An American student studying abroad in London for six months; all about my experiences and adventures.

Friday the 13th

Seems crazy that I am still trying to write about events that happened months ago.. but I shall continue. I’ll break Wales into a couple of posts.

We woke up that morning and enjoyed breakfast at our B&B. We were set to drive to Pembroke that day because we had rented a cottage in that area, but my grandmother was set on doing a walk down to the cliffs/beach area near the B&B. Lets just say my grandfather and I were over it before it even began. It was a pretty nice day, I had to take off layers of clothing because it was quite warm after doing our walk (which turned into a bit of a hike).

This was the beach area that we walked down to. We got a little confused by the directions that our hotel gave us, and we ended up climbing this pretty steep hill that brought us to some ruins of a castle (probably our fifth out of a million for the two weeks). The only other thing at the top of the hill was a golf course, and the only fast route down was down a sand dune. People had taken off shoes because there was so much sand- and it was not safe. I’m surprised my grandparents did it- let along suggested it. We were pretty much covered in sand for the rest of the day, and that is my least favorite thing.

Stepping stones across the water before our climb up

The walk up

The view from up top

Wishing I hadn’t brought a coat

The path down…

After that all my grandfather and I wanted was ice cream- so we stopped at this store before treking up the driveway a mile or so back to our B&B.

We also got to share our ice cream…

We hoped in our car and headed off to Pembroke which was a little bit of a drive and perfect napping opportunity for me (and I can’t tell you how much I did this during our trip). We checked into our next cottage which was a little more rustic than before but with a lot of charm to it.

We roamed down to the beach and considered doing another walk along the cliffs but knew my grandfather would be tired and figured it was getting late so we went into town to find a grocery store. Instead we found the Royal George Pub for dinner, it was here I got my beloved Strongbow pint glass. We asked the bartender and he gave it to us, I’m currently drinking out of it now as we speak. Pretty good meal actually, I would have liked to have gone back the next day but we went somewhere else.. which is a story for the next post.

After dinner we finally found a grocery store to grab a couple of things for breakfast to cook. Then we called it a day. For being Friday the 13th we avoided many mishaps that we had had earlier in the trip!

Bristol and Wales

The morning of the 12th (of April) we left Newbury, England for Wales. We were staying at a B&B that night, and the would continue onto Plymouth National Park the following day and would be there for the next three or so days before heading back to London.

I had convinced my grandparents beforehand to make a pit stop in Bristol, which was somewhat on the way to Wales anyways. I really wanted to see some of the top filming locations for Skins, since I’ve been obsessed with the series and have seen every episode. What originally started out as a plan to drive through town and get all the pictures from the car became an almost 3 hour detour trip. Our first stop was College Green, which we found and had a parking spot for. The next thing I tried putting in the GPS was Brandon Hill, where they film all the bench scenes for those that watch Skins but it wasn’t showing up on the GPS. The information centre was close by so we decided to walk there, got a map, and then climbed Brandon Hill. After that we stopped for lunch and walked to most of the other major locations instead of driving. The only one we didn’t walk to was Naomi’s house which was a little outside of the city and in a bad neighbourhood.

For those that watch Skins the next couple of pictures should be familiar:

College Green

The corner where the car accident happened with Effy’s Dad and Cook, and the morning cafe scene. Also the adjacent street is the one that Freddie skateboarded down in the first episode of season 3.

All the bench scenes happened along Brandon Hill.

General view from the top of the tower on Brandon Hill.

Vauxhall Bridge which Tony crosses in the very first episode while on the phone.

The harbour

Naomi’s house

And the park across from Naomi’s house

From there we headed out of Bristol and continued to our B&B in Gower, Wales. We checked in and it was a very weird place. The room we had was one big open room, small bathroom, but it had two twin beds and one double in one area. It was very strange. And little dusty, very old, and the cook reminded me of cookie, the cook from Matilda…

My grandmother really wanted to find Three Cliffs to see at sunset and find a place to eat. But the theme of the trip was getting lost, and we did. We eventually found a cliff area for sunset, to this day though I’m not sure if it was Three Cliffs. We walked out to the edge while my grandfather stayed in the pub, we met him after for some drinks. The pub overlooked the sunset so he got to see it as well, but he was warm. I just remember being really cold, especially because it was pretty breezy!

