Monday, January 10, 2011

Took me long enough

Simple slide show that I put together with the Trip Advisor movie maker thing. Not too bad, but it'll do.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

What should I do now? you can see...It has been quite sometime since I have posted anything. Last time, I found myself struggling through my first session of grad school at Middlebury. I am proud to say that after completing my summer of candidacy, I received a letter asking me to return as an official graduate student.

I am now back in Riverside for the year. I have this year off since I did not want to choose the accelerated track for my MA. I could have been in Florence this year, but I decided to postpone it until next year. I want to spend this time in Riverside to think about what I want to do once (and if) I complete my MA. I also want to spend time with my family and friends. My family has suffered some losses and the problems seem to be endless. But, I still love everyone nevertheless.

Let me know what you all think. Should I continue to post on this blog - even though I am no longer in France? I was thinking of just keeping it like a journal for whenever I need to vent...but maybe use it to post and comment on articles I read in French and Italian...

Im open to suggestions.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Back to Reality - Traveling is on hold.

...So I realize that I never finished writing about my travels through Europe.

Basically, to sum it up:

It was awesome. I want to do it again.

If that doesn't answer your question (if your question is: "How was it?") and you would like more details, then just ask me. I'll be happy to fill in the blanks.


Im back in the States, in Vermont, at a school whose campus is probably bigger than the village/town that it's in, at a "French School" where we do nothing but all things French (i.e. speak, eat, read, write, analyze, research, even celebrate Bastille Day![we did nothing for the 4th of July]).

Realization of the Day:

I just got out of my first exam in grad school - epic fail. :/

I thought I was ready and then after I read the questions - game over. But, I figure we learn from out mistakes (sometimes), so I guess I'll study harder next time.
I'm exhausted. I ask myself: "What am I doing here?" almost everyday. But, at the same time, I'm enjoying it.

I'm going crazy.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Back in California - Recap

So, almost a month and half after my last blog entry - here I am - back at home in California. Its crazy to think that 2 weeks ago I was still exploring Nice - laying out on the rock covered beach and working on getting rid of my crazy tan.

During the month of May, Emily and I traveled all over Europe - well not really. I left Villefranche and head to Brescia, Italy (where Emily was living) via train to Lyon and then overnight bus. on the morning of May 1st, I was picked up by Emily and Marina, her host "mom", and taken to the farm - what would be my temporary home base. That same day, we were dropped off at the train station to take an overnight train to Croatia - destination Zagreb. We spent about 5 days in Zagreb - which was more than enough time. We pretty much saw the city in a day and a half, but had enough time to visit Varazjdin - Croatia's former capital and Plitvice National Park - a park full of paths made of wooden planks that run over and along waterfalls - you can walk on water!

From Croatia, after sampling the famous plum burgundy - rijeka - and drinking cheap Croatian beer, we trained it back to Venice where we had only about 30 minutes to get from the station to the airport to catch our flight to Naples. Luckily, the Marchetto's - an Italian family Emily knows well and that I met in February - had a worker drive us in a company car from the station to the airport for free - talk about private service!

Once we got to Naples, we set off to explore Southern Italy. It was a first for both Emily and I. We had heard Naples was a very dirty city and full of crime. It is dirty, but it wasn't as dangerous as people had described to us. We had a great time. We were able to visit all the amazing churches and historical buildings as well as take some day trips to Capri, Amalfi, Positano, and Pompeii. Not only did we do sight seeing, but we also enjoyed eating the Neapolitan specialty - Pizza.

After Naples, we spent 2 days in Brescia before leaving once again. We gave ourselves just enough time to wash our clothes and pack them up again. We left from Milan on a direct train to Paris. Emily had never been to Paris and there was no way I was going to let her visit France without visiting. Fortunately, we were able to save some money - my friend Thibault, who I met in Bordeaux in 2008, was living in Montmartre and offered to host us during our stay. Montmartre is my favorite place in Paris - and its an ideal location to get from one place to the next - so I think. After seeing the sights for 4 days, we went to Bordeaux - the first city of France I lived in.

