Where’s [Elisabeth]?

A lot has happened since I last posted! To clear everything up a bit for those who don’t know, I am still in Europe. I have been living in Brussels for the last month and am interning at the Fulbright Commission here!

So catch you up on what I’ve done in the past few months here’s a whirlwind version:

For my Easter break I visited London, Cambridge, Dublin and Belfast!

The weather was shockingly beautiful – warm and sunny with gorgeous blue skies for the whole week.

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Any Bedknobs and Broomsticks fans (other than me and my sister) to appreciate this?

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I had a day trip out to Cambridge to visit my friend Alicia studying there!

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Old graffiti in the chapel!

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Of course we went punting!

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Back in London:

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I had the best Indian food since coming back 3 years ago at a place called Dishoom!

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Next stop was Dublin

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I met up with Griffin, a friend from Minnesota who goes to Trinity College!

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My first fish and chips!

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Hot cross bun because it was just before Easter

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I met up with Abby and Ellen, two friends from Mount Holyoke who graduated two years ago who happened to have a trip to Ireland planned at the same time. Abby wanted to do a black cab tour of the political murals and the area around the Peace Line. It ended up being a highlight of the entire trip and I couldn’t recommend it enough.

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Our next stop was the Titanic museum because the Belfast docks are where the Titanic was built

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First up a proper Ulster fry!

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One of the best meals of the trip at an adorable, quirky restaurant that wouldn’t have been out of place in Minneapolis

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Us at the Peace Wall!

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Just a day after this trip Hugo rolled into town for a week! Here we are at my favorite pizza place

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At the urging of several friends we biked to the beach at Palavas. We ran into my host mom and got given free brioche by a nice boulanger!

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And along the way we got to see Montpellier’s Hotel de Ville! It looks pretty scary because of the lighting but it’s a gorgeous and very avant garde building

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Later that week I took the train down to Barcelona to meet up with my parents and little brother, Timothy! They were down there to see my dad’s host family from Angers, the Tigers, who I visited in early March!

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We had just a few days in Barcelona but it was a wonderful time in a beautiful city

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An amazing bakery I found online called Caelum where the goods are made by nuns of the region!

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The most amazing patatas bravas and mushrooms and asparagus at Ciudad Condal

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The incredible view form my parents’ tiny airbnb in Montpellier

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Timothy had a great time in Montpellier, mostly chasing pigeons

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Fun last dinner in Montpellier with my mom! Those little pails are filled with the most delicious potatoes and the sardine cans have lovely , creamy asparagus

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We headed up to Paris to stay with my dad’s aunt Joyce for about a week

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My dad outside the bank where he interned 26 years ago!

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We met up with our good family friends, the Blondeaus!

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Joyce, my mom and I walked around Marly-le-Roi

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One of my favorite streets in Paris: Rue de Montorgueil

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My new favorite historic landmark: l’hotel de sens. That little black dot on the facade is a cannonball from 1830!

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After my family flew home I went back to Montpellier, packed up and moved back up to Saint-Germain-en-Laye to do research for my senior history thesis. Although these 3 weeks were mostly spent inside archives and libraries the weather was beautiful and I did get to appreciate it during lunch breaks and while walking around to take pictures

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For a little vacation I went down to Saint Raphael to visit my Uncle’s sister-in-law and her husband and got to have a relaxing few days

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A month ago I moved to Brussels for my internship at the Fulbright. I almost immediately found a chocolate shop made just for me!

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The Grand Place truly is that magnificent!

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My first Belgian frites!

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The original Manneken Pis!

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The view of Brussels from Mont des Arts. The Royal Library, where my office is located is the building directly to the left

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A few weeks ago I went to Antwerp for the day with my office’s director, who had a meeting there, and the other intern. The University of Antwerp had two American students studying there show us around and we had an amazing time!IMG_8931(1)IMG_8934(1)

The weekend after I went to Utrecht for an MHC alumnae welcome lunch for an incoming Dutch student

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The lunch spread for the alumnae lunch! The alumna who hosted the lunch let me stay with her and I had a wonderful time with her family

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My favorite fry stand in Brussels is in the back of this picture!

