Traveling into the New Year

It’s been an incredible 2016 so far as I met two friends from the US for about two weeks of adventures in Italy and France. We celebrated NYE in Venice, prepared and ate delicious food in Florence, hiked through Cinque Terre, enjoyed the brilliant blue waters of Nice, France along with an adventurous day trip to Eze and Monaco. Then, before returning to Moldova I finished my travels with a quick overnight trip to Rome where I was able to see the Vatican at night.

We had a wonderfully epic trip together and it was perfect timing as I was able to verbally process my thoughts and ideas with them regarding my next chapter after Peace Corps. I still don’t have an answer about what is next, but it was refreshing to have the opportunity to talk it over with them as they asked good questions.

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The 3 of us in Burano, Italy one of my two most favorite places we visited in our travels.

I also learned some valuable “travel lessons” such as…

  • Not to pack as much as I think I should;
  • Always double and triple check the date when booking a train ticket online;
  • When planning a hike, don’t forget hiking shoes/sneakers;
  • If traveling to multiple cities in one trip, backpack it (rolling a suitcase through Venice and Cinque Terra as well as multiple train stations is quite the workout);
  • Pre-planning destinations using a map will save valuable time;
  • Traveling by train in Europe is fun and easy!

Even though I packed too much in to a small rolling duffle suitcase, thankfully I figured out halfway though our travels that I could turn it into a backpack if I put my arms through the carrying handles. I may need to get a massage after doing so but it makes going up and down stairs much quicker and traveling through the snow easier, which I returned to when I got back to Moldova.

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Katie and I in Florence near the Duomo. You can see how I’m “kinda” backpacking it on this trip – viola!

It was an epic traveling adventure with all the new locations we had traveled to together – about 7 cities/towns and 10+ train trips. KT and Spud were easy to travel with and were incredibly flexible and adaptable. Like that time I accidentally booked the wrong date for our train tickets to Nice. We had to do a last minute train switch to fix the error, thankfully it was realized in time to do a little running around between trains and stations.

Celebrating NYE in Venice

We spent 5 days in Venice exploring the streets and unique shops in the city. We spent one day traveling to Murano and Burano where we enjoyed the bright colorful houses along the narrow streets and canals. We rang in the New Year along the grand canal as we watched fireworks light up the sky above the waters.

Florence

Our next stop after Venice was Florence where we encountered rain during our stay. We made the best of it as we explored some sights and enjoyed the lights. We also got the opportunity to take a cooking class where we made pizza and gelato!

Hiking through Cinque Terre

This place is amazing and the photos just don’t do any of it justice. None. You have to go to experience it yourself and see what I mean. We were fortunate that it didn’t rain too much during our short stay in Cinque Terre as we explored the 5 different towns along the coast. We were able to hike along the coast of the Mediterranean sea between 3 of the towns which was incredible!

Nice, Eze, and Monaco

Our next stop took us to Nice, France where we explored the city and the amazing French Rivera views. Since we were so close to Monaco and Eze, we did a day trip to those places as we continued our adventure together with this being our last location before we parted ways.

 

Rome/The Vatican

To return to Moldova I opted to do an overnight in Rome instead of on a train from Bucharest. Even though I was only able to visit the city of Rome for a few hours, I got a chance to visit the outside of The Vatican and enjoy dinner not far from St. Peter’s church. I hope to be able to visit sometime when I have more than 4 hours at night to see this amazing place.

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The Vatican at night complete with large Christmas tree and nativity scene.

Although I have traveled to Italy and France before, it was nice to see different parts of these countries. Then without even planning it, I was able to add the two smallest counties in the world to my list of “countries visited”.

Now that I’m back in Moldova, where I have been greeted with snow and ice, it’s back to work as I finish up the last 6ish month of my service!

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As we flew over Moldova on my return flight home we could see the snow covering the country in fun patterns.

 

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Adventures & Life in Paris: Part 3

This is from a series of photos from my travels to France. Check out part 1 and part 2 for previous posts.  I took A LOT of photos and have been slowly sharing them over a period of a few days. This post will be the last of this France/Paris travel series.

