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The past month

29 Jun

So….it’s been awhile, huh? I kind of dropped the ball this past month, but with good reason. My boyfriend was here just about the entire month of May, so I traveled and hung out with him rather than blogging as often. Since he left, my to do list has looked something like this:

  1. Search for jobs.
  2. Apply for jobs.
  3. Find a job.
  4. Do whatever it is I do here while searching and applying for jobs.

So far, I have only completed numbers one, two and four. (Know anyone hiring?!) I have faith that number three is just around the corner, though. (And if not, I can always come back to Spain next year.)

Apart from the hours of job searching, which hasn’t really been too bad, I’ve been savoring my last month abroad.  I took my two last trips to Paris and Gran Canaria, Canary Islands while Beau was here. It was my second time visiting Paris (I’ve been before with my mom), but the city is so big and the Eiffel Tower is so awesome that it doesn’t matter how many times anyone goes. We could have gone to several of the one hundred museums, but instead we took the advice of our friends and Rick Steve and walked the city…literally almost the entire thing! Haha.

The Eiffel Tower all lit up!

Our favorite thing during our short weekend in Paris was sitting on the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower, drinking wine (if you forget your own bottle or run out, guys are there to sell you more!), hanging out and watching the tower’s light show. We did climb (by stairs, there are 669 of them!) to the second level the first night we were there to check out the view of the city and Seine River at night. We also managed to visit the Notre Damme, Arc of  Triumph, the palace courtyard and the Louvre gardens during our two-day walk-a-thon.

Beautiful stained-glass windows of the Notre Damme.

 

The entrance to the Louvre, home of the Mona Lisa.

 

Courtyard of columns in front of the Royal Palace and gardens.

 The week after Paris, we went to the Canary Islands. Our weekend in Las Palmas was definitely more of a vacation (relaxed) than a trip (site-see frienze). The beach near our hostel was beautiful, the weather was perfect and the ocean was freezing. Gran Canaria didn’t look as much like the islands in the Caribbean as I expected. There are tons of mountains and cliffs and some of the beaches are more rocky or even have black sand! We spent one day seeing some of the city and another on the beach. We attempted one planned activity, but it failed, haha. I guess it was just meant for us to relax! (Which was fine with us after our trip to Paris :))

Paradise!

XO

French Fries,Waffles and Beer

24 May

Northern Europe must be my kind of place because so far the people there are serious about their french fries! I was already impressed after the cones and plates of fries piled high topped with ketchup and mayonnaise. (I was also surprised that I liked mayonnaise on my fries.) So, that was the first thing Beau and I tried when we got to Bruges, Belgium. The mayonnaise was just O.K. so we were a little let down. That didn’t stop us to getting fries a second time, and that’s when we found “samurai” sauce (aka super spicy mayo-based dip). It was AMAZING! And it is the reason why we ate two large servings of french fries with samurai sauce both days we were there. (We split them…so that’s just one a person…definitely less unhealthy than two each.)

Day two, serving number three.

 Belgium is known for a few other foods, which we also tried. The chocolate was super rich and you can find every type and flavor under the sun in any of the 100 chocolate shops within a five-mile radius of the center. The waffles were to die for! I’ve had waffles with nutella (in Florence) and it was good, but the waffles in Bruges blew them out of the water! They were so delicious that we turned around and bought another one from the same shop as soon as we finished eating the first one. (Luckily, there was a different attendant at the window, haha.)

As good as all the food was, I can’t forget to talk about the beer. We visited a brewery the first day we were there where I found my new favorite beer, Brugse Zot. The brewery, De Halve Maan- I definitely suggest going, you get a beer with your tour!, seemed small but went on forever. It was cool to learn some of the history and see how beer is made, but the best part was definitely trying the beer. We tried a few more Belgium beers throughout the weekend and found another really good one, Leffe. These are probably the only two not light beers I actually like.

Hops home-grown in Bruges

 

Real beer that actually tastes good!

 We didn’t just eat and drink while we were in Bruges. My favorite thing we did was ride bikes through the countryside. Not only did it burn off the extra calories from all the french fries, waffles and beer (hopefully!), it was beautiful! The sky, windmills and fields looked like postcards! We biked through two tiny towns outside of Bruges until our butts were sore, had a picnic lunch and found a windmill that was still used to grind wheat into flower. All for only the 6 euros it cost to rent a bike for the day!

This windmill is open to the public so we got to climb around inside and see how flour is made!

 

We biked through towns, fields and tree-lined trails

 

So pretty it almost doesn't look real.

 We opted to go to Bruges rather than the bigger city of Brussels thanks to my trusty Rick Steve’s guide book, and I’m so glad we took his advice!

