Monday, May 11, 2015

Spring Break (of My Heart)

At last, the long-awaited Spring Break post! On Friday the 20th of February, three friends and I boarded a train to Zurich, Switzerland. We rode right through the Alps, which was cool, I guess.

wish we could have taken that boat
I spy the Alps!
blue skies, blue water
After several hours, a couple naps, and too many corn nuts to count, we arrived in Zurich. We stayed in a relatively cheap hotel considering how unbelievably expensive everything is in Zurich/Switzerland (caveat: I WILL bitterly bring this up a hundred more times).

Schindler's Lift

But how great is this elevator.

On the first of two days in Zurich, we explored the town and cried at the exorbitant prices.

the Limmat River

whomping willow sprouts
old town Zurich

probably still the Limmat
this is a thing

We had plans to eat dinner at a Mexican restaurant, but after walking a solid half hour outside the center of the city, we discovered that a simple burrito cost 35 francs (read: 35 euros) (read: $39), so it was back to the center of town for us. We finally gave in and ate at a semi-expensive Vietnamese restaurant, which was actually fantastic.

pad thai, anyone?
Also, check out how cool their currency is! Despite it having a disgustingly horrible conversion rate to anything.

is that you, john lennon?

this one has cool music notes!

the dollar needs to step up its game

Lefty's like "wf did you just say boy"

The next day, we had the hotel's surprisingly decent breakfast including my favorite cheese in the world...SWISS!!

On Saturday, we checked out Lake Zurich!

he was mooning us, ha ha

natural greyscale

freezing prob
beautiful weather

I think this is an important building.
whomping willow babies along the lake

im not a buoy, im a girl!

poems should be written about this tree

 There were several mini towers of very precariously-placed stones on the banks; it's a wonder the freezing and strong wind didn't topple them over.

so zen

such Lake Zurich, very Alps, much Swiss flag

hey it's me!
imagine living between the Alps and Lake Zurich?

a painted photo

When we had sufficiently frozen our rear ends off, we toured old town Zurich. First, we came across this darling bookstore straight out of Harry Potter:

super rare

I picked up a collection of Oliver Goldsmith's works from 1889 and the next addition to my growing collection of Oscar Wilde!

don't mind if I do

Old Town was bright against the cloudy sky, with clean streets and tasteful street art.

good luck climbing that
cherry houses

I snapped a whopping total of one picture inside of Grossmunster, much to the chagrin of my fellow tourists who were obeying the "no photos" rule.

just look at her sassy hand gesture

awful picture of the outside
ah there it is

Grossmunster across the way

the center of Zurich

(Note the little green food stand)

At a food stand (did you remember to note it?) I swear to you we ate the most delicious wiener or something godly, which included onion crisps, pickles, and some creamy white sauce from heaven:

wait you don't even understand
We also ran into the Swiss version of Carnivale, we decided. There were lots of strange figures dressed in strange garb playing strange music and selling strange but delicious food.

nice outfits, goofballs

not quite as stylish as the Venetian Carnivale

Obviously, we couldn't not buy mounds of Swiss chocolate!

praise the truffles
those boxes cost around 100 francs

don't mind if I do
 The second and last night in Zurich, a food crisis struck again: the Thai restaurant we were headed to turned out to be a dinky little Thai spices shop. At that point, we were in the dark, rainy streets of the sketchy part of town, so we dodged into a little Mexican place with overpriced, scantily-filled quesadillas. Yay!

Object in Photo is Smaller Than It Appears
We decided to treat ourselves with grocery-store-cafe food, including spring rolls, tater tots, chicken nuggets, and shokata (elderberry&lemon) Fanta. Consider us queens!

no judgment pls
And don't forget our freshly-bought truffles!

come to mama
oh sweet baby truffles

Some of the flavors I had were: sangria, cherry liquer, caramel, pistachio, hazelnut, cappuccino, Bailey's, etc. They were divine.

