06 September 2010

A Stroll to North Park

(Photo: http://visitnormandy.wordpress.com)
So, I woke up today on my day off from everything, school, work, pretty much all responsibility: Something that is a rarity in my life. Today is Labor Day, or as in France, Fête du Travail, but without all the pretty flower vendors sprinkling the streets with Les Muguets bouquets (Lily of the Valley) which the French traditionally give to loved ones on May 1st. I peeked out the window as I usually do as a first indicator of the weather situation outside…swelteringly hot or bearable? During San Diego summers, these are the only two options for weather. You die of heat exhaustion or you can walk outside and not want to head somewhere riddled with air-conditioning. To my sheer surprise, the weather today is hovering around 16ºC with a cool hint in the air and clouds overhead. I’m not one to cherish the dessert-like climate here, so I was thrilled that I wouldn’t be burned alive today.
As a result of the weather and my lack of anything that I ‘had’ to do today I wanted to take a walk…something that I had taken to as a hobby in Paris, an activity that to be quite honest has fallen from my daily routine because of the total inability to really walk most places in San Diego unless you get your rocks off looking at cloned apartment homes, rundown ranch-style homes, and lots of homeless people. Fortunately though, I have recently moved to a new apartment in Hillcrest/Balboa Park area, also quite close to North Park. Today, I told myself, I will walk! WALK to North Park.
 (Photo: http://sduptownnews.com)
So here I am, finally in North Park, at a lovely café called ‘Café Calabria’. I found the spot after much ‘Yelping’ as to not waste an entire walk, that which might be quite long, going to a bum coffee joint. To my absolute delight, Yelp was yet again accurate in its rating and I have found an amazing new hang out. This Italian inspired café is definitely a place that lives up to what it calls itself. Not quite ‘like being back in Italy’ as some raters have coined it as, but quite close. The menu offerings are items I have seen during my travels in Italy and Europe, the fabulous espresso, and the friendly staff who actually pronounce the Italian names correctly, or at least with a tried effort on the accent part. Love it! I also ordered a Capresse sandwich with buffalo mozzarella, thick heirloom tomato slices, and an amazing basil pesto on a very crunchy (quite FRENCH) style baguette…(I must find out where they purchase their baguettes….I’m still on the hunt for good French bread…The search continues!)
I ordered my usual large brewed coffee (I need my high dose of caffeine…let’s be honest!), then I had to try their espresso, which is what raters have raved about. I ordered a double espresso and have fallen in love. Oh yes, my days of heading to a Starbucks, oh so American because it is close by, I hope, are over.
Benvenuto to Café Calabria, where I hope they can cure me of my café withdrawals.

04 September 2010


The ending of L'Auberge Espangole made me happy yet 
made me want to cry. I haven't seen this movie in ages...
after watching it tonight it sums up so much of my life 
in Paris...it is really touching. 
The nostalgia is almost too hard to bear.  
'I choose a futur without openings.
I'm going to do what
I've always wanted to do.
Everything seems simple and clear.          
I am not that.   
Nor that.      
But I'm all that.
I am him, him, him...
And I don't want to deceive him.                   
I am her, her...
I am French, Spanish, [Italian], [Irish], [Dutch], [Finnish]...
I am not one but several.
I am like Europe, I am all of that !
I am a real mess !
Now, I can start telling you everything.
Everything started here
when my plane took off                   
No, it's not about a take-off.          
Well actually, it's about a take-off.                   
Everything started here'.
L'Auberge Espangole 2002

