Champagne in Champagne

Champagne in Champagne

Today Amber and I had booked a tour to Champagne to do some champagne tasting. We had prepared our outfits the night before, so to not wake everyone else in the room, while we got ready. Unfortunately, the weather forecast changed drastically overnight, but by the time we figured it out, there wasn’t enough time to change. In fact, we probably should have left even more time… we ended up going to the wrong train station and missed our train. The tour was prepaid, and we had been looking forward to it so much, so ended up quickly booking a taxi to Reims. It would take 2 hours versus 1 hour by train. We showed up late but the tour group came and picked us up. It was a mother/daughter duo from Maryland and a couple from New Jersey. Luckily, we didn’t miss much, just a tour of a church in the town.

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My favorite monuments.

My favorite monuments.

My friend Amber arrived from London today and I met her at the train station to get none other than Starbucks. I did discover a new drink which is a cold cappuccino and it was delicious but WAY too much cream. She dropped her things off and we began our day.

It was her first time in Paris, so I took her to Sacre Couer to see the view and the “love wall”. The wall was an installment, versus an interactive, piece so we were pretty disappointed. Afterwards we were walking down this one street that seemed to be lined in adult stores. Finally I decided to say something and she had noticed as well! However, the second we said it, we looked forward to see that we were approaching Moulin Rouge…makes sense. The next stop was something to eat, but we kept passing places that were pricy or didn’t have seating. We ended up passing this place called Thierry Boulageries that made maki rolls with bread. Although they looked good, we split a chèvre baguette instead. It was amazing, and it held us over until we did find a place to sit down. Unfortunately, the more you walk, the more desperate you become, so we ended up stopping at this one place that looked okay, but were disappointed by the food.

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The next stop was L’Arc de Triomph. We circled around it and when we finally discovered how to actually go into the center of it, we opted against it and got a lemon sugar crepe instead. I’m always impressed by the Arc, it’s one of my favorite monuments. Next, was what I was looking forward to most, the Le Tour Eiffel! My last trip to Paris I didn’t get too close so I was excited to see it better. On the way we stopped for a picnic lunch, which we enjoyed in the grass. Less enjoyable were the people selling Eiffel Tower key chains. At least you could hear them coming with the jingle jangle of the metals on their key chains. One did sell what we were calling ‘sewage wine’, which I would have bought had we not brought our own. He stores the bottles in under one of those sprinkler covers in the ground (hence sewage) in case the cops come by.

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We walked back on the river and stopped to enjoy a glass of wine. We couldn’t get into the bar seating so we sat on the edge of the river, almost a better spot! Although we were in bed early because we had to get up early the next day, it didn’t matter because the hostel yet again was playing extremely loud music until 3am.

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A new look in Paris.

A new look in Paris.

I arrived in paris and took the train to Gare du Nord where it was only 1 block to my hostel. The area was very diverse, in fact, the first thing I ate when I got there was sushi from a Japanese place. I walked around a bit more and despite not feeling hungry, I sat outside and people watched as I ordered some more food. I thought I was just ordering 3 small sides, but they came out pretty large. I ended up getting a side of green beans, avocado with horse radish vinegar (a whole avocado, but the dressing was SO good I ate it all) and fries (can I call them french fries?). The waitress kind of looked at me funny, but to be fair, I did eat most of it!

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Venice.

Venice.

It was a 4 hour train ride from Monterosso to Venice in which I mostly read. The snack cart came by once and I bought a sandwich, but I wish I would have bought more because by the time I arrived in Venice at 6pm I was famished. I had tried to also get a faro salad, but accidentally ordered one with shrimp in it. I hopped off the train and walked a short distance to the water taxis. Venice looked exactly as I had expected it! I’ve been close to the waters edge before, but it’s different with canals because you’re at the same level as the water if that makes any sense. It’s not a slow decent to a beach or a walk out on the the dock, but just sidewalk and then water. I bought an unlimited water taxi card since my hostel is on the island of Guidecca, not the main island. They gave me the student rate for some reason though, so only had to pay 25 Euros.

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Coastal city to city of canals.

Coastal city to city of canals.

I was feeling energetic this morning, perhaps because I was looking forward to breakfast! My hotel has a continental breakfast and it was fabulous. There were eggs and bacon (which I hadn’t had in so long) and toast with homemade marmalade from the lemons and oranges in the garden. I’ve never had lemon marmalade, but I was a fan of the sourness to it. Originally, I wasn’t sure if I was going to hike today, but since it was still a little gloomy out and my belly was full, I decided it was a good idea.

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I hadn’t walked the leg from Monterosso to Vernazza yet, so it was exiting to see new views and have unexpected paths. I was told it would take 1.5-2 hours, but I hiked it in 1 hour and 15 minutes. I guess I was getting my hiking muscle back! Although, I’m also the type of person to keep going without and breaks and just take a break at the end. The view coming into Vernazza was one of my favorites. Its fun hiking along so much green with pops of color and then all of a sudden come to an opening where the city just explodes in color.

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I made my way down to the train and took it back to Monterosso. I waited about an hour for the sun to come out then headed down to the beach. I took a lawn chair and read for 2 hours straight. There was a bar on the beach too so I was able to have an iced coffee, a smoothie and then a Spritz Hugo.

The sun got a little stronger and I could use a little of the freezing cold water on me, so I rented a kayak for an hour. I figured with all of the hiking, it would be good to give my arms (and abs apparently) a good workout. It was fun paddling around but I only stayed out there about 40 minutes because I was actually starting to get sea sick!

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It was 3:30pm at this point and I still hadn’t had lunch so I walked back to the hotel for a nap but stopped for a pesto focaccia on the way.

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Later in the evening I went to dinner just down the street. I stopped into this place that was obviously a seafood joint, but I had this intense craving for a steak. So, I ordered a filet in balsamic and a side of roasted veggies. I opted to skip the wine as I was feeling good after the hike and kayak. I’m a big fan of steak sauce, so I was pleasantly surprised with how delicious the balsamic was on the steak (their balsamic is the good thick kind). I ate it embarrassingly fast. I went back to pack and put a larger dent in my book.

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I had a slow morning the next day, another fantastic breakfast and then lounged around until it was time to check out. I still had a few hours until my train (this time I triple checked the time) so I hung out in the hotel lobby and finished up writing before hauling my bag to the train station (update: I was asked to share a taxi with a couple that was staying here which I gratefully accepted). I was looking forward to the train ride and catching up on some Netflix.

Rainy day pesto.

Rainy day pesto.

The weather was rainy today so instead of hiking (I was sore anyhow) I took a pesto making class. It was at this cliffside restaurant that I ate at the first night. There were 9 of us in the group today (sometimes they have up to 30) and we were all from the United States. Everyone was a lot of fun, so it was a good morning. The class was perfect and well worth the money. First, you picked basil leaves off your plant and put them in a bowl with ice on top.

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