Around Europe!

Hamburg – I’M BAAAAAAACCCCKKKK

From May 2-5, I went back to Hamburg, Germany. “Back?”, you may be asking. Yes. Back. When I was a senior in High School, I did an exchange program where I lived with a German family for 3 weeks and then my host sister came and lived with my family for 3 weeks. That was in October 2010. I haven’t seen my German family in 3 1/2 years. I was so excited to see them! My German dad, brother and his girlfriend came to get me at the airport. My brother’s girlfriend had flowers and everything for me!

When they drove me home, I told my dad in my God-awful German that we passed our apartment building. And my dad just smiled and kept driving. We pulled into a neighborhood and saw a cluster of row houses. My German family got their own house! I was so excited for them because my host mom always talked about having a house of her own. When I got there, I felt like the Prodigal Son returning. My entire family was excited to see me and it was like I never left! My host mom almost cried — she’s so cute. Crazy but Facebook-20140510-101838so cute. Mom told me to put my stuff in my sister’s room, but Niki wasn’t there. She was working at ReWe, the local supermarket. So we devised a plan to surprise her. My parents drove me to the store with my hair hidden under a baseball hat and gave me money and shopper rewards cards to buy chocolate. I hid my face in books until it was my turn to pay. She rang me up and after I paid, I took the hat off and showed my face and she was so surprised and excited to see me. But we couldn’t make a scene until after she got off her shift.

When she got home, she told me to get ready because we were going to a party. Niki, Eleni [my brother’s girlfriend] and I crammed into the bathroom and all got ready together. Eleni and I got along instantly, even though I had only met her for a few hours and tried communicating in broken English and broken German. Niki translated for us most of the time. Kosta [my brother] and our parents got ready and we all left for the party. Yes, my parents came with us. This is probably where I should mention that my German family has dual citizenship — they’re not actually German. They are 100% Greek. So when Greeks party, EVERYONE comes. And its not weird. We show up to a full blown club that was bought out for the night by the Greek community and stayed out until 530 am! I cannot dance to traditional Greek dances; it’s so difficult. But my mom joked that I had to learn for when Kosta and Eleni get married in a few years and I have to go to Greece for the wedding. Oh boy. We had a great time but I was so exhausted after dancing and wearing Eleni’s 4 1/2 inch heels that all I wanted to do was sleep.

The next day we went shopping! We had decided that we were going to go to another club with American music! Mom gave me 50 to treat myself for a new dress and heels for tonight’s party. So I did. The heels I bought are beautiful and are 4 inches high. Niki wasn’t kidding around when she said they don’t sell anything smaller because they really don’t! My sister’s shoe collection is ridiculous; Ke$ha is the girl’s mentor or something, I swear. After shopping, we had a huge dinner and all of us were so tired so we ended up not going clubbing. But of course, we did something that no one will ever be able to let go. I am famous for playing Monopoly. The first time around, I played Monopoly with my family every night for a week straight to learn German and no one lets me forget. So we played Monopoly instead and it was so fun. Kosta loses every time 😛

On Sunday, it was studying day which sucked. I had a final the next week and Niki had the Arbitur on Tuesday. The Arbitur is the German version of SAT II subject tests at SAT length. In 13th grade, each student must take 5 Arbitur tests, and these tests basically set up the rest of your life. So we studied side by side, hating everything and interrupting the peace and quiet every half an hour to talk and laugh. Like Italians and Spaniards, Greeks have huge meals on Sunday with the whole family. We were all there plus my aunt and her new beau. I was so excited to see Tante too because she is the absolute sweetest and she gave me white chocolate, which me and Niki ate immediately after lunch when we had to study more.

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Familie

I left on Monday and I was so sad but I couldn’t have asked for a better time with my second family. I miss them so much but I hope that Niki, Kosta and Eleni will be able to save enough money up to come visit me in the USA. And in 2 or 3 years, when I hopefully have a steady income and my life together, I will be able to visit them in Greece for a few weeks in the summer!

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Northern Spain – Porto

I know that the title makes no sense, but I am trying to group all of the places we went to in one trip together with the same heading. Sorry for the confusion. Note: Porto is in PORTUGAL.