At entirely-too-early-o'clock the next morning, we boarded our train from Rumlang, a borough of Zurich, back into the city center...which is when it decided to snow!

not now pls
Since the Zurich section is ending, I won't even give the metro system the attention it seeks, but I will say that EFFICIENCY IS WHAT I MISS MOST ABOUT AMERICA. The metro trains only came once every half hour (what?) and a one-way ticket was 7 francs (what??) and there was no way to confirm your ticket so it was a huge waste of money (what???). Don't worry, the last day we rode for free. We paid our fair share, I decided :)

We took the fast train from the center of Zurich to . . . Paris!

tired but excited in the train (bathroom)!
"Maigret and the Hotel Majestic" by Georges Simenon, which takes place in Paris
Early Sunday afternoon, we arrived in Paris!!

Our hostel was in Montmartre, an artsy and hipster district outside the heart of Paris. And thus continued the series of unfortunate events. The hostel, admittedly pretty cheap, was more than disappointing. Our private room was on the top floor, and smelled like musty construction workers...possibly because the workers were still renovating the room while we were in it? Not to mention the scaffolding right outside our window, where intensely loud drilling took place every morning at around 8. Did I include the stains and hairs on our blankets, or the broken toilet? Anyway...

The location was still admittedly great. The Basilica of Sacre Couer was only five minutes away, so that was our first stop, along with our first authentic crepes!

our view from the outside cafe
a little too rough to function

ah yes, my loyal Parisian subjects

gorgeous day, luckily

ah the splendor

This prohibited picture received decidedly the loudest tongue "tut" I have ever heard in my 20 years. B-b-but, Saint Michael's my guy!

To stretch our lazy limbs, degenerate from the long train rides, we climbed to the top of the dome.

300 steps later...
we saw the Eiffel Tower for the first time!

And don't forget the macaroons we drooled over:

wow this picture is worse than I remember

We will now have a moment of silence for the best restaurant I have ever had the pleasure of dining at.

Thank you.

We feasted at a highly recommended fondue restaurant right up the street in Montmartre, called Le Refuge des Fondus, which offered either bread & cheese or raw steak to cook yourself in a vat of boiling oil, accompanied by a (baby) bottle of wine...

all preceded by a brilliant array of appetizers and a sweet white wine.

yum yum YUM

note the array of unbelievably tasty sauces ^

We had the good fortune of sitting next to two lovely chaps on a business trip from California who made the dinner that much more enjoyable.

cheese, love, meat, heaven, potatoes, dreams, sauces, afterlife, oil

cheers to our first day in Paris!

all the necessary utensils

And not a morsel was left, not even a chunk of fat.

Crying (literally) of excitement, we finally got to see the Eiffel Tower up close for the first time!

<3 <3 <3
bad hair and a happy heart

annoying "obligatory" selfie
Don't worry, much more to come.

I went to Mass that evening at Sacre Couer in the rain, and if you forgot how many stairs there are, let my deadened calves remind you.

The next morning, we took the metro to the Catacombs. Just kidding, it's closed on Mondays. Typical. Breakfast time for us!

wait...that's not [an Italian] cappuccino...

super cute cafe though

Since that plan was dead before it even had a chance, we walked to the nearby Musee Rodin, which is of course also closed on Mondays, as we soon discovered everything is. The walk was nice, however.

to the gold dome thing!
it's not my fault it's gothic

I don't know how to take pictures

Classic tourist "IS THAT NOTRE DAME?" right off the bat (don't worry, I didn't say it out loud).
such Paris

very clouds

hershey kiss trees

the forbidden forest's little brother

so french

 Entering the very pretty Les Invalides, a collection of military museums and such, featuring Napoleon's tomb!
ft .golden dome

gotta love that french flag

sorry dome

Out of all the grandeur, still my favorite thing is the hershey kiss bushes!

