Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Monday, April 27, 2009
Hi guys! So I know I'm running a little late... very very late, but I still want to tell you guys all about Paris, and about my past weekend. I realize I'm not putting in enough day-to-day details, either. I'm a bad blogger : ( I went to Paris last weekend because I received a cash voucher from the airline I flew with from Frankfurt to Florence back in January, since I had to switch flights (mine was overbooked). So, I had 175 extra euros, which I used to pay for the entire flight, luckily. The unlucky part was that none of my roommates had the extra cash lying around, or had other plans for the weekend. Soooo since I wanted to go to Paris since French class in junior high, I decided to just go for it by myself! I was a little nervous, but it turned out fine, so in the end, I was actually pretty pleased with myself. I planned the entire trip, booked two different hostels, made thorough itineraries for each day (I flew out of Florence on a Wednesday, skipped my Thursday class, and flew back Monday morning... necessitating 5 nights), navigated the metro system, and managed not to spend an obscene amount of money. My first day was a travel day, since I had a layover in Munich, and I didn't get in til late. The next morning I had to walk to my next hostel, which was pretty confusing to get to. Walking the back streets of Montmartre was interesting, though, and I got there in about half an hour. The hostel was nice. There was a view of the Sacre Coeur from the terrace, which was right outside my room. The first night, my roommates were two older men who didn't speak English. But whatever. The first day, I forced myself to wake up at around 8 (quite early by my standards), had to go seek out a hardware store so I can get another damn converter (the italian one didn’t work), and ate free hostel breakfast consisting of coffee, apple juice (jus de pomme), and a single croissant. Then I had to pack up and navigate the streets to find my next hostel. After that, I got dressed and made my way a few blocks uphill to the Sacre-Coeur, a big white basilica on the top of
Montmartre (the village area of Paris I'm staying in) Hill. It was pretty. Then I walked down to the metro, bought a pack of tickets, and made my way (pretty
impressively skillfully) to the place I wanted to go.
Anyways, then I was at the Place de la Concorde, which led me into the Jardin des Tuileries, a garden/park that was pretty at one end and not so pretty at the other. I came out at the not-so-pretty end and was kinda underwhelmed but that was ok cause I was hungry and looking for food. After that I found the Musee l'Orangerie, which is kinda tucked away in the gardens. I LOVVVEEED the museum! They had tons of Impressionist stuff, some early Picasso, Renoir, Matisse, Cezanne, etc. There was a Paul Guillame room that was all miniature representations of his apartments in Paris and his art collections, which was cool to me and
kinda nostalgic cause of my dollhouse : ) I’ll have to show you guys the pics. Then - the Monet waterlilies! Sooo amazing! Words can't describe. They are HUGE first of all (like 30-40 feet long maybe 10 feet tall) and I've loved Monet since I was a kid so it was really cool to see. After that I meandered along the Seine until I got to the pretty part of the Jardins, walked through those, and turned onto the Champs-Elysees, which was packed with people and really wide and busy and not as pretty as I thought it would be. It was about a 20 min walk down that street to the Arc de Triomphe, which was included in my fancy "museum pass" I bought for 48 euros for 4 days so I got to climb that and from the top there were really pretty views. That was about all that was on my itinerary so I took the metro to the grocery store and then home, cooked
dinner in the hostel kitchen, and sat on the terrace and read some more. I decided on Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast”, his memoirs from when he lived in Paris in his 20s. I ended up meeting this guy who's also traveling alone, also from the Bay Area (Marin). I chatted with him and this guy from Indiana for a while and then went to bed early. So. Boring details- I woke up early and got on the metro to the Ile de la Cite, a big island in the center of the Seine, the river that runs through the middle of the city. From there I used my handy museum pass to get into the Conciergerie (French castle from like the 1100s to 1400s and then used as a prison... Marie Antoinette was held there before she was executed... I saw her cell) the Sainte-Chappelle (pretty huge stained glass windows), and the Notre-Dame, all of which are on the island. I got into the building part of the Notre-Dame fine, which was lucky cause the line was huge but I snuck in. hehe. Then I had to go out the side door to stand in line to climb the bell tower (you know Quasimodo and all that Victor Huge stuff) and the line for that was fat too but I couldnt cut : ( Anyways I got in ok and saw the bell tower, the gargoyles, and went up to the top and all that. After the Notre-Dame I went and got lunch and took it down to the bank of the river to eat.
