Acceleration and Classroom Three City Notes: Tips on Amsterdam and Berlin

Travel notes: Berlin + Amsterdam

I just spent the last few weeks of 2014 in Berlin and Amsterdam and wanted to jot down some thoughts. In no particular order.

  • At this point it feels possible to get damn good coffee near anywhere you travel. I haven’t lacked for it, except in airports. Berlin is standout in this category; thus far only London and San Francisco are better. Amsterdam is modest in this category.
  • In Berlin, it’s become easier to get americanos at cafes. I’ve been there now in 2004 and 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014. You used to get stares of all kinds. Now there are coffee bars own by expats who don’t even speak German. Coffee-to-go is not a problem.
  • The quick accumulation of vast pockets of change in Euros is still disarming to me. To sometimes discover your pocket of change is equivalent to 50 US dollars gives new value to a dropped or found coin.
  • Seems like running on streets + sidewalks is not all that common in Berlin or Amsterdam (and London), and much more reserved specifically for tracks or parks. I went on a few runs through neighborhoods in Berlin and found myself the outlier.


  • The bread selection, especially for whole grains and non-white breads, continues to excel. Brown breads are also moist, durable, and have very distinct crust and innards textures. Not sure why we can’t succeed at this in the US.
  • Every Berlin apartment I’ve visited is built with durable, substantial materials. This includes everything from the quality of the flooring (better wood, better installation), to radiator design, toilet design (the back part is integrated into the wall), and non-drafty windows that open in multiple directions. It’s mystifying to me how shitty and short-term investments in New York apartments are and how “luxury” amenities are a replacement for quality, even/especially in new buildings. Traveling reinforces this.
  • We saw an amazing show on the contact sheets from Magnum photographers who took decisive photos in history at C/O in Berlin. It gives context to how decisive those moments really were. The show is up until January 16th, 2015, and I can’t recommend it enough. I”ve never had so much fun reading exhibition placards. Note: C/O Berlin moved to Charlottenburg in the fall of 2014 and is now in the Amerikahaus. I did love the gritty old C/O but the lighting here is so much better.
  • Super Store is a stellar small design shop in Berlin [Kreuzberg]. RSVP,Do You Read Me?, and 25 Books (above) in Mitte are also up there as favorites.
  • As far as I can tell, Europeans excel at making felted wool slippers. They are fairly ubiquitous (at shops and markets) and not cheap (65–90 euros) but of terrific quality and a variety of styles (shoe, boot, slip-on) with handstitched leather soles. I got a pair of Glerups (Danish company) at a small shop in Prenzlauerberg. I will be wearing them for years to come. Luckily they are also available in the US.
  • Like leaving the immediacy of New York City, leaving Berlin rewards. We made a brunch trip to Die Fischerhutte am Schlachtensee, a wooded restaurant by one of the small lakes outside Berlin for a luxe brunch. There’s a beautiful trail around the lake next to it. In the summer, there are beaches and swimming and boating.
  • My favorite Berlin lunch is still the gozleme from the Saturday market in Prenzlauerberg (Kollwitzplatz Markt), as much for the joy of watching it be (joyfully) made as it is just so damn tasty.
  • Markthalle Neun is a great foodhall full of a variety of vendors. Chelsea market but more chill.


