Chamonix: French Alps

Thursday, March 14.

Missing the extensive Michigan weather (ha, not) I wanted to see snow again while abroad. A recommendation from a friend sparked the idea of visiting Chamonix for a weekend, and thus I journeyed to France for the third time this semester.

Julia’s best friend Kylie was visiting this week for her spring break, and the four of us flew to Geneva to catch a bus to the tiny town in the Alps. We arrived pretty late in Chamonix on Thursday and just crashed in our quaint airbnb.

Day 1

Waking up to views of mountains made me immediately feel like home. Although Michigan lacks in the towering mountain category, there are plenty of adorable ski resorts/town to be explored, and Chamonix embodied everything I love about ski culture.

We bundled up against the foggy cold and headed out for the day, enjoying getting a little lost within the side streets.

The town itself is gorgeous: nestled among the Alps, Chamonix attracts serious hikers, skiers, and mountain junkies, and the buildings reflect this strong connection to the slopes.

After walking a bit, we escaped the cold and settled in for some espresso shots, waffles, and chantilly before exploring more.

I truly loved everything about the village, it had a sleepy but exciting atmosphere that reminded me of the resorts I spent my winters at.

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We had planned on visiting the Mer De Glace (famous glacier), but the high risk of avalanches had shut down any trains into the mountains.

We found a ski hill within walking distance of the closed station, and all agreed that trying our luck on skis would be much more fun than seeing a block of ice.

The rentals and tickets were surprisingly inexpensive and soon we all donned matching pants, jackets, and boots.

I endearingly called our little group “Claire’s Ski School,” with very good reason.

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I sorely overestimated my friends ability to ski, but that only made the day that much more fun. I spent the hours lifting them off the hill from countless falls, strapping ski boots on/clicking them out, and shouting instructions to brake harder or to engage edges (which none of them understood).

I absolutely loved being back in my element and having the capability to coach my friends and actually see them improve. Allison went from being unable to stand without me holding her to cruising down the bunny hill in complete control. I dragged Julia down a bigger hill and she handled it (more or less) like a pro, just with a little more screaming.

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I had the opportunity to take on the mountain by myself, and although it was amazing, I had more fun helping my friends learn the difference between pizza and french fries on the bunny hill.

I’m so proud at how they all improved and took on the scary challenge of strapping on skis, and despite the exponential amount of crashes (sometimes into me) we all had giant grins the whole time.

Sore (embarrassingly so) and satisfied, we de-booted and walked easier on the way to lunch. We spent the whole time looking back on pictures and videos and laughing tears about all our performances.

This was probably one of my favorite memories so far from being abroad.

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Day 2

The sadness of waking up to thick fog quickly disappeared as the sun came shinning out. If possible, Chamonix was even more gorgeous in the light. The town didn’t seem real: stuck somewhere between a snow-globe and Disney’s Expedition Everest ride.

We grabbed tickets for the Aiguille Du Midi up to Mont Blanc and then wandered around the beautiful town.

We waited for our slot in the bright sun at an outdoor table at our favorite restaurant, Elevation 1904. The sun was strong despite the chilly weather, and we quickly shed our layers and grabbed a cold drink.

After soaking up some sun, we boarded the cable car up to the top of the highest point in Western Europe. The car scaled vertically up the mountain, giving panoramic views of Chamonix nestled within the Alps as we climbed.

The environment at 15,000 ft is something other-worldly. The air is so crisp and clean its almost hard to breath, ice covers every surface, and you get this overarching feeling like you don’t belong in there, like you couldn’t survive.

Which you couldn’t.

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However, getting past the terrifying winds and swaying of the station over the cliffside, the views were absolutely spectacular. The French and Swiss Alps spread out underneath us as far as the eye could see: we were miles above the highest ski resort.

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Some brave souls carried skis on their back as they headed to the entrance of the mountain, beginning their long and terrifying descent.

Even as an experienced skier, Mont Blanc is an impossible challenge, and I applaud anyone who’s conquered it.

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We took our thrills in smaller doses: embracing the shaky feeling that came with just peering over the edge.

After a while, frostbite started to creep in (being 15 degrees colder than the base) and we had to retreat back down.

We simply couldn’t leave the mountainous village without trying some of the famous fondue. We hunted the small streets for the perfect stop for dinner, settling on a heated outdoor patio underneath sparkling lights.

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The fondue and ambiance didn’t disappoint, and we all strolled back to our airbnb filled with warmth and melted cheese.

Day 3

We bundled up for the airport at 6 am and met our bus for the drive back into Geneva. Even the airport there is surrounded by mountains and the views outside the over priced cafes were something to write home about.

Overall, this weekend solidified my dream to live in a ski town (or maybe have a second home in one, depending on how my career pans out). I simply love the atmosphere, the people, and the culture after of a long day on the slopes.

Chamonix is somewhere I’ll come back to, maybe with some better skiers next time (Kidding!) (or am I).

 

Nice, France: Pretty Nice

March 8, 2019.

For Maria’s 21st birthday we met up in the south of France, a place she’s wanted to visit forever. Safe to say, she didn’t have to twist my arm for me to come along for the trip.

We met up on the Côte d’Azur, and lived life like the French for the weekend.

Day 1

I ran through the Nice airport to greet the birthday girl. Maria’s friend from home came along for the weekend as well, so we were the three amigos (or ‘les trois amis’?). 

We checked into our airbnb, unpacked, and relaxed on our picture-perfect patio under the warm sun.

After settling in, we wandered through the quaint town towards the sea. With little side streets and open aired plazas, Nice holds all the charm of classic French architecture, but with more color.

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We compared the pastel and multicolored colored buildings to the village sets in Disneyland: something kind of magical and a little staged about the town.

We finally popped out between tall palms to get the first view of the coast. The water was a turquoise blue that I’ve never seen before, simply beautiful.

The pebble beach stretched as bar as the eye could see before it bended along the terrain. We strolled along the Promenade Des Anglais in the windy and warm weather, always checking to make sure the water color wasn’t just a trick of the eye.

We settled down for lunch at a little restaurant by the water, toasting to Maria’s birthday and to our delicious cheeseburgers (suddenly, I’m a burger girl now).

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Lunch was positioned right next to the famous road on the coast, and we gaped and gawked as millions of dollars in the form of cars cruised past us. Seriously, I don’t know much about cars, but even I could appreciate the machines that drove by.

After a filling lunch we followed the Promenade up the the “I love Nice” sign and along the beach.

We headed vertically up from the corner of the city, up Castle Hill and onto amazing panoramic views.

The city was gorgeous from this height, and we couldn’t help but question the water color at least a few more times.

