Paris at first sight

A few days ago, I got back from my last European stop – the city of lights Paris!

It was also there that I got to hang out with a high school friend who I haven’t seen in 5 years! This was some trip eh? 😉

 

13 July, Saturday.

Catching an early flight could be a hassle but I’m all for it this time. My flight leaves at 7:10 am and I’ll be in Paris by 9. The earlier I get there, the better, no minute to lose. Upon touchdown at Paris Beauvais airport, the cool air greeted me. It was about 15° that morning and I started to worry a bit about my choice of clothes. I didn’t bring pants. I’ve packed shorts, a dress and a skirt. It was summer after all and the Madrid I left was already at 34°. Anyway the weather would have improved by noon. My pashmina wrapped tightly around my shoulders was enough.

I bought my one way ticket bus ticket going to the city center and tried to make myself comfortable for the ride. The airport bus transfer stops at Porte Maillot which is also connected to a metro station of the same name. Right in front of the bus station was the Hyatt Regency Hotel where I will be staying the following night with my high school friend Joyce. But that night it would have to be my usual accommodation in Europe, in a hostel. For that I had to go to Gare du Nord, the busiest train station in Paris where my hostel for the night is located.

The airport transfer took up a little over an hour and right after, I needed to switch to the metro going to Gare du Nord (bought the 3 day pass for 23.40€) which took yet, another hour. These transfers ate up my morning. *sobs* I was planning to join the Sandeman’s free walking tour at 11 am. I arrived at Gare du Nord at about 12:30 and with the next tour starting at 1 pm, I didn’t have time to look for the hostel and leave my luggage there. Instead, I opted to leave my things at the left luggage which cost me 7.50€.
Yeah yeah I’m not exactly thrilled about this extra expense but I’ve got to do the walking tour no matter what on the first day.

 

I arrived at Place Saint-Michel at about 5 mins past one. Quickly scanned the area for the familiar red shirt or red umbrella of the Sandeman’s tour. It was quite easy to spot. I walk-hopped to them and made my intention known: English tour for the lovely mademoiselle from the Philippines s’il vous plait. 🙂

 
I wasn’t the only Filipina in the tour. There were two young pinays who are in Europe for their studies. The other one was doing a hydro-related project in Amsterdam while the other one, after their sojourn in Paris will be moving to another region in France for her Masters in Geology. Impressive these kids.

We were in the area of Latin Quarter, aptly called for Latin was spoken in those very streets.
While some things have changed, that means no more Latin and it has become touristy (the area is filled with restaurants), there’s this charming bookstore that has managed to keep up with the times, Shakespeare and Company.

I knew it from the movie Before Sunset where the character of Ethan Hawke, who has published a novel (based on events of the prequel Before Sunrise,) had his book tour. It was also the gathering place for writers Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce among others.

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Fledgling writers could have their books published in exchange for work in the bookstore. There are also sleeping quarters for them. Clearly the bookstore is more than your typical neighborhood bookstore; it’s a literary movement.
Digital books or not, this is one of those traditional businesses I don’t want to see go just because we’ve become too technologically oriented.

 
We also passed by the setting of Victor Hugo’s famous novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. The writer wanted to draw attention to the worsening state of the cathedral that he had his story revolve around it.

 

We now moved to the Tuileries Garden. It was built on the orders of Catherine de’ Medici, wife to Henry II of France. She hails from the wealthy Italian family of bankers in Florence, thus the popular last name. She also commissioned the building of a palace of the same name which has been burned to the ground and then totally demolished.

Thank goodness the garden was spared. I love it!

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After the tour ended at a little past 4 at the Place de la Concorde, I actually went back to the Tuileries to sit at one of the chairs to rest and just marvel at its beauty.

The Louvre was just on the other side. Joyce and I have it scheduled for the next day, 14 July which is Bastille Day. Entrance is free! 

 

I was thinking of checking out the impressionist paintings at the Musée d’Orsay. It was originally a railway station before its short platforms were deemed unsuited for a busy train station.

