PARIS! And France….no underpants

Well I don’t actually know when I left off, so I’ll start with my train trip. Since I was able to change my ticket, I was a little nervous I would be with hoodlums, since I was leaving that night, but instead I was with 2 Koreans, a mom and daughter, the extent of their English was ‘ok’ and ‘thank you’. The mom was so funny, she wanted to be on the top bunk, but that wasn’t her bed number, but she really didn’t care, so she slept on the other top bunk, but at some point she left and went down to the bottom bunk, but in the morning woke up across from me again!! She was funny.

I found my hostel ok, Tara found this one for me, and she did good. Its a 5 minute walk from Notre Dame and the metro is one street over. This hostel has a 2am cuefew and no outside alcohol is allowed. I dropped my stuff off, but check in wasn’t until 4 so I headed out to site see. I walked to Notre Dame, went to the top and had a nice view. The church itself was free, the climb was like 4€. I like Paris because if you are under 25 you get a discount. After Notre Dame I got another bus tour, this one is the most expensive, but you get 4 different routes and it is actually pretty good. I rode one tour, then the classic tour. I got off at the Eiffel Tower and took a nap in the surrounding park. I really enjoyed my nap, and felt like a local!!

I headed back to the hostel to check in and get settled. I got settled, met my roomie from London who is going to school here, and was too early to check into student housing so she was staying at the hostel until Sunday. I went down to the street to get some food, and there are like 500 restaurants within walking distance. I picked one with a ‘full meal menu.’. I got french onion soup (it was so hot, it took 15 minutes before I could even eat it!! But it was very good!! I got salmon for my main course and thought it would be a tiny piece–but NO! This was a beautiful piece of salmon, potatoes, green beans and a tiny bit of pasta!! It was the best salmon I’ve ever had!! For dessert I got black currant sorbet–yummy!! What a great dinner–after my baguette and brie lunch, this was stupendous!!

After dinner I headed to l’tour Eiffel to take night pictures (non of which are very good). The tower sparkles every hour on the hour, and when I got off the metro it was already sparkling, so I only got about 3 minutes of shooting time. But it was a beautiful blue, and on one side has the EU stars, it looks cool!! I decided I wanted to climb the steps. (Apparently 700 some, but that must be all the way to the top, because I didn’t climb that many). I made the climb to the 2nd level, the farthest they let you walk, and wanted to go all the way to the top–but the top was closed. Apparently the top closed 2 hours before the rest of the tower. It was a cool site and worth the climb. I’m going back tonight to take more pictures!!

I got a tour of the D-day beachs for Monday–it goes from 7am to 9pm!! Goodness I’m going to be tired, I have to get up at 615!!

I got back around midnight and took a much needed shower. I had set all my stuff out so I wouldn’t make too much noise for my roomie, and she had left the bathroom light on for me! I passed out hard and slept until 930.

Today I slept through breakfast, so I was going to go to the supermarket right next to the hostel, but its sunday, and they are closed. So I went to a cafe across the steet and got a nutella panini instead 🙂 healthy, I know, but it wa so perfect!!

I grabbed my stuff and headed out for the day. So far I have been to the Louvre (I didn’t go in, because its way expensive and I only wanted to see the Mona Lisa and my roomie said if that’s all I wanted to see its not worth it) and climbed the Arc d’triumph and now I’m going to the Sacre Coeur (sacred heart church) for Heidi.

Haven’t had lunch yet, its 230 and I’m starving! Just can’t figure out what I want!! 

Next day….

