Each year that my friend, Hieu, goes to Europe, he would send me back a postcard promising to take me on a European Excursion. After years of receiving postcards filled with promises, we finally booked our tickets when I graduated high school in June of 2016. On December 26th, 2016, Hieu and I along with our friends, Katie and Suzanne, hopped on a 7.5 hour flight to London, England. Our itinerary was set for spending a day in London, five days in Paris, four days in Rome, and then back to London for another day, making a total of 11 whole days in Europe. In this blog post, I want to share with you my top 5 most memorable moments from our trip!
The Christmas Night Market
Since it was still Christmas time when we were in London, the streets were filled with lights and beautifully decorated Christmas trees stood on every corner. Consumed in the holiday spirit, my friends and I decided to go to “Winter Wonderland”, a Christmas night market held every year in London. The market was filled with stalls selling food like Spanish chocolate-dipped churros, warm wine, and roasted chestnuts. There were amusement park rides, carnival games, and an adult carousel that had a full service bar in the middle for people to drink and ride at the same time. We need one of these in America!
The Eiffel Tower
Unfortunately, we experienced a 12 hour flight delay due to heavy London fog. Luckily, Hieu and Suzanne are both frequent flyers and treated Katie and I to the luxuries of Delta Skyclub and priority boarding to soften the delay. When we finally arrived in Paris, the four of us jumped in a cab and headed towards our Airbnb, located a mile away from the Eiffel Tower. After watching countless of movies set in Paris (The Devil Wears Prada, anyone?), seeing the Eiffel in real life was placed at the very top of my “Ultimate Bucket List”. You can imagine how exciting it was for me to drive under a tunnel and then see the tower, illuminating the night sky as the clock reached a new hour. The tower’s lights were dazzling, mesmerizing even. At that very moment, l really felt like I was finally in Paris.
Immediately after we dropped our bags off at our Airbnb, we decided to go to a Parisian bistro to grab a late dinner. Entering the bistro, I became immersed as I saw so many lively and eccentric people filling the small restaurant. People were laughing, singing and dancing along to the live music, and enjoying each other’s company. This was one of my most memorable experiences because of a particularly tall, dark, and handsome waiter. If you know me, you know that I’m quite the klutz. As I was putting on my jacket, the charming waiter came behind me to clear the plates. My foot got caught between the leg of my chair and his leg, and I began to fall. Life was set in slow motion and I was internally screaming until I felt sturdy hands catching my fall. The waiter had caught me…I really fell head over heels!
NYE Underneath the Arc De Triumph
For New Year’s Eve, I would usually just watch the ball drop in NYC on TV. But this year, I finally got to celebrate NYE properly, underneath the infamous Arc De Triumph. As hundreds, maybe even thousands of people filled the streets of Paris; all I could think about was seeing the light show at the Arc. Entering the area was a bit tedious as we had to wait in line for a security check, but once we finally entered, I forgot all about the consistent shoving and chaotic screaming. Celebrating with Katie, Suzanne, and Hieu was amazing, but the most memorable moment of that night was when a random stranger came up and kissed me. Yet, another thing crossed off my “Ultimate Bucket List”.
The Papal Audience
When Hieu told us that he got tickets for the Papal Audience in Vatican City, I didn’t quite believe him. But it happened, we got 4 tickets from the North American Bishops to see Pope Francis, or “Papa Francisco” as the Italians say! One of the nuns that gave us an orientation of the papal audience instructed us that we would need to do three things in order to meet the Pope: get in line early, sit in the aisle row, and get a baby. On the morning of the audience, we rushed to get in line. Lucky for us, our Airbnb in Rome was only a mile or two from the Piazza San Pietro. The line was filled with people from all over the world; some were even in their wedding dresses hoping to get a blessing from Pope Francis. As crazy as the crowd was, we managed to obtain both aisle row seating and a baby! While we waited for Pope Francis to enter, several choirs began to sing (imagine the Pitch Perfect “Rift-off”, only with church music instead). When he finally entered the room, the crowd went into a panic mode, everyone hopping on chairs, pulling out selfie sticks, and pushing each other in hopes of catching a glimpse of the Pope. Behind me, there was a woman with a giant camera that got into a physical fight with another man. Their pushing and shoving caused the lady with the giant camera to hit me in the face with her lens. It was one of the craziest things ever. Just when I thought it couldn’t possibly get any crazier, Pope Francis starts heading towards the baby that was standing next to my friends and I. Being the people that we are, of course, we pulled out our phones and began a series of live streams, snap stories, and selfies.
Thanks for reading my first blog post!