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  • Writer's pictureKiah May

The Alps, Chocolate and an Atom of Hope

French Alps (Chamonix)

Hola, mis amigos! ¿Qué tal?

Over the past couple weeks I've really begun to settle into life over here. That being said, I have definitely struggled with homesickness and loneliness, so if you are every bored, feel free to send me a message, I'd love to chat!

Classes started the last week in January and picked up very quickly. The engineering one is somewhat different to classes back home, usually with one 2 hour lecture and a 2 hour problem-solving session per week. I've found this relatively hard to follow and the notation for some things is different. The others follow a similar structure, but I have never taken an economics class in my life so I have no idea what the format is in The States. My final class is called "The Process of European Integration" and is a class completely in Spanish with a huge writing component, which I'm not the greatest at yet, but maybe soon.

Now onto the fun stuff....

Geneva, Switzerland and Chamonix, France

The first weekend in February held one of the trips I'd been looking forward to and planning the most: I was headed to the French Alps to go skiing!

Knowing I'd have to fly through Geneva, I decided to do what any super-nerd would do and planned a day to spend at CERN, the site of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and where the Higgs Boson was discovered in 2012. The LHC is a ring 27km in diameter that accelerates particles to nearly the speed of light before colliding them with each other. Armed with excitement, I headed for CERN. The Science Gateway (the big museum) was rather disappointing unfortunately. It was designed for elementary school kids (don't get me wrong, we need to inspire the next generation of scientists) but it would have been nice to have something a little more interesting. To satisfy my scientific interest and inner-nerd, I joined a tour of the Synchrocyclotron. Built in 1957, it was CERN's first particle accelerator. We also got to see the control room of the ALTAS experiment, the general particle collision experiment at CERN.

CERN Synchrocyclotron (Geneva)

After an amazing Swiss chocolate hot chocolate, I headed for the French Alps. Arriving well after dark, I would have to wait for the morning to see what incredible views awaited. Suffice to say, I was not disappointed. This was a constant state of being for pretty much the entire weekend. Skiing was a blast, however, I will argue that the snow in Colorado is much better. Shoutout to Zoe for skiing with me!

Mont Blanc (Chamonix)

Skiing with Zoe (Chamonix)

More Skiing (Chamonix)

After an amazing couple of days skiing, I headed back to Geneva. I had a couple hours before my flight so decided to get a Geneva "Choco-Pass" and explore the various chocolate shops around the city. We've already established that I love chocolate and this was a wonderful way to enjoy some of the world's best chocolate. While all of the shops were super cute and delicious, Favarger was by far my favorite and is definitely worth going to should you find yourself in Geneva. Now loaded with more chocolate than I should eat in the next 5 months, I headed home.

Jet d'Eau (Geneva)

Brussels, Belgium

After another week of classes, I jumped another flight, this time to rainy Brussels with a train trip to Luxembourg City. Neither was my favorite place, however they both had their charm. Brussels is home to the Atomium, built 1958 Brussels World's Fair. It is a large cube that symbolizes hope, both in the sense of hope for the future of atomic energy, but also for hope for collaboration and unity for the world. After walking through the entire atom (or as much as they'd let us see) I took a stroll through the Parc du Laken and the Notre Dame de Laken (church). The park was really beautiful and peaceful, making for a wonderful afternoon. That night, after walking through the Grand Place (the main square) I had traditional Belgian food, which seemed to be a mix of other foods and wasn't my favorite. However, the standout was the Mussels, something that Brussels is famous for which I didn't know before researching for this trip.

Gothic Spire at Parc du Laken (Brussels)

Grand Place (Brussels)

Atomium (Brussels)

Saturday was my big food day. I had a chocolate workshop and a waffle workshop lined up. The chocolate workshop was somewhat disappointing as it was simply pouring chocolate into molds, however the Choco-Story museum tour that I took after was amazing! There is just so much to chocolate that I never knew or considered. After, again, getting more chocolate that I could ever eat in my time here, I headed for the waffle workshop. This one was definitely more engaging and we learned about the history of the Belgian waffles (yes, there are 2 types--The Leige (street) and The Brussels/Belgian). The street variety tends to be sweeter as it is coated in sugar before it is cooked and therefore is usually eaten plain (this also helps to keep messy humans clean). The Brussels waffle, which we made during the workshop, is slightly less sweet and usually has a mound of toppings. Personally, I'm partial to strawberries, whipped cream, chocolate, and powered sugar.

Brussles Waffles found on the Street (so street waffles?)

Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

After stuffing myself to the brim with amazing food, I set out for Luxembourg. The train ride, just over three hours, was absolutely gorgeous (unfortunately, pictures had too much glare). After arriving, I walked for about 25 minutes to the center of town. Walking is putting it gently, to be honest. It was more of a hike with the grade and number of hills, but still tons of fun. In the day I had in Luxembourg, I explored the Luxembourg Museum, learning about the long history of the city (it first became a city around 963). I also visited the Casemates du Bock, a part of Luxembourg's underground defense system (the whole system of tunnels is around 17km in length). Most of my time was spent simply wondering around and taking in the beautiful city.

Canon in the Casemates du Bock

Luxembourg Grund (on the banks of the Alzette river)

Another incredible weekend of travel and I was ready to head home. But not before the train broke down in the middle of nowhere southern Belgium, so that was fun. I've been having a great time, but definitely missing all of you!

Con mucho amor,


Hotel Recommendation: Les Grands Montets Hotel & Spa (Chamonix)

Restaurant Recommendations:

Le Marmiton (Brussels)

L'Osteria (Luxembourg)

Activity Recommendations:

Choco-Pass (Geneva)

Choco-Story (Brussels)

Waffle Making Workshop (Brussels)

Casemates du Bock (Luxembourg)



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