Paris: I didn’t meet any princes, but I did fall in love

Travel Adventures

As I walked through the empty streets of Granada at 5 a.m. I thought about the possible attackers hiding behind all the bushes (thanks for all the warnings to be safe mom, they didn’t enhance my paranoia at all…)

But I also felt overwhelmingly excited: I was heading off to Paris! I’ve dreamed about visiting the big cities in Europe since I was a child, and now was my time. I honestly hadn’t prepared very well, I ended up packing the night before and didn’t even have time to Wikipedia the main sites I planned on visiting with my friend Courtney, but I had the feeling of being ready to take on Paris!

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After a few flights filled with crying babies and generally unhappy people, I landed in Paris. Then the real adventure began.

I love to travel, and I’ve now used the public transit systems in more than a dozen European cities, but somehow I still usually end up going the wrong direction on the metro/ bus at some point. This time I missed my stop and had to get back on a different train and go back, but I wouldn’t completely go out into the middle of nowhere France until later in the trip.

After meeting up with my friend Courtney in front of our hotel we went in search of a true French café. We found one with friendly service and delicious café, orange juice and croissants.

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After a quick siesta in our room we headed off for the Louvre.

On the way we stopped to look out at the Seine river and the many locks lovers have left to commemorate their time in Paris.

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That’s the thing about Paris, it’s beautiful and can be enjoyed as a single twenty-something with a best friend, but we were often reminded of our singleness (while standing in line behind couples who didn’t want to take the time to breath, trying to escape the sounds coming from the other side of the wall in our hotel room and the adorable old couples who made me think of how being an old cat lady might get a little lonely).

At the same time, I was grateful we could truly enjoy the sights of the city and not have to possibly cut/ burn (depending on how awful they ended up being) our traveling companions out of photos later. Also, we’re constantly told we look like twins/ sisters, so we could theoretically just pretend they’ve already made cloning commonplace in Paris if we grow to abhor our similar personalities…

(Sorry, these are the things that go through my head on an overly bumpy flight to Barcelona).

Back to visiting the Louvre: We’d heard they let people younger than 26 in for free on Friday nights, and we were excited to safe some money and hopefully skip some lines.

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We were not disappointed, not only was it less packed than normal, but we also got to get up close and personal with the Monna Lisa (yes, there’s really two “n”s) without waiting for a lifetime in line. We got this brilliantly original selfie with DaVinci’s most famous masterpiece:

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While fast-walking with the masses towards the Monna Lisa, Courtney and I commented on how the other artists must be a tad salty about how they’d also spent their lives creating magnificent art, but failed to make it to the point where Snapchat gave them a personalized filter.

Note to non-Snapchat users: this app lets you take photos of your face and then put a filter on them to make it look like you were the Monna Lisa. Yeah, my generation really does have a lot of free time.

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After the Louvre we headed towards the famous ferris wheel so we, two people afraid of heights to different but substantial degrees, could watch the lights of Paris from a swinging glass container suspended 200 feet in the air.

To our delighted surprise, we survived and got some pretty awesome pictures in return for facing our fears.

Here’s a part my mom probably shouldn’t read… the metro system in Paris is not what I expected.

I talked with other friends who visited Paris and they said it was full of soldiers and police while they were there, but while we were there it wasn’t. The metros were empty of officials of any kind and I only made it through one of the turnstiles because a kind older man saw my ticket wasn’t working. Also turns out, when your ticket doesn’t work at the turnstile and you’ve walked down a bunch of hallways marked “Do not enter” for opposing traffic, you’re pretty much stuck relying on the kindness of strangers.

The Paris metro system is convenient because it has stations practically every block, but it was also a bit worrisome at times. Since I have a knack for getting lost on the public transit in every city I visit, I tend to like public transit more when there’s lots of people there to help when I get confused.

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The next morning we took a stroll to the Eiffel Tower.

We were surrounded by runners, because Parisians know how to burn off their bread and wine like no others, and people trying to sell us selfie sticks, but I was too excited to care. We spent our day visiting the different levels and sides of the tower, eating overpriced macaroons and running back to the hotel through the rain. It was kind of amazing.

Afterwards we visited Notre Dame and ate some delicious crepes. I know, I lead such a rough life.