09 May 2010

Au Revoir Paris

Well, this moment has been looming over my head for quite sometime now...and well, the day is almost here. Monday I return to The States after the most amazing adventure of my life to date. Few words can really be said to describe my time abroad in anything less than a grand novel. There are so many experiences to recount, so many ups and downs, the good and the bad, craziness, and sometimes yes, plain boring times. The package deal that is 'study abroad' is something that really can’t be described on a paper for a prospective student. It really is something that takes a leap of faith into the unknown. My travels to France to my new life in Paris are something that I couldn't trade anything for. Couldn't and absolutely would not. The closer my flight date comes (May 10th) is a day that has been approaching with great mixed feelings, ups and downs and lots of confusion about the future. I know I have to return to San Diego to finish that damn degree of mine haha, but there are so many things that are here in Paris that have just fused themselves to my personality, my likes, and really to my soul as a whole. Paris gives me energy, an energy that makes me feel like I can do anything. I never want to lose that feeling; this is something that I had no idea a city could do for someone. Paris will forever be my heart and my home from here on out. I know that this upcoming last two semesters at SDSU I will work very hard to get myself back to Paris come next summer or soon after that. I know in my heart of hearts that I belong in Paris. I cannot say for how long, but I see myself here and one cannot put an expiration date on that.

There are many things that I have become accustomed to living in Paris for so long and I hope for the most part that I can bring some of them back with me. A lot of them tangible things, as well as a boat load of new outlooks on life and culture. 

I hope to continue being an 'international person', one that continues to thrive on knowing people from around the world and hearing all about their cultures. In Paris, it has become something of second nature to meet and get to know people and friends from literally around the globe, and that in itself excites me. The best part about my time at ESSEC was the sheer international aspect of the University. I can truly say I have a good friend on every continent in the world (sans Antarctica haha) and in soooo many countries within the continents. It is something I cherish now and hope to keep in contact with all the great people I have met abroad. 

First comes first, I want to continue my dedication to learning and mastering the French language. I have come so far since I got off that plane back in August, I would really be sad and mad at myself if I let my speaking level plummet. I know it will be way more difficult than living in France...obviously...but there are things I can do to make sure I maintain at least the level I am at, and hopefully from that continue to improve. I am so proud of how far I have come in a second language, it has really been a life long goal of mine and I can now happily say that for the most part speak French. Bravo Matthew =)

I want to take back the Parisien style. It is something that I cant really describe (slash, I am tired and don’t want to get into it right now, perhaps another blog lol), but check out a French Vogue or various other online fashion sites and you will see why I have fallen in love with the French style. Something that every man and woman in America needs to take a good hard look at and realize that dressing well does not make you a loser or too into themselves... here, it is part of your everyday life. I seriously can't get enough of it. 

I will bring back with me the appreciation of a small group of friends. Something that is very very French in the sense that you have a good group of small friends, which I do in SD, and really not needing anything else. Not to say that I am saying Ciao to my acquaintances, but just not giving into the day to day 'hello, ill call you later' fake nonsense that California culture is immersed in. Quality over quantity. 

If I could, I would bring back all the French cheese and tell the American government to fuck off when it comes to unpasteurized cheese....you don’t know what you are missing....no no, you really don’t ;)

I love café culture, something that we don't have at home. Sitting with your espresso, cigarette, perhaps a book or newspaper and just sitting there enjoying whatever weather the day may have and people watching for hours. This is really a sport here in Paris, it is just such a great way to relax and just think...or space out. Wherever your mind takes you for that matter. At home, it is too much of a go,go,go society and at times yes, I am like that, but I want to truly take more time to just say okay, 2 hours at a cafe, even if it is Starbucks (that’s all we have really), but I just need to take my Parisien time-out right now.  

Casual evening dinners at home with friends. Instead of the crazy pre-party rager, why not have a relaxing soirée with some apéros, listen to music, talk, and just have a good time with your good friends before what the Parisiens call 'le before' (pre-party). Then we can head to 'le after' which is the real party haha. 

The paragraphs I could write on this topic are honestly endless for me. I am just trying to think of some highlights, but my head is spinning even trying to attempt this feat. I will update my blog during my re-entry to California and continue to write about life back home and that compared to Paris. I think when I return home and have settled in, the many differences between Paris and California will start to show themselves. Until then, I wish you all well and I will see you all when I return. 

