Eurotrip 2017 Part 2 – Turin, Italy

After our Paris trip, we headed for Turin, Italy for the next six days. We took the train and the neat thing about about the ride over was how comfortable and quiet it was. Even though the ride itself was about six hours, it certainly didn’t feel like it. Napping was easy and it was pretty spacious.

Just like the last post focused on Paris, this one will focus on Italy. Same as the last post, the pictures below are a compilation of pictures that everyone took during our awesome trip.  Continue reading “Eurotrip 2017 Part 2 – Turin, Italy”

Eurotrip 2017 Part 1 – Paris, France

We recently had an amazing vacation with our awesome friends from the U.S. Three couples and a 3.5 month-old baby came over across the pond for nearly two weeks. Each and every day was so much fun! We were so so happy to have them over here 🙂

The focus of the trip was Paris, France and Turin, Italy. This particular post will focus on the Paris portion only.  We were there for about 3 days. The post will be a keepsake to remember the fun we had and won’t necessarily have too many facts like the other blog posts do. If you do want to know more about some of the places we’ve visited in Paris, please visit our first trip to Paris, France, which was last December. One other note: the pictures here in this post are a compilation of ones that everyone took – thanks to everyone for letting me use them, especially the ones with crazy copyrights on them! :-p

Paris, France
26 June – 29 June 2017

Here’s our group!

 

 

Visiting the outside of the Eiffel Tower

Of course, had to see the Eiffel Tower while we were here. Our first day and night, we just hung around the outside, appreciating its unique beauty.

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The Cathedral of Notre Dame

The next day, we walked around the Cathedral of Notre Dame. As you may know, Quasimodo wasn’t around, but the gargoyles sure were! Looking closely at the picture, I’m sure you can that the crowd was a bit crazy, so we opted to go hang out in the gardens nearby rather than wait in line to enter.

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Le Jardin du Luxembourg  (the Luxembourg Garden)

There really is something about gardens that is so peaceful and soothes you. These grounds were well kept, and though there were quite a few people, the area was large enough that it seemed we had enough space for ourselves.

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Le Jardin du Luxembourg

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Here is the beautiful young family. 🙂

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After spending some time in these beautiful gardens, we decided to head out. There was a potential impending storm coming and we didn’t really want to be caught in the pouring rain without much cover, lol.

Arc de Triomphe 

During this on and off rainy day, we also visited the Arc de Triomphe.

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We walked around a bit here, using the underground tunnels. For sure, you don’t want to cross the ridiculous roundabout that surrounds the Arc! It was so insane that even though we were right near a piece of history (the Arc), we just sat and watched the traffic for a while, amazed how more accidents don’t happen here.

Visiting the Eiffel Tower

Our next stop was to visit the inside of the Eiffel Tower. Waiting for the elevator to the top was pretty packed. Then, getting to the top, it was almost a claustrophobic feeling with the amount of people and limited space, lol. The views were nice and there is something cool in just being so high up.

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We didn’t spend too long inside, and headed back down shortly after. Hmm…are we at the tower in the following picture…?

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Oh wait…different angle – yes, we were!

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Such a cool angle – thanks, Rachel!

And just for kicks, here is a picture where I have a funky bunny face or something. Thanks, Matt, you always seem to catch me doing something weird 😛 This will most likely be the only “embarrassing” picture of me on this post. Believe me, there are others! Hahaha!

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Versailles

On our final full day of Paris, we all went to Versailles, which is a fairly simple train ride over. Last time Nick and I visited Paris, we didn’t go in the Palace of Versailles and only visited the enormous and beautiful gardens. This time, however, we took advantage of being here again with our friends and explored this expansive palace.

This picture was taken inside the golden gate:

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We found the inside to be okay…I’m not sure if it was the fact that we have seen some palaces before or perhaps there were just so many people in this one, but it definitely wasn’t a place that you could spend a ton of time in without getting a bit tired.

For instance, this was the Hall of Mirrors, the most famous room of this palace:

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Even when pointing the camera up, you can still see the amount of people in this one room. With all the people there it was tough to enjoy and appreciate the room as much as I would have liked. That was all okay though – we were in good company!