  • Amsterdam was much smaller than I’d anticipated. The bike lanes were even more expansive than I’d anticipated. Buildings are quaint, old, unique, and beautiful. The canals are at first disorienting, but very quickly, a source of orientation.
  • Expect spiral stairs, everywhere. If not spiraled, then they’ll be extremely steep. J and I were thinking on this and it seems like home/shop design extends from boat design, which makes sense as a city on the water: many small levels, lots of steep tight stairs.
  • Bikers in Amsterdam get priority on the streets, even compared to cars. We rented bikes for two days from Bike City and in addition to every street both in and around the city having bike lanes (with ramps for transitions), in areas both saturated with people and with cars, the seas always parted for bikes. It really made traversing the city a pleasure and I don’t bike (much) in New York at this point.
  • The train station in Amsterdam had a multistory bike parking garage. Every single bike was a Dutch cruiser style. I was impressed.
  • European cruisers have a much more sensical locking system than bikes I see all over New York (of all types). They almost have two locks — a back wheel key lock that never leaves the bike, but allows you to secure the back wheel and make it much more difficult for anyone to roll away with your bike. The second key is for a chain for the front wheel and frame. The two keys always stay together so you don’t forget to do both locks. This is also popular in Berlin.
  • Wifi is more common everywhere outside the US.
  • We saw a Vivian Maier show at Foam in Amsterdam. I’d never been much sold on the whole fanaticism of discovering her negatives, but the prints are just gorgeous. I’m sold.
  • Amsterdam has really good Indonesian food. We had a great meal atKantjil & de Tigger. Get the rice table option (or the combo plates that are like smaller sized rice tables). We also had terrific Thai at Bird Snackbar in the Red Light District. The staff was super gruff but the food more than made up for out.
  • Amsterdam is like a beautiful war zone on New Year’s Eve. 98% of all businesses close around 3–6 p.m. on NYE, including pot shops and bars. We were surprised. Everyone either goes home, to a friend’s place, or is out on the streets. Fireworks are ubiquitous and start exploding mid-afternoon. At midnight, you couldn’t go 100 feet without someone setting off fireworks, often amateur style (being misfired into homes, ack!). It was both riveting and pretty frighting at times. The explosions continued well into the night in every direction.
  • We had breakfast twice at Gebroeders Niemeijer (near Singel canal by the train station) in Amsterdam. I could eat their fig walnut bread every day of my life and they made the finest croissants I’d ever tasted.
  • There’s a new indoor food market in Amsterdam (in de pijp) and it’s terrific.
  • There’s really good (and a lot of Dutch/Belgian) beer on tap at Beer Temple and also supposedly at Proefokaal Arendsnest
  • My full Foursquare list on Amsterdam spots is here.


  • It’s always worth bringing your own food on airplanes. Anthony Bourdain has a lot more to say about this.
  • No skinny jeans on a 5+ hour flight.
  • Trains in Europe are terrific! Given the option of taking a train or plane from Berlin to Amsterdam, we picked the train. “First class” is about the same as a plane ticket cost-wise, but since train stations are usually central to town, you escape the taxi costs to and from the airport. The Deutsche Bahn has a terrific snack car, huge windows, and you have pre-assigned seats (so we were able to pick lovely window seats in both directions). You can control the heat in your train car on your own. Cars are impeccably clean. There are power outlets. In stations there are maps so you can anticipate which end of the train your seat will be on and stand in the appropriate place (to prevent platform crowding).
  • Pro-tip: If you buy an online ticket, you have to print it out, despite it having a QR code for scanning. Not printing out your ticket (as we failed to do) will result in inflexible German conductor-enforced rules and a “remark” on your record. 2 remarks and there’s no more train riding for you, ever! So: follow the rules and just print out your ticket.)

Why You Still Need a Reservation when you Travel Using a Eurail Pass on a Bullet Train

Europe 2014

Day 15: From Ruins to Ruined.

Our second day in Rome was a lot like our first. We walked a lot and hopped on and off the metro going to ruins, cathedrals, statues, and arches. Seeing all this stuff made me really wish I had paid more attention in history class(sorry dad), but we read as much as we could, trying to get a grasp at what it had been like in the time of the Romans. We spent some time at the Pantheon (of course). For lunch we had pasta and spent the rest of our day site seeing.

Heads up for any of you wanting to visit Rome in the next year or two, Don’t. Several things (including the Trevi Fountain) are under construction so we could only see part of them or none at all.

That night for dinner we ran to the market and bought some cheese, meat, crackers, and strawberries (I haven’t had fruit in so long!) to eat on the train. We went to our hostel picked up our bags and headed to our train early to get good seats. We discovered that on night trains they have separate rooms with sliding doors each with six comfortable seats. We picked a room and put our bags up. A little later we were joined by a man who I don’t think spoke any English. Then three Italian girls came in who spoke some English. They told us that they had reserved seats in that room when they bought their tickets. We showed the Italian girls our ticket and asked them where our seats were (because we did not read Italian) and they said we did not have any reserved. With the train filling up fast we hoped that nobody came to reserve the seats we were in. Unfortunately they did. The rightful owners of the seats we were in took claim of them and we scrambled to find open seats. There were none. The train was packed. People were starting to fill up the aisles as well. We found the only spot open, on the floor in the back of a car right next to the bathrooms. We did not understand why we did not get a reserved seat. Was it because we bought them at a self service machine? Or because we did not buy them far enough in advance? Instead of dwelling on the fact that we had to spend seven hours on the floor of a train, we decided to enjoy it and make as many jokes as we could. It felt like London all over again, except for being homeless in a city we were homeless on a train.

