Friday, July 17, 2009
Friday, July 17th 2009
So according to my itinerary, we're supposed to be in Barcelona right now. However! After arriving to Ibiza we enjoyed it so much that we decided to cut out Barcelona and stay for two more days. :) Slight change in plans but I think it was a good idea. After 2 full weeks of hardcore tourism we were getting tired and Angelica especially wasn't up for more tourism. I told her that I have already been to Barcelona so if she didn't want to go then we could stay. Originally I thought it would be cheaper just to stay here but I think it's going to work out about even. I say this because of the expenses we would have incurred by going there would have been high, but at the same time we also had to pay for new plane tickets direct to Madrid. Because we bought them only 3 days in advance the price we paid was pretty high in comparison to our other flights (80 euros each). But! Ibiza is great! It's exactly what it's talked up to be: a vacations island with a younger crowd. There are a bunch of towns in Ibiza that cater to tourists. We are in the town called Sant Antoni (San Antonio in Spanish, Sant Antoni is the local dialect subset of Spanish), and the main town in Ibiza is called, well Ibiza. But spelled Eivissa locally. Pronounced the same though. Eivissa is about a 20 minute bus ride from the bus station here. The island is itself is lined with great beaches with good transport to get to all of the favorite spots. We haven't taken many photos because, well a beach is a beach and it's not as unique as Big Ben or the Colosseum. Back to the beach for now :)
More to come in the following days
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Tuesday, July 14th, 2009
I have found it is very hard to keep a blog while traveling. Kudos to those who can manage to do both!
We just arrived in Ibiza, it's 4:15AM. Long story, and I'll get to it in due time. Let me first start with London.
We arrived in London around 2PM or so after an early flight out of Prague. We literally got off of the plane on the tarmac and had to make a running dash for the terminal because the rain was coming down so hard. WELCOME TO LONDON!! Luckily I had my hoodie with me but Angelica got completely drenched in the 30 second dash. But hey that's london. Cloudy and overcast with rain 24/7.
After a siesta (it's become our MO for traveling: flight, followed by siesta) we mapped out what we wanted to see in London and took a tour of the town. We hit many highlights in the first day: We started by taking the metro down to the Tower of London, and seeing the London Tower Bridge and London Bridge. Then we followed the Thames along to St. Pauls. Luckily for me, Angelica only wanted photos. I've been to London twice before and wasn't really interested in entering in all of the churches and seeing all of the museums again. Angelica is more of the take the picture and bag it type of person. Especially in London as she later found the city to be rather ugly and boring. I told her the weather is always bad in London even in July but she didn't believe me. She also isn't a fan of all the grey rock used for the buildings. But having come out of Prague and Amsterdam one could understand why she wasn't very intrigued by London. She told me she thought as the "international capital of the world", it would be a prettier place. Then we hopped on a bus, did some of the street tours, went along the Strand, Trafalgar Square, etc on to Westminster. We took photos of Big Ben, Parliament, and Westminster Abbey, and then called it a day. Well a night at that point. We got some good night shots of Westminster and Big Ben, the London Eye, etc. The next day, (Wednesday, July 8th), we began the day walking through Hyde Park, making our way for Buckingham Palace. Our hotel was right off of the park to the north and we were able to see a lot of it. I was especially hoping to find the new memorial for the July 7th bombings of the London underground that had been opened and dedicated the day before, but was unsuccessful. They had yet to put up signs for it and it was a secondary goal anyway so I let it go. Still raining of course, but it let up every now and then. We were able to eat lunch in the park before going to the Palace. After the palace we walked to Trafalgar Square and took photos there with the lions and in front of the National Gallery, etc. We then headed back to the Westminster Abbey because Angelica wanted better photos than we had taken the night before.
