no matter where you go, there you are

Monday, December 28, 2009

Sacre Coeur

My first stop for my second day in Paris was the Sacre Coeur, a five minute walk from my hostel, but I had to return to the Gare du Nord to make train reservations first. I get up, get dressed and head downstairs to see what's for breakfast. It's pretty pathetic. Some rolls, a couple pieces of bread and what I think is peanut butter (Halleluliah!) but it isn't (God damn it!). No one is downstairs so I throw 6 rolls in my bag and head out to the train station. At Gare du Nord there is no wait at the ticket windows and the attendant speaks English pretty well. However, I experience great shock and awe at the fees that accompany specific trains I must make reservations for (look for a future post on the European train system).

After dealing with the ticket reservations I head back to the hostel in desperate need to use the expensive internet. I quickly send off a warning email to Anne (my sister) about our meeting time change in Rome, push all the stress from the situation to the back of my mind and finally head out to Sacre Coeur. The Sacre Coeur is a very large church at the top of the highest point in Paris called Montmarte. With no other hills around, Montmarte is quite noticeable from lookout points such as the Eiffel Tower and the Notre Dame. The church is the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Paris and was built quite recently (finished in 1914) compared to other ancient Parisian sights.

The hike up to the church is fairly steep but not horribly difficult as there are steps built into the hill the entire way up. The worst part of the climb are the obnoxious, persistent people at the bottom of the hill trying to sell you woven bracelets or something. The outside of the basilica is very plain with a few statues of men on horseback and some religious ones. No intricate carvings like many of the Roman churches I will later visit. I really like the metal lion heads with the door handles in their mouths.

The inside of the church is just as simple as the outside. The dome is really cool to look up into and the stained glass is very interesting. As this was the first European church on my trip I was extremely impressed by the architecture and appearance but if I had seen it after some of the others I probably wouldn't have thought so. After visiting the interior I walk around the side and into the entrance to the dome and crypt.

It's a one way trip to the top up a VERY narrow spiral staircase and it's very easy to get dizzy while climbing up. This stairwell doesn't actually lead to the central dome. Instead it's one of the side ones and you must climb along the roof of the church to enter the stairwell for the main dome. This part is really fun and I like being close to the different towers, seeing the roof up close and there is a really steep, tiny stairwell I have to climb.

I make it to the top of the central dome eventually and the view of Paris is very nice. The only problem is that it's early in the morning and the sun is still low against the horizon, shining through all the haze and making it very difficult to see specific parts of the city. You can make certain things out, but it might have been better later in the day. Because of this, I plan out my days in the other cities to include tower climbs mid-day.

After soaking in the view for a little bit I head down to the crypt. For the descent you take the exact same set of stairs except on the other side of the church and it is just as narrow as the first one and takes more effort to not get dizzy. A technique I figured out to help is go slow and don't look where you're stepping. Seeing the stairs go in a circle is more dizzying and looking at the wall. When I get to the crypt I'm disappointed to find it's closed. I go out front to the church and admire the facade some more before heading back down the hill to the Metro station. Next stop: the Concierge.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

forget all your woes, the city of light....

By the end of my first day in Paris I had seen a LOT but there was still plenty left to see. I was never going to be able to see all of the city in the next day, so I decided to go on a night bike tour. Run by "Fat Bike Tours" ( this 4 hours excursion takes you to many of the major sites, stops for ice cream and includes a free ticket on a boat ride up and down the Seine. In my opinion, it was well worth the 26Euro (student price).

The meeting point and time is the south leg of the Eiffel Tower at 6PM. Thankfully I knew where I was going since I'd been in that area for most of the morning and it wasn't hard to find the person holding up the big sign reading "Fat Bike Tours." I get there right at 6 and am the 4th to join the group. However, we don't begin the walk to the bike office until about 6:20 and by then a large group of about 20 or so has formed. By the time we get to the office, purchase tickets, put on reflector vests and hop on our bikes, it's close to 7.

The first place we stop is the southern end of the Champs de Mars where we get an excellent view of the lit up Eiffel Tower. Glowing yellow-orange at this moment, the tower lights up the entire area surrounding it. It's very beautiful against the pitch black sky. We then make our way east riding through St. Germain and the Latin Quarter. I had not planned to visit this area at all while in the city so I'm glad I got to see what it was like, especially since both areas are well known for having an active nightlife.

