Paris: I didn’t meet any princes, but I did fall in love

Travel Adventures

As I walked through the empty streets of Granada at 5 a.m. I thought about the possible attackers hiding behind all the bushes (thanks for all the warnings to be safe mom, they didn’t enhance my paranoia at all…)

But I also felt overwhelmingly excited: I was heading off to Paris! I’ve dreamed about visiting the big cities in Europe since I was a child, and now was my time. I honestly hadn’t prepared very well, I ended up packing the night before and didn’t even have time to Wikipedia the main sites I planned on visiting with my friend Courtney, but I had the feeling of being ready to take on Paris!

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After a few flights filled with crying babies and generally unhappy people, I landed in Paris. Then the real adventure began.

I love to travel, and I’ve now used the public transit systems in more than a dozen European cities, but somehow I still usually end up going the wrong direction on the metro/ bus at some point. This time I missed my stop and had to get back on a different train and go back, but I wouldn’t completely go out into the middle of nowhere France until later in the trip.

After meeting up with my friend Courtney in front of our hotel we went in search of a true French café. We found one with friendly service and delicious café, orange juice and croissants.

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After a quick siesta in our room we headed off for the Louvre.

On the way we stopped to look out at the Seine river and the many locks lovers have left to commemorate their time in Paris.

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That’s the thing about Paris, it’s beautiful and can be enjoyed as a single twenty-something with a best friend, but we were often reminded of our singleness (while standing in line behind couples who didn’t want to take the time to breath, trying to escape the sounds coming from the other side of the wall in our hotel room and the adorable old couples who made me think of how being an old cat lady might get a little lonely).

At the same time, I was grateful we could truly enjoy the sights of the city and not have to possibly cut/ burn (depending on how awful they ended up being) our traveling companions out of photos later. Also, we’re constantly told we look like twins/ sisters, so we could theoretically just pretend they’ve already made cloning commonplace in Paris if we grow to abhor our similar personalities…

(Sorry, these are the things that go through my head on an overly bumpy flight to Barcelona).

Back to visiting the Louvre: We’d heard they let people younger than 26 in for free on Friday nights, and we were excited to safe some money and hopefully skip some lines.

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We were not disappointed, not only was it less packed than normal, but we also got to get up close and personal with the Monna Lisa (yes, there’s really two “n”s) without waiting for a lifetime in line. We got this brilliantly original selfie with DaVinci’s most famous masterpiece:

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While fast-walking with the masses towards the Monna Lisa, Courtney and I commented on how the other artists must be a tad salty about how they’d also spent their lives creating magnificent art, but failed to make it to the point where Snapchat gave them a personalized filter.

Note to non-Snapchat users: this app lets you take photos of your face and then put a filter on them to make it look like you were the Monna Lisa. Yeah, my generation really does have a lot of free time.

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After the Louvre we headed towards the famous ferris wheel so we, two people afraid of heights to different but substantial degrees, could watch the lights of Paris from a swinging glass container suspended 200 feet in the air.

To our delighted surprise, we survived and got some pretty awesome pictures in return for facing our fears.

Here’s a part my mom probably shouldn’t read… the metro system in Paris is not what I expected.

I talked with other friends who visited Paris and they said it was full of soldiers and police while they were there, but while we were there it wasn’t. The metros were empty of officials of any kind and I only made it through one of the turnstiles because a kind older man saw my ticket wasn’t working. Also turns out, when your ticket doesn’t work at the turnstile and you’ve walked down a bunch of hallways marked “Do not enter” for opposing traffic, you’re pretty much stuck relying on the kindness of strangers.

The Paris metro system is convenient because it has stations practically every block, but it was also a bit worrisome at times. Since I have a knack for getting lost on the public transit in every city I visit, I tend to like public transit more when there’s lots of people there to help when I get confused.

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The next morning we took a stroll to the Eiffel Tower.

We were surrounded by runners, because Parisians know how to burn off their bread and wine like no others, and people trying to sell us selfie sticks, but I was too excited to care. We spent our day visiting the different levels and sides of the tower, eating overpriced macaroons and running back to the hotel through the rain. It was kind of amazing.

Afterwards we visited Notre Dame and ate some delicious crepes. I know, I lead such a rough life.

We took the metro to d’Orsay and found out it was closed, but we still got to walk around more of Paris and find some interesting statues.

The next morning we went to the Jardin de Luxemborg.