Today I got up extra early, 615, to head to Normandy on a tour. We boarded the bus and headed out around 715. The bus ride was about 3 hours long, and our tour guide talked for 10 minutes and then said ‘now go back to bed!’. We were about 30 minutes from Caen and the Peace Museum, and she started talking again, filling us in on the history of the war and what the day was going to be like.We had about an hour in the museum, then a 40 minute video, and then lunch. The museum was neat, lots of artifacts and a tank and a few Jeeps. The videos were cool. One was a split screen, one side was the Allies one side was German. And it was just the video footage of the same things, happening from both sides. The other video wasn’t as good, it was computer graphics and then photos of how the Ally forces took over France.There was a September 11th exhibition in the museum and I wanted to see it, so I ate my lunch (chicken, potato and salad) quickly then headed to the exhibit. It was very neat, they had pieces of the planes, the buildings, personal items, etc. They put it together very well, but unfortunately I ran out of time, so I didn’t get to read everything, so I took pictures of stuff, and their descriptions and booked it to the bus!! I made it there just in time!!We then headed to Omaha beach. That was weird. They left it just like it was, so there are huge bomb craters and huge pieces of cement everywhere (from the German bunkers and stuff). You could tell where a huge piece of cement was thrown like 10 feet!! Crazy!! After Omaha, we went to the American cemetery. Its white crosses and stars of David and green grass forever! The upkeep is stupendous, and its very well respected!! I saw people’s stones from all over the US, North Dakota to Hawaii.We headed to Gold beach next. Gold beach is where the artificial port was set up in the bay. They had tons of cement blocks made to float, then anchored them into the sea bed and were able to drive on them, store oil, and supplies on there as well. Not many left, but it is clear from what’s left, this was a big port!!

We went to the Juno beach, this is where the Canadians landed. Sadly there is like nothing there, Canadian flags is it. Otherwise, it just looks like every other beach!!Now we are heading back to Paris, currently sitting in LOTS of traffic!! Ekkk!! Stopping in 2 hours to get food!! But I’m hungry now :(So I slept a bit on the bus and woke up to freezing air, and my vents were off. Apparently it was time to wake up. We stopped at a little shop off the road and I got a baguette and cheese for dinner! I’m going to have french onion soup when I get back by the hostel, cuz its just soooo yummy!!We are getting close to Paris, and its getting dark which is good. I want to get pictures of the Louvre, Notre Dame and the Eiffel tower tonight before I leave tomorrow!!I head to Brussels tomorrow!! New country! Yeah!! That’s country number 4!

So today I visited the Louvre (not inside, just out), Notre Dame (outside), Moulin Rouge (defiantly outside, its like €150 for the show!!), Sacre Cuoer (all the millions of steps to get the the church, then the 300 to get to the top of the church, Heidi!), Arc de Triumph (all the way to the top) and the laundromat!!

I had a great day, lots of sights and lots of nice people. Moulin Rouge area is scary, well weird. Its like 4 blocks of sex shops and caberneit (sp?) Shows and by 5 pm the tourists start leaving cuz its like the red light district at night. But I had to see it, and its a main street, I didn’t think it was, I thought it was like in a back street the way people talked about it, but its right there in the middle of many buildings.

I climbed to get to the Sacre Cuoer. It was worth it. I couldn’t take pictures inside, as there was service, but its very well kept and lots of fun people outside. The climb to the top was fun, only like 300 steps (I’m going to have to find out how many steps I climbed in all of my towers by the time I’m done with this trip) and worth it. Nice view of the city.

I climbed the Arc de Triumph, cool view and I was going to go back at night, but they don’t all tripods, so it would be difficult to get a good picture. I walked the Champs-Elysses after that and discover ‘Nike Paris!’. Today is ‘The Human Race’ by nike. Cities all over the world are doing big races, but if you just ran or walked today you could register your KM and they will have a grand total soon of how far people ran. Well, they had a shirt that had all the cities and a race number (every shirt is different, up to 1,000,000) so I had to get one, because A) I walked a lot today and B) because I’ve been to 1/3 of the cities!!

I road the tour bus around to get everywhere, its nice, drops you right off in front of everything you need to see, and you get information on the stuff. I got off at the Notre Dame and walked back to my hostel around 7. I needed to do some laundry and there is a laundromat right down the way. So I got back (I have 2 new roomies) grabbed my clothes put them in the wash and went to dinner.

I had again, for the 2nd night in a row, great food. Again, onion soup (sooo good last night, ok tonight), salmon with potatoes and green beans, and a fresh fruit salad!! It was so good. And now I’m in the laundromat waiting for my stuff to dry!

Tomorrow I’m up early and off to the D-day beaches in Normandy, then taking night pictures in the evening!!

Paris has lots to see! I like being busy!! 

Last day in Cinque Terre

Today is my last day here, and I just didn’t know what to do. I laid in bed until about 9, then got up and people watched from my window until about 10. Then I got ready, bought a banana and a yogurt and headed out to another town. I caught the train to the 4th town to shop and relax. I am currently sitting on steps in the 4th town just people watching and it just feels so wonderful to not have anything to do.

