Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Best and Worst of Europe

Favorite Country: Ireland (you can't beat friendly people, pubs full of live music, green hills, and zero creeps)

Best Food: gyros and bakery goods in Santorini, pizza in Naples, and paella in Barcelona

Cheapest Place: Santorini (cheap food and cheap lodging, you could eat and sleep for about 20 euro a day)

Most Expensive Place: Paris (Versailles was 35 euro which is about $53)

Best Hostels: The Green Man in London, Farmhouse Hostel in Perugia, and River Aille in Doolin

Worst Hostel: The Mona Lisa in Rome (we didn't have any horror stories like a lot of the people we met but this place was basically an apartment with only two regular (house-style not separate stalls or showers) bathrooms for 30-40 people)

Nicest People:the Irish

Creepiest Individuals: French man in London who gave me a piece of fruit and then acted completely insane, Barcelona flasher

Dirtiest City: Naples

Cleanest City: Amsterdam

Most Encountered Travelers: Australians (seriously, everyone in Europe is Australian. In a few years, all the whole European Union will be run by Australians and thanks to me you can be like, "Yeah, I knew that was going to happen")

Best City: Madrid (so pretty, so much to do, such friendly people)

Worst City: Milan

Best Walking Tour: Madrid (he knew so many fun stories) and Dublin (that kid knew everything!)

Best Architecture: Barcelona (you can't beat Gaudi)

Most Fun Inter-City Trip: Bari to Patras (the whole trip, Sorrento-Athens, took 30 hours but the ferry ride itself was fun thanks to good weather and some new friends)

Worst Experience: having my backpack taken by the world's worst thief

Best Experience: impossible to pick but all the best moments involved the people we met and a lot of them involved food (picnic in Paris, cooking class with Amy and Dan in Barcelona, playing poker with our friends in Perugia)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Things I Miss:

-Tomato and cheese sandwiches (although let's be honest, I'm bringing that food staple home!)

-Meeting new people everyday. And then learning their entire life story before realizing I for it to get their name. Happened a lot.

-The complete freedom to go wherever I want and do whatever I want. Now I have to go to school and have responsibilities which is way less fun.

-Aimless wanding around new places

-Crystal clear sea water. Or really any sea water.

-Trying new awesome food in the places where it is actually from

-Wandering past ancient ruins and landmarks so much they become unimpressive ("oh yeah, that's just the Colosseum, I see it everyday")

-Carrying everything I need with me on my back. The actual carrying wasn't so great but it made me feel very self-sufficient.

-Trying new things like snorkeling, driving an ATV, and, once again, awesome food. I know I can continue to try new things but the opportunities were so frequent and I had all the time in the world to try them.

-Trying to communicate with people who don't speak your language. I didn't think I would miss it but it was kind of a fun challenge.

-My new level of fitness which I will inevitably loose within the next three weeks.

There is probably more but that is all I've got at the moment. If you think of anything that I am forgetting to miss, please let me know!

Up next: Backpacking tips

Best ways to pass time in airports:

OK I don't actually have a list. Mostly I just read or wander through their shops. Really not that exciting. If you want something more creative you can probably Google it.

Currently on the final leg of our journey, JFK to Cleveland. I watched four movies on our ten hour flight from Athens to JFK (Midnight in Paris, Bridesmaids, The Lincoln Lawyer (in which Matthew Maconahay is totally the male Veronica Mars), and X Men: The New One). I have to take a moment here to declare my undying love for SkyMall. They offer great solutions to problems I never knew I had like unheated towels and not having life sized meerkat statues in my yard. It's the greatest. Excerpt from SkyMall: "Potty train your cat faster than most people potty train their kids." Awesome? Also, please don't potty train your cat, it's weird.


That was a few days ago! I'm now home and recovering from my jet lag (not nearly as bad as it was when we got into Madrid, thank God!). Headed back to school tomorrow or the next day. By my count I have a out four more posts planned so this is not the end! I swear there will be pictures of Greece!