Gros bisous.

Paris, je t'aime toujours...

27 April 2010

Show Me Some Europe!

Since August when I arrived in Paris, I have had the mindset that I really wanted to do as much traveling as my time and bank account could manage. Now that I am down to the countdown of two weeks until leaving Paris, I am fortunate enough to say that I was able to see so much of Europe, not everything, but a great glimpse into various cultures that make Europe the amazing place it is. Though each time I take a flight or train out of Paris, I always return with a great feeling of coming home. Towards the end of my two semesters here I began to travel less and less (more day trips instead of long 4-5 day trips) because I have really settled into my life here in Paris and well, I have to admit, I prefer to stay in Paris most weeks, as well as giving myself the opportunity to really live my last few months truly IN Paris...I really thought that was important and it served me well. Below is a list of places I have traveled to. If you are ever going to one of them, feel free to ask me about it. =)

Paris, France (Obviously)
Épernay, (Champagne Region) France
Toulouse, France (South of France near Spain)
Carcassonne, France (South of France near Spain)
Chartres, France (Famous Chartres Cathedral and Medieval Stained Glass)
Reims, France (Champagne Region)
Rouen, France (Joan of Arc's execution site, burnt alive as a witch)
Giverny, France (Monet's House & Gardens)
Caen, France (Beaches of Normandy: D-Day Landing)
St. Malo, France (Brittany Region: Famous fishing medieval walled town)
Dinan, France (Brittany Region)
Mont Saint Michel (Brittany Region), France
St. Denis Cathedral (North of Paris), France
Dublin, Ireland
Venice, Italy
Florence, Italy
Pisa, Italy
Rome, Italy
Bruges, Belgium
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Hamburg, Germany
Berlin, Germany
Neurenburg, Germany
Füssen, Germany (Neuschwanstein Castle)
Salzburg, Austria
Munich, Germany
London, England
& Transfering flights in Iceland! Hopefully that volcano stops! haha

What a journey it has been...The memories are countless, the adventures, the ridiculousness at times, and everything else under the sun. My time abroad will have forever changed me for the better and shaped me into a new person.

But I must give a lot of credit and a big thank you to my Parents, for without their love, support, and help, none of this would have been possible. Thank you for always encouraging me to challenge myself and shoot for the stars. I Love you.


Aussitôt que j'ai vu la France, je l'ai admirée, je l'ai aimée. 
(As soon as I saw France, I admired it, I loved it)

18 April 2010

Printemps à Paris

The City is blossoming. Finally green again. The sun has come to say hello. Officially my fourth season in Paris...The year is complete.

Viaduct park above my flat

::::::::::::::::::::Paris, Je t'aime::::::::::::::::::::

14 April 2010


The topic of this blog will hopefully be an amusing one. Before coming to France, there were many stereotypes I had in my mind, as well as in the minds of others around me who knew I was leaving for France. I will attempt to list a few that come to mind, and reflect on whether there is any truth to them =)

Let's get straight tot he point: "The French are rude". This one is totally a subjective one, quite hard to tackle in a yes or no answer. To also narrow this down even further, we have to dispel the idea that that 'The French' as a whole are rude. The stereotype should read, "Parisians are rude". Each time I leave the city to the French country side I encounter nothing but nice and friendly people. Paris however you have to keep in mind that it is a massive city and with that comes a city mindset, like that of New York or LA. After a year abroad living in Paris, I have really never met a nicer city of 12 million people. Paris is full of helpful, kind, generous, and frankly friendly people. This stereotype my friends is false! You also have to take into consideration what your perception of nice is: Are you the type of person where you need to be smiled at all the time? Said hello to by passersby, have small chats with complete strangers? Paid attention to and have your ass kissed at retail stores and restaurants? Well then, Paris and most of Europe is not for you. This I want to shine some light on is a MAJOR cultural difference between Americans and France that for many suburban, small town, overly friendly Americans don't stop to realize or even educate themselves about. The French, especially the Parisians are a very private people, a culture where all of the above that is common in America would be utterly bizarre and frankly rude here. Despite you being a stranger, someone on the metro will gladly help you find your way, help carry a piece of luggage up the stairs for you, help you up if you have fallen or drop something.In Paris, this is what we call being polite.