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I’ve had dreams where I was dancing around a beautiful garden, but the Jardin de Luxemborg was incredible and grounding. It reminded me of the parks at home and what I imagine the back yard of my future palace will look like…

(I’m trying out The Secret effect by imagining I’ve already become a princess without marrying a prince. I’ll keep you updated on how it goes…)

The park was huge, but not overwhelming. We found some chairs looking over the pond and sat for awhile watching little kids put boats out onto the water and birds fight over their food. It was calming and a perfect way to finish my time in Paris.

Except I still had one more adventure.

On the way to the airport I parted with Courtney and then tried to prove my city smarts were better than Google Maps. This is still under debate, but I ended up going out into the suburbs of Paris, and then riding the train all the way back to where I began.

Sometimes getting lost gives you more time to enjoy the scenery, and I like to think that’s why I love to get lost in each city I visit…

 

 

Turning five/ twenty in the country of my people

Travel Adventures

An hour before my friend Paige and I left for the bus station in Granda, I started packing.

My mother would have expected it, after all, I waited until the last minute to pack up most of my belongings for college. But still, it kind of shocked me. The fact that going to a famous and beautiful city like Florence, Italy didn’t make me jump up and down and start packing weeks in advance is a little sad. I don’t want these amazing experiences to start to seem  any less incredible. I’m determined to fully savor and appreciate these last few months in Europe.

Thankfully, I kicked off this new mentality with a Birthday visit to Florence and Rome!!

We arrived in Florence after a full day of traveling and began to explore the city. I was fortunate to have Paige’s wonderful friends from Gonzaga to show us the beautiful sights of the city. Without them I probably would’ve gotten lost and tried to take a nap on a park bench (ironically, I ended up doing just that in Sevilla a few weeks, later. You can read about that soon!)

After we put our luggage away and had a quick rest, we went exploring and  hiked up to see a remarkable view of the city.

After seeing the remarkable beauty of the Florentine skyline we went in search of some delicious gelato. We found a sweet little gelato shop one of the professors had recommended and now I highly recommend it as well!

After a brief break and siesta we went in search of some authentic Italian carbs.

We got a little (okay, a lot) lost, but we eventually found a place with cheap and delicious pizza! The Italians are not only my people because of my actual genetic connection to them, but also because of our shared love of bread, cheese and pomodro.

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The next morning we found a wonderful cafe with amazing fresh pastries…

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After breakfast we went on a hike and I felt like I was back home in the Pacific Northwest.

After we found ourselves in a quaint little town outside of Florence we got surprising delicious sandwiches for lunch. I failed to order mine properly in Italian/ Spanglish, but it still turned out great.

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After the hike we visited the Uffizi Gallery. It was a remarkable experience. These pictures don’t capture the feelings that come with standing in front of  these works of art. (Also, thank you Grandma Brenda for teaching me about some of the world’s best artists… I’m beginning to appreciate all the hours I’ve spent in art museums with you. ❤ )

After spending most of the day in the gallery and occasionally  listening to tours we didn’t pay for (I had to switch between English and Spanish to understand them and that was sort of like an educational payment, right?) we headed to find dinner. I’m not kidding about the food in Italy, it’s worthy of multiple mentions.

We went to an adorably Italian-looking restaurant a few blocks from where we were staying.

 

The next morning, Sunday, we attended mass at the Basilica di Santa Croce, which is the principal Franciscan church in Florence. It was a phenomenal experience, even though the entire mass was in Italian and I could only understand the parts that were similar to Spanish… which was actually quite a bit.

After mass we visited the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as the Duomo di Firenze.

The rest of our time in Florence was spent bargaining for scarves, walking across the river and discovering more of the mesmerizing beauty the city has to offer.

 

We then headed onto spend my Birthday in Rome.

I had dreams of feeling like Lizzie-McGuire, riding around the city on a vespa, but sadly we arrived to a hailstorm. Thankfully, Paige and I are optimistic travelers and battled through the storm to visit the Colosseum!

I am beyond thankful for this amazing Birthday weekend and know I will remember it forever.

(Also, stay tuned for my Spring Break posts from Rome and the beaches of Athens, Greece!)

 

 

Lisbon: You could say we embraced the rain

My Adventures Abroad

Some of my friends and I made the last minute decision to take a ten hour bus ride to Lisbon, Portugal.

The bus was as awful as it sounds like, but when we arrived in Lisbon we were filled with magical adrenaline and hit the streets to explore!