In the meantime check out this list of ways to keep yourself entertained in the airport!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Things I'm excited to go home to:

In honor of my upcoming return to the states, here is my first end-of-trip list. I'm probably missing something but here are some things I'm looking forward to stateside:
-my own bed
-dressers/closets (I've never been so excited about putting things away in my life)
-my friends and family (brief sappy moment: thank you so much to all my friends and family for being so excited for me and supportive of this trip and also for being generally awesome! Wouldn't have made it without you)
-being legal (I know I'm legal here but I have been for ages so it doesn't really count)
-Indian food
-bagel sandwiches
-not having to worry about language barriers
-soap in the bathrooms (hostels seem to think this is not a necessary ammenity)
-chips, salsa, and margaritas (I told you it was going to be all food)
-my laptop
-my car
That seems anit-climatic but it's all I've got. Mostly I miss people but it would be lonfpg and annoying to list all of you and then I'd forget someone and everyone would be mad at me. So it's your fault the list is so short.
   Coming up: "Things I will (by the time I post it'll be "do") miss about my European adventure," "favorite locations for European adventuring," and maybe even "Best ways to pass time in airports" if you're really lucky. Going to bed now, I have to get up at 5:30 because we have to get up super early because Delta wouldn't let me check in online. My dad says this is because I entered my name Amy L Wicks in one place and Amy Louise Wicks in another. I think that is a dumb reason and that it is probably because I am on a List. So that'll be interesting. Here's hoping I make it home instead of getting detained by security due to the T word!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Back on the Ferry

    Well, back on a different ferry. I am writing from the very windy deck of our Mykonos to Athens ferry. I'm planning on posting this when we get to our hostel and have internet but there is a definite possibility that I will fall asleep instead.
    The rest of our stay in Mykonos was uneventful. We never actually made it out to find drag queens because once we went back the hotel after beaching we couldn't bring ourselves to leave. Whoops. We did, however, find a nice beach side bar where was laid around for the price of a 3 euro frappe. Not a bad price considering the mist of sand and trash that kept blowing on us when we just put our towels on the sand.
    We're hoping to do a walking tour in Athens, although the site of the one we found doesn't give a time for some reason so we have to figure that out. Other than that, a trip to the Parthanon is obviously in order, as well as an ouzo sampling since we actually haven't tried it yet. I'll definitely post more about that after it occurs.
    In spite of these plans the trip is winding down which means no more travel blog. I am planning on posting some lists along the lines of "Things I'm looking forward to in the US" and "Things I miss about Europe." Both these lists will probably be mostly regarding food and I planned to put them up while I'm still here but that may not happen. I'm also thinking about starting another blog. I have a few ideas so if I decide to do it I'll post the link. I also promise to out up pictures of Greece! Going to go hibernate from the wind now!
    I was going to put up the above post sooner but that didn't happen so I'm just going to add to it.
    We ended up getting into Athens later than we were supposed to. This final ferry ride of the trip was our fourth since Italy and was less "exciting adventure" and more "huddled masses freezing on the deck before fighting to the death to get off the boat." Seriously this one group of people were being so pushy I think they might have been being chased by bears. Hope they had a ride waiting because the to get a taxi we had to wait in a crazy line as they ushered people into the waiting cabs. It was efficient but weird. Our cab driver didn't know where we were trying to go and he called like twelve people and kept talking in Greek and then shouting out the name of the street. So that was encouraging. We didn't get to our hostel until 2 am and, after waking up the poor receptionist who seems to actually live in the office, we immediately crashed.
    Today we slept in, then grabbed spinach pie (easier to spell than the word we use for it in English) and headed to the Acropolis. It's supposed to be 12 euro to get in but only 6 if you,'re a student so I gave the ticket woman my international student card. She asked where I went and I wasn't sure if the discount only applied to EU students (insert metaphor about high school cliques and Mean Girls and the EU hating everyone, I'm to tired to make one that makes sense) so I said Trinity College in Dublin and she just let me in for free, completely disregarding the fact that my card says University of Cincinnati and that my accent is entirely un-Irish. Not sure if EU students are free and other students are 6 euro or if it was a holiday or something. Don't really care because free = awesome, as all college students know. Anyway, the Acropolis/Parthenon was cool even though it was surronded by scaffolding. They are trying to reconstuct it I think which seems pointless. I go to the Parthenon to see old stuff that lasted thousands of years. If I want to see what it used to look like I will look at I book. I don't know, I just think that if they reconstruct things too much, it cheapens the experience.
    Tonight, we hit a nearby movie theater and saw Bad Teacher (I know, not very Greek of us, but sometimes you just need some more Cameron Diaz in your life). It was super funny. Don't take your kids to see it. Also, Jason Segel, will you marry me. Ok,  I've officially stopped making sense, probably because I am super tired (I know I said we slept in but I also slept badly cause it's really hot) and hungry, so goodbye for now!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Still in Greece!