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My friend Miriam from Mount Holyoke was in town for a few days on a post-graduation European tour and we had a delicious meal at an Ethiopian restaurant!

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I had a last minute, breakneck speed day trip to London last weekend in order to get out of Schengen and not overstay my French visa!

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My 4th of July tour of some Art Nouveau houses!

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If I’d seen the listing I would have definitely blown all my Lynk funding to stay in the Tassel House

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Basically, I’ve had a crazy and exciting and wonderful few months. I am loving my internship and have found Brussels to be a beautiful and interesting city. I’ll try to stay on top of the rest of my blogs because I have a lot of exciting things coming up!

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Where’s my French at?

It’s been a bit of a break since I was able to write. Just to keep everyone abreast I’ve had my April vacation in London, Dublin and Belfast, hosted my boyfriend Hugo for a week, had my parents and brother visit and taken all of my finals. So it’s been a busy month and a half! I have some interesting blogs I’m excited to post and will do my best to get them out in the next week. Here’s the first one.

I’m sure many people are wondering how my French is at the end of my two semesters, after living in France for 8 1/2 months. Well in short, it’s really, really good. I am incredibly proud of the progress I have made and think I have really taken advantage of my time here to the best of my abilities. At the end of last semester I was feeling pretty proud of myself and said that even if I went back to the states I would have been happy with my progress. While I did make a lot of progress last Fall I have been realizing more and more that those 3 months were necessary to just put in a lot of work. Although I made progress and learned a lot, my French was still at such a low level compared to where it is now.

When I first arrived in France I exchanged a few emails with one of my favorite Mount Holyoke professors, Professor Rivers in the French department. He told me that I’d probably work for a while and then around 5 weeks in would have a jump in comprehension where suddenly things clicked more, followed by a plateau. I certainly felt that happened to me on some level last semester, but I’ve been feeling it in a more drawn out way for the entire year. My first semester was putting a lot of work in and gaining confidence, then in January or Febuary things clicked and since then it’s been a plateau, with a slight upward trajectory.

Throughout my time here, my daily language needs and how I learn the language have changed considerably. In my first few months I needed to be forced to speak every single day and by making mistakes over and over and stumbling my way through my shakier tenses, like futur simple and conditionnel, I managed to get comfortable speaking. (I should note that thanks to my amazing high school teacher, Madame Caster, I have been blessed to arrive in France already fairly confident when speaking.) In order to have this constant, regular usage staying with a French family was essential to my progress. I spoke in French for about 2 hours every day and this built a solid foundation.

Then in my second semester I was able to build upon this. Almost immediately I started reading Harry Potter in French, still looking up lots of words along the way, but genuinely enjoying reading (and understanding!) in French for the first time. Then sometime in February I realized that I could understand so much more when people were speaking. It’s pretty exciting listening to Stromae whose music I know so well and suddenly realize that I get what he’s actually saying (spoiler: Papaoutai is heart wrenching and sad).

I think in the past few months my grammar has improved immensely because after having built a backlog of memories, conversations and other things in French I can dissect them to try and understand how to put together sentences on my own. My translation class from English to French has also helped me understand the philosophy behind the French language and recognize the many differences between it and English.

Overall being immersed in the French language and learning it over the past 8 months has been one of the most exciting experiences of my entire life. It’s brought me so much joy and satisfaction to work hard and see it be paid off many times over. I know that it’s changed the course of my life and career as I now seek to learn more languages and use them as much as possible. I know that the next step up for me in terms of French language ability is going to get to near fluency, and I’m ready to make that jump and fulfill what I’ve been working towards without realizing it the past 9 years.