The first few hours on our train went fine, we joked around and talk to some of the other passengers (we mostly just played charades with them). But as we slowly became more and more tired our good attitudes became less and less. The back of the train was cold and people kept coming to use the bathroom so sleep was an impossible thing. With two hours left and barely any sleep we moved into the hallway of one of the cars where it was somewhat warmer. An hour later our new attendants got aboard and rechecked everyone’s tickets. When the lady got to us she checked our ticket then (and I am not kidding) stared at us like we were complete idiots. She proceeded to ask us why we were not in our seats. At first we did not know how to respond, we finally said we didn’t have reserved seats. She lowered our ticket and showed us at the bottom in small print surrounded by Italian words, “posts: 75,76” (Face. Palm.). Why the attendant who checked our tickets at the beginning of the trip did not feel the need to share this with us I have no idea. Since our seats were filled with seat stealers, she took us to two random seats (actually the seats we had first been in). About half an hour later we were kicked out of those seats and returned to our spot on the floor where we spent the rest of the ride.

So here are some tips when traveling by train in Europe: 1. Don’t buy from a self service machine when you don’t speak the language. 2. Ask about everything! 3. Don’t trust Italian girls.

Seriously Fast Trains!

The 8 fastest trains that will make you speed around Europe

One of the best things about traveling around Europe is being able to do it by train. For frequent travelers this will always represent advantages from different perspectives. One of the most important ones is budget. Traveling by train can be less expensive than traveling by airplane, or even by car. Train companies in every country manage an interesting discount portfolio that you can get access to. And just like airplanes, prices may vary depending on the day you decide to buy the ticket or the day you decide to take the trip. When traveling by car, the driver will always be the most tired one, you have to pay for gas which is not always a good price and additionally you have to stay sitting in the car for hours without being able to stretch your legs unless you stop, but that will of course make you lose road time. Traveling by train can even be faster than traveling by car and by airplane. It will save you hours if you think of the extra time you need to have in order to be at the airport when airlines require you to do so, or the time you also need for getting to the airport that is probably located far away from where you are staying. Another reason why it is better to travel by train, especially in Europe is the beautiful landscape it allows you to watch, just by sitting on your train seat. Whether it’s first class or second class, you will always feel comfortable. The rides can be of course longer than what they take on a plane, but the good news is that you will have a lot more space to move, to put you things around and in front of you and if you decide hopping of the train at a station in the middle of your trip, you can also do it. Who knows what surprises your trip may bring you. There will always be a next train coming.

Since speed and time saving are such important reasons to take a train instead of other transportation options, here is a list of the fastest trains you can take around Europe, depending on the country and region you are traveling to. It is guaranteed you will enjoy your trip much more and you will never forget the experience.


The HSL-1 from Belgium has a 186 mph top speed and has been in service since 1997. One of its main routes is from Paris to Brussels which can be made in less than 90 minutes.

ETR 500

The Italian ETR 500 has a top speed of 190 mph. If you ever decide going from Milan to Bologna, with this train you will get there in only an hour.


This train was one of the most expected, before it was in service. It has a top speed of 199 mph and it is famous for connecting London and Paris, traveling with a quite different view than other trains, because in order to connect these two capitals, this trains travels under the English Channel.

Image courtesy of Next generation photo at

AVE Talgo — 350

The AVE Talgo-350 which is a Spanish train, is this first on the list to break the 200 mph barrier. Its top speed is actually 205 mph. And if you are planning to take a trip from Madrid to Barcelona, do not hesitate and be prepared to get there before you know it.

TGV Réseau

France’s TGV Réseau has even higher top speed. The TGV can get to 236 mph which is the speed of the IndyCar race. Although in trains the speed is also limited and restricted, this train is definitely one of the fastest ones in Europe.