XO

Roma

14 Apr

Rome is GINORMOUS!! While it is a big city, I am not just referring to its population. I mean that literally every object is huge. The individual bricks, the individual buildings, the cherubs and gargoyles on the roofs and walls of buildings, the columns, the fountains, the monuments, the mountains of gelato…everything is larger than life. It’s an amazing city and there’s no other place like it! It was almost surreal to walk around the Colosseum and the Pantheon and the streets that used to belong to the biggest empire in the world. All of the places I’ve learned about in history class or seen in movies and on T.V. were right in front of me, and they were even cooler in real life.

The enormous Colosseum.

Inside St. Peter's Basilica looking up toward the more than 14 story ceiling. The letters on the gold are as tall as an average person. The statues are 3 times the size of a grown man.

The Pantheon columns are the largest, intact ancient columns in the world. Beau is 6'3" and see how small he looks!

Everyone knows the saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, but Beau an I basically saw it in only one day! Obviously we missed out on some of the places we wanted to go and things we wanted to do, but we hit the must-sees. We got in late one night in the midst of a monsoon, so after a little exploring, dinner, and gelato (of course!) we called it a night. The next day was perfect weather for our sight-seeing blitz. We saw the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, the Forum, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican museum, the Spanish Steps, Capitol Hill, the Arc of Constantine, Trevi fountain and the Pantheon. Whew!

Capitol Hill

The Roman Forum

My most favorite place in Rome was the Trevi fountain. It’s so big and so beautiful that it’s captivating. I could have sat there and looked at it, listening to the sound of rushing water all day long. We hung around it awhile while we ate gelato…I couldn’t have been happier!

Trevi fountain

 Of course the Colosseum and Vatican City, which includes St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum, were cool and interesting. The Colosseum was very different on the inside than I expected. I thought it would be pretty well-preserved, but once you step inside to where the stadium seating and gladiator arena used to be, you realize that you really are walking around an ancient ruin. We over heard a tour guide say that the arena of the Colosseum is ranked as on of the top single sites in the world where the most deaths have taken place.

Inside of the Colosseum

It’s amazing to me that Vatican City is considered a small, independent country with its own postal service, guards and radio station! The little country is completely surrounded by walls. When we walked through one of the entrances, I stood in awe. I found myself in the middle of a huge, circular plaza surrounded by columns with an enormous domed building at one end and cyprus trees on a hill in the background. I wasn’t sure where I was, so Beau had to inform me we were at St. Peter’s Basilica, a church that can seat 50,000 to 60,0000 people on the inside!

St. Peter's Basilica

After the basilica, we rushed to get in line for the Vatican museum before the last entry time. I’ve never seen so many marble statues and frescos in my life! (The Vatican museum houses 4 miles worth of art!) Of course, we saw the Sistine Chapel. While it was amazing, I was much more impressed by Michelangelo’s Last Judgement, which took up an entire wall at one end of the room. After seeing some many impressive painted ceilings, I think the Sistine Chapel lacked luster to me. Of course, it could’ve been that the chapel was smaller and darker than expected (unlike the open and airy cathedral of El Escorial with its beautifully painted ceilings).

There’s more to say, but I was trying to keep this short and sweet. I’ll end with saying that Rome is a city you can certainly visit several times without doing and seeing the same things. I definitely look forward to a chance to visit again! I LOVE Italy 🙂

XO

Cinque Terre

13 Apr

Finally arriving to Monterosso was so refreshing after the long train rides the day before. Our train from Venice to Milan had to stop for a repair, so we missed our train from Milan to Monterosso and had to take a different one to Genova and stay the night there, instead. It wasn’t all bad, though. The man at our hotel, which the train company paid for, and our server at the Kebab place, the only open restaurant by the time we got settled, were extremely nice and helpful!

The next morning when we got off the train in Monterosso, the first this we saw was this…

This is the breach literally right in front of the train station!

Ahhhh 🙂 The town only got more beautiful the farther we walked and the more we saw. Clearly, we both fell in love with this place!

This door connected a tunnel to a cave that led to another beach area/ a short cut to the town.

Street shot

We stayed at Manuel’s Guesthouse, and I definitely suggest it if you’re staying in Monterosso. It sits above the town with great views and the nicest owner! (Now that I think about it, everyone in Italy was friendly and helpful.) Our time in Cinque Terre was super relaxed. We stopped in four of the five towns that line the coast to either hike the part of the trail that was open, eat gelato, buy wine, or just explore. Every town was just as beautiful as the one before and after it. Coming from the east coast of the United States, I had never seen vineyards and colorful buildings decorate a mountain side that dropped right into an aqua-blue ocean. It was breathtaking!

The view on our hike between Riomaggiore and Manarola.

Vineyard in Monterosso

The main street in Vernazza. Italians are definitely patriotic!

If somewhere is this pretty even in the rain, it’s definitely worth a second visit! During season all of the trails are open, as are boat rides between the cities and sea kayak rentals. Pair all of that with delicious pesto gnocchi and a veggie calzone I had during our stay…see you soon Cinque Terre!

