Rainy Days in Venice

Italy part 3: Rainy days in Venice

Hey Everyone, sorry for the delay! Writing blogs while simultaneously getting ready for Christmas and New Years wasn’t easy. Anyways, here’s the final section to the Italian chapter of my semi-recent Europe adventure…Enjoy!

After missing our train to Florence, we made sure to get to the station with plenty of time to catch our train to Venice. We got there on time and boarded the the train, but one of us must have pissed off the transportation gods, because the train was delayed and got to Venice 90 minutes late. Thank goodness Catey, who was in charge of organizing Venice, hadn’t made any plans until later that evening. We tried to get some compensation from the train company (TrenItalia) but they only offered us a 25% discount on our next train ticket (so basically tourists are very easily screwed over).

Despite that slight annoyance, our first evening in Venice was very nice. The weather was cold but sunny. After checking into the hostel, we grabbed a quick, fried lunch (very american as a matter of fact), and explored the city for awhile. Venice is quite a cute little place. It reminds me of a maze, but instead of hedges everywhere, there are canals. It would be the perfect place for a city-wide game of tag, which, incidentally has been a childhood dream of mine (any city will do really, I just want it to happen).

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PC: Mary

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Accepting my Dad’s scavenger-hunt challenge and finding the places he visited when he was in Venice

That night Catey had bought us tickets for a gondola ride. It took us awhile to find the place because google maps kept malfunctioning as we walked through the narrow streets. When we finally found the booking office, we joined a group of six for a nice gondola ride along the canals. The ride was pretty fast and our gondolier was very silent, but I throughly enjoyed it. Gliding silently along the canals made me feel like a spy on a mission or something. Mary, on the other hand, who was sitting right next to me, was not happy about being so close to the water (apparently she had had bad experiences with sail boats). However, she made it through the ordeal with her dignity intact for the most part (hey, the dismount was hard for everybody) and we said goodbye to our fellow gondola riders. Night had fallen by the time we finished our ride, but the church mass we were planning on attending hadn’t quite started yet. In order to kill some time, we explored St. Mark’s Plaza. There were a lot of people in the plaza as well as a lot of pigeons even during the night. Several people in the square had handfuls of grain and were offering tourists the chance to feed the pigeons (as long as the tourists paid of course), which I found to be slightly ridiculous as you can feed pigeons with just about anything, not just special ‘pigeon grain’ (they’re not particularly picky eaters).

 

 

(sorry for the poor quality, my phone’s a little challenged at times).

At around 6:00, we headed to mass at a small church called San Zaccaria’s. Now, let me just say this, although I am, technically-speaking, Catholic, I never really made much of an effort to go to mass while traveling. So, when Mary became one of my primary travel buddies, I was a tad apprehensive about the whole hassle of finding different masses and churches and then actually attending. But I am so grateful that we did (thanks Mary!). I saw so many breath-taking churches and cathedrals that I never would have otherwise seen, not to mention the fact that I got to hear sermons in entirely different languages. So, a bit of advice? Don’t rule out attending a mass while traveling around new places. Even if you’re not really religious, you will see and hear some pretty cool things, plus it’s free!

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San Zaccaria’s PC: Mary

After mass, we had some dinner at a restaurant that had successfully lured us in while we were on our way back to the hostel. I had the cheapest thing on the not-cheap menu, which happened to be a margarita pizza, and a glass of very expensive water. The food was good, but not great, which, for the most part, was all the food we experienced in Venice—expensive and ‘meh.’ After dinner, we headed back to the hostel, stopping on the way to pick out some candy at a very hip and yet very overpriced candy shop.

The next morning, the weather was not good. It was raining and cold and it didn’t help that our room’s heat had turned off throughout the night which meant getting out from under the covers took way more will power than it should have.

After grabbing breakfast, we took a quick peak at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco and then headed to the Galleria della Academia. When we were buying the tickets, the nice man behind the counter gave us the E.U. student discount even though we told him we were from the U.S. which brought the tickets down from 12 euros to 7 (Gotta love nice people!). There was a lot of nice artwork and in each room there were little computer screens where you could read the history behind a certain painting.

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Young Mary being presented at the temple

After leaving the museum, we walked around looking for a place to eat lunch. It was raining and cold so when we finally found a place that wasn’t out of our budget, we grabbed the last table and sat down even though there weren’t enough chairs. The waitress brought us an extra chair and we had a decent lunch, although I will say I was getting rather sick of eating pizza (always the cheapest thing not the menu).