I’m now writing from the train on my way to Milan! Yesterday was just the perfect day!

I got lunch in the 4th town, the caught the train to the 3rd town. From the 3rd town I walked back to Riomaggiore. The walk is just so beautiful, right above the water the whole time! When I arrived back in Riomaggiore I went and changed into my swimsuit to go sit on the beach (rocks really). All I wanted to do was enjoy the water because I was so hot. Unfortunatly the waves were too rough to swim in with all the rocks around so I sat on the rocks with the locals and let the water crash onto me and cool me off. I sat there for awhile but grew tired in the heat so I decided to try and nap on the beach. Surprisingly its easy to get comfortable on the little rocks, so I laid down and fell asleep for a bit. the heat woke me up though so I grabbed my stuff and headed back to the room. My new roommate, Kate, had just arrived and she was heading down to the beach. I warned her about the waves, but she didn’t seem to care. I laid down and fell asleep for 2 hours, it was so refreshing!

When I woke up, Lisa, Emma and Kate had just gotten back. Kate got beat up by the rocks I warned her about!! Kate and Emma left and Lisa hopped in the shower. While they were gone, my towel fell off our line to the line below!! I couldn’t reach it even with a broom, so I headed down and buzzed the people, they weren’t home. I headed down to the ground and tried again with the broom, no luck. I eventually was able to get it because of my triopod. I extended it as far as it would go, headed down to the ground and after 5 minutes managed to knock it off the line. A lady was laughing at me, but I couldn’t help but laugh as well. I learned my lesson: no more line drying without clothespins!!

I got washed up and met Lisa and Emma for pizza. I found clothespins for the rest of my travels and grabbed a Fanta before we headed down with our pizza, to the rocks. We enjoyed our pizza and good conversation down on the rocks by the water. It was the most beautiful night, calm sky and calm water, it was just perfect!!

I am currently heading to Milan, Italy to catch my next train to Barcelona, Spain! I get there tomorrow at 10ish in the morning! I have 4 hours in Milan, then a 13 hour train to Barcelona! Long travels!! 

Aloha Maui!!

My cousin is getting married in Maui and that afforded me the perfect opportunity to head to the islands for the first time. With all the traveling I do I have acquired quite a bit of airline and hotel points and finally decided to use them. I first splurged on AA.com buying myself first class tickets to and from the islands for 40,000 points each way. Next up, the hotel. Since Hilton is my brand of choice, I choose the Waldorf Astoria – Grand Wailea.

Wednesday was my travel day, I set out to San Jose airport around 630am. Even though I booked using American points my flight was an AlaskaAir flight. I checked in, checked my bag and headed to the gate for an on-time departure.

First class was pretty amazing, we got a menu for our breakfast options and a great flight attendant serving us. I went with the omelet with cheese, onions and tomatoes. It did not disappoint. Sadly I fell asleep before the snack basket came around. You have to fill out a form declaring any produce or animal products – clearing trying to keep down the contamination. I’m actually shocked they D idnt spray/treat the plane like they did when I landed in New Zealand.

Upon landing I headed to baggage claim to meet up with my other cousins: Amy, Mike and their kids Phoebe and Juniper. We all collected our bags then headed out with the rest of the crowds to the rental car shuttles. I learned a few things about Maui airport that day, mainly that you can walk to the rental cars. If you have multiple people in your party send the driver to get the car and come back to get the rest of the group.

I got my rental car for a steal, $126 for 5 days. That can often be the single day price. The rental car process took about an hour and a half. But after I got my car, I hit the road for the 30 minute drive to my hotel. Upon arrival I got a lei and greeted very warmly by the staff. Since I arrived around 2 my room wasn’t quite ready, so I checked my bags with the bellman and headed to Mike and Amy’s hotel – Wailea Beach Resort – a quick 10 minute walk along the ocean. We got the, settled and immediately my room was ready, so back I came to get checked in. I was upgraded to am ocean view room, and I can hear the waves crashing from my balcony.

Amy I went to Costco and Target after we all unpacked to get some food for our stay. It was perfect – we were able to split lots of stuff and get snacks for during the day. We are probably the least efficient shoppers, but in the end we got what we needed. We all ended up crashing early, since the time change is 3 hours and we were all up very early.

