Euro Trip 2014

5 Jun

Just got back from my European vacation yesterday &, let me tell you dear readers, what an adventure it was!

It was my friend Zach’s very first time being in Europe, so I was very excited to show him this wonderful lifestyle. During his 2 week visit we traveled around Prague, Rome, Firenze, Pisa & Paris! There’s no way I could possibly tell you about every single one of our adventures, but I will try & name some highlights!

Prague

-Zach tried every strange Czech delicacy I threw at home & actually enjoyed them! Normally a dedicated wine drinker, he tried the top 3 most famous (& in my opinion best) Czech beers: Kozel Cerny, Gambrinus & Pilsner Urquell. After trying to convert him to my obsession Kozel Cerny or a dark bitter beer (that is said to make certain female body parts grow bigger…), he crowned the light colored Gambrinus (Filip’s favorite) as the beer he liked best. 

-We also made Zach try some of the bizarre Czech cuisine. He left Prague having sampled Smažený sýr (FRIED CHEESE), beef Gulas, & my beloved Svíčková aka: steak with vegetable gravy topped with cranberries, whipped cream, lemon & served with a side of bread dumplings! Although most Czech food can sound scary, I was proud of Zach for keeping an open mind & he even ended our time in Prague ordering Svíčková as his own meal! I was so proud! 

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Image( Above: Don’t knock Svíčková, Smažený sýr or Kozel Cerny until you try them!)

-After we did all the touristy Prague things like Old Town, The John Lennon Wall & climb up to the castle, we did some favorite local activities. This included spending hours in my favorite neighborhood pub, dancing until 3am at the 5-story Karlovy Lázně club, & experiencing ‘The Nature’ of beautiful Divoká Šárka. As much as I love seeing all the big sites again when friends visit, I also really enjoy showing them all the hidden gems of the city that has become my home over the past 10 months. 

Rome

-I was excited to go here because Rome was the one city on this trip that we both had never visited. And it was overwhelming. There was soooo much to see. As much as I want to say that the ancient monuments & streets were my favorite–that’s not true. It was the pizza. Having gotten a recommendation from an American girl who studied in the city on our plane, we took her advice for dinner that night. And I am so glad we did! Although I have no idea what the restaurant name was, we ended up going there 2 nights in a row! It was jam packed with Americans but also so many friendly Italian workers. Sitting at tiny little wobbly tables with red checkered tablecloth noming down on my giant mixed veggie & sausage pizza was the highlight of Rome. 

-Another great thing about revisiting Italy was immediately recalling the extreme sense of welcome that Italians make you feel! Having spent 10 months in a city with silent metros, constant frowns & an overall sense of quiet it was nice to talk again. And Italians don’t just talk–they yell. So much that when they’re conversing with all their hand motions and facial expression you cannot tell if they’re angry or just telling a really good story. I loved it! 

Image(Above: This is essentially the typical Italian pizza. Notice how it is just out of the oven fresh & can barely fit on the plate? Yup.)

Firenze

-I first went to Firenze 2 years ago when I was studying abroad to visit/stay with the roommates of my friend. My time was filled with amazing food, drinking wine in piazzas at night, beautiful landscapes & a few scandalous adventures! Needless to say, I was extremely excited to show Zach this awesome city! One of the greatest things about Firenze besides the gelato shops, all the churches & duomo & restaurants is the openess. Most streets are cobblestone (reminded me of my Praha!) & don’t allow cars to drive down them. This gives the feel of genuinely being in Italy where you can walk in the streets freely–just look out for a vespa or bicycle whizzing by! 

-We were only planning on staying one night in Firenze so I knew our accommodation had to be good. After consulting the always reliable Hostelworld.com, I found the perfect place! My advice to anyone traveling is to READ THE REVIEWS! Sure the pictures may look cute & the price may be great…but it could also be 1 hour outside of the city & infested with bed bugs! The reviews are always honest &, in our case, these reviews led us to Danyhouse! A tiny section in an apartment building with only 3 small bedrooms & 2 bathrooms, the amenities were good, but it is the owner, Jonathan, who made our stay great! He immediately greeted us at the door knowing both our names & gave us a map of the city which he labeled completely. He showed us where all the sites were, as well as many places where we could get discounts for simply mentioning his name! Jonathan made us feel like treasured house guests! And after a night of political/current events discussion with the other 4 people staying there (2 Australians, 1 Welsh & 1 Brit), then a big breakfast together, I felt like we were a little family. I recommend Danyhouse to anyone traveling to Firenze! You will not be disappointed! 

