A Travellerspoint blog

Some Kind of Meat and Potatoes


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I haven’t travelled in two weeks, and I’m starting to feel like this is more of a home.

My family sent me a package last week, and I had waited in anticipation for about two weeks. I took the hour long trek to retrieve it, and you’d think they were there in person how excited I was to get it. “Should I open it now?” I thought to myself.

I sat down on the curb between two parked cars well hidden from anyone. I tore off the tape like a kid on Christmas to reveal my mother’s handwriting as a letter sprung out the top of the overstuffed package.

My reaction was not as I intended. I immediately started bawling! My stomach actually felt sick as I discovered the contents of my highly anticipated care package. I cried so loudly that a man opened a window from his office and asked me what the problem was. I managed to spit out something about my family embarrassed but undistracted from my package.

When I rifled through the contents for the second time at home, I got the expected reaction – excitement. Among many things, a winter jacket, a blanket that smelled like home, socks, Clamato Juice, and a SUSHI SET. That night I felt like I was back home satisfied with hand-rolled sushi (that didn’t make me sick!) and a ceasar in hand.

I can proudly say that out of five Americans, I have converted four to the ceasar. Those who like it... like it a lot.

I can also proudly say that I got through that presentation which I dreaded immensely. Longest solo presentation I’ve ever done on a topic I knew little about – but I nailed it! It ended up being one hour long with a class discussion. A girl nearly stumped me with a difficult, unexpected question, but after racking my brain and looking foolish for a good twenty seconds, I stuffed her. Wait until she gets up there..

I went first though to get it out of the way, and I am glad that I can just relax and watch everyone else break their nerves for the rest of the term… suckers!

The real reason I went first was because I had the weekend in Milan to prepare. The next three weekends I will be travelling, so it only made sense to go that day.

I ended up spending my weekend cramming for the presentation because of my procrastination. It’s hard to get in that mind frame when we have been so slack all semester. My work ethic has flown out the window. Thinking of how hard I worked this summer makes me wonder how the hell I even pulled it off. The adjustment when I get home will be a doozey.

The highlight of that weekend was seeing New Moon in English! I miss the movies so much! My friend Angie found it, and we adored Jacob and Edward in a break from my project. Please explain to me how vampires and wearwolves can be so attractive.

That weekend I also decided it was time to try and find some red meat. My body has been sending me carnivorous waves lately. I Google translated “steak” and came out with “bistecca”. I walked around the supermarket with something that looked like a beef steak. I realized that I had no idea was “beef” was in Italian and eventually asked. After literally mooing for him, I found that I had accidently grabbed pork. Damnit! The beef steaks looked like chincy little anorexic cows who needed some love.

However, the steaks that a Canadian would consider for breakfast went well with sautéed mushrooms and onions and a baked potato. I even found something that resembled cottage cheese to put on my potato with chives!!! Food coma.

I’ve come to realize that this entire blog will be about food because today is American Thanksgiving.
We celebrated yesterday with a group of eighteen. Marah and I made a cheese, pickle, and cracker platter and brought dinner rolls. We ate well – chicken, stuffing, garlic mash potatoes, green beans, salad, cranberry juice, apple pie - the works. The wine flowed, and we all stated what we were grateful for -it was pretty clear to all of us.

I’m also grateful that the forecast in Dublin doesn’t call for rain this weekend, as I set off in the morning with Marah. I’m excited to try Guinness and stalk Colin Ferrell. (If I find that pot of gold, expect a ticket in the mail to come and visit!)

Love you and miss you always,
Jess
ox

Posted by jwinitaly 11:17 Comments (0)

I Didn't Star in Hostel 3

Amsterdam!


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I slept in an airport, made it through security, got on a plane, and even made it to my hostel in Amsterdam – all on my own.

For many people this would not be significant, but for the girl who redefines Murphy’s Law time and time again, this is something to be proud of.

Our hostel wasn’t anything special, but I made it and that’s all that mattered. It was clear by the familiar oversized backpacks that propped open the wooden locker doors that my friend Kevin and his roommate had already checked in.

