Oh Hello, December.

I didn't want anyone to think I was dead, so I figured now that I am FREE from any academic obligations, I should finally update my poor bloggy.

Yes, today was the day I turned in the 20 page paper on Denmark's social model that has been driving me crazy for the last week. I also just finished taking 3 exams. But it's all over now, thank goodness, and the only thing I have to think seriously about for the next week is packing and getting to Charles de Gaulle in time to catch my flight. In the meantime, I can let my brain melt into mush and just go around, museum-hopping, shopping for Christmas presents, and sampling my fair share in French pastries before I am shipped back to the land of the chili dog.

But my life lately has been terribly boring, I've just been studying, so I will hearken back to our class trip to Strasbourg that we took the week before Thanksgiving.

Strasbourg is located in the sometimes German, currently French region of Alsace. The city became a symbol of France and Germany's friendship forged by the 1951 European Coal & Steel Community, which later grew into the European Economic Community, which grew into to the European Community, which finally became the European Union in 1992. The Franco-German alliance is the basically the glue that keeps Europe together.

Strasbourg is home to the European Parliament, which is the only directly elected institution of the EU, and to the Council of Europe, which is NOT part of the EU, but actually the oldest organization working towards European Integration, founded in 1949 with its main focus on human rights, after the great human rights injustices of the Second World War had occurred. The Council of Europe includes member states who are not interested in joining the EU, like Switzerland and Russia, organizes the European Convention on Human Rights, and is home to the European Court of Justice, the highest court in Europe.

One cool thing was that we sat in during a European Parliamentary session on the state of Greece and Ireland and got to hear the President of the Commission and former prime minister of Portugal, José Manuel Barroso, defend my two native lands (some parliamentarians were throwing around the idea of reinstating the drachma and the Irish pound) in flawless English and French (he was also to cool to wear a headset that translated the proceedings into six official languages). Also present was the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, who has been lampooned for his lack of stage presence.

Which reminds me of one of my favorite photographs:

Poor Rompuy! :( But really, this explains a lot about the European Union.

Also in Strasbourg is the FAMOUS Strasbourg Christmas Market.

It's supposed to look a lil' something like this:

Unfortunately, our trip was booked for just a few days before the Christmas market opened, so it looked a little less...put together. Place was a mess. But I'm sure it's very pretty once assembled!

I still managed to find gingerbread, soft pretzels, and vin chaud (hot wine), so I was satisfied.

Probably the most memorable experience of the trip was ending our night in Strasbourg in this rundown karaoke lounge that looked like a stripper bar. We loud Americans took over the place and sang Billy Joel's The Piano Man, thoroughly amusing and perhaps mentally and emotionally scarring the Strasbourgians. My solo was the best verse, the one that starts "It's a pretty good crowd for a Saturday". We then had to leave and take the little tram that closes at midnight or so back to our hotel, so we only stayed for one song, but man, it was worth it. We rocked that place.

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