Paris, day 0.5: sleepy plane delays, pigeon pick-up lines and French architecture so gorgeous it makes you want to cry

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Rather than tell you the story about how my flight from Montreal to Paris was delayed by four hours last night, I’m just going to skip to the fun part: Paris itself. (all you must know about my delayed travels is that I miserably gravol-ed myself prematurely last night and paid the cost by passing out several times in different positions on airport chairs) (thank god they were leather and comfy).

I landed in Paris today at just after 3:30 local time. Following what seemed like endless signs to the Paris train station to go downtown, I finally got to the main transport terminal. Here, I was met with the task of purchasing my metro tickets, something which took me all of half an hour and caused several exasperated sighs. After about five attempts to walk into the I-will-not-budge-ever metro gates, I realized that I needed a different, more expensive ticket to take me from the airport downtown. I blame my lack of rationality on my sleep-deprived state.

ANYWAYS, I successfully navigated by way through the surprisingly easy to understand Paris underground system and found myself, a short hour later, at my hostel in the 14th arrondissement.

Since I had been in commute for more than 15 hours, I took a well deserved shower before deciding to head back out and explore.

After much negotiation over where to visit, I finally settled on taking the C-line train along the Seine, in hopes of catching a late evening view of the Musee d’Orsay and the Eiffel Tower.

Rule #1 about travel: things never go as planned.

Meaning to transfer onto the yellow C-line at the St-Michel Notre-Dame metro station, I was distraught to see that every sign that once held directions to my desired route was crossed off with some sort of electrical tape.

Alright, you win some you lose some. There will be plenty more days for tourist sight-seeing. Instead, I decided to wander.

Turns out that I had landed in the perfect Parisian neighborhood. Everything was exactly as I would have thought it to be – detailed architecture, cafe and restaurant patios, couples making out EVERYWHERE, Vespas and pigeons.

At the same time, there were also the not-so-romanticized parts of the city – girls eating McDonald’s on the edge of ornate flower beds, a woman in purple sweatpants chain smoking out her window…

Nonetheless, Paris is what it is, and I am already starting to love it for that reason.

Lost in translation (and just lost)
Continuing my wandering, I promptly got lost. I have slowly began to realize that my life is in shambles without 3G access and the guiding light of Google Maps.

But do not fret.

I swear that Paris must be the only city in the universe where you can be completely lost, and somehow still find yourself eating a crepe while sitting on the bank of the Seine. If this is lost, I never want to be found.

Oh right, I also stumbled onto a major Parisian landmark, the Notre Dame Cathedral. I’m not sure how that happened, but I made sure to take enough touristy photos to make my dad proud.

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What’s the French word for creepy?
In other news, Paris is certainly living up to its reputation of being the city of love (and not just because couples were making out everywhere).

I’m chalking this up to the fact that I’m a young girl strolling around Paris with map and camera in hand (read: I am the ultimate tourist), but I got picked up an insane amount of times tonight. And by that, I mean twice. Which is pretty good for me, okay?

My first courtier was Antonio, a creepy old man who led me around to the back of the Notre Dame touting its “photographic aesthetics.” I promptly told him I had to go and meet my family, and ran away to take refuge in a group of children who were playing with bubbles.

The next lover-boy, Sammy, was the perfect example of a smooth-talking Parisians. He ACTUALLY used a situation in which a pigeon almost flew into me as a pick-up line. After discovering my French left something to be desired, he continued to speak to me in broken English for the next half hour, lead me to the correct metro station entrance and frequently touch my arm in a way that only the French can touch strangers. Mon dieu.

Overall, I had a great first day in Paris. My hostel is AWESOME (pictures to come tomorrow) and I can’t wait to explore more of the city. Also, I’m meeting Natalie tomorrow and we’re going vintage shopping and macaron-eating. Can’t wait.

PS: sorry about the pictures, I looked ridiculous trying to snap shots on both my iPhone and actual camera. This is the result of the former.

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Greetings from Turkey!!

Hello World,

I realize the Hilary JUST posted something, but I’ve been neglecting my duties as co-blogger, but as you will hopefully see, I have some pretty good excuses for not blogging.

Now, where did I leave you guys last?  Oh right! Asia!

