It would be impossible to recount every experience I’ve had in the past month, so I decided to just give each city I’ve been to a superlative award and let you use your imagination to fill in the gaps.
Most Likely to Disappoint Me with Its Primary Language: Barcelona, Spain
Yes, I knew there were various regional languages and dialects in Spain, but I had never made a close enough study of the country to note where. When our plane landed in Barcelona, I was so ready to be surrounded by familiar words on signs and advertisements, and to hear the comforting cadences of the language I fought so hard to learn. To my dismay, the good people of Barcelona primarily speak Catalan. Qué barbaridad.
7/10 (Good city to start out in.)
Most Likely to Not Make a Strong Impression: Nice, France
Nice was nice, and that’s about it. It was an intermediate city between Spain and Italy, and was touristy and picturesque. Not a bad one-day stop, though.
4/10 (Could have done without.)
The No Regrets Award: Cinque Terre, Italy
Cinque Terre is the most beautiful hiking I’ve ever done. We climbed trails weaving through vineyards, clinging to the sides of mountains, overlooking waves crashing against a rocky coast and colorful little villages periodically clustered on the hillside. This is the legendary place where I watched the setting sun sparkle off the deep azul waves with gold glints far more beautiful than any metal, where I discovered the magic of combining ice cream and coffee, where my sister and I took half-hidden paths to mysterious destinations, and where I jumped off a cliff into the sea and got a chipped tooth to always remind me of my adventures. Not to mention, it was my hiking boots’ maiden voyage.
9/10 (Docked a point for the tourists.)
Most Likely to Have Swarms of Tourists: Rome, ItalyNothing in Rome really exceeded my expectations. The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill were fun to wander through, and I loved the Pantheon, but overall, Rome was difficult to enjoy through the muchedumbre of tourists. Yes, I’m aware I’m also a tourist.
6/10 (Glad I went, doubt I’ll go again.)
Most Likely to Have an Underappreciated Van Gogh: Vatican City
Vatican City is a grand sprawling museum of works of art collected by popes throughout the ages. As we went through, people clustered around sculptures that inspired Michelangelo, and the rooms with murals painted by Raphael were packed wall to wall. However, people breezed through the contemporary wing without even glancing left or right. Our guide herded us into a small deserted side chamber so she could explain the Sistine Chapel before we entered. I listened to her while I studied a random painting in front of me. I realized with a start that it was painted by Mr. Vincent Van Gogh himself. Fast-forward a few weeks into Amsterdam and I would be jostling with herds of people in the Van Gogh Museum for the chance to stare at his paintings for just a few seconds. This one, however, hung lonely and ignored, overshadowed by ancient giants.
8/10 (I got to hear the pope speak in my second language in person.)
Stay tuned for Part II.