Sunday, April 27, 2014

Semana Santa: Valencia and Paris (Part One)

Confession: I'm writing this post from the Metro. It seems like every time I sit down to write about Semana Santa, I inevitably fall asleep for hours (and wake up in a panic thinking I slept through work)

So, with that out of the way, hey!! How's life? I hope all is well with y'all. I'm still recovering from the insane adventure that was last week.

What was last week? Bless your heart. If you just asked that question, you're new here (Hi! I'm Kirstyn. You can call me Kirt. It hasn't really caught on in Spain, but people really call me that back home.).

Semana Santa was last week. For all the non-Catholics, it's basically spring break. That's a bit of a lie. It's Holy Week. But for Auxiliares, it's spring break!!

The wonderful Aliyya planned the trip. And it went something like this: ValenciaParisDublinEdinburghGlasgowRome... Which was a bit crazy, but incredible!!! We survived, and had a blast! By the way, if you disagree, Aliyya, please don't ever tell me. Ever.

I got all packed up on Thursday night. Ten days in a carry-on is a challenge. Guess who conquered that!

Someone else.

I haphazardly packed a bag with what looked like enough and set off on my journey.

Friday morning was a blur. I woke up early, but my goodbyes with the girls made me almost miss our ride to Valencia.

BlaBla Car!
After discovering that the train was MUCH more expensive than we thought, we opted to catch a ride to Valencia on blabla car. It's basically carpooling with a website. The driver was a wonderful Spanish man who didn't seem to mind that I was late. He put my suitcase in the car and we all set off!

The ride was perfect.


I lied again. I've gotta stop that. I'm normally such an honest person...

There was some sort of audible leak in one of the tires. I don't speak fluent "car" in English, much less in Spanish. Unsure of what was happening, I got back in the car and hoped for the best.

All's well that ends well! We got to Valencia and easily found our hostel. We checked in and went exploring.

I had never seen the Mediterranean, so we went there first. It was just as stunning as I expected.

We spent some time enjoying the beach before a rain shower sent us into some shops. (Pro top; don't drink the coffee at AleHop!!!!!)

After the rain cleared, we went to the iconic museums of Valencia.

If you're reading this, El Corte Inglés, you need to work on your maps. They suck. We got miserably lost. I asked a lady on the street for help and she told us we had walked nearly half an hour in the wrong direction. Oops. We took a bus and found our way.

The museums were stunning. Sometimes tourist photos make things look a lot better than they are. The pictures of Valencia don't do it justice. 

We thought about walking all the way back, but the coffee left me with a terribly sick to my stomach. Forty minute walk with a stomach ache or ten minute can ride? TAXI!!

Our taxi driver was great. I love talking to cab drivers. Always fun. He said he could pick us up at five the next morning to take us to the airport. Perfect! We head to bed and prepare to go to Paris.

You know what's fun? Realizing your taxi driver stood you up at five o'clock in the morning. It's truly an awesome experience. Luckily, our hostel called a cab for us and getting to Paris was smooth sailing, er, flying.

Never ever ever fly into Paris BVA. You will pay €17 each way to and from Paris. It's a little over an hour bus ride. And you pay €17 for it. Ouch. Unless you save over €50, fly into Orly. Just do it. Please. -- If you don't heed my advice, I hope you hear my voice in your head saying, "I told you so," the entire bus ride to Paris (you can even decide how condescending and southern it sounds!!) --

The line at the metro station was crazy. One ticket machine, three busses of tourists. No thanks. We opted to go to the next station. Easy enough to find. I bought my ticket, and then the printer was out of tickets.

Screw it. We walked on without a ticket. Sorry, Paris. I'll give you two euros when you get your act together. I didn't scan my ticket in an act of solidarity with the other travelers who had already tried two stations.

Paris was my first experience couch surfing! Marie-Emilie an Olivier met us when we got off the metro.

They were the perfect hosts. We chatted for a bit before heading into town.

Once in the heart of Paris, we did a little shopping and stumbled upon Notre Dame.

Woah. Disney didn't do this place justice. The outside was beautiful, but the inside took my breath away. I've seen a ton of cathedrals since arriving in Europe. I don't know enough about architecture to explain what exactly appealed to me. I just wanted to sit inside all day and take it in.