Here in Paris, we notice the little things in the kindness people show when it is truly genuine. Overly kind life at home really makes it meaningless. I enjoy the mindset here where if you need help, you will ask for it or you wont get it. I have grown extremely fond of the Parisian lifestyle and mindset: cold outer demeanor, but warm and kind on the inside. To crack this outer shell is really just the life of living in a major metropolitan city. There are roughly 12 million people in Paris (not including tourists), there are all varieties of people, there are bound to be some bad apples who are inherently rude or filled with bad energy. Come to Paris with an open mind and know that you are not in Kansas anymore Dorothy. 
Second Stereotype: French people don't like speaking English with you. Here's the run down. Learn a few words and key phrases before setting foot on that plane and they will be glad to speak English with you, actually prefer it since mostly everyone here speaks English, some not well, but certainly far better than your French is. Please make a serious attempt to learn: Bonjour Madame/Monsieur, Merci, au revoir, s'il vous plait, excusez-moi M/Mm, Parlez-vous anglais? These will do you wonders and automatically gain you much more respect with those you happen to speak with. There is nothing more pathetic (actually quite funny for me to watch) than the dumb helpless American in the street saying "Does anyone speak English? Does anyone speak English?"...Well, perhaps the annoying Gypsies who say the same thing and try to pick pocket you as you stupidly respond and go over to them. HAHA.

Thirdly: French people smell. Okay, this one is such a funny one because...(I'm sorry to any of my French friends reading this haha) but yes this stereotype is quite true. Not 100% for all the people, but god damn, for a lot of them for sure! Deodorant (good kinds) are nearly impossible to find and if you do, they are terrible and last about an hour. French people in the masses smell like awful B.O. and well, it can hit you like a brick wall, especially on the métro. Granted, most of them are smelly North Africans or the banlieu immigrants, but come on people!!! It really gets terrible in the summer time. Really, really awful. I remember sitting in class at ESSEC and the entire classroom reeked like a dirty boys locker room and it was barely 11am....this, everyone, is not a stereotype. TRUE! Though for those who do smell great (all of my French buddies xoxo) embrace the wonderful idea of showering and wearing wonderfully scented perfumes. Merci
Last stereotype: French people are the best dressed people in the world. Do I even have to write more than a sentence about this?? TRUE TRUE TRUE, indisputable. Don't even try to argue this. The end.


06 April 2010

Unlike any other city...

Saying Paris is unlike any other city is really quite the understatement. For someone to ask me: tell me about something you can do in Paris that you would never be able to do in San Diego...is really such a ludicrous question for me. It may sound fairly easy to answer, though I hear this question and my mind begins to buzz, so much so that I am lost for words. I could tell you the most obvious aspects of Paris such as the Louvre, seeing the Tour Eiffel, going to mass at the 2,000 year old Notre Dame, etc...

Though aside from all these grand monuments, one can go deeper and see the wonderful boulangeries, salons du thé, wine boutiques, butchers, open air markets, even riding the métro...But for me. Paris is more of a feeling, a feeling that brings me alive, something that San Diego was never able to do for me. Paris holds for me not just the monuments and delights that litter tourist books, but the French themselves, their beautiful language, their joie de vivre, their sense of style ad effortless sophistication. So much of what I really love about my life in Paris really comes down to my love for the French, their culture, their lifestyle, even down to their little quirks and moodiness. Life surrounded by the French could never be possible in San Diego. Yes, a few friends I might be lucky to meet, amazing francophone professors and acquaintances, but never in the way I do now here in their...well, natural habitat =)
Paris has given me what I have always longed for from day one of French 100A class back in Freshman year of University: to one day speak French and find French friends that could really connect with me, not just as "the American student", but as their fellow Parisian. I have come so far since Freshman year of college; my year abroad in Europe has really made the biggest impact on my life and who I am today thus far. Thank you Paris, I think I turned out alright! ;)
The quote is true, "Paris is a movable feast" and I truly am a young man, lucky enough to have it forever a part of my life. Today's blog topic is really something I cannot put on paper in one entry. Since arriving in August, each entry is something I could never do or experience in San Diego. Ahhhhh, I can't even stress enough how unique and amazing Paris is! I honestly lose my words! Something that renders me speechless is truly beautiful! As we all know, I am never short on words hahahaha!

