The MacGuffin

Archive for July, 2011

Two Days in Paris

Posted by Lauren Rugani on July 26, 2011

Last month I spent a weekend in Paris and crammed just about as much touristy stuff into 36 hours as possible.

Immediately upon arriving by train we tried to visit the Catacombs, but we walked and walked and never came upon the end of the line to get in, so we reluctantly gave up. Our disappointment didn’t last long, as our next stop was the Centre Pompidou, an amazingly huge modern art museum. The view from the observing deck was spectacular.

See more photos from Pompidou

Next we went to Notre Dame, but again the lines to go inside were a bit long considering our limited amount of time, so we admired from the outside.

Then we saw the Arc de Triomphe, the monument to the soldiers of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars; it also houses the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

By the end of the afternoon we made our way to the Eiffel Tower. At first I was slightly underwhelmed, but the closer we got the more impressed I became. The architecture is truly stunning, and it is a magnificent sight at night. Of course, we did the touristy photos, picking it up by its tip and giving it the ol’ Godzilla treatment.

See more photos from Paris

The second day we woke up early and went directly to the Louvre to beat the lines. It was practically empty when we got there, which made for some quality photo taking.

We spent the majority of the day there, and managed to see several exhibits, including ancient Rome, Greece, Egypt and China. One of the first major items we saw was the Code of Hammurabi. We also managed to see the Venus de Milo, the Mona Lisa, the statue of Ramses, and a few sculptures by Michelangelo. The Renaissance wing was impressive, with paintings as big as the outer walls of my house.

We relaxed in a park for the rest of the afternoon before catching the train home. Paris is certainly a beautiful city, but it’s huge, crowded and a bit smelly. I would love to go back though, now that I got all the tourist stuff out of the way, and take the time to truly appreciate the beauty and sense of history that defines this city.

Don’t forget to check out the links to my photo sets from around the city!


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Cinque Terre

Posted by Lauren Rugani on July 3, 2011

About a month ago I had a 4 day weekend and went to an amazing part of Italy known as Cinque Terre, literally five lands. It’s five small towns nestled in the mountains right on the coast, with about 11 km separating the furthest towns and hiking paths and a train connecting them all. We stayed about 45 minutes away in an agriturismo, which is basically a farm that rents rooms to travelers for a decent price and provides home cooked meals. We never made it back in time to have dinner, but the breakfast was all fresh breads and jams, which were delicious. The hosts didn’t speak very much English (and luckily my co-traveler was Italian!) and I managed to learn a few new Italian words for some of the foods.

The first morning we headed to Cinque Terre with the plan to see the first three of the five towns. The first one, Riomaggiore, was one of my favorites.

We spent a good part of the morning there, then walked along the coast toward the second town, Manarola. Along the path there is a spot where you are supposed to kiss, and tradition has it that if you fasten a lock here, your love will be sealed forever.

The path between the second and third towns was closed because of a rock slide. We could have taken about a 4-minute train ride, but we opted instead to hike up and over the mountain to the next town, which was about a 2 hour walk. It was a steep climb, and I began to regret the decision, but once we reached the highest points, the views were spectacular and made every sweat-soaked step worth it.

We were relieved to get to the third town, Corniglia, where we poked around for a bit and enjoyed a glass of local wine before heading home.

The second day was rather dreary weather-wise, so we decided to skip Cinque Terre and drive further down the coast to another town called Portovenere. It had an old castle (although we didn’t have time to walk through it) and a church dating back to the 13th century. I marvel at how these buildings were erected stone by stone, with nothing but simple tools and pure manpower, and have withstood the test of time.

We enjoyed a wonderful lunch there with fresh seafood, pesto, and of course, more wine. Then we drove a bit inland to the town of Lucca, where my father’s family was originally from. We visited the old part of the city, which is surrounded by walls that are something like 15 meters thick. Lots of churches, plazas and towers that have been transformed into modern shops and cafes.

The next day we went back to Cinque Terre to visit the last two towns. The first one, Monterosso, was amazing. We spent the first part of the day on the beach. The water was a tad cold, but refreshing. We explored the rest of the town and enjoyed some more unbelievable scenery.

We took the train to the final town, Vernazza, which unfortunately was a bit disappointing. We didn’t spend much time here, and were tired from the sun, so we headed back early.We had left the agriturismo that morning, so we drove instead to another inn closer to Portofino, the town we wanted to see the next day.

Portofino is beautiful. It was quite small, but we took a walk out to the lighthouse and through the area where supposedly several celebrities (Madonna, Elton John) own houses. The prices here certainly reflected its status as an exclusive community. There was yet another castle, but we didn’t care to pay the entry fee.

It was a jam-packed few days, but worth every second!

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