Have you seen Ratatouille? I was reminded of that movie when they're running along the river. It looked like that. Then, I walked through the Sain-Germain neghborhood (cute, artsy, small streets) to the Jardins du Luxembourg and the Luxembourg Palace. I wandered around in there for a while, and actually got up the nerve to ask someone to take a solo pic of me (my first of the trip) but she pushed the power button instead of the take a picture button. I figured that was a sign that it wasn't meant to be. Then I walked back through the St-Germain and kinda into the Latin Quarter and tried to search out a cheap-looking cafe to sit at. In FLorence if you pick one of the cafes on the famous piazzas or that look super nice they don't have menus (or if they do no prices... and you end up paying an exorbitant amount for anything). I was nervous the same thing would happen here so I went to the trouble of walking to a remote area and finding a place that didn't look that nice. Get the check for my cappucino... 5 euros. SO frustrating when I'm cooking dinner at my hostel every night to save money. After the stupid cappucino (I did sit and read at the café for like an hour... LOVE love love Hemingway.) I walked to the Montparnasse district and to this business tower there that's super tall and you can go the top (museum pass!) and it has pretty views of the city. I wanted to see it all lit up though so I killed more time walking through the mall (for once I didn't even want to buy anything) and then sitting and reading in the waiting room until it was dark, which wasn't til like 8:45. By then I went up to the top, snapped some pictures, etc. It really was gorgeous and the sunset was pink over the dark almost black cityscape and the Eiffel tower was all lit up... I tried to stay up there longer but it was late and I was starving and my feet were so tired from all the walking and I was tired from being out since like 9:30 am. So I hopped on the metro, went to the store, and home to immediately eat. My current roommates (a young Italian couple from Rome) wanted me to go out with them which was nice but I was just sooo tired. The next day, it rained, and I took the metro to the Eiffel Tower. I didn’t end up climbing it, cause it was pretty expensive and the lines were so long, plus I figured I had seen the views from the Arc de Triomphe, the Notre Dame, and the Tour Montparnasse, and the view from the Eiffel wouldn’t have the tower in it, obviously, so I skipped it. Then I walked to the the Musee D’Orsay, which was reallyyyy cool. So much neat stuff. They had Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Monet, all kinds of modern art… it turned out to be way too big for me to see everything in one day. I was tired, and lonely, I think, so I left after a couple hours and got some food. Then I walked around for a bit, headed back to the hostel, and took a nap. The Italian couple invited me out to dinner with them, and with our new roommate, a guy traveling alone from Canada, but I already had food to make for dinner, so I said I would meet them out. I took the metro by myself, which was interesting, but it was pretty easy to meet them. We went out in the Latin Quarter, which was packed with people and bars and restaurants and was really interesting. At one point, we accidentally ended up in a male strip club, and I also tried absinthe, which was lit on fire… woo! It was really fun, and the couple was so nice. The next day we all went to the Versailles Palace and gardens together, which were AMAZING. I’ve been here for so long that it takes something really cool to blow me away again, and the gardens did. They were so huge, and gorgeous, with such cool little fountains and statues hidden around every corner. We ended up exploring those gardens for a couple hours all in all. Then we toured the castle, which would have been 25 euros without my pass, so that was nice. We had to take a local train there, but that was interesting too. Then I went back and packed, cooked dinner, said goodnight to the couple, and finished my second book (Zodiac) and started in on the third I brought. Then I had to wake up at 4 am to fly back! All in all, it was really relaxing to walk around by myself and do exactly what I wanted to do for the whole weekend. I was glad I met the Italian couple, though, because I started to crave company. I flew in on Monday, had a great week in Florence, and left on Thursday night for the Amalfi Coast. More to come! Plus pictures! I LOVE you guys!
