La Vie en rose

Ah Paris – la ciudad de amor.

Lol, I understand why people are so obsessed with this city. I went in thinking it was completely overrated, but I was more than happy to be proven wrong. We spent 3 glorious days in this beautiful city, but as with most places I visited, it wasn’t enough time. If it were up to me, I might still be in Paris, sipping espressos and people watching in the Place de la Nation.

One thing worth noting about Europe, but Paris especially, is that fewer people speak English than you think. I got around by putting my five years of Spanish class to use, but otherwise, English speakers are few and far between, and I don’t speak a lick of French.

However, that could not deter me from having the most incredible and unique experiences each day. I’m confident that some of the things I did were a once in a lifetime opportunity.

So, what was it about Paris that was so magical? First, the bread. Second, the architecture. Third, all the other food groups.

I had a religious experience – not at Notre Dame, but with a Spaghetti Bolognese. I didn’t know that such a common dish could taste like the food of the gods. But here I am, with this dish ruined for me forever. I can’t say I mind because it was incredible.

We didn’t do as much sightseeing as we had planned on account of… the jetlag… but we did manage to spend an entire afternoon at The Louvre (still not enough time.) Mona Lisa is housed here, but the highlight of this day was seeing “The wedding at Cana” by Veronese, a painting I studied in high school. It faces Mona Lisa and receives a fraction of the attention. The irony is that people line up in front of da Vinci’s legendary painting, not necessarily to appreciate it or marvel at its craftsmanship, but rather to take a quick selfie, then leave, never once setting eyes upon it. Whatever, I sound like a snob, but I was entertained by the fact that so much security goes toward protecting this small painting simply because society has made it popular throughout history. Okay I’m dropping it.

Two nights in a row, we ventured to Bastille to check out the nightlife. And two nights in a row, we ended up at Iguana. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. (And if you happen to stop by at any point, don’t listen to them about us, they’re all a bunch of liars.) Lol

Oh, and what would a trip to Paris be without a stop at the Tour Eiffel? My sister’s biggest dream for the past 10 years has been to visit this magnificent structure, and though I’m sure she never expected her little sister to be the one accompanying her, we shared a moment. At the top of every hour, the tower sparkles with brilliant lights for five minutes, unbeknownst to us, of course. We were sitting under the tower, sharing a beignet and an espresso, when we heard church bells in the distance marking 10 p.m., and the tower began to dance. I may or may not have shed a tear; she may or may not have shed several…

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Well, there you have it, folks. Paris is not as great as they say – it’s better. The croissants are fluffier, the wine is fresher and the Bolognese is otherworldly. The landmarks are cool too.

Special shout out to the owner of Niño for letting me play and cuddle with him. If I go too long without petting a dog, I really lose myself.

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Niño, a beagle puppy and my new best friend

Thank you for reading, and until next time!

xoxo,
Julia

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Baile Átha Cliath – A.K.A. Dublin (A.K.A. My Favorite City in the World)

Upon landing in Ireland, I can’t say I wasn’t a little surprised that there were no little leprechauns running around and mumbling about pots of gold.

To be completely honest, I didn’t have any intention of visiting Ireland when I was planning this trip, but thanks to my sister, I stumbled upon the world’s greatest city.

Dublin is full of people with nothing but truly good intentions. Every person we met was extremely excited to meet two American girls, and even more curious about our Filipino heritage. We were met with a smile and a pint everywhere we went. Speaking of which, Guinness in Ireland is BEAUTIFUL. Guinness in the States is trash. I can only describe the texture as creamy, soft and reminiscent of the feeling you get inside a warm coffee shop in the winter. In other words, the U.S. needs to get it together.

If you asked me what my favorite part about Ireland was, it would be an absolutely unbreakable three-way tie between its people, its food and, of course, its beer.

All three points of this cultural trifecta intersected at a pub down the street from our AirBnB called Nancy Hands. Its owner Fran was a wonderful man who was willing to entertain two loud/confused American girls with stories about his life and tips for traveling in Ireland. We had a few (several) pints at his pub, as well as some DELICIOUS pub fare before heading to a bar called Pygmalion. Here, cocktails were the center of attention, and for good reason!

Aside from the nightlife, I fell in love with the Trinity College Library. Some of the oldest texts are housed here, which makes sense considering this university is one of the oldest in Europe.

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The Long Room, Trinity College

The Long Room is one of the most picturesque and moving sights I’ve encountered so far, and if I could do anything differently, I would spend more time here, just sitting and basking in the leather bound books. But that’s just me 🙂

Unfortunately, we had a plane to catch, so we had to speed through in less than 30 minutes. Not to worry, though, because I will MOST DEFINITELY be back to Dublin this semester. Keep a look out for the follow up blog!

Thank you for reading, and don’t forget to check out the SDSU Be International Blog. Follow this link to read my very first contribution to the Aztec blog! Until next time.

xoxo,
Julia

London Calling

Hi all!

I’m writing from Amsterdam, which is the first city/night I’ve been able to sit down and gather my thoughts. I’ve been to London, Paris and Brussels in the last 10 days, and I’ve never felt so contentedly exhausted.

London was fabulous. I was able to see two of my favorite musicians, Porter Robinson and Madeon, as well as get my new tattoo. I found the Underground to be incredibly efficient and I so wish we had such reliable/widely used public transportation in Los Angeles and San Diego.

