Today I was headed to London! I had breakfast and then took off for the train station. The ride was only 2 hours to London and I mostly slept. Once there, I took some time just to relax and re-pack my bag before meeting up with some friends who happened to be visiting London as well (thanks to social media for informing me). I walked to dinner down this super cool street (Brick Lane) lined with vintage shops and trendy eats, a very hipster area. Dinner was at a place we at was called Dirty Bones and after eating nothing but a bag of chips that day I was super excited about the menu! I ordered a fried chicken sandwich with spicy aioli and we split skinny fries (turns out you don’t get skinny by eating them). We also split a bottle of Rose despite one of my friends saying he gets canker sores from rosé (we ordered him some salt water just in case). It was one of their birthdays so we also had a surprise dessert with a candle. I have never heard a restaurant participate as much as this one in the birthday song, the place was erupting in song! Turns out they probably sang so loud to get the same in return, because there was another birthday girl there. Michael was a little bummed to have to share the spotlight 😉
It was my last full day in Paris. Amber was also leaving this morning, so she, Kyle and I got together to grab a quick breakfast before her train. There was a restaurant that had a high rating so we tried it first. The queue was at least a 45 minute wait, so we tried another place instead called Café Oiseaux. It was very cute, and resembled a quaint grandparent’s home. The menu was all in French, so I ordered in French and then Amber and Kyle both ordered by pointing and/or just using English. We all asked for a coffee and some food. They brought out the coffee and a plate of food for me. I was waiting to start to eat but it was taking too long, so I began even though my friends didn’t have theirs. I thought it was odd that Amber’s didn’t come out too because we ordered the exact same thing, just granola and fruit. Another 20 minutes went by and still no food. I finally asked about it and they never thought the others ordered food. We still aren’t sure what went wrong, although I’d like to think it wasn’t intentional.. Either way we had to find a quick pastry shop before heading to the train station.
Today was a beautiful morning, which was good since we were going on a boat! Amber and I had rented an electric boat to captain down the canal. We walked to the starting point at 11am, where we also met another friend of mine who was visiting Paris, Kyle. The boats sold little picnic baskets so we bought one and boarded. Amber drove first, and she took us on a dizzying zig-zag path until she found the sweet spot. These boats are very sensitive and you barely need to turn the wheel. I would recommend this activity to anyone visiting Paris. It was so fun, a great way to see sights, fairly easy to drive and overall just relaxing. After an hour going down the canal, we turned around and rode an hour back. Other boats were passing us, so we think we got a slow one, but at least it was safer that way!
After debarking safely back onto land we walked had some lunch followed by macaroon ice cream.
Next we headed to Notre Dame Cathedral. In addition to enjoying the landmark, we also enjoyed a game of count how many Levi shirts we saw. Seriously, one in every 20 people was wearing one.
From there we walked to the Pantheon and took a quick break on the steps before walking on to Luxembourg Gardens. The grass was perfect there to sit down and hang out for awhile. Many people had brought a picnic and this game that looked like yard dominoes. I also liked it because they had free bathrooms there. All of the public toilet pods I’d passed had also been in use or broken. You can only wait so long before deciding that whatever is going on in there is not something you want to follow
Along the way we had been popping into stores, but I didn’t see anything I really liked. Finally, I stopped into this one store where I found a dress that I loved and a shirt that had some french written on it, which doesn’t make me look touristy at all 😉 After quickly checking out, we met one of Amber’s friends from school who is from Paris for a drink at a bar nearby. It was nice having her order for us and she let me know that most people say “I will take” instead of “May I have?”. We had dinner until 9pm and despite wanting to check out the night life afterwards (since it was Saturday) all of us were too tired and ended up staying in.
Today Amber and I had booked a tour to Champagne to do some champagne tasting. We had prepared our outfits the night before, so to not wake everyone else in the room, while we got ready. Unfortunately, the weather forecast changed drastically overnight, but by the time we figured it out, there wasn’t enough time to change. In fact, we probably should have left even more time… we ended up going to the wrong train station and missed our train. The tour was prepaid, and we had been looking forward to it so much, so ended up quickly booking a taxi to Reims. It would take 2 hours versus 1 hour by train. We showed up late but the tour group came and picked us up. It was a mother/daughter duo from Maryland and a couple from New Jersey. Luckily, we didn’t miss much, just a tour of a church in the town.
