Author Archives: cgrourke

Deutschland und Österreich

Deutschland und Österreich

This past weekend I went to Munich to visit my aunt who finished a business trip. I arrived very late on Friday night to her hotel. We had a couple drinks and chatted. It was so nice to see someone from my family again. We got to sleep early, because the next morning we were going to Salzburg, Austria for the day.

We had to be at the train station by 9AM. We made it on time, surprisingly. My aunt and I are known to be late all the time. But we made it! The train ride lasted about an hour and twenty minutes. We didn’t get to see the Alps because it was so cloudy and raining.

Most of the day it rained, but that didn’t stop us! We followed our tour-guide through the city and saw Mozart’s house, some scenes from the Sound of Music, and later ate Kraze-Kramer’s! They’re frankfurter’s with cheese on the inside in a sandwich with mustard. It was soooooo good! I bit into it, and it splattered all over my aunt’s jacket. I pretended I didn’t notice for a couple minutes until I pointed it out.

We saw cathedrals, walked around beautiful open-air markets, and stores. My favorite part was taking a lift to the mountain overlooking the city. We could see the entire city from there. Here is a picture:


We walked around up there for a while and saw that there were even more views to be seen. That night I went to the Staatliches Hofbräuhaus (The Royal Brewery) a pint of beer and some frankfurters with potato salad. They played traditional Bavarian music and saw some people dancing in the central hall.

The next day we went to the Schloss Nymphenburg (The Palace of the Nymphs), which is modeled partially after Versailles. I am a sucker for Rococo architecture, so I was in heaven when I saw nymphs flying on the paintings on the ceiling. My aunt and I took a tour of the palace and then walked outside in the gardens. There were ducks and wild animals around, and it was very nice to catch up with my aunt.

After that, we decided to go back to the city center to see the Rathaus-Glockenspiel, which is a big clock on a cathedral in the center square (Marienplatz) at 5pm, when it rings and marionettes dance. After this finished, we walked to the English gardens and saw the sunset. We walked to the beer gardens, despite my aunt’s hesitations, and in fact the beer gardens were opened! We each had a beer, bread, and an artichoke heart. On on walk back home I got a McFlurry and we went back early because my flight Monday morning was very early the next morning. I caught a train at 4:40AM and got to my 7AM flight on time.

When I got on the plane I had a smile on my face with memories to remember for the rest of my life, as a turned my thoughts to my life back in Lyon.

Birthday Surprise!

Birthday Surprise!

I’m so sorry I have not posted in a while, but so much has happened that I must share!

Roughly a month ago was my 21st birthday, and I know I shouldn’t share too much, but I’ll let you in on some details. My actually birthday was the morning I arrived in Lyon from Lisbon. Our flight was delayed over three hours, and instead of arriving at 11:30 PM 26 February, we arrived at 2:45AM 27 February. Needless to say we were exhausted. We split an uber from the airport to the train station, because it was equal for us and some other Sciences Po students we knew. From there at 4AM, I decided to take a quick bike ride home. It was a bit scary that early in the morning, but I got home safe at 4:20AM and went right to bed. The next morning, my first thought waking up at noon was to take a run…maybe it’s best not to listen to intuition, but I did it anyway. And hey who needs a phone!? so I didn’t bring it with me and somehow ended up in Caluire-et-Cuire, a suburb roughly a 10 minute ride from Lyon. Well then my intuition kicked in and aided me and I came home about a half hour before my class. After a quick shower, I was only 10 minutes late to class. I was quite proud of myself.

Okay I know this sounds crazy, but my life works in strange ways and I like it better that way.

That night after class, a lot of my friends either weren’t in Lyon, or were too tired or ill to go out after a week of traveling. Just three friends and I went to one of our favorite places, Ho36, which is a hostel that has a bar and restaurant. We had some nice drinks and enjoyed each other’s company, while we told stories of our trip. They went to Amsterdam, Brussels, Berlin, and Milan. I was quite jealous when I heard of their trips, but then again I had an amazing time in Paris, Barcelona, and Lisbon!

