Eurotrip, Part II: Venice

April 7th

Venice was still wonderful the next morning, so things were looking promising. Though my plantar fasciitis decided to act up, so I spent the next week or so hobbling around Europe. THAT was fun.

We slept in a bit and got breakfast at a cafe before hopping on the water bus and going to St. Mark's Square. It's insanely crowded and touristy (but really, all of Venice is), but it's still really awesome. We went into the basilica, which actually really impressed me. It's basically entirely gold inside. Quite amazing.

Most of the day was spent wandering. We got gelato and sat by a fountain to eat it, while Amanda crumbled up her cone and... well, did this.


We walked up and down the canal for awhile, stopping into countless glass shops, before taking the boat over to the island called Murano. We'd decided to go over there to see the glass museum, which ended up being closed due to strike. It was okay, though, since Venice has so many glass shops it's like a museum anyway. It's all ridiculously beautiful.

We stayed on Murano for a few hours and went at a very lazy pace. We got lunch and ate gelato sitting at the edge of a canal, which was absolutely glorious, and then just kind of walked. We stopped in tons of shops and found some artists painting glass, and then sat in a playground for a bit. It was a pretty residential area -- there were even some Italian kids that sat around and laughed at us tourists. :P

The hostel ended up being our next stop, as it was getting close to dinner time and we had to do some planning. We ended up just wandering down the canal nearby and found a little place with outdoor seating. It wasn't very touristy, which was a plus, and the food was DELICIOUS! God, I love Italy.

Afterwards, we were going to explore a bit more, but it started raining, so we just got gelato (third time's a charm!) and went back to the hostel. We ended up watching an episode of Tyra on YouTube, and I rolled my hurt foot on the glass champagne bottle we'd gotten.

April 8th

The original plan of the day (Easter Sunday, by the by) was to make it to mass in St. Mark's at 9, but that ended up being when we finally dragged ourselves out of bed. Oops. We got there for the 10:30 mass, though. Mass isn't usually my thing (for obvious reasons), but ya know, Easter and all. We ended up in standing room only, which sucked for my foot, so I ended up sitting on the floor for bits of it. I hope Jesus can forgive me! The service was in Italian so none of it made sense, which actually might've made it more enjoyable. The singing was beautiful, and I didn't have to ignore all the religion-y stuff to enjoy it. And it was only about an hour and a half long, which felt like nothing compared to temple! So I had no idea what was going on, but I enjoyed it.

Afterwards, we had nothing planned, so it became another day of wandering. We explored an area near St. Mark's that we hadn't been to yet, and got a delicious lunch at a little restaurant before getting gelato. It was chilly and rainy at this point, so we did a little more walking and came back to the hostel in late afternoon to relax. We all kind of crashed, lol.

We went back out that evening and walked around the Jewish ghetto for a little while, which was really cool. There wasn't much to actually see, but exploring Venice is always a winning situation. By then we were getting hungry, so we hopped onto the water bus and went to Accademia to get dinner at a restaurant that Jen and Cynthia had found on their first day in the city. I got spaghetti with tomato sauce and prawns, and tiramisu for dessert! Finally! :)

Everyone else wanted gelato, so we stopped at a place close to the hostel and did some final souvenir shopping before gearing up for our 4 am wake-up call.


I love Italy. So, so much. I'd forgotten how much, actually. It's all twisty cobblestone streets and gelato and wonderful. And Venice is Venice. Nothing bad can be said.

However, as much as I love the city, pretty much all it is is tourism. There's not really a ton to do or see, either. I don't regret my decision to go back for a second, but if I had the chance to visit a city in Italy in the future, I'd probably pick a different one. Venice doesn't really require a second trip.

It was great to decompress here after losing all my money in Paris, though!

Eurotrip, Part I: Paris

Hello world! I'm back in London and far enough removed from my trip to finally be able to want to relive it. It's also gotten to the point where I should be studying for my Britain since WWII final, and I'd rather get a root canal than do that -- so why not blog about three jam-packed weeks as procrastination? Hey, at least this is being productive. Sort of.

