On my 'farewell to Peace Corps' tour I've reached the western front...of Europe that is. We've been to Rome, Sienna, Florence, Bologna, and Paris so far on this stretch and have 2 more weeks to go. Without a doubt Rome has been the favorite, just in case anyone is wondering. It just feels like magic is in the air there. Sienna was an amazing town to slow down and rest in. Since Rome was so hectic and packed with things to do it was a nice change of pace to lounge in cafes and stroll around aimlessly. The scenery there was gorgeous too. The Tuscan country-side is breathtaking. Florence was way over rated... sorry to all those people out there that just loooove it but I don't. One less tourist in your way I guess. It had nice architecture, and lots of art, but overall I was unimpressed. The masses of tourists walking around in chaotic zigzags with maps in one hand and gellato in the other, the massive lines for any and all museums, and the serious lack of outdoor cafes lessened my regard for it instantly. Plus it was hot. Real, real hot. I don't do well in extensive stretches of heat and 4-days is my max. Bologna was a quick stop over. Since we weren't expecting anything much from the city we were pleasantly surprised by it. It had a pretty center, with interesting architecture and lots of wide, shaded sidewalks. Basically it was a good shopping and eating town, so we did both and it worked out well.
We felt like we were on the Amazing Race trying to get to Paris though. It was ridiculous. People were pushing, shoving, cutting, and even elbowing us the whole way there...perhaps cheap airlines and the metro are not the way to travel. Once we got to Paris everything leveled out though. It's beautiful, but not quite as magical as it's portrayed to be (at least in my opinion). This is probably another one of those Florence things though, and I'll just say if you find Paris magical and wonderful I'm very happy you do but I'll be one less person in line for the Eiffel Tower the next time you visit. Speaking of the Eiffel Tower we almost saw someone commit suicide off of it. Just as we arrived to check out the line we saw a man with a helmet and lots of gear scaling the outside of the first level up then noticed him wrapping a rope around a person who was also standing out on the ledge with him who appeared to be a fanny-pack tourist (there was an actual fanny pack involved). We were wondering whether they were going to bungee or base jump so we stopped and watched. Then we noticed the heavily armed (i'm talking AK-47s) military and policemen standing along a roped off area at the base of the Tower. When the would-be jumper finally got talked down and climbed back off the ledge over the fence we realized what had been going on. It was crazy (and completely not covered by the media)!