That night my host family decided we’d order Chinese food. We got it from my favorite Chinese restaurant in Lyon, which is just right by our apartment. Afterwards my host mom and sister went into the other room and I heard them start to sing happy birthday. They came in with cupcakes and sang happy birthday in French and English. I was overcome with emotion and got choked up. I feel as if I have another family in France. They gave me gifts as well – a Swiss army knife with my name inscribed on it, Spanish chocolates (they spent the week in Sevilla), and a keychain that read “I’m in the mood for a fiesta”.

That weekend I celebrated my birthday three nights in a row: the first two going out and the second, which I’ll describe, staying at a friend’s. So after two nights of celebrating, I just really wanted to stay at home but my friends were insistent that I go to my friend Staci’s house. I decided to go and when I knocked on the door, there was immediate silence and accidentally Staci stepped on a balloon. I walked in and everyone yelled…you guessed it:


At that point I was so overwhelmed I teared up a bit. I have the best friends and the best adopted family anyone could ask for. Certainly a birthday to remember for a lifetime.


Lisboa, um fim de semana de celebração de carnaval

Lisboa, um fim de semana de celebração de carnaval

We escaped the rain of Catalonia, to arrive to bright and sunny days ahead in Lisbon (fr. Lisbonne, portugese Lisboa)! We arrived at our hostel four hours early (Anna was not too happy with me). In the meantime we stayed at the lounge of the hostel and had breakfast with the people that were getting up from the night before. It was a really chill atmosphere and everyone was really friendly.

After waiting until our 2pm check in time, we came to our room with an amazing view! Three steps from my bed, and we stepped out onto a terrace overlooking the Rio Tejo.


We then met up with our friend Chloe, an other Temple student and walked throughout the city. There were beautiful beaches on the river, grand monuments, large white cathedrals, and my favorite, the colorful buildings. We made our way to a small public area overlooking the city that offered amazing views and photo ops.

That night we had dinner at our hostel. It was an ABC party for Carnaval. I picked out the finest costumes from the hostel’s dress-up chest and decided to wear a cape and a green curly wig. I sat next to a guy that dressed up like Julius Caesar and had a great meal.

The next morning we decided to walk all the way to the other side of the city in Belem. We walked through what seemed a deserted town, until we reached Belem, where we saw the Belem Tower, the Praça do Império, and the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jeronimos Monastery). The area seemed to be a small jewel far away from the bustling area of the city we were in.

We had to take an Uber back after that long walk, but when we almost reached our final destination, the traffic was bumper to bumper because of a Carnaval parade on the Avenida da Liberdade (the main boulevard). We got out and Anna headed back to the hostel, but Chloe and I stayed to see the large public park called Marquis of Pombal Square. It had panoramic views of the city and a lovely ambiance of relaxation. After that, I got lost trying to find the hostel. I saw the city better that way, but it was a little nerve wracking when my phone died. I made it back and we had dinner again. We were so tired we just stayed in and talked with the people at the hostel.

The next morning we took the train to Sintra, a beautiful suburb and hour northwest of the city. Round trip cost me 4.04 euros. When we got off the train, we saw massive castles tucked in forests and as we continued to walk, we realized we were on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. But as life goes, we only had an hour and a half to spend there. We had a flight to catch. We had to take the train back, pick up our stuff at the hostel, and then take the subway to the airport. When we arrived at the aeroporto, we had to then take a bus to our terminal, only to find out our flight had been delayed 1 hour and 50 minutes. Needless to say, I was pissed.

Well we boarded at 9:50PM and did not arrive to Lyon until 2:45 in the morning. We took an Uber with two other Sciences Po exchange students to the city. I took my velo (bike) from the station to my apartment and did not arrive at home until 3:30AM and didn’t fall asleep until 4:40AM.

The rest of my week was filled with relaxation and celebrations for my 21st, which was the day I arrived so early in the morning from the holidays.


