Accomplished: Visit San Francisco!

Last Thursday, I took a trip to San Francisco with my father for the weekend. I hadn’t been there since I was a baby. Fun fact, we almost moved there when I was an infant—sometimes I wonder what the West Coast version of me would’ve been like. Probably, I’d have dyed hair and be saying ‘namaste’ all the time.

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Things about San Francisco:

  • The hills are enormous. I expected them to be hills, not miniature mountains. My legs were so sore after all of the walking we did!
  • Food. Food everywhere. Of every kind. If I lived in San Francisco, I would go all Pac-Man and eat everything
  • Bikers, joggers, dog-walkers… this is your city! It was lovely to see so many outdoorsy people out and about, being active
  • Diversity! The city’s population is one-third Asian, which was a welcome change from growing up in homogenous suburbia
  • Weather – perfect with a dash of more perfect. Although not quite hot enough for me, San Francisco weather was lovely, breezy, and warm enough to not be bundled in a billion layers

So what did we do?

Friday, we went to the Presidio, which is this re-outfitted army base. It was gorgeous. We visited the Presidio Graduate School, a wonderful, innovative graduate school that bestows MBAs/MPAs, but with a focus on sustainability at the core of every lesson. All of the students and professors were so passionate and motivated. It reminded me of my alma mater, seeing how much people actually cared.

After visiting a class, my father and I went to the Golden Gate Bridge and then up and over it. My inner middle-schooler was screaming because the tv show (Charmed) I was obsessed with back then used the bridge as a frequent backdrop! I had no chance to climb up and stand at the top, unfortunately.

Golden Gate Bridge, the view of the hills from our hotel, and some pretty accurate graffiti

Golden Gate Bridge, the view of the hills from our hotel, and some pretty accurate graffiti

We went toward the Muir Woods, though we didn’t have a chance to explore. Those winding, curvy turns with no guardrail and a steep tumbling drop made me super nauseous. Even my father, a bit of a thrill-seeker, was saying how often they must have to rescue people (or recover bodies). I could never drive there.

On our way back into the city, we went to this cliffside that overlooks the bridge. When the fog rolls in, you can see the top of the bridge poking out from up there. People were biking up there. People were biking everywhere in San Francisco. I don’t know how they tackle those crazy hills.

We had dinner with people from the graduate school. Presidio Social Club is a renovated army barrack and my goodness. If I lived in SF, I would be SO FAT. Luckily everything is super expensive, so if I lived there, I couldn’t afford any of it. And I tried raw oysters for the first time.

On to Saturday!

Full House!

 

We started off by driving around the piers and people-watching. The piers had a huge open-air market that made my veggie-loving heart happy. We drove to the Full House house, and there were a bunch of bros who got there as we were leaving and they were all, “IS THIS THE HOUSE?! I need a picture!”

We drove by the Painted Ladies, and then stopped in the neighborhood of Haight-Asbury. It’s where the Summer of Love originated. There were the quirkiest stores there: Rasputin Records, East Asia hippie-dippie stores, a huge vintage clothing store, among countless others. It was Greenwich Village, turned way up. There was a guy in a tie-dye shirt with a beard crossing the street just as we were, holding out a plastic baggie of pot, totally nonchalant about it.

Haight-Asbury: Vintage store, Rasputin Records, a really awesome outfit

Haight-Asbury: Vintage store, Rasputin Records, a really awesome outfit

After that, we explored Chinatown and from there, we made it down to Union Square, where there was an art exhibit going on. I particularly enjoyed heart sculpture with Yoda’s face on it. We had lunch at a sushi place, Sanraku and omg. I can’t get over the food in this city. The population of San Francisco is extremely diverse so there is every connotation of food (and some of it gluten free!) around. And the roll I had was amazing – avocado, cucumber, and tobiko on the inside, with salmon and lemon slices on top. NOMMMM.