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We tried some Portuguese pastries, admired the tiles on the buildings and started to map out what we wanted to see during our three days there.

We were having a fabulous time, just like Kim, my wonderful boss at PLU, hoped we were.

We hiked up to the Torre de Belem and fought the wind to stay grounded.

We took the train out to Sintra and found a palace and a castle hidden in a beautiful forest.

We also went to a monastery, art museum and another castle!

I’m extremely grateful I got to explore this beautiful city with these amazing people!

Swimming and eating icecream in January

My Adventures Abroad

I’m used to January being a time for winter coats, snowball fights, skiing and hot cocoa. This year, my January has been a bit warmer.

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The average temperature in Granada has been mid 50s-high 60s with non-stop sunny days and barely a sprinkle in the sky.

While the people of Granada spent the weekend bundled up in coats and pants, we packed up our swimsuits and headed to the coastal towns of Malaga and Granada.

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We stopped in the town of Almuñécar and hiked up to a beautiful castle, Castillo de San Miguel, built in 1st century B.C.

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After taking plenty of photos of the beautiful view of the Mediterranean, we headed onwards towards the town of Nerja.

Nerja boasts stunning views and intriguing caves.

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We traveled downwards into caves a few Costcos could easily in. They stretch for over 5km/ 3.1 miles and concerts are regularly held in part of them. Not to mention, they are beautiful and reminded me of possibility and hidden wonders beneath my feet.

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After an interesting buffet lunch, where I had my first Spanish flan in Spain, we headed to the beach.

The views were remarkable.

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I spent the rest of the day walking in the water, searching for pretty rocks in the sand and feeling more content than I have in weeks.

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Although it’s the Mediterranean, it’s still January and the water was still pretty chilly.

Here are some more photos of my wonderful day:

 

Stray gatos, crumbling casas and beautiful vistas

My Adventures Abroad

Today we hiked up into the hills above Granada into a unique neighborhood named Sacromonte. All I had been told about this part of the city was it is dangerous and I shouldn’t got there alone.

Sometimes the most dangerous parts of a city are also the most amazing.

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A beautiful view of the Alhambra and the city of Granada

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The mesmerizing Alhambra

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Looking at these houses made me realize I am truly living in the Mediterranean.   

Sacromonte is famous for its flamenco dancing, beautiful views of the Alhambra and Granada and its unique personality.

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As we walked up (literally up, it is on the top of a large hill) ancient cobblestones mixed with modern asphalt we had to jump out of the way of cars and after stopping to take far too many photos I had to rush to keep up with the group. We saw at least 6 stray cats and heard some random music being played out an open window.

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There’s a stray cat sunbathing on the roof of this casa. I imagine it was a well deserved a siesta. 

Ironically, with my camera around my neck and a sweatshirt tied 90’s style around my waist, I began to feel like less of a tourist.

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My friend Kate and I showing off our 90’s tourist style (sweatshirts tied around our waists)

Here are some more pictures from my wonderful adventure:

Wait, this isn’t just a vacation?

My Adventures Abroad

I think part of me was beginning to feel like this was just the longest/ most expensive vacation I will ever take, but alas, I am here to study and today I had my first homework assignment!

It was just a scavenger hunt around Granada,  but since I spent the weekend sick in bed it was an adventure just walking around for hours looking at beautiful buildings and trying to not lay down on the cobblestones.

 

After the hunt we went to a fun café, chatted about our lives and discovered just how small the world can be.

 

 

The time I didn’t drink and got called a borracha…

My Adventures Abroad

This picture pretty much sums up this entire post:

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But in case you need more of an explanation, here is some background on this lovely selfie:

I went to my professor’s house for a tertulia, an informal gathering, and met some of the wonderful people in my ILACA program.

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A few hours after this lovely picture, some of us met up again to embrace the Spanish way of life. We planned on starting our Friday night at a bar, then heading to a pub, then to a disquoteca and eventually home around 5-7 a.m.

My body had very different ideas.

At the first bar I got sick in the street (after actually not drinking any alcohol). I then went home to spend the weekend in the bathroom and in bed.

Here’s a lovely pic of Calle Obispo (A.K.A. where I threw up on a tree and felt super thankful for having friends who I barely knew, but who held back my hair and gave me napkins and water like professionals).

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Traveler’s sickness is as awful as people say it is. At one point I had a fever of 102.6 and my host family was discussing taking me to the hospital. This freaked me out, so in my super coherent state I thought my brain was frying and posted about it on Twitter. Yep.