We left Galicia and crossed the border into Portugal during the second half of Day 4. On Day 5, we started off by going on a paseo, or walk, through the city center. We passed the statue of Prince Pedro IV, who led the rebellion against his father for Brazilian independence. The first half of the day was just a lot of free time to roam around and explore the port. The second half of the day was spent at the IMG_20140429_170821_048port….on a river boat cruise. Me and boats aren’t exactly friends but the scenic view of the waterside town allowed me to forget about that. The boat took us under bridges and gave us a short history of the historical significance of the Port. Of course, Paco, our professor, one-upped the automated voice and reminded us about things we had learned about in class such as Napoleon’s invasion to get to Porto and instead gaining power in Spain. Paco will always be smarter than river boat cruises 🙂

Porto was vey pretty but there wasn’t too much to do so I apologize for the brevity of this post, but there wasn’t a lot to write about.
But on this trip, there’s only 1 more day left! Where in the Iberian Peninsula did Maeghan go next?! Find out in the next post, very very soon! [Probably within the hour tbh]

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London Bridge Is Falling Down, Falling Down

Just kidding, the bridge wasn’t collapsing. But, this past weekend I did go to London. I LOVED it! But college students, be warned: London is unreasonably expensive. The exchange rate to the dollar is even worse than the Euro. But it was still awesome. And our trip was theme songed by me singing Fergie’s London Bridge the entire time. Miso really loved me for that. This blog post features special guests, Megan and Sean. Megan and Sean are my Big and Mr. Big from home and it was so exciting to see faces I knew from home that weren’t also studying in Spain!

We stayed at Astor Hyde Park Hostel in South Kensington and it was a good location. Only a few blocks away from the metro station and connected to three of the lines on the tube. The tube is a pretty solid metro system, although nothing will ever beat the simplicity of Madrid, I have to say that this was a good one. And there was cushioned seats! Although, as I was warned almost immediately, people don’t talk to each other on the tube, so that was an interesting cultural difference.

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Me and Sean!

On Friday, I met up with Sean at Gloucester Road and he took me around all day, as he had been there for the week visiting Megan on his spring break. Sean does not like tourist attractions at all so we did not go near them. Instead, he took me to a bunch of local things. First, we went to the Victoria and Albert Musem to have tea and scones. How British of us! But the tea was so good and we got our own teapots. I was a happy camper because I love tea! Then we went to the Borough Market, which has everything under the sun. Sean took me for my first cider, which is also very popular to drink in London and we bought a chorizo sandwich so I could show him a little bit of Spain. Right across the street from the Cider place was the Exotic Meat market. I was kind of panicking at the idea but Sean said the camel was so good. Right. Camel. From this moment on, we did not stop eating. We wandered the market some more, pausing for samples of cheeses, stuffed macaroni [which was AMAZING] and cookies the size of our faces. We then found this grilled cheese place which was so good and it’s big in London. The cheese was literally dripping off, it was so perfectly melted. Then we went to the Thames River and saw the London Bridge. What a let down! It looks like a regular bridge that I drive over when I’m travelling from New York to DC. But the Thames was nice and we just took time to sit there and relax. After that, we went to have another iconic meal: fish and chips. For those of you who are thinking Lays, those are crisps. Chips are french fries! It was delicious. Then we went to Sean’s favorite place in London: Covent Garden. Covent Garden has a lot of high-end shopping but we were there for the street performers. These performers aren’t just dancers but some are also magicians. And they’re so funny with their dry, British humor. The tricks are extensive but we had a great time watching them! Then we got more cider at a bar with a balcony that overlooked the main square and watched more performances below.

Afterwards, Sean took me to the train station where we going to meet Megan after her internship but before she left for Dublin. I was looking for her by the exit she told us she would be at but she came from the side and attack hugged me! I was so excited to see her! We got cookies and then all sat down and talked. She and I caught up on a bunch of stuff and we all laughed and it was like we were back at home, except, you know, in Europe. We said goodbye and then her and Sean said goodbye and it was sad because Sean was leaving for America the next day and he wouldn’t see Megan [and me!] for another few months but he toughed it out. Even though I like giving the two of them a hard time just because I can, they’re actually really cute together.