Paris is a world I hope all of you will experience in your life for it is a place that you will never forget.

Just a fun little list that I came up with with things that you could never do in San Diego (or have a HARD time finding):
-Champagne tasting in the place it came from
-Hear French around you all the time
-Eat a warm crispy baguette
-Have the #1 Fashion Weeks in the world right down the street from your home
-See paparazzi almost daily on the streets
-Have a late night crêpe after a bar: Œuf, jambon, et fromage s'il vous plaît!
-Spend an evening in an absinthe bar
-Have cider in a French village where it is made
-Dress with great style each day, even just to go check the mail
-Take a flight for less than 10€
-Take a train that goes 250m/h
-Never have to drive
-Pic-nic at Marie-Antoinette's Village
-Club and dance until 8am
-Hear the best DJs in the world
      --!! French Electronica is my LIFE
-Sit at on café's terrace for 3-4 hours people watching with your espresso and cigarette
-See a protest AT LEAST once a week, sometimes more
-Sit on ancient stone steps having a drink with friends
-See a girl with a neck brace in crutches, STILL wearing her stilettos  (my favorite!!! haha!)
-Window shop everywhere (America is too much of a Mall culture, sad!)
-Coat check at ALL clubs, bars, and restaurants. Amazing!!
-Almost every man and boy age 12+ being fashionable and it being the norm.
-Clothes always smelling like smoke when you get home and it not bothering you haha
-3 hour dinners with four courses being the norm
-French men's suit tailoring...I DIE! So amazing.
-High heels for women and dress shoes for men (with a small heel, always!) being their everyday wear shoes.
-Sparkling water everywhere.
-Wine being cheap and served at any time of the day....

These are just a few of mannnnny things I wrote down about France in general. Things that I really notice and appreciate. France is my home now and I never want to leave. The day I fly home will be a happy moment too see all my friends and family that I have missed so much. But my heart will always long for Paris and the people I have met here in a way that no other place can compare. I will soon return to Paris, I know it from the bottom of my heart.

02 April 2010

Hello From London!

Just a quick update for everyone. Currently I am in London for the weekend. Took the amazing EuroStar train system which only takes 2h15 from Paris to London, direct to City Center. Amazing.

Been here since yesterday evening and already I can tell you London is WAYYY different from Paris...*cough*I prefer Paris*cough*...

Had amazing Fish & Chips today with a pint of Ale, which was oh soooo delicious.
I have pretty much hit a good majority of all the hot spots, the only major ones I have left to see are the London Tower and The British Museum. First off, the London metro which they call the Underground is really confusing. Everyone told me otherwise, but I dunno,I am always having to take a good hard look at the map when I take it. Oh well, new system, new city, right?

