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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My Whirlwind Tour of Europe, otherwise known as Spring Break

Kharissa playing with electricity
at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland
by Anna Simmons

For spring break, Kharissa and I bought Eurail passes and took trains/ferries from France to Switzerland, Switzerland to Italy, and Italy to Greece, and then back through Italy again to go home. In Switzerland we visited Geneva and saw so many beautiful gardens, parks, and the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).

From there we went to Lake Como, where the highlights were our many, many hilarious troubles with the Como bus system (After living in Paris, we vastly prefer metro systems to buses. They’re too confusing) and seeing Villa Balbianello, which is where they filmed part of Star Wars. Between that and nuclear particles at CERN, a lot of geeking out happened in these two cities!

Hands down one of the most beautiful sunsets
I've ever seen, in Florence, Italy
Kharissa and Matteo before
eating delicious homemade Carbonara
From Como we took a train down to Florence, where, on our first night, we met up with some new Italian friends who invited us to their home the next night to teach us to make real Italian pasta. This night ended up being one of my favorite memories of the whole trip, because Matteo and Andrea are incredibly hospitable and interesting people. Andrea made us spaghetti carbonara, and it was so so so good. Andrea doesn’t speak a lot of English, but Matteo is quite good, and somehow we managed to overcome the language barriers enough to learn all about them and how they liked art school in Florence. We got to see a lot of their paintings which were hung up all around the apartment, and they were good, too. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they both become famous painters one day. We learned about Italian food, language, and culture, and we told them about our travels and studies so far. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, making friends with people abroad is hands down my favorite part of traveling.

From Florence we spent a very little bit of time in Milan, got attacked by pigeons in front of the Duomo, then made our way to Greece! I’m sad that I can’t do our Greece adventures justice at all in this blog; there just isn’t enough time. I will share one though!

The highest point on our
12 km hike in Santorini, Greece
A friend of mine, Chichi, met with me at a bus stop one day while Kharissa was taking a sailing tour of the Caldera. Chichi accompanied me to Oia, to explore the area. We walked through the town, and made our way down the donkey steps to Ammoudi Bay (fun fact: Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was filmed here). We got the idea of exploring the other side of the cliff, so we scrambled our way over a path half destroyed by fallen rocks, and eventually came out to a little bay area that looked like it used to be a dock of sorts. There were already some people there soaking up the sun on the rocks, and Chichi went swimming while I splashed my feet in the clear blue Caldera water. It was a perfect little excursion; a beautiful place I otherwise wouldn’t have seen if I hadn’t been open to new experiences.

From Santorini we spent a little time in Athens before flying (and very nearly missing said flight) from Crete back to Milan, and then, since I couldn’t get a seat on a train back to Paris until Tuesday, I spontaneously went to Rome for the weekend!

Me and my new friends, Max, Victoria,
and Andy, eating our gelato in Rome
Rome was, in a word, incredible. I was nervous, being that it was so spontaneous! I ended up making three amazing new friends in my hostel, and we spent the weekend bonding and seeing the sights of what is now my second favorite city that I’ve been to in Europe. I relearned something that I remember writing in my very first blog: the scarier something is to you, the more potential it has to be awesome. Stepping out of our comfort zones and travel is one of the best chances we have to grow and to gain from new experiences, and now I look back on the adventure-packed trip as one of the best I’ve had abroad.

A bientôt!
Anna Simmons


GSE Spring 2012 - Paris, France
University of Paris Sorbonne


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