Roundtrip flight LAX-CDG: $100 (with miles)
Fresh, homemade Italian pasta for two in Bellagio: 17 euros
Annecy snowglobe: 6 euros
Entrance fee for two to the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona: 22 euros
Traipsing around Europe with your sister: Priceless.
Every meal on Lake Como was nothing short of divine--really fresh, homemade pastas and sauces, perfectly Italian pizza, srumptious pastries and gelato. I just about died eating my pumpkin gnocchi with sage butter sauce for lunch in Varenna, the village we headed to first thing Saturday morning. Besides the food, the places were all postcard-perfect Italian villages, full of brightly colored buildings, incredible villas, stone stairways leading you uphill (really the only direction you can go), and breathtaking views around and of the lake. After Varenna, we hopped the ferry to Menaggio, and then back to Bellagio when it started to rain a bit in the late afternoon (despite the sunny start to our day). My sister slept off some of her jetlag (and I joined her) before we devoured some amazing pizza and prepared for a busy Sunday.
In the morning, we grabbed some breakfast, headed back down to the lake to enjoy some last looks, then once again hopped on the ferry, caught a train and chugged back to Milan for a whirlwind tour (trust me, this is the best way to do Milan). We headed straight for Santa Maria del Grazie for our Last Supper appointment. After staring at Da Vinci's great disappearing masterpiece for about 10 minutes (which should have been 15, but a time-wasting mix-up caused us to miss our 1pm appointment and hop in late on the 1:15 group), we hurried over to the Duomo where we ate an overpriced meal with a priceless view (of said Duomo). We opted for the time-saving elevator, wandered amongst the lacey rooftop, scurried back down to grab some gelato, and high-tailed it back to the train station, where we had to catch the bus back to the airport for a 6:30 flight to Lyon.
Here's where disaster hit, and apparently some karma we had coming to us: I had no cash left to pay for the airport bus, no one took credit cards (wtf italy??), the atm in the station didn't work, the closest atm outside the station didn't work, so we were forced to suck it up and take an 85 euro taxi. However, when we got to the airport, we found out our plane was going to be TWO HOURS late! So a) we ended up sitting around the airport for 3 hrs and b) we actually had TONS of time to find another atm (though, of course we couldn't possibly have known this. FML. Anyway, we finally made it to Lyon, tired but excited for the rest of our week.
Monday, we stayed in Lyon, did a quick morning tour, munching on some brioches aux pralines roses, heading up to Croix Rousse and back down to Place des Terreaux before ending up at a creperie in Old Lyon for lunch. Then, I took my sister to work with me where she got to meet some of my teachers, other assistants and students. The students seemed to really enjoy meeting her, and they especially enjoyed discussing the finer points of American tv shows with her, though I had to keep reminding her to cut back on the slang missing from French students textbooks, and therefore sailing right over their 'eads. Speaking English to those not fluent in it can be its own art form.
|St. Benezet bridge in Avignon, aka le pont d'avignon|
After our mini French tour, Thursday we hopped on a plane and headed south to Barcelona! We both immediately fell in love with this vibrant and architecture-rich city, marveling at the Gaudi masterpieces and savoring delicious tapas and of course, churros con chocolate. We wandered around the melting-icecream rooftop of the Casa Mila, strolled up and down the always-lively main drag, La Rambla, and oogled at the magnificent exterior and interior of the Sagrada Familia. In the amazing La Bouqeria market, we tried 4 or 5 pressed fruit/smoothie drinks (discovering the delightful puke-flavored cactus fruit), devoured our favorite tapa, patatas gravas (potatoes in a slightly spicy tomato/mayo sauce) and sampled some Spanish candies. Later, we were excited to finally find the mosaic iguana in Parc Guell, whose likeness we had seen everywhere, on magnets, plates, candle holders and more, and waited impatiently to pose with him before exploring the rest of the awesome park. Lucky for us, Gaudi original vision of creating a sort of gated community for Barcelona's wealthy residents didn't pan out! That night, we sped over to the Catalan Art Museum to watch the Magic Fountain show, a light and water show set mostly to hits of 80s (at least that night), and then took a nighttime tour of the Gaudi sights.
Our last day, we headed back to the Sagrada Familia, realizing we had forgotten to take jumping pictures in front of it, a tradition of ours which our parents begrudingly accomodate when traveling with us. After a few more stops, including one more stop at the market for some tapas and smoothies, it was time for us to barely make our flight to Paris.
Sunday: our whirlwind one-day adventure in Paris, sous la pluie no less. As she had gotten her wallet stolen while heading to Versailles during her first trip to Paris in 2009, my sister had begged me to take her there, and while this was thus her first time to the magnificent palace, it was my...6th. Now Versailles is great and all, but 6 times is really a few too many, but luckily my long-term visa gets me into many sights, including Versailles for free, so of course, we went. Naturally, the RER C (the main train to Versailles) was mysteriously not running JUST THAT MORNING, which also naturally, no metro station employee seemed to be aware of until I brought it to their attention (sometimes the French really are super frustrating) after finding all the entrances to it were closed, so we ended up getting there later than planned and therefore caught in the flood of tourists, inching their way through the palace rooms gawking and photographing their little tourist brains out. The pictures won't come out that great anyway, just keep moving!!! Anyway, the freedom of the gardens was a welcome relief and we even got asked to be videorecorded wishing some Korean home shopping network a happy 10th anniversary. Random. We were supposed to do it in unison, but our hysterical laughter at each try forced them to shoot us separately (and probably want to literally shoot us).
|Apollo fountain at Versailles|
Ps check out our matching Spanish shoes!