Paris Pt. 2🇫🇷

My second day in France I had to wake up early, and take a train to Northern France. One of the cool things about Paris is that all long-distance trains make a stop or go through Paris. When I found out that I’d be going to Europe for the semester, I made a point to make sure I visited Vimy Ridge in Arras, France. I felt it was important for me as a Canadian to visit Vimy Ridge in Arras. The battle of Vimy Ridge was the first major battle that the Canadian army won. From April 9th to 12th of 1917 the ridge was fought over. The objective was for the Canadians to take the high ground from the Germans who were entrenched there. Whoever held the hill held the surrounding area. The French had tried to take back the ridge multiple times and failed, losing more than 150,000 soldiers in the process. I always think about that number, and it wasn’t until I visited Vimy that I finally understood.

World War 1 was fought mostly in trenches, they’d stretch for kilometres and would often become filled with human waste, dead soldiers and water. I find this terrifying but they were also apparently homes to rats the size of cats. That’s a big no for me. Soldiers fighting in the trenches suffered trench foot which is rather gross. It comes from a prolonged exposure to damp conditions, it would lead to open sores which would then lead to infections; obviously it wouldn’t adequately get treated, and the soldiers would be prone to gangrene which lead to amputations. There are still trenches at Vimy, and you can walk around in them, getting a feel for what it might have been like for a soldier. There are places between the trenches are sectioned off because there are undetonated mines. The site was covered with a fresh layer of snow, which added to the experience. I also met another Canadian on the site, and we realised that we were both Canadian because we were wearing flannel. I’ve had some really Canadian experiences abroad, and this was definitely one of them.

I walked around to the two cemeteries at the site, I’ve never seen something like that. Around Arras and the surrounding countryside there’s a lot of graves, each one seems like its bigger than the last one. A picture doesn’t encapsulate it, nor does it do it justice. I think what shocked me the most was the number of graves. Some of the cemetaries at Vimy held a few hundred, the ones in the surrounding areas had thousands of graves. The town of Arras and its neighbours share an incredible history, with outstanding views and I’ll never forget it.

After I came back to town, I had a few hours left before my train departed; naturally I explored around the town. It’s a tourist town, lots of small boutiques and restaurants. They even have poutine joint! Now I hate poutine, and if you don’t know what it is it’s fries, cheese curds and gravy, you can also get meat on it if you wanted. I opted for classic poutine with some chicken, I even got lucky and had a Canadian beer with it. I guess its safe to say by this point I was missing home. Now that I’ve been back for a while I can see that I’m coming off the high. I miss my friends, and I miss being able to hop from country to country. Arras was terrific, Vimy was incredible, and I’m so lucky that I got to see it. I can see it on tv, or it can come up in conversation, and I can say I went there. There were very few places that I went to in Europe that made me stop and take in what I was looking at. Vimy was one of them.

The next post is coming soon, I’m a tad bit busy, but I hope to get back on a regular schedule! Thank you for reading and for following.

When In Rome 🇮🇹 Pt. Ⅱ

My second day in Rome started a little early, 7 am to be precise. Why so early? Because I would be going to the Colosseum, Forum, and Pantheon for a tour. If you go to Rome, buy a book and just go without a tour, you’ll save a lot of money. I didn’t need the tour because I mean I spent so much of my life studying these buildings and the city but like a tourist, I caved and took a tour. I did this because I was afraid I’d get lost. I spent 90% of my time in Rome lost and without Wi-Fi or cell service and I’m fine. If I can do it, you can do it 100%. So back to the point, I took a tour of the Colosseum, Forum and Pantheon. From Termini its two stops to the Colosseum, the Forum is across the path, and the Pantheon is about a twenty-minute walk, follow the tourists.

I just want to comment on the metro in Rome. It’s hot, it’s cramped, and if you’re standing near the doors hold onto your god damn bag. It’ll cost you €1.50 to ride and that gives you 100 minutes, not too shabby. Anyway, I got on the metro during morning rush hour; I don’t recommend doing this if you have trouble in small spaces or if you don’t like people touching you. I had a bit of a freak out due to the number of people, but it was only two stops, and as soon as the doors opened I bolted up the stairs. That’s where everything seemed just to stop and come full circle. When you get outside the first thing you see is the most iconic building of the Roman Empire, the Flavian Amphitheater, otherwise known as the Colosseum. IMG_2584In 64 AD there was a significant fire in Rome, leaving the sight of the Colosseum inhabitable. Nero took advantage of this and built himself a massive house, the Domus Aurea or Golden House on the site. Many Romans thought that Nero started the fire, he blamed the Christians, naturally and burned them alive. I’ve always thought this was cool, but Nero constructed a lake on the property. Fun fact, no one liked Nero, well the higher classes didn’t. This was due to his luxurious lifestyle, which he paid for by raising taxes. In 68 AD Nero killed himself after a trial where he was declared an enemy of the state. Another fun fact, he was the first emperor to kill himself, and this idiot was the last of the Julio-Cludians. Civil war ensued after his death with multiple parties vying for the position of Emperor. They all sucked, I think there was 4 of them in a one year span, with Vespasian ultimately winning. In 70 AD undertook a mission to put down the Jewish Revolt. Upon his return, he brought 100,000 Jewish slaves and a massive war chest. Both were used to build the Colosseum, a gift for the people. See, now you don’t even need to buy a book if you go and I got to use my major for something.