Image courtesy of ERIC SALARD at

Transrapid TR-09

The German Transrapid TR-09 is a bit different from the others due to the technology it uses. It operates with mag-lev technology and it can be considered a monorail. With a top speed of 279 mph top speed, this train is also one of the trains on top of the list of the fastest trains not only in Europe but also in the world.

AGV Italo

The Italian AGV Italo is specially designed for the comfort and safety of the passenger while taking environmental concerns into account. It is made but recyclable materials and consumes 20% less energy than other trains. With a top speed of 224 mph it is considered one of the safest trains due to its high levels of passenger’s protection in case of collision.


The German ICE 3, build to cover routs between the German Bahn and the Dutch Spoorwegen has a top speed of 205 mph. it is also called the Intercity-Express 3. It is one of the trains developed to be part of the Siemens Velaro train family, that has versions for Spain, China, Russia, Great Britain, Turkey and its home country Germany.

Image courtesy of kaffeeeinstein at

Walkability Score? Try Just One Street in Paris!

Exploring The Only Street in Paris

E. Tapala

You know that feeling when you’re completely immersed in a book you’re reading that you can totally picture what the characters look like and imagine exactly where they are?

Last December, a book I was reading came to life.

It was ‘The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs’ and it completely influenced how I spent my very first weekend in the world’s most romantic city.

The book is written by former New York Times Paris bureau chief Elaine Sciolino, a long-time resident of Paris who recounts how she discovers what becomes her favourite street, and her earnest pursuit to learn everything she could about the neighborhood through the stories of its residents and merchants. There are hardly any pictures, just entertaining anecdotes beautifully written and strung together to give you snippets of daily life on rue des Martyrs.

“Some people look at the rue des Martyrs and see a street. I see stories.” Sciolino writes. A corner away from rue Victor Masse where we stayed, the moment I set foot on the street, it was as though I entered the most magical street in Paris in dream state.

Rue de Martyrs is in South Pigalle, just southwest of the Basilica of Sacre-Coeur at Montmatre. It’s only half a mile in length, mostly uphill and filled with quaint shops, restaurants and cafes run by lovely Parisians.  Our first stop: food. French food.

“Bonjour madame!” I say, trying my best to sound authentic, less foreign. I vaguely recall one of the merchants in the book who loathed tourists who just come in to their store without saying bonjour.

“Bonjour!” the waitress greeted and continued conversing in French. I very quickly ran out of things to say as my French is limited and consists mainly of various types of cheeses and pastries.

We were at No. 82 Le Bistrot de Martyrs ready for our escargot, onion soup and steak frite fix — and we weren’t disappointed. In fact, it was just as how I imagined it, kinda dark and seedy but also kinda cool and trendy with random interiors.

“Ah! You have the book!” the waitress says, “Can I see?”

“Of course,” I told her, “This is why I’ve come here.”

Intrigued yet skeptical, she flips through the pages.

“Do you know her?” I ask.

“Yeah!” she nods, “She come here.”

“She wrote about this place. And Momo, the owner.” I replied.

“Yeah he’s my boss. Wait.” She said and hands the book back to me.’.god. I thought. Momo is going to come out of the kitchen and were going to have a wonderful conversation about the book, and his life and he’s going to personally give us a history lesson over a bottle of wine of how life has changed on rue de Martyrs.

But alas, she came back only to serve our food and made her way back to the bar.


Just across the street was the transvestite cabaret Michou. It smelled of cigarette butts and days old booze — very much like a good night out.


According to Sciolino, this guy named Michel Georges Alfred Catty, known as Michou, started this transvestite cabaret at No. 80 rue des Martyrs nearly six decades ago, long before the term “drag queen” was used.

Brilliant. I love cabaret and theatre shows. French drag? Why not, I’m sure they’re gorgeous as hell. In an ideal world, I would’ve pre-booked dinner tickets and secure seats because much to our dismay, all shows were sold out.

I couldn’t be sad about not watching a drag show for more than a minute because I was literally walking up the street I had read about a week ago, in a city I’ve always dreamed of visiting. I was too busy taking in everything I can, desperately wanting to take those moments and stick it in jar somewhere so I can never forget them.

Further up the street, was the thrift shop called ‘CHINEMACHINE’. Arianna Huffington once shopped there with her daughter.


