11.25.2016 Bonjour Paris

Forever in my mind will I associate Paris with the idea that dreams where made to come true. I’ll get to this later but here I experience the unexplainable feeling that anything is possible. My soul was touched in Paris.

I don’t know why I have been procrastinating writing the rest of the posts for so long. I mean seriously who wouldn’t want to write about their adventure through Europe? Well better late than never, I’m not going to let myself just put this off. These posts are long but this is truly my journey, this is how I felt, and these were my thoughts.

To begin. I arrived in Paris relatively late on the 23rd. After getting out of baggage claim, I was expecting to have my passport stamped. In the moment I was a little worried that I screwed something up and in turn would not be able to leave (I wouldn’t be complaining though). To help ease my thoughts I walked over to a Relay café in the airport and got a coffee and a sandwich because I was also a little hungry anyways. I figured at this point there’s not much more I can do, and eventually I was reassured through a quick text conversation with my mom and a couple google searches while I still had wifi.

Since the Charles-de-Gaulle airport is about 50 minutes from the city itself, the easiest option and the most cost effective is to take a train/ metro into the city. Even though I took the metro from Athens to the airport, this time I had to change trains about 3 times making it a little less fool-proof aka 3 more times to mess up. This was really my only option though because a taxi would have been WAY too expensive. So I put my big girl pants on and followed the signs for the RER B to the city.

After purchasing the ticket from the window I proceeded down the stairs and prayed that I was getting on the right train. I was surprised with how user friendly the metro system is in Paris. It was SO simple. You basically follow the sign that is clearly labeled with all the stops that metro takes until you get to your correct train. Even for an American tourist who had been up all day, who has also little to no experience taking the metro, this was EASY. Trust me.

It took me a little over an hour to ultimately get to the stop closest to my hostel: Aloha Eiffel tour hostel Paris. If you plan to stay here the directions listed out on hostel world are excellent!

The first moment of magic occurred as soon as I was a couple steps out of the metro. I immediately was faced with the incredible architecture on buildings one would probably consider insignificant. Then after a couple more steps I noticed the top of the Eiffel Tour lit up in between buildings. Even writing this two months later I still get the chills thinking about it. My energy level, spirit, charisma, you name it, was instantly boosted.

Shortly after I found myself at the hostel, got my stuff settled in my dorm bedroom and then walked to me my friend Heather who was studying abroad in France at the time.

The walk was absolutely brilliant. The streets were lit up giving it even more charm and every so often I was blessed with another sneak peek of the Eiffel tour.

The walk was a basically one road that I just had to follow down to reach the campus, which the study abroad group was staying at. Our plan for the evening was to take the lovely Paris metro to the Eiffel tour and walk around the grounds to see it lit up at night.

As soon as we got out of the metro, walked over and started to try to take some pictures I was shocked to find out that that not only is it lit up at night, but on the top of every hour it actually glitters for roughly 10 minutes. I had no idea that this happened. I have been to Paris more than once before, I have no idea why I didn’t know this. I simply thought that it was only lit at night (which is already outstandingly beautiful enough).

This is what I like to call the Sparkly Eiffel tour feeling. I cannot even begin to explain but like I said there is something about this that makes you feel like anything is possible. It literally felt like something inside me ignited. I think in that moment there was this even greater, newfound sense of hope that sparked in me. I was so moved by this I could have cried if I wanted to.

We continued around the grounds of the structure taking time to catch up and tell stories, which also allowed us to see the sparkles one more time. Once we finished our lap, we walked back to the metro to where she was staying. I walked home form there because I already knew the way and would be best oriented. As I was walking back to my hostel I saw the sparkles again from the distance, peeking out between two buildings. I’m not kidding when I said I had to stop, take it in and let it permeate for a couple seconds. Knowing that this feeling was possible caused me to question why people should feel anything less than this sparkly Eiffel tour feeling.

I went to bed with a smile on my face and an inspired heart.

The next morning, Heather and I had planned to meet at the Notre Dame at around 9:30. Our plan was to tour the Notre Dame, go to the Christmas market, follow the Champs d’Elysees to the Arc De Triomphe, and then continue on to the Eiffel Tour again.

On my way to the Metro, I passed a café called AM Martinho and got myself a quick little breakfast. Before the start of my trip I had joked with my parents that my Thanksgiving meal was going to be a pain au chocolat and a cappuccino, so you can only imagine what I ordered. I also decided that I would be brave and test my French. To my surprise I actually ordered successfully, and was able to answer the worker’s follow up questions. I think that also helped make the coffee and pastry taste even better than they already were: sweet, sweet victory.