After having a couple of drinks, we went back to our room. I have to share this sad story because I have thought of it every day since. I grew a fondness of lambs during this trip- not sheep, but lambs. I was ready to kidnap one and take it back to America. On our way back to the B&B we saw a little lamb that was stuck on the road and fairly scared running away from all the cars. He had to be in the road because directly off the road were stone walls or hedges. I hope we found his way back to his mother, but it was pretty dark out and there were a lot of cars whipping around those sharp corners…

Hate to leave it on a sad note but…. next post will be more on Wales!

Bath (and not of the bubble variety)

This is the second time writing this post, after the first being deleted because the Tumblr page was down. Anyways.. so it might be a little shorter than planned.

The next day we had decided to go to the Roman Baths which were a little ways away. About an hour or so from where we were staying, but it was a pretty ride to Bath. We got there and didn’t really have any intention on seeing much else in Bath besides the Roman Baths, and grabbing a bite to eat.

Before I load pictures of the Roman Baths, I wanted to share this one because it was so different:

This was the public bathrooms in Bath, and there were three buttons on the machine. I had never seen this before and was somewhat amazed by something so simple. The first button produced soap, the second water, and the third air to dry your hands. All in one place and one machine. It was really pretty cool and Geneva (see I managed to get you into this post!) said she saw them elsewhere, but I wouldn’t see them again after this stop.

This was the main “bath.” There was a whole museum as part of this as well, but this was the central attraction. It was pretty cool learning that all the water is original, and it bubbles and is in fact warm all from natural causes. We weren’t supposed to touch the water, but of course I did!

Some more old ruins inside.

My grandfather and I.

Minerals growing in the water because of the warmness of it.

After visiting the baths, we set our to find someplace to grab lunch. While one our way we came across the river and the Pulteney Bridge, which is a pretty well-known bridge and reminded me of the Rialto from Venice.

After lunch we tried to get buns from:

Sally Lunn’s but they had sold out for the day. Probably because of the big school group sitting outside!

Instead I introduced my grandparents to my favourite coffee place: Caffe Nero!

On the way back to Newbury, we decided to stop at the quaintest town- Castle Combe. It was rated one of the most picturesque, and it sure was a tiny stereotypical British town.

Yes, this tea set was just placed randomly in the middle of the town square…

Church/graveyard

We decided to have dessert at the only place to eat in town- the fancier inn. My dessert was “different” and I expected the chocolate to be more of a mousse consistency when really it was more of a Hershey’s chocolate, and then there was a piece of fruit that I ate and still don’t know what it was. My grandmother’s dessert was weird as well, but oh well we both ate them.

On the way back to our place, we came across a diverted route because our normal way back was closed. We had relied too much on Jane (our GPS) and she kept wanting to bring us the way that was closed. We finally figured out a different way, but then missed our turn on the roundabout, which happened to be a 3/4 one and therefore had to drive all the way out on the motorway, take the next exit, turn around, and try again. Needless to say it took us awhile to get home.

Next day was our trip to Bristol and to Wales!

Cheers :)

Highclere Castle

I will be sure to include lots of pictures in this post of Highclere Castle, though I wasn’t able to take pictures within the castle. To back up for a bit…

We had timed tickets to go into the castle that day with some time to kill before that. The castle is only opened to the public for certain weeks throughout the year seeing that it is still used by the current estate owners. We set out to find Donnington Castle which we actually found pretty easily- as least for us. It was a really cool castle but definitely the most “beaten” we saw (and we saw a lot). Most of it was gone, but you could see the old wall and outline of the original size of the castle plus it was set up on a hill so it had a fantastic view.

Climbing up to it.

The ruins of the castles; you can see the old doorways and such.

The view from the castle.

After the Donnington Castle we made our way to Highclere which was set out from the town of Newbury.

We decided to roam around the gardens and land first because it wasn’t raining for once (the entirety of my grandparents trip consisted of rain, not consistent rain but on and off all day, they didn’t believe me that in fact in hardly rains here). The gardens were nice, not overly impressive but nice. They have a lot of land surrounding them with numerous sheep. And the “gardens” were somewhat lack luster.