   Woke up this morning with an internet connection. No idea how that happened but I've decided against questioning.
   I never wrote about the rest of Santorini so: we ended up renting ATVs instead if scooters because all the rentals said we needed motorcycle licenses. This was strange because they did not make any if the boys who rented them present motorcycle licenses. This seems to be due to rampant sexism. The ATVs were probably easier to drive so and we had fun so that's good. We went to one of the biggest beaches to cliff dive but all of my contact solution had leaked out of the bottle so I couldn't take them out. I decided not to jump because I knew they might fall out in the water and that would make driving tough. We hung out for a while though and watched some mean teenage boys steal a little girl's Barbie doll. From there we mostly just drive around. We stopped by one beach that's famous for it's red cliffs and road up a hill to get pictures from high up. We ended up watching the sunset from the lighthouse at the south end of the island. The view was great but we were surrounded by hilarious couples taking each oths pictures and being in love which was both funny and a but awkward. The next day we mostly hung out on the beach and Sunday we headed to Mykenos on yet another super long ferry.
   Mykenos, to be honest, is a bit of a disappointment after Santorini. I think we were spoiled after the five minute walk to the beach, two minute walk to the ddlicous bakery, and patio full of friends in Santorini. Here the beaches are harder to get to and they are all very small and packed with beach chairs. In Santorini the beaches were lined with restaurants and bars each of which had its group of beach chairs for people who paid or ordered something, but there was plenty of room between groups of chair to lay towels so it never felt over crowded. Here there are so many restaurant owned beach chairs that the only place to put a towel is on the very edges of the beach. On the plus side, Mykenos town is really pretty and within talking distance and we are staying in a cheap but nice hotel which means clean towels every day. This is a huge luxury after months of using my slightly musty towel seventy times before washing it. The cleaning lady also straightens up and today she even folded my pajamas! She's the greatest!
   We've developed a routine in Mykenos: go into town in the morning/early afternoon for veggie gyros, go to the beach, come home and hang out, eat whatever we dig up at the supermarket around 10 (yesterday we made awesome Greek salad in cups), think about going out, fail to go out because they don't go out until 1 here and we are too tired/bored to wait that long. We have decided to make some extreme effort to go out Friday because there are supposed to be many awesome gay bars with drag queens. We will accomplish this by eating in town and then staying there until party time. Wish us luck!
   One week to go. I can't believe it's gone so quickly. Three months seemed so long three months ago. Will be sad to leave Europe, particuraly the freedom of backpacking but am excited to see my friends and family! Stay tuned for the rest of our adventures in Greece (including pictures) and some "goodbye Europe" reminiscing.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Quick update

Hey all!

I have no internet which is why I haven't posted since Santorini! I'm currently running out of internet cafe time but I wanted to let you all know that I'm alive and well, enjoying the beaches of Mykenos. I will try to get back here tomorrow when I have money to buy more time and give you the full run down. And I'll try to post pictures as soon as I can but it might not be until next week.