Our next stop was St. Mark’s Basilica. It was very beautiful but extremely crowded. Furthermore, because it was so grey and cloudy outside, there was hardly any light coming through the windows which made it very hard to see the beautiful ceiling of the basilica. 39016505152_35f5436eac_o (1).jpg

We spent a good couple of hours exploring the Basilica (I highly recommend going up to the upper balconies! The stairs are near the exit and it costs about 5 euros, but it is definitely worth it). As we were leaving, I noticed a flyer that said there was an organ concert later that evening, so we decided to see the Duke’s Palace and then head back for the concert. It’s actually quite remarkable that I noticed the flyer at all, because by this time, I had somehow managed to lose one of my contact lenses. Now I have absolutely horrible eyesight, like really bad (all my fellow near-sighted buddies know what I’m talking about). So I had to keep one of my contacts in so I could see where I was going. Unfortunately, this led to a very skewed depth perception that made my head hurt quite a bit. Moral of the story? Either keep an extra contact lens or glasses with you at all times or don’t rub your eye vigorously while wearing contacts.

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Catey’s selfie stick comes in clutch at the top of the Basilica

Unfortunately, the Duke’s Palace closed earlier than Catey had originally thought, so we simply spent the time getting an espresso and, in my case, a gelato. At five o’clock we headed to the organ concert. It was a good thing that we went to the concert, because the lights in the basilica had been turned on and we could finally see its beautifully detailed ceiling. I was so tired that I fell asleep during the concert.

Since the weather was pretty bad, and I was falling asleep on my feet, we decided to grab a quick dinner at a self-serve deli that Catey had found which had pretty decent prices and then headed back to the hostel. I went to bed almost immediately, while Mary- bless her heart- talked to the hostel owner about our lack of heat and finally got it fixed.

The next morning we had a flight to Barcelona at 10:00, so we woke up pretty early (quick shoutout to the random guy we were sharing out hostel room with– he very kindly turned on the lights to make it easier for us to pack and didn’t complain that we had woken him up so early). We made our way to the Venice bus station, munching on croissants we had bought the night before. We made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare and said goodbye to Venice and hello to Barcelona.

Although we were by no means done traveling, this brought us to the end of our Great Italian Adventure and I am so grateful and happy that I got to be a part of it.

Happy New Years Everyone!

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Sunsets in Florence

Italy part 2: Sunsets in Florence

My first memory of Florence is a rather hazy, golden dream. I remember that when my family got there I was exhausted, but that stepping out into the pink and gold tinged streets of the city gave me new life. At some point in the evening, I remember that we stumbled upon an orchestra performing near the Ponte Vecchio and I knew that I had fallen head over heels in love with the city. Several days later, as my family’s time in Florence was coming to an end, I made sure to rub the nose of the Bronze Boar statue which, according to legend, guarantees your return. Four years later, I proved the legend right as I have come back, only this time sharing the adventure with two friends.

I was determined to make this year’s Florence experience as magical for Mary and Catey as my first visit had been for me. Unfortunately, the trip didn’t get off to a great start. As I mentioned my last blog, we missed our train from Rome to Florence. Thus, we had to buy second-class tickets for a three hour train ride and, to make matters worse, we actually ending up getting off at the wrong stop and had to catch another train ten minutes later. All of this resulted in us getting to Florence very late and eating a dinner that was good but way overpriced. So…not really the magical first day I had envisioned. But I shouldn’t have worried too much, because the next day was almost as perfect as I was hoping for.

The next morning we had a delicious and cheap breakfast at a little cafe called ‘Caffe Rosano” (a croissant and a freshly squeezed o.j. for 4.5 euros). Then we headed to the Galleria Academia to pay a visit to Michelangelo’s David. I had bought tickets before hand so we had to get there a little early to exchange our vouchers for the tickets.

The gallery is, in my opinion, the perfect size for a museum. It only takes about an hour and a half to see everything and, especially with the David, you feel like you get your money’s worth. The David is very impressive (I think Catey might be in love). The details in just the hands of the David are absolutely incredible, you can even see the veins. Definitely a ‘must-see’ of you get the opportunity.
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Quick note: Seeing the David during the off-season was actually a lot better than seeing it during the summer, because in the summer the museum is extremely crowded.