The famous bench scenes

After walking around the grounds we decided to grab a snack. We had some time before we were allowed in because we bought timed tickets. I got classic English breakfast tea (I drank wayy too much tea that week) and a piece of cake. Did some shopping at the gift shop, love when traveling with family :)

Finally, we were allowed in. Unfortunately no pictures were allowed inside the house. It wasn’t as grand as the show makes it feel, and it was a little “outdated” in some places, but it was still pretty cool. Some of the bedrooms and the kitchen scenes are filmed elsewhere so we didn’t see all of it. But my favourite room was the sitting room, the one that is turquoise in the show. Loved it!

After Highclere Castle we went to go see more stones- the Avesbury Stone Circle. Tourist books kept telling my grandmother that it was more impressive than Stonehenge and although it covered a larger area than Stonehenge it certainly wasn’t that impressive.

While this is just a chunk of the area it covered it was pretty much all the same…

We made our way back to our cottage and roamed around taking pictures of our really cute neighbourhood before heading back to the same pub for dinner. We were going to try someplace different for dinner but we hoped our good dessert would be there again… it was sold out :( Bummer, but we got fish and chips. I tried for the last 2 and half months I was in London to find another sticky toffee pudding as good, and never did. We did try treacle tart instead, but it was wayyyy to sweet- even for me. Hard to describe but imagine eating a maple syrup candy with whip cream, ice cream, and more syrup on top of it…

Anyways here are some pictures of the town we were in…

And that’s treacle tart!

Cheers :)

I’ve been meaning to post this for awhile. My friends and I complied this video of all the places that we traveled to while studying abroad in London for a semester. One day we were listening to music on shuffle and the Hand Jive came on and we just decided that we would do that all over Europe and so this video became made…

Stonehenge and Newbury

This next one will be short because I want to leave separate posts for Highclere Castle and Bath and Bristol. I will do a combined one of Wales, and then a combined one of London with my grandparents.

We woke up in the morning and got breakfast at the hotel. Already getting used to traveling with my grandparents where we make sure we have time and room for 3 meals a day. We then had to go back to the airport to catch a bus that would take us to the car rental. I warned my grandparents about driving in the city and even though they did drop it off once we were back in London and we were solely picking it up for driving out to the country and Wales it was still a disaster. Driving was mostly a disaster for the first 4ish days. My grandmother gets really anxious and doesn’t pay attention to the GPS and therefore gave my grandfather wrong directions a lot. My grandfather gets really snippy fast, so that always fun. My grandmother frequently wanted me to sit in the front seat so that she could sit in the back and say nothing so we didn’t get lost. Also we had initial problems with the GPS, seeing that my grandparents don’t know how to program it and I HATE them but “Jane” the name we gave to our GPS ended up helping us out in the long run once we figured out how to work it.

Ever seen European vacation when the dad drives around Trafalgar Square because he can’t get out of his lane? That was us because there are so many round-a-bouts and we never knew which one to take. So while I was trying to program the GPS and figure out which way she was telling us to go, my grandfather kept driving around the round-a-bouts. I think we went around one 4 times….

Finding Stonehenge was the hardest thing ever to do. It wouldn’t come up as a point of interest in the GPS- in fact all the points of interest were in another language even though the rest of the things on the GPS was in English. My grandmother was at the point of giving up and she just wanted to go to our cottage. But we kept going and FINALLY found it. Another place, like the bus company in Paris, that I would like to work for. They put fences up outside Stonehenge and charge you to get in. Making bank because if you want a picture of your with Stonehenge then you have to go in. We decided since it took us so long we might as well pay. It was cold, rainy, and windy thought so we got some pictures and on our way out realized we could have got a free audio tour. My grandfather went back to the car to sleep and we went back out and listened to the guide.

After enduring the cold long enough, we went back to the car and tried to make our way to the cottage we rented. It took awhile as well, but went easier then us getting to Stonehenge.

The lady had upgraded us to their newer cottage without charging us for it. It was huge, all completely new. Modern kitchen, dining room, and living room along with a full bathroom downstairs. Plus we each had our own sides to the cottage. My grandparents had an upstairs with a Queen bed and their own bath. And I had my own upstairs with two twins and bath. We also had two patios that overlooked a farm with… LAMBS!! and jumping LAMBS too my favourite!! It was the nicest place we stayed at. It was located right outside Newbury in a place called Hampstead Norreys, a small cute little town with the town community shop located right next door to us which was convienient for picking up a couple of groceries.