It was nice to go back and see how much Bordeaux changed within the last 2 years. Plus, it also helped that my host parents, Daniel and Claire, offered us a place to stay. Emily and I were welcomed and fed delicious food for the weekend. Sarah, a friend I made in Bordeaux from UC Davis, was also there - she is now living in Bordeaux with her boyfriend. She helped me give Emily a tour and had a party where we were able to talk to the UC students that were there for the year/semester. It was cool to be back and say - I remember this...I remember that...

To be continued...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What's Next?

So, here I am – once again in the same state of mind I was in 2 years ago when I was getting ready to go home after my semesters abroad. I feel like I just got settled in and can handle staying longer, but I have no choice but to leave.

In all honesty, I am afraid to go back home. Nothing is guaranteed. I have no idea if I have been accepted into grad school. If I don’t get in, then I plan on just looking for job and make some money while I work on applying to other programs. Also, when I say I am going home, I actually mean home home. I will be living with my parents again. I love my parents, don’t get me wrong, but I will have to put up with curfews, demands, and explanations. Plus, not to mention the pressure – What did you do while you were there? Didn’t you make a ton of money? – Not that these will be the questions they will ask, but will probably be asked in a different way.

I also know that everyone at home has continued to live his or her lives. I am always afraid of going home to things being completely different. But I guess that is life – nothing remains constant. I have to accept the fact that just like I did, people have also moved on in their lives and have done so without me being around. But, I guess this just helps with the whole, ‘find out who your true friends’ are. I’m sure I have nothing to worry about since I have great friends, but I still worry.

Anyways, my contract will end April 30th. I still cannot even believe that the 7 months I was given to work is over. The first few weeks made me think that I would be here forever. But, everything slowly started to pick up the pace. Before I knew it, it was Christmas, New Year’s and then, Easter.

Overall, this job has been a great experience. First of all, it was nothing like I expected it to be. I had no idea that this “job” would be the longest, paid vacation of my life. Never in my life will I find a job like this. So, I can’t complain. I was supposed to work 12 hours a week, but since the break in December, I had one hour taken away – and never replaced. At first, I worried that I would get into trouble with the administration for not working – but, I realized that the administration doesn’t even know when and how often I am supposed to work. I met the principal of the school once – on my first day when I was presented to him and had to sign my contract.

Also, I consider myself to be hardworking – so whenever I missed an hour or a teacher would cancel my hour, I would ask if they wanted me to make it up by doing some extra work or rescheduling but, none of the teachers cared. So, why insist?

I was lucky to have been placed at this school. Granted, the students are not the best (I once went into the teachers’ lounge and found several teachers trying to cheer up a history teacher who had just been insulted by a student) and I can say that this school would be considered a ghetto school in the States (in comparison to the other high school in Villefranche and the school I worked at for a week in Lyon). But, the English staff are really nice – Since day one, they have always been made sure that everything is going well for me. For example, Denise, an English teacher who has worked at this school for years (one of old students is actually a teacher now at the school too), took me to a furniture store to buy some things that I needed for my apartment. She even lent me some money while I waited for my first paycheck. Gilles, the only other male English speaker, took me on a wine tasting tour around the Beaujolais area. Maryse, who I can say is like a buddy, is always making me laugh and warning me about the teaching profession. She was also nice enough to pay for my dinner when we went out with the other English teachers and even gave me a gift card for the FNAC at Christmas. Estelle, who has got to the be sweetest person I have ever met, never gave me any trouble the times that I would ask her if it was ok that I didn’t show up for class – I work with her on Thursday afternoons and that is usually when I would leave on trips since it was the cheapest time to do so – but like I said, she didn’t care and would even let me know well in advance when I would not be needed in class.

I could have extended an additional month, but I will be traveling with Emily for a month – during the month of May. We are going to Zagreb, Croatia for a few days, heading to Italy, Southern Italy to be exact, and then going around the good ol’ Hexagon a.k.a. France. She recently came to visit for Easter and I think she enjoyed her time in France – it was her first time. I was able to show her everything in Lyon, got to visit my little town of Villefranche, checked out Annecy together, and spent an afternoon in Geneva, Switzerland. She hasn’t been to Paris, so we will be doing Paris, Bordeaux, Carcassonne and Nice, before heading back to Milan and flying home.