Went to the AMAZING store called TopMan which is only in London and Barcelona as far as I'm sure. Recommened by my dear friend and personal syle guru, Kristin, I HAD find it, and I did...as well as spent a good hour browsing to find a couple pair of skinny jeans and these awesome high top shoes. Oh! And a cool ring. All under 60£...someone just sent me to heaven.
OH! On that note. Whoever told you London is expensive is on crack. Or just hasn't been to Paris. I'm loving the prices here! No joke. I mean, the only really pricey things are a few of the touristy things, like Madame Touseau's Wax Museum, 25£!!! FUCK THAT. No thanks, saw the same thing in California. hahaha. Westminster Abbey is 15£, just to go inside the church..NO WAY! But I will be paying for the London Tower, oh yes. But food, drinks, and touristy gifts are really inexpensive. I had fish & chips with 2 pints and it was only 11£...Paris, that would be hmmmm let me guess, like around 20-25€. Post cards here, about .30-.45£, Paris: .70-1.50€, robbery! lol. Btw, there is only a .90 to 1 ratio to the euro vs. pound, so it isnt really affecting me.

The only REALLY weird thing for me here though is HEARING ENGLISH! My mind really has crossed over to always buzzing in French and still today, I say Pardon, s'il vous plait, merci, all that stuff! It kind of makes me happy though =) French is really a part of me now.

Alrigty, well I am off to dinner. Someone at the ACCENT center recommended getting Chinese or Indian food in London because it is superb she said.

p.s. I'm wearing my new outfit, I just couldn't resist.

Cheers everyone!

30 March 2010

Weekend In Normandy & Brittany

Prepare for my novel below! (photos to come when I get them downloaded, sorry!)

As I have said many times before in my writings here, every time I leave Paris, however amazing and wonderful of a city Paris may be, leaving the city and entering the countryside of France makes me fall in love all over again with France and the wonderful people who live in this country. This past weekend our academic group took a weekend trip to the western coast of France in the regions of Normandy and Brittany.

Arriving in Caen for our first stop of the day at the Museum of Peace, dedicated to preserving the past so that it is hopefully never repeated. The day’s tone was immediately set to somber and in remembrance with the visit to this incredible museum. The museum was very well designed creating a sense of spiraling downward into darkness. The music, or should I call it a soundtrack of the sounds of which can only compare to a marching army and the voices of support roaring in the background. It is hard to specifically describe the soundtrack to the exhibit, but I can for sure say that the feeling that is evoked throughout the rooms is one of unease, nerves, and sadness. Collections of photos, clothing, letters, and video all coming together in a way that truly shows the horrors of WWII, even for us, young American students in 2010. At the end of the museum was a very well made film that really took the exhibit we just saw and made it come alive. I am not an emotional person, but the film and all the photos/video down of the D-Day landing at Omaha Beach really hit hard. A reality of history that I could never in my wildest nightmares be able to comprehend.

Our next stop was a short drive away to Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery. We walked from the coach over to the perfectly manicured pine trees full of green nettles, flowers beautifully planted all around, and two very tall flag poles crowned with two American Flags dancing in the wind. Walking along the park, the first glimpse of the beach and the ocean’s horizon came into view all at once, in one amazing panoramic view. The first thought that rushed through my mind was how overwhelmingly beautiful the shore was, purely breathtaking.

The weather was perfect that afternoon; a light breeze blew softly, rustling the trees all around, bright blue skies with giant puffy cotton-like clouds around the brightly shining sun, and the sea calmly moving about with its gentle waves crashing on the shore. We stood on the lookout point and really took a moment to take it all in. Was this truly the beach where D-Day happened? Was this present day heaven sent beach really the hell on that morning in 1944? Looking at Omaha Beach today and knowing what happened on D-Day, the beach takes on a whole new beauty, that of remembrance and peace; peace and reflection for all those who fell on that early morning.

Continuing up the walkway, you come upon the American Cemetery. Over 10,000 bright white stone crosses and stars of David fill the massive green grass plot. All of the tombstones perfectly placed in a grid pattern, seemingly endless in numbers. Each tombstone has engraved on it the name of the solider, the day they died, and the state from which they came. All of the engraved names face west, towards home, The United States of America. Walking through the cemetery was just surreal, like this could not have really happened. After spending some time wandering the cemetery, we had to return to the coach to continue on our travels to the next destination, Saint-Malo, which I will blog about later this week probably.