Barcelona, la capital de la Cataluña

Barcelona, la capital de la Cataluña

In continuing my previous blog post, I left the readers at a cliff hanger. Here’s the resolution. After my mom and Riley left, I packed my bags and took a shower. It was nice to have some serenity before traveling. Then I had to pick up a bus from the Eiffel Tower that drove me to Orly Airport. When I arrived, I was a bit nervous because this was my first international flight alone. As I passed through security, I worried my bags would be too heavy. After I passed through the metal detector and my bag went through the check, a security man asked to look through my bag. Suddenly a pang of uneasiness washed over me. He took out everything from my bag and put it back through the security check. He couldn’t find anything, but we talked for a while as he searched my items. It was relieving to know that even when you do international travel alone, there are still people so kind and helpful.

And my flight was great on the way there. I would highly recommend Vueling (Spanish budget airlines). They played some cool music on the flight, I got my first hearing of a language I wasn’t familiar with (and man could these Spanish speakers speak fast!).

I arrived in Barcelona on time and took a bus into the city. As I walked down the Rambla, there were cool restaurants and ice cream shops all around. I of course had to get an ice cream cone with mystery flavor electric blue coloring (I had no idea what I was ordering at that point). I met Anna down the Rambla near our hostel (Kabul Party Hostel) at the Placa Reial. We dropped our stuff off and then got dinner on the Rambla. It was so cool! The food was amazing, not to mention our massive Sangria glasses. We were so tired by the end, that we didn’t go out. But our hostel had other ideas. We were on the second floor and it was so loud and congested in our room (I would not recommend staying there).

The second day we went on a walking tour. There were two options, a Gaudi walking tour or a Gothic walking tour. Since we were staying in the Gothic quarter, we decided to venture out to see the works of the famous Catalonian artist Antoni Gaudi. What we saw was astounding. This man was absolutely crazy in his designs and artistic conceptions. A dark beauty, a colorful extraordinaire, a quirky design all in one.

But of course the creme de la creme was La Sagrada Familia, an imposing cathedral in its 135th year of construction. When completed it will be the largest and most elaborate cathedral in Europe, possibly the world. Here are some pictures:



La Sangrada Familia

From there, Anna and I decided to walk all the way up to the top of Barcelona to get a better view of the city. We came upon the Park Guell, an expansive public park overlooking Barcelona. There are small houses there, massive and beautiful gardens, and also a large centerpiece of Gaudi’s Catalan modernism architecture style. We bought tickets to see his tile work, but were told by a friend who we randomly ran into that if we waited until 6:30 it was free. Anyway, it was going toward the city and for refurbishment of Gaudi’s architecture, so it was a good cause. The views from this park were simply breathtaking.


That night we had dinner at another restaurant and I ate seafood, which was quite good and very filling. We took a walk near the Mediterranean port area, which was beautiful at night. We couldn’t go out that night because the next morning we had a 7AM flight. We packed and went to sleep. We only had four hours of sleep when we woke up at 4AM. We checked out and then made our bus at 5AM when it began to rain. We made it on time and everything from there was smooth sailing (flying).

The flight was loud again (wow the Catalans can talk!), but I was too excited for what lied ahead…

Paris…and more

Paris…and more

Hello, dear readers! I am sorry I have been incognito the past few weeks. Much has happened and now I can’t wait to share with you. I will be doing my blog this week in three posts, one for each city I visited last week.

Last week, my mom and brother Riley came to visit me in Lyon. They arrived Friday morning at the Part Dieu train station. They settled in their hotel and then we went straight to the Ferris Wheel to see the city. It was so cool to get to see the city from that vantage point, and to go on a structure I see everyday. From there we walked around Vieux Lyon, the “Old City” of Lyon. I was not very familiar of this part of the city, so it was informational for me as well. Then we went back to the area I lived in to have dinner — pizza! Okay, before you say anything, all other places were closed or full and we really needed to get something to eat.