That month of constant moving will be a real test. I have never done anything like it for that long, so we’ll see how much my traveling expertise takes me. I know that it will definitely be a learning experience too.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Marseille – The French Version of California

Yes, I know…I just got back from spending a week in Italy and I left again! Only this time, I stayed in France and went South – to Marseille.

It was my first time going to the Southern Coast of France. And, I’m glad I made the last minute decision. I didn’t have anything planned for the trip, but Rania, the German assistant, told me that she was going to go alone. She didn’t know what she was going to do, but she wanted to do some more traveling since her time is almost up. She is leaving on April 10th, so she wants to make sure she does enough traveling to make her stay in France worthwhile.

I didn’t have much money, so that was the only thing holding me back. But, after talking to Rania, I decided to go. I only have about 2 months left in France and since I am already here, why not take advantage of the already being in Europe. I mean, I don’t know if I’ll have the same opportunity ever again. I have plenty of time to plan trips, so there should be nothing holding me back.

So, after getting our train tickets and packing, we woke up early on Wednesday morning to start our journey to Marseille. We had to take the 6:27am train to Lyon and then wait about 30 minutes to catch the TGV to Marseille. Thanks goodness for the high speed trains – we made it at 9:30 am. But, on Friday, to come back “home” we started our journey back at 3:35 pm and made it back to Villefranche at 10 pm.

Anyways, once we got to Marseille, we walked to the Tourism Office, got our maps and information and made our way to Mazargues – a neighborhood in Marseille. Once we made it there and left our stuff, we made our way back into the city center. We started at the Vieux Port and then made our way up to the Basilique de la Garde – its up on a hill and can be seen from the city. But, as we made our way up to the basilica, it started to get windier and eventually started raining. A storm came in and made it difficult for us to enjoy the view from the top. Once were finished there, we took a bus to the Abbaye de St. Victor – an eerie abbey located near the Vieux Port. When we walked out of there, we were ready to call out tourist plan quits – we couldn’t walk in the rain…

But, once we got back to the port and stepped off the bus, the sun was out and shining! So, we continued to the Hotel de Ville and started out walk around the Panier – the oldest neighborhood in Marseille. It was nice to walk through the small streets and look at the old fisherman houses. The best part was turning the corner and seeing the Cathedrale de la Major – a beautiful multicolored church. We also discovered the Chartite – a old hospice that housed people with difficulties. Walking through the halls felt like we were somewhere in Greece – the stone used to build it and the weather made us feel like we were no longer in France.

We then took bus number 83 along the coast and walked back to the city center along the beach. Seeing this made me feel like I was back in California. The weather is what I imagine it’s like back home right now at this time of year. Plus, it was good to see the ocean again. I’ve gotten used to seeing nothing but mountains around me, and having to deal with cold weather. The only thing that helped me snap back into reality was the fact that I had to speak French.

The following day, we left the city and went hiking in the Calanques – a set of mountains and cliffs that are along the coast of Marseille. These mountains were amazing. They were white and speckled with green plants and trees. The best part about them was the views that we would find after hiking up and down along the path. These drained us completely, but once we made it back to the bus stop, we headed for l’Estaque – another quarter in Marseille known for being the place of inspiration for artists such as Cezanne. We did the Chemin des Peintres – the Painters’ Trail to see the views. It was a bit gloomy when we were there, so it wasn’t as great as it could have been. But, it was still good. With the little bit of energy we had left, we went to the train station to try and change our tickets so we could be back home earlier – but it was good that we didn’t do it because we would have not gone to Cassis – my favorite port town.
Cassis is known by many for being a gem along the coast. And, I can’t say that they are wrong. After checking out from the hostel, we took a bus to Cassis and as soon as we got there, we knew we had made a good choice. For the first time since we got there, the sun was out and shining with no clouds in the sky.

