible abbey), we hopped back in the car and headed north to Bayeux.  Again, two days flew by – we took a tour of the D-Day beaches, saw the Bayeux tapestry, and headed to Rouen to see its much-embattled cathedral.  The D-Day beaches were, of course, my favorite.  They were peaceful and striking and so different from what I would have expected; the near to mythic beaches depicted in films did not prepare me for the real thing.

The week ended in Paris – a little sightseeing, a little shopping, and overall a great time with my mom and dad.  They’ve worked so hard and done so much so I could have this opportunity – I’m glad they got to benefit a bit from it, too.  Thanks, parentals!

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April 13, 2008

One of the best parts about studying abroad in Dijon are the trips that our housing coordinator, Nanou, sets up for us.  Usually they are little excursions to local sights around Bourgogne, but it’s fun to go on a trip with everyone else (and usually some of the host moms) without having to worry about planning.  Not to mention, Holy Cross foots the bill, which is a great perk.

This past weekend, Nanou (possibly the most well-connected woman in the city of Dijon) set us up to go on a trip that was a little out of the ordinary: instead of a day, it was a whole weekend, and instead of going with her, she used her connections to get us in on a trip with CIEF, the center at the university for French language that a lot of foreign students (except for us) study at.  Three days, all expenses paid, hotel stay trip to sunny Provence – does it get any better?

We left a cold and grey Dijon at 6:00 Friday morning, and five hours later emerged from the bus to find warmer temperatures and cloudless skies in Orange.  A quick stop at the ancient Roman theater the town is famous for (it’s still used for productions today), some delicious lunch at a boulangerie, and we were off to what wound up being my favorite site on the trip: Les Baux de Provence, and beautiful little town nestled in the rocky hills of Provence.  You know the paintings Cézanne did of Provence, with the craggy hills and la montagne St-Victoire and all of the light shining through the trees?  That is exactly what this looked like; it was so incredibly beautiful, and with the sun high in the sky it could not have been more ideal.

We arrived at the hotel in Uzès that evening – that’s right, no hostels on this trip!  The next day was as beautiful as the first; we started out at the Roman arena in Arles, which is used even today for bull fights.  Van Gogh lived in Arles for a period; he painted “Café Terrace at Night” there, and you can still see the very café he depicted so famously, yellow awning intact.  It was interesting to be there, after having just seen so many of his Arles paintings the week before in Amsterdam. 

The day continued with a delicious lunch of strawberries, baguette and Provencal tapinade; and then on to what everyone had been looking forward to for weeks, a stop at Saintes-Maries-sur-la-Mer.  Even if you don’t read French, I think you can tell what that translates as: The Beach.  Sasha, Chris, Adam and I got brave and went in the water, while they others laid on the sand; afterwards I walked to the dunes to look across at the flamingoes (Yeah, flamingoes.  Pink ones.) standing in the bay.  Incredible!

Dinner in Nîmes was followed by a good sleep, and the next morning was Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct that still stands, followed by a tour of the Palais des Papes in Avignon.  By the time we got to Lyon that night for dinner, I was exhausted, but exhilarated by what a great trip it had been.  I think I can say without doubt Provence is my favorite of all the places I’ve visited in France; I want to go back someday.

Of course, I still have a lot more of France to see.  I just made the final arrangements for a weekend trip to Nice and Monaco in May, and in just a few days I will be visiting Normandy with my parents.  U Bourgogne’s two week spring break started today, and my parents will be en route to France in a few hours.  I can’t wait for them to see Dijon!

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March 25, 2008

Well, that was an unusual Easter.

I got back yesterday from my weekend with Jen (and Chris, who came along as well) in Amsterdam.  Our trip started Friday morning, when we arrived by train at Paris Nord station, ready to jump on the Thalys Paris-Amsterdam train.  Can I interject for a moment that I love trains?  They are so much simpler and more stress-free than airports: you don’t have to show up hours early or worry about security, and they are always located centrally, which is so convenient.

After passing fields of yellow tulips and windmills, as well as catching glimpses of Brussels, Antwerp and the Hague from our seats, we pulled into Amsterdam at 2 pm.  Where it was snowing.  As it’s snowed about once in Dijon all winter (and that only lasted maybe 5 minutes) I was pretty surprised.  But by the time we arrived at our hostel and checked in, it had stopped, and we ventured out to explore the city. 

And what a beautiful city it is.  The canals and canal houses were incredibly pretty, I could have wandered through the streets just staring at them all day.  And everyone really does bike everywhere; every post, pole and rail had dozens of bikes locked to them.  We got 5 euro pizza, recommendation courtesy of Let’s Go (I highly recommend this guide to anyone studying abroad next year), and then ended our evening at the Van Gogh museum.  If you are ever in Amsterdam, go there; they have some of his most beautiful works and the way it is put together is very powerful, illustrating each stage of his tragic life; Jen and I were in tears by the end.

The next morning, Jen and I went to the Rijksmuseum and saw some great Rembrandts and Vermeers, then met up with Chris in the afternoon to get the train to Haarlem for a short day trip.  Haarlem was adorable.  A pretty little market was going on in the main square, and we got to see a real windmill up close!  Upon returning to Amsterdam, we headed over to the West Canal ring to line up for Jen’s favorite site on the trip (and really, the reason we decided to go to Amsterdam): the Anne Frank House.  If you’ve ever read her diary, you know all about the Secret Annex; to see it in person, these rooms where she, her family and their friends were actually hidden, was so striking.  Reading about the Holocaust, about Anne, and about so many people persecuted under the Nazis is one thing; it seems so far away from our place and time in the US.  Actually being in this room, seeing Anne’s celebrity photos that decorated her wall, the sink and oven where they cooked makes it evident how real these people were, and how normal their lives were, how like so many of us today they were, until tragedy struck.

Sunday morning was Easter!  Jen and I went to mass at St. Nicolaas Kerk, the first public Catholic Church in Amsterdam built since the reformation.  We then rented bikes to get around on the rest of the day.  We fit in a lot of sites; the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam’s oldest church, and Our Lord in the Attic, and small church hidden in the attic of three canal houses, used by Catholic’s after public worship for Catholic’s was prohibited in the 17th century.  Our day ended with a visit to Rembrandt’s house, and a leisurely ride around the beautiful canals by the Anne Frank House.  Easter dinner?  Indonesian food in the red light district, an apparent specialty in Amsterdam.

Jen had to leave early Monday morning, which made me so sad, but I will be seeing her again before I go back home.  Chris and I spent a lovely morning together; we stopped at the FOAM Photography museum, which had some very cool photography exhibits, then headed over to Winkel, and café known fo r having the Best apple pie in Holland.  The pie was great, and before I knew it I was back in Centraal Station, waiting for my train to depart.  As I pulled into Dijon that night, I knew this was probably the most unusual Easter I would ever have, but also one of the best.  As Jen said: “We’ll never forget our 21st Easter!”

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