The next day, Riley and I biked to Parc de la Tete d’Or and ran in the park. Then we came back to my apartment, met with my host family, and then took a stroll back to the park. As it was the first day of the weather breaking, the park was packed! We walked through the zoo, the rose gardens, and we stopped for a rest at my favorite part of the park.

Sunday, I wan’t feeling too well, so we had to skip some other things. But we did go to the Basilisque Notre Dame de la Fouvriere for mass, afterwards seeing a beautiful view of the city. We then got dinner.

Monday morning we got up early for a 9am train to Paris. We got to Paris on time, but then had to take two metros to get to our hotel. It was a pretty nice hotel and we had two floors to our room! I thought that was the coolest thing. It was right by the Eiffel Tower, so we started our walk near there. Then we continued to the Louvre, where we saw the Mona Lisa. It was the second time I went to the Louvre and I wanted to see other sections of the museum, but for my mom and Riley, we had to see it. As Riley and my mom looked at souvenir shops, I sat outside in the Tuileries Garden posing as a crabby old man you find in many French gardens (I’ve seen them glare at me as I wear my tourist outfits). We finished the day walking to the Arc de Triumph and having dinner near our hotel.

Tuesday, we stayed on the Left Bank, Ile-de-la-Cite, and Ile-Saint-Louis. We walked past Hotel des Invalides (Napoleon’s final resting rotunda), Sciences Po Paris (not to be confused with Sciences Po Lyon), the Sorbonne, and finally the crown jewel—Notre Dame de Paris. We took pictures of us standing at the center mark of Paris, right in front of the Cathedrale. We walked inside and said a prayer, while marveling at the 854 year old architecture. The magic came when Riley and I took a trip to the top of the southern tower. The pictures of the view do not even give the full feeling of being in the presence of such a monumental structure, the pinnacle of French Gothic art and the setting of Victor Hugo’s famous Notre Dame de Paris. 1482, or the English version The Hunchback of Notre Dame. We then walked to the Luxembourg Gardens and next door Saint-Sulpice, where the prime meridian use to run.

We finished our time with a great dinner and even better conversations. The next morning as my mom and brother left, suddenly my Parisien romantic bubble burst as I realized my flight was later that afternoon. But not to worry, more adventure awaited…

En Marche!

En Marche!

As I mentioned before, I am here in Lyon to study la science politique. This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit a political meeting in Lyon. Now is the season for the French presidentielle which finalizes in the beginning of May, giving the French a new president for the next five years. The major candidates include: Jean-Luc Melenchon (the Front de Gauche candidate), Benoit Hamon (the Parti Socialiste candidate), Emmanuel Macron (an independent candidate who created his own political movement En Marche!), Francois Fillon (les Republicains candidate), and Marine Le Pen (le Front National candidate).

Last Saturday, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen both came to Lyon for political meetings, addressing large crowds in a high risk presidential campaign. I decided to go to Emmanuel Macron’s event at the Gerland Stadium in the south of Lyon. He was once a ministre of the current Parti Socialiste administration of Francois Hollande, but has since created his own independent movement, drawing large crowds of young students and those who believe in a movement for the left and right to work together. I waited two hours of security lines for this meeting, only to be told that the stadium was full. But, no worries! I got to see him on a large screen outside the stadium. Before entering the stadium, Macron addressed the crowd outside. He told us that the event gathered over 16,000 people. It was amazing to be apart of such a large group, in a movement to get the French to work independent of party politics.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the meeting, standing in the freezing cold without a cold was not too enjoyable. I stayed for about an hour and a half and then decided to bike home.

When I came home, I found out my host father got through the press entrance and got to go in the stadium! Mais, c’est la vie.

Les excursions à Pérouges et à Annecy

Les excursions à Pérouges et à Annecy

While Lyon is such a great city to live in, taking day trips during the weekend are so easy and necessary to understand the area better.