 
I got there at 5 but the museum closes at 6. The guard didn’t let anyone in at that time anymore. I wanted to see some Monet paintings but the timing didn’t permit me. Why does it close so early? (resorting to complaining haha). But seriously could they not extend the opening hours, to until maybe 7 pm at least during summer? It would be hard to squeeze it in the next two days of my stay but I’ll make sure that on my return to Paris I’ll be visiting it.

This was just my first day and I was happy with the sights I’ve seen. Kept exclaiming to my fellow countrymen in the tour how lovely Paris is! Got a big day tomorrow for more sightseeing. The girls told me there’s a military parade at the Champs-Élysées in the morning for the Bastille Day. Can’t miss that.

 

Cosmopolitan Milan

Last stop in Italy: Milan

I arrived in Milan evening of 26 June via train from Venice. I went straight to the hostel which was, of all the hostels I’ve stayed in Italy was the worse. It was right next to the tram rail tracks that I hardly slept on my first night. But things go as planned. I got up at 8 am the following day to do what I came here for.

27 June. Milan.

Another Italian duomo.

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With gazillions of pigeons.

Come to think of it, all the Italian cities I’ve been to, their duomos are always a point of interest for tourists. It’s no brainer that in Italy, much of the art work and architectural styles are exhibited in the cathedrals and churches. Catholic churches are lavish and rich in art.

 

Right next to the duomo is..

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Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, said to be the oldest shopping center in the world.

 

 

I wasn’t expecting there was an arch of any sort in Milan. This turned out to be a good surprise. Was astonished to know that the erection of the arch was commissioned by Napoleon.

The purpose of which is to feed his ego and make it as a tribute to his victory in destroying the adjacent Castello Sforzesco. It’s construction was halted with his defeat in Waterloo. The completed work however, was dedicated to the European Peace that was reached. Happy ending.

 
What else was there to see in Milan? Fashion. There is what they call the Rectangle of Gold where four streets form a rectangle that houses high-fashion brands Dolce, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada to name a few. I got disappointed though after circling the area. It was to me, just an ordinary street of high-end boutiques. I was expecting, well, that the street itself was stylish. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is prettier and it also has Gucci, Prada and other labels.

I’ve covered these all by mid-day. For that afternoon, a side trip to Lake Como was what I had in mind.

 

It was only an hour’s ride away. The round trip ticket cost me 9.10€. It wasn’t the best weather when I was there. It was raining while I was on my way but I got lucky it stopped when I arrived. It was a bit cold with me wearing shorts and a sleeveless top. Nevertheless I got a pashmina wrapped around me so I managed to walk around.

When I came back to the Milan city center, dark clouds were looming by the duomo making it radiate golden against the dark background.

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I would have wanted to drop by this shopping area that was recommended to me by the receptionist at the hostel which was, according to him, affordable. But the weather was dropping and I couldn’t anymore with the clothes I was wearing. Besides I got no more € to burn.

The following day, 28 June was my flight back to Spain. My nine days of ruins (Rome), famous landmarks (Pisa and Rome), getting lost in little streets (Venice), fashion (Milan & Florence), tradition (Siena), art (mostly at the Vatican) and gelato (Rome), not to mention pizza, has just been fulfilled. Arrivederci Italia!

 

(At a) Lost in Venice

Following my 3 days of Rome, time to move to another city.

25 June. Venice (7 in the afternoon).

Arriving at the Ferrovia (railway station) I had to take the vaporetto, a waterbus which is the primary means of transport in this city. I took Line 2 going in the direction of S.Marco-S.Zaccaria. A one-way transport on the vaporetto costs 7€.

While traversing the waters onboard the vaporetto, excitement started to build up in me as I take in the ambience of Venice. It does look romantic.

 

It was quite a long ride roughly about 50 mins. From the S.Marco-S.Zaccaria station, I now have to follow the directions indicated in the confirmation letter of the hostel. The directions were clear so I had no problem arriving at the hostel, Venice Gold.

Little did I know that my initiation in getting lost among these maze of canals was about to start. I was told by the receptionist that they don’t accept credit/debit card payments. I was low on cash which means that upon arriving at 8 pm, I already had to go out and find an atm machine to withdraw money. A map was supplied to me and directions given where the nearest atm was.
That atm happens to be not working so I asked around for another atm machine.  I was able to get me some money to last me for the next 3 days I’m still in Italy. I consulted my map and saw that I was near the 5€ pizza the receptionist told me about. I decided to drop by and check it out. Ended up ordering for take-away a slice which was just 2€. I took a bite. It was kind of oily but pretty tasty.