Kevin met up with me around an hour later. His roommate had invited a few other people, and they were off exploring the Anne Frank House. After a rough night with about two hours of sleep in a shuttle bus, an airport, and an airplane, Kevin and I were on the same page.

We decided to get lost together in the streets of Amsterdam with its canals, bridges, and brilliantly tall and colourful buildings. We did this of course after enjoying our first Amsterdam “coffee” at Dampkring. It is perfectly legal there,
so I feel no need to conceal this fact about my Amsterdam experience.

There were photos of Brad Pitt and George Clooney with the guy who was selling us our “coffee” on the walls in Dampkring. Apparently Oceans 12 had filmed a scene at that exact coffee shop, and the cast had frequented it during filming. After finding our hostel again, which seemed more difficult than it should have, we took a three hour powernap and were refreshed when we woke up that evening.

After meeting the rest of our Amsterdam crew, we connected at a coffee shop called The Dolphin. There was a fishbowl molded into the wall there, and I studied it in attempts of discovering how the fish were fed. No such luck in that department. This coffee was clearly getting to me.

We ventured to the Van Gogh Museum and were fixated on the art of a genius. The storyline ran with the art in sequential order, and we really connected with it. It was interesting to see the work of one artist in a museum, as opposed to several pieces highlighted by multiple artists in one museum. I really felt like I got to know Van Gogh a little. I was sad to learn that he committed suicide before he became famous. Then again, this seems to be a pattern among crazy creative people. Maybe not the cutting off the ear bit though.

The next day we went to the Heineken Museum. This was quite interesting in the fact that we went from learning to appreciate a beer, to “being a beer” in a virtual reality ride setting, to drinking beer. Many people didn’t want their beer tokens, as it was at the end of the tour, so we drank for a while and enjoyed the main event after being teased all afternoon by the foreplay that was our beer tour.

I want to add a tip of my hat to Heineken for their strategic placement of the bar next to the merchandise shop. You literally enjoy two or more beers before walking straight through the shop to exit. I bet this tactic has worked on plenty of tourists, but I can proudly say that I did not buy one thing. (Nah nah nah nah nahhhhhh nah)

We hoped to bike around Amsterdam, but we were out of luck because it closed by the time we had finished drinking our Heinekens. We pressed on to The Rocker coffee shop.

People bizarrely seemed to be on dates here. I wondered what it would be like if a guy took me there on a date. I was also captivated by how slow the fans moved in this place and lured in my friends. How easy it must have been to feed those hippies the Kool-Aid. We all played the part.

We went to a hookah bar after this and relaxed in a voyeuristic windowed room. Apple flavoured tobacco was dirt cheap, and it went down so smoothly. It made my stomach feel pretty queasy after a while though. It had been a long two days already.

Next we found out that the red light district is nothing glamorous -it was actually scary. We went there for a bit to explore after leaving the hookah bar. The main streets were covered in shops like the pollution of McDonalds and a Condomeria, but the side streets are what are infamous.

The alleys are so narrow that you can nearly touch from side to side with your arms reached wide. You look down the alley and see a glow of red, and there are glass doors adorned with red spotlights above them. It’s like a bad dream when you walk past each one waiting to see what is in store for you. From extreme outfits to plastic surgeries to poses, one is sure to lose their innocence with one walk down an alley in Amsterdam’s red light district.

After seeing single men knocking on the doors and asking how much services cost, I will never again walk down one of those streets. It’s no wonder you’re not allowed to take photos in this area – who would want to?

We took refuge in our faithful hookah bar before heading back to the hostel for some shut eye. I was happy to be thinking of unicorns, princesses, and shiny things before bed, and NOT of the red light district.

On our way to renting bicycles the following day, we stumbled into a parade- a Christmas parade. The only thing was that the elves had their faces painted black with red lipstick, and Santa looked more like a wise humble wizard than the jolly old fat man we’ve all come to love.

I later found out at the bike rental shop that Amsterdam celebrates two Christmas’. The first is a two week celebration with presents, and then they get regular Christmas. So basically, you’re telling me that they get Hanukkah AND Christmas? I think it’s time to bring this home to Canada.