We explored North Branch, and passed by Coit Tower, which overlooks the whole city. We saw the spiraling of Lombard Street. We made it to Fisherman’s Wharf again, where we watched as the fog eclipsed Shutter Island and as piles of sea lions basked in the attention of tourists.

A cathedral, Union Square, and Chinatown

A cathedral, Union Square, and Chinatown

Dinner that night was at a club called the Battery, which is more of an actual club, than a nightlife club. We ended up sitting outside, having more wine!, and getting vittles. I had these rice crackers with black sesame seeds in them, and tuna poke, which was chunks of raw/seared tuna with avocado, macadamia nuts, and big tobiko. See?! I WOULD GET SO FAT IN SF.

We walked back to the hotel afterwards, and my legs were crying. And then it was our last night… very tragic, but we did enjoy all the TCHO chocolates the hotel left on our pillows.

Like all trips, it was over far too soon. Hopefully my next trip will be sooner rather than later!

Love always,
Gabriele

Jes

Name: Jes
Age: 20
Hometown: Westchester, NY
Favorite Food: My mom’s spaghetti and meatballs with my grandma’s sauce
Superpower: Read minds; teleportation

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Jes isn’t a stranger on Brilliant Buckets – you’ll recognize her as my vivacious best friend who traipsed across Europe with me! Though she’s too tough on herself, Jes is a beam of pure sunshine shining on the rest of the world. She’s laughter and warmth, as she tries to capture life’s fleeting beauty in the snapping of her camera lens. If you’re in trouble, Jes is there, before you even think to ask. She has the craziest knack for remembering the exact date of obscure events and as you can see, does pretty incredible things with make-up. She also watches entirely too much television, even the cheesiest shows. But that’s more proof of her genuine nature. Jes happens to be a believer. She believes in happy ever afters for everyone, beyond the TV screen.

–       Make candy sushi

–       Visit all 50 states. Completed 23 so far, and three continents.

–       Visit all seven continents. Do South America and Antarctica in one fell swoop. Go to Panama to see both oceans

–       See the Great Wall of China.

–       Road trip across the United States. The World’s Largest Sandwich or Yogurt cup. Random crap like that would be so fun to see.

–       See the Northern Lights. “I’ve been to five places that have the Northern Lights, but never at the right time.”

–       Drink beer at Oktoberfest; “I don’t even like beer.”

–       Mardi Gras in New Orleans

–       “I want to throw a dart on a map and just go where it lands”

–       On that note, “throw a dart at a wall and whatever it lands on, get a tattoo. I’d have to make sure it has a lot of tattoos I’d want.”

–       Have a photo in National Geographic magazine. “One of my Africa photos probably.”

–       Publish my own photo book. “Probably of my family. They don’t like how I portray them. They were beautiful photos, but not beautiful photos of them. Now they shut off when I take photos, but it’s the first body of work I’m really proud of.”

–       Go on a romantic date

–       Fall in love and have kids. “At least three, I want to say. It depends on what we’d decide together. I wouldn’t have more than five.”

–       Conquer a fear. “I don’t have anything specific, but everyone’s afraid of something.”

–       Ride a mechanical bull at a bar, while wearing a cowboy hat

–       Fire a gun

–       Be a movie or TV show extra (for Buffy or Charmed if they were still on air!)

–       “Get to my goal weight and do a shopping spree of really tiny clothes. And then I’m going to feast. I’m an eater and I’ve always been an eater – that’s not going to change no matter my weight.”

–       Solve a Rubik’s cube

–       Rescue a dog from an animal shelter, ideally a corgi

–       Live somewhere other than New York, probably California. “I wouldn’t want to live in LA. Too much traffic and no subways. Beach house maybe, that’d be cool if I could afford it. I don’t think I’d ever want to live in a foreign country for a while.”

–       Go skinny dipping

–       Have an awesome apartment. “I think it’s unnecessary to have a house if you don’t have kids. I want really funky furniture – really strange, really bright colors but comfortable.”