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After endless exploring and wandering of side streets, we retreated to the airbnb for a quick rest before heading out to celebrate Maria’s birthday.

Day 2

Travis, Maria’s friend from home, was an extreme car guy and wanted to rent a sports car to drive along the coast, so Saturday morning we went out in search.

Unfortunately (or for me, fortunately), the only car available was an adorable red Fiat convertible.

We all climbed in, put the top town, and maneuvered our way out of Nice and down towards Monaco alongside the water.

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Every cove we curved along revealed more of the beautiful coast. Full sun, great company, and a perfect atmosphere made riding in the back of that little Fiat one of the best times of my life.

We cruised into Monte Carlo, Monaco, the infamous land of luxury and casinos. Both rang true as we grew closer to town; the towering yachts creating a unique skyline over the water.

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Monaco was large, luxurious, and somehow still cute. The grossly expensive sport cars parked along side the little streets gave the town a kind of expensive charm.

We sat for a quick bite to eat before catching the sun again and hopping back into the Fiat.

We didn’t have a destination in mind while cruising further past Monaco, just enjoying the amazing drive and sun.

Somehow we wandered over the Italian border, managing to drive through three countries (and back) on our cruise.

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Heading home just before dark, we took in some amazing views of the sunset, winding back around the twisty roads towards Nice.

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We all grew to love our little classic European car, and riding along the coast is something I’ll never forget.

Day 3

We woke up and sleepily packed our bags, sad to leave the beach town atmosphere.

I said goodbye to Maria at the airport, excited to see her again in just a few short weeks.

All in all, Nice was pretty nice.

My, My, Mallorca

February 28, 2019.

Having the perfect opportunity to visit a new country (and see me), my parents flew over to visit Barcelona Monday, the 25th.

After a week of exploring the city, eating endless tapas, and enjoying the time together, we all flew out after my class on Thursday to the Island of Mallorca, Spain.

Day 1

We landed in Palma (the capital of the Island) after a quick 50 min flight over from the main land. Plenty of  sunny skies and palm trees greeted us as we eagerly left the airport. Our rental car was upgraded for free so we cruised into downtown in style.

Riding along the ocean we had a beautiful of the view of the city and it’s huge cathedral, all lit up in lights.

Our hotel was in the heart of Old Town, the historical district of Palma: it reminded me a lot of Barcelona, matching the cute shops and small streets of El Born district.

We grabbed a quick dinner and hunkered down for the night.

Day 2

Thick fog rolled out Friday morning, making it a little chillier than we were all expecting, but none the less, we headed out early to get a glimpse inside the giant Cathedral before the crowds started swarming.

Because of the low visibility, the Cathedral looked even more haunting in the early morning. We parked, walk the grounds, and finally toured the church.

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We we’re craving a warm cup of whatever after the chilled stones within the church and headed towards a small café near the city center. Café con leche, hot ‘chocolate’ and some tea did the trick and we topped off the great breakfast with some soft boiled eggs, avocado toast, and delicious refills.

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The town was starting to become livelier as we walked back to the car, working through the maze of people maneuvering through the festival.

Our next destination was Valldermossa, a quick town over from where we planned on staying that night in Deia. The fog cleared almost immediately and revealed brilliant sun as we drove away from the city, following a small road up into the mountains.

The countryside was beautiful: cliffs, switchbacks, goats and sheep everywhere, and an interesting smell of pine and flowers that screamed spring time (despite it being Febuary).

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We parked in Valldermossa, a small valley town surrounded by mountains, and found some new friends among the city’s street cats.


Sunshine warmed the old cobbled streets as we explored the tiny and picturesque corridors. Beige and orange tones of brick matched well with the forest green shutters present on just all of the windows, and plants were planted outside doorsteps to soak up the speckled sun.

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The town exuded peacefulness; we loved getting lost in the side streets and enjoying a meandering pace, made better only by the inclusion of more friendly street cats. My dad took especially to this one:

We stopped at a café for a quick rest and a drink: something about a European Coca-cola in the sun seemed right.

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From there we continued through the beautiful mountain roads towards the sea’s edge, taking a pit stop at a Monastery on the way.

We finally arrived at our hotel: just outside of the quaint, hillside town of Deia. Safe to say, our expectations were completely blown away: the hotel was secluded, peaceful, and drop dead gorgeous.

 

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Due to the ‘winter’ season, we had the run of the place: the sundeck, the pool, and our own villa with private yard and hot tub. The hotel had numerous pastures of sheep and donkeys that you could view on the cliffside, and the occasional baying of the animals was oddly comforting.

We couldn’t drag ourselves away from the beautiful spot, so we relaxed and took in the view (and some lazy sun) by the pool.

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Feeling utterly relaxed, we took our time driving into Deia around dinner time. Fair warning: Deia is beautiful but it’s minuscule, and in the off-season there aren’t any restaurants open for dinner.

This was just fine with us of course, taking our time to check out the coast (Cala Deia) and snaking the car around the hairpin turns towards Soller as the sun lit everything up gold.

Soller was a charming town with a town square outside it’s church. We picked a spot by the heaters to drink a coffee before our dinner reservations.

Dinner was at an upscale hole-in-the-wall, introducing a new taste and take on tapas (which I was grateful for). Our food was delicious: the classic dishes were transformed with spices, additions, and new ways of preparation.

We left incredibly happy, but a tad hungry from the small portion sizes we split. We tracked down the only open grocery in Soller and stocked up on (horrible) chocolate and cookies for our hotel room.

Day 3

Waking up the next morning to sunlight and the faint sound of sheep was interestingly perfect. I slipped out to our balcony and enjoyed a nice moment to read in the early morning light, not wanting to leave the view behind.

We packed, somewhat sadly, and moved ourselves to a breakfast on the hotel’s patio. The view couldn’t have been more amazing, atmosphere more calming, or breakfast more delicious. I could’ve eaten breakfast in that exact spot for the rest of my life.

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Sadly our adventures took us elsewhere, and we bode goodbye to our donkey friends and baby sheep as we headed out.

Following the western coast of Mallorca, we entered one of the most beautiful stretches of roads. The views were magnificent. We decided to drive the famous stretch of road down to Port De Sa Calobra. The road was as wide as my mom’s minivan and the turns were dizzy-inducing. Bikers whizzed by, submitting themselves to the treacherous ride back up the mountain. One of the most dangerous and beautiful drives I’ve ever seen.

Once finally at the bottom, we stretched our legs (and knuckles from gripping the car doors) and walked the path to Torrent Del Pareis: A beautiful little beach in between two rock cliffs.

