Friday, August 5, 2011

the actual end.

11 july 2011

we arrived in paris around 7:30pm local time. our bags were still at florine’s, but we definitely needed to eat some dinner before we went to pick them up. we stopped by a restaurant near the station and ate a quick meal before heading over to florine’s place. she met us there and we visited for a while as we reorganized our bags to transport. we finally made our way across town and got to our new host’s flat around 10pm. his name was mikael, and he lived in a teeny apartment on the top floor of an old building (of course). once we arrived and got our stuff settled, he invited us to go sit by the seine and drink wine. um…. yes. he led us to an awesome little spot on the bank and we watched the boats go by. eventually, we kept walking, ending up near the islands. we stopped and got berthillon ice creams on the île de st. louis and then walked over to the île de la cité to look at notre dame in the moonlight. we went back to the right back and got bikes to ride home. :) rachel rode on mikael’s bike and i had my own. it was so fun to ride through the deserted streets of late-night paris. we got back pretty late and got ready for bed. rachel and i slept on the pull-out couch, and we all slept so hard! i barely woke up when mikael got up early for work.

12 july 2011

my last day. rachel and i had planned to go check out the pompidou center, so we got up and prepared for our day. we got our bikes from the little bike terminal down the street and rode over to the museum. unfortunately, the pompidou was closed on tuesdays. blast. we sat in the plaza for a while, and listened to an awesome jazz quartet play. rachel and i even got up and danced for a minute, which earned the applause of all the spectators. we got our bikes and took a long tour down the seine. our first stop was to check out the shakespeare & company bookstore, one of my favourite places on the planet. i bought a copy of “screwtape letters” and we continued on our way. we did think about going to the d’orsay, but the line was so long that we ended up bailing. we walked across the pont des arts and looked around the tuileries, including the carnival. we walked along the rue de rivoli, “window-licking” (great french saying) and enjoying the weather. we eventually got some bikes and made our way through the place de la concorde and down the champs-elysees. we went and checked out the gallery atop the louis vuitton building and walked by the parisian abercrombie & fitch, which is confusingly popular. since my quest to find the best tarte aux framboises in france began at the café ladurée, i figured it was only fair that it end there as well. we had a little dessert treat, which i savoured as long as i could. i did have a fleeting moment of meaningful sadness as i took my last bite… it was so good, and i didn’t want it to end – but i had to take that last bite. just like my time abroad. we paid and stopped by the virgin megastore so i could grab a cd. finally, we headed back and met mikael, and the three of us went out to a last dinner. he brought us to a really good restaurant right around the corner, where i accidentally ordered an entrée of raw meat. whoops. he bought us a bottle of champagne and we had a really interesting and provocative conversation. after dinner, he took us on a bit of a pub crawl. at the first bar, we tried these shots of caramel vodka, and then had watermelon mojitos. the atmosphere was really cool – very nashville. the next place was pretty empty, but still cool. he ordered us these daiquiri-like drinks, which were alright. finally, around 2, we headed home. i stayed up to finish packing and blog a little. i considered pulling an all-nighter, but i did go to sleep eventually, for just a couple hours.

13 july 2011

d-day. i woke up around 6 and got my stuff together. rachel came with me to the airport shuttle stop next to the opéra, where we said goodbye. i boarded to get out of the rain, thinking about how paris was crying for me. the airport was uneventful – i checked in and went through security, arriving at my gate in plenty of time to buy some food and use the internet. my flight was at 11am, so we started boarding around 10:15. 

after 180 of the best days of my life – countless adventures and friends – i was going home.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

the end, part two. london again!

