Sunday, September 21, 2014

Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park | Oyster Bay

Took a short trip up the island of Long Island to this charming town with a mansion and garden. such an amazing place to visit during this time of year. 

Glass house

Coe Hall

love the outdoors


nature trail

entrance to the rose garden

The italian garden

Monday, June 9, 2014

Eurotrip| 5.24.14| Paris Day 1

5.24.14 - We landed in Paris for the first leg of our 2 week trip! I think it was pretty certain where our first stop would be, the Eiffel Tower! We took the metro and I was really excited to see this landmark for the first time with my own eyes. I've been in love with Paris since I was 16, like every other girl, this was the city of love, romance and fashion. I almost went to Paris instead of Australia for my exchange program, but decided I wanted the ease of an English speaking language and 2 of my best friends had already completed their programs in Sydney. I figured I could always come back to Paris and make a Europe trip out of it and 2 years later, I'm here! Walking out of the metro, Aaron led the way as I followed behind. As we were about to reach ground level, he told me to close my eyes until he said I can open them. Shielding my eyes so I won't peek, he led me to somewhere in the middle and stopped. After a few seconds, I got the okay and looked up to the infamous tower of Paris. It didn't feel real. Even as we walked towards it passing the dozens of street venders selling Eiffel keychains and speaking French. The tower was so perfect even with the light rain which only made it more beautiful because of the rainbow that appeared as soon as the rain stopped. 

There are two ways to go up the Eiffel. You can spend 5 euros a person to walk up to the first level, probably around 3 stories high, or you can take the lift which was around 9 euros a person. It would be cool to say I climbed the Eiffel, but I wanted to go to the second level. It was a good excuse to take the lift. The view from the lift was amazing, especially withconcert and music blasting from the courtyard below. 

By the time we got off the lift, the Eiffel tower was lit up and sparkling. It was the perfect first day in Paris. I was able to take a picture of my macaroon and the Eiffel and recorded a bit of the concert from that night. 

Eurotrip| 5.25.14| Paris Day 2

5.25.14 - This was my favorite day of the trip. We started the day by walking to the local deli to pick up sandwich supplies. Aaron is a self professed sandwich master so we brought French baguette, salami, Gouda and walked to the Notre Dame where we started to make sandwiches. It was the cutest thing, tasted good, cheap, and I got some traveling baguette photos out of it. We also walked along the bridge with locks of love. I heard a lot of these lots are cut off to prevent overflowing but some of the locks looked old. 

After our morning excursion, we were off on our way to our main attraction, Chateau de Versailles! Make sure you don't hop on the wrong train like we did. After figuring out and transferring to our correct train, we had to navigate to Versailles due to all the constructions making us take a detour. After an almost hour and a half commute along with befriending lost Spaniards with the same itinerary, we made it to the golden gates! Versailles has to be one my favorite places in Europe. I felt like I belonged there and that time period, gossiping alongside Marie Antoinette before the French Revolution executed her. It must have been a delightful time for the rich then with all the grandeur and parties and fashion. Nothing was considered too much and you can see this in the garden of Versailles. Everything was extravagant from the rows of immaculate trees and mazes. Imagine how many people it took to upkeep this garden. I love that I could easily transport my mind to another place and time. It was so serene that I wouldn't mind just staying there forever and living in bliss. A lot of the fountains weren't working when we got there and there were constructions or renovations to preserve the garden but nothing to ruin the scenery. Aaron and I did the boat ride in the man made lake and it was the most romantic date I can ever imagine. He rowed the boat as I sat and took in the scenery. I originally wanted to do the bike ride around Versailles but this was so much better because of the timing we went. I can always go back and do the bike ride but this was perfect. 

We did a lot of walking that day going to the other end of Versailles where Marie apparently lived. On that side was the queen's hen? I'm not sure but it felt like a different place and time right next to the castle. There were cottages with windmill and fields of green farmland. Make sure you bring some comfy walking shoes, aside from that, Versailles was definitely my favorite day of my 2 week trip.

Eurotrip| 5.26.14| Paris Day 3

5.26.14 - It still feels like spring in Paris with the damp weather. Today made a perfect museum day and we checked out the infamous Louvre. This place is massive and Aaron was a sweetheart for seeing it with me for my first time even though he has been here twice before. This is definitely an all day thing even if you did the drive by look and fast walk like I did. The highlight of this museum is the Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci. Expectation- be able to leisurely examine the painting  and see the significance of this painting and why it is a masterpiece. Reality- pushing and shoving my way through a crowd of 50 foreign tourist just to get a quick glance and picture before getting pushed out. I don't understand why people take photos of themselves standing in front of each paintings, how many times are you going to look at that photo when you're home and why do you need proof that you were actually there. And there's no way those pictures you took are going to be better than the ones you can grab off google. At least we had some time afterwards to stroll around another garden area and surprise, with another fountain in the middle. I actually love the parks around Europe and wish there were more in the States. We were suppose to grab dinner with our Parisian friend tonight but decided to get a cheese and wine platter at a small cafe outside by her work beforehand as a snack. I love the cafés out here with their tables overlooking the streets. What I don't like however is all the smoking everyone from teenagers to the elderly do out here. It's so gross to be enjoying your food then getting a taste of someone else's smoke in your mouth. Julie took us to an area filled with small cafés, after leaving the first place for the bad service, we decided to go to her cheese fondue place. Julie is very French and she wanted to make sure to send us off with an authentic French cuisine experience. We had cheese that was melted like a fondue, fois gras, an apple tartine dessert, and wine. Our cheese platter earlier made us too full for dinner. The fois gras was very good, interesting taste and texture and I'm glad I tried it. It's not something that I'll hate the States for banning though.