–       “Be as satisfied with my portfolio as I could be. Be consistent with my work. I’d love to make it into the mentor program at SVA. I want to know what I want before I graduate.”

–       Honeymoon somewhere warm on a beach. A nice tropical island.

–       Dream wedding – “Somewhere outside with lots of flowers. A big fairytale wedding. Gazebo, rose petals. Really, my dream wedding is my entire family getting along.”

–       Always wanted a really nice designer dress, a beautiful floor-length one to wear to fancy events. “It would have to have some sort of black lace in it.”

–       Learn how to ballroom dance. “I don’t mind acting like a fool but I’d like to learn.”

–       Learn how to cook. “I want to be able to cook all of my mom’s recipes without having to call her to walk me through it because I’m afraid to burn the house down.”

Accomplished! Flourishing Florence and final thoughts!

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En route back home, to July in New York. Back to big wide roads, super stores, and giant cups of coffee.

Come to think of it, the biggest difference to me between America and Europe is exactly that – size. Bigger is better in the states, and we live our lives as large and loud as we can. We rush around so much, worried we’ll miss out on the next grand adventure.

I know I’m going to go through reverse culture shock. I’m going to miss the better quality of food and the stricter regulations against factory farming and harmful chemicals. I’m going to miss the friendliness of Europeans and the camaraderie amongst fellow travelers. Taking actual time to have a breakfast, lunch, and dinner that we don’t just eat mindlessly. And tea! So much tea, everywhere, in proper cups and kettles! I’m going to miss how the majority of European men dress WAY better, and how much more active and healthier the people live. And hello, celiac awareness… I know gluten-free people who would’ve wept at being served warm, crusty GF Italian bread at a restaurant. Ah, Europe.

But I have missed my family, my friends, my New York. I did cook at our hostels, but it’ll be nice to have my kitchen again and go to the farmer’s markets to find new ingredients to play with. Pick up my running! I need to work out! Also, both Jes and I are planning on spending some time being tourists at home and going to do all the New York sights. We’re going to drag some friends on a walking tour, like we did abroad. Time to appreciate the place we live!

We had such fun this trip. The last two days we spent in Florence. Unfortunately they were Sunday and Monday, so many places were closed. The longer Jes and I spent in Italy, the more we found ourselves even speaking to each other in Italian. And people were often surprised, but happy, to hear us actually speak the language. Sunday we explored and Jes took me to all the important places to see. She spent a month there when she was 16, on a summer study program. We saw the Duomo and street markets and statues and basilicas, and goodness it was all so old and pretty.

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We went to the Boboli Gardens, which was the seat of the Medici family.They were incredible and gave us such a view of Florence, after the steepest hills and stairs guarded by the sweltering summer sun. It was so weird to walk these roads and think, this is actually where the Rinascimento, the Renaissance was birthed and stretched its limbs across Europe. This is where Michelangelo and Donatello and the rest actually lived. And the Tuscan hills and little houses, they look like – imagined fancy, rather than somewhere real people still live.

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Europe always seemed like a fairytale to me. Like there was no way I could ever really touch it. And it has been a dream to be here. I am so grateful to everyone who helped me take this trip. I am so proud of myself for going this far away and working so hard to be able to pay for it. And I can’t thank Jes enough times for everything. She has seen me at my best and worst on this trip – my neurosis, my Pisces spaciness, and tendency to spout random trivia. After seven years of friendship, she’s still one of the best friends I could ask for.

I’ve learned a lot about myself this trip. That’s a story for another time. But I want to keep tackling my bucket list, and to live my life with as graciously as possible. My advice for any of you who have made it this far, following along with me?

Just go. Do the things on your list, the things niggling in the dustiest corners of your brain. Pull them out from under the rug. Because you’re brave and strong and awesome and of course, BRILLIANT, so go and do them.