...Honestly, nothing I do in my pajamas while drinking tea and eating chocolate feels productive. But that's what makes writing all the more awesome. ;)

But I digress! Let's begin with city number one!

April 2nd

Amanda, Jen, Cynthia and I took a train to Paris that night, but as that "day" consisted of about five hours, I won't go into too much detail. We learned the hard way that international trains have an almost airport-like check-in (or, uh, only trains from London to Paris do -- we didn't have to go through security anywhere else), but survived the mad dash and got on board in time. It was super dark outside so we missed seeing any French scenery (is France known to have nice scenery?), and it was like train-ing through an abyss. It also made going through the Chunnel very anticlimactic. Alas.

But two hours later (three, if you include the time change), we were in Paris! The hostel was walkable from the train station, but we were introduced very rapidly to terrible Parisian drivers and their willingness to blow through red lights. Cool.

April 3rd

After an all-carb breakfast at the hostel, our first stop of the trip was (appropriately) the Eiffel Tower. We took the metro to Trocadero, and there it was. I wasn't expecting to find it as cool as I did, but it's seriously phenomenal. It was sunny and hazy so it was silhouetted beautifully, and I was blown away. 

We stayed there for a while taking pictures and such, and then walked for a bit and grabbed crepes to go (chocolate and banana!) before heading to Versailles. The trip there was really easy, but we had to wait on a massive queue to buy tickets, and then wait on another massive queue to get into the palace itself, that was (of course) packed with people. I would've enjoyed it so much more if it wasn't so crowded and if there hadn't been so much waiting around -- I was tired of standing before I'd even gotten in. That being said, though, it was beautiful! It was almost to the point of ridiculousness. It was just room after room of almost comical opulence. After awhile, it was like, "okay, we get it, you're fabulously wealthy." A few days later on our tour of the city, our guide said that Versailles is what happens when someone with terrible taste has tons and tons of money.

Accurate statement is accurate. The gardens and grounds were gorgeous, though, and I'm definitely glad we went.

We were all starving when we left (not to mention I was feeling ill from dehydration), so on the way back to the train station we stopped at a little cafe where I saved my own life with a can of Orangina, and ate these little cheese and potato things that legitimately made me die and go to food heaven. We took the train back to the city and did some wandering after that. We stumbled across a bridge with lovers' locks on it, which was SO cool. I refuse to believe this tradition was started because of Sex and the City. Nope. Refuse.

We'd wandered into the park by the Louvre to sit down for a bit when I decided that Paris doesn't feel real. It feels like a theme park or something. How can an entire city look so uniformly nice? I don't get it.

From there, we did some souvenir shopping and saw some sick street art (that I immediately regretted not buying) before going on an expedition to find a place to eat. Amanda brought a list of eateries to try for each city, so we went in search of one. We ended up finding it, but eating somewhere else. I got a salad with orange, grapefruit, and duck meat -- protein, fruit, AND vegetables! First and last time THAT happened! The four of us split a creme brulee for dessert and, OMG, how had I not had that before?!

April 4th

Lol, this day was the worst. Not really Paris's fault, but it might be part of why the Paris leg of the trip was not my favorite.

We got up and headed to Lyon station to activate our Eurail passes and book a train to Venice. But when we got there, the lady at the counter told us that all trains to Venice on the day we wanted to leave were booked. Let me just pause for a moment while I wait for you to understand the sheer panic of that moment.


Got it? Okay. So that sent the day's plans into a tailspin. We spent the entire morning and most of the afternoon trying to figure out alternatives, eventually just booking a flight and flipping out trying (and failing) to book the trains we were planning on taking later in the trip. We couldn't do those online, we couldn't call without being charged a ton, and we couldn't do it at the station. In hindsight, it makes sense that you can't book tickets for trains in other countries if the company isn't represented in the country you're in, but why the HECK can't you do it online? Eurgh.