Since we were short on time, we just walked around the port and walked to some beaches and were even able to do a little hike along the Presqu’ile – the peninsula. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Since the train station in Cassis was far from the city, we had to leave at 3:35 to get to the train station in time to catch a train at 4:03 back to Marseille. We then had to wait about 20 minutes before we were able to get on the train going to Lyon Part Dieu. That train took about 3 hours – once we got to Lyon we waited for about another 30 minutes and ran into Leigh – the other English Assistant. All 3 of us then got on the train and made it back to Villefranche – to get ready for the last weekend off and get ready for the last 6 weeks of work.

My time is almost up.

Una settimana in Italia

It’s hard to believe that it is already February. I feel like I have finally settled in and now I have to start thinking about what I’ll do when I go back home. But, since I have this awesome job, I also had another 2 weeks off – my 3rd paid vacation.

Originally, Guillaume and I had wanted to go to Amsterdam for a few days. But, the bus and train tickets were way too expensive. We probably would have had better luck if we had planned it a little earlier.

Fortunately, I was able to find roundtrip tickets from Lyon to Milan for 54 euros with Eurolines – the European equivalent to Greyhound (But, don’t worry – Greyhound is still way more ghetto in comparison to Eurolines). I didn’t mind taking an overnight bus and jumped on the deal.

Luckily, Emily is working in Brescia, Italy – an hour away from Milan. We had been emailing each other to plan our trip in May, but after I found the tickets, I asked her what she had planned. She had about a week off so it all worked out. I would leave on Wednesday night of the 10th and get to Milan on Thursday morning. I would then spend the day in Milan and then head to Padova the next day. Emily would get on the same train and then, we would leave our bags in Padova and go to Venice on Friday afternoon. We would then come back to Padova and stay the night at Emily’s friend’s house and then head to Florence the next day. We would spend about a day and a half in Florence with Emily’s friend, Cat, and then spend 2 days in Siena before ending back in Milan.

For the most part, that was exactly how the trip went. Except, Guillaume joined us and accompanied Emily and I around Italy. I told him about what I had planned and asked him if he wanted to come along. Fortunately, it wasn’t too last minute and we were able to find accommodation for all 3 of us – THANKS TO EMILY AND HER AWESOME FRIENDS!!!

So the trip went like this:

Wednesday, the 10th – I went to work only to find out that I would only have one class since the teacher for my first two classes was sick. After work, I went over to the other language assistants’ apartment and had brunch with Sara (Spanish) and Rania (German). After eating, we played card games for about 4 hours before I realized that I should probably go home and finish packing.

Once I was finished, I went to the train station and took the train to Guillaume’s apartment. Luckily, there is a train stop/station right around the corner from his place. I went there since the bus wasn’t scheduled to leave until midnight. While he packed, I skyped Emily and talked about the final details of the trip. Around 11pm, we left his apartment and took the tram over to Perrache, checked in with the driver and got on the bus to Milan.

Thursday, the 11th – Felt like the longest day ever! I mean, besides not having slept very much on the bus, I was able to see all the snow that was falling on the way. The bus made several stops. We stopped in Grenoble, Parma, Torino and finally, in Milan.

We got to Milan around 8am and set off to find the hostel in Milan. We got to the hostel and left our bags since we could not check in until 2pm. We stopped at a small café called The Hemingway and had our first Italian caffe lattes of the trip. This place would be our favorite since we came back to this café 3 times in 24 hours.

The weather in Milan wasn’t that great. It was raining and snowing at the same time. Everything was wet and the day was gloomy. It reminded me of the first time I went to Milan – same kind of weather. I guess maybe it’s just a curse. At least this time, the Duomo wasn’t under renovation. I was able to take a picture and see what it really looks like. Guillaume and I went inside and admired the art and architecture. The Duomo in Milan is very dark and gothic but beautiful nonetheless. After going around and taking pictures (which we thought was not allowed), we walked out and went through the covered hallways of the Galleria – a shopping area next to the Duomo. While we walked through we noticed that there was something being filmed because there were huge cameras right in front of us – then we realized that the women in walking in front of us was the subject of whatever they were shooting. Maybe we will be in an Italian commercial!