You won’t regret it.

Love always,
Gabriele

Accomplished! Venezia!

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Italy!

It’s so weird, coming to Italy. I’ve been studying Italian since I was about 11 years old and listening to it in some form or another since I was una bambina, so in a way, it didn’t feel like a foreign country as much as a homecoming.

I’ve read about the country so much, listened to their music and watched films and TV shows. To hear people speaking Italian around me is like being all wrapped up and snuggled in a warm blanket, made up of this beautiful language that is usually dormant in my mind. I love it – the nonnas, the overly romantic couples, the men who border between appreciative and creepily leering in their gazes, and the little babies whining “Mamma, aspetta!”

Venice felt like walking into a postcard. It was a labyrinth of alleys and piazzas and bridges and you turn and turn and you lose yourself but its not really lost but poetically adrift.

The words of Tolkien come to me over and over on this trip. And in Venice, they’re especially true. “Not all those who wander are lost.”

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If you turn two corners, you escape the tourists and happen upon little churches tucked away, or little shrines to Mary hiding in the wall and marked only by some dusty dry flowers. You find where the Venetians live and overhear a nonna telling a story from her open window. Flowers hang down and lazy bees hover above the canals, not realizing the splendor of being in Venice.

Turn another two corners at random and you are back in the busiest of streets. There are plenty of tourists and a handful of gypsies. St. Mark’s Piazza was surprisingly lacking in pigeons when we went and we went each day. We found a horde of them in Florence though, so maybe they were taking a holiday here.

We went in Doge’s Palace (where the government was run and Cassanova imprisoned), up the Campanile tower for some lovely views of the Grand Canal, and into the Basilica.

We couldn’t have asked for a better place for our little hotel. It was bare bones, four flights of stairs, and the room looked like a Gryffindor’s acid trip, but the people there were nice (gave us a glass of champagne when we arrived!) and just a few steps away was the Rialto Bridge. Over the grand bridge were the markets, fruits and fish and masks and glass as far as I could see.

I spent some time wandering and stumbled upon a little bookstore. It was fun to see Il Grande Gatsby on the shelves. I was tempted but it’s a little above my Italian reading level!

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Also, one would think Italy would be terrible for celiacs but it’s actually the best place in the world! Italy tests all their children for celiac and there is senza glutine food everywhere. I think it’s because food and enjoying it, are such intrinsic parts of life here. There’s a saying “Non si invecchia a tavola”, meaning one doesn’t grow old at the table. And I think that applies here.

So we ate at two adorable restaurants. The first, La Vecia Cabana, had a GF menu for me, and after I ordered, they moved the bread basket to Jes’s side and came back with GF bread and breadsticks for me! Oh my goodness! And towards the end, one of the waiters came over and told me he too was celiacci. But wait… Before we left, they brought Jes some pastries and me… Gluten free cookies!!!!!!! They tasted just like the Italian bakery I went to as a little kid. It was the sweetest thing. On our last night we came back and they recognized us and remembered I was celiac. Bawwwww.

The second place we went to was good too! It was called Trattoria Da Fiore, and as soon as I told the waitress, she immediately knew what I could and couldn’t have, and was super sweet and knowledgable about it.

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We went to Murano and Burano on our last day. Murano is where they blow glass into the most stunning, intricate sculptures. We watched as a man turned an orange molten sphere into a vase, and then another into a horse. He pulled at the glass with metal tweezers and the horse’s limbs emerged crystalline and clear. At the museum there, it was hard to wrap our minds around how old some of the glass was. How did people ever figure out how to make these?

Burano is where they make lace and we met a little nonna who was delighted to overhear us speaking Italian outside her shop. We saw her sewing away and marveled at the little lace butterflies, farfalle, on the door. But mostly we wandered the brightly painted buildings. The brightest shades of red, blue, green, orange, pink, and purple, their reflection in the canals created a wavering watery rainbow.