Monday, April 6, 2009
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Cinque Terre - mom and dad, I really want to bring you guys here if you come- inlet on the Adriatic (?) with 5 tiny tiny towns all together, separated by a mile or 2 of coast in between. We arrived super early on friday in the town our hostel was in, Riomaggiore, and explored there for a while. We ended up just taking this little path we found up a hill through all this country - vineyards, flowers, tiny little whitewashed houses... basically everything you would imagine from the seaside in like Greece it was GORGEOUS. And it was the most beautiful day. Not a cloud in the sky. We took the path up for about a half hour before we got to a main road. We hiked down that for a while and got the most breathtaking views of the coastline from up high. Then we followed that road down back into town, got some focaccia ...mine had tomatoes, garlic, cheese, and fresh caught ANCHOVIES: I usually hate them, but tried it, and it was really good. Then we hiked down the "via dell'amore" (lover's walk) along the coast for about a half hour to the next town, Manarola. The walk was right by the water and paved, and graffiti'd all the way down with peoples names and stuff. From Manarola we walked around for a bit, watched the sun set over the beach, and walked back to Riomaggiore. We got dinner there for a "fixed price" of 15 euro for a first course, second course, water (which you always have to pay for here at restaurants) and wine. I got gnocchi with pesto and then sausage with cheese and potatoes. REALLL healthy. We stayed super late at dinner watching this bizarre Italian "American Idol"-style show but with old people (??) and then by the time we were done it was 10, so we walked to the "bar centrale" and and it was CLOSED. Haha! Apparently it isnt tourist season. So we just called it a night. Saturday we got up and took the local train to the 4th town, Vernazza. The 3rd 4th and 5th towns are all pretty far from each other and we had heard the 3rd town is small and nothing really to see so we just skipped it. The 4thn town, Vernazza, was bigger than any yet and more touristy. The hiking trail between it and the last town was closed cause of a landslide (boo) so we decided to brave the hike that goes up into the hills and back down into the next town. It took no less than 5 hours... but it was sooo pretty and it felt good to get the super hard exercise. Most of it was uphill. But we got so high up that the views of the ocean were really cool. We actually stumbled across 2 hidden-away churches along the way, too. One of them was way cool cause it was a convent in the middle of nowhere. I wanted to take a picture of the nuns but didnt want to be uber-rude and American. It was cool though. We got to the last town, Monterosso-al-Mare, by the time the sun had gone down. We walked on its beach for a while and werent that hungry so went to get an apertif (this great European concept where if you buy a pre-dinner drink they offer you a huge buffet of appetizers/dishes -our favorite aperitivo spot is at Piazza
Beccaria, right by our apartment, and it has really good pastas and vegetable dishes... mmm.
And you can load up your plate... amazing). We went into this little hole in the wall that was a wine shop too and this older guy came up to us and started chatting with us immediately (he was the owner... everyone is WAY more hospitable here than in America. its unreal.) He offered us a wine tasting of the special white wines only made in Cinque Terre with appetizers. He gave us each 4 glasses of different wine to try (all AMAZING, I usually don't like white wine but this was really good)
then came back and was all,. "which was your favorite"? So we told him and he brought us a free bottle of that. Then he brought us a free bottle of red. BASICALLY... by the time dinner rolled around we were pretty tipsy. None of us had had lunch and we had been hiking allll day. We looked like absolute crap, sitting there in this super nice little wine bar, and befriended ALL the old men in the room and had them laughing at us. SO much fun. The guy told us to look for him at the bar after dinner, so we left and made asses of ourselves at dinner, of course, and scarfed our food. So that was my weekend there in a nutshell.
This past weekend, my friend Nancy from high school visited me from Modena, a small town about an hour away. She studied in Milan last semester, and liked Italy so much she decided to stay on and get a job! She's currently an au pair.
