vuela vuela

Globos1

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Globos-2

The “real” bloggers (you know, the professionals) are so good at faithfully chronicling their activities on their blog in a timely manner. I… am not (obviously). In typical fashion, now that everyone else is sharing their Christmas recap, I’m only just getting around to posting these pictures taken at the Arizona Balloon Classic a couple of weeks ago. I really wanted to go last year, but we had other plans and couldn’t make it. Happily, this year my in-laws (who were visiting) and Josh were good sports and let me drag them up at zero dark thirty to catch the sunrise launch. A hearty thanks to all the enablers that allow me to feed my hot air balloon obsession.

As far as recaps go, oddly enough, I didn’t take ANY holiday pictures this year—not at Thanksgiving (which we spent in Chihuahua with my parents) and not at Christmas (which we spent in Jersey City with my in-laws)—because we kept forgetting the camera at home. Oops. So! One short graduation recap to come and we shall be perfectly posed to keep that annual resolution: “Blog about things less than one month after they happen.” Wish me luck, y’all.

 

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en Europa: Roma

 

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we spent a lot of time looking at maps on this trip.

we spent a lot of time looking at maps on this trip.

Because all roads lead to Rome and stuff, here we are at last, at the end of this very extensive vacation recap. Huzzah! This is kind of how I felt by the time we got to Rome, too; like “Well, it’s been fun, but I’m pretty much ready for it to be the end.” The last time I went to Rome was also in November, but it must have been later in the month because whereas last time it was pretty chill and empty, this time it was PACKED with tourists. This is probably because we were there for All Saints’ Day on November 1st (a national holiday), but I’m positive the unseasonably fabulous weather also contributed.

We visited the Vatican on Ognissanti (All Saints’ Day) knowing it would either be crazy and amazing, or crazy and horrible. I’m happy to report that for us it was the former: we attended mass at Saint Peter’s (I’m not Catholic but I absolutely cried during the procession- so beautiful), and we were exiting the Basilica at the exact moment that Pope Francis, who I love, waved from his apartment window to the huge crowd in St. Peter’s Square! We didn’t see the wave, but the crowd’s reaction was exciting enough.

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Our last full day in Rome we went to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, where we once again waited in a long line with many tourists. Worth it, obviously. 🙂 That day, Josh also fulfilled his lifelong dream of getting a shave (ciao, barba!) at a barber shop conveniently located right next to the famous San Crispino’s (which does have the best gelato, in case you were wondering).

The next day we packed our treasures, sighed wistfully as we prepared to give up our diet of French bread, pastries, gelato and pasta, and embarked on the longlonglong flight(s) home (via Newark airport, where we met up with Josh’s family on our layover). Not to idealize twelve days in which we had our share of blisters, stomach aches, and sleep-deprivation-induced grouchiness, but this really was a dream vacation. We feel so blessed and grateful to have gone.

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Arrivederci, Roma! Ci vediamo!

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en Europa: Firenze

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Mini-post about Florence! Here we go!

So here’s how our Florence day went down: the night before, Josh and I were sitting in our Venice hotel room wondering where we should go next. I crowd-sourced among my family members and friends who had been to Italy, and the overwhelming response was that we couldn’t miss Florence. So we marched ourselves over to the train station, got a couple of tickets, and that was that. We were only there for about a day, which I thought was just enough time. Enough to see the David, do a quick tour through the Uffizi Gallery, and eat at Trattoria Mario’s (tiny, cheap and goooood; we split a table with two guys who had come from Napoli to watch the Florence-Naples soccer game).

And while we’re on the subject of food, Florence is supposed to have some of the best gelato in Italy. Did we sample three offerings in a 24-hour time period? Well, yes. Yes we did.

en Europa: Venezia

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THE STREET LAMPS ARE PINK!

THE STREET LIGHTS ARE PINK!

Three more cities to go, faithful readers of my vacation recap! So, Venice. I mentioned before that I planned the Paris part of our trip to my little heart’s content, but Josh’s one request before we left Phoenix was that I allow for, you know, spontaneity and stuff. So with that in mind, we adopted a very loose planning policy for the Italy portion of our trip: It Will All Work out Somehow. At the very end of our stay in Paris all we knew was that we had a hotel in Venice for one night and that we were flying out of Rome a week later. So we boarded our overnight Paris –> Venice train and prepared to have an adventure. That train ride was pretty great, by the way– we shared a compartment with two Russians who spoke no English/Spanish/French/Portuguese, so all we could do was sit and smile at each other. Only they were not that friendly, so basically I was the only one smiling. Let’s just say we all went to bed reeeeally early.

The first thing we did in Venice was get separated from each other when I got off the vaporetto to validate our tickets (I had read lots of horror stories of crazy fines for not validating and all of a sudden realized that… oops… we hadn’t). The boat left with Josh on it and I was stranded with no money and no idea where our hotel was, while Josh was on the water bus with no ticket and potentially about to receive the very fine that I had tried so hard to avoid. Ha! We totally kept our cool though, it’s a small island and we found each other eventually. Thank goodness we were backpacking is all I can say—the Italy part of our trip included lots of schlepping our bags around!