If you are reading this, thanks for sticking with me through all the long breaks and technical difficulties. I promise more in the near future.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Riding a Donkey May Equal Glory but It Is Not Glamorous...

   Reaching the end of our fourth full day in Santorini! Everyone seems to think we're nuts for staying on one island for a week but I am feeling really good about that choice right now. Packing up and ferrying to another island sounds far less appealing than hanging out at the beach or scootering through little blue-and-white towns.
   Tuesday we went to Fira, the main town on Santorini. Not much to do but it was fun to check out the shops and we finally found falaffel gyros which we had been searching for. After a few hours of aimless wandering we headed back to the hostel for some relaxing and some delicious food from the restaurant conveniently located directly across the street. A bunch of people from our hostel were hanging out on the patio, talking and playing games when we got done eating so I hung out for a few hours.
   Yesterday, Michelle and I went on a tour with three other girls in our dorm room. We stared by taking a boat to a volcano and hiking up to the crater. It wasn't a bad hike but between the heat and thinner air at the altitude we were at were all pretty winded. There was a beautiful view though, and the crater was pretty cool even if it wasn't full of bubbling lava like I hoped. Once we got back down, the boat took us to a hot springs for a quick swim. The springs were more "warmish and full of red mud" than "hot" but it was nice. Next up was Thirassia, a smaller island very close to Santorini. There wasn't much to do there, just some small rocky beaches in between restaurants and a mountainous path up to some more white and blue buildings, but they gave us three hours for some reason. We ended up taking donkey rides to the top of the mountain. I have pretty mixed feelings about this particular experience. On one hand, the top of the mountain was beautiful with great views, it would have been a rough walk, and was sort of funny because the donkets kept charging around with everyone trying desperately not to fall off or get scraped along the walls. On the other hand, the donkey man kept screaming at everyone and donkeys are gross. Plus, in spite of their grossness I felt bad for the poor donkeys. It was definitely a memorable experience though and I'm glad we did it!
   After a swim and another boat ride, we reached Oia, the last stop on our tour where the best view of the sunset is supposed to be. The was another mountainous path to take but we sucked it up this time and walked. It would have been OK except the heat was insane and by the time we reached the town we were all drenched in sweat and striped down to the least clothing we could wear without being totally scandalous. Luckily we were still in our swimsuits. We were rewarded for our efforts with a beautiful sunset which we watched while perched on a white wall overlooking part of the town and the water. Sometimes I think my life is actually a movie (both the awesome parts and the bad). This was one of the awesome times. I'm pretty sure the movie was called Sisterhood of the Traveling Ragamuffins. Rent it, it's great. Anyway, we got the tour bus home and had bakery snacks and a couple of beers before crashing. Pretty great day.
   Today was also good but much more relaxing. We slept in and had breakfast (I ate a nectarine and yogurt with my potato-filled pastry because I'm healthy like that) and set off for the beach. We bought frappes at one of beach bars which meant that we got access to their comfy beach chairs and pool. We read and talked and swam in the perfectly clear sea water. We also went in the pool, hoping to rinse off the salt but it was a salt pool. It had jets though so it was still good! I left around five when i was starting to feel hungry. After a pastry break, I headed to the shower which lead to the distressing realization that I was massively sunburnt. Nothing blistering or anything, just a lot of it everywhere. This was extra upsetting since I've been comforting  myself about the fact that I have not managed much of a tan with the fact that I have gone two and a half months without any sunburns beyond a little pinkness here and there. Now I have to comfort myself for being sunburnt by telling myself that at least it will help even out the farmers tan I was developing on my legs (not that it was really much of a tan). Clearly I am a huge optimist in the face of adversity. (I'm kidding, of course, I know I have it good! Don't yell at me for being ungrateful!)
Have to go freshen up before heading to the beach bars! If this makes you jealous you can think about the fact that this includes using a bathroom with salty sulfur water and no soap. See how this optimism game works?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Ferries, trains, and many, many buses.