I was able to successfully take the metro from the area of my hostel to the area of the Notre Dame. I am not lying when I say that Paris makes the metro basically foolproof. I found myself in a bit of a pickle; however, when I got out of the metro station. See, I knew I close to the Notre Dame, but I realized that I didn’t really know which way I had to go except for hopefully near the little river.

Ultimately I did walk the wrong direction for a couple blocks, but quickly turned around without getting discouraged, once I felt like it was not the correct direction.

Eventually you will see the waterway and the Notre Dame itself, and if you’re like me, you will also get the butterflies.

In typical Hannah fashion, I was a little bit early so I had the opportunity to walk around the area in front of the church and take some pictures until my friend arrived.

Once we met up we went inside the church.

I have been here before yet I still found myself blown away and beyond impressed. Both the interior and exterior are so grand. To say that this cathedral is exquisite would not be dramatic at all. The craziest part is to think that this and many cathedrals of the same stature were constructed long before the wonderful technologies we have today.

Once we finished touring the inside we decided to pay to climb to the top. I couldn’t help but be excited as I thought of Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. This is something I would 100% recommend doing. Even though I have traveled to Paris before, I have never experienced the view from the top of the Notre Dame.

You will be climbing something like 433 steps to the top in a spiral staircase that happens to get narrower and narrower the closer to the top you near so if you are in any way shape or form claustrophobic I wouldn’t recommend but it is definitely worth it.

I actually enjoyed this view probably more than climbing the Eiffel tour and the Arc de Triomphe. This is because the view from the here is high enough that you can see EVERYTHING while also getting to see the Eiffel tour in the view, which I found to be super cool! When you go to the Top of the Arc de Triomphe it is a very great view and definitely worth it, but it is a little harder to see everything. Obviously climbing the Eiffel tour is awesome but I think seeing the Eiffel tour from a view was probably cooler. If you have the chance, I would say do them all; but, if you can only choose one I would definitely recommend seeing the view from the top of the Notre Dame.

After our decent, we got back on the metro to the Louvre stop so we could walk from the Christmas market to the Arc de Triomphe. Paris is an awesome city to walk because you really can’t get lost. You can basically see the top of any major landmark you are trying to get to at all times, which is really convenient.

The Paris Christmas market was huge and my far probably the most Grand that I experienced during my trip. I did not make any purchase here except for on food. The best thing about those 433 steps was that it justified everything I was about to try at the Christmas market. I tried a cheese and potato dish, a mushroom and onions dish, potato pancakes, and a glass of mulled wine. My taste buds were so satisfied. As we walked out of the section with a lot of food vendors in one place and continued down the road, we passed a crepe stand where I realized that because I was in Paris I just needed to get a crepe. So I continued to enjoy that as we proceeded.

Eventually the market met up with the famous Champs d’Elysees, which was very neat to see. As well, the view of the Arc de Triomphe was also very clear at this point.

Due to time and money we chose not to go up, I was just happy to see it again because I have very vivid memories of being at the Arc with my Mom, brothers, and Grandma.

Getting to the Eiffel tour from the Arc was extremely simple because like I talked about before, you can quite literally follow the top of the Eiffel tour as we proceed through the streets. Even though we had seen the Eiffel tour the night before, it truly is a different experience during the daytime. For one it is far more crowded and two there is a different atmosphere (all good of course). All I really wanted to do here was just stand underneath. I’m not really sure how stupid that sounds but Oh well, we did it anyways and I loved every moment of it.

At this point we were a little bit tired so we went back to where my friend was staying and had a nap before dinner.

We started out at the restaurant Le Nemrod to get apps and a drink and then kept hopping to other places until we decided to call it a night. Instead of an app I chose to get a crème brulee because once again I figured, when in France I have to get one. I was delicious, but wasn’t anything more special than crème brulees I have samples before. I also decided to sample a Grimbergen dark, which introduced me to a newfound love for dark beer. The flavor was so delicious it tasted velvety. Once we finished and paid there we went into a more of a bar style place. I don’t remember the name because I didn’t write it down or take a picture.

This was our last stop of the night because we realized it was getting late and we both had a relatively early start in the morning.

