Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Madrid: The city that only sleeps between one and four... in the afternoon.

My, my, was Madrid a completely different experience than Paris. I guess that is kind of the point, right? Paris was fast-paced, expensive, and full of sights to see; Madrid was slow, cheap, and time was spent not at tourist attractions but rather in parks or plazas.

After a very late night the night before spent experiencing Madrid's nightlife (yay dancing!), we took our siesta in the morning and didn't get out into Madrid into much later than one is used to while traveling. Madrid has a small, personal vibe to it, where almost everything is walkable and pretty easy to find. Once again, we mastered a strange city's metro system. Unlike Paris, however, we stopped in the evening to relax with sangria and headed back to the hostel.

Yesterday was one of my favorite days in Europe so far. After yet another late start (Madrid's lazy atmosphere is contagious!), we went to the biggest park I've ever seen, rented rowboats, and spent a lazy hour floating around on a lake sorrounded by statues. We then wandered over to a shady patch of grass and napped. Oh, this is the life.

I am actually typing this from Rome, where I have been for only about an hour after (amazingly enough) a problem-free morning of travel! I will update this later in the week with my observations on Roma, which should be pretty intense.

Comment and let me know how you are doing!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

An American in Paris

We made it! A combination of delayed flights, lost luggage, and a foreign language that none of us can speak has made this an interesting start to our adventures. But we are all here and stuffed with all of the fresh bread and cheese you can imagine!

This post is very brief, as my internet is almost out and this keyboard is way too complicated for my qwerty trained brain.

We have spent the last few days mastering the Parisian metro, sampling crepes from all sections of Paris, and, of course, seeing all of attractions. Our hostel is in a grungy, wonderful part of Paris. Our jetlag has made so we are awake and out in Paris late into the night and it has certainly been an experience!

To combat said jet lag, we have been exploring in the morning and early afternoon, taking a siesta in the late afternoon, and then heading back out for the evening and night. Interestingly enough, this nap and rest time has made up some of my favorite times in Paris. Our rooms have gigantic windows that open fully onto the Paris streets below, so I drift into a light sleep to the sounds of Vespas driving by and Parisians talking excitedly on the street below. It has been intoxicating, really.

My dad will be vindicated to hear, however, that we have encountered several very rude French people. Americans and (hopefully!) other Europeans are far more welcoming to visitors to their country, even those who do not speak the language well. However, we have also met many helpful Parisians and even a traveling Croation who have been generous with their time and information.

Tonight we are taking the overnight train to Madrid!! I will post from there in a few days. :-) Feel free to e-mail with info about back in the States (or Australia, for that matter).

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.

So I realize Lao Tzu was probably being a bit more literal when he wrote those words, but please excuse the slight misapplication of his work for the broader idea- I'm almost ready to go! That single step has taken about a month of preparation to be ready for. I'm going to miss everyone and all, but I'm ready to just go out and do things, instead of all of this planning!

This blog, as you've probably already realized, is to document my travels. Ideally, this won't be a "I did this, and then I said this, and then I ate this" blog, but rather focus on broader reflections of the journey. As an American student in Europe and then later Africa, I'm sure I'll have plenty of insights to share!

First stop is Paris, so you all will hopefully hear from me from a Parisian internet cafe later this week! Please leave comments, as I will be missing all of you and would love to hear your reactions, comments, and updates.