Saturday, December 15, 2012


We were flying from Milan to Paris. All was well and good, we were at the airport in plenty of time, or so I thought. Apparently I looked at the arrival time instead of the departure time.... So we were late and missed the flight. When we tried to check in and the woman told us it was closed, we went to the ticket desk and got moved to the next flight with a little fee. Not to bad, however I had a minor fit of tears. I hate crying in public, or in front of anyone for that matter, so it was the really embarrassing type where I try to hold it in and pretend nothing is wrong but my face is not allowing that to happen so the end result is me with red puffy eyes and a squinty face. Also, I couldn't stop crying, which was really embarrassing again, because when we were going through security, they tried to tell me my bag wouldn't fit in the overhead compartment and  I was going to have to check it. I'm pretty sure I lost a few pounds in water weight. Tom was a trooper about it though. He even bought me a chocolate bar, and we laughed about how ridiculous I looked, a crazy girl crying and eating chocolate. I was so embarrassed about looking at the wrong time and crying in the airport that I was seriously considering not writing about it. But I figured I should document it so I can be sure to never do something as silly as look at the arrival time instead of departure time again

Once we got to Paris, it was pretty much smooth sailing. We were in a hostel really close to Montmartre, so there were plenty of things to do and we were close to a metro station so we could get almost anywhere easily. The downside was that we didn't have wifi (hence the not blogging for a while). The first night we were there, we went to a Japanese restaurant. It was pretty good, it was strange to go into an asian restaurant and hear their broken English with both a French and Japanese accent. 
The next day we walked down the Champs-Elysees and did some window shopping. There was a Christmas market so we got some fries and I got this potato mush thing, it was delicious  I think it was called tartiflette or something, I can't really remember. Then we walked through the Grand Palace, there was an art exhibit showing only French artists (contemporary ones that are still alive, not ancient ones). We had dinner with Tom's cousin's boyfriend, Vincent. He was born and raised in Paris, but studied at Pitt for a semester. It was cool to meet up with someone who is actually a native of the country we were in, every other time we've met up with someone, they were Americans (and a Canadian, in Amsterdam we met up with Tom's friend from school, but more on that later)  living and studying abroad  He asked us if we knew any French and we said no. He looked concerned and said, "How are you doing?" I think we managed to get by pretty well without knowing anything. I actually remember more French from high school than I thought. Madame Frye would be proud. I knew enough to say some numbers and ask for some things. One time when we were in a super market, the cashier asked something and I understood! He asked if we wanted a bag, but I said "Non" (that's French for 'no'). A very simple answer, but it was sufficient! 
The next day we went to The Louvre. It is such a huge museum, Tom and I were kind of overwhelmed. At this point we were kind of museumed out anyway, so we hit the main attractions (The Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, Venus De Milo, etc.). After the museum we went to the Eiffel tower. It was really pretty because it was sunset when we were up at  the top. After that, we went to a place I read about online, Pierre Hermes. It's an upscale boutique-type macaroon store. We got a few (expensive) macaroons. I don't know for sure what each flavor was, but I know that my favourite one was Olive oil/tangerine. It sounds really bizarre  but I swear it was so good. something about the light and tangy tangerine mixed a hint of olive oil was amazing. Plus the macaroons themselves were crispy on the outside, and creamy on the inside, and would just melt in your mouth. Expensive? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely. We then turned our fine dining notches down quite a bit, and went to the super market to get dinner. We got some baguettes, cheese, meats, and some wine. Despite the fact it was a super cheap dinner, it was still delicious (and this is now our go-to dinner in almost every city we're in to avoid spending lots of money on eating out).
The next day we went to Notre Dame. When we were walking around the church, we realized it was a Sunday, and they were starting some sort of mass or something. Since Tom is Catholic, I suggested we go sit down in the pews, because it would be a really cool to say you've been to Sunday mass at Notre Dame. Tom was a little hesitant, with good reason, he didn't want someone yelling at us that we weren't supposed to be there in French and we have no idea what they're saying. But we sat down anyway. After a little while, we noticed everyone that was also sitting down had on a blue and yellow scarf/bandanna thing. We were starting to get a little uneasy about sitting there. Keep in mind, we were sitting there for probably about 15 minutes at that point, waiting for the mass to start. Then, some American family (or so we think, their English was very good) sat behind us. They start talking about Ukrainian traditions and telling the daughter different words in Ukrainian. Then it clicks, it was some sort of special Ukrainian mass. And the man behind us said something about how the Ukrainian president was there. Tom and I were worried they had special things to do and that people would get mad if we participated in this Ukrainian only mass. We decided to leave as to not embarrass ourselves if we got up during the actual mass. When we left, everything was roped off and they weren't letting people in. We definitely weren't supposed to be there. After that, we decided to go to Musee D'Orsay. Tom loves impressionism so he was really excited for this museum. All the museums we've been to have been super old religious paintings, so something new and more modern was a nice change of pace. When we got there, the line to get in was really long, but we didn't have anything else to do, so we figured we would just wait in it. About halfway through the line, we saw a sign that said free admission! We were so happy, anytime we get free stuff it's a good day in my book. Apparently on the first Sunday of every month, all the museums are free. It was such a nice surprise. It made waiting in that line much more bearable.

