Travel Week 1: Venice, Florence, Paris!

An entire week to travel anywhere in the middle of the semester?? Sign me UP!

Venice

Saturday October 7th

My flight took off to Venice from Cope in the afternoon, which was really nice because it gave me some time to get everything together the night before. When the plane took off I knew I was going to have a great week because I had the row to myself and was able to move over to the window seat! When I stepped off of the plane and felt the warm sun beat down on my face I knew I definitley wasn’t in Denmark anymore. In the airport I found my way to a desk where I purchased a ticket for the bus that would take me to Mestre Station. When I was dropped off at this station I walked just down the street to the hostel where I would meet Madeline and Erin-my roommates from SJU! We all got settled in our room, changed, and headed back to the train station to head into Venice, since our hostel was located on the mainland.

We walked around Venice for a bit, before going to Harry’s, the place where the bellini got its start! This peach drink was super delicious and I couldn’t think of a better place to have my first bellini than at this iconic bar! After we finished our drinks at this swanky place we enjoyed some Italian aperitivo and enjoyed aranchini and a spritz as we waited for our reservation (they eat dinner SO late in Italy and I definitley did not get used to it).

We had our dinner by the canal at a place that Erin and Madeline had found earlier in the day. I had a spicy tomato sauce with prawns that were definitley whole and Madeline definitley had to take them apart for me–but it was all so delicious! When we returned back to our hostel we were beyond excited to see that we didn’t have roommates and so we were off to bed!

Sunday October 8th

We woke up Sunday morning, packed up all of our things, and took the quick train ride into Venice. Unfortunately, since we had to check out of our hostel, we had to carry our things around which was definitley a work out since my backpack is stuffed for a week of travel–but oh well I survived like the semi backpacker I tried really hard to be!

We ate a nice American breakfast place that we were all craving where I enjoyed an omelette and fresh squeezed OJ which was just lovely. Then, we went to a cute little Italian shop to pick out some Italian sweets to enjoy on our gondola ride! This was definitley a must do when in Venice and we all had so much fun sailing the canals and seeing the less crowded and calmer parts of Venice.

We took the rest of the day to walk around and also sit down and people watch all of the many tourists everywhere when our bags got to be a bit too much. Then, we took the train from Venice to Florence which was about two hours and so relaxing and something I just really enjoyed.

 

Florence 

Sunday October 8th

After we got off the train in Florence we headed to Trattoria ZaZa, which was SO delicious. I had beef with rosemary potatoes and arugula and a sauce and it all was just what I needed! I also had my first taste of florentine bread which doesn’t have any salt in it. All I can say is that salt makes a difference, like a big one. Afterwards, we parted ways with Erin as I am staying with Madeline in her apartment for my time in Florence–roommates once more!

Monday October 9th

I was on my own for the morning until Madeline and Erin got out of class, so I went to a recommended spot for breakfast called Shake Cafe. Then, I walked around the Duomo for a bit as I finished my coffee and of course people watched the bazillion people with selfie sticks. I referred to good ole google to figure out what I wanted to do in Florence, and number three on the list said there was a monastery and monks and I thought sure that sounds like a good time, and it was over a water way so I thought that would be fun. After a lot of stairs I ended up high on a hill at Piazzale Michelangelo! The view was incredible and I was so glad to have my camera and take a break to look out over Florence, especially since I was definitley not used to all the heat and sunshine! I then went across to the monastery called San Miniato al Monte. Also a very beautiful area that was nice and spread out. Inside was very dark, but I did in fact see a Monk! The back of the monastery was definitley my favorite part though, it was a huge cemetery spread out and it was just so beautifully laid out and I think everyone buried there is probably very pleased with their set up. I then stumbled upon Scuola del Cuoio, the leather school in Florence on my walk back, which is attached to Santa Croce. So I walked around in there for a while as well!