The place was bigger than it looked.

It felt like I had just entered a big vintage costume shop filled with colorful dresses, thick jackets, vintage bags and shoes and old jewelry. It wasn’t really my style so after sniffing around for potential gifts, and trying on thick fur coats, we made our way out and headed towards the Basilica.

We decided that on the last day, we would spend a little bit more time on the bottom part of the street and take one last walk.

It was early Monday morning and not a lot of shops were open.

Nevertheless, we managed to pick up some sausages from the butcher…


Saw the famous butter as photographed in one of the chapters…


Tasted various sweets and left with fancy bottles of olive oil, truffle salt and spreads to give as presents to family…


Passed by the bakery…


And swung by the bookstore.


I might not have met Sciolino or any of her friends but rue de Martyrs was everything I could hope for and I would want nothing more than to have the spirit of the street live forever.


History in your ‘Hood: The Bastille and the French Revolution

All about “Bastille Day”

A. Salzberg
“The Storming of the Bastille” by Jean-Pierre Houël (image source)

So, today is Bastille Day…but actually, it’s not: The French don’t call it that, but refer to it as “le 14 juillet” (the Fourteenth of July), or sometimes the “Fête Nationale” (National Celebration): Although the Bastille fell to a horde of angry Parisians on July 14, 1789, the holiday is officially supposed to commemorate the Fete de la Fédération, a grand ceremony that took place on July 14, 1790, on the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille.

Fête de la Fédération, 1790

But really, it seems like kind of a pointless argument. The bottom line is, even in the weird political climate of 1790, when the French revolutionaries were trying to make peace with their king, the taking of the Bastille was the event that was on everyone’s mind.

But even that event isn’t as clear-cut as it seems.

The Bastille itself was an imposing structure that had loomed over the landscape of eastern Paris since the late 14th century. It was 220 ft long, 90 ft wide, with 80 foot walls up to 9 feet thick. It had initially been used as a point of defense along the city wall, but as time went on and a new city wall was built, it was used for other purposes. In the 17th century, Richelieu turned it into a state prison (although it also still served some military functions, like ammunition storage — this is important for later). Famous figures like Voltaire, the Marquis de Sade, and the Man in the Iron Mask did time there.

As prisons go, the Bastille actually wasn’t that bad. Most people incarcerated there were allowed to communicate with the outside world, furnish their quarters, and keep servants. They were apparently treated quite civilly by the prison governor and guards, and allowed to walk on the high ramparts to get some fresh air and see a little bit of the city. (This latter privilege was revoked for the Marquis de Sade when he used the opportunity to yell obscenities to passersby.) It was far from being the most awful place in France.

But the Bastille was a symbol of some pretty bad stuff. A massive stone fortress, it dominated the working class neighborhood around it, and was commonly thought to be a sort of visual reminder of the power of the monarchy. Then there was the reason many of its prisoners were there: thelettre de cachet. This was a special letter, signed by the king or sometimes other high-ranking nobles, that allowed for the imprisonment of someone without trial. Although French monarchs didn’t really abuse this power (it often seems to have been used for containing problematic nobles), it didn’t sit easy with the people — which is understandable.

Despite its size, the Bastille could house no more than 85 prisoners at a time, and many were nobles. But there were also people like Voltaire, who wrote a little too freely and critically about the regime, and were thus considered a danger. This, also quite understandably, didn’t sit well with the people.

On July 12, 1789, spurred on by his anger over the firing of Necker, King Louis XVI’s popular Minister of Finances, a young writer named Camille Desmoulins stood up in a cafe in the Palais Royal and gave a rallying speech, calling upon his fed-up fellow citizens to revolt against the crown. (Ironically, he was doing it in an area the king’s brother had set aside for commoners from his own royal property.) The people, frustrated by a financial crisis, bread shortage, and other grievances, listened and soon were marching on Les Invalides, where they knew huge quantities of guns were stored. After obtaining said guns without much of a problem (nearby troops refused to fire on them), they needed gunpowder and ammunition…which they knew were stored at the Bastille.