The bike ride was the best idea we had all weekend. I enjoyed the crisp, cool air in the afternoon. We biked around for two hours getting a different perspective of the city and enjoying autumn in Vondel Park. Initially I didn’t feel that up for biking. The lazy feelings that come from drinking coffee in Amsterdam did not spark feelings of “I want to exercise!” I am so glad that we went though– it was one of the highlights of the trip for me.

That day I also tried pea soup and “space cakes”. When in Rome! The whole group was about to try them for the first time, until my friend realized they had nuts on them. Being dangerously allergic to nuts, he wasn’t able to take them with us. As for me, I followed the advice from a close wise man, and I only took half of mine.

We went skating and enjoyed a unique experience. I remember being a lot better at skating though! I guess I just haven’t done it in years.

Kevin skated circles around me, and I enjoyed a more scenic atmosphere of twinkly lights and Dutch ballads echoing through the manmade arena. The skating rink was located in the center of the city, and being that it was outside, the artificial snow twinkled beneath the street lights. The whole experience made me crave Starbucks in a way that it felt like Christmas -they really have purchased that holiday haven’t they?

When we said our goodbyes, we were all a little unappreciative of the rarity of the experience that we had just had. Eight people who didn’t all know each other, all from Canada, and meeting up in Amsterdam and having an unforgettable experience. The chances are pretty slim that we would all end up hanging out again let alone all be in Amsterdam together again. What a weekend!

As much fun as I had in Amsterdam, I want to point out that I would never have wanted to travel there alone. It is more dangerous than I let on. The traffic is without rhyme or reason. If you’re not looking out for high pedestrians, you’re watching for crazy bikers and trams that run straight through any given street. As well, the streets all look so similar that it is unfairly easy to get lost among the bridges, canals, tall pastel buildings, and incomprehensible street names. This doesn’t even factor in how sketchy the red light district is. I would not recommend this for solo travels.

To end on a more positive note – I ate Amsterdam pancakes! For those of you that aren’t aware, I worked at the Amsterdam Pancake House in Valleyview for eight months in grade twelve. They were delicious, and I was disappointed to leave breakfast behind once again. Oh Italy, how I resent your teeny tiny coffees and pastries..

This weekend I am taking it easy. It will be one of the rare weekends I have spent in Milan. I will be alone for the majority of it working on my thirty minute oral presentation due Monday on Muslim communities in Italy vs Canada. See I DO go to school.

I will likely write again this weekend in lieu of doing that project.

Much love,
Jess
ox

Posted by jwinitaly 16:48 Comments (0)

I Miss the English Language More than I Thought

London, England!


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Please don’t mind my writing on this one, I didn't even give it a reread. I ate some bad sushi, and I’m leaving for Amsterdam in 2 hours. Needless to say, I'm feeling a bit awful, but I really just wanted to get this done before I forget and go on another trip! Not my finest work, but enjoy!!

Marah and I spent our fall break in London. My ex-boyfriend James lives there, and he kindly allowed us to stay with him.

The first thing we found out about England was that customs in the airport is the highest level of security we have seen in Europe; mind you that’s not saying much. But they asked me what I was doing in England, who I was staying with, how I met James, and where he lived.

I didn’t have the address to James’ apartment, only the directions, and I felt like was going to be shipped back to Italy express post. Fortunately, the customs lady lived in the same area and delightfully told us which train to take. Thank god this was all in English!

James’ little area of London was adorable. A lady even asked us if we were lost while we were searching for a currency exchange bureau and a pay phone. It was not what I was expecting at all - very small scale and homey.

After an amazingly Canadian breakfast consisting of eggs, toast, hash browns, O.J., and BIG coffee, we met up with James. His apartment was so nice! It was very clean and modern, though this probably goes to the credit of his two gay roommates and not James.

Our first day continued with the London Eye (which was too expensive to go on), Big Ben, London Bridge, a modern art museum, Westminster Abbey, and the best fish and chips I’ve ever had. Westminster Abbey was really neat because outside it there was a display in honour of the soldiers for Remembrance Day.

We met up with James’ sister Sarah for beer, and she explained to us that it was Guy Forks Day. Apparently, some guy was caught before he was about to bomb the parliament buildings. Now every November 5, they have a huge bonfire party with fireworks and the whole lot for it.

