Those two hours in the hotel are a good ending to a great weekend, a weekend I can't hope to encompass in just one little blog post. Here, however, are the highlights.
-Woke up at 5:15 so I could get to my 6:01 train. Realized when I was almost to the station (and also almost late) that I forgot my 12-25 card in my hotel room, which meant I was going to have to pay extra money on the train (the 12-25 card is a discount card for young people, but you have to show the card on the train or else they make you pay full price.) Went to see when the next train left only to have the man inform me that my train left at 10:26 and was looking at the wrong ticket. Smooth.
-Uneventful train rides to Paris then to Beauvais (with time to wander in both cities, which was fun) followed by an uneventful plane ride to Pisa [Well. My favorite pen exploded all over my hand. So that's eventful, perhaps.] Bus to Firenze (Florence), taxi to hotel and then....
-AMANDA!!!! This technically belongs on Friday, since I got to the hotel around 1am, but it was the ultimate culmination of Thursday's activities, so it's going to stay with Thursday. [Amanda is one of my dear friends from back home and she and two of her friends were in Florence at the same time, so I stayed in their hotel with them.]
-Woken up at 7:30 by a phone call from HOLLY [another friend from home who is studying in Florence this semester--she's the reason I went to Florence] asking Amanda if I was okay and if I ever made it the hotel. She never received my texts telling her I was safe and sound and thus stayed up all night worrying (sound familiar, Angiebob??) She even facebooked one of our mutual friends back home to see if she had any ideas (because it's always a good idea to contact people on other continents, not the same country, when looking for a lost traveler ha). However, I was alive and in the bed next to Amanda, so all was well.
-Wandered Florence, made the trek up to Settingnano, where Benedictine College has it's Florence campus, and saw MARTEL!!!!! [Martel was supposed to be in Austria this weekend but gloriously missed her train and thus was home to love Amanda and I.]
-Watched Paulo make cool paper, after meeting "Ohio," a hilariously outgoing girl from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania who struck up a conversation with us in the paper store by saying "So what state are y'all from?" With absolutely no preliminary pleasantries. She was hysterical and definitely a highlight of the trip.
(awesome paper Paulo made)
-Ate at Il Latini, a fantastic Italian restaurant with no menus, just options, for each course. Wine came with the dinner and we were expecting that to be all, but then when dessert came around our table magically filled will three other delicious beverages per person, causing us all to just stare at our food/drink, then each other, then back at the table for a couple minutes while trying to figure out what to try first.
(Amanda, Kevin, Isabel and I at Il Latini)
-Hung out with Holly all day...we started out by going to Il Duomo, where I decided to try to go to confession. First priest I went to: only spoke Italian. However, he pointed me in the direction of another priest, who supposedly spoke English. I never found out if he really did, though, because the woman in front of me took OVER 45 MINUTES for her confession. After waiting 45 minutes with no signs of her stopping, Holly and I finally had to leave, because I really needed to go the the bathroom.
(Holly and I at the Piaza di Michelangelo, which overlooks all of Florence)
-Hopped on the train back to Pisa then my plane back to Beauvais. I had planned to get the last train back to Clermont-Ferrand, but we landed too late for me to make it, so I had two options: sleep in the train station, or find a hotel room. I'm usually down for sleeping in public places, but for some reason I was highly uncomfortable with the thought of sleeping by myself in Paris in a train station all night (it was only around 10:30pm and the next train didn't leave until 9:00am). So I decided that I would just go into the closet hotel to Porte Maillot, the bus stop for the shuttle between Beauvais airport and Paris itself, and ask for a room for the night. That hotel happened to be the Hotel Concorde la Fayette...one of the largest hotels in Paris, located just next to the Champs-Elysees. Read: 165 euro for one night. However, I was in no mood to wander Paris trying to find a cheaper hotel, and since it was already night, there were few easy options to find out where to go. So, in the Concorde I stayed, and in the Concorde I watched the Jayhawks and tried not to think about how little food, cell phone credit, and postage stamps I will be purchasing in the next three months so I can afford that one night of safe sleep in a warm bed.
-Skillfully navigated the Paris metro system, hopped on the train, and came home. [Funny story about the metro: while waiting for the first RER to pull in to the station, an Asian couple came up and asked me in English where the line went and if it would take them to their stop. I told them it wouldn't take them to their stop and showed them the screens that list all the stops for the incoming RER. After they walked away, a French man walked over to me and said "Excusez-moi mademoiselle, vous parlez bien anglais" (Excuse me, miss, you speak very good English.) I just looked at him and said "Oui." There really wasn't much for him to say after that.]
Moral of the story: I actually saw virtually nothing of Florence. I didn't even bother seeing the leaning tower in Pisa. I saw my friends, loved my friends, made new friends. I saw my Jayhawks while seeing the Eiffel Tower. I didn't get hurt, robbed, or abducted. I laughed so hard I cried multiple times. I stared in awe at beautiful things. And that, I remembered, is what's important.