Now that I am back home, I thought I would talk a little bit about the food overseas. Before I left for London, I had heard that it was one of the best food cities in the world. I am not saying that's totally off, only that you need to be fairly wealthy to taste any of that food. Living in Portland, I can pretty much walk into any hole in the wall and safely assume the food will be good. I can confidently tell you this is not the case in London. Pub food is generally terrible, and please don't trust the sandwiches at Tesco's, no matter how desperate you are. Good, inexpensive food isn't impossible to find, it's more that you can't trust just anywhere to have it. As a vegetarian, it was still relatively easy to find places to eat. The biggest difference I discovered is that veggie burgers are made with something similar to squeaky cheese? I did suggest several little places I liked in Bloomsbury previously. If anything, you can always go to Waitrose and get a slice of reasonably priced pizza or soup. Italy, however, is a DREAM for carb loving vegetarians like me. Paris proved the most difficult considering most traditional French dishes include meat (even pigeon). I found myself eating croissants and cheese most days. French onion soup is surprisingly difficult to find, but if you do, TRY IT. It's delicious. Long story short, use tripadvisor for everything. Europe is extremely vegetarian friendly so no worries. Even vegans will be happy eating in London, though it will be more difficult everywhere else. I posted a few yummy meals below!
This morning is my last in the big EU. I do not want to leave, yet I am missing home more than ever. Yesterday was a great final day, though. We went to several local markets in the morning. Later, mom and I were able to visit the Van Gogh museum (no pictures in there either) which has the largest collection of his paintings. It did a very nice job, giving plenty of context to his work. The current exhibit actually focuses on Van Gogh's struggle with mental illness, which I really appreciated considering it isn't really acknowledged in the rest of the museum. As always, it was wonderful to see original pieces by another one of my favorite artists. Later in the night, we decided to explore the red light district because, well, ya gotta. It was an experience, to say the least. I was amazed to see families with young children taking tours of the area, but it is all very touristy now. It was still fun in a strange sort of way. Now, I sit in the airport about to board a flight back home. I don't think I have ever understood the term "bittersweet" more than I do now. See ya in 10 hours, Portland!
This morning we woke up fairly early to visit the famous floating flower markets (Bloemenmarkt) before our reservation at the Anne Frank House. I am sad to admit it was very disappointing, especially after the French markets. While you would probably expect to find flowers at a flower market, there are hardly any. Instead, room after room of tourist shops with keychains, clogs, wooden tulips (which are admittedly adorable), etc. So, we cut our loses and ordered a Heineken and mini Dutch pancakes across the street. Soon after, we headed to the Anne Frank House by canal boat. No pictures were allowed in the house but it was a sobering experience to be inside the annex where the families lived and where Anne's diary was written. I had to continually remind myself where I was because it truly did not feel real. Years after reading her story for the first time, I am in awe once again. Anne was so eloquent and wise beyond her years. What a timeless and chilling reminder of the past.
We arrived in Amsterdam this afternoon by train. The walk from the station to our hotel was a wet one. It is POURING here, so we waited in the little restaurant underneath our room with a pint before venturing out. Dutch is a bit harder to master than French or Italian, so we are lucky that English seems to be widely used here. Everyone is so nice, and the city is charming even in the rain. We will be here only two days before heading back to Portland. Early bedtime tonight and the Anne Frank House tomorrow, very excited!
Today, on our last day in Paris, we visited the Louvre. It is the world's largest museum and one of the most overwhelming places I've ever been. There is so much to see, so many crowds, and so much ground to cover. Still, it was unbelievable to witness one of the greatest collections of art and history. The museum itself was originally built as a fortress under Philip II. In the 15th century, it was transformed into a palace and the primary residence of French kings, the first being Francis I. After the French Revolution, the palace was made into a museum. The museum did remain a residence for Napoleon III years after, who's extravagant apartment is now part of the exhibit. After the museum, we grabbed something to eat and then checked off one of my biggest bucket list items for Paris: visiting a jazz club. We decided to go to Chez Papa Jazz Club simply because it was the first one stumbled upon. We got lucky. Great vibes and great music, perhaps my favorite night in Paris.
We didn't have any plans today, so we decided to walk to the Eiffel tower and have a mini picnic. How surreal it is to sit under the tower and drink champagne on a sunny day. After, we bought tickets for a tour boat along the Seine to get back to the hotel. When we passed under the Pont Neuf (the love lock bridge), we hopped off to buy locks. Missing my love today, but now we have a lock in Paris (A+B).
Moulin Rouge! has always been one of my favorite movies. The jukebox musical takes place in bohemian Monmartre in 1900. While I knew Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman probably wouldn't be there, it seemed necessary to see the cabaret show. Tickets were fairly pricey, but it was completely worth it (and it came with a bottle of champagne). Before the show, we explored Montmartre, climbing the steps up to Basilica of the Sacre-Coeur to see fantastic views of the city. We arrived to the Moulin Rouge around an hour before the show started. No pictures were allowed inside the theater but it was lovely. The show itself lasted about 2 hours and it was SO FUN. My mom and I both loved it!
We arrived in Paris last night. Once again, traveling was a bit exhausting so we only took a walk around the area and found a place to eat before going to bed early. This morning, we ate breakfast in our hotel garden and took the metro to Notre Dame. Though we did not go inside due to the absurdity of the line, the exterior was beautiful. There is a French flower market a few streets over that will definitely make you wish you could pack orange trees in your suitcase. After, we walked around the Latin Quarter just across the river. Come here for the bistros and bookshops! The most famous is Shakespeare & Company, there were no pictures inside the doors, but it is absolutely magical. Once a 16th century monestary, it was modeled and named after Sylvia Beach's previous store, opened in the 1920's. There are beds and various pieces of furniture tucked around the shelves for writers to sleep in in exchange for help around the store. Upstairs, there is a huge room of historic poetry books for anyone to read. When entering the reading room, you are greeted by the shop's motto: ""Be Not Inhospitable to Strangers Lest They Be Angels in Disguise".
This morning I must say goodbye to a city after my own heart. Rome, I will miss your photogenic buildings, extensive history, and the best pasta of my life. If only Portland had such a selection of authentic Italian food, or I could stuff my carryon with fettuccine alfredo. After four full days of exploration, I feel as though I have barely scratched the surface of this ancient city. As far as first impressions go, ya did pretty good. Italy, I will see you again soon. Next stop: Paris!
No words can describe how it feels to stare up at over two thousand years of history. According to Roman mythology, Mars and Princess Rhea Silvia had twin boys in 717BC. They were ordered to be drowned in the Tiber river but were instead found and raised by the wolf Lupa. Romulus, one of the boys, would later go on to found the city of Rome, right where I stood on Palentine Hill. About 700 years later, the iconic Colosseum was built. At the time, it was comparable to a modern day football stadium. The gladiators and the animals were the stars, only the stakes were much higher. What an amazing place where a huge piece of the past stands still and strong.