Getting to these fireworks seemed nearly impossible to us in our “tube”(metro) ride there. It was so stuffed full that Marah and I had to push people every time the doors opened because we would fall out if we didn’t. It was literally stuffed to overcapacity. The tube ended up stopping because the apparently weren’t shut properly in one of the carts. I’m sure someone’s limb caught or something – I ducked every time the doors closed. Good thing we were slap happy, or we would have ended up like this girl next to us who was yelling that she couldn’t breath, neither could we lady! At least not without taking in a breath full of someone’s hair or B.O. What an experience – I’ll never complain about Italian public transportation again.

We watched the fireworks in awe. They were without a doubt the best I’ve ever seen . After the fireworks, we were beat. James had a little too much energy for Marah and I who were going on 24 hours without sleep, and we stuck it out and went to a lounge and an all night chicken place.

Then we went home. James wanted more food from the train station, so he left for some time. By this point Marah and I are exhausted, and it was frustrating how long he was taking. After 45 minutes, I called him. He was on a train home without us. We were not impressed. Cold, tired, and alone – pissed off!

We didn’t have a cell phone with us, and he apparently looked everywhere, but that night we were just not in the mood. He was waiting for us on his street which was nice. He also had a heated apartment with beds which was even better.

The next morning he made us tea and toast, and after an eleven hour sleep – we forgave him pretty quickly. He did after all let us stay with him, take time off work, tour us around London, and have cable television in English!
Our second day we saw Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, and Buckingham Palace. Abbey Road was a highlight of the day in the hilarity of us attempting a remake photo of the Beatles Album Cover. Unfortunately, it was raining, and it was 4pm on a Friday – rush-hour!

We embarrassed ourselves by stopping traffic attempting to pose as Paul and Ringo in front of several other pedestrians. Finally, they revealed their stripes and asked us to take photos of them as well because they were shy tourists like us! We didn’t get any good shots, but it was hilarious. Imagine us all soaking wet having Marah’s paper bag fall apart while trying to dodge cars on the famous crosswalk. Those hippies would have been proud of our dedication to recreating their moment.

In the evening we enjoyed Mexican food, and saw a play. Those nachos were amazing. Guacamole, salsa, and sour cream – oh my! Apparently London is like New York in the sense that it has Broadway style plays and musicals on all the time. We bought half price tickets in Lester Square for “Prick Up Your Ears”. It was about two gay writers. One decides to branch off and work on his own writing and becomes very successful. His lover becomes very jealous, obsessive, and addicted to drugs, and he ends up killing his more successful partner before committing suicide. Pretty heavy!

We were tired again and a little depressed, so we decided to go straight home after the play. We watched a movie on the couch, and I forgot how much I miss vegging on the couch to a movie! It was awesome.
We were relieved that our flight wasn’t until 4pm because that meant we could sleep in again! We woke up and watched Seinfeld and Will and Grace (in English!!!)

We had plenty of time to get to the airport and even shop in the duty free shops. I bought four novels in English, and that felt like success somehow to me. We got home on the Saturday night, and we wished we would have stayed longer.

Eavesdropping on the trains, discounted coffee/free chocolates from a cute Starbucks guy, easy directions, English television shows and movies, English novels, English plays.. English, English… ENGLISH!!!!

Haha, I got a little carried away, but it was nice to hear a language I understand. It was very nice.

I'm going to hear a lot of Dutch this weekend, as I am off to Amsterdam. It is my first time flying alone, so I'm a little nervous! Don't worry, I'm going to be very safe, and I will tell you about it when I get back.

Miss and Love you all,
Jess
ox

Posted by jwinitaly 11:27 Comments (0)

Why Doesn't Every October End in Shorts


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Cinque Terre directly translates into “Five Villages”. It consists of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.

When I left for my first solo European adventure, I was prepared to hike through the five villages starting with two easy ones, then up a million stairs to my hostel in the middle village, following with two longer more difficult hikes through the last villages. My roommate Jesann had travelled there a couple weeks before and equipped me with my pregame knowledge.

