Exploring the Fashion Capitals

UCD students are very fortunate in that they get a two week long spring break in the middle of the semester. I am fortunate in that I do not have classes on Fridays so my spring break started a day early. Since I had two weeks of no academic commitments, I decided to take every opportunity I had to travel. So, I embraced my inner fashionista and visited two of the world’s fashion capitals: Paris and Milan.

I kicked off my spring break with my return to Paris. I had visited Paris once before – in high school when I traveled throughout France for a week with my French class – but my only memory of Paris was two days of dreadful rain that made the much more sunny south of France all the more enjoyable. I was excited to see that this time around the weather forecast called for blue skies, sun, and highs in the 60s during my four day tour of the City of Light, not only because it would make my experience much better than the first one but also because blue skies and sun were very rare in Ireland.

I was lucky enough to be traveling with one of my friends who had lived in Paris for three years when she was growing up. Since we were there for four days and she was a former Parisian herself, we decided we didn’t need to rush through seeing all the sights, so we found a balance of embracing the local scene while at the same time embracing our inner tourists.

ParisOne of my favorite things about being back in Paris was seeing the iconic Eiffel Tower against a bright blue sky. It was absolutely breathtaking to see it on a beautiful day and to observe all the people enjoying picnics in the sunshine with the Tower hovering above.

As beautiful as the Tower was against the sky, nothing prepared me for the views we found after climbing up to the Sacre Coeur. From the top of the hill on which the Cathedral sits, you can see all of Paris. We decided to sit down for a while and take it all in. It was absolutely stunning.Sacre Coeur

While I enjoyed going back to see Paris again, I found the city to be incredibly overwhelming. There was always so much going on around me, and I much prefer the more relaxed pace of life in Dublin.

I spent the next week of my spring break showing my parents and two friends around Dublin and celebrating St. Patricks’s Day in Ireland’s capital before heading to Milan to end our spring break in Italy.

I didn’t know what to expect from Milan, but I was excited to eat authentic Italian food. After struggling to find our hostel in the heat and humidity, we had all worked up a pretty big appetite, so we decided to head into the city where we got our first servings of real Italian gelato! I got pistachio and coffee flavors and it was even more delicious than you would expect.

We were in Italy for two and a half days, and we initially planned on spending one of those days in Florence, so our first day in Milan we did our best to see as much as we could. I found that Milan didn’t have a whole lot of tourist attractions; it wasn’t like Paris, where everywhere you turn there is something worth taking a photo in front of. So, we spent the morning walking around the Duomo, which is an absolutely beautiful basilica in the city center. We also attempted to visit the Last Supper painting, but since it is so fragile, only a certain amount of people can see it each day, and it was booked for the next two weeks! (Hint: if you’re ever going to Milan, make sure you book your tickets to the Last Supper ahead of time!)

The next day we attempted to go to Florence, but the train tickets were a bit out of our budget for our weekend, so we decided to go to Navigli, which is a canal area in Milan. Unfortunately, the canal was dried up and full of litter which, in addition to the rain that decided to follow us from Dublin to Milan, left a bit to be desired.

My favorite memory from Milan was our last night, when we went to a fancy pasta dinner and walked around the Duomo at night. It was absolutely beautiful to see lit up at night. I didn’t think it was possible that this building could be anymore beautiful than it was in the day, but it was!Duomo

In all honesty, I didn’t love Milan or Paris in the same way I love Dublin. While both my spring break trips were slightly disappointing, it made me realize how much I appreciate living and studying in Dublin and how fortunate I am to see and experience so many different places.