One item of note: the Treaty of Versailles was signed in the Hall of Mirrors in 1919. In fact, it was signed on June 28th, the same day we were there!

*Fun Fact* 

All of the materials used for construction and all the decoration used to create the Palace of Versailles, including all the mirrors in the Hall of Mirrors, were made in France.

Even more interesting: although the majority of glass in the 17th century came from Venice (a.k.a. Venetian glass), French politician Jean-Baptiste Colbert was able to persuade several Venetian artisans to create the mirrors for Versailles in France.

Here’s where it gets a bit messy: Because the Venetians had a monopoly on making mirrors at the time and didn’t want the secrets of the trade getting out, the Venetian government ordered for the artisans that created the mirrors in France to be assassinated to protect the trade. Pretty crazy…

Okay, back to our trip. 🙂

What we really loved were the gardens here at Versailles. They are beautifully kept and large enough that they don’t feel crowded at all. The area is so large and nearly impossible to cover in just one trip that I can see locals coming by all the time. The entrance to the gardens is free, there are places to eat, so much to explore, and it’s so lovely. What could be better? 🙂

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Today was a funky weather day – it became cool, rained, then became so hot. This pattern repeated a number of times while we were exploring the gardens. We were so lucky that it didn’t rain too much, so we were fairly dry by the end of our trip.

Another cool thing we got to see were people trimming the hedges. They actually use a 3-D stencil of sorts to accurately cut the various shapes of the bushes here. It was nice to see that the hedges aren’t necessarily cut to perfection free-hand!

Paris Treats/Food!

For those of you who like videos, here’s one of the desserts that some of the group got on our first night in Paris. We call it “Flaming Crème Brûlée”. 

And no, the menu that fell a bit at the end of the video did not catch on fire, thank goodness!

Here are some other yummy Paris treats!

 

But, the highlight of the foods? Escargot! Oh my gosh, the ones we had at one of the restaurants were sooo delicious! When I had them last time, I thought ‘Eh, I tried them. I’m good.’ But, these? They were so good that we ordered another round. We went to Le Colimacon in the Marais. This wonderful restaurant came as a recommendation from another ex-pat here. Not only was the escargot amazing, the rest of the food was wonderful as well. Each and every plate was empty when we were done with them (including all the appetizers, entrees, and desserts)!

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Extremely delicious escargot!

And…here’s our group finishing a macaron, chips, and cheez-its lunch. 😛

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And, of course, here are maps of where we visited:

 

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This first part of our trip was so much fun! Our next stop? Italy!

Thanks everyone for reading!

Pont-Saint-Martin, Bard, and Verres – Italy

This will be a more pleasant post, compared to the one before.

Sunday, 28 May 2017:

One of the great things about living here in Italy is the ability to visit nearby towns and discover something new and unique. We took a day trip to a few small towns the other weekend to visit their main attractions.

The three cities we visited were Pont-Saint-Martin, Bard, and Verres, which are all in the Aosta area in northern Italy. A little less than two hours away for us.  Continue reading “Pont-Saint-Martin, Bard, and Verres – Italy”

The Islands of Malta and Gozo

Malta is an island that I honestly never knew existed, which is a shame because it’s a beautiful and relaxing place to be. It is located between southern Italy and Northern Africa (see maps below). This sunny spot is actually where many movies and TV series have been filmed, including (but not limited) to Titanic, Captain Phillips, Troy, Popeye, and Game of Thrones.  Continue reading “The Islands of Malta and Gozo”

Il Museo Egizio & Basilica di Superga

Wow, it’s been a bit since I’ve posted something, sorry about that! I will be better this week!

Saturday, 5 March 2016:

Believe it or not, it snowed a bit in the morning and early afternoon on Saturday! It looked like a Winter Wonderland was forming!

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Luckily, though, it didn’t stick. When it cleared up a bit, we stuck with our original plan to go and see Il Museo Egizio (The Egyptian Museum). It is actually one of the largest museums that holds Egyptian art and artifacts. It comes second after the museum in Cairo, Egypt.