  I know, I know, it's been a while. So without further excuses, here's the rundown.
  We spent four nights in Sorrento on the Amalfi coast. It's a really cute town and we stayed in a campsite with a beach and a pool. It was a nice site but our cabin didn't have screens in the windows so we had to get creative to keep the mosquitos out. We ended up with loads of bug spray, citronella candles in the windows, and a mosquito coil on the table outside (we tried it in the window for a night and almost suffocated on all the smoke). After settling in we took a bus to the rest of the Amalfi coast. It was beautiful but terrifying trip. The road weaves a log the edge of the mountain and I spent the whole time convinced that the bus wouldn't be able to turn enough and we would shoot off into the Mediterranean. The plan was to go to Amalfi and then work our way back to Positano which is supposed to be really cool. We had a great lunch in Amalfi and wanderd around a bit before getting on the bus. Unfortunately it wasn't a bus that stopped in Positano but we were too tired to get off and figure out what bus would. Especially since the bus situation in Amalfi consisted of about ten buses without signs for where they were going and bus drivers who refused to be even remotely helpful.
  Day three in Sorrento, we took the train to Pompeii. It was super hot and crowded but still worth seeing. I went with my dad before but it was fun to go again and see new things like the brothel and the stadium. Crazy that people used to live here and now its this maze of ruins that mostly look the same. I kept wondering how people found there way around when it was a real city. Probably looked very different.
  We spent our last day in Sorrento by the pool, with a break to run some errands. We checked out the beach on our first day but it was basically just very crowded rock and they didn't make you pay for the beach chairs at the pool so we stayed there. There will be plenty of beaches here in Greece. It was a nice day and a good way to rest before our crazy trip the Greece.
  We got up to head to Greece when it was still dark out. We took a bus to the station, a train back to Naples, another train to Caserta, and yet another train to Bari. It was only about 2 when we took the bus to the port so we spent the majority of our day hanging out there before getting on the boat three hours early to claim prime deck space. Luckily we made some friends (a couple from California, two guys from New Zealond, and a Canadian girl) so we had someone to hang out with while we camped out on deck feeling like Leonardo di Caprio in Titanic. We played cards and had some wine before sleeping outside on the metal deck. It was shockingly comfortable and I slept really well but woke up pretty early. When we got off we took a bus through the ferry company. It was only two hours but somehow it felt more grueling than the ferry. We found our hostel (OK but not the greatest, we are staying elsewhere when we return) and grabbed some food (crepes and my first official Greek salad) and then crashed.</p>
  We woke up extra early to catch our ferry to Santorini. On the bus to the port I put my backpack on the floor and and sat down with my duffel. Some guy picked it up and walked off the bus with it. Luckily I saw and ran to the door and yelled the first thing that popped into my head which was "That's my bag!" a bunch of times. I must have looked really pissed and scary or maybe he just didn't want to run with a heavy bag and a crazy girl yelling at him, because he put it down and left and I retrieved it. Yay! Nothing valuable inside so he would have got nothing and I would have zero clothes. That's a lose/lose sir.
  The ferry was nauseating but uneventful. We had to buy first class cause they were out of ecomony. The ony difference seemed to be that first class was less crowded and had waiters.
  Santorini is really pretty. Our hostel is very basic but the people are fun and we went to some beach bars last night which was fun. We did some beach laying today. The beach has black sand and is really nice. We plan on mostly hanging out and eating delicious food from the 24 hr bakery down the road but we also want to rent scooters and go cliff diving and check out the the other towns. I'm sure I'll have plenty of stories soon!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rome and Naples

I know you're probably tired of the excuses, but the internet on this thing is completely broken so I am entirely at the mercy of hostel computers. Which you often have to pay for. Technology gets a lot more complicated on the road.

Anyway, I never updated you about Rome or Naples so here it is.

We got in from Perugia in the early evening and, for once, found our hostel with no issues. It turned out to be an apartment that the guy had just turned into a hostel (is that even legal?). Hostel pros: free nightly dinner! Hostel cons: too small, gross bathrooms, lockout from 11 to 4 meaning we weren't allowed home during the hottest part if the day.

