In my last post, “Sarah’s Fall Break Part One: Dublin,” I told you I’d give you the Halftime Highlight Show version of London and Paris. Well, I’ll try.
I went for a run in the late afternoon and as I turned down a random street I ran right into three of my best guy friends from the Temple Rome program! I had no idea that they were going to be in London, so we of course made plans to meet later that evening.
The following morning we were out the door early for a free walking tour of London (http://www.neweuropetours.eu/). Among some of the places we saw on this two and a half hour tour were Buckingham Palace, the National Gallery, St. James Park, Wellington Arch, Big Ben, the Changing of the Guard, the Houses of Parliament, the Westminster Abbey and a ton of others.
It began to rain in the late afternoon so we spent some time at the sports bar, Belushi’s, directly next to our hostel. For those of you who read my blog, The Bergen Beat, you know the story of Tom L. For those of you who are unfamiliar with The Beat, take a minute or two to read the story, I think you’ll find it fascinating (Part One: http://bit.ly/c3c1lD, Part Two: http://bit.ly/c5Z9oV). So Tom L.(!!!) came and met my sister and I after work to catch up and watch a football (soccer) game. It’s always so nice to see a familiar face in a foreign town.
On my run Wednesday morning I fell in love with London. I ran the River Thames up to the Big Ben, crossed the bridge and headed back along the other side, and then took Jaclyn out later that afternoon for some fish-n-chips after spotting a place near Shakespeare’s Globe Theater during my run. We thoroughly enjoyed the greasy plate of goodness, and went next to Westfield Mall (apparently the largest mall in Europe) followed by a nice long walk through Piccadilly Circus.
By Wednesday night we were exhausted, and really just wanted to get some sleep. We were sitting next to our hostel drinking a coffee when these two young guys in suits came up to us and started making small talk. Jaclyn was going on about how she wasn’t enjoying London as much as she thought she would, and one of the guys stopped her and said, “Wait! We can’t have you leaving London tomorrow without thinking that this is the greatest city in the world!” followed by, “How about we take you out tonight?”
We agreed to go out with them, and though I felt a little bit nervous about going out with strangers, a gut feeling was telling me I was about to have an incredible night. We stepped out of the cab in the business district outside of Tower 42 of the International Financial Centre and made our way into this incredible skyscraper. In the elevator, our ears were popping as we were arrived at the 42nd floor to this ridiculously swanky bar. Vertigo 42 was a bar with a 360 degree view of all of London lit up at night! I was speechless, and I looked at Jaclyn to find her in the same state. Our mouths dropped and all we could do was laugh—we couldn’t believe this was happening to us!
The guys treated us to a rather pricey bottle of red wine, and we sat and talked about anything from traveling to politics and everything in between. The next place (there’s another place?) they took us to was a similar upscale bar with a beautiful rooftop garden and a gorgeous view of London at night, and the last stop was another classy bar where we got a chance to have a blast dancing. We thanked the guys for being so generous and for such a wonderful night, and they made sure we got a cab back to our hostel (which now seemed like such a dump!) and in a Mercedes, nonetheless.
It is not to say that you shouldn’t be extremely careful while abroad and when meeting new people, but when you’re constantly being so overly careful, it is sometimes easy to forget that there are a lot of really good people in this world as well, and sometimes you just have to go with your gut.
Watching Jaclyn’s face light up at the view of London as we came out of the elevator in Vertigo 42 was one of the most priceless and unforgettable moments of this entire trip abroad, and I am so thankful that we were met two respectful and trustworthy gentlemen who made our last night in London one of the greatest nights of all! Last stop: PARIS!
After our incredible last night in London, we arrived at our last stop in Paris on Thursday evening. We checked in to Woodstock hostel, went out for a nice Italian dinner (ok, so maybe we were missing Rome a little), and decided to get some rest for a full day of exploring. Friday morning we began the day right with an amazing view of Paris from the incredible Byzantine basilica, the Sacré–Cœur.
We sat down for a coffee where we met the most adorable couple who we planned to meet the following day for a free walking tour of Paris. A friend of ours from the Temple Rome program arrived in the afternoon and we continued our day of exploring. We walked to the incredible Saint-Eustache church, past the Louvre, over the Pont des Arts (a well-known pedestrian bridge) and eventually made it to at the Eiffel Tower.
After stopping at a grocery store to grab a bottle of champagne, we arrived at Tower just in time for the sun to set and the lights to come on. It was the most surreal feeling for Jaclyn and I to be standing at the Eiffel Tower—we only wished that our parents and two brothers could have been with us as well.
Following a nice dinner we ventured out with some people we’d met at our hostel, ending the night at an amazing club in the Montmartre area of Paris.
Saturday we had an early lunch in the Saint-Michel area of Paris and met our group for a free three and a half hour walking tour of Paris. This time, we got to see the Notre Dame de Paris, Napoleon’s Tomb, Tuileries Gardens, Opéra Garnier, Champs-Elysees, Pont Alexandre III, the Arc de Triomphe, Musee d’Orsay among others, ending the tour at the Eiffel Tower.
We took a break from being out in the cold and picked a restaurant near the Louvre for a really great dinner and dessert of omelets and crepes, and met up with some people from our hostel to go to a karaoke bar in the République area of Paris where the Parisians sand American songs at the top of their lungs all night!
Sunday we had a lot on our plate. With only a few hours before our friend had to head back to Rome, we wanted to get to the Center Pompidou and spend a few hours inside the Louvre. I was happy to have a three full hours to walk around the Louvre, though everyone knows you could spend days in there. Our tour guide told us that if you spent 30 seconds looking at each piece one after the next without eating, sleeping, drinking, going to the bathroom, etc., it would take you one whole month to view the entire collection—just what’s on display—at the Louvre.
Obviously seeing the Mona Lisa was really cool, but I definitely liked Napoleon’s Apartments and the Greek and Roman sculptures the best. Thanks to my two art history classes in Rome, I felt rather cultured while walking through the Louvre! It was amazing being able to walk around and identify sculptures of the Roman emperors Augustus, Hadrian and Trajan etc., and pick out paintings by Panini and identify pieces from the Galleria Borghese.
Following our trip to the Louvre Jaclyn and I went for a walk for one last moment together at the Eiffel Tower. Jaclyn got to sleep early and so I went for a run back to the Sacré–Cœur to admire the view of Paris at sunset and spend some time inside the stunning basilica. Later in the evening I went for a stroll to see Moulin Rouge lit up at night and check out the nightlife in the Montmartre area of Paris. I stopped to have a drink at a café and enjoyed practicing the little French that I know with the waiters and random people in the café, for a perfect last night in Paris.
We boarded a plane back to Rome the following morning, and overall, our fall break was over the top amazing. It was so surreal to me to physically be in these three major European cities that I always knew I wanted to go to but was never sure how or when I was going to get to them. And being able to share this experience with my little sister Jaclyn is absolutely priceless (Even though my bank statement doesn’t seem to think so!). I say it often, but in all honesty it couldn’t be more true; I am the luckiest girl on the planet. Wow, 10 whole days in Dublin, London and Paris, and now back to Rome. See what I mean? The luckiest!