Our last day in Paris was a much needed laundry day!! You have no idea how nice it felt to put on clean clothes. Don't get me wrong, it's not like we were smelly. Well... ok maybe a little, but we have to fit everything we bring with us into one bag that is the size of a carry on (the airline we took from Milan to Paris, and Amsterdam to Rome only lets you have one carry on. Don't ask me why, it's really stupid... ). So the small amount of clothes we do have don't exactly stay super clean when you have to re wear them many many times. Sometimes we even wash underwear in the sink. Yes, I did feel like a hobo, the kind that uses McDonalds' sinks for showers, but it saves money. It's a good thing I'm not a really high maintenance girl, this whole five-weeks-out-of-a-backpack thing would not go over well. Anyway, we did laundry and it was great to have some clean clothes. Although, I accidentally washed my clothes on the super hot cycle some things changed color... Mainly my underwear that used to be vibrant colors are now a weird shade of puke blue. Best description I could think of. I did ruin a sweater as well, but I'm not too upset about it. After laundry we walked around Montmartre for a while (Tom's favourite area in Paris I think) then went to Sacre Coeur. You can see the whole city from up there, and it's beautiful! We took a train to Antwerp, Belgium the next morning. 

I'll post pictures later, I just wanted to get this post up, because it is long over due (as well as all the other cities. Wifi hasn't been the most reliable thing over here).

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Originally, the plan was to go to Cinque Terre, and visit the coast of Italy. But we checked the weather and it was supposed to be cold and rainy the entire time we were there. So we decided to scrap that idea and just spend more time in Milan. One of Tom's friends studied in Milan a few summers ago so he told us some cool things to go see. 

I need to plan things better and stop arriving at new places on Sundays. Nothing is open ever, so it's hard go walk around and see things when you can't even get food. But we managed. We walked around for a bit and just got a feel for the city. The next day we tried to go to a Design Museum but it was closed (an oversight on our part, we forget that it's not tourist season so things aren't open all the time), so we walked around some more and took our time at cafes drinking coffee. We also went to a really cool museum, the museum of art and science. The first floor had a big exhibit focusing on Leonardo Da Vinci and his 'book' (it's more like notes really) about how to paint/do art well. It can be really hard to understand, so the museum really dumbed it down and made it easy to understand. The bottom floor was my favourite. It was all about how to tell if a work is authentic or not, and they had different stations where you could see for yourself. I'm a sucker for anything interactive, something about doing it yourself is just so much cooler. There were paintings and it showed you what an authentic one really aged like and a newer copy look like. They had the same kind of things with pretty much any material you could imagine: metals, ceramic, amber, ivory, and wood. (There's probably more that I'm forgetting). 