We arrive at a bridge at the back side of the Notre Dame and even though it's the back side, I still find it absolutely stunning. Except for the glimpse through the clouds while up in the Eiffel Tower this is my first view of the huge cathedral. Our guide gives us a quick but thorough history of the Cathedral as well as the history of Ile de la Cite and Ile. St. Louis (the 2 islands in the middle of the Seine; Notre Dame is on Ile de la Cite). Ile de la Cite was the first settlement site of Paris so the area is rich with history. It is on Ile St. Louis that we stop at an excellent ice cream shop. The guide claims it to be the best ice cream in Paris and it was really really delicious. They didn't have an abundance of flavors, but the chocolate I got was very rich and satisfying.

After finishing the ice cream we ride across the Ile de la Cite by the Palais de Justice, then over to Place St. Michel where we turn right and ride along the river. We cross at a footbridge across from the back end of the Lourve that is known for being overpopulated with picnicers in the summer. We then ride through the back courtyard of the Lourve and into the front area where the famous glass pyramid is. Ever since reading the first 30 pages of The DaVinci Code I knew that if I ever went to Paris the glass pyramids at the Louvre would be at the top on my sightseeing list. Needless to say, I was very excited to finally see them. Lit from below, the pyramids were as pretty as I imagined and with the fountains providing wonderful reflections, the whole place was magical. The illuminated Arc du Carousel also added to the wonderful scenery.

After gazing for a few minutes we continue along the river and arrive at the boat dock. We hop on board and join the many other tourists on the top deck. It's a little cold but I manage to survive. As we make our way up the river the boat narrates to us about what buildings are on either side of the river. It's very informative and spoken in 4 or 5 languages. We pass Notre Dame and I finally get to see it from the front. It's absolutely spectacular and I cannot wait to return tomorrow. We reach the Canal St. Martin and turn around. After this point the prolonged sitting mixes with my lack of sleep and creates a deadly cocktail of unconsciousness. I doze off and wake as we are passing the Eiffel Tower. This time the it is illuminated with a multiude of colors. Then, as the clock strikes 10, the tower sparkles. Every hour after dusk for five minutes the Eiffel Tower sparkles and it is a sight to see.

The boat ride concludes and we make our way back to the bike office. It's been an excellent night and an excellent day, but I am EXHAUSTED. I ride the train back to the hostel, take a hot shower, check my email and crawl into bed. Goodnight, Paris!

Monday, December 21, 2009

the phantom of the opera is there...

After visiting the Rodin Gardens I hop on the Metro and take it north to the Opera Garnier stop. The Opera Garnier is located 2/3 of a mile north of the Lourve. It's construction was completed in 1875 and though no longer the principle theater used by the Paris Opera it is still used for opera and ballet performances. It is the theater that "The Phantom of the Opera" takes place at.

The outside of the building is pretty simple yet there are very interesting heads along the top that I think are supposed to be the happy and sad theater faces. There are also dramatic statues adordning the corners. I don't know if the entrance is left or right so I guess right and end up walking 7/8ths around the building to find the entrance. Woops. But in doing so I see these really cool lamp posts designed like a front of a ship.

I make it to the entrance and get a student priced ticket without having to show ID. Woot! The grand staircase to the place is really spectacular. None of my pictures do it justice and I'm not good at describing things, but there were just tons of statues and lights that were very old fashioned looking. Really gorgeous. I go up the stairs and though we are not allowed to enter the thater, the doors that audience members go to for their seats are really cute. They're not very big and have little porthole windows.

I then proceed through the mini-museum they have set up. There's a library that looks like a mini-mini-mini Beauty and the Beast one and has those cute ladders. They also have these dioramas of different opera sets. I really liked the Otello one but that's only because I had just finished working on Lend Me A Tenor which is about the behind the scenes shenanigans of Otello.

After the museum I then go and look at this side hall/lobby area which is decorated beautifully. There's an abundance of gold and carvings and paintings and its all perfectly symmetrical. I really like these lamps on posts that look like people. Each end of the hall have fireplaces with large vases on top. The ceiling consists of multiple frescoes/paintings that have angels all flying about and chandeliers hang on both sides of the space every 10 feet or so. The curtains adorning the entrance ways are also made from gold fabric and have large tassles hanging from them.