Then we made our way across Pont Alexandre III,

can you spot the french flag?
hi we are beautiful lamp posts

 which featured beautiful lamp posts,

to the other side with the Grand Palais!

so fab

And, not to be forgotten, the Petit Palais!

and the petit Caroline!
We then walked a long ways to the Eiffel Tower, passing by the aforementioned Pont Alex 3,

ooh ahh

until after many kilometers...

we arrived!

so majestic

We ate bread and cheese underneath the Tower like queens!


impending storm can't dampen our spirits

but maybe the cold will

nope not even that!
Surprise! It did! We were absolutely bombarded with a wicked hail storm, forcing us to run for cover into a charming cafe where we spent entirely too much money on a single piece of chocolate cake.

at least it was delicious
Time to head back? Never! We were so close to the Arc de Triomphe we just had to go.

soaked to the bone

could've taken cover here

sorry bud

We were, however, too exhausted/drenched/grumpy to walk down the Champs-Elysées

(I know, I know, how couldn't we) but here's a shot of it anyway.

That night we dined like royals on steak frites and red wine that was oddly warm, but I wasn't about to argue about wine to a French man.


omg, yum

However, the pairing of red wine with chocolate mousse was absolutely to die for.

Each night, we paid the Eiffel Tower a visit!

I know, I'm awesome


yippee x2!

we must get closer.



okay back it up now
 Here, we didn't know it sparkled :')

The next day, Tuesday to be exact, we had a light and delicious breakfast at Costa (flashback to London)!

Then we set off for the Catacombs for the second time. Little did we know, it wasn't enough to simply arrive at opening time (9 AM). Oh no, the line had already wrapped itself through and around the neighboring park. Instead, we ventured over to Musee d'Orsay.

yay art!

giant clock!
decidedly the coolest picture yet

loling at myself
even more art!

We saw some cool Monet and undoubtedly other famous works, but since pictures aren't really allowed, there's a cool thing you can do which is called Google. Anyway, next stop on our journey was Versailles!

welcome welcome welcome

grandiose to say the least

hey there's me

excellent on the eyes, no?
Surprise surprise, it rained! This forced us to hold off on the beautiful gardens and stay cooped up inside the Palace with dozens of angsty tour groups, successfully ruining our experience. No really, it was that bad. Here are some pictures nonetheless.

chapel with an organ

my future room
mini replica?

nasty storm clouds

fine we'll stay inside

each room a different color
ornate yeah yeah
chandeliers cool whatever

trying to remain calm

hall of splendor

bed of wonders

hall of very important busts

then it started to hail, because why wouldn't it
 The tour groups were so wretched we decided to go outside anyway.

blue skies won't you stay awhile

smart people with umbrellas
alright this was cool I guess

dead fountain

now this was exquisite

mm much dead grass

Do I sound bitter at all?
such ancient beauty
I know it sounds bad, but really, was bad. We made a joke out of everything though, which remained with us the rest of the incredibly unlucky week. Example: "I hoped it would rain all week," or "Why wouldn't we miss the metro by a second" or "I'm glad this pastry shop is closed today." It was a fun way to remain positive while slowly dying inside.

One highlight of the city of Versailles was an adorable bakery with the most amazing bread and pastries to date.

feast your eyes


salivating even now

have I said enough?

pleased at last
After returning to Montmartre to explore a bit,


where we picked up these cuties,

we again had dinner at the fondue place!!!

the ever-delicious appetizer drink
the cheapest yet most dry and delicious red wine

raw steak just itching to be cooked
creamy spicy tasty lovely

followed of course by complimentary white dessert wine


happy babies!

cheers to babies!
This night, we had wine overlooking the Eiffel Tower, and it was beautiful and surreal and not photographed. Trust me, it was great.

Then came Wednesday, a day trip to Brussels, Belgium! We woke up nice and early to take a Megabus, which we absolutely could not find, into the city.

oh, and it arrived late.
Of course, it rained on and off all day as we explored the city.

my shop!

how could I not

This was a super cool music store where several expensive CDs were purchased.