We also saw Da Vinci's Last Supper. It was actually pretty impressive. It's a huge mural on a wall. For some reason I thought it was a regular sized painting, but I was wrong. That's really all there was to see there, it was a giant room that only has that painting, it used to be a part of a church and was the stables or something? Honestly I can't remember. Too many random facts about art I've seen are floating around my head. (Yes, I am aware I would fail an art history class, Tom has informed me many times when I just roll my eyes after he spouts off some obscure fact).

Another art museum went to (I'm never going to want to go to an art museum after this trip again...) was exhibiting Picasso works. We found it accidentally and strolled through. 

We also went to this place called the "Design Supermarket" It's in the bottom floor of a super trendy department store. It has designer everything from chairs to lights to utensils. Both Tom and I really enjoyed that, it was fun to look at the crazy things some people make, and tom was in ultra design geek mode, just naming designer after designer.

So most of what we did in Milan was museums and cafes, but I don't see anything wrong with that.It was raining most of the time anyway, which makes me really glad we didn't go to Cinque Terre. All there is to do there is outdoorsy stuff. Tom and I love that, but it would have been cold, wet and miserable. Also, sorry for the lack of pictures, Tom was seriously slacking on camera duty. He was too busy shopping. Not really, but he did buy more than me! He bought a coat.  I didn't buy anything actually, mainly because he was hovering over my shoulder saying things like "Do you really need that?" "You have so many clothes already..." "I don't know if that will fit in your bag, maybe you should think about that." Way to kill the shopping mood.... Such a buzz kill when I find something I like! But it really is for the best, more money to spend on food, and less crap to carry around in my backpack.

Most of the museums we went into, you couldn't take pictures anyway. So it's not all Tom's fault. Just mostly. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Tom says that so far Florence is his favourite (out of Rome, Florence and Milan). And I reallyed like it as well. There is just something about it that has more of an inviting feel, plus everything is within reasonable walking distance. There isn't a metro, and there isn't a need to figure out the bus system. Benefits for two reasons: 1. Saves money! Who doesn't love that? 2. So much less stress not having to figure out what route to take, if it is taking you to the right place, etc. While in Florence, we saw a lot of gorgeous buildings, paintings, and sculptures. When I asked Tom what we did in Florence because I was trying to remember, he put it so eloquently: "We saw a buncha famous shit". These pictures are mainly from the Duomo, we climbed to the top of the dome, and walked around the inside and outside. It was really cool to see the church from up top, a\s well as the spectacular (yet hazy) view. 


This is one of the oldest bridges in the city. It was really fun to walk across because it has shops lining the street. (Mostly jewelry that was, to put it lightly, gaudy and tacky, although a few shops actually had pretty things):

This (and the rest of the pictures) are from the walk up to Piazza Michelangelo. A park with a beautiful view of the city:

Monday, November 26, 2012


Everything was smooth sailing after the first little hiccup in Rome. The new hostel we were at was good, the people who worked there were so helpful and friendly, and they had free breakfast (the best hostel breakfast I've had). We did some sightseeing and saw the Vatican, which included St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican Museum, and the Sistine Chapel. It was really amazing to see the paintings in the Sistine Chapel, but unfortunately we weren't allowed to take pictures (I personally think that's their way of sucking every last penny they can out of you by making you buy pictures instead of taking your own, but maybe that's just my cynicism coming through. Maybe there is a legitimate reason you can't, like the flashes of the cameras would damage the paint or something). Anyway, here are the photos from the Vatican/Saint Peter's, Vila Borghese Gardens,The Spanish Steps,and The Trevi Fountain: (Now that Tom has control of the camera, there are far too many pictures of me looking like a doofus, just ignore those...)

Here are pictures from the Colosseum and the Roman Forum/Archaeological site: