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Click the image to read my latest post!
It officially feels like winter in Washington, D.C. For all of us in the city, days spent out are coming to an end and days spent in are just beginning.
With a nine-to-five in public relations supporting a top travel account, cabin fever can set in quickly. Inspired by my client’s worldwide work, I’ve returned to my blog to relive my own international adventures and share them with you! I will be resuming my writing at my trip to Dublin, Ireland, for St. Patrick’s Day 2017, when I was spending the spring studying abroad in Nice, France.
WordPress tells me that I’ve run out of free storage space for my photos, and my intern hourly wage tells me that I don’t have the money to buy the solution. Getting creative, each post from now on will link out to the rest of the entry. Simply click here or the image above to read.
Sunday Morning Markets
Whether its flowers, food, fancy goods or flea market finds in Madrid, luxury shopping or international eats in London, Easter treats in Prague, creative crafts in Budapest, or crazy cuisine in Barcelona, exploring the concentration of cultural curio found in a market is one of my favorite things to do when traveling. Though sometimes a tourist trap, most markets still have roots in the heart of the culture and provide an insider’s look into the lives of the people. In Paris, Sunday morning sees hundreds of vendors set up in the city for the marchés aux puces (flea markets), so I chose one of the area’s many markets and set out to explore.
I had planned to visit Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, one of the biggest flea markets in Europe, but did not have time to travel far from the city center. Instead, I went to the Les Puces de Vanves, a smaller market south of the Seine.
I arrived at the market around 9 a.m., which was still a little too early for the French. After about an hour, all of the displays were organized, and a steady stream of visitors scanned diverse collections of items for potential purchases.
This flea market was not unlike many others that I have visited, with many similar novelties for sale. Nonetheless it was a nice way to spend the morning.
Hot Chocolate Heaven
For a filling brunch before my flight, I made reservations at Angelina, a special, Parisian café recommendation from a friend. Angelina is known for its hot chocolate, so I set out to discover if the praise met my high expectations.
The meal was expensive, as I had anticipated, but offered plenty to eat. The hot chocolate was very good, thick and sweet, though I still think Madrid’s chocolate con churros does the warm, rich drink the best. The food probably could have been split between two people, but as solo adventures were the theme of this trip, breakfast was no different! I enjoyed my fancy, French-inspired brunch, down to the very last drop of Angelina hot chocolate, and made my way back to Nice.
Overall, I had a great week! It provided just the right amount of time with traveling friends as it did time alone. I navigated transportation, ate in restaurants, and explored cities by myself. Though I never doubted my travel knowledge and abilities, I did learn to enjoy my own company and be okay with spending time with me.
- Tune in to Podcasts. My mom has recommended that I start following podcasts for a few years now. It took my hour-long walk home from school in Nice to truly become interested in listening to dialogue instead of music, but I have finally started to explore the podcast world. One of the programs I enjoy is Condé Nast Traveler’s “Travelogue,” which discusses the evolving travel industry from a traveler’s point of view. While listening to the March 17 episode, “How Women Are Changing the Travel Industry,” I really identified with some of their comments and stories through the experiences and feelings I had on my Break 1 trip. The section from 3:53 to 5:47, specifically, captures my solo travel observations, but I recommend giving the entire episode a listen and checking out the rest of their conversations!
- Les Puces de Saint-Ouen
- 93400 Saint-Ouen
- Les Puces de Vanves
- 18 Avenue Georges Lafenestre, 75014 Paris
- 226 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris
Paix, Amour, Paris,
Language of Love
The next morning I found myself in a crowd of travelers from all over the world. Though this isn’t a strange occurrence in Paris, it was a special one, because we were all appreciating Le mur des je t’aime, or the Wall of Love. This mural, tucked away in a small park in the neighborhood of Montemarte, features written “I love you”s in more than 250 languages. It took me a few minutes to locate the English inscription, as I was more interested in the findings of the other visitors. While I could understand the Spanish “te amo” (upper right-hand corner) and the French “je t’aime” (left center), people were posing next to phrases so foreign to me that I could not even identify their region of origins. There is still so much of the world to experience!
