An Ending; A Beginning

Well, readers, it’s my last couple hours in Europe, and I’m sorry to have failed you. I totally stunk at this whole “blogging while traveling” thing. Think of this post as an intermission; I’m not done blogging the trip, but I feel that I need to say goodbye to travel properly before resuming the blog. I’m about 8 or 9 cities behind, and have so much to cover. But I can tell you with absolute honesty that I did not fail myself.

This trip was everything – and nothing – like I expected it to be. If you follow my instagram or see the photos I post on Facebook, you might think that my trip was all about glamorous shots in faraway, beautiful places, not a care or worry in the world. There were definitely moments like that, don’t get me wrong. But there were hard moments, too. I once listened to a professor in college lecture about the subject of happiness. She had us look at our lives and ask ourselves when we were truly happy, and then pointed out that you can’t be happy all the time. Instead, we exist in a state of contentment, punctuated by spectacular moments of joy or happiness. The rest of our lives are filled with moments of frustration, sadness, boredom, etc. We are not always happy; we can’t be. This trip made me realize how true that is. I could be blissfully happy one evening, sipping Prosecco at a restaurant overlooking Positano on the Amalfi Coast, and the next morning be absolutely frustrated to the point of tears that our bed bug problem wasn’t resolved, or that I didn’t know which bus to take to get us to trail head for Path of the Gods. The thing about travel is that you come to recognize your moments of happiness, and savor them, tucking them away because of how special they are. And for me, these moments come more frequently when traveling than when doing anything else. This is how I know that this is not my last trip.

This is one of the hardest posts I’ve had to write, for two reasons.

  1. I don’t know how to make this a “goodbye” post, because I’m not saying goodbye. I’m saying “see you later!” to the many cities, countries, friends, cats, and landscapes that I’ve seen. There is no doubt in my mind that I’ll be back someday.
  2. There is only so much that can be captured by words. I can describe the walled city of Dubrovnik to you, with its orange tiled roofs that contrast the blue sea. But it’s an entirely different matter to stand upon the actual city wall, smelling the salty air and listening to the gleeful shouts of the cliff divers. I can only bring you so far.

I can only hope that my words inspire at least one person to take the leap and travel – to a place you’ve always wanted to see, or a place you know nothing about. Take with you a good pair of shoes, a backpack, and a travel towel. Do not go as a tourist: go as someone who wants to see, not look. Someone who wants to experience, not merely dip their foot in the water. Find moments to yourself to reflect on what your experience means to you, and how it fits into your view of the world. Taste the local food, and do not go carefully, or quietly. These are not travel words. Go boldly, go proudly. Shout out to the world what you want, and then take it. And when you do finally travel, leave your bubble behind. The bubble has no place in the big wide world. The bubble will not allow you to meet foreign best friends, order something off the menu that you can’t pronounce, or hike to the top of a mountain.

I hope that you’ve been enjoying this blog so far. While I did fail in my writing mission, I’m partly glad. As I play catch-up with my posts over the next couple weeks, it just means that I get to relive everything that’s happened.

I will miss the daily cappucinos, the buttery croissants, the sound of Aussies wanting to go party, the late nights spent laughing and drinking wine, the endless bottles of prosecco/rose, and many, many more precious moments.

See you later, Europe.

– Kayla

To Love, or Not to L0ve…

I skipped a couple stops on our trip for this blog due to tiredness, laziness, or possibly-maybe-definitely being a bit drunk, but basically between this post and the last we’ve been to Brussels (1 night), Brugge (2 nights), and this is the last of 5 nights in Paris. I didn’t blog about Brussels because there really wasn’t much to blog about, except for Georgette’s Cafe that had AMAZING frites (which will never again be “French” fries to me because THEY’RE NOT FRENCH, they’re Belgian; and Delirium Cafe, a bar known for its pink elephant logo). And then there was Brugge, which I will blog about and explain why I didn’t have the heart to blog while there, because when you love something deeply you don’t want to be on an electronic device for even a second.

And then… there’s Paris.

I received a lot of opinions about Paris. There were the, “Oh my goodness, you’ll LOVE Paris!” people, which I appreciated because these people then added that they could see me fitting in there. These were also the people that seemed very excited for me to go and wanted me to love it as much as they did. Instead of telling me HOW to feel about Paris, these people told me why they loved it, and knew me well enough to know that I would love it in my own way. Basically, these people wished me well in Paris, and hoped I would enjoy it.

Then there were the people who told me what they didn’t like about it: how dirty it was, how the people were rude and how touristy it was. I’m not going to say it isn’t those things (to an extent), but what city isn’t?? I didn’t think it was any dirtier than San Francisco, any more touristy than New York, and these are places that I love! The rude part, you just deal. There is a huge difference between someone trying to convince you to hate a city, to talk about it in a way that they hope you had as bad of a time as they did, and someone dreamily saying, “Oh, you’ll fall in love with Paris.” Sorry, but I won’t be validating your dislike of it anytime soon.

In Paris, we got lucky with a cheap Airbnb, across the Seine River from the Eiffel Tower. The flat had 4 bedrooms -of which ours was the largest with a big, comfy bed – and we had free reign of the kitchen and the living room, which contained a piano, a samurai sword, a mask collection, and a tiny balcony with a small table and 2 chairs. With plants and books everywhere, and the way the light streamed in, the place looked beautifully and stereotypically… French. It was amazing. And then there was the bunny.