A mob of about 1,000 angry Parisians stood in front of the legendary prison on the morning of July 14th. Several times they sent representatives — revolutionary-minded nobles, in fact — to request access to the gunpowder and bullets. De Launay, the governor of the prison, repeatedly refused and eventually ordered his men to fire on the crowd. Rarely a good idea. The masses swelled into the Bastille, took the gunpowder, threw centuries’ worth of prison records into the fortress’s moat, and liberated the prisoners. Then, they marched de Launay and other officials to the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall).

As they approached the Hôtel de Ville, things got even more out of control, and de Launay was stabbed. Then his head was cut off by a butcher in the crowd, who used a small knife to do the job. When you think of how de Launay must have suffered, the original purpose of the guillotine (which was first used a few years later, in 1792) is easy to understand: it was developed to give the condemned a quick, merciful death. De Launay’s head, and that of Jacques de Flesselles, the second person to be decapitated by Revolutionaries, were paraded around central Paris on pikes.

“This is how we avenge ourselves against traitors” — A contemporary engraving showing the heads of de Launay and Jacques de Flesselles paraded through the city on pikes. (image source)

By the end of the Revolutionary period, four years later, over 12,000 people had lost their lives, mostly by guillotine blade.

The number of prisoners liberated from the Bastille is almost laughable — seven. And none of them were wrongly imprisoned heroes. Four were forgers awaiting trial, one was le comte de Solages, a noble who’d been locked up at the request of his family (albeit for unclear reasons), and two were criminally insane and quickly transferred to an asylum. Still, the symbol had to be destroyed.

The day after it fell to the people, a demolition company was hired to take down the entire prison. Palloy, the man at the head of the company, was a true entrepreneur; he transformed stones, chains, and other elements of the Bastille into tables, medallions, jewelry, and other items, and sold them like hotcakes. You can see some of these souvenirs today at the Musée Carnavalet, a wonderful (and free!) museum of Parisian history.

A model of the Bastille, carved from one of its stones. On display at the Musée Carnavalet, Paris 


My father-in-law, a sculptor, liked to point out that cut stones are a valuable commodity, and are rarely wasted. Many old buildings in ruins today became that way because people in more recent eras took them apart to use their stones in new structures. The Bastille was no exception. A number of its stones were also used to make what is today called the Pont de la Concorde (Concorde Bridge). During the Revolution, the square at its northern end, the present-day Place de la Concorde, became the Place de la Révolution. Thousands of people were executed here — including King Louis XVI and his wife Marie-Antoinette.

Pont de la Concorde 

Besides the bridge and a number of Palloy’s souvenirs, most of the Bastille has been lost. At the Place de la Bastille, where the prison once towered, nothing much besides its name remains. There’s an outline of its former foundations on the streets where it once stood, but it’s hard to notice unless you see it from a bird’s eye view. There’s also a small part of the wall of one of the towers that you can see in the Bastille Metro station. Another portion of a wall was moved to the Square Henri Galli, a nearby park. It sits among leafy shrubs, and children play on jungle gyms a few feet away, oblivious to the stones’ somber history.

The Place de la Bastille has a pretty column in its center. Known as the Colonne de Juillet (July Column), it commemorates another French revolution, that of 1830. Still, the Bastille’s strength as a symbol endures — not the symbol of a prison or of royal power, but as a symbol of the people to tear such things down. Today, most protest marches end where the prison once stood.

Remains of part of a tower of the Bastille, in the Square Henri Galli, near the site of the former prison 


Nowadays,the French celebrate July 14 pretty much the way Americans celebrate the 4thof July, minus the barbecue. Yes, though the French are food-obsessed, there is no traditional meal or food-related ritual for July 14th.

The day starts with a parade: Representatives of all of France’s military, along with their vehicles, rumble down the Champs-Elysées. Although not overly patriotic, a lot of French people feel a sense of pride watching this, and I try to stifle my laughter at the incredible mess the countless horses always leave behind for the tanks and jeeps and motorcycles to drive over.

In the countryside, many villages have fireworks. In Paris, there’s a magnificent fireworks display with the Eiffel Tower in the foreground. The first time I went to watch it from the Champ de Mars, the big field where the Eiffel Tower is located (and where the Fête de la Fédération took place in 1790), I was surprised to hear that the soundtrack wasn’t traditional French songs, but opera arias. The moving music and the beauty of the fireworks in the night sky was a powerful combination: it’s the only time fireworks have made me cry — and I wasn’t the only one. It was an odd experience, but a beautiful and unforgettable one. The music for the Paris fireworks changes annually, but the show is always pretty spectacular.