As I walked back from where she was staying I was fortunate enough to catch a peek of the Eiffel tour glittering again. What feeling and what a perfect way to conclude my last night in Paris. The perfect reminder that I do indeed deserve to feel this magic all the time and the perfect reminder that everything happens for a reason and works out exactly as it needs to be.

This isn’t really in chronological order but I want to talk about the hostel I stayed in: Aloha Hostel Paris. This place was really great! It was close to the metro station and also a very simple walk to any major landmark. I can’t necessarily say a short walk because even from the Notre Dame to the Arc de Triomphe Google maps told us it would take about an hour. As well, compared to most lodging in Paris this place was very inexpensive and HIGH quality. I did stay in a dorm room, which was shared with six other girls. The bathroom situation was good, not necessary ideal, but I also wasn’t paying for ideal. During the shower I had to hit the button for the water about every 30 seconds and the water wasn’t necessarily the warmest, which was kind of sad for when I had to get out. Another thing I would keep in mind if you plan to stay here is that if you need a towel you have to rent it for like 2 Euros. I did not try it but I think the hostel did offer some sort of simple complimentary breakfast too. If I travel to Paris again I would 100% stay here again and would definitely recommend it to a friend!

Paris this time around definitely exceeded my expectations considering I already had a decent idea of what to expect. It is a really cool thing to have travelled to a place when you are a child and then see it again a little more than 10 years later and see how your see things differently.

Hope you all have a great day!

xxHannah

02.02.17 The Universal Language of the Cappuccino

So for those of you who don’t know, I went on a solo-backpacking trip through Europe over the course of 11 days over my Thanksgiving break. I had the absolute blessing of being able to travel to 8 countries, 7 of them new to me. Out of the man lessons I learned, one thing that stood out to me is 1. If there was a universal language the word ‘cappuccino’ would be in it. 2. Whenever I feel awkward and don’t know what to do with myself I find myself in the nearest coffee shop ordering a cappuccino.

Now, some of you might say, Hannah, aren’t you vegan? How did you drink cappuccinos? To that I would like to respond with when you are by yourself and menus are written in a Cyrillic or Greek alphabet you have to make the call to either try to figure out a way to explain no dairy or eggs, or you can just go for it. In this situation, I just went for it. I will say that throughout the whole time; however, I never found myself feeling like I really missed these dairy products I was consuming, which was reassuring to me.

 

Okay so now we begin my journey through Europe: one Cappuccino at a time.

 

Sofia, Bulgaria

Long story short, when I got to my hostel I was told that I needed to stay at the sister hostel just a short walk away. Fortunately this walk helped orient me in this new city and also showed me where the main shopping and eating street, ‘Vitosha’, is After getting to the hostel, and being shown my room, I had one of my first chances to take my backpack that I had been carrying around for literally past 24 hours off. I can’t lie, from here I fell asleep in my bed and didn’t wake up till about 4am the next day (thanks jetlag).

img_0111So the next morning I made it my mission to start my day off with a cappuccino from one of the cute cafes on Vitosha street, which I could enjoy sitting in one of the outside, covered patios. I never would have been able to predict how intimidating it is to walk into a café and order a coffee from places where the signs are completely foreign. Seriously. The first café I went into I got embarrassed when the lady told me I had to pay with cash, and left. So now, not only am I on a hunt for coffee, but also an atm. Long story short I found and atm and eventually built up to enter a café that wasn’t that crowded and also allowed me to sit outside.

So basically I walk into this café, take a deep breath, look the man behind the counter in the eyes and say cappuccino please. This is when I had my first inkling that ‘cappuccino’ was going to be a go to of mine. So I grab my drink and head outside to people watch in the covered patio situated outside on the main street.

As I am sipping my beverage watching the average person go about their day-to-day life I sort of remember that I haven’t had this much dairy in one sitting since august. There is a good chance that in oh lets say 15 minutes I will be up running from this café to find the closest bathroom. I guess that was my price to pay for going against my vegan ways for a couple of days. Long story short I was fine and was able to enjoy this delicious cappuccino before a long day of walking, site seeing, and getting a sample of Bulgarian culture.

Athens, Greece

My time in Athens was very short, quite literally 24 hours, but I believe I made it extremely worthwhile. In my taxi from the airport to my hostel, I was fortunate enough to have a driver that gave me a whole bunch of tips and things to try during my time here. He told me I had to the coffee shop chain ‘Coffee Island’ and try a local special called a Cappuccino Freddo. So that beverage became my coffee mission for Athens.img_7330

When you are walking on the street up to the Acropolis, there is a road called Makrigianni. Here you will find a whole bunch of restaurants and shops. The Coffee Island I went to was here, basically right across from the Acropolis metro stop.