After leaving Milano’s dreary weather and arriving in 20 degrees Celsius, sun shining off of the Mediterranean Sea, I was immediately in paradise. People were enjoying the last of the beaches in the last days of October, and I joined them with my underdog picnic of a squished homemade sandwich. I was already proud to have made it this far on my own (waking up at 6 is tough! Haha).

Little did I know that the hiking proved to be tougher. To quote my cooky photography teacher,
I had taken my camera on a trip, instead of with me on a trip.

I couldn’t have picked a better place and time to photograph. I hiked along the most beautiful coastline in the Italian Riviera rocking out to my Ipod Shuffle and snapping photos like a paparazzi. Unfortunately, I needed to go faster. Referring back to my advice from Jesann, I considered how much longer the last three villages would take if I had already hiked three hours through only the first two. Certainly I was going the right speed, I passed many older and less fit hikers along the way, I must have taken a more difficult route.

Only when I went down the millions of stairs (instead of up) in Corniglia did I realize that Jesann and I had trained to different ends of Cinque Terre. I had gunned it through the first three all stressed out about time for no reason! That was a little disappointing because I had made it more of a fitness test than a scenic hike. At least I would have time to go through all of the villages that day.

I continued through past Manarola following the same trusty painted stripes that had led me through the first four villages. Dark was beginning to set in, and I had just enough time to watch the sun go down and make it to Riomaggiore.

I was doing so well! I made my train on time, I got to my hostel within literally 5 minutes of the time I said I would check in, and I was going to see the fifth village within the span of my one day that I had designated for hiking. Seem too good to be true? Yes.

Only when I came to a path that didn’t fit did I realize I was lost. I felt very uncomfortable because my striped wall signs were still pointing me in that direction. I was on a road. I read in my Lonely Planet that Cinque Terre doesn’t let cars in the villages; you can only travel by foot or train. Something didn’t fit. Come to think of it – where did all of those hikers go?

I used my instinct and followed the road to the closest hotel instead of hiking up a dodgy trail at dusk. Like most of the people in the touristy national park, she spoke English. On my map she pointed out that I had wandered east (instead of South) and ended up in Volastra. She told me to wait an hour and I could bus back down the hill to Manarola. I had to go backward, and I was lost – how depressing.

I’m more of a “take action” kinda girl, so I decided to run down the hill. After five hours of hiking, twenty minutes of running didn’t seem so bad. The dark made it a little bad, but in my mind at the time I was being proactive and that meant that I hadn’t failed.

I trained back to my hostel and dwelled over the fact that I wasn’t home by dark. To be honest, I was scared to be lost in the dark. Right then I made it a personal rule for travelling alone to always be back by dark.

I was able to relax after a hot shower in my hospital clean hostel. Then I took myself on a date. I enjoyed some local pesto and wine and my book and was in bed by nine. What a long day.

I woke up at 8 after sleeping in the comfiest bed in Europe (to this date). Duvets in a hostel? Hiker’s dream. I had just enough time to train to Riomaggiore and then back to Monterosso to take my train back home to Milano.

I returned home with another pin for my backpack, a lesson for travelling alone, and my pride.

Although it was a success, I am glad to have Marah travelling with me this weekend to London. I will keep you posted. I am particularly homesick this week, so please send some good vibes my way,

Love and miss you always,
Jess

Posted by jwinitaly 13:28 Comments (0)

Don't Look Down at the Top of the Eiffel Tower


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Our trip to Paris began stressful, and with preconceptions from others exchange students of a snobby dirty city, we seemed to be off on the wrong foot.

The stress developed when Jesann was late to meet us on the way to the airport. We left the night before to spend the night in the airport because our flight left so early the following morning. It was the only choice considering our airport was nearly three hours away and the trams and shuttle buses didn’t leave earlier than 6 am. We had thought that the last shuttle arrived at 11:15 that night, but luckily it left at 11:30. Jesann made it to the minute on the bus, and Marah held it while we went to find her. Talk about cutting it close.

Our slumber party at the airport was another story. It started off with a satisfying Ritz cracker binge and then took a turn for the worse. We naively decided to go to a warmer empty area of Bergamo airport to have our three hour sleep. By sleep I mean nap.

