Sunday, April 20, 2014

Parts of Paris

Paris this time around felt so different from when i was there in 2011. for one thing, i had my citymap app, so there was no getting lost to be had. also, i had time to just chill, which was kind of hard for me this trip. i can't remember day-for-day what was done, so i thought i could just write about some more vivid memories...

my first night i met a kid from australia who was hitting the town with some italian dude who lived at the hostel. before i ever set eyes on the italian i heard about him from the older ladies at the front desk, and i already had a really bad impression. he seemed okay when i met him, but as soon as we left the hostel for our night out i was like oh, this guy is the worst, actually! if you need any idea of what this dude was like, when people asked his name, he replied, "God". despite this, and having no other plans, i stayed out with them. we hit a small bar with a dj and four chess boards. since i dont know how to play, i sat and drank beer and watched the aussie and italian. after that the italian announced he was hungry, so we hit a cool little restaurant nearby. i was up for a little bite, but that isn't what i got! the italian ordered in total: 2 bottles of wine, a cheese plate, a meat plate, 3 delicious starters, an amazing duck entrée to share, yummy desert to share, and 2 digestifs each! and, of course, we had tonnes of bread. and of course, i tried everything! i was worried to look at the bill, but i was so satisfied and full and drunk, i decided not to care. i gave a few bills, as did the australian kid, and the italian footed the rest. i was a little sad that i had spent so much on my first night in paris, but looking back, it was THE GREATEST MEAL OF MY LIFE. so worth it! i definitely waddled out of there, to another pub, where i was too full of food and drink to have anything else. the italian was tried to smooze the ladies, and even drunk i could tell they were not having it. we were off back home!

the next day was rainy and sad, but the aussie and a cool dude from montreal and i hit up d'orsay museum. i never went there the last time i was in paris. we had to wait in line for a while, but it was worth the wait! the building itself is beautiful, and even though it was one of my last of many museums this trip, i enjoyed myself. i think we grabbed lunch afterwards and walked around. can't remember! this trip i also finally walked champs d'elysee and saw the 15,000 euro watches and such. pretty amazing! we also hit up arc du triomphe, which is pretty stunning.

the next day my friend morag was heading to paris from another french town i can't remember, due to arrive around midday, so i spend the morning in a cafe with a book and hit up a few local shops. i felt very Parisian! it was nice. finally my friend touched down at the hostel and we headed out on a walk, destined for Pere Lachaise cemetary, where a tonne of famous and also loads of non-famous people, are buried. along the way we grabbed some wine and crepes and had a little siesta next to the siene. quite nice and a good catch up :) i guess we spent too much time wandering in and out of shops, cause when we finally made it to the cemetary, it was dark out and the doors were locked. we drank the last swallows of our beers and got the metro home. that night we headed out to Pigalle (the moulin rouge district) and ended up at the same nightclub brenna and i went to the last time i was there! we spent way too much money on a bottle of wine and danced a bit, but the highlight was getting a delicious cheeseburger on the way home. good timez,

one day morag and the montrealer went to the catacombs, which is where the parisians buried a crap tonne of bodies underground back in the day. it was quite a long walk to get to the area where all the bones are stored, and i was kinda freaked. i was afraid that someone was going to jump out and scare us, a la the underground tour in edinburgh. but no, parisians are way too cool for such tomfoolery. the bones are stacked in an orderly fashion, and some stacks are adorned with a design made of human skulls, for example, a heart, or a cross. it was pretty weird, but cool. we grabbed some lunch from a grocery store and ate in front of a church. then we headed to Pere Lachaise cemetary and spend a few hours there, looking for jim morrision, edith piaf and oscar wilde. usually, the more notable graves were the ones where there were crowds. this cemetary is beautiful and HUGE, holy shit. i was effing tired.