There is an outer area you can also go onto where you overlook the Place de'l Opera. It's not the most exciting view but you can watch Paris traffic go by. The ceiling has the theater faces carved in all the panels, each alternating happy and sad, which I thought was really cool. The building was really designed specifically for the theater and nothing else.

As most places were in Paris, the Opera Garnier was very impressive. The detail and the application of gold was so outstanding and pretty and being a theater geek, I just loved the atmostphere. I wish I could have seen a show and been inside the theater, but no, I was on a budget and I don't even know if there was a show in production.

I leave the theater as the sun is close to hitting the horizon and think about how my first day was fairly successful. A few frustrations, but so far I was not dissapointed in anything I'd seen. I head back to the Metro to go back to the hostel and rest a little. It's around 345pm now and I have to leave at 5ish to go back to the Eiffel Tower for a night bike tour of the city. Can't wait!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Cece's Advice #1: Double Check If Ticket Machines Take Bills

Throughout my trip I ended up having multiple moments of stress which I feel could have been avoided if I had known a few simple things beforehand. Therefore, I've created a list of advice for other travelers to read and maybe use if they travel abroad.

Cece's Advice #1: Double Check If Ticket Machines Take Bills

When I first arrived in Paris I had to make the decision of A) getting cash from the ATM, then purchasing my train ticket or B) charging the ticket to my debit card, therefore incurring only one ATM withdrawl fee either way. I chose option A so that in case I couldn't find a BNP Paribas (where Bank of America doesn't charge fees) near my hostel I would still have some cash on hand. So I withdraw cash from the ATM and make my way over to the ticket machine. As I select the train ticket and it asks for money I see that the machine only accepts coins. I swear under my breath, "God damn it" before thinking 'I don't have coins. What the hell??' There are a number of different machines in the ticket area and I see some are actually change machines. 'Wooo. Maybe this isn't as bad as I thought.' But it is. ALL of the machines are Out of Order. Another round of light swearing... So I go back to the machine and charge the ticket to my card. Grrrrr.

It turns out that Bank of America only charged me the 3% and not the $5+3% for the train ticket purchase, but at the time I didn't know that so it put a slight damper on my first morning in Paris. It also caused me to waste a bunch of time at the ticket machines just as my second incident with ticket machines did. After figuring out that the Velib bike system in Paris was not going to work, I decide to get a book of 10 Metro tickets. I go to pay yet there is no bill slot. Of course there isn't a bill slot...why would you want to pay for 11.60Euros in with a 10Euro bill+change? Grrrrr... Luckily, the Paris Metro sells tickets at the windows and I was able to purchase the book of 10 there, but the machine not taking bills wasted about 5 -7 min of my life. I know you're thinking "It's only 5 min" but it feels a lot longer in the moment, and all the frustration the ordeal created made it a lot worse. Had I known about the machines not accepting cash, things would have gone that much smoother.

So in conclusion...double check if ticket machines, especially in France, accept bills. It might save you 5 minutes, it might save you 15 or 20 (depending on if you have to stand in line for a window). Either way it will certainly help you have a smoother, stress free trip!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Musee Rodin

The Rodin Museum is not far from the Hotel des Invalides. Though short, the walk there is quite nice. The clouds that covered the city that morning were no where to be seen and the sun was shining bright.

The Rodin Museum is located in the former residence of the artist Auguste Rodin. An old, gorgeous house, the museum also has a large garden which contains many of Rodin's scultures. Most famous is "The Thinker" (seen in Night at the Museum 2...hehe). He's pretty big. And black...which is actually quite different from most of the other statue work I will later view in Italy.

Besides seeing "The Thinker" I do wander through the museum and enjoy viewing many of Rodin's works. As these were my first statue/carvings on the trip, I'm in awe of the detail and realism of the muscle for all of his male figures. Also, the poses he creates for the works are very impressive.

In order to complete my visit to the Musee Rodin I walk through the gardens and since it is late November, all the plants are dead and the trees have no leaves so there wasn't much to look at. The statues were nice though I enjoyed the interior ones much better. What I enjoyed most about them though was the view from the end of the gardens as the house was reflected in the pond. So pretty.