First, we stopped and bought these:

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These annual museum passes allow us to visit and explore several (actually, a ton of) museums, palaces, etc. in the Piedmont region for free. We were lucky to get them at a pretty good discount, too! The good thing for when guests come here is that there are also options for discounted passes that last a few days. If we go to enough museums, then it’ll definitely worth buying!

*Fun Fact* Did you know that in Italy, women rarely take their husband’s last name when they get married? When getting our museum passes, the person helping us thought we were siblings because we had the same last name!

We took some pictures inside the museum, but not a lot. We wanted to make sure that we enjoyed ourselves. Also, we don’t want to spoil the museum for when you come to visit, so we’ll only show you a few. 🙂

One of the first things we saw was a mummy. 20160305_145004.jpgI learned that towards the beginning of preserving a body for the afterlife, the Egyptians laid the bodies on their left side usually in the fetal position like the one in the picture. Here we see a natural mummy of an adult man and his funeral equipment (sandals, reed baskets, and arrows). Notice how there is still some skin on his body?

He was from the Predynastic Period, which was roughly 3500 BC! Can you believe that?

This natural mummy was preserved by purely the sand he was buried in (i.e. the ground). The makeup of the sand and the environment would naturally preserve the body. That makes the condition of the mummy after over 5500 years even more amazing!

I will admit I was left with an unsettling feeling for a few moments after this particular mummy. I really didn’t know how to take the fact that someone’s body is used as an exhibit. I was a little disturbed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fascinating that the Egyptians treated their deceased like this, I was just troubled for a bit.

Afterwards, we also saw some wrapped up mummies like this one:

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When the Egyptians began using caskets/tombs, they started using an artificial mummification process since the bodies were no longer buried in the sand. I’m not sure if you know the process of mummification, so I won’t go into too many details in case you do. However, here are some in case you’re not sure. If you’re not interested, feel free to skip the steps, since some are a bit graphic.

  1. First, the Egyptians would purify the body with water from the Nile River.
  2. Then, they would take some organs out (the brain would come out first, through the body’s nose, since this was seen as less important) and put to the side to be dried with natron (a type of salt that was used to dry out the body and organs during mummification). They would leave the heart in the body because they believed that this was the vital part of man, and he would need it for the afterlife.
  3. Next, the rest of the body would be dried out with natron. The dried out organs would then be wrapped up and returned to the body.
  4. After, the body is washed, then covered in oils.
  5. Finally, the body is wrapped in several layers linens for the final stages of mummification.

The Egyptians also began to draw a face on the mummy wrappings, making them the most interesting type in this museum. The reasoning behind this is unclear to us (or at least, I couldn’t find anything about it online), but it might have to do with making the person more lifelike and ready for the afterlife. You can see the face in the wrapped mummy above.

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Here is one version of a tomb/sarcophagus. As time went on in Egypt, the details on the coffin became more and more involved to make them more personalized.
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Here is one version of a Sphinx. There are many different versions and sizes, but I like this one the best. It is what I have pictured a Sphinx would look like since I was a kid.

We explored a little more, but believe it or not, we did not even make it halfway through the museum! There’s so much to explore and so much to learn that we will definitely have to go back!

Sunday, 6 March 2016:

On Sunday, we went to explore the Basilica di Superga, on Superga Hill, another beautiful church. Here it is on the outside:

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The inside is just as gorgeous. It still amazes me that the public is able to enter churches and take pictures of their beauty.

Here we have different versions/interpretations of the Holy Mary and Baby Jesus.

The Holy Mary and Baby Jesus statue on the bottom is a very special one. This is where people feel comfortable praying for their loved ones. Notice the various rosaries Mary and Baby Jesus are holding? It is common for people to place their rosaries in their hands or around them as an offering. So beautiful.

There is a chance to go up to the top of the church that would provide amazing views of the Alps. Unfortunately, this day was a bit hazy and we had a hard time seeing the Alps from where we were, so we are saving this trip to the top for a clearer day!

We ended our weekend with some relaxation and preparation for our Cultural Training we had the next day (Monday)!