Location: Dublin, Ireland
What an amazing whirlwind trip this has been. There have been some big ups and big downs. Traveling alone has really tested me in ways that I would never have experienced other wise. I feel really proud that I only cried one time lol. That time being when I lost my cellphone in Switzerland (about 4 days into my trip lol-- i know myself, and had a feeling I was going to lose it, i even wrote down my most used numbers before i left) I just feel really empowered and liberated knowing that I did this on my own, and didn't fail. I was scared and lonely at times, but other times it was really nice to be able to explore at my own pace and stop and enjoy things that interested me, and skip other things that dint. I loved passing right by the groups of people all talking to each other going "Well what do YOU want to eat? John has to pee and where did Sarah go?!?" Also it was really nice to only have to worry about my own budget and not a whole groups. I met a lot of people who were traveling together and some wanted to do things that other people couldn't afford to do, so they all had to miss out on it. So if I wanted to skip the Louvre and blow my money on dinner, I could. That made life a lot easier. So before I do a summary of my best and worst moments, I want to tell you a bit about Cinque Terre and Paris, my last two stops on my trip and also my day tour I took today out to Kilkenny and Wicklow County here in Ireland.
Cinque Terre- "Five Towns" Made up of: Riomaggiore, Vernazza, Manarola, Monterosso, and Corniglia. I stayed in Riomaggiore. The Cinque Terre area is small enough that in one day (if you really dig deep) you can hike from town one through to five in about 6 hours.
This is one really beautiful place. I spent most of my time hiking, which was really challenging at times but always gave you a big pay off at the end with amazing views of the small villages. This hiking situation would have been better if I wasn't hiking muddy rocky mountain paths in flip flops- but hey you make due with what you've got! I wasn't about to carry around bulky hiking boots for a month just to use them for two days, so I toughed it out in flops, which was dangerous and a bit stupid- but thats what your 20s are for right?? One of my favorite things was hiking past the olive groves because the trees make the air smell just like olive oil and it is so yummy! I wanted to eat the air. While I was in Cinque Terre I spent my time with Gina, a very nice girl from Chicago who I met while I was in Venice. So me and Gina hiked all day and then swiftly deposited ourselves at this bar in Vernazza that makes the best sangria. We also drank a lot of tiny Italian espressos that once you get use to the flavor are so so amazing. I am going to be really sad when i go back to my big cups of coffee. Italians can make some amazing coffee. It's sort of like the Italians themselves- Intense, Dark, and Small. :) So we ate cornettos (Italian version of a croissant) drank espesso and hiked during the day, and drank cheapo but tasty "keg wine" at night. In Italy you can order the keg wine, which is served cold and on tap, just like beer. Its usually 2 euro a glass ( A BARGAIN let me tell you) and actually pretty good, since even shitty wine is usually good quality over here. So Gina and I ended up at this bar called Blue Marlin (i think- blue something) and the owner is a nutty Italian guy and I guess a lot of famous writers use to drink at this place- who knows I came for the sangria not the history. When you have been hiking all day the next best thing to water in my book is cold fruity sangria. It even feels healthy because of all the fruit :) Cinque Terre is a remarkable place with intense natural beauty, great food, and a relaxing break from the madness of big cities.
Paris, France- city of lights, romance, museums, dog poop, and pastry.
Paris might just be the best place i went to on my entire trip. There is nothing like this- Paris has got entertaining tourists down to an art.
The metro is set up just like the EL only way bigger, there are like 14 lines and the train cars themselves are bigger and newer. The lines are listed by number are color, because they have like 4 shades of green you could never just ask for the green line lol. But they make the whole process of using the trains very very easy, clearly they have been doing this for a while and have the kinks worked out. One of my favorite things that the Metro has that the El doesn't are these hand maps that show you where all the exits let out onto the street, and they are all numbered, so if you know you want to head a certain way, lets say north, you find the north exit and it's got a number, and you just take that specific exit. No guessing about what streets you're popping out onto or what way you need to turn when you come out to get where you're going. Very easy to use.
Then there are the museums- Paris has more museums than anyone could ever care to see if a year, much less a few days. They have a museum for everything, it's kind of silly. The only museum that I went to was the Musee D'Orsay and it was so amazing. I picked it at random- It was by where I wanted to go, and seemed small enough to enjoy in a few hours. I had no idea it was full of all my most favorite pieces of art. I think I mentioned in my Florence update that I was bummer a certain painting wasn't there (Manet's Olympia). Well, low and behold, I turn a corner at the Orsay and BAM there she is! It actually took my breath away and brought a little tear to my eye to see her in person. This is one of my absolute favorite pieces of art. And what was really wonderful was that not many other people were looking at her, so I could really stop and appreciate the moment. I was also very excited to see so many famous paintings by Van Gogh and Edgar Degas Ballerinas. I saw Whistlers Mother- didn't do much for me, I must say. But to each his own. I ended up spending most of the day in Orsay, and by the time I finally left it was too late to go do what I had planned. So on a whim I took a walking tour of the Moulin Rouge neighborhood, and it ended up being really fun. That neighborhood is a really cute artists neighborhood full of quirky statues and Sacre Coeur, a very famous neat old church on a hill. We got to the church at sunset, and it gives a wonderful view down onto Paris, so I got some really beautiful pictures.