From Venice we took the train to Florence, where we are spending a last couple days and flying home a week early due to the sudden passing of my grandfather. It’s fitting that I end this trip in his favorite European city. His eyes would light up when he spoke of seeing Florence in his army days. He was an incredible man and I have always tried to live my life to make him proud.

I am a little sad to miss Rome but it’s okay. We’ve been traveling a month. We’ve been to six countries on this trip if you count Monaco. Rome has been here for three thousand years, so it’s not going anywhere. Next time to Rome, and also the south of Italy, to the tiny village of Siano where my Nonno came from. And Germany! And Holland and Greece and back to Ireland and Wales and more England and then Asia and Africa and Australia and EVERYWHERE.

I’ll get there. It’s been an amazing ride, this past month.

Now I’m off to enjoy our last night in Florence. There will be a Florence update too, of course.

Buona giornata, tutti.

Sempre con amore,
Gabriele

(Also, no bucket list this week… Hope to be back on track next week!)

Accomplished! France beyond Paris, and first steps in Italy!

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Happy ‘Murica Day! Jes and I won’t be seeing any fireworks; we’re en-route to Venice after spending a couple of days in Nice (pronounced ‘niece’), a town along the French Riviera.

Little did we know when we arrived that the Tour de France was taking place! Odd coincidences and stumbling-upons are all a part of life. So at first, we thought it was really cool, but then we ended up stuck on one side of it, crammed in with a huge sweaty mass of people all looking for a way around it. Then we were really done with the novelty of the Tour de France. But hey, after all, we both have the same amount of medals of Lance Armstrong! Too mean?

Anyway, as we explored the brightly colored buildings, we came upon the open-air fruit and flower market. It was tucked into an alleyway of salmon and orange peel walls on either side and we wandered down the cobblestones oohing at all the spices, lavender sachets, and fruit so bright it looked plucked from a rainbow.

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Jes haggled a lovely wooden turtle figurine down to half price! I don’t think I could do that! We bought a basket of strawberries and ate them next to the cerulean water, red juice running down our chins and sticky fingers. The beach isn’t sandy, but instead made up of flat oval gray stones. But it was still pretty! Refreshed, we then walked up about a billion steps of La Tour Bellanda, which gave us a beautiful view of Old Nice and the water. A man played the accordion for tips. To my delight, he played one of the songs from Amelie, one of my favorite movies!

We also took a trip to Monaco, but I have to confess I didn’t care for it. It was just exorbitant and gaudy… Like a foreign, super rich version of Atlantic City. But we did see some amazing views along the cliff edges getting there. We passed through the village of Eze, which is perched upon the mountain face. There were some Roman ruins upon the highest hill that were nice to see as we passed by.

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Our hostel – Villa Exupery Gardens, was spectacular too. It is in a converted monastery and mostly staffed by university students. There was a mix of ages, but everyone was so friendly! They had both a clean kitchen and available dinner provided, and a big lounge/bar area for hanging out and meeting people. This little gray cat would wander inside and meow expectantly at us for food. Jes and I always ended up sharing stories with fellow travelers and having a laugh.

We have two weeks of travels left but we’re on the last country of our journey. Italia. We had a layover at the train station in Ventimiglia, or Vintemille (depending if you’re looking at it from France or Italy), and it also had Roman ruins just chilling on a mountain, like Eze.

Already we’re slightly relieved to be able to speak the language again. Although, nearly everyone we talk to answers us in English! But that makes our lives easier, I suppose.

Anyway, happy Fourth of July to my loves back home! Though I’m loving our trip and the delay of reality as a college graduate, I miss you all!

Love always,
Gabriele

Accomplished! Versailles, Orsay, and more Paris!

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On Saturday we went to Versailles, the opulent palace of the last monarchs of France. The palace itself is crazy decadent. It seems like the rooms will never end, each leading into another expanse of golden candelabras, ceilings painted with Greek gods, and the pouffiest beds you have ever seen.