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Hunger got the best of us and we quickly changed direction towards Port de Pollenca for some lunch. The port, eerily similar to the Caribbean, was perfect. The hot sun and docked sailboats made this a great spot to soak up the island vibes, and we embraced the change in scenery as we wandered the docks.

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Continuing our treck north-ward, we drove along the uppermost peninsula; making friends with some goats along the way.

We wound our way along the peninsula’s cliffs to the very end of the line: ending at a lighthouse with spectacular views. Bicyclists stretched their legs and admired the stretch of road they had just conquered. I, for one, was glad to have a car in between myself and the sheer drop.

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We retreated, somewhat exhausted but content, to the final stop of the day: Pollenca.

This was another a cute town, but the most missable out of the amazing ones we had seen. We left for dinner (going back to the coast to Alcudia) and didn’t hang around in the morning, but the location made sense for a night’s rest.

Day 4

For our last day we wanted to tackle the eastern and southern coasts- made famous for their hidden coves and spectacular beaches.

The day was alternating sun and clouds and was the perfect breezy temperature for an adventure. We drove across the plains of Mallorca  towards the trails of Calo Des Moro. A tiny town deposited us to steep stone steps leading down to a fishing cove. The water color was something I had never seen, a type of blue only described in luxury island vacations.

We trecked through some light foliage and came out above a hidden beach. The most secluded and pristine dash of white sand surrounded by cliffs greeted up simply amazing. The only thing that could’ve made it better was some warmer weather so we could’ve enjoyed the crystal water.

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From there we hopped back in the car and headed along some salt fields to Platja des Trenc, the most famous beach in the southern part of the island. A large expanse of white beach and dune grass spread out for miles in both directions, reminding me a bit of Northern Michigan. It’s hard for a beach to wow me (since my home has such beautiful beaches), but Mallorca did a pretty good job.

Our last stop before the short flight home was the Cala Pi: a dramatic cove of old fishing houses that lead to a little beach. The views along the path were breathtaking, and it was easy to picture why locals flock to this spot to sunbathe in the summer.

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We grabbed a quick bite before heading back to the Palma airport and on to Barcelona.

I gave my parents big hugs as we parted ways a the Barcelona airport, reminding them it would only be a few more months before I’m home for good.

Having my parents in town was bittersweet, I loved having my family here but it also made me miss other things that I couldn’t fly out to Barcelona (hello Cameron, my cat, and mall chinese food).

Although I’m not homesick, it is a little hard being away from the ones you love (especially mall chinese food), and I can’t wait to see them all again soon.

 

Cia for Now, Florence

February 14, 2019.

Having my best friend from home (hi, Maria) studying abroad one country over gave me the perfect opportunity to take a weekend trip to Italy.

Julia, Allison, and I landed in Florence at 8 am on Thursday, sleep deprived, shivering (who knew Italy was so cold?), and over ecstatic to be back in one of our favorite cities.

Day 1

A brilliant blue sky greeted us as we departed the Santa Maria Novella railway station, wandering the narrow streets to find Maria’s apartment.

The walk itself reminded me of why I love Italy in the first place; Florence has a certain charm hidden among its tiny streets that you can’t find anywhere else.

Maria popped her head out from behind a massive wooden door as we approached and I’ve never been so happy to see a friendly face. Although I haven’t had that feeling of homesickness yet, it’s always good to see your best friend after some time apart.

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We settled into her little bedroom, a pullout couch and twin size bed the free lodgings for the weekend, and then set off for some much needed breakfast.

After waking up at 3:30 am (not a joke) we ordered the most American thing we could find: a complete breakfast with bacon, eggs, toast, and almost-normal coffee.

We caught up, laughed, gossiped, and enjoyed being around each other before Maria had to dash off for school, which thankfully wasn’t too early.

Julia, Allison, and I continued on towards the Duomo and central Florence, not really requiring the service of Google maps, but instead navigating by following the cathedral that peaked above the buildings.

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We strolled around the square enjoying the warming sun and then joined the crowd forming a line to enter the church. As anyone who’s been to Florence can attest to, the inside of the Duomo falls flat in comparison to the extravagant outside, but it was definitely a sight still worth seeing.

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Having no real plan or sense of stress, we found ourselves drawn to the music floating from the Piazza della Repubblica. The carousel sparkled under the brilliant sun, and somehow my friends found themselves paying for a ride. We’re all still kids at heart.

Piazza della Signoria, the statue garden, was our second stop during our slow journey towards the Arno River. Street artist cupids lined the arched walkways, winking and blowing kisses at people passing-by.

We scooped (ha!) up some gelato and explored alongside the river’s edge and the Ponte Vecchio bridge.

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Gusto’s Pizza- world famous, was our chosen spot for lunch, specifically because of the heart shaped pizzas (did I mention it was Valentine’s day?). We decided to take our pizza to-go and found a perfect piazza for an informal picnic.

Side note: this was the same piazza of my hotel back a few years ago when Cameron and I stayed in Florence. The sun, fountain, to-die-for pizza, and familiar atmosphere made this spot perfect to relax and soak up the warmth.

After pizza we walked back over the bridge and found ourselves back at Maria’s apartment before dinner. Waking up at 3 am required us to nap before our night out- and we all woke up just in time for Maria to get home from class.

Dinner was at an authentic Italian bistro where Maria and her friends are on a first name basis with the waiters. We had a group of six girls, splitting endless pita bread and white wine. Our main dish, only described as “pillow pasta” by Allison,  had was quite possibly the best gnocchi I’ve ever had (and I used to eat a lot of carbs).

After a delicious meal, we went back to Maria’s friend Rachel’s apartment to drink some wine before going out to some of their favorite bars. We all split bottles of wine and bonded over the difference between life abroad and life at our separate colleges.

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We bar hopped, danced, and laughed more than thought possible, living for the copious amounts of American music blasted in the bars. Come on Eileen played in my head the whole walk home.

Day 2

With slight headaches the next morning, we all recovered and composed ourselves enough to venture out for coffee. Maria showed us the cutest cafe overlooking the Duomo where we all ingested caffeine and croissants.

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The shinning sun quickly chased away the morning chill and we explored the side streets around the Duomo.

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Next we tackled the intense hike up the bell tower next to the Duomo. The narrow and winding polished stone hallways caused some claustrophobia to flare up, but the views were entirely worth it. We popped out into the sunshine with incredible views of the top of the Duomo and the rest of Florence.

Wanting even more claustrophobia, we headed straight towards the 463 steps up the Duomo. The spiral staircase to the top meant dizziness and heavy breathing (and weirdly some karaoke to Nial Horan’s Slow Hands to keep our minds busy).

Obviously, the extra exercise and American pop music were worth the panoramic views.