My thoughts on traveling….

As I sit by the pool today I’m reminiscing on all my travels thus far, and the few remaining days I have left. I have also been thinking about my previous trips and adventures and how they have brought me here.

I enjoy the solitude of traveling on my own. No pressure, no compromise, just go where my feet go and take it in. At the same time, traveling with others has taken me to places I would have never gone on my own, from countries to cities to museums.

I also am reminded about the realities that have hit while I’ve been far away from home. My step Dad diagnosed with prostate cancer while I was backpacking through Europe on my own. While in Egypt, 29 people were killed during the Arab Spring, luckily we were hours away, but that did little to settle the fear of family and friends back home. While boarding the ship for Antartica, my aunt was supposed to be coming out of surgery, anxious to hear the news I was attempting to reach any family member who knew anything, and right before we left the service area I heard she had made it out and she was doing well. Last year I was in Ireland when my step dad broke his femur. Upon arrival back to the states my real dad had a prostate biopsy that confirmed cancer. And on this trip my youngest step brother passed tragically. It’s a real world reminder why I can’t leave the state. My dreams to live abroad and travel for a living are real. And one day, I will reach that goal, but for now I am (for the most part) content in my yearly adventures and my time with my family and friends in the states. While there will never be the “right time” I know right now it is the wrong time. When the opportunity presents itself to set off on an extended leave from the US, I will embrace It, enjoy it, allow myself to be consumed by it.

I’ll just continue to work hard at the job I love, spend time with those I love, spoil my dog who is my true love, and be thankful for all I have.

I finished reading the Elizabeth Smart book and she is and was wise beyond her years. She chose to move on immediately after her ordeal, giving Mitchell no power over her after she was rescued. I wish I could be like her, give the negativity no power in my life. But this is something I struggle with in daily life. When I am away and traveling, the anxiety, the fear and the depression (for the most part) are gone. I feel truly free and myself when I am in a foreign place. Maybe because I am forced so far out of my comfort zone I become comfortable, but I really think it’s my desire to just take it all in, learn, see, Love. Travelers are not as judgemental, we are all on a journey of our own, crossing paths of others in far away lands, And continuing our own journey.

If traveling has taught me one thing in life – take nothing for granted, and take it all in.

My day ended with street food and a foot massage. But of course it couldn’t be easy going. I left my phone at the hotel to get some much desired away time. I need to learn to just not pick up the phone and always have it with me.

1. My dinner was by far the best I had had yet on this trip and also the cheapest. I got chicken pad Thai and spring rolls (ya know, the usual) and went to the mini mart for a sprite. Best pad Thai yet!! Perfect spicy level, great meat to noodle ratio- ugh so yummy!! And I got no picture. But it was good. The place was right on their little board walk area, across the street from the water. Perfect way to end my last night.

2. After dinner I walked back to the mini mart to get cash from one of their atms (there is rarely, if ever just one bank atm). One girl was using the blue one so I went to the yellow one. I put my card in, agreed to the fee (I did the math today and realized it’s like a $7 fee for the cash, glad my bank reimburses me for those). My money came, the receipt came and then the card, well it only sorta came. Like I could see it and touch it but fat fingers could not retrieve the card. In all my attempts (with another card for leverage, pinky to pinky) nothing worked. And boom the machine ate my card. First of all I am glad I brought my other atm card, for emergencies like this. But I was so upset (as in, damn it now I’m going to have international fees, upset). I walked into the mini mart and asked if they could call. Bit of a language barrier – but they finally figured out what I was asking. One of the girls walls outside with me, looks at me, looks at the machine, looks back at me, and pries the machine from its case and gets my card. I couldn’t believe it. I also couldn’t figure out why more of these machines aren’t robbed. But I was so thankful.

3. My massage was great. Relaxing, allowing me to read my new book on the Vietnam war. I was in a Zen state, I was constantly having to reread a passage. Mainly because it was hitting me that my dad had been on the front lines of the Vietnam war in this horrendous weather!! Like, I who had access to cold water, air conditioning and a real bed; now I felt guilty and gratitude. I feel shameful for complaining about the heat, And the uncomfortable beds. So while I was relaxing I was also feeling guilty.

4. Tomorrow morning is going to come so early. Time zone change, country change, life change!! Woohoo!!