This past week was the first of two breaks during my four month scholarly stint in Rome, and three companions and I spent our time in Paris and Firenze. We holed up in a budget hotel for our first six nights in Paris, and crashed on a significantly less comfortable floor for our one night in Florence.

As starving students (alright, maybe not STARVING), we did everything we could to pinch pennies. Booking our flights through the notorious RyanAir was the first step. We had heard the horror stories about lost luggage, cancelled flights and non-existent customer service, but it's really hard to turn down a flight that costs one euro cent (before 20 bucks worth of taxes of course). The flights were booked, and with that, we ventured bravely on.

The morning of the ninth was an early one; we rose at 3:30AM to make our early flight. We later realized this was unnecessary for several reasons. First, our €55 cab ride took about 15 minutes (thanks largely to the fact that the driver averaged 95kmph in the 50 zone, while the line dividing the highway into two lanes split our cab down the middle). Also, we flew out of Ciampino airport, a boofty little airstrip that doesn't open until 4:45AM. Next, there's the fact that the RyanAir staff showed up late for work, apparently unaffected by the impatient Italian crowd eager to travel. Finally, our flight was inexplicably delayed a little over an hour.

If I'm droning on about the self-proclaimed "Low-Fares Airline!" you'll have to forgive me; I was a bit in awe of how unprofessional and relaxed the airline was compared to my previous flying experiences.

Once we had finally boarded the plane, the first thing I noticed was the shockingly yellow interior. "Gaudy" doesn't even begin to describe it. The color coated the backs of the seats and the overhead compartments, making it impossible to get comfortable. If Crayola were to make a RyanAir-inspired crayon, I think they'd call it: "Epilepsy-Inducing Yellow."

On top of this sea of eyeache were strategically placed advertisements. By strategically, I mean that their strategy was to put em freakin' everywhere. This included, but was not limited to, over the PA system. Every 20 minutes or so, our friendly flight attendants pitched us various knickknacks. I've never been so thankful for my sound-isolating headphones. My favorite part of the ride, however, was when several employees distributed RyanAir scratch lotto cards for the low low price of €2.

Upon landing, I witnessed firsthand what is perhaps my favorite Italian custom so far: the thunder of applause that follows a successful touchdown. My neighbors very enthusiastically showed their appreciation to the pilot for keeping us alive. It filled me a with a warm, fuzzy feeling that I rarely experience before entering an airport.

The transit was definitely the least fun part of my trip though, and after an hour long bus ride into Paris, we settled into our hotel.

That night, two Canadian bands I'm particularly fond of were playing a show close to our hotel and traveling-buddy Lauren and I decided to go. We were immediately met with two disappointments. The band we really came to see, Apostle of Hustle (who had been scheduled to open the show), canceled on account of illness and beer cost €7 a pint. Our mood went on the upswing quickly though, as the replacement opener rocked house and the pricey beverage started flowing through our veins. The main act, Stars, performed better than we expected, and our first night in Paris was a big success.

We awoke the next day to our hotel's included breakfast. This was comprised of a baguette, a crossaint, jam, butter and cream cheese, along with our choice of coffee or tea. I was actually surprised at how good it all was, and looked forward to this meal every day of our stay. This particular morning, though, it was especially important that we carb up for the first order of business: EuroDisney. I could go on for a while about the experience, but if the truth be told, it really isn't that different from regular Disneyland with one big exception. The rides at EuroDisney are way more intense and fun than those at the tamer American counterparts.

That night Lauren and I ventured out to another concert, this time to see a England-based band known as British Sea Power. Now would be a good time to note that the music scene in Paris is incredible, particularly in contrast to All-Our-Original-Music-Is-A-Poor-
American-Music-Rome (you can just call it "Rome" for short). Our disappointment came upon entry this night; the venue looked shockingly similar to my high school drama theater, except that they sold wine and beer. Again our negativity was quickly washed away by an awesome performance.

After the show we chowed down on our first great kebab of the trip. For those of you out of the loop on this one, a Parisian kebab is a sandwich on a big doughy roll filled with a huge portion of greasy chicken and your choice of sauces and vegetables. They are always served avec frites, with a mountain of equally greasy French fries. I ate far too many (too few?) of them over the course of our week in Paris.

The next few days were spent in and out of all the major museums in the City of Lights. The Musee d'Orsay and l'Orangerie were easily our favorites; the Louvre failed to impress based entirely on its enormous size. We climbed to the top of Notre Dame and studied a beautiful panorama of the city. We were lucky and happened to be in Paris the few days all season in which it was sunny and clear from morning till night (it was really damn cold, though). We took an expensive elevator ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower (which is about ten times taller than I imagined it being), and marveled at the beautiful stained glass in Sainte Chappelle.

One full day was spent at Chateau Versailles. Lauren stayed behind with her ever-so-helpful Parisian resident/friend Meghann, while myself and my two other travel buddies, Marija and Chanel, stood in awe of Louis XIV's exercise in narcissism. The building itself was remarkable on its own, with huge rooms decorated so meticulously it would make the Queer Eye guys blush. However, what impressed me the most were the gardens. The trees and lawns seem to stretch on forever, and we rented bikes so we could more efficiently see everything the gardens have to offer.

Later that night, we took a trip to McDonald's just to confirm that Vincent wasn't lying when he tells Jules about the Royal with cheese in Pulp Fiction (he wasn't). While we were there, I tried to order a Happy Meal with a beer, and after consulting her manager, the woman working the counter wouldn't let me.

By the end of our Paris trip we all had sore legs from an unbelievable amount of walking, but we had gained a real appreciation for the city. I'm not sure what it is, but the amount of beauty contained in this place is remarkable. The people were more or less as friendly as Italians, and I don't particularly like the way the language sounds, but I do know that I'd love to go back some day. Maybe it's the kebabs.

By the time we arrived in Florence, I was really ready to get back to Rome. Paris had left me so satisfied I really didn't need to see anything else, at least not at this point. I was relieved, however, to find cappuccinos for less than a euro again. Believe it or not, we were hard pressed to find cappuccino (or any espresso drink for that matter) for less than three or four euros a pop ($4.50-$6 USD). It came as quite a shock to our systems to break the habit of our daily coffee beverage, and I don't think I felt like I was truly back in Italy until that first sip hit my lips.

Despite our desire to get home, we did the tourist thing for a day. We toured Il Duomo di Firenze and hit La Galleria dell'Accademia to see Michelangelo's David before hopping on a train back to Rome.

Classes here have resumed, and the mountain of work facing me is giving me an ugly look, so its time to sign off.

Buonanotte, amici.

P.S. For your clicking ease, here is a link to the Flickr page containing all my photos from the Paris portion of my trip, many with captions and anecdotes:
Click Here, Please.

EDIT: P.P.S. Not sure how I forgot to include these. For those that are interested, two video clips I shot at the aforementioned concerts can be found below.

Stars - "Elevator Love Letter"

British Sea Power - "Waving Flags"


  1. Joi said...

    i totally keep forgetting you guys are in italy.
    do my italian homework for me when you're done with your pile?  

  2. Meghann said...

    I'm sad that RyanAir screwed you over so bad. In any case, take EasyJet whenever you can. They are the bomb.  


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