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Jumping to the other side of the river, we began (another?!?!) climb towards the Piaza de Michelangelo. We took in the brilliant blue sky and amazing vantage point to enjoy the classic landmarks and rolling hills surrounding the city’s valley.

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We wanted to watch sunset from our spot but 4 pm meant it was a few hours off, and several hours since we’d last eaten. Hanger struck all of us with a vengeance and we furiously Yelp’d the area for lunch. Unfortunately like the Spanish, the Italian take a siesta and close shop between the hours of 2-5 pm, leaving us with few options.

Thoughts of pillow pasta being the only thing propelling us forward, we slowly crawled back to our dinner place from the previous night.

We were the only ones in the restaurant but our same waiter brought us endless bread as we stuffed our faces with the best carbs in the city.

Taking a lesson from Snickers (you’re not you when you’re hungry), we all left lunch in much better moods than when arriving. We retraced our steps back to the Michelangelo lookout for sunset.

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The quiet crowds, drifting street music, and golden hour made the whole environment really calming. Perfect to unwind after walking around 12 miles exploring the city that day.

We sleepily made our way back to Maria’s apartment, seeing the tale end of the sunset light up the river on our walk home. IMG_2260

We spent the night relaxing and watching Disney movies in Maria’s twin sized bed. Normally it would just be Maria and I in my basement in Michigan, but watching Tangled in Italy works too.

Day 3

After a much needed good nights rest, we woke up bright and early and made the 45 minute journey to the train station to meet up with our group for our day in Tuscany.

Our bus meandered through the gorgeous rolling hills as we pulled up to our first vineyard. Perched on top of a hill overlooking the valleys, our backdrop for the first wine tasting had everything you could possibly imagine Tuscany possessing: the grape vines, iconic trees, and fairtytale-like landscape.

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Brilliant blue sky, warm sun, and six tastings of locally-grown red wine later, we were in heaven. We couldn’t have asked for better weather or setting for our first stop.

From there our group went on to explore the quaint medieval village of San Gimignano to try “Italy’s best gelato.” The town and gelato lived up to the talk and we strolled the stone streets enjoying the shade and downtime.

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We hopped back on the bus and headed to the second winery of the day, located in a valley between the rolling hills.

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A private tasting room was set up for our group, fully equipped with beautiful hanging vines, tasting plates, and plenty of wine. We enjoyed a four course meal (Italian soup and classic lasagna being the highlights) with plenty of bread along the way to cushion the tasting.

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We wandered through the hedge-maze garden and through the stables on the way back to the bus. The sun was just beginning to set and the lighting (and wine) gave everything a warm glow.

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We arrived back in Florence with just enough energy left to enjoy the bustling streets and night life on the trail to Maria’s apartment.

Day 4

Another 6:55 am flight (why do we keep doing this to ourselves?) had our alarms going off at 3:55.

I said goodbye to Maria in the early morning, excited for our next international adventure.

Did someone say Nice?

Rain, Rain, Go Away: London’s Finest

Feb 7th, 2019.

London fog is real, and it’s not just what you order at tea.

For our third weekend trip we chose to visit the iconic (and rainy) city of London, looking forward to a culture more closely resembling home (but hopefully with more corgis and scones).

Julia, Allison, Nicole, and myself headed to the airport Thursday after classes, planning to meet up with another group of girls later in the evening.

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We left Barcelona sunny, 65, and fully unprepared for the climate change as we traveled north.

We landed in a cold and misty London, desperately in need of our airbnb for warmth and rest before the busy weekend ahead.

Day 1

We woke up eager to start exploring and headed towards the infamous Regency Cafe for some classic English-style breakfast. The cozy cafe had the traditional diner charm, and we quite literally wolfed down the food and coffee.

After a bit of warmth, we hurried towards Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guards. The rain kept coming as we squished through the crowds towards the gates for a closer view.

Contrary to popular belief, you can not, I repeat can NOT, touch or mess with the guards outside the Buckingham Palace gates. This was easily the largest let down of London.

To make matters worse, the guards are INSIDE the gates at all times (except for the changing ceremony).  I pictured corgis, the Queen, and a lot of mocking the stone faced guards and received nothing but a far off vantage point.

I blame movies for this.

After Buckingham we wandered through Hyde Park and jumped on the Tube towards Knotting Hill and the Portabella market.

Adorable stalls and food trucks crowded the intersection of Portabella road, a combination of boutique shops and second-hand stores laid their items out on tables and racks throughout the sidewalks and streets. We maneuvered the maze with umbrellas in hand.

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We continued past Portabella into the classic Knotting Hill-style townhouses. Wandering the colorful and quaint streets in the rain was the epitome of London: some wind, some rain, and a whole lot of cafe breaks for tea.

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Wanting to checkout another London staple before our reserved tea time, we tubed towards Kensington Palace. I, for one, was really hoping to catch a glimpse of Megan Markle (1 of 4 people I know of in the Royal family), but to no avail.

The ‘Palace’ itself was a little underwhelming, but the huge green lawns and golden gates made up for the somewhat tiny house.

Rain soaked and wind blown, we scrambled inside the Woolsey for our 3 o’clock tea reservation. Crystal chandeliers, marble floors, and waiters in coattails all greeted us upon entry, and the latter showed us to our table.

Safe to say, tea was a little extravagant but completely worth it.

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We each had our own pot of loose-leaf tea, endless amounts of scones with clotted cream, and delicious pastries and finger sandwiches. I chose earl grey (a classic) for my tea of choice.

Refills were always brought, and we stayed for as long as we could, enjoying the endless cups and bites.

Full, happy, and warm, we explored the streets at night. In between downpours, we darted into stores and made our way towards Harrods, the famous and outrageously expensive mall.

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After browsing clothes that cost more than our college educations, which is sadly not an exaggeration, we took the tube to King’s Cross Station to see the Harry Potter 9 & 3/4rs sign.

Day 2

Breakfast with our large group was planned to be at The Breakfast Club, but a long wait time and hunger turned us to a close neighboring pub. My eggs Benedict and latte were to die for, and to top off breakfast the SUN started peaking out as we left.

All shocked and amazed at the lack of rain, we practically skipped towards the London Eye and Big Ben area from breakfast. London is a new city lit up by the sun, and spirits were high as we started to explore.

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The Thames was beautiful in the light, which almost made up for the fact that Big Ben was completely covered in scaffolding. Honestly seeing the clock’s face was enough, not letting one ruined attraction overshadow the sun (get it? ha, ha).

Westminster Abbey was breathtaking and by far my favorite part of London. The iconic buildings stood out from the skyscraper skyline and the architecture was classic. We strolled around the area and lawns, faces turned towards the sun for as long as possible.