After my quick sojourn over to Asia, I returned back to the hostel and decided to take a quick trip over to the Grand Bazaar and Spice Markets.  I have to say after the Souqs of Marrakesh, I was a little disappointed with the markets in Istanbul. Because I wasn’t in the mood for leather, knock-off handbags or jewellery, I was  a little out of my market (if you pardon the pun), but none the less it was pretty exciting to explore this marketplace that’s been there for hundreds of years.

The following day was filled with visiting most of the touristic sites in Sultanamet, the old city district of the city with my new Ozzy friend Chris. First stop was visiting the Ayasofia, probably the most famous of the sites in the city. Dating back from the 500’s AD this cathedral turned mosque turned museum, was one impressive site!! With six minarets, this building stands out from the rest of Istanbul despite being surrounded by mosques on all sides.

Ayasofia

After the Ayasofia was the Cisterns of Istanbul.  I have to say this was hands down my favourite place in Istanbul. This underground facility was used to collect water for the different cities that have stood where Istanbul is today. Before going to the cistern, I had no idea what it looked like nor what I was getting myself into, and to be honest that made it 10 times better. Therefore, I’ve made the executive decision, not to post my pictures from the cistern to maintain the element of surprise for you budding travellers.

Once we were back above ground again, Chris and I headed to the archaeology museum which was pretty cool! The museum is filled with TONS of crazy artifacts from the Babylonia, Egypt, Roman and Greek empires.  All and all a pretty cool experience.

Now after all our touring, both Chris and I were pretty tired. We split up and found ways to beat the heat. Chris decided to watch the finale of the Tour de France and watch his fellow countryman win the race, while I decided to nap.  That evening we met up with two German girls, Evi and Michaela and we became fast friends. The girls told us that they were heading to the Black Sea to check out a small fishing village that was supposed to have an amazing beach, something which Istanbul sadly lacks. After they extended the invitation to join, both Chris and I happily accepted.

The next morning, the four of us made our way (slowly) to Kilyos, about 2 hours north of Istanbul.  WHAT a day. That’s all I really have to say. It was so nice to get out of the city and avoid the hussle and bussle.  It was a great day, and so far is one of my favourite memories of the place.

Chris and Michaela

After my day on the beach, I sadly had to say goodbye to Istanbul, and head towards Echeabat, southwest of Istanbul.  The city is famous for being close Gallipoli a fairly, major battlefield during WWI. My time in Echaebat was split between snorkling over a sunken WWI transport ship and touring the battlefields. Snorkelling was an awesome experience!  After touring the sunken ship, we could explore the reefs for relics from WWI. After about 10 minutes of hunting, I was able to find a British bullet from one of the initial sieges. After showing it off to my fellow snorkelers, I tossed it back into the ocean for other treasure hunters to find. Overall my time in Echaebat was very informative. While Canadians played a very very limited (aka almost none besides Newfoundlanders) it was still an eyeopening experience.

Snorkelling!

My time in Gallipoli was fairly short, but I’ve made my way to Selcuk further south in Turkey and tomorrow I will tour the ancient ruins of Ephesus (google for some cool photos)

Well, I realize this post is a fairly monsterous one so I will leave it hear.  I meet up with Hilary next Wednesday and I CANNOT wait to see her! As much fun as it is to always be making friends, I’m excited for beaching and lounging with my bud.

Later days

G.

Twitter travel tweets

And just a quick post on why Twitter is awesome when you’re making travel plans and seeking international food/to-do recommendations. There’s plenty more where these came from, too. All have been written down and stored in my travel folder.

And my personal favourite, in response to a “what should I do in Europe” tweet…

Will do, Don, will do.

PS: I also got several French pastry shop recommendations from a Parisian baker in Ottawa. BAM.

Departure Day!

To many, this is just a normal Thursday, but to me, this is the day for which I’ve been waiting months.

It’s finally the departure day for my European adventure!

Right now, I sit in my oversized, cushiony papasan chair typing this last Canadian travel blog post. Tonight, I leave, all pop culture references aside, on a jet plane and, after a drugged-up gravol sleep, will (fingers crossed) arrive in Paris tomorrow morning.

But before I get to do this, I had to pack.

As an indecisive, sometimes neurotic person, packing is not my forte.

That’s why I brought in the troops to help me out.

Ariel and Alex – you can always count on these two to help you out. As ex-roommates, they know my wardrobe better than I know it myself (hey, why don’t you bring that flowery dress that you got with Britt that one time? It would be perfect for Paris!). They’re the best. Knowing that I would be stressed out, they also brought me an oat fudge bar. Like I could love them any more.