From the Galleria, we found ourselves right next to the Teatro della Scala – the world famous opera theater. We made our way through the pink snails that were around the square (they were huge plastic, bright pink snails) and went into the Museo della Scala – but, we didn’t get to see the stage lit up since they were testing the lights for a performance. I snuck a picture and then we finished going through the museum. Once we left the museum, we walked around the curving streets and tried to make our way to the Castello Sforzesco.

Once we got to the Castello Sforzesco, we paid 1.50 euros and had access to 5 museums. Walking around the old fortress was great. We got to see the old halls and even got to see a frescoed ceiling painted by Leonardo Da Vinci. Once we went around, we decided to head over to Chiesa Santa Maria delle Grazie to check out The Last Supper, Da Vinci’s famous fresco.

After taking pictures of the church, we walk in, only to find out that we need reservations in order to go in and see it. I go up to the front desk and ask if we can make a reservation at that time but was quickly given a slip of paper with a phone number and website that we had to call in order to make a reservation. The fact that there is a reception area is pointless!

Once the small annoying incident passed, we took a tram back to the Duomo and saw Chiesa di San Satiro hidden among the buildings surrounding it. We walked back to the Duomo and had a sandwich at a small café right off the Piazza.

After lunch, we went to the Duomo and climbed to the top of the roof. We were up there for a while and soaked up the views of the city. Guillaume and I were also very surprised that there were soo many statues on every single spire that stuck out from the Duomo. Once we were back onto solid ground, we headed over to San Ambroggio – a very old church made of brick. Once we walked out, it was already getting dark, so we decided to go back to the hostel, check in, and hang out there for a while before going back to the city center to see what it looked like at night.

Once we were in the hostel, Guillaume and I realized that we were doing the same thing – we were both listening to out IPods and writing down what we had done. After doing that for about an hour, we checked the time, and were shocked to find out that it was only 6pm!

We left the hostel around 7pm and went back to the Duomo to see it at night. I expected it to be a little more exciting, but it wasn’t as great as I thought. We then made out way back to the hostel and had dinner at The Hemingway – a small pizza and a beer for 6 euros. It was a great deal!

After dinner, we went back to the hostel and got ready for bed. Guillaume and I talked to our roommate and found out that he was from Finland and was traveling for a few weeks before his classes started in Basel, Switzerland. He spoke English really well – he studied in Indianapolis for a year and had done quite a bit of traveling in the States. Just when we were ready to go to sleep, an older Italian guy came in and took the last bed in the room – lucky for us, he got ready for bed and instead of falling asleep right away, he turned on the radio and listened to the same song several times before starting to snore and keeping us up. It was great!

Friday, the 12th – we woke up at 9am and got ready to leave. We had bought out tickets to Padova before we went to the hostel the day before and knew where we had to catch our train. Once we checked out, we went to The Hemingway and had our last latte before getting on the train.

After about an hour, we got to Brescia and I got off the train to find Emily. We quickly got on the train and found Guillaume and our seats. Once we got to Padova, we left our bags at the station (we had to leave our bags overnight since they closed at 6pm – I carried my toothbrush around all day), and decided to go into the city to get some gelato before the next train to Venice (which was in 30 minutes).

As we walked to a gelato place, I was able to recognize some of the things I had seen when I first went to Venice. After waiting for Guillaume to get some cash and eating our gelato, Emily pointed out that we only had 5 minutes before the train left so I’m sure that we burned the gelato off since we had to run from the center to the train.

Once we were on the train, we were off to Venice. It was a beautiful day. The sun was out and there was no rain at all. Once we got to Venice, we were able to walk around comfortably since there were not a lot of people. We walked along the canals and over bridges, ate some pizzete with some hot wine, and got to see some of the Carnevale festivities at Piazza San Marco. Overall, it was a great experience to see Venice again and during the pre-Lent festivities. We even bought some masks to fit in!

Once we got back to Padova, Carlo picked us up from the station. We stayed the night with the Marchetto’s – a family Emily met through the EAP program. When Emily studied in Padova, she was put in contact with Gabriele, Carlo’s son, who was going to study at UC Riverside. Emily’s family also spent Easter with the Marchetto’s. Needless to say, they go way back.

