Once midterms were over on Thursday, there was a sense of overwhelming relief that rushed over everyone here. Everyone was traveling for the next few days, including myself, and I couldn’t have been more excited about it. My first stop: Paris, France.
My first stop was Paris, so to get there, I chose to fly. I took a bus from the Santa Maria Novella Train Station in Florence to Pisa; only about two hours. From there, I flew to Paris. Once I landed, I took a bus to Porte Maillot where wonderful Emma and her friend Becca met me. It was around 11 at night and pretty cold, but I was also starving. So we walked a bit down the Champs Élysées toward the Arc de Triomphe. It was a stunning sight to see on a rainy October night in Paris. We stopped at a small café called the Washington Post to get food, which was warm and quite good. After, we met with Becca’s French friend Zooey and took the metro to the Bastille. The Bastille is where all of the bars are and Becca’s boyfriend is a bartender. We got drinks (black mojito anyone?) and stayed out until around 3 in the morning singing and attempting to talk to Parisians. My phone had died a long time ago, but I didn’t care, I was in Paris drinking with the locals and I had been in the country for less than an hour. I originally had booked a hostel, but it was on the complete other side of Paris, so I just crashed on Emma’s couch. Then Emma did a wonderful thing and offered her apartment for me to use while she was in Normandy for the weekend, I took her up on the offer and thanked her profusely. Her apartment is very very small, like less than half the size of the one I have in Florence, but it was perfect for the weekend. So, the next day when she left for Normandy, I got up, got dressed and decided to wander around Paris for the day. I mean, why the hell not?! It was a beautiful day, slightly chilly, but perfect for a dress and a sweater. I strolled the winding streets of Paris, coffee in hand and saw things that I had only dreamed of seeing. Apparently, I also looked like a Parisian girl because I had many tourists asking me in many different languages where things were, and much to their surprise, I said I was American. I walked to the Arc de Triomphe and saw it in the sunlight, I saw the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, randomly placed but beautiful gothic churches, the Esplanade des Invalides. I also went to Bouillon Chartier and Ladurée. By the end of the day, I had my fill of pastries, macarons, and things I can’t even pronounce. I had also walked about 26 kilometers, or a little over 15 miles in one day. Paris is a beautiful city with loads of stunning architecture and classic styles; your eyes taking in as much as they can: the harsh straight lines along with curving edges. Your nose is hit with cigarette smoke and expensive perfume alike. I liked Paris, but I had another destination in mind for the next day.
After I showered, I slept for about four hours before getting up to go to the airport once more. I walked the 10 minutes to Porte Maillot and got on the same bus to take me to the airport. I got through security and boarded another RyanAir flight to Dublin, Ireland. This was another place I had always wanted to go to, so I had made it work. I sat next to a young Irish couple from Cork who had gone to Paris for their fifth wedding anniversary and they were very glad I was so excited about being in Dublin. As soon as we landed, I looked out the window and saw nothing but green, lush land covered in sheep. It was such a strange sight since I had been in a city made out of Italian stone for the past couple of months. I exited the plane and went to get another bus into the center of Dublin to check into my hostel. My bus driver with a thick Irish accent helped me find my hostel, however, I apparently looked like a lost Swedish girl because a Canadian guy asked if I needed help. His name is Mike and we ended up hanging out most of the time I was in Dublin. He had been there for a few weeks and was going down to Killiney for the day to watch the Rugby World Cup Semis with some Irish friends of his at a pub and asked if I wanted to tag along. Yeah, sure, why not? So I put my suitcase in a locker at the hostel, bought a train ticket and headed 40 minutes down the Irish coastline. We met his friends Mark and Shane at the train station and walked up a huge hill to the small pub filled with locals. The Rugby game was on every television screen and the volume was at full blast. As soon as we walked in the door we got a pint of Guinness each and started cheering for Ireland. Needless to say, I fit right in with my blonde hair and blue eyes. After the match we followed Mark and Shane to what looked like the side of a cliff that would just end, but the locals go there to hang out because it has a killer view. Afterwards, Mike and I took the train back into the city and got food a restaurant, I got traditional Irish stew with lamb and potatoes, served with Guinness bread. The next day was my full day in Ireland, so I took the walking tour around the city with people from other hostels. Our tour guide was named Lawrence and he was about as Irish as it gets. Hanging at the hostel, the people I met were so interesting and from all over the world. There were a few Canadians, Finnish, Danish, Northern Irish, Australian, Italian, German, French, and a few Americans. Drinking with people around the world is an experience I will never forget and everyone had gained a love for Ireland. The next day I was off once again to another lovely destination.
I was very sad to leave Ireland, however, I had a country filled with tapas and flamenco dancing calling my name! I landed in Barcelona fairly late and made it to my hostel around 11pm. I made my bed and fell asleep almost immediately. I woke myself up at 8, got dressed and headed downstairs for the simple hostel breakfast of muffins, cereal and juice. I made myself some Irish tea that I had bought, got some cereal and sat down at the table. I met Terese and Paige, both from Boston, and were also planning on taking the walking tour around Barcelona, so I was able to hang around with them for a bit. We took the tour that highlighted Antoni Gaudí’s most famous pieces. He was a Catalonian architect in the late 1800s/early 1900s. We walked and took the metro around the Spanish city to see his many works including Casa Mila, Casa Bottló, and La Sagrada Família. Barcelona has this vibe to it where everyone is happy and people are dancing on the streets; hispanic music fills your ears and brightly colored buildings line the calles and carerras. Your eyes work to make sense out of Gaudí’s work that is filled completely with flowing lines, mosaics and bright colors. Your nose is greeted with smells of freshly made pastries, curing meats in windows and freshly made tapas and paella. There were young people walking along the old, singing, talking and laughing. Also, having everything in Spanish was wonderful and I was able to practice it a bit. It was like taking away a language barrier for a while. It was a beautiful place filled with a strange combination of Spanish and Catalonian culture.
Back to Firenze, Italia
I had to wake up at around 4 in the morning to catch a flight back to Bologna, Italy, so I was exhausted. I slept on the plane, but I was very sad about having my whirlwind of a trip come to end. I gazed out the window as we took off and saw the stunning Spanish coastline with the beautiful ocean and said adios to España. When I woke up, I could see the golden and brick lined houses of Italy and felt a sense of familiarity and comfort. Landing back in Italy and being around the bustling train station in Bologna made me realize how much this country has become home. I bought my train ticket (in Italian!) and made my way to platform number six. My fast-train came and I boarded with a smile, knowing I was going home. I was only on the train for about 35 minutes before I got off at the Santa Maria Novella Station back in Firenze. I walked along the cobblestone streets and soon saw the Duomo in the sunlight; the marble of the Duomo, Campanile, and Battistero glittering in the Mediterranean sunlight making me squint. It was like a warm hug, it was stunningly beautiful, it was familiar, it was comfort, it was and is, home. Hearing everyone speaking Italian again was like music to my ears and I am pleasantly surprised at how much I can actually pick up now. As I sit in my apartment down the road from so many amazing things, I can’t help but have a hole in my heart because I miss the other places so much, but I missed Florence just as much as when I was away from it. Each country had its charm that makes people swoon over it and I appreciated each and every place I went to and I would love to go back. I would highly recommend traveling to everyone, even if it means traveling alone, I did it and it was nothing short of spectacular.