Sitting on the bus gazing out the window I had the chance to really reflect on our morning at the D-Day landing sites. The first thought was more of a question: Why has America forgotten our Franco-US relationship? I feel as though people have no idea why they say a majority of their anti-France statements. After living here for so long, I really take offense to such ignorance, especially after visiting a place like the D-Day landing sites. After seeing endless photos from the Liberation of France, so many of them are of the French, men, women, and children welcoming with open hearts the American soldiers, their liberators. A day like D-Day should never be forgotten and neither should the gratitude the French have for America and all they did for them during WWII. It isn’t about who helped whom, or who saved whom, American or French, it is about humanity. After experiencing Omaha Beach this weekend, I wish people my age at home would really take the time to educate themselves before jumping to conclusions about the past and thing they really know little or nothing about. Spending such time here in Europe, a major part of my life here is the appreciation for history and the need for its preservation. For all those lost during WWII in order to preserve and expand a free world, we must not forget the brothers who fought next to each other. Whether French, American, Canadian, or British, their bravery should love on and so should our countries' relationships. We live in 2010 where we forget, or simply do not know, all that came before us in the history of our Western World. People may hate Bush or Sarkozy, but do not hate the people, for presidents are not the people or their culture.

Next D-Day, Veteran’s Day, or even the 4th of July for Independence day, take a moment at your BBQ to reflect on what it really means… for here in Europe, history resonates in the people and lives as a reminder of what the world has experienced.

23 March 2010

Ciao ancora Italia: Roma

Back in November, I traveled to Venice, Florence, and Pisa, which was probably one of the best travel experiences I have been on. Back in November, I fell in love with Italy and the Italians. The Italians are quite different from the French: more flamboyant with their emotions, LOUD, expressive, (less fashionable: **personal opinion**), and more open to being nice to strangers. This past weekend, my two good friends, Leslie and Kristin, and I jetted off to the city of Rome for five days of travel, culture, and well, lots of fun and memories.

Upon landing and taking the shuttle to the city, Leslie could not stop saying 'Matt! Look at the beautiful trees!'. Rome definitely, at least at the moment, has more green than Paris, but I kept mentioning that when it warms up, Paris will be one of the greenest. After being dropped off at the main train station, we walked over to our hostel, The Yellow, which was very conveniently placed in the city, near everything. It was definitely a great hostel. More like a hotel, but with the great prices and atmosphere of a hostel. Perfect combination! Kristin was not arriving until Friday (we flew in on Thursday) so Leslie and I took off for a relaxing jaunt through the city, making sure not to pay for any really important monuments or sites until Kristin arrived. Almost instantly the differences between Rome and Paris became quite apparent. First off, Rome is well, dirty. Trash practically everywhere, lots of smog and car pollution, poster advertisements glued on practically any free wall space, and just lots and lots of good ol' gypsies. Other than being dirty, you quickly get over it and start to notice the beautiful buildings with all their wonderfully warm Mediterranean colors: lots of brick reds, oranges, yellows, browns...all so very Italia! Though what I really enjoy about Paris is it really is a city of old, beautifully carved stone buildings and homes, all mostly uniform in architecture. I prefer Parisian architecture, but being able to look at Rome and find it beautiful in its own unique what counts.

Wandering around that afternoon became one of the wildest adventures of our first day. The amazing part about Rome is you will be walking along a buzzing street of cars, scooters, and modernity then all of a sudden you look up ahead of you and there is a massive clearing filled with ancient Roman ruins. So unreal. You walk around all these ancient monuments whether it be fallen pillars, old foundations, or the enormous Coloseum, your mind takes a moment to process that these structures are over 2,000-3,000 years old! All built by hand without any of the modern technologies we have today....and yet they still stand today. Really mind blowing. The first night in Rome, Leslie and I spent our evening with a bottle of wine and some dark chocolate at the beautiful Trevi Fountain. Nothing in the world like sitting with a friend, a bottle of wine, and something beautiful to look at. It really is my kind of ideal evening any day.