It was about 10:30 or 11 pm but, Bruna, Carlo’s wife insisted that we have dinner. It was great to be welcomed by this family. We truly got to experience the Italian hospitality. Not to mention I was able to practice a little Italian (I really need to do some review).

Saturday, the 13th - After sleeping for almost 12 hours, Guillaume and I woke up and got ready to head to Florence. We showered, got dressed, and had an amazing lunch prepared by our Italian mom (she adopted us and told us that we were welcome to visit anytime).

With only 15 minutes before the train left, Emily ran to buy the tickets, while Guillaume and I got the bags from the luggage storage. We did everything pretty quickly and were able to relax for a little before getting on the train. We took a FrecciaRossa – a new high-speed train in Italy – we got to Florence from Padova in an hour and a half!

Once in Florence, Emily’s friend, Cat, an NYU Grad Student studying in Florence, met us at Santa Maria Novella and took us to her apartment. We left our bags and went into the city center to see the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, Piazza della Repubblica, Piazza della Signoria, and the Uffizi. Once it got dark, we went to a small little bar and had some spritz before meeting Katie, Cat’s roommate, at a small restaurant nearby. For roughly about 12 euros each, we each got a pizza, water, some prosecco, a misto toscano (a platter of traditional, regional meats) and some grappa to digest the meal.

Once we got back to the apartment, we all went to sleep – after some endless laughing at random stuff.

Sunday, the 14th – Once we all got ready to go, we went to the Accademia – the home of the famous statue of David. Once we were able to check him out and the other works of art in the museum, we went to the Duomo and climbed up the Campanile – the bell tower next to the Duomo. We had a great view of the city and of the Duomo. Once we climbed down, we went in the direction of Piazza Michelangelo. On the way, we ate in a small sandwich shop were I was able to savor porchetta once again. It has got to be the best thing to eat in a sandwich. Imagine – slices of roasted pork seasoned with salt and rosemary and put on foccacia bread = amazing.

Once we finished chatting with a woman who had sold everything to live in Italy and witnessing Guillaume break the Duralex (French ‘unbreakable’ brand) glass, we continued towards Piazza Michelangelo. Once we got to the top, we took in the view of the city and then went to the Monastery at the very top. Since there was a bus strike, we decided to go down the hill by foot and start heading back to Cat’s apartment. We made a pick stop at the statue of the boar and then went back to Cat’s, where we ordered Chinese food and had dinner together.

Monday, the 15th – after leaving Cat’s apartment, we took the bus to the train station and found out what times the buses left for Siena. Once we had the schedule, we went to look for the bus stop of the #12 bus to get to Piazza Michelangelo one more time. Thanks to our good fortune, the bus stop changed the day before. So, we deciced, heck, let’s just go to the next stop. We would have gone back to the train station if we had known that we would never find the next stop. After about 20 minutes of wandering and tempers starting to meet their limits, we got on a bus and got to our destination. After snapping some pictures under the sun at the Piazza, we went to the cemetery next to the Monastery to look for the tomb of the author of Pinocchio. Although we didn’t find it, it was cool to walk around the cemetery. Who knew walking around a place where dead people are buried could be pretty? - it was a bit strange though.

After our stroll among the dead, we started to head back to the sandwich shop from the day before only to remember that it was closed on Mondays. We made do with a shop that was just down the street from where we got off the bus. While we ate, we ran into some high school students from Newport Beach, who were on a school trip. We even saved one of them from losing his bag – he left it on the chair and forgot to grab it when they all left.

We then went to the bus station and took the bus to Siena. The whole way there, I felt like I was going ‘home’ – to the place where all my European adventures started.

After checking in to the hotel, we walked around the street of Siena and the Campo. We bought some wine and then went to Greg’s (one of my roommate’s when I studied in Siena) favorite osteria – it was just down the street from our hotel. We all ate awesome food – Guillaume had the carbonara, I had some ribollita (a Sienese dish), and Emily started with some pici (a thick Sienese pasta that looks like spaghetti) con sugo de chinghiale (wild boar sauce).