Thursday we spent mainly in the hotel because Angelica somehow managed to pull something in her foot. She had been wearing sandals and slip-on shoes the entire trip and told me she was not a big fan of tennis shoes. Or regular shoes for that matter. I am still trying to convince her that sandals don't work for three weeks of touring and traveling haha. She still has yet to agree though. She's got a number of blisters, cuts, etc. from wearing sandals day in and day out but that doesn't seem to help my argument at all. Brazilians are a stubborn bunch ;) However spending the day inside allowed me to put up all my photos and write in my blog some too. Also I was able to watch satellite television so I was feeling right at home :)
Then Friday the 10th we went to the British Museum and Madame Tussauds. British Museum hasn't changed much since the last time I was there although I spent more time in the Asian and Middle East sections because I had yet to see them. Pretty interesting, and definitely a nice change from Western art and history. Madame Tussauds was Angelica's idea. I didn't know this but apparently Madame Tussauds is in pretty much every major city. But they all have a huge collection of wax replicas of stars, celebrities, historical figures, politicians, etc. and you can take your photo with all of them. So of course the one in London had more to do with British stars but at the same time a lot of celebs, politicians that are known all over the world. So we paid the steep 25 pounds / person and entered to take photos (see photos section). I didn't post all of them because we took a million photos. They had to create a line (or as they say in England, a 'queue' hahaha. ohh brits are so funny with their words) for the replica of Michael Jackson. They also had Hitler, Ghandi, Obama of course, Reagan, Martin Luther King Jr, James Dean, John Wayne, Audrey Hepburn, Alfred Hitchcock (spelling), etc. That night we packed up and left for the airport (not Heathrow once again, another one named Stansted). It was a pain! I asked our hotel guy for directions on how to get there and he totally led me astray. We took the underground to Marble Arch only to find out about an hour later that the bus to the airport does not pick up there, only drop off. So we headed to another nearby bus/train station, Marylebone, and the information guy there was clueless too. At this point it was maybe 10PM, and things were beginning to close. So we ended up taking the metro again to the big train station in London, Victoria. We then had to leave Victoria Station for the Victoria Coach Station which for some reason is not attached to the train station. Then we were directed to wait at one bus stop only to find out that there was an earlier bus to the airport leaving from a different platform. So we ran to that platform and as soon as we had boarded we left for the airport. It was absolute madness. We finally arrived in the airport around midnight for our 8:30am flight to Rome. Can anyone say sleeping in the airport?! woooooooo. It was our last night doing so (we had once before at the beginning of the trip in Milan). It's cheap, you don't have to pay for a room, but it's painfully uncomfortable.
So Saturday the 11th was our flight to Rome. Rather uneventful, only that it was Ryanair so not very comfortable either. Ryanair does cheap flights, but they are real cheapskates. If your bag doesn't fit in the overhead compartment they charge you 30 pounds to put it underneath the plane. There's also a 10 Kg limit for carryons and 15 Kg for checked items. Plus all of their pilots let the 1st officer fly the plane so he can gain experience. This sounds like a good idea but it makes for very rough landings. The type where you come in with the plane rocking to the left and right as the 1st officer tries to level the plane and then where you bounce a couple times on the tarmac before landing for good. Everyone always claps at the end too. Happy to be alive I guess.
Sometimes too they do they acceleration for liftoff real fast and it can be nerve racking. Our flight from Rome to Ibiza was that way. We literally made the turn to approach the runway for take off and I vaguely heard Captain Picard from Star Trek say, "Warp Speed, engage" and we rocketed down the runway.
So we got into our hotel in Rome around 2PM only to take a siesta (we slept in an airport, give us a break!). We had taken a bus from the airport to the bus station in Rome and then our hotel was maybe a 10 minute walk. Not bad at all. This hotel also had satellite TV! (yes!) but it was in Italian (no!). Angelica apparently understands Italian (she speaks portugues and spanish and the three languages are very closely related), so she was entertained by the Italian satellite TV. They had BBC news in english too so I watched that some. We spent the first day in search of food and checking out the area close to our hotel.