After completing my tour of the gardens I head for the closest subway station. My next destination: the Opera Garnier. Right before heading undeground I pass a "gas station" though I have a hard time calling it a "station." All it is is a gas pump with 2 hoses installed in the sidewalk. There is no drive-in area, no garage, no workers that I could see...nothing. And since I am somewhat fascinated by non-traditional gas stations, I laugh to myself at how cool I think it before heading down into the Metro.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Hotel des Invalides

After leaving the Eiffel Tower behind, I walk directly east towards the Hotel des Invalides. But first, I must find food! Because I was trying to keep my expenses to a minimum and utilize my time as best I could, I determined that my food consumption was going to be sacrificed. No eating fancy meals, no spending 30-40 min in a restaurant when a deli would do just fine...none of that. I find a small market and pick up pudding and an apple. Both end up being quite tasty, especially the pudding. Mmmmm.

The Hotel des Invalides is only a short walk from the end of the Champs de Mars so it doesn't take awhile to arrive. The golden top dome against the gorgeous blue sky is a wonderful sight to behold.

The Hotel des Invalides is NOT an actual hotel. Instead, it's the site of a VERY large military museum as well as the tomb of Napoleon. A very large tomb as Napoleon is buried in a coffin in a coffin in a coffin in a coffin in a coffin in a those Russian wooden doll things.

As a part of my research of Paris, I learned of the Museum Pass they have which allows access to most of the sights of the city. After totaling up the admission costs of all the places on my MUST list, the pass seemed to be the best choice financially. The Hotel des Invalides was not on my MUST list and I was originally just going to look at the beautiful dome and be on my way. However, since I was getting the museum pass anyway, why not see the tomb and museum and get my money's worth? "Getting my money's worth" was probably the motto of my trip.

Anyway, I enter the building and it's architecture is very interesting. There is a central circular area under the main dome where Napoleon is buried but there are also side domes with circular rooms where other tombs and religious things are. As this was my first building with frescoes and statues I was in awe of it all. My favorite part was the altar made of black marble with accents of gold.

Napoleon outer coffin is wooden and simple with swirls on the edge of the lid. The entire tomb is elevated off the basement floor to which the visitor looks down upon it from the first floor. Very showy. Very Napoleon.

After seeing the tomb and crypt I walk around the building into the military museum section. The courtyard's edges are lined with cannons and there are others all along the side walkways.

The first section, and what I think is the main part, deals with France's involvement in war from the 18th century (I think...) through World War II. There was a LOT of info, most of it translated for English readers, and it was all a LOT to absorb. Pictures, documents, diagrams, old guns, uniforms...plenty of stuff. I liked the old time machine guns the best. And the cross-bows. The other section I walked through was more about the ancient militaries of the world and had things like Chinese daggers. The collection of armor there was tremendous and it was sad to see them made for very young people...boys who were probably no older than 12 or 13.

The museum was certainly interesting and if you have a couple of hours and enjoy warfare stuff, I would recommend visiting. But the museum is huge. And I still had plenty to see before everything began to close, so I opted not to visit the 3rd section of the museum and headed around towards the neighboring Rodin Museum and Gardens. Onward, ho!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel tower was built as the entrance arch for the 1889 World's Fair. It's built along the Seine River on the Champs de Mars and is 324 m tall. The Eiffel Tower is a symbol for Paris, for France even, and is one of the most spectacular pieces of architecture I've ever seen.

As I enter the Champs de Mars, the clouds are now almost gone and the tower stands still, dominating all that surrounds it. It is HUGE! I take my time approaching it, in awe of it's sheer size; the 4 legs are much larger than I ever imagined. What hits me next is the intricacy of the steel work and symmetry of all the beams within the tower making the tower symmetrical itself.

I opt for the cheaper route to the top - stairs to the 1st and 2nd floors, then elevator the rest of the way. There's no line for the stairs in the East leg and I glance to the elevator entrance at the North leg and don't see a huge crowd. Coming early was a good idea. I get my ticket for the stairs and head in. There are a lot of can see them as they ascend up into the tower to the 1st floor...a lot of stairs.