And so I don’t end on too serious a note here’s two fun reflections and some pictures:

While as of late I overall feel very confident with my French I still do have awkward, embarrassing and helpful learning moments. I find that these are really good because they really “put the fear of god in me” and ensure I never dare make such a mistake again. I’ve been listening to some of David Sedaris’ audiobooks recently and particularly enjoyed Me Talk Pretty One Day in which he discusses his experiences learning French. Overall it’s hilarious and fun to hear about other people’s language struggles but his one story which I take issue with is his avoidance of learning the masculine or feminine gender of each French noun. While it certainly is annoying to memorize something so small and seemingly insignificant, he combats it by always ordering multiples of everything (cakes, shoes, coffees, etc.) in order to not use the “un” (masculine) or “une” (feminine) which clearly demonstrate the gender. My rebuttal to this is that I will never forget the instances in which I used the wrong gender and was corrected and therefore while painful, they are vital learning moments. Two different times, in two different boulangeries I used the wrong gender, once for a croissant (masculine) and once for a baguette (feminine). Both times the person helping me replied with the correct gender, very politely, and I was left feeling like I had failed the entirety of France. Since then I carefully collect myself beforehand and although the gender of nouns is becoming second nature to me and an instinct I can rely on, I still carefully prepare myself for the interaction.

Finally a specific and rather horrifying language revelation which I had just three weeks ago: While in my translation class we were translating a sentence about a skirt barely covering a woman’s “buttocks” and discussing which French word would work best. My professor settled on “fesses” but not before lecturing us about the vulgarity of “cul” or the equivalent of “ass”. While she talked and carefully pronounced the French “u” in it, I realized that I had been using the same word in a different form my whole time in France. When entering a restaurant or shop to buy something I invariably ask people standing in front of the register “Vous êtes en queue?” (are you in line?). Except instead of the correct longer u/oo sound, I’ve been doing a very neat and harsh French “u” because I’m so proud that I can pronounce this difficult letter. I don’t know exactly what I’ve been asking people, but for 8 months I’ve probably said the word “ass” to a stranger almost every week.

And here are some pictures from a day trip to Arles and Les-Baux-de-Provence one Saturday in late March:

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Relics in the church

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Really, really good lunch! Very warm and homey and therefore perfect for a rainy day

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The garden of a hospital where Van Gogh stayed for a period

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The café from Van Gogh’s famous night café painting! (Unfortunately there’s a restaurant next door so I couldn’t get a very good angle)

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The view from Les-Baux-de-Provence!

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An adorable little village

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Elisabeth’s Paris

Almost 7 months into my stay in France I have made it to Paris 4 different times for trips on average of about 4 days. During this time I have been able to see a lot of Paris and discover favorite places to come back to. Instead of doing a post for each visit I wanted to compile some of my favorite things to do, see and eat in Paris!

Touristy things:

One of my biggest take aways from traveling this year is that tourist offices are amazing places and should be taken advantage. Paris’ one in Hotel de Ville might be the best one I’ve visited. It had tons of free maps (of Paris, of the Metro, of biking Paris, for self-guided walking tours, etc) and guides and information about all sorts of exhibits, festivals and events going on. When I was there in February there was also a very good exhibit (completely in French) on Nazi propaganda which had been organized in conjunction with the American Holocaust Museum in Washington DC.

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Overall my strategy has been to pick a neighborhood or two with some things I want to see and then to wander and see what I find. This has worked out really well for me, because there will undoubtedly be something beautiful or historic or interesting. If one is to visit the major monuments I would check one out and then explore the surrounding neighborhood. And also walk as much as possible to really see Paris! It’s not always charming or cute, but that’s something important to accept with any city.

Favorite monument: Arc du Triomphe

Really, really impressive to see in real life

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Favorite touristy thing to do: Sainte Chapelle or a visit to the top of Notre Dame

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Sainte Chappelle is incredible, but you have to make sure to visit on a sunny day to get the full effect

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Visiting the top of Notre Dame offers an incredible view of Paris

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You also get to visit a bell tower!