So this cappuccino is an iced drink. Instead of milk that blends in easily, the espresso is topped with a very thick, sweet cream. The cream is almost the consistency of a custard and tastes absolutely incredible. Definitely the kind of drink you would save for a dessert or if you are really in need of a sweet kick but 100% worth it.

I walked with my drink down to a bench next to Hadrian’s Arch and the temple of Zeus and enjoyed this refreshing yet decadent beverage whilst once again, people watching and reflecting on all this things I was able to do thus far on my trip.

Paris, France

The tale of the voyage of the cappuccino continues. It was here that I began the ‘lets order a cappuccino because I don’t know what else to do trend. It was started out in the Paris airport. As I walked through the baggage claim exit, I was expecting my passport to be stamped and it just so happened that no one did. So I quickly texted my dear mother and asked if I should be worried. As I waited for a response my café raider seemed to have turned on because I instantly saw a Relay café where I had my first cappuccino in Paris. This cappuccino was honestly nothing too special, but like I said before, stay tuned for a trend to follow. I guess you could say this beverage was also necessary because I was meeting a friend who was studying abroad in France that night and needed any little extra boost of caffeine I could get.

On to the next morning.

img_0390Before my trip I had joked with my family that my Thanksgiving dinner was going to be a Pain-aux-chococolat and a cappuccino. Being that today was Thanksgiving, that was my mission. That morning I was meeting my friend at the Notre Dame so I left a little bit early so I could stop in at a patisserie on my way to the metro station from my hostel. I conveniently passed the café ‘AM Martinho’ so I popped in for my desired Thanksgiving meal and the opportunity to test my French.

I was able to successfully avoid embarrassment and ordered my breakfast in French. Feeling like a champion, I walked out of the café and proceeded to the metro, sipping what tasted like victory, or a cappuccino. Happy Thanksgiving to me.

The next morning was bye-bye to France and hello Croatia for me. In typical Hannah fashion, I arrived to the airport very early. But as you can probably guess, that means one more cappuccino and two more pastries for Hannah. I should probably apologize to the French people for being the reason why they need to restock their espresso bars and pastry shelf but hey, it had to be done.

Zagreb, Croatia

I got to Zagreb around 4 and made it to my hostel around 6. I spent 2 nights in Croatia However, my time was mainly spent in the evenings because I took morning bus trips to both Ljubljana and Graz (stay tuned).img_0658

The next morning I was taking the bus to Graz Austria just for the morning and afternoon. My first cappuccino experience occurred at the Bus station where I happily arrived early to enjoy a delicious pastry and cappuccino at the café called Dubravica. In my opinion, what better way to pass time than indulging? Luckily I was doing more than enough walking everyday to make up for it. Heck, even if I wasn’t I would still have no regrets. No pastry or Cappuccino left behind.

As you can imagine, the next morning followed the same way. I left my hostel a little extra early and sampled a different pastry and yet another cappuccino.

Graz, Austria

img_7944img_7932What a beautiful little city. My morning started out with me finding my way from the Bus station to where the town square area was. I immediately saw to a hill/ mountain you could go to the top and found drawn to it like a magnet. After my climb it was time for a reward, which was my lunch. I walked around the square and considered many tasty options I chose to sit outside at the café/ restaurant AUER, situated right in the square surrounded my many shops with gorgeous architecture and detailing, as well plenty of people for to fancy my people watching obsession. With it I enjoyed a delicious little sandwich, which it is possible may have even been vegan.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

This was my favorite stop; however also the shortest stop my entire trip. This city was quite literally something from my dreams and honestly, I wasn’t going to go because the bus left at 7 am and I would return around 3:30. But like I said 100% worth it.

The walk from the bus station to the old city area was quick and easy. I roamed around for a little bit getting a lay of the land while also making quick decisions as to what I wanted to do with my short time here. After finding myself in constant awe from the beauty of the town during my walk around I found a café situated on a street where there was what appeared to be a little flea marketimg_8077.

Prior to entering the café I walked into a convenience sized grocery store where for literally about 2 Euros I walked out with two different pastries. Then I proceeded into the shop, ordered my cappuccino, and enjoyed it outside with my pastries, watching the locals interact in this charming town.