I met back at the Duomo to meet Madeline and Erin so we could get lunch at their FAVORITE spot, Pino’s! I was super hungry after my adventure, so definitley would have ate anything, but Pino’s was just as good as they hyped it up to be. Basically it was a huge sandwich with a bunch of meats and cheeses and pesto and delicious crunchy bread all pressed together, the one I got was called the Tuscan! After lunch we went grocery shopping which I always find fun to do in new places. That night, Madeline cooked us up some chicken and quinoa and afterward we went to Gelateria Dei Neri for my first Italian gelato! I had salted caramel and cookies & creme for 1.80 euro!! Coming from Copenhagen, you really cant beat this price!

Tuesday October 10th

I had another solo day while my pals were in class so I headed to Mercato Centrale which has a market on the bottom with vendors selling different meats, cheeses, breads, oil, and other goodies. On top of this are different places to eat, and I was told that the pizza is great, which it definitley was. Only regret is not being able to eat the whole thing!

Afterwards I headed to Palazzo Strozzi which was currently housing The Cinquecento, the final act of the trilogy a set of curators began about the counter reformation period in 16th century Florence. I was able to get an audio tour to walk me through the exhibit which is always helpful, and overall thought this was a really great exhibit to go see, especially since it will be finished come January.

After the museum I turned the corner of where I was and saw an interesting bridge which I knew was Ponte Vecchio! I walked down this very busy street and went in a few of the shops which was nice, but the view from off the bridge is definitley the coolest.

On my walk back to Madeline’s apartment to meet her I headed into a coffee shop that Erin had recommended, and saw a friend from DIS! This was so crazy to me because what are the odds that we were in the same city in the same country at the same time and then be in the same coffee shop. I don’t know, stuff like that just always blows my mind!

For dinner, Erin and my other friend Breanne, who is studying in Florence and roommates with Erin, all went to dinner together. I tried a wild boar ragù which is apparently a Florentine specialty, and was very good. Of course, I couldn’t not get gelato to end the night, so we headed back to Dei Neri’s for some gelato–when in Florence ya know!

Wednesday October 11th 

I walked around the Florence streets in the morning for a bit before meeting up with Erin, Madeline, and Breanne to head to the leather school, a place I stumbled upon my first day in Florence. We all scoped out some of the items before Madeline and I headed to the Duomo to climb to the top of the cupola! The view was INSANE and was so worth the crazy amount of steps. They started out regular and then it was all curved and ended practically straight up and down!

By the time we got to solid ground our legs were shaky but we were determined to make it up the top of the bell tower which was next to it–another great view of the city. Since we climbed so much and were super tired and sweaty we decided to cool off at Magnum, were we made our own ice creams. This was so tasty and delicious and exactly what we needed. Madeline and I then headed back to the leather store to make some exciting purchases and then headed back to her apartment.

We ate dinner ‘early’ this night and went to a place called Foody Farm where we ordered for aperitivo, but actually ended up having the full size of the meals, but either way the falafel and chicken strips were so so yummy! Of course, my last night in Florence would not be complete without another gelato trip! This time Madeline and I split a bigger size — only had enough coins left for this 🙂 — and got strawberry and nutella gelato!

My trip to Venice and Florence were really amazing, but not as much fun as the five hours leading up to my flight to Paris!! (I am happy that I can now laugh and write about this experience, because BELIEVE me, in the moment I was NOT having it)

So, my flight was set to take off out of Florence at 6:35AM, I get very nervous about not giving myself enough time to get through security and what not so I figured I would like to leave around 3:30AMish to get to the Florence airport. Since there isn’t any easy public transportation to take me to the airport like in Copenhagen, I was feeling a bit uneasy about getting a cab at such an odd time of night. So, I instead opted for leaving around midnight to get a cab more easily since people would still be out and about and then just be at the airport early.