The famous "Pissing Boy" statue, properly known as Mannekin Pis:

quite smaller than expected
pretty cute though

waffles galore!

Wonderfully, my phone died halfway through the day, so the remaining pictures are stolen off the Facebook of my dear friend/traveling partner Jennifer.

We quickly mastered the Brussels metro, which we took to see Mini Europe and the Atomium, both of which were closed for the winter. Interestingly enough, the outdoor pools/baths were open. Hmm...

Atomium from afar
Grand Place was pretty though:

so grand

again, smart people with umbrellas
rainy and sad as it is

love the bits of gold to brighten it up

yay Place!

And of course we couldn't leave without mussels from Brussels!

The restaurant we were planning on going to was closed on Wednesdays. Yep, you read that right. Only later did we discover on Wednesdays, its sister location was open. What?

Mussels were eaten anyway, don't worry.

eat me
apparently fries are also famous here?

Last but not least, Belgian chocolate (found everywhere!!) was purchased and quickly devoiured. We got to hand-pick each one too!

that's what I'm talking about

No day is complete without a night trip to our dear friend.

goodnight my friend
Thursday was the day to end all days (and not in a good way). It all began with our pre-scheduled trip up the Tower.

I was so ignorant
already a bad sign

up up we go

The elevator to the first platform!
almost there

dim view of Paris

highly questionable...

ugh you mock

only clouds as far as the eye can see

trying to remain optimistic!

what's up there?

this isn't so bad!

But then we went up to the very top....


my personal favorite


wow! what great views!

observation room, also nope.
 Here are the heights of all the place I had been, in contrast to the Eiffel Tower:

of course
teeny tiny
not so big are ya ben

There was no point in staying long, so we sadly descended once more.

Instead, we headed to a recommended cafe which served croque madames, was closed. For 10 years, as the neighboring building receptionist told us (but how did our friend go last year...?)

No matter, no matter. We'll just have hot chocolate at another recommended cafe!

Nope. Under construction. How who why when HOW WHY WHY WHY WHY.

Alright, fine, remain positive, let's go to this super crowded cafe, it must be good! Let's see here...a piece of toast for 15 euros? Sandwich for 30? Bottle of Magnum for 450?! Nope nope nope nope nope. We kindly excused ourselves (now THAT was an awkward explanation to the waiter). Cheap Americans, that's us.

I guess that's what happens when you choose a random metro stop and it happens to be the highly posh district of Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

even the metro stop is fancy.
 Eventually we happened upon a non-touristy cafe where they only spoke French [insert awkward ordering here] where we finally feasted on croque madames.

 After getting off the metro and walking the wrong way for about 20 minutes, we finally arrived at the Lock Bridge. It was a little anticlimactic, but that's alright.

thar she blows!
on we go!

locks on locks on locks
oh look more locks
On the main part of the bridge, it is all boarded up to prevent more locks from being attached, because the bridge has become way too heavy to support all of the locks. In fact, each year they have to detach some of the locks so the bridge doesn't collapse. RIP hundreds of relationships. Also, whoop-de-doo for all your happiness and love. My boyfriend was 3800 miles away at this point. I hope all your relationships fail (just kidding, I'm just bitter).

where's my boyfriend?
Then we went to the Louvre!


ain't she a beaut

yippee! I love art! (lol)

or am I just pretending

pretend away!

ugh it's so cool

ugh I'm so cool

featuring hipster

 In we go!

made it!

there...there she is
well, that's all folks

Art lovers (louvres?), don't be mad, but that's all we really came to see. I assure you, we're not the only ones! The Louvre is just so gigantic that we were immediately overwhelmed. We only spent about two hours in here, just fooling around and trying to soak everything in. Maybe another day when we're not exhausted.