My friend Amber arrived from London today and I met her at the train station to get none other than Starbucks. I did discover a new drink which is a cold cappuccino and it was delicious but WAY too much cream. She dropped her things off and we began our day.
It was her first time in Paris, so I took her to Sacre Couer to see the view and the “love wall”. The wall was an installment, versus an interactive, piece so we were pretty disappointed. Afterwards we were walking down this one street that seemed to be lined in adult stores. Finally I decided to say something and she had noticed as well! However, the second we said it, we looked forward to see that we were approaching Moulin Rouge…makes sense. The next stop was something to eat, but we kept passing places that were pricy or didn’t have seating. We ended up passing this place called Thierry Boulageries that made maki rolls with bread. Although they looked good, we split a chèvre baguette instead. It was amazing, and it held us over until we did find a place to sit down. Unfortunately, the more you walk, the more desperate you become, so we ended up stopping at this one place that looked okay, but were disappointed by the food.
The next stop was L’Arc de Triomph. We circled around it and when we finally discovered how to actually go into the center of it, we opted against it and got a lemon sugar crepe instead. I’m always impressed by the Arc, it’s one of my favorite monuments. Next, was what I was looking forward to most, the Le Tour Eiffel! My last trip to Paris I didn’t get too close so I was excited to see it better. On the way we stopped for a picnic lunch, which we enjoyed in the grass. Less enjoyable were the people selling Eiffel Tower key chains. At least you could hear them coming with the jingle jangle of the metals on their key chains. One did sell what we were calling ‘sewage wine’, which I would have bought had we not brought our own. He stores the bottles in under one of those sprinkler covers in the ground (hence sewage) in case the cops come by.
We walked back on the river and stopped to enjoy a glass of wine. We couldn’t get into the bar seating so we sat on the edge of the river, almost a better spot! Although we were in bed early because we had to get up early the next day, it didn’t matter because the hostel yet again was playing extremely loud music until 3am.
I arrived in paris and took the train to Gare du Nord where it was only 1 block to my hostel. The area was very diverse, in fact, the first thing I ate when I got there was sushi from a Japanese place. I walked around a bit more and despite not feeling hungry, I sat outside and people watched as I ordered some more food. I thought I was just ordering 3 small sides, but they came out pretty large. I ended up getting a side of green beans, avocado with horse radish vinegar (a whole avocado, but the dressing was SO good I ate it all) and fries (can I call them french fries?). The waitress kind of looked at me funny, but to be fair, I did eat most of it!
It was a 4 hour train ride from Monterosso to Venice in which I mostly read. The snack cart came by once and I bought a sandwich, but I wish I would have bought more because by the time I arrived in Venice at 6pm I was famished. I had tried to also get a faro salad, but accidentally ordered one with shrimp in it. I hopped off the train and walked a short distance to the water taxis. Venice looked exactly as I had expected it! I’ve been close to the waters edge before, but it’s different with canals because you’re at the same level as the water if that makes any sense. It’s not a slow decent to a beach or a walk out on the the dock, but just sidewalk and then water. I bought an unlimited water taxi card since my hostel is on the island of Guidecca, not the main island. They gave me the student rate for some reason though, so only had to pay 25 Euros.
I was feeling energetic this morning, perhaps because I was looking forward to breakfast! My hotel has a continental breakfast and it was fabulous. There were eggs and bacon (which I hadn’t had in so long) and toast with homemade marmalade from the lemons and oranges in the garden. I’ve never had lemon marmalade, but I was a fan of the sourness to it. Originally, I wasn’t sure if I was going to hike today, but since it was still a little gloomy out and my belly was full, I decided it was a good idea.
I hadn’t walked the leg from Monterosso to Vernazza yet, so it was exiting to see new views and have unexpected paths. I was told it would take 1.5-2 hours, but I hiked it in 1 hour and 15 minutes. I guess I was getting my hiking muscle back! Although, I’m also the type of person to keep going without and breaks and just take a break at the end. The view coming into Vernazza was one of my favorites. Its fun hiking along so much green with pops of color and then all of a sudden come to an opening where the city just explodes in color.