The kitchen

My room. I would also like to point out that the time stamped photos are my grandmothers.

We decided to eat out rather than cook after our long day so we went down the street to the White Hart in. Got a drink (with every meal!) along with a very good steak and ale pie, and then sticky toffee pudding for dessert. It was homemade and the best that we found our whole trip (we tried almost every place) we were disappointed that we shared one and tried to go back the next time again for more but it was sold out :(

YUMMM

My grandmother and I eating our sticky toffee pudding. This was our “rose” for the day!

After that we went back and called it a night because the next day we had tickets for Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey!). Post to come :)

Putney and the Cambridge/Oxford Race

Once I got back from my trip all I wanted to do was relax. The couple of days after getting back (the 5th and the 6th) I just spent time doing laundry, catching up on my Global Connections blog for class at home, and getting a couple grocery things. It was nice being the only person in my flat as well so I really got to relax and enjoy being back.

On the 7th was the Oxford/Cambridge boat race which began in Putney. One of Geneva’s flatmates, Livie, had been promising us a trip to see a real London town/house and I was excited when she invited us over for the day to see her hometown and the race.

She met up with us at the station, having already been home for Easter break. Putney was a cute town with the commercial/business street but also the cute old homes quintessential British houses. Her house even had a cupboard under the stairs!

We got lunch at Putney pies since after all of our traveling and foreign food all we wanted was traditional British food. I got Shepards Pie- just what I had been craving!

We were going to watch the race outside, but we would have only caught the very beginning and it was a bit cold/windy outside that day so we went back to Livie’s house to watch it. Her mother was so nice, who insisted she give us tea :)

The race proved to be exciting, which they said usually isn’t. First a man was swimming in the Thames as a form of protest against the elite, so the race had to be re-started. Not from the beginning but they did have to row back to a bridge. Seconds into restarting Oxford tried to get close to Cambridge while rounding the corner and ended up breaking one of their (Oxfords) oars. Because it was their own fault they were forced to continue without getting a restart, allowing Cambridge to win easily. Oxford finally crossed the line, and soon after one of their teammates collapsed and had to be rushed to the hospital. Three pretty big things to happen during this race, and it was exciting to see. We spent a little more time visiting before heading back to the dorms.

The next day I had to make sure I was all packed because my grandparents flew in later that night. Since it was also Easter, Geneva and I decided to make crepes which were delicious! I’m not sure why we decided to make something we had just eaten in Paris but at least they were easy and simple.

I took the Tube out to the airport, which takes about an hour and half. My grandparents were supposed to land at 840 and when I had arrived I had landed, picked up my bags, and gone through customs all by the time I was initially supposed to land. So I planned in case they were a little early and got in at 8:20. I ended up waiting until 10:30 when they finally came through the gates. Apparently Heathrow has been having custom line problems with only 2 or 3 people working. My grandparents flight had also arrived early but circled the airport for almost 40 minutes waiting for a place to land. They had got a hotel room at the Hilton, located at Terminal 4, so we took the free train terminal connector to it.

My grandmother went up to the counter to check-in and my grandfather’s first words were “Where is the bar?” so we went over and ordered a drink. Something I will miss when being back home, at least for about 3 months. We enjoyed a drink together, got caught up a bit, and then went to bed. Off to Newbury the next day!

Also sorry for the lack of pictures. I realized I didn’t take any of Putney and nothing else I did was worthwhile of a picture. Next one though!

Un Jour en Paris

Paris was an exhausting day. Day? Yes day. We did most of Paris in ONE DAY and that includes travel time. But first I have to describe our problems again at the airport.

Having left the city of Barcelona, a little tipsy I might add because of the jug (and I’m not exaggerating) of wine that we got as part of our meal deal at lunch, we were on our way to the airport with Geneva wearing about half her clothes on her body so that her bag weight wouldn’t be a problem again. We took the “wrong” bus to the airport. It was the right one because it brought us to the airport but the wrong one in that it didn’t go to the terminal that we needed it to go to. We had to find the free transport bus that would bring us to the other terminal but that took multiple attempts at trying to find maps/an info booth and we finally asked a car rental desk. They told us all these directions as we began to race through the airport because we had already been a little late than planned. We finally find the bus, get on it, and get to the right terminal. We go to the Ryanair desk and ask if they need to see our boarding pass (already printed) if we aren’t checking bags. They tell us no and to continue to security. We did that, and get all the way to security when they tell us that no we do in fact need our boarding pass to be stamped despite the fact that we were just asking Ryanair if we were ok. We raced back downstairs and get told we have to go to the desk used to buy tickets (because thats obvious) and get it stamped and rush back up to security and get through. By the time we find the gate they had already started boarding and we got shit seats, oh well at least we made it.

