Headed Back to the Homeland (A Rambleblog)

It’s been a very eventful past couple of weeks. I’ve experienced Paris and Lugano (Switzerland), and I’ll be on a plane headed directly toward Alaska in the next seven hours. On top of all the traveling, I turn twenty-five on Friday. I’m still working through my feelings about this big birthday. Right now, I’m sitting at my computer just taking a break from the frantic unpacking and repacking that is going on in my room right now. No joke, my bed and floor are both littered with articles of clothing and bags and everything else a traveler might need. Have I mentioned it’s almost 4 in the morning? Apologies if this rambling is mostly incoherent.

This is the first all-nighter I’ve pulled in quite a long time. I’ve taken a couple of naps throughout the day and evening, but I feel like there’s no better way to prematurely combat the jet lag than to stay awake all night before a flight and then crash on the plane (this works especially well when your flight is a long one and the time difference means you’re actually gaining thirty minutes or so when you land).

This visit will mark my first time back in the states for six months, and my first time back to Alaska in ten years. My parents and I moved from Alaska to Texas twelve years ago, and I got to go back and visit the first two summers, but then the traveling pretty much got placed on the back burner. There is no way to fully explain how much I miss that gorgeous place. Alaska has a way of seeping into the deepest parts of your soul, and if you have the opportunity to spend any time there at all, you will thirst to be back there as soon as you leave. I know that not everyone feels as strongly about the state as I do, but I think there’s probably another reason I have such a tie to the place.

It seems every time I really sit back and reflect on my reasoning behind my thoughts, more often than not it somehow comes back to the adoption facet of my identity. I was born in Alaska, my biological family (on both sides) was located there when I was born, and there’s a high probability that my father’s side is still up there. It always gets back to wanting to know where I come from. That burning desire to know everything there is to possibly know.

It’s been almost exactly a year since the last time I heard from my biological mother. She emailed me last year to wish me a happy birthday, and although I tried to contact her to try and get some information about my father’s family so I could try and get some more questions answered while I was back in my home state, my efforts went unanswered. It might just be the way that I relate to things, or it might be pretty common in the minds of adoptees, but even being back in the same city that my biological family came from gives me a sense of connection, like we could have experienced the same thing if you ignore the time lapse.

To say I’m anxious to be back in Alaska is an understatement. I’m anxious, excited, joyful, anticipatory…I just have the sense that this trip could be a pivotal moment in my life journey. I’ll be there for twelve days. I’ll be turning another year older, reconnecting with friends I haven’t seen in twelve years or more (some of them who I’ve known for almost twenty years), and making sure I soak in every single moment of the wild beauty Alaska has to offer. I’m interested to see where this trip will take me

Paradiso, Lugano, Switzerland- August 2014
Paradiso, Lugano, Switzerland- August 2014

How to See Paris in Four Days (Or Less!)

Yes, I realize this is my third “Paris” post within week, but I don’t feel bad about it at all. I’m trying to make the most of my time in Europe while I can, and that includes writing and writing all of my thoughts down. You think this is bad? You should see my journals.

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Something I’ve mentioned time and time again is that as an au pair, I’ve had to learn to live on a tight budget. This means that when I want to travel somewhere, I have to save up for it ahead of time. I’ve been putting money aside for some sort of trip since I got here, but wasn’t sure where I would be going or when I would get to go. The family I work for didn’t need me for the entire time they were on vacation, so after some budget checking, I decided to go to Paris for a long weekend.

side note: any costs I mention are in Euro currency (€), not US dollar

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Love Bridge

I booked my trip as soon as I knew my dates. For any long train trips across Europe, I highly suggest Deutsche Bahn. Maybe it’s just that living in Germany for the past six months has made me a bit biased, but it is by far the nicest train line I’ve traveled on over here. I splurged a bit on my train ticket to get the most favorable departure time, but I could have easily saved €20 or more if I had booked earlier or chosen a different time.

