SYA News

Winter Break Travels Around Europe

Kate C. is currently a Campus Reporter blogger at SYA France. Kate comes to SYA George Washington High School (WV). Read more of her work throughout the year here.

Paris and Budapest

Yay for French holidays! I started my two week vacation last week. To kick off the break, SYA took a trip to Paris for five days. We left Rennes by bus early in the morning. First stop: Versailles! I thought my fingers were going to freeze off while walking through the gardens. Over the next few days, I went to the Foundation Louis Vuitton, the Palais de Tokyo (a modern art museum that I LOVED – there was a super weird but cool exhibit of humans sitting on the floor and howling like dogs), the Centre Pompidou (beautiful art), the Shakespeare and Company bookstore (my version of heaven), and other more touristy destinations. It was a pretty great school trip. We had a lot of freedom in terms of how we wanted to spend our time.

As cliché as it sounds, I am in love with the Eiffel Tower. I've seen it quite a few times, so one would think the magical effect would wear off, but it hasn't. Every single time I see it I look up and think, "wow, I'm really in Paris, and that's really the Eiffel Tower." I don't think I will ever get over that. I have decided Paris is one of my favorite cities in the world and I think I might want to live here for a while when I am older.

After the school trip ended, I stayed in Paris for a night with three girlfriends. We were up early the next morning because it was time for independent travel! For the next week and a half, I would be traveling to Budapest, Hungary; Prague, the Czech Republic; and Amsterdam, The Netherlands with two of my very best friends at SYA.

As is to be expected, traveling is never easy – especially when airports are involved. As it turns out, we had had a miscommunication about the luggage situation. I had spent two hours trying to pack a bag for two weeks in a carry-on size, but once we got to the airport we discovered we were going to have to pay to check it anyways. Fortunately, life goes on.

Budapest was beautiful – and cold. We used public transportation (trams, subways, and buses) to see all the main attractions.

We even went to Budapest's hot thermal baths! These were very cool – I am not sure I would ever do it again? But definitely something to do at least once, even if it's just for the people-watching experience. This is where you get to see native Hungarians in their element. There are many indoor and outdoor baths here with water temperatures ranging from icy to practically boiling, and I think I tested almost all of them.

We had done our research and our apartment was excellently located, right next to the Metro and a downtown street with plenty of cute restaurants. Our time in Budapest was relatively smooth sailing until the check-out. The front desk, which was supposed to be open 24/7, was not open when we went to check out. We spent 30 minutes calling numbers and knocking on the door and enlisting the help of the Hungarian-speaking security guard. Finally, we had to leave in order to not miss our plane. I later got in touch with the hotel (apparently someone had gotten sick), and they agreed to refund my deposit for the key, so the crisis was kind-of avoided. Unfortunately for the hotel, I left a heated review on their website!

Now onto Prague!


PRAGUE. I loved it. It beat Budapest by a landslide. Not that Budapest wasn't fabulous, but Prague was just so amazing.
Instead of buying a public transportation pass, we conquered Budapest by foot. The idea originated out of necessity because we could only buy a pass with cash, which we had none of the first day. This actually worked in our favor because after walking the first day we decided to walk the next two days too. We averaged about nine miles per day (I know, awesome, right? but I made up the calories in chimney cake.) Although my ankles are sore now, it was amazing being able to discover some of the nooks and crannies of the town. Some of my favorite parts of Prague were the colorful buildings and street musicians.

On the last day, I decided to try something adventurous. All over the city were little "boutiques" with signs proclaiming "THAI MASSAGES and PEDICURES." Oftentimes, in the window of the shop, someone was sitting with their feet in a tank filled with little fish sucking on their toes. Obviously I found it to be a little weird at first, but then I decided I had to try it. Right? How many times in my life will I be in Prague, as a seventeen year old, with the chance to stick my feet in a tank full of flesh-eating fish? So I convinced my friend to do it with me. We cautiously walked into one of the shops. After paying, we were giving a pair of see-through tissue paper-like green pants and a pair of off-brand crocs. We changed pants, they "sterilized" our feet, and led us into a back room (unfortunately, we wouldn't have the opportunity to be stared at through the window.) I have to say, I was terrified. After climbing up onto the bench over the tank filled with swarming fish, we were told to slowly stick our heels in. Holding hands with eyes squeezed shut, we stuck them in. MY GOODNESS IT WAS THE MOST TERRIFYING THING EVER! Okay, maybe that is an exaggeration, but only kind of. The fish swarmed to our heels. It didn't hurt (they don't have teeth I don't think) but it tickled SO MUCH! After that, we had to put our feet all the way in. It was SUCH a weird feeling. I alternated from curiously looking at my feet in the water to squeezing my eyes closed and doing deep breathing exercises. I can't say I would ever do it again, but my feet came out 25 minutes later feeling as smooth as a baby's bottom.

Amsterdam and the return to school

After much ado, we made it to Amsterdam. We didn't have much time in the city (only one day) but we went and saw the main attractions. We also got to meet up with some other SYA students who were traveling there.

Sunday was a long travel day by train back home. By the time we got to Rennes, I was more than ready to be back, for more reasons than one (my bed, my host family, the crêpes we would have for dinner that night...). Giving my host brothers bisous and talking at dinner about our vacations made me feel very relaxed and happy. I seriously got so lucky with the best host family ever.

Today started school again. Six more weeks until the next vacation! Time is going by way too quickly.