XO

Venezia

8 Apr

In one word, Venice elegant. Even though Amsterdam has its share of waterways throughout the city, Venice is unlike any other city I’ve visited. It’s one thing to have channels every other block, it’s another thing for your front door to open up to a small pier! There are, of course, streets and plazas, but boats are the main mode of transportation. Even the “metro” and “taxis” are boats!

Police boat on patrol on Canal Grande.

We were only in Venice for about 5 hours while on our way to Cinque Terre and it was worth every minute! Originally we thought we would have to cut it out of our trip completely, but we both wanted to go so we spent half a day there. The weather was foggy, which usually makes for a dreary day, but Venice was beautiful even in bad weather! In fact, I think the fog added to the decaying beauty of the city.

Row of gondolas, restaurants and hotels on Canal Grande.

Riding down Canal Grande on the "metro", much cheaper than a gondola!

The first thing we did in Venice was ride down the main canal. We opted for public transportation since gondola rides are 80-100 euros (with the option to put up to 6 people in a boat to split it, so not so bad for groups). We got off at the end, in Plaza San Marco, and checked out the basilica, ate gelato (twice) and pizza, then wandered back to the train station on side streets and bridges. The food was amazing (of course!) and the basilica was beautiful and cool to see since the architecture was so different from Spanish cathedrals (which we have now seen a lot of, haha).

San Marco Basilica

Standing in an "intersection", aka a bridge.

Shopping street

We shopped around for t-shirts and tried Vin Brule (hot red wine sweetened and spiced, YUM!) before getting on our train to Cinque Terre. I would definitely want to go back to Venice in the spring, I bet it’s even prettier then!

XO

Sevilla

30 Jan

After spending a few days in Sevilla, I think it has become my favorite city in Spain. I do love Madrid and there are a ton of things to do here, but Sevilla seems to have the Spanish soul you read about in travel books or hear about from other people. The town is slower and more relaxed, which immediately makes it more typically Spanish. The people are very warm with a “no pasa nada” attitude about everything. Everything in the center is beautiful, there’s a lot of pride in tradition and Spanish culture, and the food is great. Beau and I split a fried seafood platter the first night and it beat every fish camp in the U.S. I’ve ever been to!

Our hostel was a five-minute walk from the Cathedral, which was our first stop the next day and at least twice as big as the one in Granada. (In fact, it’s one of the largest in all of Europe!)

View of the Cathedral at night...I thought this building was unbelievable!

The main altar. It has somewhere around 50 scenes from Jesus' life carved into it and is covered in gold.

Climbing the tower of the Cathedral.

We also toured the bull ring, which Beau liked a lot since he’s a guy, ha. The tour guide explained the tradition like a Spanish fairytale starring heart-throb matadors in fancy costumes dancing with these prized animals. It was very interesting to learn some of the history, but I still don’t know if I would go to a real fight.

Plaza de Toros, gate where the bull enters the ring.

In the museum at the bull ring.

  My favorite place in Sevilla, though, was Plaza Espana. Most cities in Spain share street and plaza names, but Sevilla has the Plaza Espana. The plaza was built for an exposition in 1928/1929 right beside Maria Luisa park (aka Central Park in Sevilla). Everything is covered in colorful Spanish tiles! It has a moat surrounding the plaza that you can paddle boat around and tile plaques dedicated to every different area of Spain surrounding the main building, which looks like it’s fit for a king but instead houses government offices. (Can I work somewhere like this, please?) I was just expecting another cute plaza with shops and restaurants…so needless to say I was blown away!

Plaza Espana...Did I mention there are horse-drawn carriages all over the city?

Close up of all the beautiful tile!

We also went to the Alcazar palace, participated in a Los Reyes parade (by participate I mean fight children for free candy, LOL), and went on a super fun pub crawl with our hostel (where we had to help a 18-year-old French Canadian who drank too much and threw up on herself at the end of the night. Kids, ha.). We wanted to hang out/ go out in Triana, a neighborhood on the other side of Rio Guadalquivir, but we ran out of time. I’m not too worried, though, because I definitely see myself going back to Sevilla!

The gardens of Alcazar, definitely the best part!

XO

More Trekking

22 Nov

Yes, I went hiking again this weekend. Who knew I was so outdoors-y?! This time some friends and I went to Manzanares El Real, the pueblo where I work, and hiked for 16 km! (That’s almost 10 miles!) I got to see more of Manzanares than usual this weekend, though. I actually only had a regular 2-day weekend. I worked Friday because I’ve already planned on missing work to travel (yay!), but I immediately regretted offering to come in this Friday when my alarm went off that morning. (I think from now on I will just let them remind me I need to make up days, ha!). But I digress…

Friday was the usual-but-always-a-good-time drinks and tapas. (I think this is one of the best ways to kick off the weekend!) Then Saturday ended up being another beautiful day with perfect weather for hiking!  Here are some pictures…

My trekking buddy, Laura.

The trail on the way to our trail.

Bottom of the trail. Laura, Kyla and Jaylene, who is already 50 steps ahead

View from the top!

On the way back down the mountain.

XO