Passages of Paris
Breaking away from the gathering, I navigated towards the River Seine via a few of Paris’s passages, from Passage Verdeau, to Passage Jouffroy, eventually reaching the most well-known, Passage des Panoramas. These “hidden” hallways house restaurants, boutique shops, and everything in between. I enjoyed the afternoon in quirky antique stores and sophisticated photo galleries.
I followed the walkways down to my next location, “Les Deux Plateaux,” an art installation in the courtyard of the Royal Palace. Though Daniel Buren’s work has been present here for more than 30 years, I had only recently discovered these funky fixtures.
Exiting the courtyard, I ended up just in front of La Comédie – a cafe that I had visited with my family on my last trip to Paris – and realized just how hungry I was! Torn between wanting to try a new restaurant and returning to this reliable café, I ultimately decided to stay. Compromising, I ordered a different meal, this time, the three-cheese quiche. A self-proclaimed quiche connoisseur, I eat a lot of this dish. My mom’s quiche is creamy, smooth, and moist, while my dad’s is dense and cheesy. I enjoy both of my parents’ signature quiches, but La Comedies’ version was one of the best I’ve ever had. Seriously, amazing. Granted, I hadn’t yet eaten that day, and was (and still am) slightly appalled at the 14€-a-serving price tag, but this slice of heaven was worth it.
An appropriate way to spend an evening in Paris, I went department store hopping, appreciating French fashion in the capital of all things chic. The Galeries Lafayette (Haussman), as I’ve previously praised, is always worth a visit, at the very least for the free, panoramic views. Expanding my retail tourism, however, I also explored Le Bon Marché, another popular Parisian shopping destination. Though much less architecturally impressive than the Galeries Lafayette, this mini mall did have a funky, concept store section and a cool, vinyl record cafe.
Only have time for one? Galeries Lafayette. Not only is it’s location is more convenient, near the center of Paris, its glass dome and rooftop views rival the beauty of any other attraction in the city.
- Time of day matters. When visiting the passages of Paris, consider when you choose to go. If you arrive too early, or on a Sunday, many of the shops will be closed and the entire effect of the attraction will be missed. You may skip crowds going at off-peak times, but I think that the skinny passages are in their full glory at mealtimes, when people are packed into cafés and window shopping, walking off the fantastic French fare.
- Souvenir fail. One of my favorite shops in the passages was Paris est une Photo. Though I appreciated his photography, I was more inspired by the old postcards mingling with the photos. DO NOT BUY 12€ MOUNTED POST CARDS FROM THIS SHOP. Five minutes down the hallway, I came across multiple shops selling vintage postcards for 1€ each, or less, and not just one or two shoeboxes full, but at least 10. I’m usually a smart shopper, scanning all my options before going back to get the item I liked best, but of course I lost on this sole, spontaneous purchase.
- Wall of Love
- Square Jean Rictus, Place des Abesses, 75018 Paris
- Passage Verdeau
- Passage Jouffroy
- Passage des Panoramas
- Paris est une Photo
- 55 Passage Jouffroy, Paris, 75009 Paris
- Les Deux Plateaux
- La Comédie
- 157 Rue Saint Honoré, 75001 Paris
- Galeries Lafayette (Haussman)
- 40 Boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris
- Le Bon Marché
- 24 Rue de Sèvres, 75007 Paris
Paix, Amour, Paris,
After my visit in London, I set off on my most foreign trip yet: Vilnius, Lithuania. My research assured me that I would have no problem navigating the land of my ancestors, but I was still apprehensive about the language barrier and my physical and mental distance from anything familiar.
Though the flight to Vilnius was (unsurprisingly) empty, I shared the row with a chatty fellow traveler. He pointed out the window and spoke to me in what I assumed was Lithuanian. When I told him no, I did not understand, in English, he said “Français?” and I replied with a hesitant “Oui…” He explained that he was pointing at the blanket of snow that covered the land below. Coming from a city of the seaside and sunshine, I was not thrilled with this observation. We continued the conversation as well as two people speaking a second language could, and I discovered that Mikhail Yurkov was a Russian pianist giving a private concert in Vilnius that night. He lived in Paris, which is why he had learned French, but his Russian accent was very strong. When I told him that I was going to explore Lithuania because I was Lithuanian, he shook and kissed my hand. He repeated the gesture when I mentioned that I would love to visit Russia after reading the Russian novel War and Peace. With this expression of friendship, I felt good about my upcoming time in Lithuania.