The food and water in Spain is strong and takes time to get used to.

My mistake was thinking my body was adjusted to the time zone and ready to eat Spanish foods like paella and jamón and drink only Spanish water with all of its amazing minerals (my host family is vehement it’s the best water in the world).

By Sunday morning my fever broke and I began to discover the great horribleness of having multiple Spanish women try to take care of you and argue over what foods/ drinks are best for sick American students.

(They eventually decided on weirdly flavored rice with pieces of some other horrible unnamed food, microwaved apples, Spanish gatorade that makes your teeth sticky and pretty much every other food/drink I now hate with a burning passion).

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Lesson learned: When in Spain have fun, but don’t always do as the Spanish do.

Exploring my new home

My Adventures Abroad

Today I arrived in Granda, Spain! The bus ride from Madrid was five hours, but it felt like so much longer.

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A stop on the way to Granada

I met my roommate at her hotel and then we went to our host family’s home together.

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The view from my taxi in Granada

My host family is amazing. Maria and Antonio are younger than I expected, but so far it has been good because they are more flexible with Spanish traditions like always wearing slippers in the house. Antonio even speaks some English, which is helpful when they’re trying to explain cultural things that don’t translate well.

Today also happened to be Reyes Magos, la navidad en España, which is the equivalent to Christmas in the U.S.

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The three wise men for la navidad

Both of my host parent’s families came over to the house to celebrate. They were all very nice, but it was a little overwhelming to meet so many people and try to keep up with their fast-paced conversations.

After la cena, dinner, my roommate and I walked down to the park to see the lights. They were beautiful and it made us feel like we were participating in part of their culture.

Learning just how real jet lag is

My Adventures Abroad, Uncategorized

For some unexplainable reason I thought I would be immune to “jet lag,”  but alas I am not a well traveled human, so my brain and body are fighting back against the 9 hour time change.

The horrible lethargy I am currently experiencing peaked after I got out of bed (last night/ morning/ who knows what time?) to plug my phone in and then felt like I had just ran a marathon and needed to get back into bed like my life depended on it.

Then I woke up and had the brilliant idea to go roam the house and eventually end up in the kitchen having a fun conversation with Joel and a law student from Georgetown who was taking a solo vacation before taking his bar exams.

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The next day, I found a cozy couch at the Brussels airport to nap on during our 3 hour layover before our flight to Madrid and hoped it would make me able to function like a person again.

My eyes are doing some weird tired thing and the people sitting around me gave me some looks after I took up a good section of the couch and then took this selfie:

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The nap was totally worth it.

 

 

Madrid and arriving in España

My Adventures Abroad

As our plane descended into Madrid, Spain I couldn’t but smile. This was what I had been so excited about for the past few months, if not since when I did a report on Spain in elementary school. IMG_6792

We got off of the plane and then the real adventure and test of our traveling spirit began.

I had my first conversation in Spanish in Spain at a Duty-free store where I tried to explain how we needed change for our euros. After buying some snacks we then proceeded to search for our bags.

Thankfully, they had made it from Iceland to Brussels and then to Madrid safely, but it took us a good hour to get them. Then we attempted to leave the airport. This is the part that shows just how tired we were.

We went through the wrong door somehow and skipped customs entirely. Yep, we kind of snuck into a foreign country without even knowing.

Don’t worry, we told our site coordinator and the wonderfully helpful people at PLU’s Wang Center so it all got worked out, but for a few hours that night I was sure I was going to Spanish jail.

After exiting the airport we spent an hour circling the airport looking for bus number 200. This number will be forever imprinted in my brain because I was chanting it to myself as we walked up and down the same escalator- like ramps kicking myself for not knowing where we were supposed to go.

After we eventually found the right bus stop we got on the bus and were sent a blessing in the form of Dani and Kate.

As I was putting my bags on the luggage racks Kate called out my name and I suddenly regained the joy I had when we first landed in Madrid. We sat with them on the bus and then mistakenly believed we were supposed to get off at the same stop as them.

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This is when we did the most common mistake of getting off the bus at the wrong stop.

Thankfully, Dani’s family friend who lives in Madrid was able to help us, thanks again, and after a short taxi ride we arrived at our Airbnb.

There we made food, watched Spanish telenovelas and tried to relax.

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The next morning I learned just how important the safety tips everyone kept telling me are.