After our wanderings through the museum, we got a quick sandwich to go at a little shop called ‘Sandwichic.’ The guys behind the counter were super helpful and gave us each a button for good luck as we left. The sandwiches were absolutely delicious and we ate them on the curb of the Piazza Della Signoria while fending off pigeons.

After lunch, we made a quick stop at the Ponte Vecchio, took some lovely photos and headed to the Pitti Palace. I had only given us two and a half hours for the entire palace, because I forgot how large it really is. Unfortunately, even with the Museum of Fashion and Costume closed, we didn’t see everything. I had originally planned to take a quick tour of the Boboli gardens, but both Mary and Catey were pretty tired so we headed to a coffee shop instead. After being reinvigorated with caffeine, we headed to the Piazza Michelangelo to watch the sunset. Now, I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but watching the sunset from that hill was a great idea. The entire city of Florence turned gold and pink in the sunset and right behind us a street musician played beautiful songs on his guitar. We even saw a professional model shoot happen right below us. I felt the same magically beauty that had originally made me love Florence, and this time Catey and Mary could experience it as well.
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The Ponte Vecchio

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Pc: Mary

After climbing down from Piazza Michelangelo, we headed to the Santa Croce where both Michelangelo and Galileo are buried. Unfortunately, the church was closed by the time we got there, so we spent the evening exploring the Christmas market nearby. For dinner, we headed to a restaurant named ‘La Fettunta.’ I split a lasagna and an eggplant parmesan with Catey. Both were absolutely scrumptious. After dinner, we headed to a nearby gelato shop to meet up with an old friend of mine from Denmark named Natascha, who just happened to be studying in Florence when we were there. The gelato was pretty subpar for the normally delicious florintine gelato, but sitting in a warm room, surrounded by friends and catching up is always a nice way to spend an evening.

The next day, didn’t go as smoothly as I had planned unfortunately. I had bought tickets for us to se Il Duomo at 10:00. They were supposed to be ‘skip the line’ tickets, but we ended up standing in line for about half an hour anyways. As we were nearing the front of the queue, I noticed that some people with tickets that looked similar to ours were being turned away. I asked the couple in front of us what was going on and they told me that not only did you need a ticket, but you needed a reservation as well. I was pretty confused because I had bought the tickets for a specific time, and had the physical copies of the tickets with me. But when I showed them to the security guy, he told me that because we didn’t have reservation we couldn’t enter. I was starting to get a little frustrated by this point, but we made our way to the ticket office in the museum to figure out the problem. It turns out the company I bought the tickets from sent me an email with two separate links–one for the tickets and one for the reservation–and wrote that I only needed to print one or the other to enter, when in reality, I needed both. After figuring out the problem we went back to the guard and he finally let us into Il Duomo. The moral of the story kids–always print out every link from a ticket website because it’s better to be safe than sorry.

I forgot how long the climb is to the top of Il Duomo and Catey and Mary were pretty tired of stairs by the time we got to the roof. The view, however is definitely worth the climb. 24993194_1141385252658950_1572070914499339006_n.jpg

After walking around the Duomo museum for awhile we met up with Natascha had an amazing lunch at Toscini Panini (6€). If you get the opportunity definitely eat there! You’re allowed to sample all the different meats and cheeses before choosing the ingredients for your sandwich and all the employees are very nice.

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Right after eating a delicious sandwich, I felt the overwhelming desire to hug my Danish friend, a.k.a. Natascha

After lunch, we grabbed a quick gelato (Florence gelato is the best), and headed to the Uffizi gallery to spend the afternoon looking at art. Unfortunately, there was another mix up with the tickets (although this time it was entirely my fault). Somehow I had bought tickets for the 5th and the 7th but not the 6th, which was the correct date. So yeah…another piece of advice would be to always triple check your ticket dates before buying them. I bought some more tickets and we headed inside. The museum itself is quite large and beautiful. We saw Botticelli’s ‘Venus’ and many other stunning paintings, but unfortunately I think we were rather museumed-out by the end.

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We left a little earlier than planned and headed to the laundry mat to wash our clothes. For dinner, we headed to a small, Chinese-food restaurant. We had all been craving Chinese food because, as good as Asturian food is back in Oviedo, they don’t have a lot of good international restaurants. Thus, we ended our final night in Florence eating delicious fried rice, spring rolls, and in my case, sweet and sour chicken.

The next morning, we got to the train station extra early to make sure we didn’t miss our train this time. It was hard to say goodbye to Florence yet again, but I know I’ll be back because I paid a dear old friend a visit.