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I particularly enjoyed checking out the little winding streets and old architecture of the Latin Quarter from above

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Favorite art museum: Musée Marmatton Monet

A small, less known museum tucked at the edge of the 16th Arrondissement with an amazing collection

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Favorite historical museum: Gallery of Paleontology and Comparative Anatomy at the Natural History Museum

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Though there isn’t much information or guidance it’s really interesting and impressive to see all the fossils. It also has very old labels with beautiful handwriting!

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Favorite “fun” museum: Choco-Story, a chocolate museum in the 10th Arrondissement

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Chocolate demonstration! There also was free chocolate samples at different points of the museum

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Despite claiming that chocolate prevents cavities (?!?) it was a really interesting and well put together museum

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My hot cocoa afterwards! A cube of chocolate which I mixed into warm milk

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Favorite view of the Eiffel Tower: Across the river on the right bank.

Here’s the view from Pont Alma near the Musée d’Art Moderne/Palais Tokyo (museums that I also recommend)

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And alternatively from the 16th Arrondissement

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Favorite cemetery: Cimetière de Montmartre

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I’ve also visited Père-Lachaise and Montparnasse, and found all three all pretty similar. I liked this one best because having the busy street cut through it (though elevated above the actual cemetery) creates a really interesting effect. It also is where I found the oldest graves (my personal mission in all cemeteries, I found deaths in the early 19th century here).

I don’t usually try to visit the famous graves, but like stumbling upon them

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The creator of the Cancan!

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Fiat? The weathering of the stone also makes it look like there’s an exclamation point after it

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Favorite tourist spot to visit: Opéra/Palais Garnier

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An exhibit on Léon Bakst and the Ballets Russes that was going on when I visited in February

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The contrast between the Chagall ceiling and the classical style room is pretty incredible

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I’d take this over Versaille’s Hall of Mirrors any day (also waaaay less people)

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A lot of my time in Paris has been spent eating and I’ve managed to find a lot of amazing places to return to time and time again. Here are my favorite spots!

Favorite falafel: Chez Hanna on Rue des Rosiers (an honorable mention for favorite street). It’s common belief that L’as du Falafel is the best falafel, but personally I prefer Chez Hanna, which is just down the street and usually much less crowded

Their falafel is great but their schawarma (below) became my personal favorite when I was in Paris two weekends ago

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Favorite crepes: Creperie des Arts

I still haven’t taken a picture of this place because every time I am eating the fresh crepe as quickly as possible. While it’s on a very tourist street, it has never disappointed me and if you walk just a few blocks away the neighborhood changes and becomes much more charming. (My personal favorite is their Buerre sucre, but the caramel beurre salé is great too, just more messy)

Favorite galettes (savory crepes): tie between Au P’tit Grec and La Droguerie

Au P’tit Grec is delicious and fresh (I highly recommend adding lettuce and tomatoes)….

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…whereas La Droguerie is just classic crepes done really well. Both their neighborhoods are cute, the crepes are reasonably priced and so you can’t lose either way

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Favorite boulangerie: tie between Du Pain et Des Idées and Le Grenier à Pain

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Du Pain et Des Idées is a stones throw from Canal Saint Martin and is old and charming

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A heavenly “Chocolatine” (the fancy name for Pain au Chocolat)

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Le Grenier à Pain is in Montmartre and has many awards

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My palmier from there was enormous and incredible

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Favorite fries: Du Clercq Des Rois Des Frites

Belgian style frites with super delicious different sauces. Easily the best fries I’ve ever eaten (they’re double fried in beef tallow!!)

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Favorite ice cream: Berthillon

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Admittedly I haven’t gone anywhere else but they’re just that good. I recommend going to the actual store to get the most varieties and (from my research) the best price. My favorite flavor is Feuille de Menthe which basically mint chocolate chip with little bits of mint, but I also recommend their sorbets which are delicious

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I pride myself on not being an obnoxious tourist who has to see all the “must-see” sights and like I said before, I wander and explore. So here are some of my favorite more off the beaten track things to do

Favorite street: Tie between Rue Montorgeuil and Rue de Seine

Rue Montorgeuil is a partially pedestrian street in the 2nd Arrondisement just north of Chatelet-Les Halles. It has beautiful, historic famous cafes and boulangeries and is overall just very charming and interesting.