The following Sunday the 12th we went immediately to Saint Peter Square. Little did I know that Sunday at noon the pope always gives some type of benediction to all of the crowd below. So we saw the Pope! He was in his apartment way up high delivering his speech, but we saw him! There are huge jumbotrons and speakers in the square that broadcast his speech so all can hear. It's rather entertaining because many people bring huge flags from their country to wave above the crowd for the Pope to see and sometimes he will recognize those countries and give them a blessing. He did his speech/benediction in Italian first, then a part in German, a part in English, and a part in Dutch I think. Good stuff. We also went and saw the tombs in St. Peters Basilica before making our way to Castelo St. Angelo. We took pictures but didn't enter because it was 8 euros we didn't want to spend haha. Plus I think Angelica at this point was getting real tired with museums and cathedrals. So we ate lunch by the Tevere river there and did some souvenir shopping in a nearby open-air market. From there we visited a number of beautiful plazas in Rome. We went to Fontana di Trevi, Plaza Navona, saw the Pantheon, Plaza Venezia, and Plaza di Spagna (Spain Plaza). They say that Rome is like an open-air museum and you can spend days just walking around looking at all the things it has to offer. It's true really. Rome is jam-packed with history and you can see pretty much something from every era there just by doing a walking tour. The photos from all of these plazas will be in the photos sections, marked with the name of the plaza when I have time to upload! After Piazza di Spagna, we went back to the hotel to rest. It was something hot in Rome, 33 degrees Celsius (not sure in F) and humid. Very little shade and lots of traveling. And also a drastic change from 3 days in London where I wore pants and brought a jacket with me at all times. We ended up eating McDonalds after being unsuccessful in our search for food around 10:30PM. The following day (Monday the 13th) we made plans to meet up with a couple of our friends who had arrived in Rome about the same time. We met in Saint Peter Square under the big obelisk in the center around 12:30 and we went into the Basilica together. The day before Angelica and I went only through the tombs where we saw a bunch of dead popes, including the tomb of Pope John Paul VI I think his name is. No photos allowed and not even the elusive Angelica could sneak a photo of John Paul's tomb. Flanked by two rude security guys, there was no photo taking happening at all.
So I finally got to see the inside of Saint Peter's Church! When I came here before with my parents in 2004 I was denied entry because I was wearing shorts. Apparently kids were allowed in with shorts but I was no longer a kid in their mind (15 years old) so I was forced to wait for everyone to go through except me and a couple others. I made sure to wear pants in Rome this time and in fact I wore pants the entire time in Rome because I didn't want to be denied entry to any church, etc. However! Since 2004 the rules have changed! Anyone can wear shorts now as long as they are not short shorts and come close to the knees. Also there's this neat little shop they added right before the entry where you can purchase a shawl type thing to cover your shoulders or if need be, to cover you legs in a dress-type fashion. It was funny I saw so many people entering in shorts and I was thinking, "what the !?!? Impossible!" So I'm a bit mad that I was denied entry and since then they have changed the rules so that pretty much every goes in unless they don't want to pay.
On a side note the inside of Saint Peter is very pretty :) we took photos naturally. For some reason it's allowed here and not in other places.
Following Saint Peter we headed to the Vatican Museum which takes you through a bunch of Catholic artwork, statues, apartments of late popes, and such where you eventually arrive at the Sistine Chapel. I didn't know this but the route for people in groups and people visiting normally is different. If you come in a group you don't go through the entire museum before the chapel, and that's kind of nice because to get through all of the museum it takes absolutely forever. And with people gawking into the next room in the doorways between rooms, traffic backs up quick. So we got held up a bit. We only wanted to see the Chapel the rest of that stuff is just fluff really (especially after having been to the Louvre, the British Museum, Van Gogh Museum, and getting ready to go to El Prado in Madrid). So we made it through and saw the Chapel. No photos allowed.
Then we found some shade outside the Vatican for a late lunch before taking the bus to the Colosseum and Roman Forum. We didn't have much time for the walkthrough of the Roman Forum and Angelica wasn't that interested in entering the Colosseum so we just followed the usual routine of taking photos and bagging it. Then we made our way back to our hotel to collect our bags and head to the train station. The airport (one of the 2) was 30 minutes by nonstop train.