morag and i headed to the modern art gallery to start off the following day. i'd been there before, but i wanted to check out the new exhibits going on. this turned in to morag and i asking "is this art?" about basically anything and everything, and taking pictures of really random was a hilarious day.
afterwards we wandered around and found a few vintage shops where i picked up a few dresses and an amazing red cape, which i wore off and on for the rest of the day. i didn't have any money left after that. morag wanted to revisit a famous fancy restaurant and bakery near the tuileries to have some pricey hot chocolate, which she shared with me. we did not feel fancy, really, in our street clothes. morag wanted to go to shakespeare and company, which i probably wouldn't have thought to do it on my own. i got a tote and a book (stamped). it was really cool! afterwards we stopped off at the eiffel tour for a bit, then we headed back in the area of our hostel. we ended up on the hill of sacre coeur with beer and chips. when we were sufficiently annoyed with some dude asking to add us on facebook, we stopped at the shop to buy some yummy stuff to make sandwiches, including fresh baguettes from the corner bakery. ooh la la! i miss that :( we met a guy from the states at our hostel and went out with him back to pigalle, with hopes of finding a better bar to go to. we wanted to dance! we ended up going to james hetfeeld's pub, which i thought was maybe owned by the guy from metallica up until i googled it a minute ago. different spellings! and dayum, that james hetfield's gotten himself into some trouble over the years! we had a tonne of fun dancing and drinking, and even experienced some dude helping himself to morag's beer, via a drinking straw he dropped into her bottle. she was so shocked, she didn't do a thing, until she came to her senses and verbally bitch-slapped him. we had a great time, nonetheless!

i honestly can't remember what we did the next day, but morag was off in the early evening, so we spent a lot of time at a cafe near the train station, eating chocolate mousse and drinking cafe au lait. it was such a decadent, lazy afternoon, and i loved every moment.

on one of my last days when i was alone again, i went to musee de l'orangerie that i'd missed last time i was in paris. it was short and sweet and i had a nice little time. i finally saw the waterlilies! afterwards i walked to musee du petit palais and had lunch, then i took in an exhibit by a swedish artist Carol Larsson. i loved his work! he did a lot of portraits of notable individuals, but even more work of his daily life with his family. it was really beautiful. it was a pretty lazy day for me -- i walked around and took some pictures and read.

i had to wake very early to catch a metro then a bus to the airport, so i could catch a discount plane ride to dublin, where my trip originated. i didn't feel great walking alone in the dark to the metro at 5:30am, but i'm still alive so hurrah. i caught my plane at 9:30 am and it was early, so i had to wait like 5 hours to catch my flight from dublin to chicago. while i was waiting i had a giant english breakfast (my first large breakfast in a really long time), and i had to fight for a spot. everywhere was taken, so i sat down in a reserved section that actually belonged to a separate food stand that sold asian noodles. the lady who worked there tried to get me to move, but i insisted i just needed to eat, and i was so tired and hungry she must have seen the rage in my eyes, and she let me be. as soon as another spot opened, i moved. i sat and had coffee and wrote a bunch of blog posts until it was time to fly to chicago. when i finally got home, i'd been up for probably over a day, and i was wrecked. heather picked me up and took me home, where i had a really long shower and finally, privacy! it felt so nice.

this post was quite out of order...the memories of the paris days are inseparable and kind of run together in a mess of fun. i had a great time my last week (even though i was missing home) and it was amazing to spend time with and get to know morag better. unfortunately for me, she's not coming back to canada for a while yet. whenever i think back on my trip, i feel like it was a dream. i can't believe all the adventures i had in 11 weeks. there are so many places i need to revisit, and so many other new places to explore. i know i'll be back in europe in a few years, and i can't wait. thanks for reading, everybody!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Seville, Spain

Seville was such a beautiful city! I took the train down from valencia with Anaïs  (which cost a hell of a lot more than i wanted to spend...ouch) after las fallas was through. She was going to meet some family who live there, so i spent a lot of time by myself and met up with her at night. Her relatives had booked her a hotel room for her stay, so i went along for free, and snuck breakfast for two days :) it was an intense start upon arriving because as soon as we got out of the taxi at the hotel (we were too lazy to walk or take the metro) and shut the doors, the taxi drove off and anaïs said she had left her phone on the seat. thankfully the hotel staff was really helpful and called the taxi company, and the phone was returned later that night. hallellujah! they said because it was an iphone there was a slim chance of seeing it again. so lucky.

