10 January 2011
And so the adventure continues!
Italy: My most anticipated country. We were able to stop at three cities, Rome, Florence, and Venice. Although we were in Rome during Christmas, we didn’t make it to the midnight mass. However, we did tour both the Vatican and the Vatican Museum. Both are near indescribable. Throughout England and Europe I’ve had the chance to see many beautiful churches, but naturally the Vatican outdoes them all. The chance to gaze at the Sistine Chapel was also phenomenal. Once we toured most of Rome’s amazing sites, we were off to Florence, which quickly became my favorite city. I had the chance to wander the mostly abandoned streets (it was Christmas, after all), observe the rushing river, and breathe the very brisk air. Next came Venice, which is as amazing as expected. We didn’t stay in the actual city proper of Venice, which allowed us to take a train to and from our hotel over the water surrounding the city. It was wonderful to see the people coming home from their holiday shopping, as well as the slew of tourists. One of my favorite things about Italy was the universally wonderful food. No matter where we stopped to eat, the people were kind and friendly, the food was wonderful, and the warmth was very much appreciated. A friend and I have added “learning Italian” on our list of life goals; all the more reason to return!
Paris: Paris was just as cold as forecasts predicted! I was still shocked to see snow on the ground when we landed, but thankfully the city was mercifully dry. Paris was so full of wonderful and historic things to see, I definitely could have spent more time there. Places like the Louvre, Notre Dame, and Montmartre could easily take up whole days. We also spent New Year’s in the city, underneath the shining lights of the Eiffel Tower. It was amazing to hear so many different accents and people around us. Of course, the crepes were divine. I think Montmartre was my favorite stop, offering an absolutely gorgeous view of the city. We also sat on the steps for a while, listening to very impressive street musicians. All in all, certainly a remarkable and busy place. It was great to go sight-seeing during the day and then see the city lit up at night, with thousands of people eager to celebrate the holidays.
Ireland: We had two planned stops in Ireland: Galway and Dublin. After the crazy major cities of Europe, it was delightful to stop in Galway for a few days and recoup. I had picked up a cold in the last days of Paris, and was eager to see both the city and the bed inside our hostel. Luckily, we managed both quite well! Galway, and Ireland in general, offered the friendliest and most sincere people I’d ever met. Rachelle, who had spent the past four and a half months in Spain and Europe, was pleased to be able to spend time in an English-speaking country, and I was glad to be able to ask questions with a little less bumbling. Walking around Galway was both relaxing and exciting; we got to see wonderful things like the home of the Claddagh ring, but also had the chance to sit at the edge of a salmon weir bridge and feed ducks for a spell. Rachelle and I also decided to take a day trip through Connemara, and stopped at the beautiful Kylemore Castle (now Abbey). It was incredibly picturesque, on the shores of a gorgeous lake and a garden just a short walk away. Dublin was more city-like, but also gave us the chance to see the phenomenal Christ Church, St. Patrick’s Church, and Trinity College. On our last day before I was to return to England, we wandered through historical and exciting Temple Bar area, and ate at a Mexican and Italian restaurant (From Mexico to Rome), that we adored.
Too soon, it was off to the airport, with a short flight over the sea to Nottingham. And yet, as much as I loved country-hopping, seeing new cultures and eating new food, trying new languages, it was a wonderful feeling to be coming back to a place I had definitely begun to consider home.
Aloha and cheers,