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venice-murano-glassAnd after alllll those words, what I really want to say about Venice is that it is so lovely it made up for the heartbreak of leaving Paris, which in my world is the highest compliment a city can get. The combination of beauty and decay is absolutely breathtaking, and the awesome part is that the thing to see in Venice… is Venice. We stayed a couple of nights and did lots of walking, took too many pictures, went to Murano to see the blown glass and ate LOTS of pasta/seafood. We even tried the spaghetti nero (squid ink pasta) at Trattoria alla Madonna, which came highly recommended and was delicious (though really kind of gross to look at—I couldn’t think about it too much as I was eating).

I think some people complain about the way Venice is touristy and smells questionable at times, but to me? It’s a dream city. If you’re going to Italy, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Venice by night, with all those lights shining into the water, is breathtakingly beautiful.

Venice by night, with all those lights shining into the water, is breathtakingly beautiful.

en Europa: Paris (segunda parte)

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IMG_4526Ya habiendo estado algunos días en Paris, se nos antojó salir de la ciudad y fuimos a Versailles. Al parecer mis gustos no han cambiado mucho porque igual que la última vez, mi parte favorita fue el Hameau de la Reine, un pueblito con un molino en donde Marie Antoinette se hacía la granjera. Siempre me han gustado mas los jardines de Versailles que sus cuartos.

Hameau de la Reine

Hameau de la Reine

Y siguiendo con el tema, que interesante cómo las cosas sensillas suelen provocar más placer que las espectaculares. Por ejemplo, aunque me encantó estar en el Louvre y todo eso, una de mis experiencias favoritas fue cuando estábamos en Rue Montorgueil y se soltó un aguacero. Como no traíamos el paraguas (de milagro porque lo llevábamos cargando tooooda la semana), nos metimos rápido a un restaurante tailandés que ni siguiera vi cómo se llamaba. ¡Y no que esa comida fue de las mas ricas de todo el viaje! Igual casi terminando la semana, fuimos a lavar ropa cerca del hotel y mientras esperábamos afuera en un parquesito (comiéndonos un pan por supuesto), salió una señora mayor con su perrita gorda. A pesar de que los parisinos tienen fama de geniosos, era la señora más alegre que he conocido en la vida, y yo creo nosotros también le caímos bien porque platicamos un buen rato y terminamos super amigos.

Moraleja, todos vayan a Paris. 🙂 (Y si van, no se pierdan ir a donde van los enamorados, el Pont des Arts. De pasada buscan nuestro candado— ya se que es una cursilería, pero no me importa porque fue una noche tan romántica que casi muero de la emoción.)

 

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end of week = we were kinda broke = in Josh's words, "Big love... little lock." (the lock salesman was NOT impressed)

End of week = we were kinda broke = in Josh’s words, “Big love… little lock.” (The lock salesman was NOT impressed.)

P.D. Algunas recomendaciones por si les interesa / Some Paris recommendations in case you’re interested:

  • Bateaux-Mouches your first evening there—Paris is gorgeous from the Seine and it gives a good introduction to the layout of the city
  • Paris Museum Pass (worth every penny)
  • Rue Montorgueil (the whole street. I loved every shop.)
  • Musee Rodin + museum café for lunch
  • Crepe stands at Trocadero (touristy but they’re the best + the view ain’t bad either)
  • L’As du Fallafel in the Marais
  • Merci is an awesome little store, and the café is really good too

en Europa: Paris (primera parte)

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Notre Dame

Notre Dame

Stop #2: Paris, France! So here’s the thing: generally speaking, my vacation style is to cram as much as possible into each day (unless I’m at the beach, in which case my goal is to spend the majority of my time hanging out in a leisurely fashion). Unsurprisingly, I had an enormous list of sights and activities Josh HAD to experience. Another thing that was important to me this time around was to experience Paris’ amazing food scene. The last time I was there, as a student, my experience with Parisian food was basically limited to crepes from the stands + bread, fruit and cheese from the supermarket (yeah, ok, and lots of pastries… as proved by my roundroundround cheeks circa December 2007). Hence, I also had a very long list of restaurants gleaned from many hours spent on blogs and TripAdvisor.

Needless to say, we did a lot in Paris, but having a whole, glorious week there meant we were free to wander around instead of frantically sightseeing. I also adored our hotel in the 12th arrondissement, and having that little home base meant that by the end of the week (after finding a favorite boulangerie, fruit stand and laundromat in “our” neighborhood) we felt pretty close to local. You know, for tourists.

Paris la belle! She was just as lovely as I remembered.

On the left: honestly the only decent picture we got on the bateaux mouches (boat tour on the Seine). Super romantic, but night photography = not my strong suit.

On the left: honestly the only decent picture we got on the bateau mouche (boat tour on the Seine). Super romantic, but night photography = not my strong suit.

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Just for fun, a side by side (left: 2007, right: 2013). The Rodin museum is my faaaavorite.

Just for fun, a side by side (left: 2007, right: 2013). The Rodin museum is my faaaavorite.