Hello gentle readers. These past weekends I have been traveling, both in and outside of Italy. Traveling to close by countries is one of the biggest draws for studying abroad, especially in Europe. Plane, train and bus tickets are cheaper and locations don’t get any better to quickly weekend trip your way around.
Our first trip was a day trip to Pisa. Day trips are great for smaller cities or if you only want to see one or two sites, and to be honest other than the tower there is not much else to Pisa. There is of course a beautiful church you can visit, but the main attraction is obvious. There is a long road from the train station to the tower, and it is filled with colorful shops and places to eat. You will see large crowds of tourists walking around with cameras and darting into gelato shops for a post-pic pick me up. When we went it was one of the nicest days so far, at about 60 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny. My roommates and I took turns posing with the tower, and I got a couple pictures of other tourists trying to capture the perfect angle. I’m sure we all looked absurd, but it’s a tradition that millions of others have gone through. Afterwards we stopped for a bit in Florence before heading home. We wandered the outdoor market, and stopped in the church where Donatello was laid to rest and admired the artwork there. All in all a nice, short trip, perfect if you only have a day to spend.
This past weekend we visited Paris for the weekend. For all of us this was our first weekend trip, so we learned a lot. First of all, utilize public transportation. Several times we were running short on time or exhausted so we would just hail one of the many cabs to whatever our destination was. At about 8 euro a ride it didn’t break the bank, but the metro would have been much better to use. We also purchased tickets for a metro pass, river cruise and a skip the line to the Louvre online from GetYourGuide, which was a huge mistake. It really wouldn’t have saved us that much money if they had been used, and the company never gave us our tickets but still charged us for it, and refused to give us a refund.
It wasn’t all bad though. I got to see the Mona Lisa, and take a selfie with her. We wandered around the Louvre for 2 hours, but we could have easily spent two days in there. My favorite was the Etruscan exhibit, they are such an under-appreciated culture. We saw the Eiffel Tower during a freak snow storm, and it was heart-breakingly beautiful. We walked around the Notre Dame, which gave me chills. Mass had gotten out, and they were playing the organ. Very Phantom of the Opera, quite haunting to hear. And the Arc de Triumph is massive, the pictures just don’t do it justice. One thing I can say about all of the features in Paris, you will feel quite small wandering around this huge city, with epic monuments. The one thing I did miss in Paris was the Italian food, they aren’t exaggerating when they say it’s the best in the world. I got a really great quiche Lorraine and steak tartar though, which was a refreshing change from the pounds of pasta and pizza.
With my hard learned lessons about traveling still fresh in my mind, I’m planning more trips for my future weekends to other countries and here in Italy. Hopefully from now on it will be more smooth sailing than rough waters. Until then, ciao!