Ariel is also a particularly accomplished packer and, to this hour, I have still not yet had to place anything inside my backpack.

So what were some of my necessities? Well…

I very much can’t live without my collection of vintage jewelry. I wear it everywhere. I don’t care if I am backpacking and wearing a garbage bag, I insist it comes with me.

Sunscreen, because after six days in Santorini, girl is going to get tanned. Mom, take note.

Perhaps my most important travel companion (other than Gord) will be my Toms. I fully expect them to be falling apart by the end of the trip, but I will always keep them regardless and treasure the memories we shared. Also, to the left you see my Joe Fresh (bahaha $16 knock-offs!) birks. They will lead me through many a sunny day.

And so, while I do not yet have a photo of me with my human-sized backpack on my shoulders, I will be posting one as soon as I can. And by that, I mean as soon as I finish packing. Which will be never.

Eeeek.

Bon voyage, mes amis!

Au Revoır Parıs and Selam Istanbul!

Time for another update from the road! 

Last time I left you guys, I had just spent a pretty productive day marching around Paris. That night ended up being a bit more of a chill evening as both myself and the Aussie girls I had been traveling around with were exhausted.  To treat ourselves for such a productive day, we decided that we would sample some of the French cusine in the area.  We chose a restraunt called Marmite, not to far from the hostel and i had a delicious lamb dish that I would definitely recommend for anyone visiting Paris!  (num num)

Kirra and Cate on the Streets of Paris

The next day, the girls and I decided to split up as they wanted to check out the Louvre and I wanted to see the Musee D’Orsay.  Wow! what a museum! Some of the most beautiful works of art i have ever seen. What was really cool was the museum was hosting a Van Gogh exhibit so I got check some of his most famous works including his self-portrait.

After the art museum, I decided to wander about for a bit before I tried heading to the catacombs of Paris, where some of the bodies from the French revolution are buried. Unfortunately, by the time I got to the catacombs, they had already closed the line for the day. To cheer myself up, I decided to buy myself some Macarons, these cute colourful cookie-esque desserts that have become quite a fad around the world.  I ended trying three different flavours, including lavender, salted-caramel (apparently very French) and Mojito (not particularly French but still delicious).  

Macarons!

That evening, I reunited with Cate and Kirra and we made a delicious pasta dish that was the envy of all the other backpackers in the hostel. Unfortunately that I night I also learned the terrible news that I would  have to get up at 3:45 am to take a shuttle to the airport because my flight left before the metro started in the morning.

Note to all travelling friends, cheaper flights don’t always work out to be cheaper if you have to pay 37 euro to get the airport 😦

Yesterday was spent, sleeping on planes and in airports. After arriving at Charles de Gaulle, I boarded my flight destined for Warsaw. Unfortunately for me, my flight was delayed by a few hours. My orginal intention was to leave the Warsaw airport and check out the city, but I neded up only having and 1 and a half hours until my next flight, and I still needed to clear through EU customs.

Arriving in Istanbul was completely amazing.  The metro/street car ride through the city to get to my hostel, was jaw-droppingly beautiful.  The thing that comes across instantly about the city is that it is OLD. And by Old I mean 700 years older than Senor Jesus Christo.

I got to my hostel, no problem and ended up making some new friends at the hostel’s rooftop patio and bar. So far today, I hopped on a commuter ferry and headed over to the Asian side of Istanbul.  While less touristy than, the region my hostel is in, it’s still nice to be able to say that I’ve been to Asia. 

 

Well, that’s about it for now, I’m planning on hitting up the huge market this afternoon, in search of some new treasures! I’ll give you an update as soon as I can!

Later days! 

G

Paris Round 1

NOTE TO HILARY (and everyone else) Before you chastise me for my lack of pictures on the post, the computer I’m using doesn’t seem to like my Camera so I will upload them EVENTUALLY
ALSO this computer doesn’t seem to like wordpress so I can’t actually SEE what i’m writing, so I apologize if there are typos

Now that clerical issue is over with, Greetings From Paris!
While I’ve only been here for less than 48 hours, I feel like I’ve accomplished so much in this bustling city! But before I get into too much detail about what I’ve gotten up to today, let me recount my travels from Canada to Europe:

Monday afternoon, I got myself and Frank (my backpack) to the greyhound bus terminal just in time to catch my direct bus to the airport in Montreal. After chilling for a few hours in at the Trudeau airport, I squeezed my way into the “cozy” Air Transat seat and promptly fell asleep. Lucky for me, my flight was overnight, so I slept for almost all of the trip.