We headed home pretty early. Our hosts cooked dinner for us and we tried cheese and cider from the farmers market.

Paris, day two!

Day two in Paris is when we decided to hit up the Louvre (which I still can't pronounce!) and the Eiffel Tower. Fun fact: the Louvre is free to European residents!

I have never been that into art. I have never regretted my lack of artistic knowledge so much. We went through the museum and saw some stunning and famous paintings and went on our way to the Eiffel Tower!

To be completely honest, I thought it would be overrated. Most tourist places are.

Despite the food stands and obvious touristy things about it, it was amazing. We took so many pictures!!

We stood in line to go up for what seemed like hours. They close the entry to the top from time to time to regulate traffic up there. If the sign says the top is closed when you purchase your tickets, it just means you'll have to stand in line again to get a "supplement ticket" to the top. While the tour of the Tower included a lot of waiting in line, it was worth the time and money.

We went for dinner before returning to see the tower at night. It's pretty when it's illuminated, but it is awe-inspiring when it sparkles at night.

"It's a beautiful night for a romantic walk," I thought to myself.

Oh, yeah!! I don't have a boyfriend. Oops.

Once I realized how lucky I was to be sitting and appreciating iconic Paris, I felt a lot better.

How could I have time to worry about such trivial things?! I'm at a global cultural icon. 

The next day, we decided to go around to some other touristy places in Paris. We set off in the morning to find the Shakespeare & Co bookstore. Fun fact: Google Maps sucks in Paris. Sorry, Google. You're wonderful, but you took me in a complete circle around Notre Dame that was completely unnecessary. I could have, and did, give better directions than Google.

We stopped by the Arc de Triomphe. It wasn't much, really. We had already been to the top of the Tower, so we didn't see the point in going to the top of the Arc. We took a look and left. 

The highlight of the day was going to a park by the Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Sacré-Cœur Basilica). We ate cheese and had drinks in the park. When the sun went down, we went into the Basilica and then sat on the steps to see the sun set over Paris. 

Hanging out with our wonderful hosts watching the sun set over Paris. 

From there, we went to Moulin Rouge. We just stopped by and took photos. The walk between the Basilica and Moulin Rouge was great! It was exactly how I pictured Paris: winding streets filled with people and soft music. 

After our picnic and walk around the area, we went home early to settle in for our early flight the next morning.

I can't begin to explain how great our hosts were!!! Thanks for making my first couch surfing experience so great. I hope to meet y'all again someday. 

Well... From there we went to Dublin, but I've got to get to sleep. Bite size pieces work better for me anyways. This much took a week to write. 

I'll leave you with some fun facts!

1. I'm convinced that the French don't eat. Finding a grocery store was crazy! 
2. I don't speak French. Not. At. All.
3. I never realized that they speak Valenciano in Valencia. I don't know how this never came to my attention until roaming the streets of Valencia.
4. French people are really put off when you don't speak French. I wanted to point out that I have two other languages from which they could choose. Unfortunately, I couldn't explain. You know, since I don't speak French and all.
5. Except that I'm pretty much fluent in French now. I can understand quite a bit of it. I could mimic it and get by in a few weeks, I'm sure.
6. The Palace of Versailles is closed on Mondays. Don't plan your visit on a Monday like we did. Oops.
7. The Mediterranean is cold in April. 
8. Crepes are a gift from above.
9. Crispy M&Ms are a thing in Paris (and I later discovered that they're totally normal in the UK!). 
10. I sang karaoke last night. I sang in English and Spanish. It was great!
11. I took a night bus for the first time last night. Super convenient! Why have I been leaving early to catch the metro?!
12. Today was the perfect Sunday. 
13. I hope to know where I'll be teaching next year within the next few weeks. I'm so nervous/excited!!

Well, it's far past my bedtime. I finished typing this post on my computer. I promise I'll finish writing about Semana Santa soon!! I still have four cities to write about. 

I'm heading to Barcelona on Thursday! If you have suggestions on where to stay, please share. We still don't have a place booked!!

Until next time

No comments:

Post a Comment