I then started to walk back to the hostel all the while paying attention to the restaurants, streets, bridges that I pass by. They look familiar so I tell myself I’m on the right track. So far so good.

And then, I happened to pass by a plaza twice which means I just went round it. I tried another street, and saw a restaurant with terrace seating right beside the canal. I already passed by that restaurant so nothing to worry about, I was on the right direction. Then I passed the restaurant again and even took notice of this cute guy eating alone. My mind started thinking of reasons why he was all by himself. Dumped recently by his girlfriend was the most probable explanation I could think of. Or it could be that he’s single for quite a while and looking for romance? Haha. So yeah this was how I was entertaining myself while looking for my way back.

I’m pretty good with directions but all that start to disappear when it gets dark. This is when I started getting worried since it was past 9 pm already and I still couldn’t find my way back. I passed by the restaurant again and saw the lonely guy still eating. After a few minutes, I passed that restaurant again and he was gone!!!
I don’t care he’s gone but do I care that I passed him by several times already! I’m officially LOST!

When it was almost 10, I sought help already from a man who, by the looks of it, is a local. That way he could really help me. He wasn’t familiar where my street was but he helped me find it by asking around and even walking me all the way back. Oh God bless him! I got tired from walking round and round and was getting desperate by the time I saw him and asked for help.

 

26 June. Still in Venice. About to get lost again.

I got a full day ahead of me. I had to see the main sights of Venice in daylight and be back at the hostel by 3pm to get my luggage so I can be at the Ferrovia by 5pm and catch a bus to Milan.

 

Basilica di San Marco was first on the list. On the way there I passed by this hotel which is very famous with Hollywood’s location managers. Danieli.

 

The Tourist starrring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie was shot here. There was even a scene where Johnny Depp had to go out a window of the hotel and past several roofs to outrun his assailants. I was checking out if I could rehash that scene in this facade of the Danieli but it wouldn’t click. Maybe it’s on the other side.
Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You, also feature the hotel.

 
The Basilica di San Marco, well I was a bit disappointed. It doesn’t turn out pretty in my pictures. That may already be a given since I have a low-end digicam with me (my Panasonic Lumix GF2 still not functioning) and the construction works obstruct the view.

I didn’t think of entering since you have to pay an entrance fee. When I passed it by at past 9 am, the crowd has started to gather queuing to enter.

 

My next stop was the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. It was recommended by my Korean friend from my Spanish class, Gabriela.

Left: is an upside down mirror by Anisha Kapoor at the Sculpture Gardens. Right: The Angel of the City, Marino Marini.

 

I especially loved the sculpture garden. Many interesting pieces. I’m not into art per se but I have this new found appreciation for it.
Wandering about the streets outside the museum, this pizzeria looked inviting. For 2.50€, I got me a slice to enjoy. It wasn’t my lunch yet but it would help with the carbs I need to keep on walking.

 

 

 

I needed to cross the bridge that is the Ponte dell’Accademia again to go back where I came from, back to the Basilica di San Marco. Since I would need to walk (and probably get lost again). I boarded a traghetto.

 

On my way to the Peggy Guggenheim, I asked a pinoy for directions. There was quite some of them too in Venice. He was the one who advised me to ride a traghetto which would bring  me to S. Giorgio on my way back. I remember having read about it online, costs cheaper than a gondola too (2€). Actually it is a gondola minus the plush seats. The ride is short though as it would just ferry you across the canal. Kuya pinoy even joked that at least with the traghetto, I can say that I did ride a gondola. #pinoyhumor 🙂

 

Back on the main island I just had to find my way back again to the Basilica di San Marco. But these little streets of Venice are just really tricky and I got lost again. This time, my savior was a pinay. She gave me directions and walked a bit with me on how to reach the Basilica. Relief flooded me when I finally reached the busy Basilica. It was almost 2 pm. The time I could have allotted for lunch flew by because of these impossible streets. Good thing I at least ate a pizza.