I will be the first to admit that I'm not in shape. Therefore, I was not surprised when I was winded about 50 steps up...they number them for you...and thought how much this sucked. But I persevered, climbed all those gosh darn steps and made it to the 1st floor. Thinking it was the only floor before the top, because I didn't know there were 2, I took my time looking out every side, reading about the history of the tower, finding all the landmarks in view and wondering why there were no people around. But then I discovered there was another stairwell for me to ascend...yay.

When I finally made it to floor 2, I felt relieved and very proud of myself. Sure my legs were shaking, my heart pounding and my mouth dry, but I had climbed the Eiffel Tower. Woot. At this level the views were just as wonderful as the 1st floor but there were more people, so I can't say if it was better or not. The information on level 1 proved to be quite useful as I could spot the Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame, Louvre, and the Arc de Triopmhe among other sites quite easily. The light clouds were still hovering and the view in the far distance was hazy. (Yet after multiple towers in every city on even the clearest of days I learned that haze is common. A side effect from being in a city, I think.) Overall though, it was quite gorgeous.

What astonished me the most however, wasn't the panoramic views. It was the internal structure of the tower. Just like the base of the tower, the thousands and thousands of steel beams welded together in perfect symmetry visible from the 2nd floor was jaw-droppingly beautiful.

Since I was quite satisfied with the views from the 2nd floor, I debated whether I should spend the money and time for the elevator ride to the top. I'd read mixed reviews about if the view from the top was worth it or not. I was also time-conscious and wondered if I would have enough time to accomplish everything I'd planned for the day. But after thinking about it, who knows when I would be back in Paris and what I'd be doing, so why not go to the top while I'm here? I got my ticket and hopped in line for the elevator. Though I was sad to see there was a line, seeing how long the line could have been I was grateful.

The top was quite an experience. Not overcrowded which was nice, and the views were certainly different than the 1st and 2nd floor. You site spots that aren't tall, but are recognizable. You see things you didn't see before both far away and close up. The panorama view of the city is much better and it allowed me to appreciate Paris as a whole; how the city visually comes together through layout and architecture.

Though the top was well worth the elevator trip up, time was of the essence and I was slowly running out of it. Upon leaving the tower I walked along the Champs de Mars on my way to the Hotel des Invalides. The clouds had lifted completely and when I turned around to view the tower once more, I was floored by the picture I saw. The green lawn leading towards this massive, perfectly built icon sitting against a backdrop of the bluest sky you can imagine. Completely and utterly gorgeous! An image I will never forget.

However much I wanted to stay and stare at its glory though, I knew I must be off. Turning my back once again, I marched on towards the Hotel des Invalides...but not without getting one last look, and one last picture, first.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

a journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step - lao tzu

We land at Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport right on time; it's cloudy and the ground is wet. After exiting the plane I make my way first to the bathroom and then to Passport Control. There is a bit of a line, but I don't care as I'm not in any rush; nothing opens in the city til 8:30 or 9 anyway. The process is uneventful of course until I get to the head of the line. A French woman starts yelling and arguing with one of the men in the windows and the woman sharing the booth with him begins to intervene yet her window is open. I go to her and get my passport stamped quickly, thank goodness there are no questions asked. The crazy French lady is scary and I want to get the hell out of there. Yelling is scarier when you have NO idea what is being said. Onto the train station...

After only getting lost a lil bit because the directions signs pointed me in the wrong direction, I make it to the train platform, purchase my ticket and hop on the next train heading toward the city. The ride is uneventful except it does get a little crowded due to the commuters from the suburbs getting on and packing the train.

We arrive at Gare du Nord (North Station) some time later and when I leave the station I'm able to get my bearings well enough.

A short 15-min walk up a slightly inclined street and I enter the doors to Le Village Hostel. It's dead quiet except for the radio they have playing. The gentleman at the desk is kind enough and after a bit of repacking I place my bag in the storage room, pick up a map and head out for the day.

For transportation in Paris my plan was to use the bike system they have called "Velib." For a single-day ticket ($1.50), you have unlimited use of the bikes which you pick up and drop off at hundreds of stations around the city. It's a replacement for the bus or train and as long as you keep the ride under 30 minutes, its a free trip. Because my hostel is right at the bottom of the Sacre Couer, there are a couple of stations right nearby and I head over to one as the first to-do. Yet they do not accept my Visa bank card and I must give up that idea and use the Metro the next 2 days. Oh well...