The building itself is super impressive, and I want to talk about it more but I won’t…. The Romans used to flood it with water and have naval battles inside. Okay moving on, the steps in the building are all pretty steep, but the climb is worth it. Inside you can see the tunnels where animals were kept and where Gladiators came out. The floor is no longer intact because it was made of wood as were many of the seats and the giant awning.IMG_2604

There is a giant cross situated near one of the entrances, its to symbolize the significant loss of life that the Colosseum has seen over the years. Its to “Bless” the people who’d lost their lives due to the beliefs in and of Pagan gods. On one side of the building, there is a large chunk of wall missing, the Colosseum was used to build other things, and its old and well earthquakes.

Next was the Forum, for whatever reason I didn’t enjoy this much. Well, I didn’t enjoy it while on tour. I came back later and did it with a friend. If you’re going to go to Rome walking is going to be a big part of what you do, don’t wear uncomfortable shoes, and watch your step. I twisted my ankle multiple times. You’ll notice that most of the women are wearing heels, they’re Roman and have evolved into these magical creatures that can walk with heels on cobblestone and thousand-year-old roads. You’re not Roman, don’t try it. Oh and bring a water bottle.

The Pantheon was our last stop, and there is a bit of a funny story. So we walked from the Palatine Hill (Colosseum Area) to the Pantheon. One of the best things about Rome is the history, everywhere you go there is something to see. For example, on our way to the Pantheon, we stood in the middle of the Piazza Venezia, which is kinda chaotic so please watch where you’re going. As we stood in the square, well let me show you

 

 

At first glance, the photo on the top left is just a balcony. It’s actually where Mussolini declared war on the Allied Forces. The building with all the scaffolding is where Napoleon lived while he was in Rome. Lastly, the big building is the Altare della Patria also known as Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II. Itlay was a collection of city-states and was not unified until 1871 into the Kingdom of Itlay. Victor Emmanuel was the first king of unified Italy. I cannot stress this enough, if you stand at the gates and look up, you will feel like the smallest person alive. The building is also home to the unknown soldier. So lots of history from various points in Italy all within ten minutes.

Onwards to the Pantheon! The word Pantheon means “Temple of every god.” I believe that is Latin. I took a few Latin classes at Mac and learned Carpe Diem… Okay okay, I learned that watching Dead Poet’s Society. Its one of the cooler buildings because its still in use today. It was completed 125-126 AD and was finished by Hadrian. The route we took was cool, there are restaurants, souvenirs, and gelato shops. If you’re in Rome and you get lost, get gelato it’ll make you forget about being lost.

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I said there was a funny story, right now the Pantheon is a church, Santa Maria ad Martyres or St. Mary and the Martyrs. People walked in with shorts but this one woman got stopped, and it was the most hilarious thing I’ve ever seen. She had a low cut top, and I guess her husband told her that she’d need to cover up. At the entrance, one of the guards looked at her and said, “This is a Church. Cover please.” Her husband grabbed the shirt from around his waist and forcefully handed it to her while saying, “I told you, Jenine! Gosh” I had quite the chuckle.

 

After the tour was over, I went back to the hostel and well I’ve always heard “It’s a small world” from my mom but never paid it any mind. On my way back I ran into an old friend from a job I had as a teenager. Then on the metro, I ran into a priest I knew from my days going to Catholic school. It was the perfect way to end my day but well it was far from over. Back at the hostel, I met a flight attendant who was in Rome for just the night. So did she ever drop the bomb with the insides on being a flight attendant. Yes, I’m aware I just used the word “bomb” and “flight” in the same sentence. So I’d never do this because I’m not weird, but if you take your shoes off on a plane and go to the washroom, it’s NEVER water on the floor. Also if your kid is playing in the aisle while foods being served, you’re the problem with society. Anyway, after that wonderful conversation, we decided to do all the shit I’d already done but during the evening. It started with Pizza and beer, then off to the Cirus Maximus. Now its one of the older structures in Rome, if you can still call it a structure. The venue was home to Ludi which are games for the people. Chariot races and gladiatorial battles are great examples of Ludi. The building in the background is the back of the Palatine Hill. IMG_2658

So I promise we’re getting to the end of this post. I did almost everything on day one. I did it alone and with a friend. My friends think I’m stupid for this, but I’m really self-conscious when it comes to meeting new people. I just over think everything and the words don’t go from my brain to my mouth in one fluid motion. At least that’s the way I’ve always seen it. At the end of the night, my new friend told me she was happy that I just said hello to her. When I think about my life, I’ve been able to make friends where ever I go for whatever reason. I’m grateful for that, alone time is great and its something I’ve reclaimed for myself lately, but it’s nice to be social and out with people. So That concludes my post for today, I’ll leave you with one more photo, and it’s a good one.