I woke up to Marah freaking out “He touched me!” and looking up to see a guy in my face as well trying to grab my hat. I cursed at him, and he spat out everything from “F$%# Italy” to “I love you”. We moved immediately to the safer sleeping area abundant with other devoted discount travelers. Needless to say though, I kept on the lookout for more weirdos until my eyelids became unwillingly weighed down like an Italian mob victim in cement shoes.

Apart from the scary passengers, our discount airline Ryan Air wasn’t so bad. We were expecting poor service and quality, and we were paranoid about getting ripped off. We took precautions and followed the luggage restrictions a little safer than necessary and had our boarding passes preprinted. The only real problem we had was the shuttle buses that we hadn’t anticipated on taking. The flights fly in and out of distant airports, so it’s necessary to take shuttle buses on both ends, both directions. It added not only unexpected costs to our too good to be true 50 Euro flight, but time that we could have spent in Paris.

We arrived at our hostel that Friday morning exhausted. We were surprised to find that we had to check in with a bartender as opposed to the more common receptionist at a desk. Our hostel fittingly called “Peace and Love Hostel” consisted of a bar and rooms above it. I got a “Cheers” vibe from it when our friendly bartenders gave us free shots/beer and great travelling tips over the course of the weekend. One even looked out for us when creepers hit on a couple of the girls and advised us not to go to the Red Light District after dark (being young girls). Gotta love hippy love! I later noticed that the unique hostel is listed in my Lonely Planet book, so my faith in my travel companion continues to grow.

After checking in, we set off on foot in Paris. The first thing I noticed were the old fashioned signs that adorn the streets. I always loved that style, and I didn’t realize that it has been preserved so well in Paris. We wandered to a not so authentic Mexican restaurant. We were only disappointed until we found our second Starbucks in Europe. Oh hail globalization. Starbucks is very consistent and charges the same price all around the world – too bad 4.70 for a Vanilla Latte in Euros is NOT the same as 4.70 in Canadian dollars. I still feel that the value was there.

With warm fuzzy feelings from Starbucks, we started our Parisian tour at the Cathedrale de Notre Dame de Paris. We couldn’t find it at first as everything is very spread out and equally as beautiful in the “City of Lights”. We ended up at a church near the Louvre, and it seemed I had overestimated the size of the church, but it was very beautiful. After taking a million photos of it, we realized it was the wrong church – go figure.

After our second attempt, we were sure we were in the right place by the amount of tourists and people trying to take advantage of the tourists. Real gypsies filtered through the courtyard of Notre Dame, and a man dressed up as a “Hunchback” stood in front taking donations for photographs with him. Esmeralda was nowhere to be seen. The church had free entry which pleasantly surprised me. I always think to myself, donations sure, but admission to a church? It’s not a circus!

Candle light created an ambience throughout the whole church. It was difficult to take photos, but it seemed degrading anyway. My favourite part of the church was the ceiling. It arched with a crisscrossing detail that can only be seen to understand. The stained glass windows were impressively large and high up. The detail in the whole church was captivating from the outside to the inside, from the entrance to the baseboards. The atmosphere of the church was peaceful and calming, and I could feel why it is so famous. I did however have a stray thought of a boy throwing a baseball through one of the beautiful windows. I quickly dismissed it, but it could happen!

We left before I was struck by lightning. We walked for at least an hour in suspense to find the Tour Eiffel. At first sight of it, I couldn’t stop thinking about a quote from my Lonely Planet guide book “Parisians sometimes snidely refer to it as the metal asparagus…” It really does look like it from far away!

As anticlimactic as it seemed on the journey toward it, I was blown away by the Eiffel Tower up close. I guess if you looked at Brad Pitt from far away he wouldn’t seem overly special. The beauty is in the presence. We timed our elevator ride to the top perfectly. It was a gorgeous day around 5 pm. I signed my name on a billboard at midway point. I’ve never seen a view like that, but to be honest, it made my stomach flip. If people were made to be up that high, we would have wings. Whether it be evolution or God-given, we would have wings!
I digress. We took photos around the Eiffel tower at dusk. We were excited to take photos of us jumping, until I found out that I am the worst jumper in the world. “Lift your legs and you don’t even have to jump high” advised Jesann. I swear that I was, but the photos don’t lie.