It wasn’t difficult to show the taxi driver my hostel address, so I made my way into town with ease. I stayed at the Litinterp Guesthouse Vilnius in a large, single room with an ensuite bathroom for the same price as I paid for my room in London, a shared bedroom of 14 with a communal hall bathroom.
I noticed the poverty of the area between the airport and the city center, evident from the extensive graffiti and overall disrepair of some of the buildings. Vilnius’s Old Town, however, found on the south side of the Neris River that divides the city, contrasted the capital’s suburbs as quaint and clean little village within an Eastern European metropolis. I ate dinner at Forto Dvaras, a Lithuanian chain restaurant that makes authentic Lithuanian food certified by Lithuanian’s Culinary Heritage Fund. I ordered potato pancakes, a dish that I am familiar with from meals with the Lithuanian half of my family. The pancakes tasted delicious and reminded me exactly of the ones I enjoy at home.
Churches of Vilnius
Vilnius awoke sluggish yet sunny the next morning, and I boarded the hop-on-hop-off tour bus from a rather deserted town square. Accompanied by only two other couples, I rode the bus around Vilnius, gathering an idea of the city’s layout, as well as historic information about the country as a whole.
The first thing I realized of Old Town Vilnius were the churches. Acting like the blue-light system on a college campus, if standing in front of one church, one can turn 360 degrees and find another place of worship within sight and walking distance. I’m convinced you could do so all day.
The Vilnius Cathedral Basilica can be found in Cathedral Square, the center of Vilnius’s Old Town. This Roman Catholic church is one of the most celebrated sites in Vilnius, hosting religious services, the remains of St. Casimir, Lithuania’s patron saint, and even, one time, Pope John Paul II. The cathedral shares the square with the Bell Tower of Vilnius Cathedral that overlooks the old city.
“The shrine in which the heart of the Lithuanian nation beats.” ~John Paul II, on the Vilnius Cathedral Basilica
Apart from Vilnius itself, (the Republic of) Užupis, comparable to the artist-filled Montmartre district of Paris, is an alternative section of the city allegedly independent from Lithuania. The entity, created by those who create, recognizes its independence day as April 1st (April Fool’s Day), and strongly supports its 41-point constitution, which guards some of the citizen’s most important rights:
- Everyone has the right to die, but it is not his duty.
- Everyone has the right to make mistakes.
- Everyone has the right to love.
- Everyone has the right to take care of their dog until one of them dies.
- Every dog has the right to be a dog.
- Everyone has the right to have no rights.
Though the official status of this neighborhood remains, intentionally, vague, it was entertaining, and somewhat humbling, to discover a place where art, emotion, and truth reign.
The Gates of Dawn
Continuing the tour, we traveled along the outskirts of the Old Town near what used to be Vilnius’s defensive wall. Built in the 1500s, the Lithuanians constructed the wall for protection from Russian invasion. Today, the Gates of Dawn is the last surviving passage of the original wall, and is a shrine to the Virgin Mary, housing a world-renowned painting of the “Vilnius Madonna.”
As I approached the gate, I realized that each person passing through stopped and prayed, gesturing the sign of the cross. Everyone, from the mother with her toddler to the group of older church ladies, halted in the middle of the street to recognize the religious significance of this sanctuary. I found the religious dedication of the Lithuanians incredibly moving.
Did You Know?
Did you know that the Lithuanian language is one of the nearest spoken forms of Sanskrit? Though the Lithuanians are proud of their special language, I found that many people in Vilnius has some knowledge of English. In an attempt to fit in, however, I learned the Lithuanian word for thank you: ačiū (pronounced like a sneeze). My one-word knowledge of Lithuanian could not get me very far, but each time I said”thank you” to a Lithuanian, they gave a small smirk of approval.
