Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Spring Break Eurotrip Style

So why break my style now with waiting forever to update this blog?  Already a month has passed, but I decided that it was about time that I shared my Spring break adventures :)

Semana Santa in Spain is the holy week (Easter).  My university had no classes for 10 days, so it was a lot like our Spring break back home.  Knowing that we had that many days free from classes and obligations, Caroline, Kirsten, and I decided to travel the entire break.  We decided to travel to England and Italy, two places that all of us had been dying to go to.

The week started off with London.  We went 3 days before the Royal Wedding, so you can only imagine the security.  The passport/visa check in the airport was super strict!  I adored London.  There was so much to do that even after 4 days, we still felt like there was a lot we didn't see!  We saw Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Parliament, The London Eye, The London Tower, Tower Bridge, Harry Potter tour, Shakespeare's Globe Theater, the real London Bridge, and Westminister Abbey just to name the highlights :)

My favorite part of the trip was definitely the double decker bus tour.  I had ALWAYS wanted to do one in London.  It was definitely one thing to check off the bucket list.  Our pass was valid for a full 24 hours, and I took full advantage.  Caroline, Kirsten, and I went one afternoon and did half of the tour and the next day I decided to go back on for the full tour by myself.  It was wierd doing it by myself, but so worth it!

The three of us also went to not only 1, but 2 broadway shows!  We saw Dirty Dancing (my favorite movie!) and Mamma Mia.  Both shows were amazing!  We even found ourselves singing along at times.  And Kirsten and I introduced Caroline to our love for musicals. 

The people of London were all so nice, and super eager to help us if we needed it.  And I hate to admit it, but it was quite nice to be in an English-speaking country for a few days.  Although, I don't know if the English was any easier to understand than Spanish at times.  In fact, while in line for a bathroom an older lady came up behind me and asked "is that the cue?" (Cue in England is line in America.)  Well being the idiot that I am, I thought that she had said "isn't that cute?" Of course, referring to the dress that I was wearing.  I smiled and replied, "Ohhhh thank you so much!"  Needless to say, I made a complete fool of myself.  Everyone looked at me like I was insane.  The woman shook her head and walked away.  Even with little mishaps like this along the way, London was a great beginning to our Eurotrip.

 Westminister Abbey
 Big Ben and Parliament
 The red telephone booths really are everywhere!
Of course, we had to find Platform 9 3/4!

Next on the list was Rome.  I absolutely fell in love with Rome from the minute I stepped off the plane.  Rome had definitely been my favorite place so far.  We went to Easter Mass at the Vatican (another check off the Bucket List), went to the Pope's blessing, saw the Vatican museum and St. Peter's Basilica, walked through St. Angels Castle,  threw a coin in the Trevi Fountain, explored the Roman Forum and the Colleseum, and enjoyed the AMAZING food and gelato!  Here are some pics from our Roman Adventure:

 Making my wish and throwing coins into the Trevi fountain.

 Caroline, Kirsten, and I at our favorite plaza. 
The Pope before his blessing.  We were seriously in the 4th row!

The next 3 days we did both Florence and Venice.  It was jam-packed, but we enjoyed our time in both cities.  In Florence we explored the leather stores, enjoyed gorgeous artwork, ate lunch overlooking Tuscany, and even saw the graves of Michaelangelo and Galileo, and more!   In Venice we marveled over the gorgeous Murano glass in the glass blowing shops, rode a Gondola, and even tested my fear of birds.

 Famous strip of expensive Jewelry stores along the river.
 The famous bridge over the river in Florence.
 The view of Tuscany during our lunch in the mountains.
 Caroline and I during our Gondola ride.
Its a working progess.  Baby steps to overcome my fear of birds :)

With only 10 days to tackle 4 major cities, we obviously got little sleep and were on the go constantly.  I got to do and see a lot of things that I had always dreamed about.  It was definitely the best Spring Break of my college career yet! :)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Ultimate 36 Hours.

Soooo I guess later is better than never right?

April 8-10 (I know.)  Exactly a month ago today, I left one of the most amazing cities that I have ever been too.  Carly, Katelyn, Travis, Travis's friend Jake whose studying in Madrid, and I all had one heck of a 36 hours that I think all of us will remember as the best and the worst trip of our lives.  Barcelona has been my favorite trip since I've been in Spain, even if there were a few obstacles in the journey. 

We decided to gamble a bit and went to Barcelona without any hotel/hostel/pension/couch surfing reservations.  I mean, whats the worse that could happen?  Well, I'll tell you.  We end up at least 20 miles outside of Barcelona in the mountains in a secluded hostel with only one night open for all of us.  That's what happens.  We spent most of the first day trying to find the hostel.

This picture pretty much sums up our first day in Barcelona.

After FINALLY finding the hostel, we ditched our luggage and mad our way to the beach.  It was the first time that I had ever really been to an actual beach and have been in the ocean.  The lazy afternoon at the beach pretty much made up for the day.

That night we met up with Jake and went to a nightclub.  It was one of the best nights that I had out in Spain.  It was soooo much fun!  The five of us danced the entire night, mostly on the stage, until the club closed.  We had to split up in cabs so Katelyn, Carly, and Travis took one while Jake and I took the other.  Well, our hostel was seriously in the middle of nowhere. Even our cab driver couldn't find it (even though he had a GPS, a map, and directions).  Eventually he decided to just drop Jake and I off in a random location.  He kept saying that our hostel was "right there" and more or less forced us to get out.  Well, with a map in hand we decided to just start making the hike back.  When a car drove by, Jake quickly flagged them down.  Sorry Mom and Dad, buuuuut I may or may not have hitchhiked.  But no worries, apparently its very common in Europe.  The three kids in the car were super nice and drove us the 15 minutes back to our hostel! 
Travis, Jake, and I at the club.

The next morning we went to eat at McDonalds, where every traveler's worst fear happened.  We all set our luggage next to the table and when we went to leave Travis noticed his backpack was gone.  It was seriously right next to us and then the next moment was pickpocketed.  Inside the bag was his ipod, laptop, passport, camera, and clothes.  Needless to say it put quite a damper on our morning.  But, I am very surprised at how well Travis took it.  He stayed pretty upbeat regardless and encouraged us not to let it ruin the rest of our trip.  So, the quest for a hostel for that night started.  Katelyn and I spent about 3 hours on the phone, with no success.  Literally every single hostel and hotel were booked solid for the night.  We decided to finish our plans for the day and then catch the night bus home a day early.

We all started off going to Sagrada Familia Cathedral, where Katelyn was almost victim to yet another disaster  She signed a petition and then was begged for money.  She said no and walked away, but as a watched I noticed three other women begin to come towards her and a man with a headset in the background watching her and making signals to the woman talking to her.  Needless to say, Katelyn and I didn't stay around much longer. 

Katelyn, Carly, and I in front of Sagrada Familia.

After the cathedral we decided to go our separate ways so that we could each do what we really wanted to do before we had to leave.  Carly went to the Barcelona soccer game, Jake and Travis hit up the beach and Katelyn and I went to Guell Park.  Which was another hike and a half, but soooo worth it.

Me at Guell Park with Barcelona in the background.

The 36 hours spent in Barcelona had quite a few challenges that we had to overcome along the way, but I think that all of us would agree that it was a weekend none of us will ever forget.  And I have to say, Barcelona stole my heart in that miniscule 36 hours!