I find the nearest Metro station very easily and hop on a train headed for the Champs de Mars...not directly, but with a couple of transfers. I arise from the underground at the Hotel des Invalides stop (not where I wanted to be it's close enough) and begin the walk towards the Eiffel Tower. It's still cloudy but I can see it's clearing up fast which is very good. I don't want to pay to go up a tower that I can't see anything from. Passing by cute Parisian children walking to school and delivery men starting their days, I'm wondering where the heck this tower is. I'm very close by, not near any tall buildings and knowing the Eiffel is quite large, why am I not seeing it jutting into the sky? I finally make it to the edge of the Champs de Mars, glance to my right and there it is...the Eiffel Tower.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Departure from Boston

I flew out of Boston's Logan International Airport at 5:25PM on Wednesday, Nov 19th, 2009. It was the start of an excellent adventure and a journey I'd never taken before. Sure, I'd been to Europe before, a few times actually, but this was very different. No travel buddies, no fancy hotel rooms, a semi-strict budget...all factors I'd never dealt with before. The worries of protecting my money and identification, the hassle of packing clothes to get me through 3 weeks without laundry, figuring out my way through the European rail system, not speaking any of the 3 languages I was about to encounter...yet, I knew this experience would be an opportunity not to be missed. However self-conscious I was about being alone, I was going to push that aside and really enjoy myself for the next 3 weeks.

Thanks to my Cohasset Softball jacket, I meet a couple going to Paris for their anniversary who happen to live right near me and know one of the families on my lane. When the wife asks her husband where they are sitting and he says "2A and B" I can only turn my head and smile...of course they're flying first class, they're from Cohasset. Me, I'm satisfied with my frequent flyer ticket: seat 43K. Coach class for the win!

43K is a window seat, which normally I wouldn't be thrilled about but since the seat is part of a pair, it's not bad. That makes only one person I will have to ask to get up. I have a beautiful view of the back of the wing and of the sun setting behind Logan Airport.

We aren't delayed and take off on time. We're served dinner which isn't bad and the options for movies on our personal television screens is enormous. So many summer movies and old classics to choose from. I watch "Night at the Museum 2," which I'm not afraid to admit I like, and then lean back and try and catch some shut-eye. Sleep comes and goes in intervals. During a moment of consciousness, I open the window shade and look out...all I see are stars, thousands of beautiful, gorgeous stars as we fly over an ocean of clouds. As I stare in amazement I see one shoot across the sky. I don't recall seeing a shooting star before, but this one I will not forget. I gaze out for a few moments longer then reluctantly close the shade. If I'm going to enjoy my first day I will need rest. I slip on my headphones, start my "Glee" playlist and lay back as we soar over the Atlantic Ocean. Destination: Paris.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Introduction and Disclaimer

Hello! To whomever is reading this, I wanted to first of all say "Thanks!" and second, explain why I decided to start a blog.

I just returned from a 3 week trip traveling around Central/Southern Europe and when I would normally keep family and friends updated with what I'd been doing through somewhat lengthy (and I apologize for the times I ramble) emails, the constraints of traveling as I was and being in many places with limited internet access, emailing like I have in the past was not an option. Yes, I could have done so that way after I returned, but based on what I had experienced, and the reflections I wanted to share, emailing wouldn't have worked easily. So...I had to think of something else as a means of communication.

I've never written a blog or really been into publishing my thoughts on the internet (i.e. Twitter, Facebook status) because I don't think people really care about what I think or what's going on in my life. I'm also not the most creative or entertaining writer and don't want to torture people with boring prose or my attempts at being witty. However, when I thought about it more and more, the idea to create one for this purpose seemed like the perfect idea. Along with the postings about the Eiffel Tower or the Venetian canals I could use the space to flesh out other musings about being a foriegner and "backpacker" that passed through my mind multiple times during my trip. A blog would allow me to share my adventure with my parents, siblings, best friends, grandparents, etc. in a way that would also help me process mentally what I experienced myself.

So there you have it; the reasons why I, who never thought I'd ever have a blog, decided to begin one. And now onto a short disclaimer...

I must warn you, the reader, that what I will be writing is completely my opinion on a number of subjects based on what I saw and what I experienced as a solo, young adult traveler in Europe. You may not agree with or appreciate everything I write and I apologize if I end up saying something that in some way or another offends you.