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Here’s a famous boulangerie that had really adorable food postcards which I bought for my kitchen

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Rue de Seine is a street in Saint-Germain-des-Près, in the 6th, which is full of galleries and cute stores. Honestly I don’t love this street specifically as much as I love wandering through it and the neighboring streets, but its a reference point at least! I haven’t taken any pictures of it but here’s a map showing all the galleries on a little side street:

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Favorite store: Mariage Frères or Merci

Mariage Frères is an amazing tea company with stores around Paris. This one, on Rue Montorgeuil is rather small, and I particularly enjoyed the one on Rue du Bourg Tibourg in the Marais. No matter which location, the tea will be delicious and there should be a selection of samples on display to smell!

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Merci is a beautiful, rather expensive, concept store with a café, used bookstore, and clothing and home goods store inside. It’s worth a visit and if you’re like me you can wander about, use the bathroom and buy two cheap books all without feeling guilty. It’s on the edge of Marais in the 3rd Arrondissement and has two entrances, one of which is a beautiful courtyard which I recommend

(That’s a mannequin!)

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In late February they were getting really pumped up for Spring

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Yep, that’s about 3 floors of shopping!

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Favorite places to relax and read: Jardin du Luxembourg or Place des Vosges

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Bonus hidden treasure: les Passages in the 9th Arrondissement. These are essentially little covered streets that have restaurants and stores inside of them. They’re not all incredible but it’s a fun, less known thing to do and there are many hidden gems. A few of the best known ones are Passage des Princes and Passage des Panoramas

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La Suisse

After Italy my next stop during February break was Switzerland where I went to visit my friend Annina who lived with my host family last semester.

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Our first full day we drove out to a village called Saint Antoinen

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After I had almost no snow in Sweden over Christmas this was very exciting!

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Walking across the ski slopes

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Wandering through Pany, a larger charming village

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That afternoon we went to Meinfeld, a town next to Annina’s, where she was teaching a French class while the regular professor was gone. Meinfeld is the town where author Johanna Spyri based the famous book Heidi. After the class we drove up to the little tourist area with replicas of the house and cottage where Heidi lived.

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The cottage where she supposedly lived

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From there we drove just over the hill to Liechtenstein! It was small (obviously), not particularly exciting and very similar to Switzerland, but also probably my best chance to visit it, so it was worth it.

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You can just barely see the castle up on the hill where the Prince and his family lives

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The next day Annina, her boyfriend and I headed out in the car again. Our first stop was Saint Moritz, a ski resort town, where the Alpine skiing world championships were being held!

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To welcome the athletes from around the world different stores were assigned a country to welcome on their front doors or front window

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After lunch in a nearby town we drove to Guarda, a village well known for inspiring a classic Swiss children’s book, Schellen-Ursli by Alois Carigiet, which was made into a film in 2015

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It’s known for having very well preserved historical architecture

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Next we drove to the nearby Tarasp Castle

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We hiked up to the entrance and found out that it was closed, but while we were at this beautiful door a man in a car drove up. Annina joked with him and he ended up offering to let us into the courtyard. While Annina and Jan kept talking with him it turned out that he is the nephew of a Swiss artist who recently bought the castle and he was there to set it up for a concert and fondue dinner. By now he had let us into the actual castle and allowed us to take a leisurely circuit to see the inside. It was absolutely beautiful and a pretty once in a lifetime experience

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As I said, the new owner is an artist so he had interesting modern art mixed in throughout the house

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The next day we headed out to Lucerne for the day

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We first headed up the mountain, Pilatus, in these lovely gondolas

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The ride up was beautiful and has made me want to come back to go skiing and sledding someday!

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It was incredibly beautiful

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One of my favorite pictures I’ve taken the whole year. Yep, that’s a little tiny chapel!