Julia, Allison, and I bought tickets to see the inside of the Abbot of Westminster. My expectations weren’t too high for the church, but they would’ve been blown away no matter what. Photography was prohibited within the grounds, but the tombs of the Kings & Queens of England’s past were intricate and ornate. The ceilings, tiles, and throne were all a must see.

Obviously we couldn’t leave London before a photo-booth picture, and we were lucky enough to find the perfect one in the Westminster Abbey area (and in the sun no less!).

Our London Eye time slot was at 1:30 p.m. so we headed across the bridge again and waited in line (or how the English say, “queued”) for the attraction around 1 p.m. and then jumped on the moving wheel.

The views were incredible both ways, London really is a sprawl of city in every direction.

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Getting used to the buckets of tea in the afternoons, we were craving some after waiting for the unreliable bus in the cold after the Eye. After hopping off at the Tower Bridge stop, we searched for a cafe in the little side streets, and without difficulty, finally got our tea.

Warming our hands on the tea somewhat more than our stomachs, we finally felt thawed enough to venture back towards the Tower Bridge.

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Seeing the classical blue arches in person was like walking in a postcard. The sun started to dip behind the clouds as we crossed (it couldn’t last forever) and we entered the Tower of London grounds to find refuge from the impending rain.

The Tower held a historical exhibit on the torture chambers and the Crown Jewels, two very different but equally as interesting things.

Julia had been feeling sick all day and really needed to rest so after the tower we retreated to the apartment for a little nap. Flash forward three hours, all three of us had the chills, the aches, and were horribly ill.

We ordered some mediocre chinese food to the airbnb and tried to sleep off the colds.

Sever high-grade fevers and a growing need to escape the apartment for a while later, we ventured out to grab a well-known waffle from a little stand down the street.

Asleep by 10 p.m., full of chocolate.

Day 3

A 3:50 wake up call (*screams*) started our third day in London, all frantically packing for the airport.

We left with runny noses, wet coats, and a false sense comfort from hearing the English language.

All and all, I’m glad I had the opportunity to see the famous city, but it will never be written down as one of my favorites. Sunny Spain, here we come.

Lisbon: The San Francisco of Europe

Jan 31st, 2019.

Never having visited Portugal before, I was ecstatic to see Lisbon first-hand.

Safe to say, I fell in love. The multicolored buildings, gorgeous tiles, and bluer than blue sky made Lisbon an aesthetic dream.

The weather cooperated just as well as I do when i’m hungry: which is saying it didn’t. Torrential downpours, tornado winds, and brilliant sun rotated about every three minutes as we roamed the city.

The people and overall atmosphere were welcoming and calm. There was a type of calm rush on every street corner and railway route that made this place the perfect blend between city and town.

Day 1

A delayed flight after school put us in Lisbon around 9 pm. We were greeted with a down pouring of rain and some intense wind, but the warmer temperatures put us in high hopes.

We climbed into the back of an Uber and headed towards our lodging: the highly reviewed Brother’s Rooms Hostel in central Lisbon.

We pushed open the suspicious door of the building and stepped over the towels that were keeping the cracking floor dry. To put it positively: the hostel didn’t live up to the expectations. Our “private triple room” turned out to be a public four-bed room with a broken lock about a foot from the main door to the building. I won’t even mention the communal bathroom.

I’m really not one to be bothered by ‘roughing it,’ I can deal with gross, but with the safety concerns of three girls, there wasn’t a chance we were spending the night here. A quick Airbnb iPhone search later and we abandoned Brother’s Rooms about 20 ish minutes after checking in.

Moral of the story: Hostels can catfish too.

We got settled into our beautiful airbnb after a night full of emotional highs and lows (and some shameful McDonald’s).

Day 2

We woke up to a brilliant blue Lisbon sky, a color you won’t be able to comprehend from just pictures.

Feeling hopeful after stepping outside our light-yellow colored building, we hopped on the city bus towards Praça do Comércio.

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Dead-ending into the ocean, the historical plaza area is framed by pale yellow buildings with the Arco da Rua August leading into the main shopping street.

We tried to take in the whole scene (and often ended up spinning in circles). The sky, the architecture, and the sea all demand attention. We were quick to learn that all of Lisbon has this characteristic.

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We wandered down to the water (directly across from the plaza) and enjoyed the sea breeze and sun before heading off to breakfast.

Brunch Café (yes, that IS the name) offered a delicious first meal in Lisbon with its cozy interior.

Unsuspectingly, we glanced outside to see rain coming down in buckets. The blue sky had vanished, and a cold wind blew in. Having been completely unprepared, we ran to buy umbrellas for the rest of our day. En route to a shop, literally five minutes later, the clouds disappeared completely and the sun came blaring back.

Confused but happy, we bought our umbrellas just in case (a SMART move looking back) and wandered up the hilly streets to Castillo de Sant Jordi d’Alfama, needing breaks to take in the views.

The fortress, dating back to the Roman municipality in 48 BC, sits on top of Lisbon offering stunning views of the colored roofs.

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We wandered the stone walls and gardens before the rain came rumbling back in with lightening speed. We took shelter for about two minutes as it subsided.

Although I didn’t get any pictures of the erratic weather changes, the sun, intense wind, and rain drop remains can all be seen here:

Among the other sites, we met some other friends while wandering the castle grounds, stirring the age old question: Are peacocks native to Portugal?

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After about ten sun/rain cycles, we walked down the narrow streets to the Alfama district (a must see) to check out the famous Portas Do Sol lookout. From here we had breathtaking views of the vivid blue sky and the classic red roofs of Lisbon.

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Being completely exposed at the lookout, rain scared us off a little to quickly and we settled for exploring more around Alfama.

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With the sun beginning to peak out again, we ran (quite literally) back up to Portas Do Sol to catch a quick glass of wine with a view before the weather turned.

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Luckily with the next weather switch, we were able to hop on one of the famous yellow cable cars and ride out the rain back towards Comércio plaza.

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This time we explored past the arch into the shopping district, stopping at a cafe for coffee and traditional Portuguese pastry (and to let our rain-soaked clothes dry).

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The Barrio Alta district was our next stop. With some new found warmth we kept our eyes open for the tiled buildings that this area of Lisbon is famous for. It didn’t disappoint.

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Dinner was at the Time Out Market, a classy ‘food court’ style eatery with delicious Portuguese food at every vendor (think octopus, salted cod, and pork). It was so fun to explore the different options at every stall, I would highly recommend for a more laid-back dinner atmosphere with amazing food.

From there we headed to an organized pub crawl with some other friends in the IES program in Barcelona, a very fun way to quickly catch a glimpse of Lisbon’s night-life.