First off, Friday i don't have class, so i went to Siena with Carrie and just explored. You take like an hour and a half bus through the country and get there and walk around... there wasn't that much to see, just a really cute central piazza with like a bowl shape, a palace, a duomo, a couple churches, some pretty views of the hillside... super cute little town. Very rustic and pretty. You're supposed to try the wild boar when you're there (its apparently their specialty. I didnt even know those things still existed) but i was too big of a pansy. Nonetheless a good day. When I got back, Nancy's train was arriving in half an hour, so
I waited at the train station. I was soooo excited to see her and it was fun catching up on the walk home and stuff. Going out that night, we asked this young Italian couple where a club was... Nancy made fun of my Italian... the girl seems like she knows where it is and motions for us to come with her. So next thing we know its me Carrie and Nancy only and we're walking like 10 feet behind them, and its been like 25 minutes, the girl keeps glancing back at us, and we realize we're walking in circles. We'd been so caught up in conversation that we didnt realize. Then this crowd of people kinda came between us and them and they start running away! They thought we were stalking them! So then we gave up and went to the secret bakery. Have i told you about that? Its a florence legend. Its this place that's only open from like 1 to 5 am. They make pastries and pizza and it is sooo fresh made and always warm and delicioso. BUT it's a secret location! You have to find it! (our first time, we had the guys we were with show us where, so we cheated). You can smell it from about 2 "blocks" away. i say :blocks" cause its like tucked in a little alleyway. Its an unmarked door, you knock, they let you in, you order, and you have to leave. And if you're too loud outside, they won't let you in. That happened to us our first time there cause those guys were kind of drunk. You could hear people talking quietly inside and the machines going but they didnt open the door! We went back the next night and pronto! hehe. Nance was so impressed. The next day i did all the things she wanted to do. She's been to Florence a couple times before so of course we had to hit up the outdoor market, her fave gelato spot (also mine, and hands down the best - "Grom"), and we wrote a postcard for Sally (a friend of mine from high school, and Nancy's roommate in San Diego, where they go to school. Mom is friends with Sally's mom... they are in the same book club - nerds!) Then we decided to do the top of the duomo. It costs 8 euros and so I was waiting for an opportune moment cause its not like I can afford to just do it whenever but we went for it, you climb up a stone staircase, very cool and old, narrow and twisty, for a while (like 500 steps) and get to see the inside of the dome (very pretty, huge and painted with a big fresco of heaven and hell) and then you get to the top and you're outside on top of the dome! Panoramic views of the city all around! It was the nicest weather we've had so far, maybe 60 outside and sunny, and it was gorgeouuussss. So saturday night we wanted to try this place my friend Kelli reccommended called Dante's, which was a pretty far walk but apparently gives students all you can drink wine. AND THEY DID! Nancy me Erin Carrie and Erins friend Jen who was visiting from Barcelona had an amazing dinner and wine, and then Tiramisu. So good! I'm already addicted to Tiramisu. We were eating in the downstairs floor of this restaurant having a pretty late dinner and a pretty long one and eventually we were the last ones down there and the restaurant owner comes down and starts making friends with us! I love it, Italian bar and restaurant owners LOOVVE americans and always give us free stuff. So he brings us down a pitcher of "Limoncello" this Italian liqueur thats made with lemons that they love here, youre supposed to take some of it between courses to cleanse your pallate. So then the guy leaves and goes upstairs... and puts on rap on the entire lower floor. The restaurant was still busy upstairs but he shut off the lower floor for us! Next thing we know we're having a little dance party!
He brought us free hats too! baseball caps that say Dante's.
It was a fun dinner, and really fun to see Nancy. She left in the morning.
So there's an update for ya! I'm very very excited about my trip to Germany. We're visiting
the castle that Disney used as a model for his. We have to hike through the snowy Alps to get there. We're getting to go to 3 other castles, too. It's supposed to snow all weekend! And the tour guide man (very nice old German man) said we can even stop in Salzburg, in Austria, for a few hours on the way back. None of us were expecting that and it's gonna be so cool. I've heard it's beautiful. I'll definitely put pictures up next week, cause I'm getting tired now and have to wake up early. Sorry about the weird formatting. I don't know how to get it to stop.
Ciao a tutti! Look in your mailboxes for postcards! : )