Image(Above: This fabulous tan friendly man is Jonathan taking a selfie with another traveler. He took a selfie with us too before we left & I can’t wait to see how it came out!)

Pisa

-Having been to Pisa before, I knew that it would be doable in a couple of hours. So after our quick one hour train ride from Firenze, we made a move to the leaning tower & duomo. Even though there is not as much to do in Pisa, it is still so awesome to be lounging on a grassy yard a few meters away from one of the most famous monuments in the world! And of course we took those super touristy pics where to the camera is looks like you’re pushing up the leaning tower…but to everyone else, you & everyone around you look like you’re doing MJ’s ‘Thriller’ choreography!

Paris

-Although Zach thoroughly enjoyed all our previous destinations, I assured him that the best was being saved for last. I know I am super biased here; having first traveled to the amazing City of Lights when I was just 16, then spending 5 months studying there in college, & then just being there last December to turn 23–I knew my 4th visit to Paris would be just as special! By some stroke of crazy luck, our entire trip had beautiful weather! And our first full day in Paris was no exception (something extremely rare for a city that is usually cloudy). We saw all the main sights: L’Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees, Louvre, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur & Montmartre, Les Jardins des Tulleries, Musee D’Orsay, Le Defense, & of course, my girl, Eiffel. Seeing the look on Zach’s face every time he saw a new monument was priceless & actually not too far from my own expression. Paris is my ultimate happy place & even though I have been there several times, I will never stop being breathless at all that beauty. Paris is not a city, dear readers, it’s a mindset & lifestyle.

-Unsurprisingly, the food we ate here was also delicious. Confit de Canard (fried duck), crepes, all kinds of cheeses, wines & a home-made Granny Smith apple & Brie baguette sandwich I made for myself while watching a match of the French Open. Speaking of the French Open aka: one of the biggest tennis events in the world, it was taking place only a few blocks over! How Paris. There is always some event, concept, festival, exhibition going on in this city–but at the same time, the French lifestyle is all about relaxation. I made sure during my trip to Paris I took some time to chill out & enjoy the experience. 

-Another GREAT thing about being in Paris? I speak French! And even though it has been wayyy too long since I have spoken the language, I was surprised at how much immediately came back! The first bout being when we arrived in this random airport ‘Paris’ Beauvais

(Note: never fly Ryanair! Yes it’s cheap but it’s so unprofessional, the staff is rude & they only fly to airports 1hr from the actual city. Our flight was delayed over an hour with NO EXPLANATION. Spend a little more for EasyJet, it’s worth it). 

Anyways, we got off the plane & knew we had to take a 34euro bus into the city. There was a machine to buy tickets for this bus that took credit cards only. But surprise, surprise, not American credit cards! 

(Another note: Unlike European/other credit cards, American credit cards have no computer chip on them, therefore, they are not accepted at a lot of places over here. Sure they will be accepted at big chain stores/restaurants, but always ask before at smaller places & always carry some spare cash around!) 

It was alright because there was a shuttle bus, which we soon found out was full. Immediately there was a herd of nervous Americans in the airport being addressed by a girl who spoke barely any English. I sprung into action. I explained our cards didn’t work and she informed me that there was a cash desk for tickets outside–boom, day was saved! (And the bus was actually only 17euro–win!)

Image(Above: Any true Parisian knows that the best view of the city is on top of Les Galeries LaFayette shopping mall!)

Although most Parisians speak some English they 9 times out of 10 would rather speak to you in French. It’s a respect thing, much like in Prague, people value you 100% more with your broken Czech than if you were immediately resorting to only English. However, in Italy, I got the vibe that speaking English was no problem & Italians gave no attitude about the language switch. Anyways, it was nice to speak a language & have someone respond & I actually understood them. It’s a powerful feeling, one that I have since felt was forming a wall between my acculturation into Prague. This is why if I ever move back to Prague, or anywhere else, I will actively learn the language. 

So that was our trip in a nutshell! Thank you to everyone who helped us, partied with us, let us stay with them (including my awesome French host brother Simon & the cooler older sister I never had, Gillian!), & Mama G/Grampy for allowing me to take such a wonderful trip!

Now I only have 5 days left in Prague, but this trip was certainly ending this amazing adventure with a bang! 

děkuji moc

grazie

et merci beaucoup!

-JG 🙂 

 

 

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2 Responses to “Euro Trip 2014”

  1. gypsyess June 5, 2014 at 4:32 pm #

    Europe
    Is amazing ! The food
    Looks amazing, that pizza. Mmm.

  2. Ron June 8, 2014 at 2:28 am #

    How are you going to stay down on the farm once you saw Paree

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