On our second trip to the station, the guy we talked to was much more helpful and gave us some info that made sense. We ended up biting the bullet and calling the Italian company from Cynthia's phone, only to be reassured that there are plenty of open seats from Venice to Lausanne. The moral of the story is that traveling by train is nowhere near as easy as everyone makes it out to be, especially not during holiday weekends. Thanks for the heads up, Eurail. /sarcasm

This adventure found us in a Starbucks somewhere in Paris at around 5:30. Ready to forget the morning from hell, we walked to see a monument (don't know what it was because the description was in French, le sigh), the opera house, and the Galleria to look at all sorts of expensive things. The Louvre is open late on Wednesdays, so that's where we ended our day. It was quite amazing! I've been pretty museum-ed out in London and in my mind, stuff is stuff, no matter where it is. But the building itself was way more interesting than the stuff in it!

The glass pyramid was obviously awesome, but the rest of the building was ridiculous. It's decorated like a palace, because it used to be one, and I couldn't stop staring at the ceiling. We did see the Mona Lisa and Hammurabi's Code, which were really cool. The Mona Lisa was actually pretty anticlimactic, but I fought to the front of the crowd in front of her because she's the Mona Lisa.

We were pretty exhausted after that, so we left to buy the street art I'd been lusting over since the night before. Let me tell you about this guy. He draws these sick sketches of the Eiffel Tower progressively turning into other things; an elephant, a giraffe, a chess piece, etc. All day I was so upset that I hadn't gotten one the day before, so when we found him on our way to the Louvre I was so excited to buy one! ...But he didn't have any left. I ended up talking to him for a bit, and asked if he had any more, or if he would if we found him again the next day. In broken English and using a lot of miming, he told me to come back in an hour. So when we left the Louvre, he had four new drawings made especially for me. :) He is literally my favorite. I bought the Eiffel Tower turning into a giraffe, and Amanda ended up buying one for herself and one for a friend. I think it's my favorite purchase from the entire trip. Who else has custom street art from Paris?

There was a world-famous falafel place on Amanda's list that we wanted to try for dinner, so we found ourselves in the Jewish area of town (seriously) sitting in a cramped restaurant where I wasn't sure if I should say "merci" or "toda" to the waiters. It was bizarre, but holy falafel, Batman! So delicious! They also gave out free lemonade while we were waiting to be seated, and the staff was really welcoming and friendly to the crowd outside.

So, at least the day went uphill, right?

April 5th

After a bit of a wake-up fail, we still managed to get to the Eiffel Tower bright and early. Obviously the line to climb it is ridiculously long every day, so our plan was to get there as early as possible. It ended up not really mattering, since the line to climb the stairs as opposed to take the elevator was super short. It was kind of exhausting, but definitely worth actually climbing! I had some vertigo the whole time (since the whole tower is just exposed beams and completely see-through), but it was great to do. Paris doesn't have the most interesting skyline in the world, but just being at the top of the Eiffel Tower was amazing. We also signed our names at the second platform. ;)

We got back to the ground too late to make it to the 11:00 Sandeman's tour we were originally planning on, so we went to get lunch instead. Amanda's list led us to a creperie near Notre Dame that had a great lunch deal. I definitely prefer sweet crepes to savory crepes, but it was all really good. We ended up having to book it back to make the tour, and the butter and cinnamon from my crepe dripped all over me and remained on my dress for the entire trip. Cute.

However, the tour ended up being totally worth the run. It was almost four hours long and we saw most of the major sites. But it was made infinitely more enjoyable by our guide, Fred. He was such a great storyteller that I found myself hanging on his every word when he was explaining how we should tip him. Seriously, he was that good. If you ever find yourself in Paris, do a Sandeman's tour and look for Fred. If I wasn't broke, I would've emptied my wallet into his hands at the end of it.

When it ended, we went back to Notre Dame to have a look around inside, which was cool. To the Jew in me, though, a church is just a church, but this was neat just because of what it is.

We went back to the hostel to try and book some train tickets after that. It ended up taking longer than we'd anticipated, so Amanda and I ran to the grocery store down the street and bought baguettes, goat cheese, strawberries, and apple juice for dinner, and macarons for dessert. Funnily enough, it was one of the better meals we ate on the entire trip! So delicious!