We arrived in the airport and did checking, however upon arrival to our gate around 10:30 PM there was a one hour delay, which ended up being about a 1.5 hour delay. Our flight to Ibiza got in late. The town we are staying in is called Sant Antoni (San Antonio) and a taxi ride to get there is 75 euros. So that wasn't an option. Unfortunately we had to wait for the last bus that leaves from the airport at 3:15 AM. It was a 30 minute ride and we got to our hostel around 4:00 AM. However the town was very much alive (it's Ibiza after all, the Cancun of Europe). So after checking in, we were real hungry and I went back down to the streets to find something to eat. There was still a lot people out having a good time but I was able to find a 24-Hour supermarket (ironically closed the following day). That was our arrival to Ibiza! More to come in the following days! Six days until my flight home
Monday, July 6, 2009
Thursday, July 2nd (part two!)
Paris day 3: So today we went to the Louvre and the Basilica Sacre-Coeur. The Louvre was good. Third time there but every time I see a different part so it's been good. New to this trip for me was Napoleon III's apartment, which was overly decorated and furnished, and the 76 rooms of french paintings (over a thousand). I think I had seen some but they're all on the top floors and it's quite a lot. We also did the norm, Mona Lisa, Hammurabi's Code, Venus de Milo, etc. etc. We spent about 2.5-3 hours there, and then we took the metro to the Basilica. I had no idea this place existed but it is gorgeous. You have to take 174 steps to get to it (Angelica counted) but it's worth the effort. It's a giant Basilica with one huge dome and 2 smaller domes. We went inside and the decor is outstanding. See the photos. It was good.
That afternoon we went to Gard du Nord to take the THALYS train to Amsterdam. The trip was 4.5 hours or so with stops in Brussels, Antwerp, The Hague, etc. We arrived later than expected because there was a train in front of ours near the end of the trip and we had to wait on the tracks before the final station. When we got to Amsterdam it was about 11pm and we had serious problems figuring out the Amsterdam metro/tram system. We bought a metro ticket only to find out that the metro does not go where we need it to. So then we went back to the streets and bought a tram ticket. Apparently they're the same ticket that lasts for an hour but in order to use it you have to "activate" it first, and we had no idea how to do this. (I still have no idea how to do this! haha)
Friday, July 3rd.
Our hotel was very nice. It was on the River Amstel with a great view, etc. But the actual hotel was more of a hostel and it was on the second floor (3rd floor by american standards). So we had to climb two flights of steep stairs Amsterdam-style in order to get to the hotel. There was a shared bathroom and kitchen, and our room was right off the kitchen so the noise from people coming and going was a bit disturbing. Besides that it was a great hotel. There was no breakfast in the morning but we made coffee, bought food in the supermarkets, etc. The following day (the 3rd) we went to the Van Gogh museum which I enjoyed a lot. Angelica not so much because everything was in Dutch and English. They had many of his famous paintings, however not starry starry night (sorry mom). And they had it arranged chronologically, separated into the different "stages" of his life (early years, time in paris, time in arles, time in the crazy house, yellow house, etc etc etc.) Then we met up with the Brazilian girls that afternoon and took the free tour that was offered by their hostel. We started out on the English tour and we began the tour with the Red Light District. The tour guide said that the town has been trying to change the image of Amsterdam by cutting down on the sex and drugs part of the city. So she said that the red light district was now only half as big as it used to be. But we did see the girls in the windows, etc. Angelica managed to get a picture of one (it's not allowed, she didn't know), and the girl got real angry and yelled at her, "BITCH!". However still not understanding that photos weren't allowed, she turned to me and the rest of the our friends, and said, "she called me a bitch? She's the one in the window." Pretty funny. I'm going to put the photo in the Amsterdam section once I get the time. :)
We then did a tour of the town in general, with a little bit of rain. The tour took us to the oldest church in Amsterdam next, in the heart of the red light district. They said that once the church was built the district popped up because both venues serve the same clients. From there we saw a couple canals and the typical housing. The houses were all really skinny and tall with skinny staircases. Like our hotel. I took a picture of the skinniest house in the world. It is 1.8 meters across and 3 stories high. 1.8 meters is the max a facade of a building can be without paying taxes, so the owners made it this way to avoid taxes. Then we saw the old prison that was later converted into shopping, some famous artwork, and finally the house of anne frank. Well, the hiding place of anne frank I guess you could say. They have a whole museum dedicated to it so Angelica and I left the tour to enter the museum. The actual building is the factory where Anne Frank's father Otto was the co-owner of the business (they made Jam). She originally lived in Germany but left for Amsterdam before the war. A bit expensive but worth it. To anyone that has read the diary of anne frank it is real cool to see where she actually lived, the factory, the secret annex, etc. You get to go through it all, and there are videos from interviews with Otto, and one of the caretakers. They also had the original diary of anne frank on display, on loan from a museum nearby.