After the tour, a few of us decided to go out to a nice dinner, and we had the best meal! We all split up everything we ordered so that each person could try everything, and we had a great time. I ordered some kind of salmon appetizer, duck as my main, and then this really intense chocolate thing for dessert. Yummy stuff. One of the other girls ordered escargot, which I tried, and it was a lot like calamari, I enjoyed it. Everything came with bread, and then French can cook a hell of a baguette. It's so good. They are really crispy on the outside and super soft in the middle. By the time we left it was almost 11pm and I was beat from running around all day. Some of us were at the same hostel, so we rode the train home where i promptly went to bed and slept like a baby!
On day two I went out to Versailles, which is a huge palace on the outskirts of Paris. I toured a few rooms (which are crazy fancy!) and then walked the gardens a bit. I wasn't much in the mood for hanging around, so I didnt spend a whole lot of time here, but I am glad I saw it. After that I just hung around the city for a while and ate ice cream under the Eiffel tower. The Eiffel tower is so cool! I dont care if it's touristy and cheesy, I loved it! I got some great pictures that I cant wait to share. At 7pm I caught the Fat Tire Bike Tour that leaves from the Eiffel tower and went all over town with them looking at stuff- eating more ice cream- and laughing a lot. Our guide, Dana, was a very sweet and very funny girl from Philly, who had been giving tours the last year and I caught her on her last weekend in Paris before she comes back home to Philly. So she was full of energy and the whole group was a lot of fun to ride around with. We also got to ride through the courtyard of the Louvre (Where Tom Hanks finds the tomb or whatever at the very end of Da Vinci Code - the place with the pyramids) This was a magic moment for sure. We were the only ones in this vast courtyard and everything was all lit up. I got some more amazing pictures and the whole thing was topped off by this man playing the Cello off in a alcove somewhere. The street performers in Paris have really got there stuff together, they are very very good. It was a very special moment- the lights, the cello, the enormity of the space and courtyard surrounding us - I will never forget it. After this we got on a boat that toured the Sine River for about an hour, and Dana passed out all the free wine we could drink- always a plus. I had so much fun, this was a highlight of my trip. By the time the tour ended it was almost midnight, and the metro stops running at 12:30am. I took the train part of the way home before i had to exit and take a taxi because they stopped running. By the way- taxi drivers are nuts everywhere evidently.
So that was my two days in Paris- not enough time!!!! I could have spent a week- easy. J'Adore Paris!!!
I have had two really amazing days in Dublin that I will be happy to tell you about on a different day, because now I am beat and want to go to bed! Thank you for keeping up with my blog, and I will wrap up my story soon. Still to come- My last two days in Dublin and My BEST and WORST moments! Fun stuff!
Location: Cinque Terre, Italy
For the last two days I have been in Cinque Terre, a nickname for these five small villages along the north west coast in Italy. Each town is built into the cliff side and the houses are all stacked on top of eachother up the side of the cliff, its very beautiful. The hosues are all pinks and yellows and are usually built around a little bay. Each town is charming in its own way, and all five are very small and easy to manage. Each has one main street where are the coffee shops and stuff are located and they each have a small beach for swimming. The beaches here are all pebels, not sand. Aslo people go swimming in their underwear, which is sort of odd to me. This area is mostly visited for its beaches and for the hiking trails that lead through the hills and connect each town. The weather has been kind of poor while I have been here, sort of drizzly and cloudy, but it cleared up for a little while and I was able to hike part of the trail, which was really pretty. It was neat because as you are hiking in this crazy steep forest, you come upon small farms where people are growing grapes, tomatoes, basil, egg plants, and olives. The farms are very small and have to be cut into the hill side in steps because it is so steep. So as you are hiking in these crazy rocky hills you will all the sudden find a door and fence that lead to a private residence. I cant imagine living up there. I would love to have a friend who did, so I could see what the inside of those houses look like! So after i hiked a while I came to a town with a nice sized beach and went swimming for a bit. The water was really cold, but refreshing after being so hot on the hike. I sat on the dock and watched some people fish for a while after that, and just had a very chill nice day. Today will be much the same I think. Tomorrow I leave for Paris, and I am hoping to really enjoy that city, since it is the last one on my trip. It seems to me that people either love or hate Paris. Just like Venice, which I loved. Well, that is all for now, and I will update again soon!