Day 2! Miso and I headed out on an excursion to see all of the touristy things in one day…and we did! Like champs! We 10003153_10152330935019314_1089096941_nstarted off by going to the Buckingham Palace and it was so pretty. The whole plaza with its statues of lions and fountains was just so peaceful. And to think that only a few years ago, Kate Middleton got married to Prince William. She’s perfect; Miso and I girl crush on her like all the time. Then we went around the area and saw the creek and cherry blossoms and reminded of us of the DC Cherry Blossom festival — it was like we were there! After the palace, we walked to Westminster and saw St. Margaret’s Church, Big Ben and an iconic telephone booth! And nearby was the London Eye!

After that, Miso and I took the tube to King’s Cross station. Who knows what famous series was filmed at King’s Cross? If you said “Harry Potter”, you would be correct!!! We got to take a picture with the luggage trolley as if we were going to Platform 9 3/4. Such a great experience for a fan! We even got to pick what house scarf we wanted. I, of course, chose my own house and wore Slytherin. Gryffindors are overrated, tbh. And yes, of course, I bought this picture. Then we went into the official Harry Potter store where I could’ve easily spent my entire life’s savings on Slytherin apparel and Harry Potter memorabilia. They even had the Bertie Bott’s beans that my brothers and I used to get as kids and squirm when we had to eat the gross flavors like earwax, vomit or sardines.

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My Little Paddington Bear!

Then we got back on the train and went to the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge. The Tower Bridge is the bridge everyone thinks of when they think of London and what a sight it is! And the tower was beautiful too! There was just casually a castle in the middle of the lawn. I wish we could’ve gone in and seen it from the inside but there just wasn’t enough time. After the bridge, we travelled to Paddington to see the Paddington Bear store. I bought a little Paddington bear and the original chapter book of Paddington’s adventures and will one day pass those on to my first born. Deep, right?

The last stop on our list was Bond Street, which has all of the best shopping and eateries. We got Ben’s Cookies, which are super famous in London and it was the first time I had tasted peanut butter since I left the USA. Note: Europeans do not have peanut butter. And when they do, it is so expensive. So treasure peanut butter where you are. Then we went to the London Disney store and I was falling in love. Mickey was dressed as a guard — SO CUTE! We had a great time in there just trolling around and playing with the toys. They had a little cavern that was playing Frozen’s “Let it Go” in 25 languages. For those of you who know me, I was having a blast! [As I do whenever I enter a Disney store!]

London was definitely one of my favorite places we’ve travelled so far and I can’t wait for my next European adventure. It isn’t until May but stay tuned for when I head to….Germany!

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Brussels

At the end of February, Audrey and I took a relaxing vacation to Brussels, Belgium right before midterm week began. We once again ended up in a country that speaks French — third time is the charm!

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Manneken Pis

We finally got to our hostel after almost an hour of travelling there from the airport and immediately hit the ground running….by getting Belgian beer and waffles! The beer in Belgium is really good and a lot better than the cheap stuff they sell in Madrid. For the rest of the day, we explored the city center and stumbled upon one of the most prized symbols of Brussels. Personally, I think this statue is the dumbest thing ever and I have no idea why the Belgians pride themselves on it. His name is Manneken Pis and he is approximately 2 feet tall. You may be thinking to yourself, that’s a statue of a baby peeing. Yes, yes it is. Mannekan Pis is so popular for some unknown reason in Brussels that for holidays and special occasions, he gets dressed up. He has over 800 outfits! Let’s just talk about that — the statue of the peeing baby has outfits.

Moving right along….in the city center there are a bunch of boutique chocolate shops! So we went in every single one and trolled around until someone offered us free samples. And they all did! Belgian chocolate is on point. But the first night ends really anti-climatically because we had to go back to the hostel and study for midterms. What good students we are, right?

On day 2, we became real tourists. Like REAL TOURISTS. We got on the big red City Sightseeing double decker bus and rode around all of Brussels. Our first stop we hopped off at was the Atomium. The AtomiumIMG_20140301_124610_958 is a huge statue of an iron atom blown up like a zillion times. It’s weird but it’s another symbol of Brussels. The cool thing about it is that you can go inside it and learn about science stuff and famous Belgians that helped contribute to this project and other discoveries in science, architecture etc. It was pretty cool. And there’s an elevator that takes you to the top…but it was obviously bad weather and the elevator was shut down.

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EU!

We got back on the bus and rode around but nothing else was interesting on that line. When we got back to the starting point, we got on the second bus and did another tour of Brussels but different districts. This time, when we hopped off, we were at the European Union headquarters. What an awesome place! The actual EU was closed because it was Saturday but we trolled around the premise and took pictures. But you know what was open? The Parliamentarium! What’s a Parliamentarium? It’s a museum about the European Parliament! It was totally free and totally awesome. When we got there, we got iPhones. Just straight iPhones with headpieces. By scanning the information screens on the exhibits, the iPhones would start speaking and showing a picture or video slideshow of the information about the particular exhibit. Super interactive and very cool. I was really impressed with the museum. At one point, I looked at Audrey and said “I keep forgetting there is no USA exhibit” and she was thinking the same thing! I mean it’s logical that the USA wouldn’t be involved in the European government. ..Right. That was a lot.

Brussels proved to be a much different experience — we didn’t know a lot of what was there and there was no set itinerary so we just walked around and relaxed. And studied, which proved to be very worthwhile during midterm week!

I know this post wasn’t as exciting, but I promise the next one will be! What does that mean? Stay tuned 😉 you know you love me xoxo

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Chocolate, Cheese and Cows, Oh My!

Can you guess where I was last weekend? If you said Switzerland, you’d be correct! I know this post is a week behind but I’m trying to catch you all up on my adventures. But the adventuring really does get in the way! And the school…but no one likes that part.

Switzerland is GORGEOUS! But, as we found out the hard way, beauty is expensive. Switzerland, is the land of the banks, so the quality of life is higher and for poor, college students like us, that’s not helpful. The only way to get around Switzerland is through the trains. And we paid a lot for a four day, all-inclusive train pass. Which was well worth it, it turned out, but it definitely threw us off guard. Therefore, we learned two valuable lessons that I would like to share with you all: 1) when travelling to a foreign country, do your research! Not just on the attractions, but on the transportation system. 2) When you are studying abroad, plan for one country/thing/occasion that you will splurge for and plan all of your other trips accordingly!

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“The Magnificent 7” Leotard
1996 Olympics — Atlanta, GA

On our first day there, we hit the ground running. We immediately got off the plane, took the shuttle train one stop to Geneva and got lunch. After lunch, we went to our hostel, which unfortunately was a real hostel. Our other trips spoiled us into thinking that all hostels were clean and came with free breakfast. Not this one. This one was disgusting. DO NOT STAY IN GENEVA HOUSING. After we checked in to our room and got settled, we were off. We bought our train tickets [with heavy hearts and shortly thereafter, empty wallets] and travelled to Laussane. When we got to Laussane, we went to one of the coolest interactive museums ever, the Olympic Museum. And it was very appropriate as Sochi 2014 was occurring. I have never been prouder to be an American than when I walked into that museum. The museum started with the history and virtual story boards to explore the Greek society and continued with present day. Then there was the spirit and games section and we were all shocked when we saw the Olympic torches. It was unreal. There are no words to describe how amazing it was and feeling that surge of national pride but also worldly pride to see the torches of the Olympics that unites the world in competition. Also in that section were signed uniforms of former Olympic champions from different years, events and nationalities. I had a bit of a homesickness moment when I saw the signed leotard of the Magnificent 7 from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. This is not because I am a gymnast but because for my entire life, my parents have joked “You Can Do It, Keri” in the Russian accent whenever my brothers and I were competing in a sport or just needed encouragement. And also, but less importantly, because my favorite summer Olympic event is gymnastics. I could have spent hours in there, soaking up the glory and exhaustion and pride because I love the Olympics and I wish that they were more readily available to watch in Spain. After the museum, we trolled around Lausanne and went to the harbor at dusk and eventually got back to the hostel.

Saturday we spent a lot of time on the trains but it was so worth it! We left Geneva and travelled to the Callier Chocolate Factory. And it was AWESOME! Switzerland is on point for interactive and engaging museums. The tour of the factory was very much like interactive attractions at Disney World, where you experience whatever is in that room and then a door opens and you pass through to the next one. It started off with the history of chocolate and cocoa beans and introduced the birth of the Callier-Nestle partnership. As awesome as it was, NOTHING can compare to what happened next. At the end of the interactive tour, you are brought around to see the machines of how they actually process and blend the chocolate. Once we turned the corner, we entered most people’s interpretation of Heaven: a room full of Callier SAMPLES. Every callier instagramtype of chocolate that Callier sells was out on the table for the tour group to try. Well, without even a second thought, Audrey and I sampled everything. We were moving too quick in the line to even consider breathing — we literally inhaled the chocolate. And it was all so rich. And so amazing. And after sampling all of the chocolate, we ended up in the gift shop with a wall full of all the chocolate we just sampled. What a GREAT marketing strategy! I was thoroughly impressed with their attention to innovation and customer preference. And it resulted in me buying so much chocolate! [Some of it is for my family and friends, don’t worry. But a lot of it is for me!]

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Day In The Mountains!

Day 3 was a day spent in the Swiss Alps. I know, my life is so hard. Warning: we did not get to go skiing. It just wasn’t in the cards or budget. But we travelled from Geneva to Interlaken and took the local train from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen. This was a long trip for sure — a little more than 3 hours, but SO WORTH IT. When we got to Lauterbrunnen, we rode a cable car up the mountain and arrived in a ski town called Mürren. The ride in the cable car reminded me of the Wonder Wheel in Coney Island and it was like an adventure! I loved it! When we got to Mürren, we arrived in a little Winter Wonderland! The mountains were breathtaking and the houses and shops were all wooden, like the village was taken out of a snow globe and tucked away into the mountains. We found a restaurant and ordered traditional Swiss food with authentic Swiss cheese! I ordered the Rösti and it was delicious and we watched the Women’s Curling Match versus Japan. After lunch, we trolled around and played in the snow. And I even got to practice my German [which came back to me in bits and pieces when I needed it to].

Switzerland was a great adventure and we loved everything about it. Monday morning at O Dark Thirty rolled around and we got up to travel to the airport back to Madrid. We cleared security and were waiting for our flight when over the intercom, a lady said that the airport had been closed due to an emergency landing and flights were going to be delayed. And they were by almost 2 hours. Fun times. What ended up happening was the co-pilot from a flight on Ethopian Air travelling to Rome hijacked the plane and needed to emergency land in Switzerland where he sought asylum. Absolutely crazy! You can read more about the hijacking here.

But overall, Switzerland was beautiful! There are two more posts coming soon so be on the look out for those! You know you love me — xoxo Meg

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Just ROMAN Around ;)

Get it? I know…I’m punny 🙂 I’m sorry for the lateness of this post but….travelling Europe got in the way!

Last week’s European excursion was to Rome! Now, as an Italian, I loved every second of it. Never having been to the “mother country”, regardless of the fact that my family is not from Rome, I was in awe of everything we saw, did and ate.

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Roman Forum!

Once again, we had a crazy late flight but managed to get to our hostel by using a map and our brainpower. Very impressive. On our first day, we toured the Ancient City. What an experience! It’s one thing to do reports and dioramas on the ancient ruins but to see them up close and personal is an entirely different story. We first went to the Forum… and a Funny Thing Happened On The Way! If you don’t understand that reference, please click here. After we toured the Forum, we saw the arc of Titus. Then, of course, came the Colosseum. For me, history came to life when we walked inside. A lot of people told me that the Colosseum was smaller than they expected but I thought it was a nice size for a massive arena that people came to for entertainment. What did surprise me was the pit — my entire life I thought the massive pit in the middle of the arena was where the battles took place, but actually there is a raised stage where they took place. The pit had stone walls that create a maze, where the animals must have been let loose. But I totally didn’t know that. There was a moment when I emerged out of one of the gates into the bright sun and felt like Russell Crowe in Gladiator. All day, I was in shock about the architecture and Roman rituals back in the day. I really can’t express in words how cool this was….I feel like this happens with my blog posts. I’m sorry, but bear with me. Regrdless, it was really awesome.

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Sistine Chapel Ceiling!

The next day, we went to Vatican City. LITERALLY ONE OF THE COOLEST PLACES I HAVE EVER BEEN TO! And being Catholic totally amplified the experience and I definitely felt closer and more connected with my faith, which was needed. [In no way is this supposed to be a missionary post, just so y’all know] When we first arrived to St. Peter’s Basilica, we weren’t allowed to go inside. When I asked the guard in my broken Italian, he replied that the Pope was inside doing a special mass. #casual. I was in the same vicinity as the Pope. So we strolled over to the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel and saw that first — and it was student rate! The Museum was cool but the Chapel was unreal. I took art history during my sophomore year and seeing a piece that I actually studied was very, very cool. Especially because I could recite the most important facts about it. The catch about the chapel is that because it’s so old and the every single wall is covered in paintings [including the Gothic arches that look like architecture but they aren’t], so pictures are prohibited. But I don’t do very well with rules….so I sneakily snapped a photo of the ceiling. Smart phones with dual view cameras are super helpful in situations like this 😉

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Authentic Diavola Pizza!
“Bon Apetit! Long May You Eat!”

Then we went for lunch and I got real Italian pizza and I was so happy! Italian pizza is as close as I’m going to get NY pizza and it was so delicious but I also got so homesick. I also wouldn’t shut up about the pizza. But the food in Italy was so rich, how could I not talk about it? Between the pizza and directly afterwards, my first gelato excursion, I could’ve eaten there for the rest of my life.

After lunch, we went back to the Basilica. Touring the Basilica is free — shout out for free things! And it’s amazing. I mean, absolutely BREATH TAKING! The intricacies of the architecture and statues is just unbelievable. In the Basilica, I not only saw the whole place but I also stood before Pope John Paul II’s tomb. What an experience as a Catholic to pay respects and be close to a person who was so influential in the Catholic faith. My friends and I did 3 laps around the place because we couldn’t get enough of the awesomeness!

The last thing we did on Day 2 was visit the Trevi Fountain! Another beautiful site and it’s even prettier by nightfall. [We saw the Trevi at least 3 times within 2 days] We all threw coins into the fountain and wished for luck and happiness in the year and all that good stuff. And for dinner, we ate gelato by the fountain and it was adorable.

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Pope Francis!
Midday Prayer – 09 Feb 2014

Day 3! Because we had finished the main attractions in 2 days, this was our day to just chill and do what we wanted. Miso and I went back to the Basilica because we are both Catholic and wanted to hear Pope Francis’ Midday Prayer. We got to the Basilica early and bought rosaries. Then we went inside and got our rosaries [and ourselves!] blessed by a Vatican priest! A very rewarding and calming experience, and once again, I felt closer to my faith. Then it was time to go outside and hear Pope Francis. The rain had stopped finally and he emerged out of the papal window of the Basilica and gave an incredible prayer about being the light in the dark and referred to my favorite Bible passage, “The Parable of Fishers of Men”. All of this was in Italian too, by the way. I wish I could upload the video into this blog post but because I don’t have VideoPress capability [aka I don’t pay for my blog domain name and stuff like that], I can’t. So here’s a picture of Papa Francesco instead!

All in all, Rome was wonderful! People keep asking me if I liked it better than Paris. My answer is that I like it different than I like Paris. Paris had a lot more attractions and we had very full days while we were there but I loved the religious aspects of Rome! Stay tuned for more of my adventures! 🙂

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J’aime Paris!

Did you miss me? I know you did 😛 This past weekend I was in Paris…. and the city of love was LOVELY! We did Paris right and saw so much in only two days. What a way to kick off the weekend trips with a bang 🙂

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First Meal in Paris!

We started off Paris a little lost…. Charles de Gaulle airport is not actually in Paris and we had to take the night bus into Paris to get even relatively close to our hostel. And the night bus was EXACTLY like the knight bus in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Well after that adventure and then fitting 7 girls into a cab, we finally made it to the Caulaincourt Boutique Hostel . For having never stayed in a hostel before, I really liked it and it included free breakfast!

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On my tiptoes trying to touch the top of the Eiffel Tower #shortpeopleproblems

On Friday, our adventures really began! Our first place we hit up was, of course, the Eiffel Tower! And the adrenaline junkie in me convinced my friends to go to the top and what a view. The motto of the trip started from the moment we got to the top: “everything the light touches is our kingdom”. We got to look out and see all of Paris and it was breathtaking (and chilly!) I’m pretty sure I have 100 pictures just of the Eiffel Tower and the view. Once we came down, we had a photo shoot on the green in front of the Eiffel Tower. Obviously. Fun Fact: the Eiffel Tower is mirrored after the Washington Monument, with a big green “lawn” separating it from the Parliament building [or the Capitol Building, in the case of the USA]. You know how everyone takes those pictures of themselves holding the Eiffel Tower in an optical distance picture? If you’re child sized, like I am, you can’t do that. So make sure you’re at least 5′ 4” before attempting to hold the Eiffel Tower. Here’s a picture of me trying to touch it…note the “trying”.