I made my way down to the train and took it back to Monterosso. I waited about an hour for the sun to come out then headed down to the beach. I took a lawn chair and read for 2 hours straight. There was a bar on the beach too so I was able to have an iced coffee, a smoothie and then a Spritz Hugo.
The sun got a little stronger and I could use a little of the freezing cold water on me, so I rented a kayak for an hour. I figured with all of the hiking, it would be good to give my arms (and abs apparently) a good workout. It was fun paddling around but I only stayed out there about 40 minutes because I was actually starting to get sea sick!
It was 3:30pm at this point and I still hadn’t had lunch so I walked back to the hotel for a nap but stopped for a pesto focaccia on the way.
Later in the evening I went to dinner just down the street. I stopped into this place that was obviously a seafood joint, but I had this intense craving for a steak. So, I ordered a filet in balsamic and a side of roasted veggies. I opted to skip the wine as I was feeling good after the hike and kayak. I’m a big fan of steak sauce, so I was pleasantly surprised with how delicious the balsamic was on the steak (their balsamic is the good thick kind). I ate it embarrassingly fast. I went back to pack and put a larger dent in my book.
I had a slow morning the next day, another fantastic breakfast and then lounged around until it was time to check out. I still had a few hours until my train (this time I triple checked the time) so I hung out in the hotel lobby and finished up writing before hauling my bag to the train station (update: I was asked to share a taxi with a couple that was staying here which I gratefully accepted). I was looking forward to the train ride and catching up on some Netflix.
The weather was rainy today so instead of hiking (I was sore anyhow) I took a pesto making class. It was at this cliffside restaurant that I ate at the first night. There were 9 of us in the group today (sometimes they have up to 30) and we were all from the United States. Everyone was a lot of fun, so it was a good morning. The class was perfect and well worth the money. First, you picked basil leaves off your plant and put them in a bowl with ice on top.
I set out for my hike around 9am and really had no idea where I was going. I knew the main path to Riomaggiore was closed, but I was told the entrance to the higher up one was somewhere near the car park. I also knew that you followed the little red/white paintings to stay on the path. I found one and it looked steep so figured it must be it.
I went to the UPS store this morning because I realized my pack was getting a little too bulky with the leather poof I bought in Morocco and shipped some things home that I didn’t think I’d need any longer. I wanted to try and go to the Sistine Chapel but I was afraid of missing my train. Turns out, I missed my train anyways because it showed up in the wrong time zone on my phone. I was able to get another train 2 hours later, but had to pay 50 Euros for it
The train ride was comfortable and I watched movies or read for the 4 hours so it went by quickly. I switched to a local train once I arrived in La Spezia, and it was a quick 5 minute ride along the coast (but mostly inside the cliffs, so the view wasn’t great). My hotel was a short 2 minute walk from the station. After dropping off my things, I didn’t even stop to change because I was so eager to explore. It was just a short walk up to the cliffside that I found the infamous view. I stared at it so long, while the breeze was blowing and a flowery aroma filled the air. I seriously felt like I was in a painting (and also decided I need to plant more flowers back home). I kept walking to find the trail ahead closed, so I turned back around and walked up higher where I saw a restaurant on the cliffside. I passed a small little park and then stood in line for the restaurant. The wait was about 15 minutes, but if I’m going to wait in line for something, this is the perfect setting to do it in. I stared off into the sea and city across from me with a small smile on my face until they called my turn.
I wasn’t too hungry so I decided to just order a caprese salad, a cheese plate and a Campari Spritz. My salad and drink came out and they both were great. Then, my cheese plate came out…and I probably should have asked how many people it fed…it was huge! The cheese was delicious though, and again, my view was great so I took my time to eat away at it. Eventually, I gave up and asked for a take away box.
I returned back and started to research some of the trails to plan my day tomorrow. To be honest, it was all super confusing and on top of that, the main trail along the coast (the easy one) was closed from where I was staying in Manarola, due to rockslides. In fact, it was actually closed through 2021..good thing they are starting to charge tourist tax! Eventually I took a screen shot of a map and then called it a night. I figured, if I get lost it wouldn’t be the worst thing.
I was going to spend the day today touring all things in or near Vatican City. I should have probably done that on Saturday since I discovered that the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel are closed on Sundays, but I was too eager to see the other landmarks yesterday. That said, it all happened to work out nicely going on Sunday…more to come.