Conservative Country, Plenty of Pride
Lithuania may be a country that is easily overlooked from a North American perspective, but the people’s passion for their history and traditions rivals that of any great nation. I was disappointed to be missing Lithuanian Independence Day on February 16th, so close to my visit, but I understood the depth and intensity of Lithuanian pride from my short time in the country’s capital. Lithuania’s history recounts repeated episodes of political and religious intrusion, but despite these difficult events, the Lithuanians never gave up defending their freedom. A symbol of this political liberty stands in front of the Presidential Palace in Vilnius as a reminder of this fruitful fight. Though I appreciated this object of political pride, it does not compare to my encounter with the Lithuanians’ physical manifestation of religious independence that I experienced later that afternoon.
- If interested in the Vilnius City Tour bus, note that preordering tickets online only allows for the purchase of an all-day ticket. If bought from the bus driver, tickets for a one-time trip can be obtained for nearly half of the price of the unlimited option.
- I didn’t have time to see all of Vilnius, but the Vilnius Tourist Information Centre provides a great list of other places to see in Lithuania’s capital city.
- Vilnius, Lithuania
- Gediminas Tower
- Arsenalo g. 5, Vilnius 01143, Lithuania
- Litinterp Guesthouse Vilnius
- Bernardinu str. 7, Bernardinų g., Vilnius 01124, Lithuania
- Forto Dvaras
- Pilies g. 16, Vilnius 01123, Lithuania
- Cathedral Square
- St. Francis & St. Anne’s churches
- Maironio g. 8-1, Vilnius 01124, Lithuania
- Church of the Holy Spirit
- Aušros Vartų g. 10, Vilnius 01302, Lithuania
- Church of St. Casimir
- Didžioji g. 34, Vilnius 01128, Lithuania
- Vilnius Cathedral Basilica
- Šventaragio g., Vilnius 01143, Lithuania
- Bell Tower of Vilnius Cathedral
- Katedros varpinė, a. 2, Vilnius 01143, Lithuania
- Town Hall Square
- Gates of Dawn
- Aušros Vartų g. 12
- S. Daukanto a. 3, Vilnius 01122, Lithuania
Taika, Mielė, Vilnius,
Not Your Average Bowl of Cereal
I enjoy a serving of cereal every now and then, and I love milk, but I do not like my cereal in my milk. Where some may find the two a perfect pair, the solid and liquid complementing each other to create a both filling and hydrating breakfast in a bowl, I much rather grab a handful of cereal and wash it down with an ice cold glass of 1%. All cereal preferences considered, I was still curious to try the Cereal Killer Cafe.
Initially, creating cereal concoctions with a crazy collection of cereal, an assortment of sugary treats, and a multitude of milk seems like a fun snack. The nostalgic décor and literal beds for a seating option created a one-of-a-kind atmosphere. Unfortunately, on a Monday afternoon, the Camden location was out of many menu options and lacked cleanliness in their establishment. I could not enjoy half of the toppings that I had hoped for, and sticky tables and unwashed silverware was unsettlingly obvious. As a result, I only ordered Lucky Charms with Oreos (a “magically delicious” combination), but, for sanitation reasons, I was too apprehensive to drink the milk out of the bottle. Perhaps there is better luck at the Brick Lane cafe.
With a few hours in between my cereal snack and my evening plans, I decided to take a trip to Harrod’s, an only-in-London shopping locale that I had imagined was England’s equivalent of Macy’s department store. Though the establishment was technically a department store, it was nothing like Macy’s. A cross between a gorgeous galleria and a merchandiser’s museum, Harrod’s endless emporium made my initial plan to browse the store in an hour futile. One could spend an entire day marveling at the beautiful products and décor! I didn’t even take photographs because they wouldn’t due the store justice. If you’re visiting London, move Harrod’s from your “place to visit if I have time” list to your “must-see” traveler’s agenda.
I left the retail paradise for a true museum, the Tate Modern. This attraction, granting free entry to all, presented interesting exhibits typical of a modern art museum. It also, however, offered a rooftop view of London. Though foggy (like my other sky-high sightseeing attempts), the panorama offered a different experience of London.