The last view of the Eiffel Tower we had was it orange and twinkling in the dark like a sparkler on the 4th of July. I’ll never forget that.

That night we enjoyed some French cuisine and went to bed early. After at least 8 hours of exploring Paris on foot with four hours of sleep on an airport floor, bus, and airplane, 6 hours of travel, we were done! We had one beer in the hostel bar and called it a night.

We all slept like babies. We woke up to rain, but we didn’t mind because we had planned to go to the Louvre. We stood in line for what seemed like forever, but as a consolation we got in for free for being EU Students! I was so thankful I had brought my Cattolica student card. The museum was huge. You go downstairs and are covered in the famous glass pyramid. It is neat because it illuminates the whole inside lobby. Divided into five areas, we easily got lost in a mere two of them.

The Mona Lisa was way smaller than I thought. Though come to think of it, I do remember hearing that before. She was adored from afar behind glass in a roped off area, and I wondered if Leonardo Da Vinci ever knew she would be so lonely. We saw Egyptian artifacts, paintings, sculptures, Napoleon’s apartment, and the Venus de Milo. Although I may not have understood where most of the artists were coming from, or possess any talent comparable, I got a real natural high just sensing the passion throughout the museum. It was a wonderful experience.

After the Louvre, we walked through the Jardin de Tuileries. They weren’t nearly as beautiful on a rainy day as they could have been. The fall leaves did enhance the experience though. We explored the elegance of Champs Elyse, and envied the Louis Vuiton manikins. The Arch de Triomph was beautiful at the end of the road.

Before dark, we ventured to the Red Light District. The atmosphere is so different from the rest of Paris. First of all, there is porn everywhere. There are naked statues, posters, even a sex museum that had a chair with revolving tongues in the window. People look at you differently, everything. I forgot it all though once I saw the Moulin Rouge- one of my favourite movies that managed to make a brothel seem glamorous. I didn’t get quite the same feel as I did from Ewan McGregar, but I loved it! The bright lights were so stunning with the windmill. I wish I could have seen a cabaret show, but they were 90 Euros. The Moulin Rouge was one of the things I really wanted to see on my “To Do” list, so it seemed surreal to me.

That evening we had the perfect dinner with wine, escargot, and French onion soup. The escargot literally came in the shell. I was nervous! It was delicious though, and Elysha and I wanted more! It was difficult to get them out of the shell. I was worried I’d pull a Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman” and flick it across the room, so our waiter agreed to lend a hand.

We partied in our hostel on our last night. We played giant drinking Jenga, and I was stoked that there was a block designated to “Canada Drink”. We ordered a tower of beer and spilled it all over each other. The bartender must have taken pity on us because he gave us free beer and shots the rest of the night.

Getting up to leave at 4 am was not fun. To get home we had to go through the woods, swim the ocean, climb the hills, under the bridge, through the valley, etc. No haha, but we did have to: take a taxi at 4, a shuttle at 5:30, a plane at 8, another shuttle at 10, a metro at 11:30, and our tram home by 12:30. What a journey. We made it home though fluently by 5 different forms of transportation. The Ryan Air experience in a nutshell.

I loved Paris! I wish we could have stayed for so much longer! Honestly, I would have preferred to study abroad there, but I knew that from the beginning. If only Mrs. McDonald, my 9th grade French teacher didn’t ruin my passion for learning the language, I may have done it. It’s funny how things work out that way.

I hope that this blog can be proof that Paris is amazing! I don’t know why I’ve heard “It’s dirty”, “the people are snobby”, etc., but let this be a testament to how wrong they are. One guy even gave Jesann his broken umbrella while we stood in line for the Louvre because she didn’t have one! I would go back in a heartbeat, and I’m going to bust out a cliché in protest of the anti-Parisians…“J’adore Paris!!!”

Miss you guys,
Love Jess

Posted by jwinitaly 17:13 Comments (0)

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