Beyond the palace, a 40 minute hike takes you to Marie Antoinette’s mini palace and gardens, which would still probably fit half my street at home. Apparently the queen tired of busy life at the real palace, and needed a home away from home within her home to retreat to.

Um.

There’s also the Grand Canal (which looks like a GIANT water fountain) within the gardens where the king would import gondoliers from Venice to row them up and down the river. And that’s nothing to say of the endless fountains hidden away in the green groves of the gardens. Each of them are unique and breathtaking.

It’s easily the most beautiful place I’ve been in my life. Just the gardens alone were paradise, and we didn’t even see half of them. It’s hard to believe that so few people lived there, but then that makes the French Revolution so easy to believe when you can picture someone starving and desperate, seeing all this avarice and wealth.

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The next day, I trekked to the Musee d’Orsay. It’s right across from the Lourve, but I got off at the wrong stop and had to walk a half hour there. That’s not really a punishment though, when it’s a gorgeous sunny day along the Seine. Vendors sell books along its banks, children run and chatter back in French to their parents, and a man in a straw hat dapples paint across his easel.

Orsay was quite lovely as well. It was once a train station, and it is a shade similar to Grand Central. It houses paintings and sculptures from Impressionists like Manet, Renoir, Pizarro, Monet, Degas, and Van Gogh. I’m realizing that it’s quite one thing to see a painting in art books and Wikipedia, but it’s quite another to actually be able to walk right up to it and see the brush strokes, the texture of the paint, and to imagine the artist’s mind as he lured beauty out of blank white canvas.

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After the museum, Jes and I went to Notre Dame Cathedral. If the French had to do one thing, and one thing alone, it was to create splendor wherever possible and for them, it’s always possible. We lit candles for family members and friends and walked quietly through the cavernous chapel. The infamous gargoyles, which were originally gutters, are so weird looking!

That evening we knew we had to be up early for our journey to Nice so we went to see the Bling Ring, subtitled in French. It was… Pretty embarrassing. I was cringing as an American in a theatre full of Parisians. I wanted to tell them that we’re not all like that!

We have three nights left in France. I have learned to say pardon and merci over and over again. Most of the people here are kind and helpful, though English was a lot more prevalent in Iceland. Paris is different than New York and London, but it’s still a city that is full of vibrant people, chances for adventure, and enchanting beauty.

Love always,
Gabriele

Accomplished! Cliffs of Moher and bonjour, Paris!

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Thursday was our final day in Ireland and we were both so sad to go. To be honest, we wished we had skipped Dublin and gone right to Cork! Because I was sick, we didn’t get to see as much as we wanted to. But we did still see quite a bit! This has been my scouting mission for when I’m rich and famous (or just have a grown up job and can actually afford to travel).

So back to what we did see on our last day in the brilliant verdant hills of Ireland. We went on a bus tour to the cliffs of Moher, and stopped at all these little castles, famine house ruins, thatched houses, AND OH MY GOODNESS, SO MANY COWS. One of the coolest things was this Neolithic tomb called Poulnabrone Dolmen. It translates to “hole of sorrows”. Dating from somewhere between 4200 BCE and 2900 BCE, it served as a marker for 30 adults and children. I can’t even fathom people living that long ago.

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We drove through the prettiest little towns and by farms and ah, I want to come back so badly! As we made our way to the coast, the hills grew rockier and mountains of gray rose out of the horizon. Parallel lines traversed their sides and our guide explained them to us. During the famine, people were given the jobs of piling the rocks on the mountains into stone walls. They had no purpose – the land is too harsh for farming or grazing – but they provided jobs so that people could be paid so they could eat. They’re known as famine walls. It’s terribly sad, but so interesting too. Everywhere you go is full of stories.