8 july 2011

florine was sweet enough to let us leave our big suitcases at her flat while we spent our final european weekend in london! we left the flat in time to get to the gare du nord at 10am. since we were taking the eurostar, we had to got through customs and security. after a bit of a border control scare regarding our lack of OFII stamps, we got on our train and were on our way to…

london! the train ride through the chunnel was so cool! it just got dark for about 20 minutes and then boom! england. the transit was so much smoother than our february journey! god bless trains. we got off at st. pancreas, where tristan met us. he rode the tube back with us to the flat, where we settled in to rest f or a little while. we left around 3pm to meet shane at the liverpool street bus station, as he had to ride the bus into down from the airport. i was so excited to see him! i introduced him to tristan, and then tris and rachel went back to the flat while shane and i set out to explore. our first stop was the V&A museum, where we got to play and learn! there were some fun, interactive “discovery stations” – it was a really cool museum. we headed out to find some food and a place for shane to get a haircut. on the way, we stopped so he could buy some shoes to replace the ones that were practically falling off his feet as he walked. we continued our wandering, stopping in several awesome bookshops in covent garden. soon, we stumbled upon a super trendy, very cheap hair salon. i sat and waited while shane got an 8 pound haircut. the best part was that several of the stylists were french! but shane the pansy was too shy and intimidated by the beauty of his stylist to actually speak to her in french. lol. after the haircut, we kept walking – i think we covered the entirety of london that day! – and started looking for some indian food for dinner. rachel was going with tristan to meet some of his friends at a pub on the river. we headed back to the flat around 10:30pm, arriving in time to catch the end of the movie the gang was watching. around midnight, everyone started heading off to bed. i stayed up for a little while, talking to shane and using the computer. it was so lovely to get to spend the afternoon and evening with him – we had an awesome day. it felt like a total bonus, considering the fact that when we said goodbye in galway in may, we thought it was for a few years!

9 july 2011

this was a supremely excellent, very literary day. shane and i got up around 9 or 10 and got ready to leave the flat. we took the tube to victoria street station, and hopped on a big, red bus to oxford! yes! the trip took about 2 hours, and it was a lovely ride through the british countryside. we arrived in oxford around 1pm and found a spot of lunch – i finally got to have a pasty and it was delish! shane and i sat in a square and listened to a busker while we ate and waited for rachel and tristan to arrive via motorbike! once they got to town and found us, we all took a walk up the main street. they grabbed something to eat and then we made our way to one of the many colleges in town. it’s no wonder that oxford is such a destination for higher education – there are so many colleges there! we walked by the gorgeous bodleian library rotunda and then i bought a ticket to go inside the divinity school. it was there that the dance rehearsal scene from harry potter and the goblet of fire was filmed! it was an absolutely gorgeous room – i love the architecture in oxford. we also saw some kids in slytherin robes. :) shane and i snuck into the courtyard of a dorm complex, just to get a peek, and oh my word – it was so, so very beautiful. stone buildings covered in ivy, bright grass, spiral staircases… we couldn’t believe it. we finally tore ourselves away and went to meet back up with rachel and tristan. the four of us continued meandering, checking out another hp-related college – we saw the “great hall” and the courtyard where malfoy gets turned into a ferret! loved it. i really wanted to go see christ church before it closed, so rachel and tristan napped on a lawn while shane and i ran across town. technically, it was closed for a wedding (of the dean’s son!), but shane and i snuck in for a quick look before we were kindly asked to leave. :) the last item on the list was the eagle & child pub, where the inklings writing group met – including c.s. lewis and tolkien! i saw their signatures and soaked up the awesome atmosphere for a while. around 6:30, shane needed to start heading back, so we made our way to the bus stop. we got back to town around 8, and the two of us ran over to top shop so shane could exchange some shoes. we made it back to the flat around 9, and shane pretty much left right away for this evening soirée. rachel and i got ready and then made our way across the thames to go see the classic “hamlet” at shakespeare’s globe theatre!! we had such awesome seats – front row of the top tier! the show was a nighttime performance – midnight, actually. we rented cushions and settled in for an awesome production. the cast was small – they all played at least two or three roles. rach and i both really enjoyed it, being the total english nerds that we are. after the show was over, we walked back across the millennium bridge and caught a black cab back home, finally arriving around 3am. shane stayed over at his friends’ place, so he wasn’t home. but i had chugged a coke to stay awake at the play, so i ended up being up for a while. i took advantage of the time different to talk to drew for a while – bonus! it was such a lovely day – one of my favourites during the whole trip! i finally fell asleep as the sun was rising over the gray east-london rooftops.