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Our Roman Holiday

Italy part 1: Our Roman Holiday

As some famous opera composer named Verdi once said, ‘You may have the universe, if I may have Italy.’ While I personally might not go that far, I can entirely understand his reasoning. There is an endless beauty and magic to be found within that little boot and I have been lucky enough to visit it twice now.
My first encounter with lovely Italy was four years ago with my family. It was ‘the big family vaca’ and we spent a summer traveling all over Europe. This time, my travel companions are two college friends who are also studying abroad in Spain. We decided to take a small break from studying Spanish and head to the land of pasta, pizza and gelato for a week. We split the trip into three main sections-Rome, Florence and Venice (each city will have its own blog post) – with each of us taking a different city to plan. Our first stop was Rome.

Rome. Just the word itself invokes feelings of grandeur. Walking through the city, I’m constantly reminded of Rome’s ancient power and splendor (of course, it probably helps that I just watched Gladiator- are you not entertained!?).
Mary was in charge of Rome and had planned for us to see the following sites: The Vatican museum, the National Roman Museum (a.k.a. the cat museum-I’ll explain shortly), St. Peter’s Basilica, The Pantheon and Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, The Roman Forum and, of course, the Colosseum. To keep this blog post on the relatively short side, I’m going to do what I have done in previous posts, and only write tiny reviews and summaries of the biggest, most famous places we visited. Like last time, Mary’s blog has a more day-by-day blow of accounts, so I’ll put a link to her story below.

The Vatican Museum:
We started off our Roman Holiday with a trip to the good ole Vatican Museums. I had previously visited the museums with my family so it was rather fun to see how much of it I could remember (almost everything except the Egyptian room was the same). This time, right before leaving, we had just finished talking about Dali and Picasso in my art class. The amount of art those museums hold is astounding, so I had completely forgotten that some of Picasso and Dali’s work is in the museum. It was very interesting to revisit and take a closer look at their art.
After making our way through the numerous rooms (the map room is my favorite), we finally made it to the Sistine Chapel. Now, I’m going to be honest here, the Sistine Chapel isn’t my favorite. It’s generally very crowded, and there’s a constant call of ‘no photos, no photos’. The chapel itself is fine, in fact the main image is quite beautiful and if I hadn’t seen it before, both in person and in photographs, I might be more impressed, but I find Michelangelo’s other works such as the David and the Pietà to be much more moving and beautiful.

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The map room. Pc: Mary (if the Pc is Mary, you can see the picture on her flicker)

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The staircase in the Vatican Museum. Hey–it’s cool, ok? PC: Mary

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Forlorn Statue that reminded me of Gulliver’s travels

Quick note: There wasn’t any long lines to get into the museums because we went during the off-season, but it’s always a good idea to buy tickets ahead of time.

 

The National Roman Museum:
After eating a delicious lunch, we took a train to the Palazzo Massimo (also called the National Roman Museum). I hadn’t gone to this museum with my family, so I didn’t really know what to expect. The tickets were €7 which I think was a fair price. In the Palazzo Massimo itself we saw Roman statues, jewelry, a mummy, and a rather extensive Roman coin collection.
Afterwards, we headed to the Baths of Diocletian, a different branch of the museum right across the street. It was here that we met the ghost cat, or what we originally thought was a ghost cat. Here’s the whole story; as we were watching a film about Roman baths, Catey spotted a cat lying on the lap of the lady in front of us. I thought it was rather odd that someone would take a cat to a museum, but I was also envious because I wanted a cat on my lap too. Later in the evening, we saw the same lady walking through the gardens, only this time the cat was nowhere to be found. We looked for it everywhere and when we couldn’t find it, we came to the conclusion that it must have been a ‘ghost-cat’. Some time later, right before we were about to leave, the cat reappeared, scaring the bajeezus out of me. We got to pet it for a while and the museum man told us it was the museum’s cat (or at least I think that’s what he was trying to imply as his english was even worse than my Italian). The cat was very soft and, overall, we had a great time. I wouldn’t call this museum a ‘must-see’ but If you have the time, it’s a great way to spend a cold evening.

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Ghost Cat

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We had way too much fun playing with the shadows on the museum wall. Pc: Catey

Quick note: I think all museums should have at least one cat.