Arriving in Paris was a pretty easy procedure EXCEPT when I almost walked away with the wrong backpack. Apparently, another traveller on the plane had the same model of backpack as me. I quickly realized that the backpack I was holding wasn’t mine and dropped it back off on the belt and waited for Frank to arrive.

Getting to Paris was a simple train ride into the city and then a quick walk to my hostel. Upon arrival, I dropped of Frank and headed to explore. My hostel, Le Village, is located in Montmatre, the district of Paris home to the Moulin Rouge and the famed catherdral Sacre Couer.

After exploring the district for a bit, I headed back to the hostel to check out my room. Upon opening the door to my room, I met two delightful Australian girls from Adelaide. Kate and Kirra have been living in the UK working ata pub near London. After we introduced ourselves we became quick friends and went out to explore more of Montmatre.

Our evening was spent drinking wine, swapping stories and quoting from our mutual favourite show, Summer Heights High. The next morning was a bit of an early one as we all had planned to go on a walking tour of Paris. The tour was lots of fun and we ended up seeing lots of the popular sites here in Paris and learning some interesting facts.

Not to Hilary: Definitely check out the walking tour whwen you get here!

And that’s about it! Tomorrow I’m hoping to check some other sites here in Paris, but my time in this city is almost done! I depart early Friday morning for Istanbul and I’m not lying when I say I’m SUPER excited!!

Saturday night: Our final pre-departure meeting (aka crepe-mania!)

Well, the time is finally here for Gord and I to start up our travel blog.

With Gord leaving for Turkey today and me leaving not too long after (July 28!), we figured it was about time for us to get our butts in gear. With this in mind, we met Saturday night for our final meeting before our month-long adventure begins.

Gord modelling one of his packing necessities: his striped bowtie

To celebrate the near-beginning of a journey that will be full of delicious food and good company, it seemed appropriate that we do something equally as gluttonous to mark our last Canadian hangout.

Therefore, it was logical that our evening involved crepes, and lots of them.

Your two travel bloggers: Gord and Hilary (extremely happy and hungry)

Our dinner-dessert combo was provided by Pure Gelato, a short walk down the street from Gord’s apartment.  I took the walk as an opportunity to practice some key French phrases with Gord:

-“Je veux 20 macarons svp.”
– “Combien coûte le croissant de chocolat?”
– “Est-ce que je peux acheter un billet de métro svp?”

I think as long as I know those three, I will be just fine in Paris.

At the restaurant, we spoiled ourselves silly. We got crepes of the savoury variety (ham and cheese for me; ham, cheese and tomato for Gord, both topped with chives and béarnaise sauce) and crepes of the sweet variety (a shared chocolate, banana and strawberry one).  Gord even ate the whipped cream, despite his intolerance to lactose (he’s a Hufflepuff!) – what a champ.

Best meal ever.

One crucial decision was made during our crepe outing, and that had to do with the official hashtag for our travels.  We decided on #ghabroad.  Short, sweet, not the bearer of any terrible hidden meaning.  Lets make this topic trend, kids.

Gord tweeting, using our official hashtag, obviously

Back at Gord’s apartment, we made some final accommodation plans.  This amazing site, Airbnb hooked us up with loads of accommodations.  Basically the site is a database where travellers can search for places to stay around the world.  The locations you stay in are not hostels or hotels, but rather rented rooms in people’s homes or apartments. The majority of the time, these places are cheaper than hostels, and offer Internet, real beds, gorgeous rooms and access to washers and dryers.  The place we want to rent in Amsterdam even offers free bikes. Heaven. Stay tuned over the next few weeks to witness our decadent European living accommodations on a student budget. Many IKEA-esque photos will be taken.

Anyways, that’s all for me.  The next time I see Gord, we will be half across the world, basking on a beach in Santorini.

What’s next for me? A packing adventure. Stay tuned for the chaos, forgetfulness and anxiety of packing my life into a no-more-than 22 kilo bag.

Paris, I’ll be seeing you soon enough.