Eurotrip| 5.27.14| Paris Day 4

5.27.14 - Last day of our first leg in Paris before our flight to Florence. There so much to do in Paris and we managed to squeeze in one more must see, the Catacombs underneath the city of Paris also known as the boneyard. The line for the tour was very long by the time we got there around 11am because only 160 people can be down there at a time. We waited for 2.5 hours, thank goodness it wasn't raining. Once inside, you have to go downstairs, roughly 100 steps and it has an eerily feel. Slightly damp and with the audio tour playing grim music, it was pretty freaky. About mid way through you'll see the bones of the dead from hundreds of years ago. All the bones are stacked, the top ones are loose and you could probably pick them up, some stacked in designs decorated with the skulls. There's something humbling about seeing all these bones since these were once living beings and I found it uncomfortable that they weren't tucked and buried away. Apparently, the city ran out of places to bury the dead back when war, famish, and diseases were a main cause in deaths, so they moved all the bones to the unused quarries under the city. Not a good place to visit for the claustrophobic but if you can, I would recommend it. It's a good contrast to all the romanticized part of Paris that I enjoyed very much, almost like a secret of the city.

More info on the Catacombs

Eurotrip| 5.28.14| Florence Day 1

5.28.14- First day in Florence and we started our day with food obviously. We went to a tourist trap location next to the leather market called Trattoria Zaza. I should have known not to go there since it was on my hostel map but it was also on my Florence to do list. You can't win them all. Our hostel was behind the train station so we had to walk across the bridge to the city center which is gorgeous with churches and old structures everywhere. Explored a bit after lunch which was followed by gelato. I was having some fun copying some of the tourists' poses in my own pictures. Make sure to visit Ponte Vecchio, it's a bridge with jewelry store fronts from start to end. I was hoping to get a piece of jewelry for my mom and myself for this trip but the windows had hundreds of pieces and none of them stood out. The ones that did were too out of my price range. I'm sure I could have found something if I kept looking but I didn't want to fight my way in there with all the other window shoppers.  You can sit along the bridge and look out at Florence which is built by a river. It's an amazing view but I much prefer the beach over river, must be my Cali side but why look at brown stream water when you can get the blue green ocean. There were some people sitting along the river, you can climb the barrier and go down closer but I didn't bother considering I'll be going to Greece later in the trip. 

Next and final sightseeing stop for the day was the Boboli garden. I love that you can walk everywhere in Florence unlike Paris. The garden is surrounded by a museum. It was a nice day to be outdoors and the garden is amazing. I love the parks of Europe with their fountains and their vast greenery. You can feel the grandeur of the time this was made. The park is big but we finished in about an hour. There is a big fountain to the right which was gorgeous. After the garden we did a quick trip around one of the museum that came with the admission. It was a small museum with few items on display and even the rooms were kept in its original state. It was a quick walk through, they had a display of jewelry which I found interesting but other than that, it was okay. On the way out you can find Grotta Grande, created by Bernardo Buontalenti built in 1583 and intended to be a fantasy inspired grotto. It's beautifully ugly as best described. beautiful in respect that there were so many details and the statues were perfect in its depiction of the human body and scenery, ugly in a sense that it looks like hot molten or acid was poured over the entire grotto making it look like it belonged under the sea. Aaron said this was in the same style as the buildings in Spain which makes this a must see for me one day. I found this building the most fascinating in all of Florence because there was nothing else like it.

Eurotrip| 5.29.14| Florence Day 2

5.29.14 - Last full day in Florence and we made sure to eat at some of the places on my list before leaving to Rome tomorrow. Our first meal was from Gusta pizza, apparently a must for their pizza and also happened to be the American hot spot. That last fact alone turned me off from the place as it was filled with American students going there for the cheap pizza. The margarita pizza was a disappointment and I found the pizza at Eataly in NY better since it's not as soggy. It was the typical thin crust with fresh tomato sauce and mozzarella, but I wasn't sold especially having to wait a good 45 mins. The least they could do was cook my pizza so it wasn't soggy in the center. That night we went to a restaurant that was also owned by the same family, Gusta Octavia which proved to be so much better than the crap they were selling the American students. You know that when a restaurant has a limited menu their food tends to be good and this place blew all the other pastas I've had out of the pasta water. I had the farfalle with zucchini flower and shrimp and it was the most amazing thing I've ever had...ever. I couldn't figure out what the amazing sauce was, but it tasted like butter sauce mixed with uni? Either way, I ate every bite as if I was in heaven and probably sold the dish to other tables as they watched me practically licked my plate. Also make sure to visit the leather market. The vendors can be pushy there so don't let them talk you into buying anything right away. Most of the bags are knock off designer bags but they have a few original designed bags with very nice leather. Florence has their own stamp that looks like a spade but I didn't like how it also said "Florence" under it. I'm sad to be leaving Florence, well sad to be leaving the food and gelato. The city instead is pretty small and there wasn't much else for us to do. Did I mention it's a couples spot? People asked if Aaron and I were there for our honeymoon but I just pointed to my finger and said "Sorry, he didn't put a ring on it". We decided to call this our prehoneymoon honeymoon instead.