The Eiffel Tower and carousel nearby...
The Eiffel Tower and carousel nearby…
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It seemed that every bridge in Paris was covered in love-locks.
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Many vendors along the sidewalks were selling books among other random items that drew in tourists.
We had some laughs by taking random photos with the Eiffel Tower after we enjoyed crepes by the water fountains enjoying the view of the Eiffel Tower in front of us.
We had some laughs by taking random photos with the Eiffel Tower after we enjoyed crepes by the water fountains enjoying the view of the Eiffel Tower in front of us.
Learning young. I discovered many accordion players playing along the streets throughout Paris.
Learning young… I discovered many accordion players playing along the streets throughout Paris.
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On our way to visit Musee d’Orsay we passed by this gentleman painter taking in a creative moment.
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In the evening the Eiffel Tower will light up and about every hour there was a fun sparkly light show!

It was a lovely time and I am grateful for the opportunity to visit a friend and see a new and different part of the world. Until next time, au revoir!

Adventures & Vacation in Paris: Part 2

This is a continuation from a previous post about my recent travels to France to visit a friend. After a few days traveling in and around Lyon, France we made our way on a fast train to visit Paris – a first for me!

Welcome to Paris, also known as the city of love! The view from the Arc de Triomphe.
Welcome to Paris, also known as the city of love! This view is from the Arc de Triomphe.

We made our first visit to the Palace of Versailles…

Just some of the many photos I had taken at the Palace of Versailles.
Just some of the many photos I had taken at the Palace of Versailles. You could spend a whole day just in the gardens!

For dinner we made our way to Montmartre and we enjoyed this view that also was entertaining (guy climbs light pole with soccer ball tricks?!) while dining on the steps in front of the Sacre Coeur church.

Beautiful view and entertaining entertainment in front of Sacre Coeur church.
Beautiful view and entertainment (he’s apparently famous on YouTube)  in front of Sacre Coeur church.

We made our way over the next couple of days to see various historic sites, views, and I enjoyed new flavors from France. It was amazing!

I didn't take the time to wait in line to visit the Louvre but did enjoy the courtyard area and the architecture.
I didn’t take the time to wait in line to visit the Louvre but did enjoy the courtyard area and the architecture.

I have to admit that when I saw on the map near the Louvre that there was a carousel and when I saw a sign for it leading underground I happily followed the signs (also hoping there would be a bathroom nearby as well). However, I was disappointed when I discovered it was just a really expensive shopping center BUT I was glad to see signs directing me to what I thought were “public” restrooms. Little did I know, I stumbled upon apparently what they touted “the cleanest bathrooms of Paris” and I paid the price for it too. I do agree they were quite clean, especially since there were two women cleaning each stall after a person used it. So, although I didn’t find a lovely carousel, I did find some very clean and colorful bathrooms and that was entertaining enough.

Notre Dame from a different angle.
The Notre Dame church from a different angle. The line to climb to the top was 2 hours long, I opted out of standing in that line we and carried on.
We made a visit to the Arc de Triomphe and climbed to the top using the spiral staircase.
We made a visit to the Arc de Triomphe and climbed to the top using the spiral staircase.
Some of the amazing views from the Arc de Triomphe.
Some of the amazing views from the Arc de Triomphe. It ended up being a wonderfully clear day that day which just made the view from the Arc so much better – hooray for blue skies!

More photos to come from my visit to Paris – Check out Part 3: Adventures & Life in Paris!

Note: the featured image at the top of this post is from one of the many, stunningly beautiful stained glassed windows at Sainte-Chapelle.

Adventures & Vacation in France: Part 1

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to go and visit a friend from France. We had met when she was studying at Penn State in 2011 and had kept in touch since then. I promised that I would visit her someday and that someday finally ended up being now.

My friend, Anne-Lise and I at St. Chappelle in Paris
I am so grateful for her hospitality and the opportunity to see a little glimpse into her life there. We had a wonderful time and lots of laughs. 

With the way things worked out with flights and timing I even got to visit Geneva, Switzerland where we had a picnic lunch along the lake there before traveling into France.

