More About Paris

May 31, 2007

Paris is beautiful in spring. Still not overcrowded and the weather is warm enough to spend the whole day on its streets. A trip along the Seine is a terrific way to see the city from a different perspective. We got on one of the Bateaux Mouches and enjoyed the tour. As far as I can remember there was a guide on the boat, but most of the time we listened to a recording on individual handsets. It cost around 10 Euros, but we paid less thanks to the coupons included in the 5-day Paris-Visite-pass that we bought for getting around Paris.

Montmartre is famous for its extraordinary night life, but we didn't go to any of those clubs. Having kids, you simply think of other ways of entertainment. However, Montmartre by day is a bustling area, especially Place du Tertre with many street artists. The Sacre Coeur Basilica is the crown of Montmartre, all in white and so out of this world.

Versailles was a disappointment, though. I expected to see a splendid palace with sumptuous rooms and lavish halls, but it didn't live up to my expectations. First of all, waiting to buy the tickets was a nightmare. They were so disorganized in the ticket office that we waited for almost two hours to get in. Inside everything looked a bit shabby. Even the well-known Hall of Mirrors didn't make such a strong impresssion on me as I thought it would. And again, it seems that the theory Expect More - Get Less (but also the other way round) totally applies to me.

Paris, France

May 28, 2007

We spent Easter 2004 in Paris. The Pierre et Vacances Hotel in Val de Marne was a bit inconveniently situated and rather far from the center, but it was close to Disneyland and almost part of a nice shopping mall. We had a lovely apartment with two rooms and a kitchen, and although the view was not very pleasing we were contented with it. Besides, the public transport ran smoothly most of the time so that it took us less than 30 minutes to reach the center. Except on the first day.

The Croatia Airlines plane landed in the morning so we headed straight for the hotel to check in. We never spend a lot of time in the room, so we immediately got on an RER train and soon we were on top of the Eiffel Tower. Actually, it took us more to reach the lift than to get there from Val de Marne, such were the lines of people, eager to see all the landmarks of Paris from its summit. My son wanted an Eiffel Tower souvenir so we bought one from a street seller. What a ripoff! Later we found those of better quality for half the price.

Anyway, on our way back to the hotel we heard about a bomb call and all the trains and subways stopped running. Luckily, it was a hoax, but it was terrifying, especially because all the announcements were made in French only. However, the Parisians were kind and sympathetic and willing to translate and explain everything. It took us three hours to get to the hotel. Over the next few days we could see more police officers with guns and dogs than would be usual, and although this made us feel slightly uncomfortable it also made us feel safer.
Apart from that the whole stay in Paris was terrific.

Class Trip To France And Italy

May 22, 2007

As I've already said in my Segovia and El Escorial post, the seniors go for their never-to-forget class trip at the beginning of their last year at school.

The destinations they choose are mostly Prague, Athens and Barcelona. I've been on 3 such trips so far, to Madrid-Barcelona, Athens and the French Riviera - The Tyrrhenian Sea.

The students on the France/Italy trip thought that the main purpose of such trips is to get drunk as often as possible. I slept for only 12 hours during those 7 days and although I reluctantly remember the details of their awful behavior, this trip was the nicest, regarding everything we saw. Besides, the three (also foreign language) teachers chaperoning the students were of great help to me in dealing with difficult students and problems they caused. Being good friends for more than ten years, we managed to find the positive side of almost any situation and we had a lot of laughs.

From Zagreb we went to Nice in France, from where we took excursions to Cannes, Antibes and Monte Carlo. After 3 days we continued our journey and arrived in Italy. In Genoa we enjoyed ourselves immensely in the Aquarium. I've been to several other aquariums all over the world, but this one is simply the best.

Our hotel in Marina di Massa was to be our base for the next few days. It was situated right on the beach. Not far from it was a good disco, which the kids enjoyed. From there we went to Sienna, Florence, Pisa and San Gimignano. These cities are incredibly beautiful, as a matter of fact, the whole Tuscany is stunnigly beautiful.

