Sunday, July 24, 2011

Update!

I'm a mere three weeks late on my closing Europe post- much better than my 6 months or so for Hawaii.

The wind ensemble tour, even though it was as part of a big tour group, was one of my best Stanford experiences (as all of my Stanford abroad trips have been). Traveling with other students and having access to Stanford's resources overseas (i.e. our private tour in Florence), is something I won't forget anytime soon. And the tour was a great way to end my time at Stanford.

The second part of my trip was just as awesome: the hospitality we received in Como and Paris was unbelievable. And my traveling buddy was pretty good too.



I can't believe Europe was only about three weeks ago! But I'll be back.







The next post will be about where I am now: New York!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Paris

Saturday morning Jenny and I woke up at 6, took the train back to Milan and then flew to Paris, arriving at Jenny's aunt's apartment around 4 o'clock. We started walking around Paris (a HUGE city) and we ended up at the Arc de Triomph around sunset to catch some beautiful views.




And what a cool staircase!



We also got our views of the city's trademark, the Eiffel Tower of course!



After the Arc, we caught a picnic dinner and then had a lovely picnic in front of the well-lit Tower.



Sunday we got up early to go wait in line at Versailles, although we did finally get in to see the Palace and then the gardens where they had the fountains running!





We then headed back into town and headed to Chez Hannah in the Marais District for some delicious Mediterranean food. We also caught another Paris landmark at night.



Monday we saw several of Paris's most famous landmarks starting with the Eiffel Tower, where we went up to the 2nd floor (we didn't want to wait in line for the top!).



And since it was Jenny's mom's birthday, we also snapped some shots at our favorite Paris spots for Jenny's mom. Happy Birthday Jean!!!



Next we headed to a delicious crepe place and then to Our Lady, Notre Dame.





We finally headed up to Montmarte up on the hill overlooking the city. Definitely one of my favorite spots.




From the top of Sacre Couer we had great views of the city!



Monday night our gracious host, Jenny's Aunt, Barb, made us a delicious Moroccan dinner, and a good time was had by all. Yet another example of the fine hospitality we encountered in Europe.

Tuesday we ended our time in Paris with Les Invalides in the morning, including Napoleon's Tomb and the Musee D'Orsay in the afternoon (sorry no photos).




Our farewell dinner Tuesday was as French as Jenny and I could make it: escargot, beef tartare, duck confit, and a creme brulee. The snails were actually pretty good- similar to squid.



All in all, the lines in Paris were a bummer, but while I'd rather travel in Italy, I'd much rather live in quaint and lovely Paris. Thanks to our gracious host- hope to see more of Barb! And thanks Paris! More reflections on my complete trip to come when I'm less jet-lagged! A closing shot of the quirky but awesome Paris Metro:

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Venezia

Sunday started early with a 3 hour drive to our hotel in Venice (where Jenny was waiting!). Our tour guide was generous and let Jenny travel with the group, so she was allowed to tag along for our bus ride to the Tronchetto (the ferry terminal just west of Venice) and then the ferry ride to St Mark’s Square. Our first views of the city!



Next up we had a [dull] walking tour of the city, but it was nice to see some of the sights. Below, the only spiral staircase in the city, the Doge’s Palace, and of course, St. Mark’s Cathedral, a church in the Byzantine style, notably full of treasures plundered during the Crusades, including those four bronze horses on the roof (from the Cathedral in Istanbul!).





After our farewell dinner we rode the ferry and then bus back to our hotel on the mainland in Venice Mestre for our final night on the tour.



The next morning I was up at 4 AM with the group to say my farewells and truly bid adieu to my Stanford Experience, four years I’ll never forget. Afterwards I quickly retreated back to sleep since checkout wasn’t till 10! At 10 Jenny and I left the hotel burdened with our luggage to ride into Venice and then walk to our new hotel, Hotel Caneva. She may have only been one star, but our room was awesome, and she definitely beat our four star hotel on the mainland! Here’s the view from our balcony:




We then headed out for the best gelato and Venice and a quick lunch while working our way back to the train station to get on the Vaporetto (ferry) #1 and ride down the Grand Canal, the world’s most beautiful boulevard.







Our ride ended at the far eastern point of Venice, a tourist-free part of the city, with a way different feel. We then worked our way back into the city, walking by the famous Arsenale, the ship works of Venice which could build a galley a day during their prime!



Next we headed back up the bell tower at St. Mark’s, to catch the city at sunset. Stunning indeed…





And I caught this professional photographer up at the top:



The day ended with a late dinner at La Zucca, an awesome little vegetarian(ish) place in the heart of city. Jenny had pumpkin flan and green peppers with balsamic vinegar (Jenny won) and I headed boneless rabbit cooked with fava beans. Everything was rounded off with a delicious limoncello mousse for desert. Mmm!

Tuesday morning we decided to stay in Venice for the day, putting off a day trip to Trieste. We started the day off by going to St. Mark’s Cathedral, the beautiful Byzantine cathedral in Venice. The size of the place isn’t super impressive because the soft foundation prevents tall buildings in Venice, but the interior is unbelievable. The ceiling is covered in huge mosaics and the floor is full of incredibly intricate marble patterns of dozens of colors. It’s also nifty to see all the treasures Venice took during the Crusades and the slumps in the floor as the foundation has shifted. Sadly I don’t have any photos to show because photography isn’t allowed. You’ll have to go see it yourself!



After St Marks we walked through the Jewish Ghetto, the area where “ghetto” was coined when the Jews were confined there in Venice during the 1400s. We had a delicious lunch of local seafood, starting with an appetizer of sardines, octopus, squid, and fish, and ending with the famous Venezia specialty, squid with black ink. What a crazy dish!



Cooked in white wine with garlic and onions, it was pretty good (kinda of hard to imagine all that ink in my stomach though…)



Next we headed out to Venezia’s cemetery island, home to thousands and thousands of Venetians and some other notable people including Igor Stravinsky and Ezra Pound. It was a nice peaceful escape from the city- no pictures there either.



Finally, it was back to the room for a lovely dinner in our room on the canal.



The next morning we said goodbye to Venice and to head to Lake Como via Milan. A lovely visit to one of the world’s most unique cities!