Our Cups of Tea .

They say you’ll never come back.
That my words won’t find their way to you.
And yet, I send them out into the universe.
I ignite your soul with my thoughts
and bring back to life
the fading memories of my childhood under your wings.

They say you’re gone, but only I know..
How you haunt my cups of tea.
How you paint your smile into my eyes.
How you take me on a ride back home.
To you, and me, and our cups of tea.

I close my eyes;
breathe in the fragrance I know so dearly.
And there, for a moment,
we melt together into the secrets of invisiblity.

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Italy – Part 3 – Verona

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“There is no world for me outside the walls of Verona, except purgatory, torture, and hell itself. So to be banished from Verona is like being banished from the world, and being banished from the world is death.”

– Shakespeare, Rome and Juliet, Act III, Scene III.

This is a quote engraved on one of the walls in Verona. And this is also the first significant thing I remember seeing, as I walked through the streets of Verona with a map and a suitcase in hand, trying to find the hostel I was booked at. The memories of this city are now fading with time, and I must write them down to preserve them better.

This was February 2015. I have already written the first two parts about Rome and Venice, but somehow completely missed out on Verona.. Maybe I was lazy to pen down all my feelings about Verona, or maybe I thought I shouldn’t ruin the feelings by penning them down, because really, Verona enchanted me and no blogpost can do justice to that enchantment. But let me still try, because I want my favourite city in Europe (till date) to be a part of my travel diaries.

Verona.. Oh Verona! (Shakespeare much!) .. The only reason why I ever wanted to visit Italy was Verona.. and though it sounds stupid to me today, it was because of the movie “Letters to Juliet” that I had watched years ago when I was naive. I do now understand that there is a major difference between movies and real life (actually I still sometimes unbelieve it and slip into dreamland). Of course I didn’t end up finding the love of my life in Verona, like the actress does, but well, I did fall in love with the city!

Verona was different from Rome and Venice. Quite different. The latter being majorly hyped and for that reason, loses its charm when compared to Verona. Though Venice too enchanted me, for the same reason that Verona did.. the “slipping back in time” vibe that it gives. There is something about Italy and its narrow streets, its houses, its architecture, its food, and its people!

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So.. On our 8th day in Italy, we reached Verona via train from Venice. Smooth journey. Bought a map at the train stations, figured out where the hostel was, and started walking towards it. By the time we reached the hostel, we had already seen half of Verona – It was that far! And why we didn’t take a taxi or bus? Because duh! Save money!

After checking in at the hostel, we headed straight to where I had been dying to go ! Juliet’s house ! Even though its not Juliet’s house for real, it looks like something close to what it could have been. And so it has been converted into a monument for Juliet. Apparently, it also has links to the Capulet family. Well, I don’t know how true that is, but thats what they say ! Okay, now I had no idea that the Juliet’s house wasn’t just about Juliet’s balcony, but there was also a museum inside, which had paintings, antiques, and quotes from Romeo & Juliet on display. That was quite a treat for a history buff like me ! And coming to the main point – Yes, people do write their letters to Juliet, and there is a post box where you can put them in. There also a million notes stuck on the wall and of course love locks ! The ghost of Paris is everywhere in Europe ! I am pretty sure they can build an iron bridge with all the love locks hanging everywhere in Europe.

I wouldn’t say I was disappointed with Juliet’s house.. it did have quite a lot of tourists and wasn’t quite like that in the movie, but I was pretty satisfied with the experience – the credits for which go to the museum. I wondered if the letters were answered back though ? The answer to which I found later, when I met a Swedish girl at the hostel who had lived in Verona for quite sometime. She told me that there is indeed a group that writes back, and she herself had worked there. If I had a little more time in Verona, I would definitely have wanted to do it !

That evening, we treated ourselves to a lavish dinner (treat to ourselves for saving the taxi money) at a restaurant in front of the famous arena (which btw is the place where the beginning of Rockstar was shot). That evening, I tasted my favorite wine in the world for the first time – Prosecco – magical Italian white wine. That, and Lasagna. Life was at its best in that moment.

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The Arena where Rockstar (2011) was shot.

The sun in Verona was a breath of fresh air. The next day, we walked around the city and looked for things to do. We knew there was a castle somewhere on a hill, so we just ended up randomly walking towards it. We ended up walking up a hill with a forest full of ruins, and when we reached the top, the view was breathtaking. Verona from above looked gorgeous !

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Hey thats my back!

It was a chill two days in Verona. Went out for drinks with the Swedish girl and her local friends, walking around the city, contemplating by the river, and the like..