Once in Paris we realized we flew into the worst airport ever. Way outside of the city and too small to have multiple options of traveling into the city we got forced to pay 15 euros to travel by bus in (literally we had no other option, and I wished I was working for that bus company). The ride took close to an hour and half and dropped us off in the random outskirts of the city, still making it so that we had to pay more transport by Metro to get anywhere. Despite it being late I wanted to go straight into the city because that was our only night in Paris and I really wanted to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle which it does every hour on the hour (after dusk).

We just missed the 10 light up so we were able to take some pictures and relax while we waited for 11.

That picture looks really blurry, but it was hard to get a clear one. After it sparkled which was absolutely amazing and probably my favorite thing I have seen, we walked up closer to it.

We checked the opening time, and then tried to find our closest Metro stop. We started to get a little worried that we were going to miss the last metro because the Tube closes really early and then we would be stranded. But we made it thank god. We found our hostel, which was probably the grossest one we have been too. But it was Paris and we kind of expected it. We got our own room, which was nice, but we were all a little afraid of going to sleep because it was so grimy. Thankfully we only spent that one night there and it was only for a couple of hours.

We got up early the next morning since we were leaving that night and had a list of things that we wanted to see beforehand. We stored our bags and set our for the Eiffel Tower. The line was long, but we got there at the right time because it just kept getting bigger and we only had to wait about an hour or so. You can pay either to take the elevators up or you can walk. We probably would have climbed it to save money if we had been there longer, but we went for the elevators which scared me a bit (I’m starting to become my grandmother with not liking heights).

We stopped at the first level and roamed around it, then continued to the top level. It was a little cloudy that day (it drizzled on and off), but we still got to see amazing views.

The Sienne

The Arc de Triomphe

The Louvre is to the left of my shoulder.

And finally at the bottom:

After that we set off for the Arc de Triomphe. We found a crepe place and decided that 1. to save time and 2. because we just wanted to have a bunch of crepes that we would find creperies along the way and pick one up as we saw them. I had about 4 crepes that day yumm. My first was banana and nutella, then I got a cheese one, and then two grand marnier!

The Arc de Triomphe, because of its location and closeness to the Champs-Elysees was incredibly packed. We got our picture and handjive video, walked underneath it and continued on our way.

Being in the shopping district and tourist area we decided to find our items- mug for Geneva, charm for Abby, flag for me. We did it all within two shops that were pretty much right next to each other and continued to our next crepe stop.

We walked along the Sienne towards the Louvre, and saw monuments and the Jardin des Tuileries.

We also finally found the lock bridge that we didn’t see in Venice

We stopped at a restaurant thinking we would all get a meal since we had just had crepes. Nope we all ordered crepes instead ;)

Next stop: Notre Dame. We crossed the river, took a couple pictures of Notre Dame and tried to plan out the rest of our route. Then I heard someone mention that it was free to go in so we waited in the line which only took us about 30 minutes. It was also kind of disappointing because we hadn’t gone into the Louvre knowing that we would have wanted to spend more time in there then we had and because it cost to go in. Emily told us afterwards though that it was free to get in for all EU students. Oh well, I really only would have cared to see Mona Lisa.

Here is Notre Dame, inside and out (we didn’t see Quasimodo though ;) :

We began running out of time so we found the closest Metro stop and took it to Moulin Rouge and then walked from the Moulin Rouge to the Sacre Coeur (which we didn’t have time to go into).

Our hostel was a short walk from the Sacre Coeur but in a very bad area of town. Oh well, we made it grabbed our bags and walked to the train station leaving Paris for the airport. We got there with plenty of time; however, the gate was weird and there was individual security for each gate. We had saved some Euros planning on going to the duty free shop once in the airport but didn’t realize there was nothing once going through security. Now I have 15 or so euros :/

And that completes my European trip! Only took my long enough to write about them all. Next I will be posting about my grandparents time here.