After the Anne Frank House we went back to the hotel to prepare for the real reason why we were in Amsterdam: Sensation! Sensation is, or at least they claim it is, the "world's largest dance party". All the Brazilians had been raving about it all semester long so I agreed to go along and see what it was like. It took place in the Amsterdam ArenA, which is a full-blown indoor stadium. In the center there is a circular platform that hosted the DJ mixing the music and extending platforms for various performers, pyrotechnics, lights, strobes, etc. Imagine crazy loud techno music with overbearing bass in the subwoofers for seven and a half hours and that's Sensation in a nutshell. There's a bit more to it, though. The DJs are "world-renowned" (I didn't know them, but then again I'm not European), and they change every 75 minutes. The music is nonstop and this year followed an almost Alice in Wonderland theme with giant videoscreens and a narrator voice thing. There is also an MC who hypes up the crowd, etc. There was one "guest" DJ who was a surprise and also a couple members of the band Black Eyed Peas made a guest appearance. While they were on stage I had Angelica on my shoulders and she was sporting the Brazilian Flag. The singer saw her with the flag and began chanting "Brazil! Brazil! Brazil! Brazil!" and the crowd went wild. It was awesome. I went to Sensation with Angelica and 6 other Brazilian girls, so it goes without being said that everyone want to meet our group (for the girls, not me haha). I mean who doesn't want to dance with a Brazilian girl? We met a whole boat load of people during the night.
This year was the 10th anniversary of Sensation so there were two days of festivities. Luckily for me we only went the first day. Sensation takes place in cities all over Europe. It was in Prague in May and in December in Madrid. I enjoyed the first couple hours, but around 3AM, and after a FULL day of touring Amsterdam I began to fade fast. I took a break and was able to manage until 6AM when it ended. We then took about an hour and a half trying to leave and get back to the hotel. The same day we got up around two PM (July 4th) and began to arrange our stuff for our trip to Prague. We took the 10PM bus that night to Prague, 14 hours. But because it was at night Angelica and I both slept pretty much the entire way. We made stops in Frankfurt and Bayern before reaching Prague at 12PM,
Sunday, July 5th.
In Prague we walked to our hotel, about 30 minutes and checked in. We are staying at a hotel called Chili Hostel, geared towards American and Brits, as everything is English and the British and American Embassies are marked on the maps with phone numbers haha. It's an old house I guess converted into hostels. The cheapest place we stayed in so far but it's been very clean and nice I must say. We're without a television and fridge but that's ok because we didn't plan to spend much time in the room anyway. We actually ended up sleeping more than we had planned to upon arrival and had to start our touring late. We found a nice place to eat (hamburgers haha) and then we started a small city tour near our hostel (view photos when they're up). I found that everything in Prague is quite cheap. But that's to be expected coming out of Amsterdam and Paris I guess. A full pizza for 4 euros is a complete bargain. We took photos of the dancing house (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dancing_House), among other things before calling it a day around 9PM.