After the Eiffel Tower, we walked towards this beautiful gold domed building that looked like a palace. It turns out it’s actually a compilation of museums, a hospital and a retirement home dedicated to the French military and veterans, called Les Invalides. It was beautiful and had a very French garden that reminded me of Alice in Wonderland. Sadly, we couldn’t go inside.

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Arc de Triomphe!

It was a beautiful sunny day in Paris, so we walked. In fact, we strolled…to the Arc de Triomphe! Another awesome attraction in Paris. I was actually unaware of what the Arc signified — I just thought it was a famous Arc but it’s actually a war memorial to the fallen soldiers that lost their lives in battle. And in order to get to the Arc, which is conveniently placed in the middle of a massive traffic roundabout, you get to go beneath streets and pop out underneath the Arc. It was very cool and we got some great pictures!

To continue with our touristy excursion, we went to the Louvre Museum. On Friday nights after 6 PM, Youths [which is anyone under 24!!] get in for free. And all college students love free! What a cool museum — we hit all the major exhibits including Medieval art, Egyptian and Greek and also saw the two most important pieces in the place. The Venus, who has her own showcase room, and of course, the MONNA LISA. Now for those of you who have never seen my girl Lisa, she’s actually really small. No bigger than a 16×20 poster. But she has glass protection and security guards. Which, for such a small picture, is a sick accomplishment. But in all honesty, the Monna Lisa was absolutely awesome and I felt like I was in The Da Vinci Code. I easily could have stayed there for a day and just roamed around [but I feel like that with most museums!] That concludes day 1 of our program….

…Day 2! We got up bright and early to continue to explore Paris. But first, we made a side trip to Versailles. Versailles is how I imagine my summer home to be — you know, cobblestone everywhere, huge statues, gates made of real gold. All that stuff real princesses should have. And we didn’t have to pay for the ticket to tour the palace and gardens — yay more free excursions! There was so much to take in at the palace — ceiling artwork, beautiful, ornate furniture and portraits. It was definitely an old school glamorous field trip! And then the gardens stretched for miles — again, rendering the quote from the Lion King. Fun Fact: there is a quote on one of the walls in a bunch of different languages that says “Everything in Versailles has been modified at least 10 times”. And it’s so true! There were two exhibition rooms plus the main fountain that were under restoration and the place is under constant upkeeping.

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In Memory of
Monique Tartt
age: 18

Upon our return to Paris, we visited Notre Dame which is overwhelmingly beautiful. And I got a personal shout out from the security guard for taking pictures in the middle of the church while people were praying before mass…oops. But I got the good picture. However, Notre Dame was hard for me because the night before I learned that one of my friends from home, who was very close to my younger brother, had passed away. She was an absolute sweetheart with a smile that could light up a room and I lit a candle for her to pray for her and her family. Then afterwards, we went to Sainte-Chapelle to see the stained glass windows our professor raved about! But the windows were being restored and the church was closing just as we got there 😦 I was disappointed we didn’t get to see it but that just means when I come back next time, I’ll have to visit 😉

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CREPE!

After all of our excursions, it was arguably the most important part of the trip: CREPES. The 5 of us were absolutely ravenous by the time we got to the crepe shop but it was a great decision to wait until our last day to get them! We all ordered savory crepes and mine was so good, I didn’t know if I should eat it slowly to enjoy it or scarf it down because I was so hungry and it was so good! I had a crepe with cheese, eggs and chorizo from Basque Country — which is in Spain! Ohmygosh it was amazing — just thinking about it makes me hungry! And what’s a good meal without dessert afterwards? We visited Berthillion’s Ice Cream Shoppe that had authentic, handmade ice cream and was so good and so worth it. It was especially meaningful to me because this little adventure was a suggestion from my parents who had visited Berthillion’s on their honeymoon! [Shout out Mom and Dad!] And of course, we had to get a picture to send to them and show them how good their suggestion tasted! We highly recommend it!berthillions

Wow that was long! But we did a lot in only 2 days! And when you all go to France, make sure you give me a shout out for giving you the wonderful suggestion of Berthillion’s Ice Cream! 🙂

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