Cynthia and Jen booked a 7 am flight to Venice, which meant they had to catch a train there before the metro shut down for the night. Our final outing with them was to the Moulin Rouge, the Sacre Coeur, and a walk around Montmartre. The church was beautiful and of course the Moulin Rouge was really cool, but I'd just lost a fight with the turnstile door at the metro and gotten smacked in the face. So I got to walk around Paris holding a paper bag full of ice I'd gotten at a fast food place to the egg on my forehead. My life, folks.

After splitting from Jen and Cynthia, Amanda and I went back out to see the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower at night. Were YOU aware that the Eiffel Tower GLITTERS at night? Because I sure wasn't, and we just happened to round the corner when it was all sparkly. The noise that came out of my mouth when I saw it wasn't human. It was unbelievable. We spent probably half an hour or so just sitting there, looking at the tower.

Wonderful last night in Paris!

April 6th

I started my journal entry for this day with, "I don't even believe what happened today. Like, WTF." Hah, oh, so accurate.

The day started off wonderfully. Amanda and I slept later than we'd planned to, but had leftover goat cheese with our breakfast. We checked out and headed to see Napoleon's grave. It's in the army museum, which costs 10 euros to get into, but we got in for free with our UK visas. Excellent!

We got to see a pretty cool church before looping around back to where Napoleon is. He's encased in seven sarcophagi and is pretty low in the ground because he wanted people to have to bow down to him to be able to see him (thanks for the info, Fred!). I didn't feel like it was as much a bow as it was a lean, but hey.

We took a quick spin through the World War I & II exhibits before leaving to go find a sidewalk cafe to eat lunch at. We eventually found one near the Louvre, and lunch was delicious. I had an open faced sandwich with brown bread, ham, tomato, and goat cheese, plus a salad, and we shared creme brulee for dessert. :)

By then it was getting sort of late, so we did some final souvenir shopping before heading back to the hostel to grab our stuff and get to the airport. I really wish I could forget about the rest of this day forever...

Basically, we'd booked a flight for the next day instead. After much panic, anxiety, nervous breakdown, calling parents, and desperation to get the hell out of Paris, we decided to bite the bullet and pay the 150 euros each to switch our reservations to a flight that left that night. Let's not even talk about. But if you're ever flying EasyJet, watch out for this! Jen and Cynthia did the same thing, and so did a guy at the airport, so I'm pretty sure it's either a glitch in the system or a scam to get more money out of people. Either way, I'm writing a complaint letter.

But finally, we got on a flight, got to Venice safely, and it was wonderful. Our hostel was easy to find and in a great location, the weather was beautiful, and Amanda and I got gelato and walked along a nearby canal for an hour or so. Perfect.


Don't kill me, but I was a little bit let down by Paris. Yes, I'm aware that the problems we encountered in Paris weren't entirely Paris's fault, but that lingering bitterness aside, it just felt... I don't know. Unwelcoming? Everyone says that you're going to absolutely fall in love with Paris, and I just didn't.

It was great going there, don't get me wrong, but it's a city I just don't understand. There are boulevards that are impossibly wide, and all the parks are just these vast open spaces, and everything is symmetrical and perfectly manicured. You'd think that someone as OCD as I am would love it, but it just felt like it was trying way too hard. And then, on the flip side, the rest of the city is this impossible maze of streets that go in crazy directions and don't make any sense at all. There's just such a disconnect! Make up your mind, Paris!

Like I said before, it feels like a theme park. Like someone said, "okay, we're going to make a city now," and just plopped Paris down where it is. I didn't really feel any sense of age, or growth, or personality. It was just sort of pretentious.

This is all pretty weird, because there was nothing we did in Paris that I disliked. It goes to show how important the intangibles are, I guess. Alas.

Well, no, that's a lie. I really disliked getting smacked in the face by the freaking turnstile!

Pre-Europe Updates!

I don't know why I leave everything until the absolute last possible minute, but I have about an hour to get this written and posted and be out the door. Let's see if this happens.