Day 3

Feira da Ladra, or better known as the ‘market of thieves,’ was our first stop bright and early on Saturday morning. Best known for random knick-knacks, hand made tiles, and vintage jewelry, the market was truly a hodge-podge of junk and great finds (and sometimes a little bit of both). We had fun wandering the tents and seeing the interesting collections.

We had made plans for today to visit the Pena Palace in Sintra (a quick town away) so we quickly finalized our purchases and moved on.

Coffee and chocolate rolls from a near-by cafe fueled us up before our journey, we sat in the sun and people watched as the market buzzed around us.

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After disembarking the 45 minute train we were met with the first views of Sintra, a landscape we all agreed that belonged in Shrek (or another Disney fairytale). Sweeping hills surround the town with a dramatic cliff side looking towards Cabo Da Roca- the Westernmost point of Europe.

Somehow starving, we scoured yelp and discovered a cliff side lunch place with just about the best burger I’ve ever eaten. Granted, I never eat burgers, but the mushrooms and brie cheese on this one made it 5 star worthy.

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We were recommended by a friend to take a Tuk Tuk up to the castle rather than the bus. I was a bit skeptical, as I don’t love the major turist-y stuff, but I can honestly say it was one of my favorite parts of the trip.

Our driver was enthusiastic, kind, and a little crazy. His driving was comparable to mine, which is a nicer way of saying that it was terrifying. We sped along narrow roads winding up the mountain, barely missing pedestrians, bikers, and cars as we weaved past the sparse traffic.

We all laughed and held on for dear life as the open aired car whizzed around corners and made some suspicious sounds as we changed gears.

The views from the mountain itself would’ve been worth it, but the Pena Palace was a gorgeous addition. The two different colors used (yellow and red) symbolize the dominant religions in the time period it was build. The architecture, grounds, and ornate details were amazing.

This is an absolute must-see for anyone spending more than a day in Lisbon, the castle was like something I had never seen before. Sappy to say, but pictures don’t do it justice (they can try, of course).

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After exploring to our hearts’ content we bussed back down the mountain just in time for some rain to hit.

Dinner back in Lisbon was at Needle in a Haystack (Agulha No Palheiro), a top-secret restaurant boasting some of Lisbon’s best food. The building is unmarked, dark, and you have to be let inside by a server since the door is hidden. Such a fun and local experience.

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Day 4

A little embarrassing to say, but we actually returned to our beloved brunch place again on Sunday morning, being unable to get the cravings to go away. Brunch Café didn’t disappoint, we were all grossly fun and satisfied as we left.

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For the last remaining hour in town, we went back down to the docks across from Praça do Comércio to soak up some warm sun.

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Here we walked the beach, listened to the calming guitar music being played by locals, and dreaded going home.

Lisbon will be one of those places that I won’t ever forget.

Oui Oui

Jan 24th, 2019.

The city of love doesn’t fail to amaze (even the third time around).

This past weekend I traveled with two close friends from school (Julia & Allison) and some new found friends to Paris, France.

The cheapest flights money can buy (€60) + a quick airbnb booking and we were off. The trip from Barcelona was the shortest flight to Paris i’ve ever been on (and easily the most inexpensive).

We strolled, explored, shopped, and ate our way through the city. Although i’ve been twice before, each visit to Paris uncovers new experiences and appreciation. This time around I felt myself in awe of more than the just the classic tourist attractions (still amazing, however), and paying more attention to the dazzling aura (no wonder it’s called the city of lights).

Day 1

Arriving late Thursday night (flying out following my last class in Barcelona) put us in Paris around 9 p.m. Our airbnb was a quaint loft-style flat in the second arrondissement that it was well worth the five flights of stone stairs every morning to get to.

Excitement and exhaustion mixed as we headed out for a last minute dinner once we arrived. A local pub on the same block as our airbnb offered refuge in the form of baguettes, goat cheese, and risotto. Full and happy, we retreated for a full nights rest before the busy day ahead of us.

Day 2

We woke up semi-early (after falling asleep to the lullaby of Julia’s snoring) and boarded the metro towards the Eiffel. Grabbing french coffee and the softest croissants possible, we navigated through the fog to the Champs de Mars (a nice park in front of the tower).

I can’t keep track of how many times i’ve seen the Eiffel tower in person but it still amazes no matter the season. Half covered by fog on a freezing day in winter almost made the structure more impressive.

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From there we walked along the Seine towards Musée d’Orsay, taking our time to explore the quaint streets and neighborhoods to the right of the river. Stumbling upon a rustic bar, we escaped the slight chill for a charcuterie & cheese board (and a bottle of Rosé).

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After full stomachs and alcohol-warmed hands we continued on to Musée d’Orsay to see artists like Van Gogh, Monet, and Degas.

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A quick walk away was the more famous museum; the Louvre. We wandered the outsides of the impressive building, took our fair share of Pyramid pictures, and then strolled the Tuileries Garden.

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We crossed the Seine again towards Hôtel de Ville. Notre-Dame was even more intimidating in the rain (if possible). The overcast and mist made the stain glass windows and candles glow.

After almost 25,000 steps, we retreated from the rain to our airbnb, stopping to pickup champagne and two baguettes from a local bakery on the way home. We snacked, drank, and unwound from our day under numerous blankets.

Dinner was in a hip area that boasted an hour wait. We threw our names in and found a cute bar to wait it out. Dinner at Le Comptoir De La Gastronomie meant endless escargot, amazing duck breast, and foie gras ravioli. One of the best meals I’ve ever had (and surprisingly not grossly expensive).

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Getting lost once (or maybe twice) on the metro finally put us at the Trocadero stop to see the Eiffel at night. One of the best views to fully comprehend the tower, Palais de Chaillot, is one of my favorite semi-hidden gems in Paris. Here we saw the tower glitter at midnight after splitting a chocolate crepe to warm up. We headed home sleepy and fulfilled.

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Day 3

Rising early to beat the crowds at The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, we started day 3 with high hopes. Popping out of the metro stop we were greeted with a not-so-friendly sight. Armored policemen (think bullet vests, machine guns, and gas masks) surrounded the arc with giant barricades and armored trucks.

We had researched the political protests before coming of course, but believed them to have subsided in violence. Granted it was 9 am so there wasn’t a massive crowd, but news crews were standing by and the police shifted their guns every so often in anticipation.

Safe to say we quickly removed ourselves from that situation: four blatantly obvious tourists in berets don’t mix well with political rebellion (and tear gas).

We retreated to a cozy brunch nearby spot, a little shaken but hunger refused us to halt our plans. Breakfast was a soft boiled egg, several pain au chocolats, and a grapefruit mimosa.img_9523

We wandered the Champs-Élysée feeling a bit safer and as the sun started peaking through the clouds.