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Here’s the enormous gondola we took for the final leg – it had at least 20 people inside, so the size is hard to understand from this distance

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It was sunny and we had a beautiful view!

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Our delicious lunch. I had Älplermagronen, or Alpine pasta. It was pasta with potatoes, onions, cheese and fried onions and super delicious.

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Lucerne was a beautiful city with lots of historic buildings

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A view from the famous bridge

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The sections in the eaves were painted, most from groups associated with Lucerne’s Carnival celebration, but this is an example of one of the few historic ones

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There are also beautiful murals and buildings associated with Lucerne’s historic guilds

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The old city wall

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The end to an amazing day in Lucerne

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The chocolate haul for the day!

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My last full day in Switzerland we headed to Zurich!

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The beautiful, and unfortunately closed, Lindt store

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The view from the Zurich Cathedral

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Throughout the afternoon we wandered through Zurich and stumbled upon a beautiful neighborhood with charming doors and little details

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My lunch: currywurst

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My first roasted chestnuts – very yummy and perfect for the brisk weather

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Apparently a take out place inside the in-progress Chinese garden?

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The Le Courbusier museum!

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Lindt!!

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Next stop: the Swiss National Museum. Annina and I only made it through 2 exhibits (literally 2 large rooms) in 90 minutes because they were so interesting and interactive

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Annina’s and my last dinner in a Swiss German beer hall. I feel in love with Swiss food while there because it’s essentially my favorite foods and very comfort-food-y. I had essentially hashbrowns with cheese, ham and onions and Annina had schnitzel and spaetzle, which is kind of like a soft pasta.

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On the train across Switzerland the next day. Shoutout to Saumya for the tip to take the Golden Pass train. It had huge windows and the view was amazing. Unfortunately I was on the wrong side most of the time, so I didn’t take many pictures.

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My beloved travel companion. Also, I broke down and decided to try paprika chips, which apparently are very popular in Switzerland. (They tasted a lot like barbecue chips)

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A quick stop in Geneva! Unfortunately it was very, very cloudy.

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March Adventures

What has happened in the past month and a half since I posted?

  • I went to Paris. Twice. (Yes, MANY pictures to follow)
  • I turned 21! One of my favorite and most memorable birthdays to date, though little less climactic than usual since I’ve been able to drink in France for the past 6 months.

I met up with a good friend to go to my favorite place for lunch: Ikea. There I had my best Ikea meal yet and picked up a new trashcan, a small potted plant (which unfortunately has not survived) and gingerbread!

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That night I went to my regular language exchange followed by going with everyone to our usual bar. After many long, wonderful conversations and two free glasses of wine I picked up a sugar crepe on the way home.

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For my birthday I had a little party with friends at my apartment. Here’s my cheese and snack spread:

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And a picture of my halfway eaten chocolate tart, which I made in lieu of a birthday cake

 

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Some presents from my wonderful friends: wine, chocolate and sweet coconut!

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  • We’ve had two more cooking classes. Each semesters my program director, Amy, has organized 4 cooking classes for us, and I’ve managed to attend every one and really enjoy them.

In our class the day after my birthday we made “succès” (literally, success), which like most of the desserts we’ve made included meringue-y biscuits and lots of delicious cream. Here’s some action shots Elise took of my construction

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And the whole group!

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Last weekend we made spring rolls for our final class. Here we are again:

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  • The weekend after my birthday I went to Angers to visit my dad’s host family, the Tigers, when he studied there during college. I was pretty nervous because I hadn’t seen them since I was 12 and it was the first time (after visiting them at ages 1, 5 and 9), that I’d be able to actually speak in French with them. But, those worries were for naught because they were some of the kindest people I have met and we were able to communicate perfectly.

I discovered that Angers is a beautiful, old city with amazing preserved architecture

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Here is my enormous breakfast spread chez Tiger!

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Me in the Jardin du Mail

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Saturday afternoon we took a trip along the Loire River, visiting charming little villages along the way. Here is a small chateau, Chateau Le Prieuré, where my grandparents stayed some 30+ years ago when they visited my dad! It has since been bought by an American and is being restored back to it’s former glory

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Madame Tiger suggested we sneak under the gate for the view over the river, since it was saturday she was sure there’d be no workers about, and it was well worth it!