The storming of the Bastille kicked off an era of hope and freedom, but it also brought incredible loss and violence. Today, that brutality is nearly forgotten, as is the prison itself. No lettres de cachet here. All that remains is happiness and celebration. Things have changed, though there are still changes that need to be made. Fireworks bang and sparkle across the sky.


Making the Streets of Paris Mine!

Hemingway loved to hate this cafe, frequenting instead Le Dome and Le Select that were right by it

Kaitlin S. 

For a history major, or really anybody interested in studying history or art, there is no better way to truly learn what happened (or understand the social, historical, or economical impacts of an event) than standing right where the history in question happened. Because when sitting in a classroom, historical events can seem distant and unimaginable, almost as if they’d never really happened. However, when one stands in the exact place where Louis XIV held court, or Napoleon led his troops off to battle, or Hitler gave speeches against the Jews, the past comes alive. What might have seemed unimaginable or mysterious on a Power Point slide is instead something that’s very real.


Paris Statue
The statues of Paris are everywhere a calming invitation to relish how long this city has been beautiful

Our week spent in Paris — learning on the streets, seeing the places where Roman gladiatorial contests were held, the palaces that Louis XIV built, the square where Dreyfus was stripped of his rank — all brought the history w’d been discussing and reading about to life in a way I never imagined was possible. I could feel the energy of such places, understand the importance, and better see the why, the where, and the how of such events just because I stood in the same place.

Wilde Grave BnW
Oscar Wilde’s gravesite is a pilgrimage point for people who love modern literature

Better yet, spending the week walking around Paris with our professors constantly pointing out the important sights and monuments while simultaneously explaining their significance was an amazing experience for us all. It was like walking around with a personal tour guide, constantly. So often when seeing a new place, I miss so much because I simply don’t know its lesser stories. However, traveling with somebody who knows the ins and outs of a city — the hidden places as well as the the meanings behind the important monuments — was an invaluable experience for my fellow students and me.

Paris Metro Sign
No metro system in Europe is easier to use than this one, and there are stops all over the city

Having class meet sometimes in a small café in the center of Paris is also an experience I will never forget, not just because we were learning the history of this country but because we were experiencing the culture as well. Because of this week in Paris, I better understand the hard work a small café owner puts into his shop and so many other tiny things that are about how people live in Paris. I saw the same young man working at our favorite café from open to close, just as I learned about the organization of a French post office because that’s where I went to mail my post cards. I luxuriated in the beauty of the Parisian park system not as a tourist but as a tired student — living in Paris — who needed a great place to relax after class.

I better understand all of these important aspects of French society and life in Paris because I was able, through my French class and this study-abroad experience, to live a week in Paris and feel like a local there. And it was a week I will never forget.


Your UWF Application for The Catalyst: What’s Next in Getting to Europe?



There aren’t many things in life that happens without effort and planning. That’s totally true for a study abroad program like The Catalyst. The trick is to attack your planning as early as you can and get help from folks along the way if you need it. So you’ve applied to The Catalyst with Globalizedu, which is the provider company that develops and runs the program. The second critical step in your journey to Europe is to apply to the University of West Florida, which is the academic home of the program. Have you done this step? If yes, then you can stop reading. If not, then follow on…The first thing to consider as you turn toward doing the UWF application is whether or not you’re a full-time UWF student already. If you are, then you will complete a study-abroad application for UWF students that’s reserved for you. You’ll need just a few minutes to hit this link and complete your UWF application right here.

If you’re one of our many Catalyst students who come from UW River Falls, UL Monroe, Missouri State, University of Florida or any other schools than UWF, you will want to hit this link instead and take a few minutes to fill out your non-degree seeking academic application to the program.

As you go through completing your application, do remember to check your boring email and be responsive to what you receive from Globalizedu, Dr. Mackaman, UWF Study Abroad and your own home institution’s study abroad and financial aid offices. And remember, too, to send Dr. Mackaman an email at or a text at 651–341–1806 if you have problems completing either version of the UWF application that’s appropriate to your registration situation.