Outside of the Louvre, we wandered around the Place du Carrousel, which was pleasant:

darn you cloudy tower

nice and puddly

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel (ft. carousel!)
Next on the agenda: Notre Dame!

[cue Hunchback music]

where's Quasimodo?

 Some type of Gregorian chant and worship was going on, which was super super cool and surreal.

This was definitely in the top 3 of my favorite churches visited abroad. Understandably so, I think.

ft. incense

so so cool

awesome arches

unreal windows

back of the altar!

anyone recall the fire scene from Hunchback?

We made our way around to go up the belfry...


Which is when it started to rain (from our eyes probably).


You think I am being over-dramatic? I assure you, if you had been there and experienced that much misfortune in one week, you would be pushed over the edge as well.

Drying our tears, we stomped through the rain (in drenched socks and shoes) to eat duck at yet another recommended restaurant, where the service was bad and the waiter worse. The duck, at least, was scrumptious:

photo by Jennifer, eaten by Jennifer

Finally, we headed back to the hostel in utter defeat,

cool metro stop, though
but not until we had yelled (quite seriously) at the Eiffel Tower and at Paris for treating us so badly when all we had done was love it.

Thus begins our last full day in Paris. After one last coffee from Costa,

<3 thanks Costa
we arrived an hour before opening at the Catacombs #determination. It was unbelievably windy; that was the coldest I ever was on my entire semester abroad. Not to mention they opened late (darn those French).

in we go...

what awaits us?
cool sculpture, cool

nice architecture underground, alright
 And then....


<3 ???


bones upon bones upon bones

for two kilometers

or 1.25 miles

Definitely one of the coolest parts of our trip, as morbid and creepy as it was. Mind was blown.

After we had regained our eyesight above ground, and our sanity and appreciation of life, we once more went up the Eiffel Tower, this time taking the stairs.

up we go!

first platform!

finally, the view we were looking for

at last!





we made it!!

ha ha, here I am

just too happy for the view
Then we had a bit of a photo shoot, taking advantage of the rare day of sunshine! I decided to keep several of the imperfect ones to show how bad I am at taking pictures (it's just the reality, folks).

ugh, I hate Paris

just kidding it's great!

one of my faves
it's candid I-I swear!

wait, how do I photo again?

say "fromage!"

ooh artsy

forever bad posture (sorry mom)

what a perfect day!!

wait, I hate Paris again

no wait we love it!!

Paris is our friend :')


probably the best pic of the bunch
Now that you're sick of seeing me, let's get back to business. We set off in search of savory crepes, but wouldn't you know it, the targeted stand stopped making them at noon, because that makes sense. Never mind that, we found BETTER savory crepes closer to Notre Dame:

ft. mushrooms, cheese, tomatoes, etc
And whaddayaknowit, the belfry was open!! Yay!!

Victor? Hugo? Laverne?

ah, Paris

silly antenna
pretty cool eh

so so gothic

We actually ended up "getting stuck" at the top (for some reason they wouldn't let us go back down for awhile? Who knows) but that was alright.

 We also saw the iconic side of Notre Dame:



hurray!!! ft. JP2

After shopping a bit in the area, we got a delicious dessert called Caroline!!!

it looks just like me!
Eating this on the curb, we watched a lady trip and faceplant. Oh boy, it was hilarious. Sorry, lady.

We must have gotten some bad karma from laughing at that lady, because we drank bad champagne by the tower that night, and the fondue place closed early. We ended up eating the worst kebabs of our life at the only place that was open.

smiling through the pain
Walking through Montmartre at 1 AM, where we were whistled at through clouds of weed, was just the cherry on top of a perfect week. Oh, Paris.

Saturday morning, we were kicked one last time by Paris by a rude baker who gave us the wrong type of baguette. Disgruntled and incredibly ready to leave, we took a bus to Beauvais Airport, flew to Pisa, discovered my macaroons were crushed, took a bus to Florence, and vowed never to return to Paris again (just kidding, can't wait to go back).