Barcelona: The Other American City

We were in Barcelona from the 1st of April until the 3rd which really meant we had two half days and one full day to explore. Barcelona, along with Venice, was our least planned location. Mostly because Geneva was first, Paris we had such a short time and needed to plan well to make sure we saw it all, and Rome we had a lot of people traveling with us and wanted to make sure everyone saw what they wanted. Leaving Barcelona and Venice to take the side-burner. Venice was definitely done at a slower pace than Rome and Geneva, and we soon realized that Barcelona was the stereotypical “spring break” location. Palm trees, booze, and naked people on the beach. But I will get to that.

We left Venice the morning of the 1st having arrived in to the airport very early. It ended up being good though because we had been previously flying with EasyJet for the past flights but our flights from Venice to Barcelona and from Barcelona to Paris were booked with Ryanair. It wasn’t our first experience with Ryanair but we had never had as many problems flying to Dublin as this time. We had each been careful to pack one bag, but we also had separate small purses for everyday travel. Rules with both Ryanair and EasyJet say that you can have only ONE carry-on not including a handbag. We had been lucky and gotten away with it on EasyJet- and even if not EasyJet checked your bag for free once at the gate. No biggie. However, Ryanair wanted to just give us problems because we were the only ones in line and time to kill before our flight. They questioned the size and weight of Geneva’s bag. And she did a lot of shifting to Abby’s bag and shoving stuff into pockets. She questioned my bag at first but when it easily fit into the size checker she then saw my second handbag which I had been somewhat trying to conceal with my coat and she said “Now put that bag into it.” Oh she was just testing me at that point. I had to give Abby my jeans to shove into the side pocket of her backpack but I fit my other bag into my duffel and proved her wrong. And we finally made it through security. Learned how to play Blackjack and Poker while waiting (we bet with pretzels being all that we had in the airport).

Got into the airport and found the bus that would take us into centre city. And you wouldn’t believe who I saw on the bus. A group of Arcadia students. I didn’t actually know who they were but I’m pretty sure they were FYSAE- I only knew because one was wearing an Arcadia shirt (one of the free ones they give away at accepted student day) and ones of the girls she was with looked familiar from campus. Still weird, and shows how much of a small world that it really is.

Our first stop in Barcelona? You might think well duh of course you would stop at the hostel and take off your coats that you carried around Europe with you and didn’t really need or you know to drop the heavy stuffed duffel bag packed with a week+ worth of clothes. But no we stopped at DUNKINS!! I think this is what I had been waiting for the most sadly. They could have left me at Dunkins for the entire time we were in Barcelona and I would have been good (and the rest of Barcelona was great, but well it’s Dunks…) We stopped in every day.

Afterwards we finally made out way to the hostel. To make it sound better we did have to walk right past Dunkins to get to the hostel, so we were just stopping in for a little travel/walking break ;) They did however refer to it as Dunkin Coffee not Dunkin Donuts.

Everything on Las Ramblas- the main street with Dunks- was Americanized. Certainly this was a spring break location, and reminded all of us of Miami Beach in many ways. Spain was the only place to get American brands like Lays chips (They are called Walkers in England even though its the same logo) and Nestea and Dunks and much more.

It was already starting to get later in the day by this point in time so we decided to walk to the beach. Heading to the beach we saw palm trees everywhere. People spoke pretty good English, better than any of our other destinations. Carnivals were set up along the beach area. People biked, skateboarded, and roller-bladed all around the “boardwalk” area. We saw a couple of naked people on the beach, and a bunch of load, rowdy teens clearly there on break from uni.

Some of the palm trees we saw on the way… and a guys head.

A cool sculpture on the beach

And of course the beach!

We stopped at one of the restaurants along the beach to get tapas- I ended up with octopus in a garlic butter sauce and canapes. I didn’t know what canapes were, tried them, and they were delicious. Octopus I had had before, they look gross, but were sooo good. Geneva ordered them as well but was a little grossed out by actually seeing their whole body.

Yum yum yum!

After that I really wanted to go to the Hard Rock for a drink. I knew they would be expensive but Barcelona was definitely the one place were we let ourselves indulge in food and wine. We hadn’t really had anything to drink anywhere else besides a limoncello in Rome. Mostly for budgeting money reasons (I’d much rather pay to go into the Colosseum then get a drink, wouldn’t you?) But we had multiple drinks in a day in Barcelona (because of their great meal deals) and there were many times were I was a little tipsy doing touristy stuff.