So, I walk to the Duomo where there is a taxi stand, yet not one single taxi in sight. I stood there for a good amount of time as I see two ladies in long flowing dresses going off in their english accents about where the bloody hell these taxis were. Relieved to actually know what people were saying around me, I approached them and together we hailed down a cab! These women were so kind and helpful. They are from ‘all around’ England as they put it, but are moving to Florence because it is just so much better-because they actually have sunshine and no one is trying to bomb them all the time. Couldn’t really argue with that! I was feeling great as I got dropped off outside the airport, walking up the stairs, and then I was greeted by a security guard telling me I need to leave because the airport is closed and doesn’t actually open until 4AM.

Earlier in the day Madeline and I joked about how airports can’t possibly be closed…so she was shocked to say the least when I called her from outside the CLOSED Florence airport. So, around the airport I walked to find yet another taxi to take me right back to Madeline’s apartment. This is when the language barrier was definitley an issue, and I really had to focus on the one year of Italian I took freshman year–but basically I played charades to get myself a cab that took credit cards. The cab driver was an older man who spoke absolutely no english, so then I tried google translate, which he could not read because he needed glasses!! (Amy Jo I see a new global market for ya!).

The good thing that came out of this cab ride was he gave me a card to call so I could order a cab for the time I needed. So, Madeline took care of calling and ordering it for me, which was very helpful. I really tried to get some sleep before my cab was supposed to arrive in the next two hours, but as you could imagine that wasn’t the easiest thing. At 3:30AM Madeline and I woke up, looked out the window and saw the most glorious thing, a cab ready for me! I got in, off we went, and in record time because apparently red lights mean nothing at that hour, it was like I was in an actual mario cart game. Regardless of everything, I made my flight and landed in Paris at the Orly airport!

 

Paris

Thursday October 12th

So, after three cab rides, one flight, one train, and one bus, I finally arrived and saw the Eiffel Tower! I then found a cafe, did some homework, and waited for two friends from DIS to arrive so we could check into our airbnb!

I didn’t do too much this first day I arrived, which looking back I wish I had done more, but definitley understand why past Carly didn’t. I was very overwhelmed and not to mention so incredibly tired from the whole ‘to do’ of getting there, and also felt like I was plopped into a whole new city in a completely new country all by myself and just did not have the energy and mindset to figure transportation and explore (especially when hauling around all of my stuff).

When Alexa and Michelle finally got to Paris (they took a train from Brussels) I took the metro, which was so easy by the way, and met them at our airbnb! We got some much needed dinner, and afterward went to a bar and ordered some Moscow Mules and decided on some of the things we would all like to do. The place we were in was so nice and chill and I felt very content and really excited for the rest of our time in Paris!

Friday October 13th

Our first day in Paris, what an exciting time! Michelle’s mom had lived in Paris when she was younger, and Michelle spoke some French and had been here before so she was an excellent tour guide for Alexa and myself! My favorite thing about this trip was that besides museums and landmarks we didn’t have exact places that we just HAD to eat at or go, which we all just really liked because then we could just stop in anywhere that looked good and just enjoy where we were without being in a great rush to check things off of a list.

So, there really was no better way to start the day than with crepes for breakfast! After absolutely devouring these we headed to the Eiffel Tower, which was just so bizarre to see in person, because I have seen so many photos of it before, but to see it in person, now that was something. We couldn’t climb it on this day because it was closed, so we headed to the Arc De Triomphe which was so humongous and we climbed to the top of this which had a short line and a really great view! What was fun about looking out from this was seeing all of the cars driving below, it’s amazing that there aren’t more crashes honestly!

We then walked down Champs-Élysées which is a huge shopping street and just really beautiful to walk down and see all of the nice cars and fancy stores and people. We found a restaurant to eat at outside and then kept on walking headed towards the Louvre. We walked through a garden/park to get there which is where I found a women to photograph for my photojournalism assignment for school, which was to photograph a stranger. I basically had a photoshoot with this women and her dog, but she was really kind!

