Archive for the ‘eurotrip’ Tag
Paris was spectacular! The weather was a bit drizzly, but I did get one full day of sunshine as I made my way through a four day whirlwind tour of monuments and museums.
The first museum I visited was the Louvre. It is huge. I cannot believe how big the building itself is! I spent several hours there, and it was incredible. The Mona Lisa was flocked by tourists and heavily guarded. I was surprised how many people were just flocking to the famous works listed in the map…
I also went to the Musee d’Orsay. I was impressed with all of the work I saw, but I found Monet’s paintings particularly interesting. The clarity of his painting (out of chaos) impressed me the most.
To keep my religious bearings, I visited Sainte Chapelle, Notre Dame, and Sacré Coeur. They were all very impressive. The Sacré Coeur has a pretty amazing view of Paris, especially at night.
The Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Élysées, and the catacombs also got some of my time. The Eiffel Tower was an impressive piece of architecture, but it seems a bit out of place compared to its surroundings. The catacombs were very creepy! I could not believe how many bones were down there. It definitely made me cringe.
All in all, Paris was a great experience. I feel like I got a quick revue of the city and its culture (including the nightlife). But I will have to return someday to see the many things I missed.
I had an exciting five days in Barcelona. The weather was nice, the time changed (to DST), I saw some great Gaudi buildings, and ate some amazing food.
My hostel was located on the south side of the Eixample neighborhood, in the middle of huge clothing stores and near La Rambla. La Rambla (sometimes referred to as the plural Las Ramblas) is a long street full of human statues and performers, souvenirs, restaurants, bars, and animals. There are actually lizards, hamsters, and a variety of other potential pet animals for sale right on the street! There seemed to be a Zara on just about every other street corner. I guess it is quite popular in Barcelona…
The Guadi buildings around the city are epic. There was one near my hostel. The Barcelona Cathedral was also epic. It is full of beautiful wood sculptures. The cathedral itself was rather dark, being that it is all stone, but the details were what impressed me the most. I enjoyed that it was stone and wood after seeing so many marble cathedrals in Italy.
One afternoon I walked to the Parc de la Ciutadella. It is an incredibly well kept park with ponds, fountains, and a maze of walking/running paths. It was a great place to bask in the Spanish sun. Next to the park is the Barcelona Zoo. It has been a long time since I have visited a zoo, and I forgot how fun it could be. They had a Komodo Dragon. Its tongue looked like it was a foot long!
The nightlife in Barcelona was quite different than anything I have ever experienced before. People go out for drinks at midnight and then go dancing at 3am. The sun was coming up when I left dance club on Sunday morning… needless to say I slept through most of the morning and early afternoon.
Overall I really enjoyed my time in Barcelona. I was able to see some art and architecture, shop for trinkets, people watch, dance all night, and eat Paella. I will probably have to visit again; I had a lot of fun.
I had an absolutely wonderful time in Florence! It is clearly a city for tourists, but the museums and landmarks are, none-the-less, magnificent. I was completely exhausted every night from walking around the small city and its museums. I probably gained five pounds just from eating the gelato every day, but it was totally worth it!
I went to the Galleria dell’Accademia to see the David statue. The statue itself is unbelievable. The intricacies of the sculpture impressed me the most, especially because it is 17 feet tall. Aside from David, there is a plethora of other sculptures and paintings in the Galleria dell’Accademia. I found it interesting that a significant number of artist from the last few centuries came from and worked in Florence (one statistic said 300 out of the 1000 most important artists were from Florence).
I spent one afternoon in the Galleria degli Uffizi. It seems like I could have spent all four days in the Uffizi and not seen everything. Its collection is only outnumbered by the Vatican itself! Nevertheless, I did see the Birth of Venus, which was incredible. For me, it seemed quite different from most of the other paintings in the Uffizi. I will let the experts speak to its magnificence, but I will say that all of the sculptures and painting were utterly amazing.
