Out of the United States

Before last month’s trip, I had never left the United States of America. (Okay, that is slightly a lie. I visited Niagara Falls, Canada a few years ago, but I hardly think that counts.)

I learned a lot.

First let me start off by saying this post is not going to be a “travel journal” entry. I can’t describe everything we saw and I honestly don’t feel like it. I’ve got photos for that. I do want to share with you a few surprises, tips, excitements, and reflections. I’ve been putting off writing this because I knew it would be a gargantuan task- so I am just going to not make it that. I was traveling with my sister (Blondie) and two aunts (Q and Titlis).

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1) Paris, France

Boy was that overwhelming. So we landed in Paris sometime around 6:00 AM (their time. To my body it was the equivalent of 1:00 PM.) Jet lag is no joke! My butt was thoroughly kicked the first two days (which happened to be the only days we spent in Paris.) A full day awaited us! We toured the Louvre, had dinner at the big old tower they’ve got in Paris, cruised napped on a boat on the Scene river, and finally saw Moulin Rouge before our heads ever touched pillows. Those were all super awesome and exciting with the help of periodic caffeine intake. When we finally slept it had been almost 48 hours since our last bed! We slept very well.

Of course we slept in the next day, then did some exploring. We visited Notre Dame (from the outside- the line to get in was insane,) ate dessert at an adorable cafe (where my sister scored the cute little French waiter’s digits,) did some shopping, had a late supper and put our tired butts back in bed! One thing that was super fun about being in France was using four years of French lessons from high school. Even when the native I was speaking to spoke perfect English, I made every effort to communicate with him or her in French. (That embarrassed the crap out of Blondie.)

The first major shocker- French apparently aren’t into air conditioning much. There was no AC anywhere we went! Not restaurants, not shops, not inside the bus. Only our hotel (aiming to please visitors) offered AC. I realized just how spoiled we American’s are that we sometimes take that for granted!

Second shocker of less importance but still weird- they don’t give you bread plates! When a restaurant serves you bread, you hold it. When you’re not holding it, you set it right on the table! It was so strange to me and I felt so rude doing that. I just held my bread for a long time until I saw people who looked like locals setting theirs onto the tablecloth. We just did as the French do. Really it makes sense not to waste that plate on crumbs.

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2) Switzerland

We stayed in Zurich, but I’ll be honest- there was not a whole lot to do in that city. The no air conditioning thing proved to be a trend throughout our travels. Zurich was pretty much just a normal little town full of middle class people going about their daily life. The first day we did a little exploring and ended up ordering room service for dinner for the lamest reason ever-

It was hot and our hotel room was the only place where there was AC.

Don’t judge us please. It truly was hot.

Anyways, the next day in Switzerland was absolutely incredible. We took a bus ride into Lazerne, and then to Mount Titlis (the blog namesake of my second aunt, remember?). Three sky carts toted us up the mountain. On top, I took a photo for my favorite person, Ellen Degeneres, sporting her underwear:

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That was the highlight of Switzerland for me.

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3) Venice

Venice was so beautiful. If I had to give one tip to future Venice travelers it would be this-

Know where you are going and how to get there.

It’s all walking. There were no cars. I mean I was told that beforehand and I knew- but until you are standing on the cobblestone with your luggage next to you, sweat dripping down your back, looking at a footbridge you need to cross, and there is not a taxi driver in sight, it’s hard to process.

Once we found our hotel, Venice became an inviting, quaint, intimate little island. We took a gondola ride and really enjoyed the shopping. My favorite part was the spaghetti. Lord knows that spaghetti was so good. I’ve been craving it since I’ve been back home 😦

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The second day in Venice we took a boat ride to the islands of Murano (known for glass blowing,) Burano (known for lace making,) and Toticelli (known for a really old church who’s name I cannot remember.) Beautiful everywhere. Q really knew what she was doing when she planned that day! There was so much beauty just across the water that I am grateful we didn’t miss. I was about ready to pack up my crap and move out to Burano to become a fisherwoman. Instead I opted for our third train to go to Rome.

A funny anecdote worth sharing from
Venice is the way locals give directions. Our directionally challenged little selves had to constantly ask shopkeepers and restaurant hosts for directions in order to get, well, anywhere. Q had printed up the name of our hotel on a card for each of us to show in those exact instances. I would walk up to a Venetian, point to the card and ask how to get there, and a typical response would be something like this:

Go over two bridges, turn right at the church, and ask again.

We would follow those directions, ask again, and get a response something like this:

Oh you are close! Just go up two streets, turn left at the clock, and ask again. You are very close!”

We met a lot of people that way.

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4) Rome

Rome was satisfying to the art history lover in me. Seeing buildings, techniques, sculptures, piazzas, and churches that I have studied was just like taking the best field trip ever.

There was so much to take in that I got a little anxiety worrying I would not see it all. In hindsight, though, Rome is a little smaller than I had imagined, with the cool stuff fairly close together. It actually makes it convenient to see all the things you want to see and I shouldn’t have worried. All the same, that little push motivated me to handle the map and orient myself to the city. That was the first stop where I felt totally comfortable directing our group where to go!

Though I am not Catholic, the Vatican was AMAZING. We had tickets to a skip the line tour, which made the experience about ten times better. I especially loved St. Peter’s Basilica.

A bit of a let down was the Sistine Chapel. It’s so famous and I have studied it. People make it out to be the most awesome place ever- but truly it’s just a big room, stuffed to the absolute maximum capacity with tourists, with a beautiful ceiling. That’s about it. I mean don’t get me wrong- it was worth seeing. I just, personally, did not get that awe factor that people describe. Don’t worry though, the basilica satisfied that for me!

I continued my diet of spaghetti in Rome. I highly recommend that diet.

Of all the travel photos I took on my trip, I’ll show you my absolute favorite:

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So anyways, it was the trip of a lifetime. My travel mates made the trip extra fun. There is a ton more I could say about the journey, and I will address any questions you ask, but for now I think this is good. Was any of this surprising to you? Comment below! Thanks for reading 🙂

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