Since I was a little girl, I had wanted to travel to Europe. I had been fascinated with the culture, languages, art, history, food and people for years. However, my brother is two years younger than I, and for the longest time, had no desire to travel to Europe. So, my parents and I had to wait for him to be mature enough to appreciate the trip. When I was sixteen, I got my wish. My parents announced that we would be spending five days in Rome and three days in Paris in August. I was ecstatic, to say the least. I spent months in advance researching, practicing my French, learning a bit of Italian, and, of course, packing. I counted down the days on my calendar, until finally, it was time to leave.
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We arrived in Rome, exhausted, and settled into the apartment we were renting for the week. However, the next morning, we were up early and ready to tackle our first day in the city. Armed with our cameras, my parents, younger brother and I hit the ground running. Rome was everything I had ever dreamed of, and more. Even the simplest of buildings were decorated with intricate columns and statues. We saw every sight there was to see in Rome, and more. We journeyed to the Coliseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, and, of course, Vatican City. I was speechless when, at the end of the tour, we entered the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. However, one of the best parts of being in Italy was the food. I had never had anything as delicious as the authentic cuisine in Rome.
Sadly, our time in Rome came to an end. But fortunately, leaving Rome meant that we were off to Paris. We were going to rendez-vous with some friends of ours who live in New York. As long as I could remember, Paris had been my number one destination. I had been taking French classes since the 8th grade, and I was prepared. However, I was traveling with 7 other people, and not one of them spoke French. My advice to anyone traveling to a foreign country would be to learn the language; not fluently, but enough simple phrases to get around the city. Our first excursion in Paris was outside the city, to the majestic palace of Versailles, followed by a tour of the bohemian village ofMontmartre, famous for its appearance in the film Moulin Rouge! We saw the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, climbed the Arc deTriomphe, and took a cruise down the Seine River. As an art lover, trips to the Impressionist-filledMuséed’Orsay and, of course, the Louvre were a must. And France, known for its cuisine, did not disappoint. Delicate pastries and elaborate meals were all exquisite. Some travelers have a pre-conceived idea that Europeans, especially the French, are rude to Americans. But the truth is, if you attempt a few words in French and don’t behave as if you’re at an amusement park, you’ll have no problems.
All in all, both France and Italy exceeded my expectations. I was ready to go back as soon as we landed in America, and I know I will. I want to study abroad in college, and spend a lot of time in Europe, seeing all the sights in several different countries. My trip to Europe opened my eyes to a whole new world, full of exciting sights, sounds, tastes, and people with a culture not too different from ours. As St. Augustine said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”
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