I got a Hurricane drink at the Hard Rock, don’t really remember what was in it besides a lot of alcohol. After that we thought we should keep drinking so we stopped at a local Mercat (grocery store) and picked up a couple of boxes of Sangria for 1.50 (euros) and brought it back to our hostel. We went up to the roof of the hostel and sat and drank our sangria while looking at stars. It was pretty relaxing.

I failed to tell about the Venice hostel- which was ok and nice to have our own room, but a little fallen apart. But so was the rest of Venice. The Barcelona hostel was very nice and clean. The staff was helpful. It sucked not having our own room, but the lockers were well done with our room key being our locker key as well. Bathrooms were always taken, but we did get free breakfast.

After breakfast, day two, we set out for the castle which involved climbing a really steep hill. It was less impressive when we got to it because the castle’s view overlooked the industrial area of the city. We tried out the Metro after (again using another cities public transport) to get to the Sagratta Familia which was somewhat far away from our hostel and I still had my blisters.

I didn’t wrap my feet that day, and got more blisters. Just my luck, I have no clue why it kept happening to me. I wore the same shoes on other trips and no blisters.

Anyways, we ran into the same problem in Spain as Venice. We were ready to eat lunch early, and least early for people in Spain who usually close up shop for their siesta.

But we did find this place, and it was the best food for the best deal that I have eaten since being away from home. We got fideua which is basically paella with noodles and it had seafood in it. It was rich, creamy and had the best flavors even though its hard to describe. Plus we got a whole pitcher of sangria and dessert for 8 euros. Really, really amazing food.

Since leaving the sagratta familia we had been making our way back down into the main part of the city, slowly stopping to take pictures of pretty architecture which floods Barcelona. We again stopped at Dunks on the way by it, getting my fill of coffee for the next 3 months when I could then again get it in the states. We headed to Old City which was just amazing and didn’t match with the rest of the motif of the city. One of the old churches said it was free after 5 so we decided we would come back. We also found the arch de triomphe of Barcelona, and saw some green colored birds outsmart pigeons by stealing their food which was fascinating to watch.

We went back to the church at 5 and then went to dinner for more tapas.

We went back to the hostel early to finish off our boxed sangria and to pack smartly for our next Ryanair trip (and also because we had to store our luggage at the hostel for the next day).

In the morning we realized it was raining- the first time during our whole trip. So I was okay with it, it still sucked but we had had some great weather. We planned on going to Park Guell that day which was again far from our hostel. We took the metro there, and immediately after stepping outside I realized I’d made a mistake at going. Because of my old and new blisters I had wrapped my feet in gauze again which immediately got soaked and I knew would be bad for them healing. Also none of us had planned the rain and brought any coats or umbrellas. So I let Geneva and Abby go ahead and I went back and waited in the metro station. Sad that I missed it but glad I didn’t mess up my feet anymore than they already were.

We went back to pick up our luggage and for my last Dunkins trip. We then continued on hoping to find a place for lunch on the way to the bus stop back to the airport. We tried Hard Rock but the wait was too long and we knew we would miss our bus, so we found another place. A little more like a chain restaurant than the one for lunch before but we got another meal deal. Geneva and I both got wine with our meals and we were certainly feeling it on our way to the airport.

That quickly subsided as we kept running into problems at the airport, but that will be in the next post about Paris!

Venice: The City of Gelato

It seems like forever since I was in Venice.. but then again it is getting close to a month since I was there. The fact that my grandparents came soon after getting back has delayed me from blogging and now I am way behind. I would be more motivated to do it if 1. I didn’t have to blog for Arcadia’s online course and 2. It didn’t take me so long.