after we got ourselves in order and Anais went to meet up with her family i went for a wander, and not 10 minutes in, I was at an ATM and i heard, "Rachael?" I turned around and it was a girl we had been hanging out with the whole time in Valencia. She said she recognized my butt and my tote bag. hah! she and her cousin were there for one more night, so we made plans to meet up later on. she suggested i check out the nearby gardens, so i went on a stroll around the area and ended seeing some cool fountains. i'm pretty sure she meant i should check out the jardins del palacio (which i did another day). These are gardens you enter through Reales Alcazares de Sevilla, the royal palace, which used to be a moorish fort. the palace was covered in beautiful mosaic work and obviously has an intense moorish design influence, as you can tell from the shape of the doorway arches. from here you enter the gardens, which are unreal! there is a maze to wander through and beautiful foliage throughout. crazy! we met up with the girls later that night and headed to a beer festival where we tried some sort of tequila flavoured beer called Desperado (more liiiime!) and got to scratch a ticket to win some beer merch. the girls got girls t's that were covered in holes (on purpose), and i got a nifty string backpack. garage sale pile, here it comes! we hit a tapas restaurant afterwards for some late-nite grub.

another day i went to Plaza de Espana, which is a building that was built for the 1929 american exposition. now, it houses government offices. the detailed decoration throughout represents spain through and through, down to mosaic fountains and other decor denoting different regions of spain. absolutely stunning! on the last day in the citty i went on a walking tour that ended here, and i randomly joined a protest fighting for abortion rights. crazy enough, you can rent a boat in this plaza and row around in a man-made moat!

anais was with her family for most of the daytime, but she'd arrive back around 9 or 10, then we would go out. one night we got dudded up (as much as possible when most of your clothes are sorta dirty and you are sick of everything) and headed up to a tapas bar, which was actually started by her relative? the guys behind the bar were intense -- there was a real system going. they'd write people's bills on the counter with chalk. we kept the tapas coming, ditto the sangria, and had a grand old time! outside there were men dressed as women for a bachelor party, and a group of men in traditional capes with decoration, playing beautiful tunes and singing. quite the experience! afterwards anais and i wandered to another place that was suggested to her, which turned out to be a music venue with music being played in a smaller front room, and a flamenco performance going on in a giant hall with benches and tables and its own bar! this place was amazing, cause it felt like we were watching a real flamenco show. we didn't have to pay 30 euros to see an "authentic flamenco experience". they also had cheap pitchers of sangria. ole! the best night :)

one afternoon i rented a bike and just WENT. i ended up at things i may not have if i hadn't had wheels...plaza mayor, the amazing structure i posted on facebook that amazed everyone! it is very striking! what a beautiful place. i wish i had gone up to the top to see the city! next time ;) i also rode over one of the bridges to another area of the city, full of people and shops and restaurants. i can't remember the name of the area, but at one time before there was a connecting bridge, this area was considered its own town, and it still kind of is! i was told the older generations who are crossing still say they are going to the next town :) i really enjoyed the dedicated green bike lanes throughout the city! winnipeg needs to work on this like crazy.

a must see in seville is the cathedral, which is the largest Gothic cathedral and third largest church in the world. that it was! i didn't go inside, but it was very impressive from the outside! unfortunately, the plaza outside is very touristy and you may be harassed by gypsys to take a piece of some sort of greenery for money, or perhaps by some drivers to take a ride in their horse-drawn carriage. no worries! on my tour i was told that to get up the bell tower,Giralda, back in the day people would ride donkeys, but now you just walk along the interior stairs or ramp that follows the walls. i lol'd. according to my map, this bell tower was built in 1184, so man, do i feel young.

seville was AMAZING. so beautiful. the other day i was looking at a blog of a couple travelling spain, and i was getting pangs in my heart! i was so fortunate to have met anais in madrid and travelled with her up to this point. i'm so happy that i got to travel to 4 different cities in spain, but there is so much to see! i'm destined to go back one day soon, for sure.