The next day we got up early, ate breakfast in the hostel (wasn't very good) and then headed out to do our own tourism. A tour was offered, but it began at 930AM across town and we decided that was a no dice situation. So we did our own tourism with our maps and guide books. We visited the astronomical clock at 12PM which is supposed to be a big deal (big crowd), and then did the general new town city tour, following the main square (Wenceslas square) down to the jewish quarter known here as the Jewish Ghetto. We bought tickets to see all the museums and building associated with the jewish ghetto for 8 euros (good price for 6 buildings). The best part was the jewish cemetery, which had plots that dated back to the 15th century. Because of a lack of space or because the spot was popular, the following centuries were buried on top of the previous, with the gravestones lifted up to the top level. Because of this the cemetery looks awesomely cluttered. You're not allowed to take photos of pretty much anything, but Angelica snuck a photo of the cemetery (good job!). So now we have that. It's cool.
There was also the Old New Synagogue, the Spanish Synagogue, a monument to the writer Franz Kafka, among others. A lot of exhibits about the treatment of jews, and one synagogue that had been redecorated with the names of 80,000 jews that were killed from Prague and nearby villages. In total 500,000 Jews from the Prague area were killed, but they only had the lists for 80,000 as the rest had been burned by the Germans I think.
Then we ate at a restaurant for lunch, having a beef goulash and chicken with rice to eat. At the end of our meal they gave us both a shot of vodka to help with digestion I guess. The Russian influence shines through!
Then we made our way to the Charles Bridge, which is a gothic style bridge from the 16th century that for many years was the connection that made Prague a great trade route between east and western europe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_bridge). We crossed the bridge and went to the Church of our Lady Victorious. Here is house the Infant Jesus of Prague (Child of Prague). It is a little doll that was brought to Prague by a Princess in the 1600s. Upon presenting it as a gift to the church, she uttered something prophetic and it became sacred. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infant_Jesus_of_Prague). It's world-renowned apparently. Very nice church! Very well decorated, etc. Just like the Spanish Synagogue which was also very nicely furnished.
After that we did some souvenir shopping (cheaper than AmsterdaM!) and took some more photos before heading back to the hostel. We didn't have time to visit the Castle of Prague because it closes at 4pm.... woops.
Tomorrow we leave for London at 10:30am. We are spending 3 nights in London, then 1 night in the airport, and then off to Rome!
Hopefully I can get all of the photos we have taken up today, I am having problems uploading but I will try my best!
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
So Angelica and I left Oviedo this morning at 9:30AM headed for Madrid on bus. Both of us had our big suitcases, our two travel suitcases (mine being my backpacking backpack), and some food we brought for the first part of our trip. Our travel suitcases have to be less than 22 pounds because Ryanair, the no frills airline company that we are using, allows only 22 pounds of carryon luggage. It used to be 33 but they got cheap (ha.ha). So I am currently sitting on the bus enjoying the views as our journey is 6 and a half hours. Leaving Asturias was nice, well I mean I think it would have been nice had it not been rainy and overcast. Anyone seein g a trend there? Cesar, the Peruvian guy I lived with told me that summers in Asturias are usuallly 1 day of good weather for every 2 days of bad weather. He also said that the weather at the beach is usually never the same as in Oviedo. So you never really know when it's a good day to go there too.
This last week has been good. I got my Oviedo tourism out of the way (about time), and did all the necessary souvenir shopping. Last Thursday the Brazilians put together an going away party for the international students (Despedida Erasmus), and the ones that were left (probably about 2/3 had already left), came out to Funky Room, a popular Erasmus bar one last time. Then on Saturday Angelica's rent was up and she had to move so I helped her move her things to my apartment to stay for 2 days before our trip. I also went to the university bookstore and bought a shirt and sweatshirt to remember my visit and represent back at Tech. :)
Then yesterday was the finals for the Confederations Cup, and we all decided to watch it together. It was USA v. Brazil and I went to watch the game with the Brazilians, my 2 belgian friends Arnaud and Francois, my french friend Albin, and my Finnish friend, Elina. The first half was awesome and the USA was up 2-0 at halftime. I was rubbing it in pretty hard that the world champs were going to lose to a country who ranks Soccer as 6th or 7th in popularity, but then the second half came. Brazil scored three times unanswered and we lost. So naturally the brazilians went wild, made fun of me, and then made me kiss the Brazilian flag.