Saint Peter’s Basilica:
The next morning we headed to St. Peter’s Basilica. I would like to give a quick shoutout to Mary’s planning skills, because not only did we attend mass in one of the most impressive basilicas I’ve ever seen, but we actually saw the Pope afterwards. Well, ‘saw’ might be a strong term. From our position in the square I could discern a tiny white blob waving its arms around. Still, the square was packed, the crowd was cheering and waving signs, and the Pope blessed us. All in all, a pretty cool experience.

 

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Just exploring Saint Peter’s

 

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Right after being blessed by the Pope

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The cutest little blob that you ever did see. Pc: Mary

Quick Note: Michelangelo’a Pietá is absolutely beautiful. After entering the Basilica, take a sharp right and it’ll be in front of you.

 

The Pantheon and Trevi Fountain:
After eating a quick on-the-go lunch, we took a very bouncy bus to the general vicinity of the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain.
The Pantheon is alright. The structure itself it very interesting and it has a hole in the roof, but you don’t need to spend more then half an hour in there. The same can be said for the Trevi Fountain. It’s absolutely beautiful and a great place for pictures, but you don’t need to spend more than 30 minutes there especially in the winter (I might eat my lunch or gelato there in the summer however).

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There’s a hole in my roof, dear liza, dear liza (this caption is meant to be sung).

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Like I said- great place for photos

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Quick note: I imagine it would be quite cool to watch the rain fall through the hole in the Pantheon roof, so if you get the chance, tell me how it goes.

The Spanish Steps:
I hope the following statement doesn’t make me sound like too much of a pompous, ‘oh, I’m so well-travelled,’ snob, but The Spanish Steps are a lot more fun in the summer. On warm summer evenings, everybody sits on the steps, laughing and chatting. It feels like the place to be, and you can watch the evening sky from the top of the steps. In the winter, it’s just a big, fancy, almost empty, staircase with a church on top (wow that did sound snobbish). Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very nice staircase, and a fine little church, there’s even a beautiful view and a great place for photos, but the summer charm that captivated me the first time I saw it wasn’t there. With that being said however, it was still a pleasant place to visit and I would still recommend that you see it.

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Pc: Mary

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The view from the top. Pc: Mary

Quick Note: When I visited in the summer I remember eating on the steps, but this time we were told food wasn’t allowed. So eat at your own risk.

On our last day we visited the Roman Forum and, to finish things off, the Colosseum.

The Roman Forum:
In my opinion, the Roman Forum is like a side dish to the Colosseum right next to it; it adds a little spice to the whole experience but probably wouldn’t be sufficient on its own. You should visit if you have time, and if you’re really lucky you might hear an instrumental rendition of ‘Despacito’ while you look the ruins.

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Pc: Mary

Quick note: The exit is not the same gate as the entrance, it’s located to the right of the entrance as you walk in. There are signs and arrows pointing it out, but it still took us a surprisingly long time to find.

The Colosseum:
Ever since I did a sixth grade report on the Colosseum, I have been vastly impressed and enamored of it. To me, it represents the epitome of Rome; beautiful, powerful and, at times, terrible. Standing in the Colosseum, I can almost hear the clash of battles happening in the arena and the shouts and jeers of thousands of spectators.

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Pc: Mary

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Are you not entertained?! Here I am channeling my inner Russell Crowe

Fun fact: One of the coolest tidbits I remember from my sixth grade report is the fact that one female gladiator (not as common as male gladiators but still used), won her freedom by killing three opponents with a chamber pot. Food for thought.

 

To end my Roman Holiday blog post, I’m just going to share a little information about its public transport. As impressive as the ancient ruins and structures of Rome are, its public transportation system is rather lacking. Unlike in Paris where we could travel almost anywhere using the metro, Rome has a very limited metro system. On top of that, we had a bad experience with the bus as we were leaving. Long story short, it arrived to the train station ninety minutes late and although we had given ourselves over an hour and a half of cushion time, we still missed our train to Florence. I don’t think you’ve truly experienced panic until you’re running towards your train and suddenly realize its pulling out of the station. So, just be careful in relying too much on Rome’s public transport.

