Thursday, June 10, 2010

Passport to Paris (and Ireland)

I finished my exams last Monday and on Tuesday I headed to Paris with two friends, Haley and Gayle. In favor of saving money and having fun experiences in Europe (fun meaning, things I hope my children never do, but I find quite exciting at this point in my life) we decided to try couchsurfing.

Couchsurfing is a trend that is starting to take over travel in Europe. There is a networking site, similar to facebook or LinkedIn, where people list where they a.) have a couch they would allow travelers to sleep on for a few nights or b.) are travelers looking for a free couch to sleep on while traveling.

So we made an account and contacted a few people in Paris that had couches. After several "no's" we finally received a response offering us a spot on their couch. Rémy and Michael are cousins living in Paris together, they had couchsurfers before and were very excited to have more Americans so they could work on their English.

It was fine until we got to their apartment and realized that none of us had written down Michael's phone number, so while we were standing in front of their apartment door, we had no way to contact. In an effort to get ahold of Michael I began to scream "MICHELLLLLLE!" in the street, hoping they lived in one of the apartments that had an open window.

"What are you doing, Chantel?" Gayle asked me.

"Michelle is the French translation of Michael," I explained to Gayle. (Yes, I took a French class when I was eight)

False, the translation is Michael. We discovered this after we finally met Rémy and Michael which involved a Spanish missionary group, a random eight-year old girl and several frantic calls through the speaker box. (Long story)

But couchsurfing turned out to be a great experience. They were able to give us recommendations that only true Parisians would know about.

We only had three days in Paris but we tried our best to fit everything in but my three favorite things about Paris were:

1.) Museé de l'Orangerie: It only houses eight paintings, but they are the eight paintings that Monet painted of the waterlillies in his garden. Monet is my favorite painter and the museum made me drool. For me it was far more impressive than the Mona Lisa.

[One of Monet's massive painting of the water lillies]

2.) Angelina's: Angelina's is a little tea shop right outside of the gardens in Paris (the Tuileries). They are famous for their hot chocolate and teas. And myself, being a lover of sweets and relaxation, found it to be my nirvana.

3.) The Eiffel Tower @ Night: The last night in Paris Rémy, Michael, Gayle, Haley and I met up with some of their French friends for some wine under the Eiffel Tower. Surrounding the tower there are several gardens and every night young people gather to wait for the light show on the Eiffel. It was beautiful and a great way to end our trip to Paris.

The next stop on my "Yay-finals-are-over-and-I-have-to-go-back-to-America-soon" trip was Ireland.

We stayed near the Temple Bar area which is notorious for its nightlife. Our first night in Dublin we headed over to Temple Bar and fell in love with a traditional Irish bar/pub that had live music. My heart melted when I heard Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer" and I knew I had found my haven for the rest of the night.

Dublin is a fantastic town for young travelers. There are people from all over and all sorts of characters, young and old. (Emphasis on the old characters)

Haley and Gayle continued their Eurotrip to London, but since I had already been there I flew back to Seville, but not before going on a hiking trip by myself for a day in Ireland.

I went to Glendalough last Monday by myself, excited to explore the Irish countryside. Glendalough is the site of the monastery founded by St. Kevin in the 500's and is also famous for being a thin place.

Thin places are, by Celtic tradition, places on Earth where the separation between Earth and Heaven is thinner than everywhere else. So I was glad to have some time alone to really enjoy this place.


It was quite the switch, going from Dublin's Temple Bar to Glendalough, but after jumping a few fences and climbing the side of a mountain, I found a lovely place to sit by myself. It was probably the first time in nearly six months that I had truly been alone with silence. For an hour I sat and watched the rain fall on one of the lakes. After a while, a giant boxer (dog, not Rocky Balboa) jumped out of the bushes and started to lick me.
For some strange reasons it was one of the first times that I've felt very ready to go home.

There is an old Finnish proverb that goes, "If you never leave, you can't ever return."

So for this, I'm thankful that I will be able to return to the US and that I will be able to leave Seville, so that at some point, I will be able to return to this place that has stolen my heart.

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