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Then we drove to Saumur, a city with a stunning chateau.

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Unfortunately it was the off season, so we didn’t get to go inside

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The old part of the town also had beautifully preserved buildings

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And as a final souvenir of Angers, the Tigers gave me Quernons d’Ardoise as a parting gift. That is, chocolate covered nougat meant to resemble the slate stone which Angers is famous for.

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  • Elise and I hosted brunch for some friends last sunday!

A delicious fruit salad, each fruit brought by a different guest. Also mimosas, an Alsatian cake, french toast, yogurt and quiche!

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The whole gang (featuring my kitchen and part of my wall of postcards). Nearly everyone is from the Mount Holyoke program with the exception of Hayden, from Montana State, standing next to me and my good friend Christina, from my language exchange, at the far left.

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I made Julia Child’s Leek Quiche recipe (including the pastry), added mushrooms, Parmesan and emmental cheese and it was fantastic!

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  • Most recently I successfully presented in my integrated contemporary American art history class, on land artist Michael Heizer
  • And overall I continued to adore living in Montpellier

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L’Italie Part Duo

I made it to Milan!

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Constellations made on the street with old gum!

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It’s a bit hard to see but there were tons of cats in the old moat – I counted about 10 in this section alone

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A little late morning gelato

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Right about here, on my way to the Cathedral, I ran into Caley and Ashling, two girls from Mount Holyoke who are living just blocks away from me in Montpellier, who were traveling together! It was a crazy coincidence that not only were we in Milan on the same day, but on the same busy street walking towards each other!

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We decided to brave the line for the Cathedral together and it went surprisingly quickly, probably because we had each other to talk to.

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Super dramatic gift shop inside the Cathedral

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The inside was ridiculous. The height isn’t super impressive, but it is remarkably wide and the columns are massive and everything is covered in detailed carvings.

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I’m a sucker for relics like this

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A quick selfie before we parted ways

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I followed Brandon’s advice and paid the 9€ to go up to the roof of the Duomo, and just like he said it was totally worth it

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This is literally the roof!

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At the suggestion of Caley I went to Luini for lunch to try Panzerotti – essentially fried dough filled with different ingredients, both savoury and sweet. I got mozarella and tomato and it was amazing. I had to stop myself from going immediately back for another round. And the best part – they were 2€50!

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La Galleria

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I camped out in La Rinascente (a very fancy department store) to rest for a bit and had a hot cocoa that was essentially a bar of melted chocolate

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More than a bit devastated to not see any police officers with the capes. Looks like I’ll just have to come back and hunt them down next time

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Here’s the building where Da Vinci’s Last Supper is! Unfortunately it was closed on Mondays so I didn’t get to go inside.

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The Duomo might be even more beautiful at night

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A delicious dinner at Nerino Deici Trattoria at the recommendation of Brandon. First were delicious, spicy mussels. (I tried to take this picture very casually)

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Finally delicious steak battered in chickpea batter on herbs and broccoli covered in cheese (and a hipster bag of bread which I polished off)

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Day 4 off to Lake Como! Luckily just an hour train ride from Milan, so it was an easy day trip

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Don’t be fooled, most of the walk/hike was one a little sidewalk next to the very busy road

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As close as I got to the Villa del Balbianello, which is closed in the winter

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Sometimes Italian architecture got a bit heavy and crazy for me

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I was delighted by this car parked on the train tracks and really wanted to stick around to see what would happen

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High fashion (and no shame) as I head off to the train station

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Milan’s train station

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Final thoughts:

  • Milan had some cool sites and great food, but it was very much a large, touristy city. A lot of the attractions were also luxury clothing stores, which are fun to see but not very accessible.
  • Lake Como was incredibly gorgeous and the ferry day pass was very convenient, but it was also off season and therefore pretty empty. I didn’t mind it as much as Cinque Terre, but I think it would be even more interesting and exciting in the summer
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L’Italie Part Uno

Two weeks ago I headed to Northern Italy for the start of a 10 day vacation during my February break (yes, a break already!). I got very lucky that in addition to a week long break there were two weeks of exam retakes immediately afterwards, and because I did well in all my courses that meant 3 weeks of vacation!