The second day, after seeing David and then walking around the Boboli gardens (an incredible place), I walked up to Piazzale Michelango. From there, I was able to get a great panoramic view of Florence. It also happened to be sunset, which made the view spectacular! The sun slowly descended behind a hill above Florence. I took several pictures of the sunset, but none quite capture the beauty and intensity of it. I have never seen anything so beautiful.
On my third day, I booked a whirlwind tour of Tuscany. In twelve hours I saw three places: San Gimignano, Siena, and a farm in the Chianti region. With about three or so hours in each location, I only got a brief introduction.
San Gimignano is a medieval walled town that is in remarkable condition considering it is 700 years old. It is known for having towers. Now there are only 14, but at one point it had something like 72 towers. I was able to climb to the top of one of the towers in the center (seen in the photo below). It provided a great view of the Tuscan landscape.
Siena is a beautiful town. It is an UNESCO world heritage site. I had lunch there before seeing the huge cathedral, Santa Maria della Scala. I was able to climb to the top of the panoramico for another great view of the Tuscan landscape. The cathedral itself is very ornate. It is made of white, pink, and black marble. It was hard to look at because it was so bright with the sun shining off of it. Inside there were tons of sculptures on the walls, ceiling, and floor by famous artists like Michelangelo. I also was able to snap some photos of the Piazza del Campo, which had about eight thousand tourists milling around it.
The tour concluded at the Casanova organic farm in the Chianti region. The farm produces wine, balsamic vinaigrette, olive oil, truffle oil, and a few other things. We were able to try two red wines, two dessert wines, 8 year old balsamic vinaigrette, 30 year old balsamic vinaigrette on ice cream, olive oil, truffle oil, and honey. It was all very very good. I was also able to see the sunset from the farm, which was incredible (photo below).
Overall, I sincerely enjoyed my time in Florence. It is certainly not a place that I would like to live as it is heavily geared towards tourists, but it is a place that I would like to visit again. There are so many incredible landmarks and museums that it was hard to see everything in four days. With such great sights and food, it is no wonder that so many people go there!
I arrived in Zurich 21 hours after leaving Seattle. I took the train from the airport which provided some pretty exciting views of Zurich.
I love the feeling in Zurich. The buildings are mostly old. The windows all have shutters. There are lots of cobbled streets and narrow walkways.
I stayed just south of downtown in a pretty touristy area. There is at least a dozen night clubs/bars in the same block as my hostel. The stores in the area are also fairly nice. It is hard to just window shop with so many appealing products in the window…
Across the lake was a pretty ritzy part of town. From there, I walked down the west side of the lake on a rainy morning and found lots of elegant apartment buildings. It must cost a fortune to live there. It cost me quite a bit just to eat in Zurich. A latte and croissant was 11 francs, which is about $12!
The attitude of the people reminds me of Seattle. They are a bit cold and unwilling to engage. The other travelers that I met were very interesting and engaging, though. I met people from Mexico, Lausanne Switzerland, London, Brazil, and Russia. Saturday evening I went to one of the local dance clubs with four guys from Laussanne. I left at 4:30 after dancing all night… I was not even close to the last person to leave!
I found an Apple reseller (essentially an Apple Store) when I was wandering around. The keyboards were surprising. They are QWERTZ keyboards! The Z and the Y are switched. They have a different layout for special characters.The surprising aspect is that these keyboards are not very useful for programming. Clearly they are not meant for use with the bash shell as the vertical bar, hash sign, curly braces, and square brackets are missing! I suppose a programmer would use two keyboards…
Overall, I enjoyed my time in Zurich. I will get another afternoon/evening there at the end of my trip. It is a beautiful place. Though, I don’t think I could visit more than a couple days without a very large budget.
After staying up all night celebrating the end of my academic career, I was whisked to Toronto, Canada via Air Canada.
I had a six hour layover, which lead to an exploration of the Toronto airport. Turns out Coyote Jacks Grill is a pretty good ‘fast food’ concept. By American standards it is high quality fast food. I had a burger on a croissant bun! I also discovered some of the art around the airport before giving thanks for free wi-fi.
If everything goes well, I will be in Zurich early Friday morning!