I stayed in Wombats City Hostel with my sister from Feb. 6-9. We were in a 6-bed female room, so our roommates changed each day. I met travelers from Spain, Poland, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand and Australia. Each woman was traveling alone and most of them were on their third or fourth month of world travel. Hostels in Europe are really common and they have everything down to a science. We were able to place our luggage in storage lockers inside our room that were only accessible with our personal room keys. Another cool feature of the hostel was its basement “Wombar,” which served alcohol from 6 p.m. – 1 a.m. Aside from the great happy hour prices, the bar was a great place to mingle with other travelers, play games and kick back after a long day.


Day One
We arrived on separate flights and met up at London Heathrow. Getting to our hostel was so easy with the Underground. We got off at our stop and trudged up the stairs to find the TOWER OF LONDON just across the street. There is so much history and culture everywhere in Europe, which is something I wish I could say about home. We had dinner at Leman Street Tavern. I had the traditional fish and chips with mushy peas, which was SO GOOD. I don’t typically like seafood, but when in London? We went to a nearby pub and then went in search of a bar for a nightcap. We stumbled upon a speakeasy located underneath a dry cleaner, and it was packed even on a Monday night. We ended the night pretty early and went back to Wombats to get a good night’s rest.

Day Two
We were still adjusting to the jet lag and didn’t wake up until 2 p.m. We were determined to make the most of the afternoon, so we took a stroll around the city and had lunch before getting ready for the concert. We spent some time with one of our roommates, Maria, who is a retired teacher from Poland with so many wonderful tales to tell. The Shelter Live Tour with Porter Robinson and Madeon started at 7. My sister had not bought a ticket, so we planned on having her wait for me at a lounge near the venue. As we made our way to the o2 Forum, a man said he had a ticket to sell and offered to let her take the ticket while I waited with him to see if it worked – and it did! THIS WOULD NEVER HAPPEN IN LA. EVER. The show was fantastic. Louis the Child opened and Porter and Madeon’s set was unreal!

Day Three
I woke up bright and early to get to the borough of Lewisham for my tattoo appointment with artist Yaana Gyach. I found her page on Instagram in December, emailed her my ideas and found myself in her studio less than two months later. The power of social media, you know? The sketch she came up with was more than I could have ever dreamed of. I discussed the symbolism in an earlier post, so seeing it come to life was breathtaking. However, it was absolutely AGONIZING. Completely worth it, but SO PAINFUL. I can’t remember the entire session and I think it’s my mind protecting itself from the trauma lol. It turned out absolutely gorgeous, though!! After my appointment, it was already nightfall (yeah it took like 4 hours I wanted to die) and my sister and I had a quick dinner, then headed to AquaShard, located 32 stories above the city. The floor-to-ceiling windows offer a view of every major landmark you can think of. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. The cocktails were a little pricey, starting at about £17, but with a view like that, you’re probably sipping slowly anyways.

Day Four
We were walking distance from the Tower of London, so we had an English breakfast near the site and did a little sightseeing afterward. Breakfast was AMAZING. It was bacon, sausage, tomatoes, mushrooms, hashbrowns, baked beans and toast. AMAZING. AMAZING. AMAZING.We stumbled upon the oldest church in the city of London, which had a crypt museum that houses mosaic tile flooring from 2nd century Roman occupied London. (Yes, my history boner was raging.) After, we walked around until it was time to head to the airport for our flight to Dublin. (More on that wonderful place later)


London is a city filled with so much to do, and one that I don’t feel I had nearly enough time to explore. But there are a million reasons to come back eventually! Have you ever been to London? What did you like the most?

Dublin, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Munich posts coming soon! Thanks for reading!

xoxo,
Julia

33 days until peanut and sis take europe!

hi, everyone!

i hope you all had a fun-filled holiday and new year. i have very exciting news today! my sister, jessica, and i have just booked our flights and trains for the two and a half weeks we are spending together in europe next month!

we found some great hacker fares on Kayak for the flights, and booked through RailEurope for the Thalys trains. i’m so excited to have concrete plans (finally!), but it still feels so surreal! here’s our itinerary:screen-shot-2017-01-03-at-5-50-36-pm

in case you’re not a visual spreadsheet-loving psychopath like me, here’s our itinerary again, but with less going on:

  • London, U.K. – Feb. 6-9
  • Dublin, Ireland – Feb. 9-11
  • Paris, France – Feb. 11-14
  • Brussels, Belgium – Feb. 14-15
  • Amsterdam, Netherlands – Feb. 15-17
  • Munich, Germany – Feb. 17-20

we also got matching patagonia backpacks (because we are extra, don’t ask) and i bought a 35mm film slr camera to document my trip. a lot of people seem genuinely worried that my sister (aka sis) and i (aka peanut) are backpacking through europe together, but i assure you, she will make it home…i cannot guarantee that i won’t fall in love with deutschland and stay forever.

just kidding, mom! i’ll be back to finish my degree, but who knows after graduation??? lol

there are 33 DAYS LEFT UNTIL WE LEAVE FOR LONDON, and i cannot wrap my head around it. i promise much more scintillating content in the coming weeks, such as how to pack everything you would need for five months in europe into a 28L backpack and carry on-sized luggage (spoiler alert: it probably cannot be done, but i digress), or how to encourage your sister that she doesn’t really need to bring those extra 16 pairs of shoes “just in case.”

don’t forget that i will also be publishing content for the SDSU Be International Blog starting in February! i’ll announce it all here, of course.

until next time & thanks for reading!

xoxo,
julia