But that's ok. Considering that the US lost twice in a row first against Italy 2-0 and then Brazil 3-0, I wasn't expecting much. Somehow they made the semi-finals, and were able to pull of a 2-0 win against Spain. That pretty much pissed off all the Spaniards and from then on I voluntarily left out the fact I was American with introductions, etc. :)
Spain having won three cups this year, The king's cup (Spain), the Champions League cup, and one more that is within Spain and I forgot the name, they were considered the favorites to take on Brazil in the finals. But somehow we ended up in the finals and I find that amazing.
The Confederations Cup is always held the year before the World Cup (August, 2010) and it brings together the champions from each continent to play against one another. This year there was Brazil, USA, Italy, Spain, Iraq, Egypt, South Africa, New Zealand, and Argentina among others.
Last night and this morning I packed up all my stuff and we got up at 7am to finish packing/cleaning. When we arrived at the bus station, some of our friends had come to wish us off on our trip. Once we arrive at the Madrid airport we're going to store our big suitcases in the lockers and then catch our flight to Milan. We're sleeping in the airport tonight (super classy I know) and then 6am we have a flight to Paris from Milan.
Thursday, July 2nd, 2009
Today is our third and final day in Paris. On Tuesday we got in from Milan around 9:00 AM and then took a bus from the airport in Beauvais to Paris. About 1.5 hour bus ride. When you fly cheap they send you to satellite airports (except for Madrid which only has Barajas), so we arrived in Paris around 10:30 and found our hotel around 11 or so. We were able to check in fine. The hotel is in the northern part of Paris and about a 20 minute walk from the Arc de Triomphe. Also about 5 minutes from the nearest metro. On day 1 we checked in, slept a couple hours and around 5pm we did a city tour of sorts. We walked to the Arc and then on to the Eiffel Tower via the plaza of Trocadero. We hung out in the park there and waited for the sun to set so the tower would light up. Then we bought some crepes and headed back to the hotel--we were tired as it was. Day 2 proved to be super productive. We got up early and went to Versailles and did the Palace and Gardens tour there with the audioguides. Angelica opted for Spanish instead of Portuguese because she told me she understood it better than the Portuguese from Portugal. Apparently there is a big difference there. I had thought it was the same as the difference between English in England and the US for example but I guess it's a lot, lot different if she thought Spanish was easier.
Then in the afternoon we toured the center of Paris, seeing the Pantheon, St. Etienne, Notre Dame, and the Gardens of Luxembourg. Both St. Chappelle and St. Michel eluded us but we're going back today. We were going to finish the day with the Louvre but we were too tired so we're doing that today too.
Today is pretty much the finish everything else day. We're doing the Louvre first, followed by St. Chappelle and St. Michel, and then finally we're going to take photos of the Moulin Rouge and Basilica Sagrada Corazon.
The people in Paris have been really really nice. More than once when Angelica and I were looking for a place, someone stopped and asked us if we needed directions. In English too it was amazing. I guess when you don't travel in large tour groups people are nicer and more willing to help because the last two times I was here in tour groups I never got that.
The food has been good, but expensive. We're trying to buy cheap in super markets but even their prices are high. Luckily our hotel does breakfast and it's a good breakfast too, so we don't have to eat until around 4ish and then again when we get back to the hotel.
This afternoon at 6:30 we go to Amsterdam by train. It's a 4.5 hour ride by THALYS speed train and we should get in around 11pm or so. Our hotel in Amsterdam is realll nice too. Right on the river Amstel and in a great location in the center of Amsterdam. I'm excited.