 

Mary’s blog: https://marycecelia12.wordpress.com/2017/12/12/our-great-italian-adventure-part-1-roaming-in-roma/

 

 

Midnight in Paris

I could never remember if Paris was known as ‘The City of Light’ or ‘The City of Love,’ now that I’ve been there, however, I realize it could easily be both. I only spent a total of three and a half days there, but my friend Mary and I must have gone to almost every big tourist attraction there is and more. Our time in Paris was so busy and full of experiences, that If I were to try and write every single one down, this blog post would go on for hours. Thus, in the spirit of keeping things short, well, shorter anyways, I’ve decided to just focus on giving quick reviews to the biggest and most famous monuments/ places we visited (Mary’s blog has a more day-to-day write up of our experience, so there’s a link to her blog below).

Musee D’Orsay: The Museum itself was quite nice. For a ticket costing around 10 euros, you could see hundreds of paintings, sculptures, and pottery, including works by Van Gogh and Monet. The size of the museum is very nice—large but not overwhelming.

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Quick note: The Museum is right by the River Seine, and, unfortunately, if you stop to take pictures you might be targeted by a group of swindlers. They look like well-dressed, young hipsters, but I assure you their intentions are not benign, especially if they tell you they are collecting for the ‘blind, deaf and handicap children.’ Beware! I’ve been a victim of swindling in the past and it’s the absolute worst feeling because you blame yourself entirely (seriously, it sucks).

Sacré Coeur: The Sacre Coeur is a beautiful Basilica on top of a hill (it’s pretty easy to spot while in Paris). It takes a while to walk up the incline and then climb the stairs, but it is well worth the time. The view of paris is absolutely incredible and the basilica itself is very nice.

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Quick note: This Basilica is called the Sacré Coeur (Cu-ur) not Sacre bleu (which is one of my little brother’s go to phrases when badly impersonating a frenchman). Try to remember this as it can help prevent extreme embarrassment in the future.

Luxembourg Gardens: Mary and I decided to go to the Luxembourg Gardens rather late in the day, so we only had about an hour to explore them. They were quite pretty, although I imagine they would be ten times prettier in the summer, and a great place for some photos.

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Pantheon: After being kicked out of the Luxembourg Gardens (because it was closing—not because we were obnoxious), we kind of stumbled upon the Pantheon. It is a very impressive structure from the outside, and since it only cost seven euros to go inside, we decided to give it a try. There were some crypts, including Madam Curie’s (fun fact: Madam Curie was actually born in Poland), and an impressive, spacious main floor. Although it was cool to see the inside, I wouldn’t consider it a ‘must see.’ If you have time, go, but If you don’t, don’t worry about it.

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Quick note: The bathroom looks like it is for both men and women, because the sign for both is placed at the entryway, but if you keep walking there’s actually two distinct bathrooms.

The Catacombs: Oh, the catacombs. Mary’s probably still a little salty about that one (for those who are not familiar with the word ‘salty’ it basically means ‘peeved’—the more you know, right?) Anyways, my parents had told me that the catacombs were a must see, but because we were visiting Paris in the winter and planning on getting to the catacombs early in the morning, I didn’t think it was necessary to get tickets ahead of time. I was wrong, very wrong. We ended up waiting in line, in freezing weather, for about an hour and a half. By the time we finally went down into the catacombs, I was afraid for my health, both because of the fact that my toes felt like they were falling off and because of the dirty (playfully dirty, I like to think), looks I was receiving from Mary. The catacombs were basically just a vast sea of bones. There were so many that it seemed to go on forever, especially if you shined a flashlight into the crevices. I’m not sure how I felt about it. I mean, it was almost as if all the bones were sticks or just plastic props. It was very hard to picture the pile as actually human remains, and it just made me think of my inevitable future as a corpse (I know, super happy). As Mary put it, I had a mini-existential crises. So, overall, I’m glad I went but I wish I had bought tickets ahead of time. 14.jpg

Quick note: The floor of the tunnel leading to the catacombs is basically a death trap. I twisted my ankle like three times. Also, a warning to my fellow tall people, the ceiling is quite low at points.

The Louvre: Before leaving for France, one of our Spanish friends told us that unless you have a lot of time on your hands, The Louvre isn’t worth it because you can’t even begin to see everything. Well, she was right about the fact that we barely scratched the surface, but I think that even if you only get to see a fraction of what the Louvre has to offer, it’s still worth it.

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Quick note: The Mona Lisa is fine, but what’s really impressive is the painting right across from the Mona Lisa. It’s called The Wedding at Cana and it’s absolutely huge.

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The Circus: The friends we were staying took us to go see a circus with them, as it was a show that their young cousins would enjoy and we would understand. I had never actually been to a real circus before, and I felt like I had been transported back in time. It was a fine way to spend an evening, quite entertaining. With that being said, however, I don’t think I would pay to go back, I think it’s probably a lot more magical for younger children.