And the cliffs were… Well, they look like something out of a Tolkien storybook. We made friends with this friendly young man from South Africa and the three of us went right up to the edge! First there was the 100 ft drop… And then the 700 ft ones. One wrong step and we would’ve been sacrifices to the Druid gods. Just stepping so close to the edge made my stomach twist and my heart pound, but I’m glad I did it. The dark blue below against the jutting hard cliffs… It makes you appreciate the natural wonder of this planet and it’s ability to nourish and sustain us who linger so briefly on its surface.

Then today we woke up at a fun 4 in the morning to be ready for our 6 am flight to Paris. We got to the airport when it opened at 5 am. Right next to the boarding gate was a pub and of course, there were plenty of people inside with full pints of beer. Got to love the Irish.

And now… We’re in Paris! It’s a little overwhelming because I don’t want to be rude and assume people know English so I’ve been asking them “parlez vous anglais” and the ones that do speak English look at me like I’m a carnival monster for attempting French. Haha, oh well! I just am always aware that I’m a visitor in other countries and try to be as polite as possible. Not sure the Parisians appreciate the effort…

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Anyway, what did we do? We went to the LOURVE! Surprisingly the way we came in through this back entrance, meant we waited on line for about 15 minutes. Usually you wait an hour… Or two. So we tore through that, loving and soaking up all the Greek, Roman, and Italian statues, which are my favorite. We saw Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa. We walked through ornate rooms with ceilings that rivaled the paintings. It was beautiful. But there was so much to see. There always is, in museums. I want to spend some good time in our New York museums when we get back.

The next day, we did our third New Europe Tours in Paris. Our tour guide was a Dutch man who spoke perfect American – a result, he said, from studying at the feet of Optimus Prime, Captain Planet, and Pinky and the Brain. On this three and a half hour tour, we saw SO MUCH PARIS. Like, I can’t even list it all without losing its impact. Some highlights were this building that still is riddled with bullet holes from WWII and the Nazis, and a love lock bridge.

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Love lock bridges are an increasingly common trend in Europe. They are slowing spreading to the US in spots like the Brooklyn Bridge. I will have to look when I get back home! Basically they stem from this book where the amorous couple takes a padlock and puts it on the fence of a bridge in Rome. They throw away the key and say their love is as eternal as the lock on the bridge. So of course this has really taken off in Paris, city of love!

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After the tour, we weren’t far from the Arc de Triomphe. So we decided that our legs were still in good shape and headed to the middle of the 12 street roundabout to check it out. Then of course, we had to go to the top, which was over 300 steps to reach the top. But the view was so worth it!

We went back to our hotel for a catnap and had dinner and then went to the Eiffel Tower! Our legs and feet were pretty beat so we took the lift up to the second floor. It’s one thing to grow up seeing it in pictures and film and posters. It’s another thing to have it just suddenly there, standing in front of you. It’s real, solid, actually existing and not just some fairytale prop. The view from the second floor (43 stories high) was incredible, and more than enough for me – so I didn’t go in the little lift all the way up (81 stories!)

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We came down (accidentally walked the 43 stories down) just as the lights were turning on all over the tower. We walked through the park in front of the Eiffel Tower by people taking pictures, couples sharing picnics and kisses, and strangers just staring up in quiet awe. Vendors walked by trying to sell us wine and champagne – yay for no open container laws here!

You would think we were done after that busy day, but there was more still to see in the city of lights. We went down to the piers on the Seine and took a river tour. The lights shined blue, yellow, orange, and white upon the river waters, shimmering across the waves we left behind. On the banks of the Seine, people of all ages dangled their legs over the edge and waved at us, cigarette smoke trailing from their fingers like a ephemeral salutation. Magical.

Paris is so many things… And as a New Yorker I have to maintain some pride and thus, a sort of nonchalance for all other cities. There is good and bad here, but it goes without saying that Paris breathes beauty, art, and love in every corner, every store, every street.

Love always,
Gabriele