Kristin finally arrived the next morning and the trio was complete. We headed out to the city and took Rome by storm. We saw.....wow, I can't even begin to list all we saw but I will try: St. Therese in Extacy, tons of amazing fountains including the Trevi fountain (definitely threw a centime in it to ensure our return to Roma!), Spanish Steps, Colosseum, Forum ruins, Monument to the unknown soldier (and saw the guard change, very cool), monument of peace, Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica, The Pantheon, Jewish Ghetto, oh man, I cannot go on, pretty much we saw everrrrything. Five days in Rome is really perfect.  I left Rome really feeling a sense of satisfaction and like I had really SEEN Rome.

The second night in Rome, the first with all three of us together, we decided to get some wine and head to the Spanish steps to have our first bottle, then the second at the Trevi Fountain. That way Kristin could get a great night time welcome to the city. Though, the BEST part about our wine nights at monuments was on the Spanish Steps. After our first bottle ran out, it was sitting next to Kristin and my feet and Leslie makes a big joking statement to move it to her side to make sure we dont kick it down the stairs. Then a group of REALLY OBNOXIOUS Spanish students started doing the Macarena (90's much?) and started a conga line up the stairs holding the Spanish flag...Leslie then proceeds to say with amazing sass 'This is ridiculous, let's protest this place!'...kicks up her leg to cross it and BAM!!! Kicks the wine bottle, sending it flying down the spanish steps...picture yourself there,,,,step by step...CLINK! CLANK! CLANK! SPIN! CRASSSSSHHHH! Bottle lands in the middle and smashes open with a loud crash! There was a short pause of EVERYONE on the steps and then a huge eruption of clapping and laughter. It was really a moment to remember, so hilarious! I still get laugh pains from it. I dont see Leslie too embarrassed that often, but that night was what we call, classic! How many people can say they got a round of applause on the Spanish Steps in Rome??? That's right, Leslie did =) And like the good Roman citizens we are, we went down and picked up the broken glass...then booked it to the Trevi Fountain haha.

(Us picking up the broken bottle!)

Our last full day in Rome we left the house around 10am and took the most amazing walk around the ENTIRE city, finally returning to the hostel bar at 1030pm....literally an almost 13 hour excursion! If it werent for all the Peronis, pizza, and gelatto we ate, our feet would have been really mad at us. But we saw so much of the city that day, got to experience the Rome marathon, see the rest of our monuments, walk along the river, go to Vatican city again, see old chariot racing grounds, and the Jewish Ghetto, which for us was the Italia we were looking for in Rome all along. Small streets that resemble Le Marais in Paris (also the Jewish/Gay Quartier) tall rustic apartment buildings, warm brick color paint, ivy growing all around, and laundry drying on strings between the buildings. It really was a very beautiful area. So worth the visit. The word ghetto actually originated from Rome as a name for the place the Jews lived in. Interesting huh? In the Jewish quarter we went to a restaurant that our hostel recommended which turned out to be really quite amazing, one of the best and reasonably priced full meals I have had in Italy. I had a fettuccine pasta with a very delicious rich tomato sauce and a braised ox tail plopped in the middle. One word: amazing. I look at pictures of our lunch and start to salivate. Though if you were to ask me which is better, French or Italian cuisine, I dont know if I woul be able to pick one or the other. They are both so distinct, regionally, and generally speaking, that they are both just so amazing in their own ways. I do love coming home to wonderful French restaurants here in Paris, you cant find them nearly as easily in Southern California. Sad sad missing detail in SD. If you ever want an amazing French dinner in San Diego, make reservations at 'Bleu Bohème' off of Adams in Kensington....I go there several times a year and have never been let down or served anything less than perfection.

All in all, I am in love with France, it is my home away from home, but Italy....Italy is my secret lover ;) always so great to visit. I highly recommend it.

Until we meet again Italy.