After dinner, we went to the Campo and drank some wine while we were surrounded by the famous Palio track. It was good to be back.

Tuesday, the 16th – After breakfast, we went around Siena and I showed Emily and Guillaume the statues and churches of the contrade. Around noon we met up with Sarah, an English assistant in Lyon from Canada, who came to Siena since she was staying close to Pisa for a week. Her boyfriend was at work, so she had nothing to do. Once we met up with her, we went to lunch at Nonna Gina’s, a place recommended by the guy who checked us into the hotel. This place was amazing! We ate stuffed gnocchi with a pistachio sauce and then I had some coniglio al limone and Emily’s leftovers.

After ordering some coffee and some digestivos, the owner gave us some suckers and even gave us a discount – we got 15 euros off the bill! That place is definitely worth checking out.

Sarah had to catch a train back to her boyfriend’s town so she wasn’t able to go to the Duomo with us. Guillaume, Emily and I bought our tickets and went inside the Museo dell’Opera and got to see the Campo from the arch. After leaving the museum, we went to the Crypt and Baptistry. We rushed through them since they closed at 5 and we started at 3:30pm. Luckily, we left the Duomo for last and were able to be in there with enough time to soak it all in.

Once we did the tourist thing, we went to Barone Rosso, the bar we would always go to to check the time it opened and then had some coffee and hot chocolate at what used to be the Walkabout Pub – a bar around the corner from my apartment in Siena. After going back to the hotel for a while, we went to dinner at the corner bar and then went out for some drinks at Barone. It wasn’t as crowded as it used to be with my group of Californians, but it was nice to go back and see that everything was pretty much the same 

After a few rounds of shooters and watching the Olympics on the projection screen, we went back to the hotel to nap since we had to leave early the next morning to get to Milan.

Wednesday, the 17th – once we got to the bus stop outside of Porta Pispini in Siena, we got on the bus and head to Milan. I napped on the way there since we were going to be on the bus for 4 hours.

Once we got to Milan we went to Centrale, the main train station, to leave our bags at the luggage storage so that we wouldn’t have to carry them around with us all day. Once we did that, we went to the Duomo again. I went inside with Emily while Guillaume went to get some money. After eating a sandwich, Emily left for the train station and Guillaume and I went to the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana.

We had all day, which was good since the Pinacoteca had almost 26 rooms to go through. We rented an audioguide and used it in every room despite its random commentary – nothing was in order, we typed in the room number only to tell us about certain paintings that were scattered all along the walls. But, I thought it was fun since I considered it a game – find the painting I’m talking about before I start with the next one (lol).

The best thing about the Pinacoteca was that we were able to see pages from Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebooks. Each page was under a protective glass, but we were able to use the audioguides to listen to more facts about the life and work of Da Vinci. Once we were done with the Pinacoteca, we tried to go to another place where we could use the tickets we paid for to get in for free.

While I was in the restroom, Guillaume heard someone say something about this place so he had me ask the lady at the reception. She was very nice and explained that the ticket was not valid unless we had paid for it at the beginning but since she knew we were students, she could call the other place and tell them that we were on our way and to let us in. After successfully having this conversation with her, we set off to find the place, only to get lost and decide to get a coffee somewhere. Once we drank our beer (changed our minds about the coffee) we went to Centrale, picked up our bags and head towards Lampugnano, the bus station to wait for our bus. We checked in, got our boarding passes and waited for 2 hours before we were back on a bus and on our way home.

Thursday, the 18th – Guillaume and I were surprised that we got back to Lyon an hour and a half early – so early that we couldn’t get into the bus station and take a tram back to his apartment. So, we walked back to his apartment, I got my keys and went back to Perrache to wait for the train to Villefranche. I took the 6:08am train back to Villefranche and was back in my studio at 7:05. I passed out and slept the entire day! I even took a nap after I had been awake for 2 hours.
Overall, this trip was long, fast, but well worth it! I miss traveling and I can’t wait to do it again!