I was very lucky that I had an extensive itinerary planned for me by my good friend Brandon who studied Italian in Genoa a few summers ago. So shoutout to him for the food and travel suggestions!

First night in Genoa! My hostel was a few minutes walk from the Piazza de Ferrari with this beautiful lit up fountain.

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The beautiful ceiling in the kitchen of my hostel!

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Beautiful rooftop gardens

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Apparently Italians are really into graffiti (including replying to and editing each other) because I saw it all over Genoa. Here’s a shot that shows it off pretty well.

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It did rain most of the morning but that didn’t deter me and it was beautiful

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Cattedrale di San Lorenzo

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Not exactly the most flattering representation

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I saw a homeless man down at the dock reclining the same position

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Palazzo Ducale

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A great exhibit I went to (with one of the pigeons that made it inside)

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An interesting juxtaposition in the room presenting Warhol’s polaroidsimg_9745

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Delicious focaccia from Foaccia Della Casana

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Part of the old city walls

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Christopher Columbus’ house!

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I mean, it is Italy

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Via Garibaldi with lots of beautiful palaces, which are now banks (which says a lot to me about Italy)

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Delicious gelato from Gelateria Profumo

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I hiked back up for a night view of the city

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Gelato round 2 was definitely worth it. Apparently the cone is the way to go to maximize how much you get

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I met an awesome Canadian woman at the hostel and we went to Cavour 21, a restaurant recommended by our hostel known for pesto (which is from the region of Liguria). Easily the most amazing pasta I have ever had and it was also terrifyingly cheap (mine was 5€50!)

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Emma really wanted octopus and I was feeling adventurous and it paid off. Super delicious and we know it was fresh because we could see the ocean from the restaurant.

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A statue of Christopher Columbus outside the main train station

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Day 2: Off to Cinque Terre! More rain in the morning, which proved a challenge but overall I loved it. It was definitely the off season, and also a Sunday so the cities were all sort of ghost towns. But I got a more intimate experience and hope I can return when the weather is better

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This is a bit hard to see and washed out but it’s the placement of the map of Monterosso, on the other side of the major road. Not the most convenient since it was a wide one lane and lacked any kind of sidewalk

 

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My only view of Monterosso, because at this point it was completely pouring rain unfortunately so I ran back to the train station and hoped for the best

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Vernazza, the second city of Cinque Terre. The weather cleared and I found it beautiful and charming

 

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I wandered through little streets and was rewarded with gorgeous, charming houses

 

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Eventually it led to the hiking trail to Monterosso which I followed for a little while and got beautiful views

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The way up to city number 3, Corniglia. I knew it was up on a hill but didn’t realize how long it was going to take to get up and down. (Note: I also had my hiking backpack for the trip with everything inside, so I was significantly weighed down!)

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Just a sprinkling of rain and lots of mist

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City number 4: Manarola! This one was a veritable rainbow of colors and absolutely beautiful. Much larger and very fun to wander through.

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Quite the range at this bar

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Final city – Riomaggiore! The walk there from the station was a bit long, but very beautiful

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When people can’t graffiti the buildings, they turn to plants?

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I followed the signs back to the train station and it ended being through this tunnel. Faster for sure, but I missed the beautiful walk that I had taken on the way there.

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Final thoughts:

  • Genoa was an amazing city. Beautiful and charming and a perfect size to wander around. Also not very touristy which I appreciated.
  • Cinque Terre managed to be a good day despite the rain and nothing being open (combination of it being a Sunday and off season). I would love to go back to see it during the summer and get to stay there. The best view of the cities is definitely by the hiking trails
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