10 july 2011

needless to say, we slept in a bit on sunday… tris woke us up around 11 to go check another item off of our to-do list – a full english breakfast! it had bacon, eggs, beans, sausage, tomatoes, mushrooms, toast, and tea… yum. i ate the whole thing, too! shane was home when we got back, and we rested for a while, trying to digest a little big. around 1, rachel, shane and i walked over to brick lane to check out all the sunday markets. we stopped by the petticoat lane market before heading over to spittalfields. it was so hipstery and cool! we spent several hours in the area, just exploring. eventually, rachel and i headed back to rest. i watched the us women’s soccer match with suzy, which was heartstoppingly dramatic. tristan made this delish fondue for dinner with roasted veggies, meats, and bread. we all sat around the table and hung out for a long time. i ran down the street to get ice cream / strawberries for dessert. we were expecting another couchsurfer around 10 – my friend katherine! she was staying in london for her last few days in europe, and tristan, as is his natural reaction, said “the more, the merrier!” she ended up taking longer than expected, showing up around midnight. i was so excited to see her! i introduced her to everyone and we all went to bed around 2 or so.

11 july 2011

last day in london! rach and i were scheduled to leave on the 4pm train back to paris. around 9am, i woke up and packed my backpack up all the way and left with shane and katherine around 11 to go see kensington palace and the peter pan statue. (tris said he would bring my bag to the station, the angel.) the three of us explored the gardens and surrounding area. the palace itself was beautiful – red-brick and very regal. it was where diana had liived with william and harry. people had left all kinds of notes and cards attached to the fence – including 50th birthday cards for diana, which was sad but charming. they really loved her – and the rest of the royal family, as evidenced by the absolute obsession with the royal wedding. the peter pan statue was really cool – and shane was so excited to see it. we were supposed to meet tristan and rachel at the station at 3, so we left the park around 2:30 and took the tube over to st. pancreas. rachel and tris had just arrived. we all said goodbye, which was really sad. it was hard to say goodbye to shane again, but not as bad as the first time. i was still pretty torn up though. and tristan was so sweet as well. rachel and i went through security after our goodbyes were over and held our breath as we practically tiptoed through customs, because of our missing OFII stamps. the woman in france had made us so nervous, but it ended up being a total non-issue. the eurostar waiting area was pretty nice – we hung out for a little while before getting ready to board our train. it was kind of like boarding an airplane! rachel was in the seat right behind me, so once the train got settled, i asked the girl next to me if they could switch, which she kindly agreed to do. shortly, we were on the way back to franceland, for the very last installment in my epic voyage.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

the end, part one.

6 july 2011

since our flight was at 9, we had to leave at 6am to catch the bus to the airport at 6:30. all went well, and we jumped through all the necessary hoops to get on our flight. and as we took off, another chapter of my adventure closed…

after a short flight, (which we both slept right though), we arrived in lyon. we had a bit of a layover, so we grabbed lunch and chilled at a table for about 2 hours. the train came at 1:15, and we were in paris by 3:15! magical. since our CS host wasn’t at home, we left out things at the consign while we walked around the area. we reposed in the place des vosges (one of paris’ most beautiful plazas), soaking up the lovely parisian summer sun. after our rest, we took a walk around the quarter. i showed rachel our flat from last summer and we looked in several cute vintage shops. around 7, we went back to pick up our stuff from the station and head to florine’s apartment. we got there without any problems, and she is so cool! her flat is beautiful as well, so cute and well done. she complimented us on our french and then we went to buy things for dinner. it was a simple, romantic, classically french meal – meats, chess, fruit, salad, bread. we talked for a long time and then went to bed fairly late. yay CS!

7 july 2011

a grand day in paris! we woke up around 10 and ate some breakfast. the get-ready time took longer since rachel washed her hair, so we ended up leaving around 12:30. we went straight to see rachel’s friend emma and grab lunch with her near the ‘tour de montparnasse’. after her lunch break, rachel and i did a big walking tour of the city, since she’d forgotten her passport and couldn’t get into the d’orsay for free. we walked so far, eventually landing at the arc de triomphe. after a big of shopping, we made our way back to florine’s. we ended up doing the same thing for dinner because the previous night was so good! we stayed up talking again, and then packed our bags for london in the morning!