In the past week, I have taken two day trips. The first was last Monday to a VERY small medieval town called Pérouges, which is just 20 minutes north of the city. The second was on Saturday to another medieval town called Annecy, an hour and a half trip northeast of Lyon.

I went with a fairly large group to Pérouges. We finished with classes and took the TGV to a town called Meximieux. We needed to walk along the street to get to Pérouges from there. A group of Americans walking through small French villages certainly looked strange. When we got to the city, it looked like a ghost town. I began to question why we came here in the first place, but as we walked around the city, I then understood. It was beautiful and looked like it was straight out of La Belle et la Bête. We walked around the city and then from there went to a hotel where we ate galette and drank cidre.

Here’s a picture of me having some fun in the snow at Pérouges:


On Saturday, just myself and another Temple student (Anna Smith-shout out) went to Annecy. We took a blah blah car (European/French version of Uber). Our driver was very nice (oh just realized I should write a good review for him…) The weather finally broke when we arrived and it felt like spring. We walked through a market where furniture, paintings, and sculptures were being sold. I bought some postcards. Then we decided to walk all the way up the hill the city is on, only to find that all the museums close between 12h to 14h. So we walked back down the hill and got some great pizzas to eat (don’t judge; it was the cheapest thing on the menu). Then we went back up to go to the museums (only 3.50 euros for two museums). It was well worth it. While Anna enjoyed the modern art pieces, I reveled in paintings of the French countryside. We got a great view of the city from the base of the museum:


But while day trips are nice, being in your host city is a wonderful feeling too. Today I had a two hour break, so I biked to the top of one of the mounts of Lyon (la Croix-Rousse) and got this awesome shot:


The Small Things…

The Small Things…

To speak generally of the beginning of studying abroad, especially during the first two weeks, you begin to feel seized by hopes of an exciting semester of new experiences, but at the same time gripped by a feeling that you don’t belong. That’s how I felt last Thursday. It took me a couple days to get out of it, and for that I have the small things to thank.

Let’s begin the story last Thursday night. There was an Erasmus boat party right on the Rhone River. I was so excited to go and made sure my friends and I were all prepared to go. The beginning was so much fun! I had a couple drinks and started dancing, but I continued to get more tired throughout the night. Part of me wished I was in the comfort of being in a country where English was the first language and where my dog was the first to great me when I came home for weekend, but instead I was in a place where I speak broken French and where it takes me 1 hour to find food at 3am .

That next night, my host father’s cousins came over. I felt a little odd being there and didn’t want to be a burden, but they said I could stay for appetizers, dinner, and dessert if I wanted. I was unsure whether to accept, but I stayed for the whole time and I’m glad I did. While I hardly spoke a word (unlikely for me), I understood most of what was being said. What I didn’t understand, I followed through gestures and emotional expressions. The family was so welcoming and patient as I slowly stuttered in broken French. Throughout the night, they kept giving me more and more food. They said I should try this kind of wine, or this kind of cake. More and more, I became confident in my speaking ability and came to the conclusion that I didn’t need to be at home to feel at home.

Although living abroad can never take the place of your home, you find moments where you feel comfortable and a place where you can be at home. I have so much gratitude to the Durand’s and their hospitality. It’s in the small moments like this dinner that make such a difference in your immersion to a new place.

The next day, I received this photo from my host mom with this text

Petit souvenir d’un dîner bien français!!!! Bonne journée Cian

[Small remembrance of a very French dinner!!!! Have a good day Cian]


“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” -Virginia Woolf Thank you to the Durand family for your hospitality et un diner bien francais!

When I got it, I was on the bus to Geneva with the American friends I made. It made me so happy to think that a family I just met two weeks ago could make such an positive impression on me in my first few weeks here.

The day in Geneva was great, but not because of the place, but because of the people. Although I enjoyed the MAH (Musée d’art et d’histoire de Genève) and Lac Genève, it was my American friends who provided a small comfort zone while I was trying to expand it. There is no problem with comfort zones, just as long as they’re temporary.