We took the metro to d’Orsay and found out it was closed, but we still got to walk around more of Paris and find some interesting statues.

The next morning we went to the Jardin de Luxemborg.

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I’ve had dreams where I was dancing around a beautiful garden, but the Jardin de Luxemborg was incredible and grounding. It reminded me of the parks at home and what I imagine the back yard of my future palace will look like…

(I’m trying out The Secret effect by imagining I’ve already become a princess without marrying a prince. I’ll keep you updated on how it goes…)

The park was huge, but not overwhelming. We found some chairs looking over the pond and sat for awhile watching little kids put boats out onto the water and birds fight over their food. It was calming and a perfect way to finish my time in Paris.

Except I still had one more adventure.

On the way to the airport I parted with Courtney and then tried to prove my city smarts were better than Google Maps. This is still under debate, but I ended up going out into the suburbs of Paris, and then riding the train all the way back to where I began.

Sometimes getting lost gives you more time to enjoy the scenery, and I like to think that’s why I love to get lost in each city I visit…

 

 

Turning five/ twenty in the country of my people

Travel Adventures

An hour before my friend Paige and I left for the bus station in Granda, I started packing.

My mother would have expected it, after all, I waited until the last minute to pack up most of my belongings for college. But still, it kind of shocked me. The fact that going to a famous and beautiful city like Florence, Italy didn’t make me jump up and down and start packing weeks in advance is a little sad. I don’t want these amazing experiences to start to seem  any less incredible. I’m determined to fully savor and appreciate these last few months in Europe.

Thankfully, I kicked off this new mentality with a Birthday visit to Florence and Rome!!

We arrived in Florence after a full day of traveling and began to explore the city. I was fortunate to have Paige’s wonderful friends from Gonzaga to show us the beautiful sights of the city. Without them I probably would’ve gotten lost and tried to take a nap on a park bench (ironically, I ended up doing just that in Sevilla a few weeks, later. You can read about that soon!)

After we put our luggage away and had a quick rest, we went exploring and  hiked up to see a remarkable view of the city.

After seeing the remarkable beauty of the Florentine skyline we went in search of some delicious gelato. We found a sweet little gelato shop one of the professors had recommended and now I highly recommend it as well!

After a brief break and siesta we went in search of some authentic Italian carbs.

We got a little (okay, a lot) lost, but we eventually found a place with cheap and delicious pizza! The Italians are not only my people because of my actual genetic connection to them, but also because of our shared love of bread, cheese and pomodro.

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The next morning we found a wonderful cafe with amazing fresh pastries…

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After breakfast we went on a hike and I felt like I was back home in the Pacific Northwest.

After we found ourselves in a quaint little town outside of Florence we got surprising delicious sandwiches for lunch. I failed to order mine properly in Italian/ Spanglish, but it still turned out great.

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After the hike we visited the Uffizi Gallery. It was a remarkable experience. These pictures don’t capture the feelings that come with standing in front of  these works of art. (Also, thank you Grandma Brenda for teaching me about some of the world’s best artists… I’m beginning to appreciate all the hours I’ve spent in art museums with you. ❤ )

After spending most of the day in the gallery and occasionally  listening to tours we didn’t pay for (I had to switch between English and Spanish to understand them and that was sort of like an educational payment, right?) we headed to find dinner. I’m not kidding about the food in Italy, it’s worthy of multiple mentions.

We went to an adorably Italian-looking restaurant a few blocks from where we were staying.

 

The next morning, Sunday, we attended mass at the Basilica di Santa Croce, which is the principal Franciscan church in Florence. It was a phenomenal experience, even though the entire mass was in Italian and I could only understand the parts that were similar to Spanish… which was actually quite a bit.

After mass we visited the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as the Duomo di Firenze.

The rest of our time in Florence was spent bargaining for scarves, walking across the river and discovering more of the mesmerizing beauty the city has to offer.

 

We then headed onto spend my Birthday in Rome.

I had dreams of feeling like Lizzie-McGuire, riding around the city on a vespa, but sadly we arrived to a hailstorm. Thankfully, Paige and I are optimistic travelers and battled through the storm to visit the Colosseum!

I am beyond thankful for this amazing Birthday weekend and know I will remember it forever.

(Also, stay tuned for my Spring Break posts from Rome and the beaches of Athens, Greece!)