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Our host was helpful and accommodating, despite the fact that we never saw him. He did, however, fail to mention his bunny. Its name was Patapouf. He was adorable, but also kind of an asshole. The entire 5 nights we were there, we barely saw him eat or drink anything. He hopped around with no clear goal, and once he’d warmed up to our presence he would proceed to get very… friendly with our legs. I know for a fact that my leg doesn’t resemble a female bunny. At all.

The first full day in Paris, we visited the Louvre. It’s essentially a giant maze, containing sculptures and paintings and art on art on art. We made a mad dash with what seemed like half the population of Paris to see the Mona Lisa, and stood near it for a couple minutes just thinking about it (who’s she smiling at? Is she constipated? WHAT’S THE SECRET????). We moved along pretty quickly, however, as the entire room was full of people waving their selfie sticks around trying to take 5 billion pictures that they’ll never look at again. The Venus de Milo wasn’t as crazy, but much of the same was happening everywhere.

 

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Disclaimer #1: I hate selfie sticks.

After we left, walked down Rue de Rivoli for food, and hopped on the metro, we went over to Notre Dame Cathedral. It was beautiful, situated on an island in the middle of the Seine. The Gothic style building was massive and breathtaking… and then you see the line to go in, as long as a football field. We settled for taking a couple pictures in front and getting ice cream.

Disclaimer #2: We’ve eaten a lot of ice cream. And gelato. And croissants.

Looking for the next metro stop, we crossed the Seine and happened to come upon the bouquinistes! These are people who make a living setting up stalls along the river, and then have hundreds of worn, old copies of novels/books, all in French, for less than 10 euro. They’ve also started selling prints, keychains, small trinkets, and old maps. I saw an article a couple months ago saying that these businesses were in trouble, due to digital reading; my purchase won’t make a difference, but I did pick up an old copy of The Alchemist. It’s in French, and my French is terrible, so it’s going to be lots of fun to read.

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That night – and two other nights of the five we were there – we grabbed some take away (food to go) and sat on the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower. We claimed our favorite spot, and enjoyed the beautiful weather as the sun went down, accompanied by a bottle (or 2) of cheap wine. We made numerous friends doing this, including a just-married couple and several adorable little girls who gave us kisses on the cheek. This time also included people-watching and telling the men hawking cheap bottles of wine or Eiffel Tower key chains: “Non, merci!”

Perhaps our favorite day was Versailles. We left late – which is not recommended by anyone and you should really get there as early in the morning as possible –  and took the wrong train, which actually ended up working out just fine. It stopped at a different section of the city, and so we walked through the town of Versailles, got a sandwich, and picked up delicious nectarines from an open air market. The line into the palace was an hour long, followed by a tour through the opulent rooms and chambers. What person needs three sitting/receiving rooms, a private room, AND a bedroom? Our favorite room was probably the Hall of Mirrors, decorated with hundreds of gold-gilded mirrors and crystal chandeliers.

(Funny anecdote: you could use one of their audio guides for free, and as we walked into one room that looked like the King’s bedchamber, the guide explained that it was not, in fact, the bedchamber. This became hilariously funny as a horde of people without the audio guides crammed in front of the bed, trying to get pictures and selfies of it. It was just a bed)

The tickets we bought were only good for the actual palace building, but what intrigued us were the gardens. The Versailles Gardens are famous, beautiful, well-kept, and huge. Many of the palace windows looked out on them, and they spread for miles and miles. Everything was a vibrant green and the hedges were perfectly trimmed. From above, the gardens look like a forest, but one too precise to be natural. Deciding to splurge, we paid to explore.

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The only way to really see the gardens is to wander through them, randomly choosing which grove to venture into. It was a beautiful summer day, and we just strolled until we came upon a café sitting in the middle of the trees. We had already been discussing what we wanted to eat (crepes, as usual) and figured that a nice glass of rosé wouldn’t hurt as well.

Em ordered a crepe, but one of the waiters convinced me to try their house dessert, something called a melba which turned out to be vanilla ice cream swirled with raspberries and topped with French cream. One of the French waiters, a charming man with brown hair and a teasing spirit, kept coming over to our table to talk to me. One of the greatest regrets of this trip so far is that I walked away without his number.  There is something about Paris that makes it so easy to fall a little bit in love with everything around you.

Other highlights of the 5 days:

Hiking up a bunch of stairs to get to Sacre Coeur, a beautiful cathedral with sweeping views of Paris

Hanging out with my friend Elle from Italian class at Cal Poly (thanks Elle!). We met her at the Shakespeare & Co. bookshop, then went to lunch in a Parisian café where we enjoyed croque monsieur. The next morning, we met her at the Paris Catacombs, a series of caves under the streets where they moved bones from nearby cemeteries in order to make space in the 1800s. They were creepy but such a powerful and interesting experience
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On our last night, we finally bought Eiffel Tower keychains from one of the men selling them around the Eiffel Tower itself as they yelled “One euro! One euro!” So to the people back home getting souvenirs, you’re welcome

Alright I need to stop this post before it takes you an hour to read it. Stay tuned for the next one, coming in hot!

With love from Paris,

Kayla