No trip to Paris is complete without a stop in Ladurée, the famous macaroon shop and restaurant. The assortment of pastel colors each had their own unique flavor, ranging from rosé to vanilla pecan. We enjoyed our bite size snacks on a bench outside, people watching and gushing about which flavor was the best.

 

 

Full stomachs, we walked through windy creme colored streets until we found ourselves back at Trocadero to see the view of the Eiffel in daylight.

 

and yes, we do know how touristy we look.

We walked along the Seine on the way to Musée de l’Orangerie but were met with more armored policemen and barricades. Every entrance off the bridges of the river were blocked for a mile, people were being herded along the banks in steady streams. Confused and started by the second appearance of gas masks today, we rushed towards the Louvre.

Giant fences, machine guns, and blacked out armored trucks guarded every entrance off the river bank as people tried to clear the vicinity. All the close metro stops were shut down, public transportation was redirected around the area, and we were stranded way out of our comfort zone.

I appreciate people being able to protest injustices openly, but the potential of danger of the situation is something I’ve never experienced in the United States. Never having been that close to a protest I was a little shaken, and although the scheduled riot was still an hour off, the tension and fear felt thick in the air as we kept our heads down and hurried on.

We finally made it to Musée de l’Orangerie and enjoyed the 360 degree Monet paintings.

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Walking towards a cute district (since the metros were still shut down) we came across the famous Angelina’s cafe, known for their hot chocolates and éclairs. Fyi, when I say hot chocolate, I truly mean just melted chocolate. Throw expectations of Swiss Miss out the window; there’s not even liquid added to this. Pure (and thick) chocolatey goodness.

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Le Marais, a popular local shopping district, was filled to the brim with hip boutiques and local art stores. We darted in and out of shops while avoiding the slight drizzle.

Another charcuterie & cheese board later (who’s surprised), we window shopped and nibbled on traditional caramels as we wandered home for a quick rest.

The famous artist district, Montmartre, was our chosen place for dinner as Nicole, Julia, Allison, and I headed out on the metro.

The last time I was in Paris, Cameron and I stumbled upon the most amazing hole in-the-wall restaurant near Montmartre and for months we tried to remember the name. With extensive Yelp searching, a refusal to give up, and a vague cow logo, Sacrée Fleur was discovered once again.

Two years later the food, waitstaff, and ambiance was entirely unchanged. We enjoyed more duck (confit this time), more escargot (becoming a fan favorite), and each other’s company.

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After dinner, we took a bottle of champagne and hiked the steep steps up to Sacrée Coeur for a panoramic view of Paris at night. A bit less romantic than summertime (as it was freezing and pelting rain), but we laughed even harder because of this. Torrential winds threatened to steal our coats and downpour on us, but we couldn’t care less. Amid our (probably annoying) chatting and laughing, we noticed a man dropping down on one knee to propose to a women.

Being the only ones to witness, we of course cheered loudly, offered many congratulations, and took a picture of the married couple to-be. Not a bad spot to get engaged (if you can look past the terrifying weather).

We climbed down the hill after the bottle was empty and  proceeded to explore some bars around Paris. We retreated to the airbnb around 2:30 (an early night for Barcelona standards). Full off of great food and cheap wine, we fell asleep easily (despite the loud snores from Julia’s side of the bed).

Day 4

A 4 a.m. wakeup call sounded very similar to a joke as we peeled our eyes open on Sunday morning. Packing was slow and painful:  desperately wanting 1. more sleep & 2. to ignore the fact that we had to leave.

We returned home (funny thinking of Barcelona as home) and unpacked nothing before falling asleep again. Dreaming of macaroons and rainy proposals.

Until next time, Paris.

 

 

 

 

 

Hand Gestures & Espresso: My first week in Barcelona

The largest shock? Un Cafe Regular Coffee

Having had the opportunity to travel Europe before, I believed myself to be somewhat adjusted to the changes in culture that are experienced when crossing borders.

I was wrong.

Culture shock hit me hard and fast that first day, excitement melted into something I almost refused myself to feel: regret.

Of course that feeling was the product of jet lag, exhaustion, frustration, and an overwhelming yo-yo-ing of emotions, but moving into a tiny Barcelona apartment with an ~abuela~ who doesn’t know a lick of English definitely brought an uncomfortable mix of experiences.

Conchita, my host mom, lives alone in an eclectic ‘L’ shapes flat with her two cats she calls her “hijos.” Having a motherly bond with my own cat, Pippin, I was excited to have the company of animals while in a foreign country. Her two cats talk and affectionately invade personal space just as much as she does (which I’ve come to learn is part of the Spanish culture).

Arriving on that first day, Allison and I were greeted with loud meows and a flurry of Spanish as Conchita wrapped us both in a hug. It was 10 am local time, we had been traveling since 8 am the previous day. The bags under my eyes were as heavy as the two suitcases I struggled to drag through the narrow, European hall to my shared room.

My brain wasn’t capable of forming English words let alone the Spanish ones that I poorly remembered. Conchita was vibrant, kind, engaging, and completely incapable of understanding any English. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting for the language barrier in Spain, but the first day it was more of an isolating wall than a crossable obstruction.

I’m a large communicator, I don’t display a lot of physical affection or emotion, and having my one mode of expression robbed was disarming. I slept most of the day on and off, tiptoeing around the cluttered flat feeling like an intruder into someone else’s life.

I woke up the next morning for orientation with puffy eyes (from crying or lack of sleep-unknown) and soundlessly slipped from the dead bolted apartment door. The sleepy neighborhood of Passeig de Sant Joan was starting to wake up with the early sun and it had a kind of charm to it that I didn’t notice though my previous jet-lag lenses.

I caught the bus and headed towards the IES center located in Plata de Catalunya (near the center of the city). With 900+ kids in my same program, It was easy to find the building crowded with a hoard of college age students standing outside, all looking as lost as I felt. I tightened my backpack straps and pushed through, feeling somewhat (and guiltily) relieved hearing the chit chat of English as I passed.

After the initial orientation, Allison, Julia, and myself all needed some literal breathing room from the foreign atmosphere of the city, so we decided to visit the famous Park Güell. We caught the bus as it winded up the surprisingly hilly streets of western Barcelona: breathing easier as the sky opened up infront of us.

The park (often featured in Instagram photos) highlights the architecture efforts of Gaudi & Güell – colorful tiling and interesting buildings. It’s a beautiful walk through the woods and the panoramic views of the city really made this a must see for our first day. After taking the time we needed to explore on our own schedule, we all felt calmer heading back to town after dusk.