And again, seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa for the first time gave me goosebumps. It's amazing how things that I've seen a million times in movies, magazines, other people's photos etc. make such a strong impression on me. It was the same with the Statue of Liberty and Stonehenge. I guess it's because I take them for granted, and then I'm simply floored when I stand in front of them.

Summer vacation on Krk

May 20, 2007

Traveling all over the world is what we love immensely, but we never travel in the summer. One reason for it is that we have absolutely no chance of flying on stand by, and we don't want to spend holidays in the airports. The other reason of equal importance is that summer is reserved for my favorite island on the most beautiful sea - the Adriatic. Krk is the second biggest island, and also the greenest one.

We spend the summers in a village situated one mile from the beaches of Malinska. In the village there are only privately-owned houses and a little church. In Malinska, however, there are restaurants, cosy little cafes, churches, galleries, hotels and way too many houses and apartments, which means that it's overcrowded in the summer. Our beach is a bit secluded, but I wonder how long it will be till tourists find it. Yes, I know I'm a tourist too, but still...

Malinska is a typical tourist resort, proud of its more than a century-old touristic history. There are other little towns on Krk, that boast even longer history of influential Croatians and significant events. The most important is the Baska slab, the oldest example of the Glagolitic script and the first document where the name Croatia can be found. It dates back to the 11th century.

The historic part of Baska with its narrow stone paved streets is what I like most. Such romantic old parts can also be found in the towns of Krk, Vrbnik and Dobrinj. They are all just perfect for an evening stroll after a long day on the beach.

However, island Krk wouldn't have such special meaning to me, were it not for our friends who we spend time with. We do tons of things together, from sunbathing, diving and playing ball and Scrabble to going on trips on and off the island. As I've already said, it's always people that matter

For those more interested (if any at all!) here are some links:
the island of Krk

A Glamorous Weekend in New York

May 18, 2007

A Glamorous NYC Weekend

My cousin Kristina and I sure had a wonderful time. More about it in the New York City post.

Washington, DC Photos

Washington, DC

Washington, DC

May 14, 2007

The first thought that crosses one's mind when Washington is mentioned is political capital. However, there's more than politics in this vigorous city. The superb museums of the Smithsonian Institution make it the art capital of the US. What's more, with its many monuments and memorials it is unique, totally unlike all the other American cities I've visited.

Where to start? At the Potomac and then on for the tour of those incredible monuments and memorials, the most well-known being the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. But there are also the Roosevelt Memorial with four open-air rooms, one for each of his terms, the Jefferson Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Iwo Jima Memorial, the Second World War Memorial and the Korean War Veterans Memorial, which I liked most because of its unique and poignant beauty. Nineteen statues of soldiers on patrol are quietly moving across a field. It's so real, so much larger than life.

The Mall stretches from the Washington Monument at its western end to the Capitol at its eastern end. On both sides it's bordered by the Smithsonian and other museums. They cover a huge range of exhibits, from masterpieces by Giotto, Tintoretto, Degas and Cezanne to space shuttles in the National Air and Space Museum. And best of all, admission to most of the museums and galleries is free.

The Smithsonian may be widely known and esteemed, but little is known about the man who left around $500,000 to the people of the United States. Although James Smithson lived in several European countries, he never visited the US. His motives remain unknown. More...

We stayed at Barry's, a computer teacher from Fairfax in Virginia, whose school participated in the School Connectivity Project. He took us for a stroll in Mount Vernon, where George Washington used to live, we walked among the headstones of Arlington National Cemetery, participated in open tennis and ping pong tournaments. All in all, it was great.

Gardaland, Italy

May 13, 2007

Gardaland, Italy

I first visited Gardaland, an amusement park in Italy, in 2001. We had just bought a new car and off we went on a ten-day European tour. First we stopped in Salzburg Austria, where we went for a stroll in this charming medieval town, where everything reminds of Mozart. On the same day we arrived in Buchs in the Swiss 'kanton' of St. Gallen. There we stayed at my friend's who I met on a school exchange in 1998. Although we have only managed to organize one exchange, Julia and I have been in touch ever since. After a few days we went on to St Desert, near Dyon in France, where another friend put us up. I met Jean-Paul, an English teacher, at a seminar called 'New technologies in modern language teaching' in Turku, Finland. Easter in this cute French town was an unforgettable experience.
The tour ended in Lasize on Lake Garda, where we didn't have any friends so we stayed in a hotel. We had a great time, the kids enjoyed themselves immensely.