Anyways we were in Venice from March 29th-April 1st. We arrived early in the morning having left our hostel in Rome around 4 am. By the time we got into Venice, found the bus, took the bus to the island, and found/checked-in to our hostel (which they let us do early thank god) we were starving. But it was only around 10:30 in the morning. This was the moment that we realized we were now on an island and things happen at a leisurely-I’ll-get-around-to-it-eventually kind of way. Every place that was nearby said they opened at 11. No problem we thought, we will look at some shops for a half-an-hour and come back. But 11 came around and the restaurants said they were open but as soon as you stepped in you were told they weren’t open yet. Upon asking why their open sign was up, they said they would be ready in another 20 minutes or so. But 20 minutes came and went and they still weren’t serving. And this wasn’t just one place, this happened with about 7. Some of them were eating themselves, most were just not in a rush to start serving. But we were dying of hunger so we finally found a place that was open. Packed with people because they were the only ones in a ten minute walking distance that were serving. Good for their business.

After lunch we roamed through all the streets. It was so surreal being in a place with no cars, and the “streets” were narrow little winding passageways that led right out to the canals. Most had steps leading right into the water, and I remember making a comment that in America there would be gates up everywhere to make sure someone didn’t fall in. Some of the passageways led to deadends, but it was just fun exploring and getting lost (which we did!). If you did fall into the water though, I found out the Grand Canal is only 15ft deep so it wouldn’t have been too bad- but the water is a bit dirty!

We got some gelato- which happened to be our worse the whole trip, and continued back to the hostel so that Geneva and Chris could pick up their stuff to check-in to their place. Because of the distance between were they stayed and were we stayed we all figured it would be easier to by a vaporetto pass (and also because it was expensive to get a gondola ride and we wanted to be on the water). The vaporetto was the public transportation system on the island because all modes of transport include the water. By the end of our entire trip we had almost accomplished every mode of transportation.

The canal closest to our hostel.

The Grand Canal!

The vaporetto

I thought it was a picture break time!

After buying the passes which we are pretty sure we got ripped off 4 euro for, we went with Geneva and Chris to drop off their stuff while on the way to the lock bridge which ended up being pretty lame because they must have cleaned it off recently of previous locks. People put locks on this specific bridge with the name of them and their loved one, it would have been cool to see but we ended up finding one in Paris later.

We were desperate for dinner that night and ended up going to this awful Indian place that served us microwaved dinner that wasn’t even warm. It was awful and I cannot relive so I will move on…

We deserved gelato after that and I will say I would never had got the best gelato I will ever have in my entire life if we weren’t at that awful restaurant. It was white chocolate, almond, and coconut flavored and it was the best thing in the whole world. I went back the next day for more.

Day Two started off with meeting up in St. Marks Square. We went up to the top of the tower (another thing besides taking every mode of transportation, we also saw a sky view of every city we traveled to).

The view from the top of the tower.

After that we went into the Palace museum and saw something being filmed. Found lunch, and went back for the good gelato afterwards. Since we had purchased a museums pass we went to the art museum next making a complete tour of St. Mark’s Square. Even saw this:

I had been wanting to go to the island across the canal from St. Mark’s Square that basically just consisted of a church hence the reason I called it Church Island for the entire trip. A quick vaporetto ride over and this was our view looking back on the island of Venice:

And the church.

The other thing I really wanted to do was eat by the water, so we went back to the main island and found a restaurant on the water. To fit the motif I ordered salmon pasta and we got to watch a beautiful sunset.

Our next stop was seeing the Rialto bridge at night.

Another gelato finished off day two.

Day three we spent most of the day traveling out to another island- Murano- famous for its handmade glass which was sold everywhere in Venice. We got to watch a live demonstration, where they scared the shit out of us by breaking glass right in front of us.

We went shopping afterwards. Everything from the tiny, cheap tourist shops to the grand, expensive glass shops. We decided to get lunch on Murano before heading back to Venice. I got the best pizza- it had parmesan, bacon, and egg. Yummm

We went back to St. Mark’s Square because we had been told the day before that our pass would let us in to see a certain part of the museum that we had missed because it was closing. However, we got there and realized we had been lied to and our passes didn’t cover it. It was frustrating but we decided to go back to the area that we lived in so that we could shop. We all had things that we wanted to get, so we split up but somewhat tried to stay in the same general area so that we could find one another. In the past locations I had just purchased a flag, but Venice was the location where we all got something for ourselves. I ended up with a flag, earrings for my grandmother, a bracelet and ring for myself all made of Murano glass. We found someplace to eat and then got gelato afterwards. My second best- Disarrono flavor which started me on getting drinks with amaretto in them.

We called it an early night because we had to wake up fairly early (but not as early as our last flights) to go to Barcelona the next day.