Back when I first laid out my calendar for the semester, I predicted that March was going to be a pretty bleh month with some extreme bright spots, and I ended up being pretty spot on. So instead of having massive chunks of time I need to write about, I go a few days or a week with absolutely nothing but schoolwork happening, and then have a crazy awesome day. Now I just have to figure out where I left off.

I think it was almost two weeks ago now, but I had my last site visit for my architecture class. While I don't think analyzing buildings is my forte, it was definitely interesting to have all that stuff explained and be able to put buildings in a more historical context. We went down to the Thames, by Hay's Galleria and City Hall. It's that weird, kind of snail-shaped building right next to Tower Bridge. We got to go inside it and everything, and it's one of the coolest buildings I've ever seen. There are no flat surfaces, and basically everything is see-through! It's apparently supposed to symbolize that the government here is open and for the public, and the view of the city is supposed to remind them who they're working for. Really, really cool.

It was such a gorgeous day that I decided not to go straight back to campus. I walked along the river for a bit, from Tower Bridge to London Bridge, which I crossed. Luckily, it was NOT falling down. I also found the Monument, which gives Monument tube station its name. And, because I was in the vicinity of four tube stations, I picked one and headed back home. Seriously, if you're ever in central London, don't bother with the tube. Just walk everywhere. It's so easy!

On Friday, I did some baking with Amanda and had another volunteering shift over at LOCOG. :) I never get tired of saying that! Pretty much everyone but the two of us went to Wales on Saturday, so I got some work done, and then Amanda and I had homemade French onion soup and cheese buns for dinner. One word: DELICIOUS!

On Sunday, I casually went to Leavesden Studios (where they filmed Harry Potter) before it was officially open. Tesco had a competition to win tickets to the soft opening, and Lorraine and I each won. They were for different times, though, so we each took three people separately. I ended up going with Amanda and her friends from Cornell, Carly and Gerra. That worked out really well, because Amanda is one of the only people that can match my level of squee when it comes to Harry Potter. It was absolutely phenomenal! I won't go blow-by-blow, since we WERE there for like four hours, but some pictures should give you the general idea. :)

For many, MANY more, check out my album on Facebook!

I had a test on Monday and a paper due on Wednesday, so that probably gives you a clue about how the early half of last week went. But on Wednesday afternoon, the study abroad office had an organized trip to high tea at a fancy restaurant! We got to dress up all nice and eat unlimited amounts of scones with clotted cream and jam, tea sandwiches, puff pastries, little cakes... oh man. Total food coma. And tea absolutely tastes better when it costs you ten pounds!

The weather was so beautiful that day and Amanda, Angela and I were in no hurry to get back to work after consuming our body weight in sugar, so we just kind of hung around in Trafalgar Square for awhile. We sat on the edge of a fountain and chatted, people-watched, and photo bombed. It was warm and breezy and quite literally perfect. When it started getting chilly, we stopped in Waterstone's to browse for a bit. Because the only thing that makes a day better is a stop in a bookstore!

On Thursday, I saw Les Mis with Amanda, Carly and Gerra. Our seats were obstructed view, but we ended up getting to shift over to a better spot. It was really good! Quite long and rather depressing, and I definitely think it's more appropriate in novel form than it is for a show, but really powerful. Got a little choked up at the end, actually.

Friday was Erin's birthday, and there was a party thrown in her honor. I think I ended up being the only completely sober person there. While it was hilariously funny to watch almost everyone else spiral into drunkenness, I don't think I really like taking care of drunk people. And let me tell you, there were some DRUNK people. It was a good time, though, and I do like being the person that's the designated contact for the people going out to a club afterwards. Nobody's going to die if I can help it! :P

And now I have to be out the door in 15 minutes (fastest blog post EVER!), because my train to Paris is leaving soon. OHMYGOD. Eurotrip 2012 starts NOW! Paris -> Venice -> Lausanne -> Munich -> Berlin -> Copenhagen. London, I shall see you on the 21st, and I will return with blog entries galore!

...I was going to go all multicultural in my departure, but then I realized I only know one language of the countries I'm going to. So, uh, arrivederci! ;D