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At the end of it all, I was quite happy. I would have liked to stay longer in Verona, but I knew I would come back to this city someday. I had decided. I would come back to Venice and Verona, so I didn’t let disappointment set in, and said see you soon to one of my favourite cities !

Belgium!

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Belgium, a small country to the north of France. Every one who lives in Paris for a study abroad and wishes to travel Europe would 110% visit Belgium, for more than one reasons. The most important ones : Cheap trains/buses from Paris to Brussels. And one million (maybe I’m exaggerating) varieties of beers! Maybe not a million.. but thousand? For sure! Belgian beers are known world wide, and Belgians do love their beers, just like the French do their wine. If not anything else, I’ve definitely learnt a thing or two about wines and beers in Europe. You know, general knowledge that seems to be important when you’re studying abroad in Europe. So, let me not stray from the topic, and get straight back to talking about Belgium, and the two cities I’ve visited till now.. followed by some quick photographs.

It might sound insane, but I’ve taken a train from Paris to Brussels a couple of times already, but I’ve never been outside in the city of Brussels. I mean, yeah technically I have, the metro and a climbing place I recently went to.. But never really the town center. I know thats insane, but I’ll do that soon 😛

So, after getting down from the “izy” Thalys (read Thalys for cheap travels and for people who are lost between France and Belgium and wanting to call both of them their home), I’ve been to two cities till now : Gent and Leuven.
[Quick note, if you don’t know about izy thalys – its the affordable version of Thalys train, takes a little longer than the Thalys, but its a blessing for its extremely affordable!]

About the cities – I absolutely love how cute, tiny (compared to my home country in Europe) and pretty they are. I know these are such dreamy adjectives, but its true! I think Belgian cities have a very relaxed aura to them. For some reason, the air in Belgium is different from that in France. Definitely there are more bars than cafes – well, thats what I’ve noticed. Of course you find bars everywhere in Paris too, but somehow you find more bars than cafes if you walk around in Belgium. Not to forget your nose would be on alert all the time, because DUH! WAFFLES and FRIES! Let me not say French fries, as we know it. But Belgian fries- the original fries.. and ummm, my mouth is watering! THEY ARE DELICIOUS. You have to come and try them. But let me just mention on thing about them, and thats the major point of difference from French fries as we know them.. Belgian fries are not like the thin almost dead McDonalds fries, which are competing with a size zero girl.. Belgian fries are thick and and and and… DELICIOUS!!!!

And what goes best with them? A drink in a beautiful bar, with friendly waiters who happily speak English if you ask them to (unlike in France). Shit, I seem to compare France and Belgium a lot. But I’m stating facts. Belgian waiters > French waiters. Not just the waiters, but everyone there seems to have a decent level of English. Okay I’m not criticizing the French or anything, they have great qualities in their own way, but when it comes to being multilingual, the Belgians win! (I think I need to write a post about three years of my life in France too –  maybe then I could put down in writing my real views about the French culture.)

Well, since I was talking about bars, here is one I would recommend for sure. This one is in Leuven, a small student city, 45 minutes by train from Brussels. The bar is called “De Blauwe Schuit” and is not exactly in the center but very close to it. And, why is it amazing? They have a pet PEACOCK!!! Now thats something different. A bar/restaurant with a pet peacock on their terrace. It absolutely looks like a summer paradise!!! With all the greenery, and the peacock quite literally doing a free show! He is such a show off bird, really. He isn’t scared of so many people sitting around. In fact he knows that everybody loves looking at him, so he’ll show off his feathers happily!!!

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And here’s a photograph for you!

As far as architecture and scenic beauty is concerned, I don’t think I need to compare France and Belgium here.. Both are equally rich in scenic beauty, history, and architecture. But there’s something about Belgium.. something unique.. The few times I’ve visited, I always tried to understand what it was.. In fact, every time I visit a new city, I always try to notice difference from the ones I’ve been to. Almost all the European cities might seem to be rich in culture, history, architecture and scenic beauty, but there is something different about the cities of each country. Maybe I need to walk around Brussels to figure out what it really is.. the capital is of course a must visit. But from what I’ve felt till now, I think its the happy faces and the difference in the lifestyle that makes it different. There’s a relaxing feeling, a happier feeling, a feeling that I never got while walking around in Paris.

 

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Watermael-Boitsfort.

 

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Gent city center.

 

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Me and my friend Yoko who lives in Gent.

 

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On the train from Brussels to Gent.. Probably the most famous coffee shop in Brussels?

 

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