Saturday, September 25, 2004

Europe JUMP Trip - Paris

The great about being a part of IAESTE was its global-ness. IAESTE chapters around the world were doing the same thing as us in our Local Chapters; finding internships, getting new members, welcoming the international interns and making global friends. It only made sense that there should be a conference where members from local chapters around the world could get together and share ideas and help each other become more successful.

This is where IAESTE's JUMP conference comes in. JUMP stands for Join Us to Motivate People as that was its basic purpose - to motivate IAESTE members to fullfill our organization's goal. It was completely organized by students for students. The conference was comprised of seminars on how to effectively run your organization and also some personal development stuff, along with some sight-seeing and mingling with students from around the world.

The conference is usually held in Europe and IAESTE US grants about three travel scholarships to its US members. I applied and got it, after being with the organization for only a year. The two other people who got the grant were Mike Sanguineti from the U of Houston chapter and Caitlin Roberts from the Penn State chapter.

This year's conference was to be held in the Belgian city of Gent (north of Brussels) and it would run about four days. Now, why go all the way to Europe for only four days? And besides, I hadn't been there before, so after discussing with Mike and Caitlin, we took a week off before the conference to visit Paris and Amsterdam. Mike and I would meet Caitlin in New York before flying across the pond to Parri. I had us staying in hostels and taking the train and in the end, our cost for a 10 day trip to Europe was fairly low.

The coolest thing about this trip was just how easily us three gelled with each other. We didn't know each other before the trip and we instantly become good friends. All of us were easy going and had the same mentality about the trip; seeing some sights, eating some good food, partying, relaxing, trying new things, etc...

Our itinerary had us flying into Paris. After about three days there, we were to take the train to Amsterdam for another three days, then head to Gent for about four days for the conference, then returning to Paris for our flight back.

Our first group picture at the Newark airport. The reason why we're all wearing cowboy hats is because there was going to be a country-themed party one of the nights of the conference and each delegation had to bring items representing their country. These items could then be traded. Along with the cowboy hats, we were bringing a bottle of Jim Bean, Sticky Buns from Pennsylvannia and Yuengling Beer (the oldest beer in America).. oh and also some pumpkin pie. Instead of packing the cowboy hats, Mike decided we should wear them all over Europe. I was not so enthused about being a walking US target in Europe... (this was only a year into the Iraq war).

We tried to cut costs where we could as we were all still college students. So, we bought sandwich stuff from grocery stores and to save on booze, we stocked up on duty free liquor from the Newark airport that sufficed us throughout the trip. Each person is allowed two liters... so, we had about 6 liters of booze between us: a handle of Absolut for like $18, Baileys, Jamaican Rum, the Jim Bean, etc... That was one of the best decisions, cause booze was quite expensive over there.

Our Continental Boeing 777 for the trip over there. Great flight by the way and Continental's service is the best among US carriers, in my opinion.

On the streets of Paris

The Montmartre steps heading to Sacre Coeur... Ronin fans definitely recognize this location.

Mike and I in front of Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, dedicated to the sacred heart of Jesus, representing divine love for humanity. This is also the highest point in Paris with a view of the city.

The Artists Square right next to Sacre Coeur, where local artists display their work waiting to be discovered for the big time. Caitlin knew a bit about art but everything there was quite expensive and we settled for buying prints. It was very cool just to walk around and it felt very Parisienne...

Mike with a kid near Sacre Coeur

Streets of Paris

Buying grapes at a small Super Marche (market). They display their colorful fruits outside to attract customers inside. The tactic's worked for centuries. Usually these stores are really cramped with tiny aisles and shelves packed to the ceiling. But, you can get just about anything there.

Streets of Paris with buildings lined right next to each other and usually not being more than five stories tall. Since there's no space for separate street signs, they just afix them to the sides of buildings.

Go right for Electric Vehicle Recharge... and don't forget to Park your Posse.

Taking the Metro, which was very efficient and not that expensive. All the stations had a circular tube layout to them... I think Washington DC's subway stations take inspiration from Paris'.

Caitlin with the Eiffel Tower. Having studied French since the sixth grade, I had always wanted to come and visit and the Eiffel Tower is certainly one of the big symbols of France and no matter if people say it really isn't that grand, it had an awesome impact on me. Walking around this musuem and suddenly seeing the Eiffel Tower there was quite a sight.

Mmmm... getting some fresh French crepes, filled with Nutella, made right in front of us.

Bird Market

No Holding Hands. ?? A sign board at the entrance to Notre Dame...

Caitlin and I at the famous Notre Dame de Paris on the tiny island of Ile de la Cite.

Stained glass. No flash allowed inside, so excuse the blurry pictures.

Very tall ceilings

Lighting candles

Boat on the Seine River

Artistic shot by Caitlin

Mike, being a messy sandwich eater (half of it's on his shirt) in our hostel before heading out. We usually just got the basics: some good bread, salami and cheese... good stuff.

At the Republique Square

Mike, the Camerman.

What happened in Paris... stays in Paris...

The Olsen Twins

At Le Barrio Latino, an awesome club that the locals hit. Mike managed to sweet talk some cute pharmacy girls in letting us know where the locals party. He doesnt speak French...

Having a great time

Hanging out with some locals that we met.

Besides paying the 10 Euro cover, all we bought was a glass of water. We managed to chug a 20 oz bottle of Absolut on the way over from the hostel... we were lit for the night. Now, that's called economical partying.

Party people

We met some great friends at the Barrio Latino. They were very cool and we hit it off instantly. This is Olivier and his friends.

We invited them to our hostel to chill for a bit... walking around Paris in the wee hours.

Olivier and Caitlin in our hostel room

Olivier's friend said she was "trying" to quit smoking... not doing a great job.

Mike sleeping soundly with his Joe Boxers.

A little Parisienne patisserie (pastry shop)


Enjoying some good breakfast

That's a genuine pastry shop smile.

Mike with a kid wearing his cowboy hat.

At the Pompidou Centre... a modern art gallery/musuem where all the ducting is exposed.

Caitlin with a Classic Mini and a Smart car. Parking is real tight in Europe and small cars are definitely the way to go.

Naughty girls

The cowboy hat at the Louvre Pyramid.

Group at the Louvre

Roller-Cops... how seriously could you take these guys.. but I'm sure they're fast on the pavement.

Big constrast with the new-age glass pyramid. We didn't go inside, as we were short on time and just wanted to walk around.

Sailing in the fountain near the Louvre

An old couple in a park near the Louvre enjoying a sculture of a couple fornicating... it truly is the City of Love.

Hands sculpture

Inspired by the old couple, we also decided to chill on a bench and enjoy the sculptures.

La Tour Eiffel

The Eiffel Tower and its intricate metal trusses.

Caitlin climbing the Eiffel Tower - Asian Godzilla in Paris... would make a great movie...

Mike, the Cowboy, relaxing against the Tower. This is not a photo-chop.

Behind the scenes of the above pictures...

Enjoying some pastries and juice in front of the tower...

Walking up the Champs D'Elysee...

This guy's Mercedes G-wagen had a very welcoming little plate mounted on the grill...

Olivier invited us to his house for dinner and being an excellent French host, he wanted us to learn how to flip crepes.

I don't think any of us dropped one on the ground... not bad.

Our lovely hostel

Caitlin passed out on the train to Amsterdam. We almost didn't make the train as our subway car to the train station stopped due to a suspicious package at the next station. We had to bolt with all our luggage across town in a cab to the out-going train station.

This was a fantastic start to our trip and we felt we got a good glimpse of Paris.

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