On my second visit I chaperoned 22 students. On the first day we visited Verona and Julia's balcony. The Arena was a great sight, but the Croatian Arena in Pula is even more magnificent. We spent the night in Lido di Jesolo, which I guess is a vibrant city during the season. In April it was a bit on the quiet side.

The kids loved the rides in Gardaland. When it comes to amusement parks, I'm a real safe player, unlike my friend Snjezana, who has just come home from her Gardaland visit and who went on the roller coaster, free fall, rafting and the like. What I enjoy most are the carousels with horses that tend to take me back in time.

Munich, Germany

May 7, 2007

Munich, Germany

Last Sunday we hopped on a Croatia Airlines plane and got off in Munich. As early as 8.30 a.m. we were on the S-Bahn that took us to the Dorint Novotel in the vicinity of the old airport or what they now call 'Messestadt'. Although the check in was at 3pm, they had our room ready for us.

The ride to the center took about twenty minutes. From Sendlinger Tor we walked to St. Peter's Church, or as they call it, Alter Peter. We climbed the steep, narrow stairs to the tower from where the view was splendid. Moreover, we happened to be on top at 11, right on time to see the world-famous Glockenspiel. After the show we wanted to try the Bavarian Weißwurst as well as their famous drink called Radler (bier and lemonade) in one of the popular Biergartens. The Viktualienmarkt was close by, but unfortunately nothing was open, so we headed for the Hofbrauhaus, a must for all the tourists. But what a disappointment, since it's just an ordinary restaurant with waiters. After that we walked all over the city, saw most of the sights, I especially liked the Geschwister-Scholl-Platz with their leaflets in the pavement.

Later that afternoon we ended up in a real Biergarten, the Chinesischer Turm in the English Garden. Some might argue that this one is not the real McCoy either, because it's a bit too touristy, but it gave me what I was looking for. Big wooden tables, self service, Haxn, Haendl, and Leberkaes, all delicious Bavarian specialties. Along with Radler, of course. I'm perfectly aware of the fact that I'm nothing more than an ordinary tourist, but somehow I feel I have the right to feel a bit more knwoledgeable, since in 2001 I was on a school exchange in this city.

Together with a colleague of mine and eight students, we were guests of the teachers and students of the Nymphenburger Schulen, and were taken 'kreuz und quer durch die Stadt', which gave us the opportunity to see the city through the eyes of a Munchener.

Anyway, our flight back home was on Monday evening, so we had the whole day ahead of us. The boys wanted to see the Allianz Arena, which was of no interest to me at all. I wanted to buy as many things as I could afford in the four H&M stores in the center, which was out of question for them. So we were all perfectly content with the decision to go separate ways. We met again in the Viktualienmarkt biergarten, which was now open, and late in the afternoon the subway took us back to the airport.

School Connectivity

May 2, 2007

The teacher exchange was the last part of a global project, called School Connectivity for Southeast Europe. The project, launched in 2003, was funded by the US Department of State and administered by Catholic Relief Services. It aimed to promote mutual understanding and solidarity among students from different SEE countries and the US. By using information technologies in developing joint projects, the students from different ethnic backgrounds learned the importance of recognizing and overcoming prejudices and stereotypes.

We were also given opportunities to meet each other in person. Several seminars were organised for teachers of the participating schools. In Croatia we met in Karlovac, Topusko and on Brijuni. A national conference for students took place in Porec, but the most important event was the International Conference on Lake Ohrid in the FYR of Macedonia. Around 300 participants, one student and one teacher from each of the 93 participating schools lived and worked together happily for a week. Only one school per country sent two students, the second being the winner of the national web competition. And I'm proud to say that a student from my school was the winner of the Croatian national competition. His website was the best, with partial thanks to my colleague, the IT teacher who gave him her full support.
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