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At the lake in Geneva for our picnic lunch. The mountains here in this photo are at the beginning part of the Alps mountains.
Our adventures took us through Geneva, Annecy, Lyon and Paris – all lovely, historic places where I got to see famous landmarks, take in amazing views, and try new foods.
 The best way for your to experience this adventure is through some of the photos and stories from my little getaway trip. Since I took so many photos and don’t want to make this post too long, I’ll share photos and stories over the next couple of days… enjoy!
After our little visit in Geneva I enjoyed the drive through the country roads of France. Lots of poppies everywhere and old French cars.
After our little visit in Geneva I enjoyed the drive through the country roads of France. Lots of poppies everywhere and old French cars.
We made a visit to beautiful, Annecy on our way to Lyon where she lives. I really liked it here and would go love to go back here and visit longer.
Some of the beautiful views in the heart of historic Annecy.
Some of the beautiful views in the heart of historic Annecy.
Ann-Lise and I in Annecy, France.
Ann-Lise and I in Annecy, France.
 I got a chance to explore other parts near Lyon with Ann-Lise, meet some of her friends, and go on a grand adventure!
In Lyon there is a place you can go to play board games and card games with friends. With so many games to choose from, I am glad I got in a game of Dominion (in French even) and of course the oh, so popular Jungle Speed game that Ann-Lise introduced us to in State College, PA.
In Lyon there is a place you can go to play board games and card games with friends. With so many games to choose from, I am glad I got in a game of Dominion (in French even) and of course the oh, so popular Jungle Speed game that Ann-Lise introduced us to in State College, PA.
One of the many beautiful views of Lyon from the big church on the hill, Fourvière Hill.
One of the many beautiful views of Lyon from the big church on the hill, Fourvière Hill.
The church sits atop Fourvière Hill, overlooking Lyon, France on a beautiful summer day with bright blue skies.
The church sits atop Fourvière Hill, overlooking Lyon, France on a beautiful summer day with bright blue skies.
Fontaine Bartholdi sits in the center of town behind town hall.
Fontaine Bartholdi sits in the center of town behind town hall in Lyon.
I loved the cobblestone, historic streets of Lyon.
I loved the cobblestone, historic streets of Lyon.

What would a vacation be without facing a fear? A few days before leaving for France, Ann-Lise asked how I felt about going kayaking. I responded “Sure! Sounds like fun!” And didn’t think anything of it… until we got there and I realized: 1) this kayaking adventure included lessons; 2) I don’t speak French; 3) It was on a big lake that was a little choppy; and 4) bodies of water still intimidate me… I tried to hide my nervousness and desire to run away from the situation but I stuck it out and challenged myself to at least give it a try. Why not?!

Trying to follow instructions in French on how to prepare the kayak was a bit confusing... and I kept responding in Romanian. I was definitely the challenging student of the day for our guide.
Trying to follow instructions in French on how to prepare the kayak was a bit confusing… and I kept responding in Romanian. I was definitely the challenging student of the day for our guide.
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This kayaking adventure brought a lot of laughs for both my friend and I. It was a humbling experience for me as I tried to understand what I was being told to do (and translated by my wonderful, patient friend) and as hard as I tried, for some reason my kayak had a difficult time going where I wanted it to go and would often find myself going in the opposite direction, speeding ahead, lagging behind, or stuck in a current. At least we were all still smiling and laughing by the end of it all!

Coming up next… Adventures & Vacation in Paris: Part 2

Photo Friday: A Simple Crane

I’m beginning a new series of posts on Fridays as I share an image from my experience in Moldova as a Peace Corps Volunteer. (although, I am starting out the first post with a photo from my latest vacation) 

Found hanging in a handmade paper store when visiting a small historic village town in France near Lyon. This makes me think of the beauty that simple things can bring in life -- transforming a simple piece of paper into a folded origami crane
I found this hanging in a handmade paper store when visiting a small historic village town in France near Lyon. This made me think of the beauty that simple things can bring in life — transforming a simple piece of white paper into an origami crane which also holds several meanings in the Japanese culture including peace, honor, and loyalty.

I delightfully fell off the radar for a week

My blog has been a bit quiet lately as I had taken some needed downtime away from the internet and volunteer-life in Moldova. I jumped on a plane about a week ago and made my first visit to Western Europe to visit a friend who lives in France.

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I had my fill of new foods, cheese and crepes along with some beautiful views and historic sites during my visit.

I’m happy to report that I am back in Moldova and already jumped right in to working on various projects and events — ready for year two ahead (or so I think so). 😉

I will share more photos and stories later when I have a bit of time to sort through the 1,000+ photos I had taken and try to understand why I took so many photos of doors and windows (I’m sure I will do something with them someday, right?) All-in-all it was a wonderful time, I finally got to visit Paris – something I only imagined when I was taking French classes in college.

More to come later!