The first official dinner with Conchita went better than the previous interaction, my very little Spanish coming back faster than I imagined. She understood we were making an effort and tailored the conversation to simple topics. I tried to explain how grateful I was for her to have us, and she just responded by serving Allison and I our third helping of Spanish tortilla (delicious, by the way). Food is truly the language of love in her case, and every chance she gets she stuffs us full.

From the second night on I began to appreciate more: the way Conchita plays 1990 American classic radio at all hours of the day (although mostly static), the sun warming up every chilly morning without fail, the independence I feel maneuvering the public transportation by myself, and (of course) my gorgeous surroundings.

After classes that first week I went on to visit the Arc de Triumph, La Boqueria, multiple Plajtos, local bars, and stumbled upon countless hidden gems. Barcelona’s location on the Mediterranean is nicknamed the golden coast (Costa Dorada) for a reason: the whole city seems to glow.

I ate tapas like a local (my favorite being of course the potatoes- patatas bravas), drank more than my fair share of cava (it’s cheaper than water!), and aimlessly walked more than I ever have in my life trying to explore the city.

An average of 23,000 steps a day later, I finally feel somewhat comfortable with Barcelona. The buildings are a mix between Paris and the winding streets of Florence, and the gothic streets empty into the Mediterranean with no warning, as if the sea and city are fighting for the land.

This past weekend I took trip with my Spanish class to the town of Tarragona, the first Roman city in Spain. Lacking the modernism of Barcelona, Tarragona possesses the classic historical feel that I assume ancient European cities to have, like being teleported back in time. On the trip I saw the more traditional side of Spain; the wine, architecture, and mountainous countryside.

On my return to the apartment, Conchita gave me large Besos (kisses) on both cheeks, the proper goodbye and hello in Spain, and wrapped me in a hug. She asked if I was tired from the journey and said she was happy to have her “Hija” back.

And although I’m still in a foreign country, after the long weekend away, it did, indeed feel a little like coming home.

Here’s the the next four months.

 

 

Up Up & and Away

I sit here writing this in the O’Hare airport waiting to board that (seemingly) one-way flight to Barcelona, Spain.

Mothers drag their sleep deprived and stumbling children towards their early morning flight, charging stations are crammed with power hungry smartphones and owners alike, and my neighbor, the moving walkway, continues its incessant script of caution as sleepy travelers exit.

I slouch over my computer screen (my posture has always been horrendous) and take in the scene unfolding before me. Enjoying the slight chaos of other people’s lives, airports have always been my favorite place to people watch, but I can’t help but wonder what backstory strangers assign myself at first glance.

I probably scream American: piled with the layers that wouldn’t fit in my carryon luggage, feet propped up on the suitcase in front of me, typing absentmindedly on a laptop with an open bag of pretzel crisps in my lap, but maybe that label will soon change (or at least be harder to identify).

Today marks the start of a just-shy of six month journey abroad. I’ll be attending a business school in Barcelona, Spain for this upcoming spring semester, venturing far beyond the cornfields of my traditional institution’s campus. The fiesta and siesta lifestyle awaits once my 5:45 pm flight from JFK begins boarding, and perhaps it’s just what my life needs.

I plan (and hope) to record my journeys daily in a pen & paper sort of way, and to gather those ramblings/pictures/epiphanies and hopefully post them on this site. More for myself than anything, I hope to create a scrapbook of some sorts that houses my experiences better than a 16 GB camera roll could. Wherever my travels take me (internally and ex) I’ll try and record. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

The thing i’ll miss most? Tied between athleisure (darn you well-dressed Europeans) and my cat. Of course family, friends, and Cameron all tie for third, but none of them provide the lazy comfort that leggings do.

These are the only deep philosophical thoughts I can possibly produce before I have coffee. Today, a sub-par Starbucks. Tomorrow, a Spanish Cafe.

¡Adios for now!

Long & Longer Distance

Early morning light streams through the cheap blinds shielding my boyfriend’s room from the reality of day. My phone buzzes softly and I squeeze my eyes shut, fingers crossed it hasn’t woken him up. His sleepy hand stretches over me to unplug my phone from the charger and lets it fall softly next to my head.

I see what’s on the screen, quickly slipping the email notification and my increasing anxiety under the cotton-clad pillow.

Cameron’s slight snore returns to signal his sleep, and I breathe easier.

Out of sight out of mind, except I’ve never been good at bull shitting myself. It’s an unavoidable and ever-looming conversation: the long distance becoming even longer.

Four weeks is what we’re used to: sometimes more, sometimes less. Four weeks is the time it takes to grow out a horrific haircut. Four weeks is the Michigan difference between mid-summer and a foot of snow. Four weeks is optimistic. Four weeks is manageable.

Except those four weeks are turning into six months soon.

I won’t ever be ready.

Come January 7, I’ll be making the trans-continental move to Barcelona, Spain. I’ll be saying bon voyage to many of the comforts of home, and even though Delta has increased the amount of baggage I’m allowed to bring, I’m not confident that my long-term relationship will fit. Although I’ve seen the power of Facetime calls and improved communication keep a couple together across far distances, I’m nervous that my relationship may get lost on the way over the Atlantic.

Under the weight of suppression (and the pillow case) that I hid the truth under: reality is creeping out. Studying abroad is the opportunity of a lifetime, and yet the only thing I’ve managed to pack is this mixed bag of emotions I’ve been dragging around with me for the past couple of weeks. The online course catalogue for Spain sits blinking at me; offering endless global perspectives studies, boundless travel journalism opportunities, countless international business courses, and one, broken hearted, college student.

Gallivanting across boundaries and along the coastlines of Europe seems like a far-off dream, but terror accompanies any thoughts of boarding that looming one-way flight: leaving my comfort zone behind on the tarmac.

Fear of judgement and expectations abandoned: I’m completely unsure if I actually want to go. I’ve never been a home-body, but being away from everyone and everything I’ve ever known for six months seems too daunting to be real. Long distance relationship and any other possible fears aside, I know I have to go.

I’m sure as my take-off date draws nearer, those nerves will melt into something less teary-eyed: the possibilities of exploration becoming limitless as the airport fades from view, but for now I’m reserving seat 23B for my insecurities.

Even after all the Edgar Allen Poe level-darkness that some hours bring, I don’t doubt that my long term relationship will survive this new journey. The future we talk about so often has wiggle room for this six months that we’ll be in opposite time zones. Growing with each other sometimes means moving apart, only to let the distance pull us back together again. As the great and powerful Winnie the Pooh would say; “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

And on that note, I’ll go back to pulling my hair and heartstrings out as I complete my Visa application.

Alexa, play River and Roads by the Head and the Heart.