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Yes, that’s me in front of the Trevi Fountain!!! Post number 3 is on the way! Thank you for reading!!!!!!!!!!!

When In Rome 🇮🇹 Pt. Ⅰ

On October 17th I woke up at 4:45am, showered, double checked my bags and got on the bus and headed for the airport in Helsinki. That’s the biggest downside of living in Jyväskylä, okay ONE of them, that it takes 4 hours to get to the airport. Helsinki’s airport is ridiculously huge, the employees are often seen using scooters to get around. I love that airport, but I can say that the travelling sucks. The process sucks, packing, getting to the airport, booking things, and the waiting is all a very draining process. The end result, however, usually is very well worth it.

So where did I go this time? Well, I’ve given that away, Rome. I don’t think I need to provide a reason as to why I went to Rome. Its fucking Rome, and well I usually like to keep this fact “under wraps” but I’m a huge history nerd. The entire trip was a giant nerdgasm for me but most importantly a massive learning experience. I’ve never travelled alone before, I’ve always wanted to do this but just didn’t believe that I could do it. Bullshit, if you’re afraid to travel alone, don’t. Never be scared of something like that because you won’t be alone for long. Stay in a hostel, staying in a hotel will ensure that your only company is a television. A hostel people are coming and going all the time, there are bars,

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there are activities, all kinds of things that will get you in a group and make sure that you meet people. Now I was afraid that I wouldn’t meet people because I’ve got this perception of myself that I’m awkward. I get nervous, and I stutter, I get nervous and get panic attacks but what I learned on this trip is that it’s perfectly fine. Anyway back to the adventure, this was a pretty cool photo I took once we were on our way to Berlin.

I spent a few hours in Berlin which is a hell of a beautiful city. It will, however, give you every german stereotype ever. I didn’t get to take any photos because my phone died and to be quite frank I was in a bar for most of it. German beer is plentiful and cheap. I was at the Cafe Hanger Tegel (which is actually in the airport!) But it’s an excellent place with a super and a real chill atmosphere. I did go into real Berlin but only for an hour and a half. That was a real bummer.  I’d love to go back to Berlin and maybe take in all the historical building and monuments.

Eventually, I found myself back at the airport, and I was on my way to Rome. I had one of those moments when we landed, a feeling of disbelief, and a little bit of fear. I kept thinking about getting lost, but its impossible to get lost. The airport, Fiumicino is about 30minutes outside of the city centre (Downtown) by train. It’ll cost you €14 for a non-stop to Termini (The central train station) Now I cannot stress this enough, especially if you’re travelling alone, keep an eye on your belongings. If you’ve got a shoulder bag hold onto it, a backpack make sure to wear it on your chest (unless you have one of those massive travel packs) The chances of getting pickpocketed or flat out robbed are pretty good, especially for tourists.

I stayed at the Alessandro Palace Hostel, its located on Via Vicenza 42 which is super close to Termini. Getting there was a bit difficult because the street signs are located on the sides of the buildings. So they’re built into buildings and they’re not always lit up well during the night. This is where I learned my lesson about pickpockets. On my way, when I eventually found my way I was heading down the street and someone grabbed my bag a few times. At first, I didn’t think much of it, I asked them to stop, and on the third time I turned around and hit him with my bag and punched him in the nose. I’m generally not a violent person, and I usually take out aggression on lockers (Don’t do that) I have a fidget cube for that, but I hit this dude pretty damn hard, I’m pretty sure I broke his nose. Good. Sounds harsh eh? No, in Rome if someone hassles you (It’ll happen especially if you’re a girl. Cat Calling is on another level) Be assertive, be rude, do not take shit from anyone. After I hit this guy, I just walked away and headed for the hostel. I would recommend Alessandro Palace for the staff and atmosphere, but I wouldn’t stay there again. The rooms either have mosquitos (I don’t think so) or bed bugs (I think so.) I woke up one morning, and I was covered in bites. Including these really sexy ones on my neck that made it look like I had sex with a hungry vampire.

I plan on documenting the Rome trip in a few different posts like I’ve been doing. So Honestly I did nothing on my first night in Rome, except punch a guy, get pizza and take a little stroll. Yeah in hindsight I think about how dumb it was to hit that guy because he could’ve had a knife, but you know what, he didn’t get up so fuck him. Going for a stroll late at night was also really stupid but hey, “When in Rome.” And if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have gotten this photo of Pope John Paul II outside Termini.

IMG_2580So look out for the next post because on day 2 I did EVERYTHING! Thank you, Grazie, Kiitos, for reading.