This past weekend I definitely needed that comfort zone, and for that I can be thankful for a dinner with my host family and a short day spent with familiar faces…the small things.



Currently, I am finishing my orientation here at IEP Lyon. We began on the 3 January and finish the 13 January. Most days were filled with oral, writing, and technical French classes and also instruction time on how to write French dissertation papers. But what do you do to stay sane while being in classrooms from 9-6 most days? Well, my friends, in a large cosmopolitan city like Lyon, where you can easily take the Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV), there are plenty things to do.

This past weekend, I experienced France in full force. On Saturday morning I arrived at Gare Part Dieu, the central hub of transportation services in the city, at 8:40 in the morning to catch a TGV for 9:10 to Montpellier. The train to Montpellier was a little over two hours, traveling south. In the morning, we took a tour of the city. It was originally inhabited during the Middle Ages and as France’s 8th largest city, is now a great destination for those looking for a nice weekend getaway. After our tour, we walked around the city. My group headed to Jardin du Champs de Mars, a quaint park with a pond, but then we realized there was a building right next to it (Palais des Congrès) with a terrace on the roof. We saw a lot of people on the rooftop and decided to head up. The views of the city did not disappoint. You could practically see the whole city!

After this, we bought a galette des rois, a special cake made for Epiphany. Within each cake is a small prize and whoever gets the piece with this prize is crowned le rois (the king) or la reine (the queen). Since I was the one to cut the cake on the train back, I decided it was only right to take the prize and crown for myself.


the view from the Palais des Congès


me standing in front of the Porte de Peyrou


Parc du Peyrou

Lyon: La capitale gastronomique du monde

Lyon: La capitale gastronomique du monde

Hi, my name is Cian! I am a current junior at Temple. I am a Global Studies major and a French minor. This semester I am studying through Temple’s exchange program with Sciences Po-Lyon in France’s third largest city — Lyon! Ah a semester abroad in France — a young Francophile’s dream. Please follow me in my journey as I live and learn in a foreign city and live the Francophile dream!

These upcoming six months I will spend in Lyon will be a transformative and eye-opening time for me. Each day I will learn more fully the geopolitical viewpoints and the daily life of the average French citizen. At Sciences Po-Lyon, I will gain fluency in the French language and have cultural immersion, while gaining insight into international relations, European politics, and European history. This program will allow me to get more outside of my comfort zone and allow me to understand what it is like to live in a country which is not my own. The experiences and learning opportunities are endless!

This past fall semester, I have been up late at night thinking about the many trips I can take on my weeks off while I am abroad. I have also been planning a possible trip during for an extra week in Central and Eastern Europe after classes are over. I dream of taking the Eurorail to Spain for a week and visiting Barcelona and Madrid. I plan on meeting my mom and brother in Paris over my spring break and showing them the City of Lights and then making our way down to the City of World Gastronomy (Lyon). I am very excited to show them what an average day in Lyon would entail and the experiences I would enjoy. I imagine taking day trips to the French Riviera, Annecy, Geneva, Provence, and Chamonix. I would like to take the train to visit my high school exchange student from Mulhouse and then continuing my trip to visit a friend from high school in Hanover, Germany. I have a friend from Temple who studies at the University of Edinburgh this year and we are currently making plans to visit each other. I hope she can show me the idyllic Scottish landscape, show me the best bar crawls, and how she finds a home in her adopted city. When she comes to Lyon, we plan on skiing the French Alps. This will be extremely interesting due to the fact that I am a horrible skier, but should be enjoyable nonetheless. After my semester, I am planning on taking an extensive tour of Central and Eastern Europe, where I’ll visit Geneva, Lucerne, Zurich, Munich, Salzburg, Prague, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Trieste, Venice, Milan, and Turin. Now that I am here, I can finally turn my planning into a reality!

Please continue to view my blogs to experience my foreign adventures as I live and learn in a foreign city and live the Francophile dream!