After this we ended up at the Louvre, where we didn’t actually go inside, because it is so incredibly large and we could kill a whole day there, and we wanted to see the most we could of Paris, so we just walked around the outskirts which was still just as amazing to see.

From here we went toward the Seine where we took a boat tour up and down, and the weather was perfect to see Paris from this view! Afterwards we walked along the river to Notre-Dame Cathedral and inside they were actually have a mass that we caught the end of!

We regrouped back at our airbnb before heading to dinner where we met up with two SJU pals, Carter who is studying with me at DIS, and his friend Charlotte who is studying in Rome. After dinner, Michelle, Alexa, and I headed to the Eiffel Tower to see it twinkle! This was SO beautiful to see and everyone around had blankets just admiring the pure magic that was happening in front of us all. We were really glad we decided not to sit down because there were rats everywhere!

Here we were approached by two french men who were probably harmless but you can never be too sure, so we all were just waiting for them to walk away. After they left a lady that was sitting near us approached us and said she was also from the US- Charlotte, NC as was definitley evident from her accent. She was so nice and said she was watching out for us which was just so kind of her, and afterwards we all wanted to get a pink hat to match hers (and also couldn’t stop talking about how HUGE her ring was). We then walked through a super market to see what that was like and ended up around the Grand Boulevard area.

Saturday October 14th

We started our day by going to a coffee shop in the area we were staying in called République Coffee. This was the cutest spot and I had some homemade granola with a drop of yogurt in the middle (?) I was confused but it was still super yummy! We then took the metro and then the RER train which was fun because more transportation to try out- all of it is super easy to use in Paris which is awesome.

We were able to climb up the Eiffel Tower on this day, but there definitley was a long line, so a pro tip is to take the stairs and there will be a significantly shorter line. Afterwards we ended up walking in a cool area where we stopped in a little shop for some macaroons which we ate in a nearby park. We continued our walk then to Musée d’Orsay which we got in for free because we are students! This museum was really nice because it was small enough to get through it without giving up a whole day to it-lots of great pieces from Monet and Van Gogh, but my favorite part was definitley the room dedicated to Neo-Impressionism.

At this point we were pretty hungry and so we stopped in a bakery and a cheese shop to pick up baguettes, fancy cheeses, jam, and wine for us to have a picnic by the Seine river! Unfortunately, we didn’t realize that the wine needed a cork screw to open, so we made a quick pit stop in a souvenir shop and then were able to dine! This was such a highlight of the trip for me, it was so delicious and beautiful and a lot better than sitting by the tower because more people watching and no rats!

We had all been craving ice cream since arriving in Paris, so we walked around the area we were in and found a spot where I got a cheesecake flavor that hit the spot!! We continued to walk around a bit and then took the long walk along the Seine to get home which was so worth it because the sun was just setting.

Michelle’s mom told us an area to walk around near where we were staying, so we did that and found a nice little french bistro, took in the sights, and headed back to the airbnb for our early flight the next morning.

Sunday October 15th

We left the airbnb around 6:30AM and took the metro and RER train to get to Charles de Gaulle Airport. Copenhagen greeted me with an overcast sky and a chilly breeze, and after a week of sweating I was very excited to be back in my hygge home!

When I got home I emptied my bags, went grocery shopping, did my laundry, and started on my homework (still don’t know how I was this ambitious but am sure glad I was!).

I still can’t believe that I was gone for a whole week in the middle of a semester and got to visit two other countries with friends, just SO SO cool. On this trip I also read a book called All the Bright Places that was really great, and I definitley read this instead of doing homework, but oh well!

Overall thoughts on the places I visited is that Venice is beautiful but definitley filled with people everywhere and you only need a weekend there. Florence was also a great city, and I loved being with all of my friends again, but I found it a little small for my liking. Paris was definitley my favorite place and I was actually sad to leave there and really would like to return and see so many more things! But, returning back to Denmark I realized that Copenhagen is still my number one place!

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