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Parisian streets

I did some research on the public transportation in Paris ahead of time and found a deal on a five-day pass for all the public transportation. I was planning on spending €72 for the pass, but after arriving in the city and looking at the map, I realized that almost everything I wanted to do was in the first three sections of the city. A five-day pass for that was only €35, and I could pay for a one-day pass that goes to the fourth section to get out to Versailles.

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Palace at Versailles

Many of the things I was interested in seeing were landmarks in the city. You do have the option to go inside many of them, including the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, but you have to spend more money. If you’re on a budget, I think even just standing next to these huge monuments are worth it without spending the money to see the inside. Other landmarks, such as Notre Dame, are free and you are able to enjoy all of it without spending a dime.

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Louvre

I went to the city with €300 total, allowing myself to use up to €200 of it and making sure I saved at least €100 for emergencies. I ended up spending just a little under €150, and I feel like I got a very full experience of the city, and was even able to enjoy some good food and got a souvenir* along the way.

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Hall of Mirrors in Versailles

Day 1:

I arrived in Paris around 5pm and eventually met my friend at the train station. She helped me get a train pass, then we were off to meet a friend of hers and get some dinner. This day just consisted of meeting some French people and enjoying a bit of the Parisian nightlife.

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Relaxing

Day 2:

Saturday was a day full of train rides, which just goes to show that when you live in a city, you can still get a bit confused on where you need to go. We spent time gazing at the Eiffel Tower and then decided that because it was such a beautiful day, we would catch a train out to Versailles. While we were there, we toured the palace and got some macaroons (at McDonald’s of all places). After we finally found our way back into the heart of Paris, we again met up with some Parisians for a picnic along the Seine River. Leaving the picnic, I was able to catch my first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night.

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Macaroons from McDonald’s

Day 3: 

Sunday was probably the busiest day, but still didn’t feel overwhelming. We visited Notre Dame and just sat inside gazing up at the architectural beauty for a while. I feel like I’ve been in my fair share of cathedrals this past year, and this one was easily one of my favorites. We walked along the Seine for a while and ended up crossing the Love Bridge and walking through the courtyards of the Louvre. We ended up sitting on the side of the fountain for a while, bathing our feet and cooling off, before walking through the Tuileries and the stumbling upon the end of the Tour de France. We stood around for a good couple of hours waiting for the finish of the race, and then it was off to get dinner at a small crepe place and watch the Eiffel Tower light up from the amazing view my friend has at her apartment.

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Notre Dame

Day 4: 

Monday started off very lazily with sleeping in and a late breakfast. I went by the Arc de Triomphe, got some pictures, and then met up with my friend at the Louvre after her classes were done for the day. As soon as we got inside the Louvre, we got out some maps of the museum and plotted out where we wanted to go. There was no possible way to cover all of the museum in the few hours we had, so we chose our top few things to see and mapped out the quickest course. After the museum, we did a bit of shopping to try and find a souvenir, then sat down in the grass of the Tuileries and relaxed until it was time to go home.

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Winged Victory of Samothrace at the Louvre

Day 5:

I feel like it’s only fair to include Tuesday to point out the fact that it was just a day of traveling for me. I made good use of my five-day pass since I still had to use it to get to the proper train station, but leaving at 7:30am means no sightseeing.

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Arc de Triomphe

Overall, I feel like it was a very successful trip and I was able to see all of the big things I really wanted to without spending too much money. Paris is, in general, a very expensive city. Even most of the food was twice the price of the exact same items in Frankfurt, so I had to be very aware of what I spent and where I spent it. The basic breakdown of where my money went (lodging and transportation to and from the city not included) is as follows:

  • Five-day Paris metro pass: €35
  • Versailles: €15
  • Louvre: €12
  • Food and extras: roughly €88
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Eiffel Tower sparkling at night

*a note on souvenirs: I try to find something that is useful for me in my everyday life instead of just a knick-knack that will sit around collecting dust. In Israel, I chose a small bowl made out of olive wood to hold my jewelry. In Berlin, my parents were kind enough to buy me a scarf. In Paris, I picked out a couple of travel makeup bags that are more practical than the big one I keep at home.