To end my time in this city, I went to Poppies Fish & Chips, a popular restaurant serving a popular English dish. However, I dined at the chain’s Soho location and enjoyed an entertaining meal. At Poppies’ quirky Chinatown restaurant, the dominantly male wait staff, though slightly uncomfortable, was goofy and fun. They interacted with the Asian guests in native language attempts and were extremely attentive to all diners. The food, too, impressed, rivaling my grandma’s own breaded Haddock fish. I even appreciated the 50s throwback soundtrack while sipping my fresh lemonade. In London, fish and chips is a must, Poppies is a go-to, and the Soho location is recommended!
“Only in London”
My motto for this trip accurately describes my English capital exploration. London is truly home to the stylish and the strange. Rather than investigate the history of the city, as I usually do when traveling, I decided that London just had too much “now” to see and do. I would speculate that I could learn about London’s past on a return trip, but I suspect that the eccentric metropolis will have new quirks to discover.
- Cereal Killer Cafe – Camden location
- Stables Market, Mezz 2, Chalk Farm Rd, London NW1 8AH, UK
- Brick Lane location
- 87-135 Brompton Rd, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7XL, UK
- Tate Modern
- Bankside, London SE1 9TG, UK
- 55-59 Old Compton St, Soho, London W1D 6HW, UK
- various other locations
Peace, Love, London
London with a Local
Taking on the city with a 10-year resident, I met up with the brother of one of my mother’s international friends. We began with the tourist leading the Londoner to God’s Own Junkyard, a garage gallery on the outskirts of the city center home to hundreds of neon signs; if you arrive near the dumpsters of a questionable property, you’re in the right place! The establishment was small, but impressive. More than just a lot of light, many of the installments were composed works, a combination of individual, glowing pieces, to create inspiring, innovative, and eyebrow-raising art.
Though there is a café area in the gallery, my new friend and I did not stay, opting instead for a greater foodie experience closer to town.
Camden: the Cosmic Culinary Capital of London
My guide led me to the neighborhood of Camden Town, a funky, alternative area of food and flea market vendors. Our destination was, specifically, the Camden Market, an international smorgasbord bordering Regent’s Canal. Hosting stalls of every type of cuisine, we settled on splitting a Venezuelan shredded beef and corn bread sandwich and a Greek chicken wrap. The sandwich, from Arepa: Venezuelan Street Kitchen, was one of the best dishes I ate in London.
Next, we ventured into a store that I feel embodies the environment of Camden. Cyberdog‘s storefront was preceded by a line to get in the door, which was flanked by two, futuristic, human-dog hybrids. Neon lights, techno music, and cage dancers greet customers, along with the store’s least offensive merchandise. Floors below reveal risqué stock, justifying the “no photography” policy.
After visiting God’s Own Junkyard and this inexplicably bizarre but must-see store, I began to feel that the phrase “only in London” would be an appropriate label for many of my experiences on this trip.
Walking after our lunch, we took the Regent’s Canal Towpath from Camden Town to Primrose Hill in Regent’s Park. On a clear day, one finds a panoramic look of London, but as typical of viewing experiences of my journey, the city fog took over and obscured the overlook.
Lights of London
While visiting a new city, I like to explore the same place during the day and during the night for a different perspective. Each experience is beautiful in its own way. I was able to end my third day in London with a return to Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and the London Eye to enjoy these London landmarks illuminated along the River Thames.
- God’s Own Junkyard
- Unit 12, Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Shernhall St, Walthamstow, London E17 9HQ, UK
- Camden Town
- Camden Market
- 32 Camden Lock Pl, London NW1 8AL, UK
- Camden Market, Stables Market, Chalk Farm Rd, London NW1 8AH, UK
- Regent’s Canal Towpath (from Camden Market)
- Primrose Hill/Regent’s Park
- Big Ben and Houses of Parliament
- Westminster, London SW1A 0AA, UK
- London Eye
Lambeth, London SE1 7PB, UK
Peace, Love, London