The Eiffel Tower: On Sunday morning we headed to the Eiffel Tower. The Tower is so iconic and beautiful that even though it was a little chilly, it was quite full of people. Mary and I decided to go all the way to the top. The line on the ground level took about 30 minutes, but the wind wasn’t too bad and it was sunny. After we got into the elevator, I thought we would go straight to the top, but you actually stop on the second level, get out and take another elevator. The line for this one was really long and to make matters worse it was freezing, like Chicago freezing (my fellow Chicagoans you know what I’m talking about). The line took forever, but we finally made it to the elevator and got all the way to the top. On the top level you can see the entire city and you can peek into Eiffel’s apartment where there are wax replicas of Eiffel himself, Thomas Edison and Eiffel’s daughter. Overall, it was worth it. I would like to return one day, but only in warmer weather. 1.jpg

 

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Quick Note: Knowing good time-wasting games can help pass the time in line Also, if your friend doesn’t like your singing, try to refrain from humming continuously while standing next to them. Trust me, they don’t like it.

Île San-Louis: This isn’t really a tourist monument or destination, but I thought I would include it because it was so cute. Despite the freezing weather, our host family took us to get some ice-cream and walk around the shops. I definitely wish to return when I’m not shivering my butt off.

Quick Note: For all you romance-lovers out there, this Island is definitely a romantic spot. I would imagine it’s absolutely incredible in the summer, crossing over bridges, eating ice-cream and listening to the bells of Notre Dame…*sigh* I’m definitely coming back.

 Notre Dame: Mary and I went to mass in the Notre Dame. It was huge and quite beautiful, but I still think my favorite church is in Madrid (Catedral La Almudena). 37798865865_06638c3016_o.jpg

Quick Note: The sermon is in French, but they give you a program that has sections in both English and Spanish, which is nice because trying to read along in French is hard!

 Arc de Triomphe: We only saw the arc from the outside and didn’t spend the money to go to the top. From what I’ve heard, you have a very nice view of all the different avenues coming together, but it’s rather unnecessary if you’ve been to the top of the Eiffel Tower (that’s just what I’ve heard, so correct me if I’m wrong!). With that being said, it’s a lovely spot for some pictures.

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Grand Palais: Again, Mary and I didn’t actually go into the Grand Palais, but it is absolutely beautiful from the outside.

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Quick Note: Does anyone know if there was something special going on this weekend? Because there were a bunch of vans full of older police officers lining the street next to the Grand Palais.

Pont Alexandre: Lovely bridge, great for photos!

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Quick Note: The bridge decorations reminded me a lot of Game of Thrones (a fact that isn’t really useful or helpful for you but I thought I’d just let you know anyways—you’re welcome).

Galleries Lafayette: O.K. So the Galleries of Lafayette is actually a giant shopping center (similar to the Water Tower Place in Chicago). We honestly had no idea it existed until our French friends told us about it. We decided to go to check it out and it. was. awesome! The entire mall was decked out for Christmas and there were also different ‘Christmas stations,’ for example, a Santa Claus (I wanted to get a picture but we didn’t have time), a fortune teller, and a virtual roller coaster (so much fun!). So if you’re in Paris around Christmas time definitely give the Galleries Lafayette a visit.

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Quick Note: The clothes were super cute too. So if you have money to spend and love fashion, this place is for you.

Well folks, those are all the big monuments and typical tourist attractions we saw. We did a lot more, including, but not limited to the following: watching a documentary on whales in the iMax theater, eating at numerous, delicious, french restaurants, walking through the Tuileries Garden, seeing the Eiffel Tower light up at night from our bedroom, and eating Thai food.

Before I sign off, I just want to give y’all one last tip. Before going to Paris I had heard that the Metro system was really complicated and hard to follow, but I found that to be very untrue. Even Mary, who has almost never used public transportation in her life, could easily figure it out. The only aspect of the system that might be a little confusing is how often you have to switch trains, but it is extremely easy to follow the signs. So don’t be afraid to use the Metro. It’s cheap, quick and really useful!

P.S.–Berets are always a good investment

P.P.S–check out Mary’s blog and Flicker pictures (a lot less of me and more of, you know, Paris)

https://marycecelia12.wordpress.com/2017/11/30/paris-is-always-a-good-idea/