While I was at the bus station, I got a little bit hungry again because I took another hike up a mountain to see a castle. At the bus station, my choice of food was McDonalds, however I wasn’t really upset because I quite enjoy trying seeing how it differs from in America. You can probably predict the next sentence, so yes, I did order a cappuccino with my meal. The funny part about this one is that I had planned to eat my meal on the bus back to Zagreb.

Unfortunately the spot where I was supposed to catch my bus from wasn’t necessarily clear so here I am carrying my backpack, purse, a salad, a bag with a pastry, and a coffee back and forth along the length of the bus terminal looking for a bus that said to Zagreb. After a couple laps up and back I eventually got on my bus but I could only imagine how silly I looked thinking what would happen if I missed my bus while holding on to this McDonald’s for dear life, while also making sure I don’t lose my bus ticket.

Once on the bus though, I was able to take a deep breath again and sip this McDonald’s coffee in a state of bliss.

Warsaw, Poland

I arrived at my hostel in Warsaw around 8pm and honestly I was exhausted so I basically went straight to bed. The next morning I wanted to find breakfast at a local coffee shop. I took a walk through the old town area and told myself I had to pick place before I arrived back at my hostel. I passed several Costa Coffees and Café Neros, however, I really wanted to go to a place that wasn’t a chain.

img_8188I found myself in a small café called café trackt ordering a tasty almond flavored pastry in addition to my cappuccino. It was much colder here so I enjoyed my breakfast in the warmth of the café. After this, I took another walk through the old town, venturing a little further this time and got myself lunch. After this I walked and checked in to the hostel I would be staying at for this night.

img_0990At this point, I was at this awkward time where it wasn’t really appropriate to eat dinner yet I had done enough walking so I decided gee, I better try one of the chains. Into the next café nero I went and honestly I may as well have just gone to dinner. I ordered a medium cappuccino and this huge slice of apple pie with a meringue on top. I can not begin to explain how good it was but I also laugh at myself because I was avoiding eating dinner early yet here I am ordering a slice of decadent pie probably bigger that my face. But like I said this was a voyage of the cappuccino/ no pastry left behind mission. It had to happen.

The next morning I successfully took the polish metro to the airport and rewarded myself with not just a cappuccino but a mocha cappuccino. Yes, a Mocha cappuccino. I would like to say I was stepping out of my comfort zone but really this was one of those machines where you simply press the button of what you want and your beverage is dispensed because I was in a convenience store. Poland you were so good to me.

Riga, Latvia

Alright so my final stop, you can only imagine what happens here. This was my last chance to leave no pasty and no cappuccino behind. How American of me. Indulge, Indulge, Indulge.

The first cappuccino I drank here is kind of a funny story but also not at all. I was following my screen-shot on my phone of the directions from the hostel website and ultimately ended up walking the completely wrong direction for about 5 minutes. My intuition started to kick in and I ended up turning around. However, about 2 blocs before I got back to where I started my phone had died. I’m not going to lie I began to worry a little bit. So what do I do?

Fortunately the bus stop I was supposed to get off at was a mall, which happened to have a costa coffee at. I had a feeling that they would most likely have an outlet and I would be able to recharge my phone. So in I went, found a seat near an outlet and let my phone begin charging as I specifically ordered a large cappuccino. Yes, I ordered a large. I figured my the time I finished it I would not only know where I was going, but also be more calm. Fortunately I figured it out and was able to not only enjoy the rest of my day in Riga, but also fall in love with the city.

img_1104The next morning would be last morning waking up in Europe. I new I needed to wake up an extra hour early so I could get one last coffee shop visit in. Into another Costa Coffee I went and got myself a caramel macchiato a slice of cake and a muffin. If you were wandering if the barista looked at me like I was crazy, you thought correctly. But, no shame in my game. This ended up being the best piece of cake I have consumed in my entire 20 years of existence plain and simple, no questions asked. I was also able to save the muffin I ordered for the airplane, which ended up being perfect!

Is it ironic to say that my over-caffeinated, over sugared self left that café feeling bittersweet? My cappuccino voyage had come to an end and let me tell you, absolutely no pastry was left behind. So if you’re ever feeling lost or like no one understands you, simply walk into a coffee shop and say cappuccino, you’ll be quite surprised.

If you want to read more, hopefully I will have the rest of the blogs about the places I visited up within the next week!

Have a glorious day!

Hannah xx