Our first night we went to an Irish pub with some guys from Belfast who were staying at the hostel. The pub featured expensive drinks and dreadful karaoke but it was still a nice night, especially the walk home which included wandering past the Colluseum and the Roman forum. Makes night walks at home seem so very lame.

We spent our first full day checking out the big sights. We started at Trevi fountain then went to the Pantheon, the Vatican, and the Spanish steps. We didn't go in the Vatican museum or St. Peter's because it was really hot and the line was huge. I know, we are bad tourists. But we saw the piazza. So that counts for something right? The next day we did a church tour of Rome. This mostly meant that we popped into a bunch of cathedrals and took blurry pictures. We did get to see Santa Teresa in Ecstasy, a famous sculpture, and Santa Maria Maggiore, my favorite cathedral/basillica so that was cool. As we got hotter ad more tired and discovered that 4 was a long way off, we decided a nice air conditioned movie theater was exactly what we needed. Unfortunately, everything in Italy is closed in August, including most theaters. No movies for us, but it did give us something to do while we waited ti be let back in.

That night, our last in Rome, we passed on hostel dinner and headed to a restaurant that my family and I frequented when we were here in December. It was really different because it was much more crowded than it had been during the winter but the food was still delicious! We didn't have Enrico, our lovely waiter from before, but the one we had was great and gave us extra wine, extra tiramisu, and free limoncello because we moved tables to let a big group sit. Thanks mom and dad for our first real meal in Italy!

We headed to Naples the next day. Not much to tell since, despite our best intentions to check out Capri, we ended up spending most of the time eating pizza and gelato and wandering until we were too hot and then going to the hostel and watching Prison Break (which is awesome). Then we headed to Sorrento for a few days of beaches and ancient ruins. No internet here, we are at an internet cafe, so more when we reach Greece!

Me and the Colleseum

The you-are-too-naked-to-enter-this-church police. Seriously, their whole job is to make you buy wrap things if they think you're clothes are inappropriate. Luckily we came prepared with exra shirts.

Both of us in front of St. Peter's

Trevi Fountain

Packing. This picture makes me look really deformed. I promise I havenot become more deformed since leaving the states.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Greetings from Rome! We got in yesterday but more on that later. For the moment I have to update you on our post-Florence trip to Perugia (or the country farmhouse outside of Perugia that we never left to be more specific). We originally planned to go to Cinque Terra, a series of five towns on the coast that are supposed to be beautiful. Everything affordable was booked though, so we decided to go to Perugia and stay in a farmhouse hostel that we looked into work-staying at a couple months before the trip. We took the train on Saturday and,, as per usual, got lost. In our defense, we were put at a disadvantage by a bus driver who insisted we get off early, presumably because he just didn't want to go any further, and a sign that had been turned to point in the wrong direction. The whole thing was made worse by the insanely hot Italian sun and our new duffelbags which we hadn't learned to pack properly and were super heavy. Finally, with the help of the world's most amazing person (a little Italian lady who spoke zero English but realized our desperation when we asked for directions and offered to give us a ride because she is a saint) we made it to the hostel.

We decided to stay an extra day, partially because we were enjoying the relaxation and the company and partly because Monday was a holiday and everyone said that it would be really hard to get anywhere. Instead of ever actually going to Perugia or any of the neighboring sights, we basically sat around the pool and played poker and drank wine with the other guests and the staff who were doing work-stays. We even got delicious free pizza one night made by the hostel owner's mom. In short, it was heaven.

Tuesday brought us here to Rome. On the train we ran into Jenna, a friend we met in Madrid almost two months ago and didn't even know was in Italy. Small world and all that. Today we did some sight-seeing but more on that later, when I post pictures from Rome!


View from our hostel
Farmhouse grounds
Our pool. Sight of the majority of our time in Perugia.

Friday, August 12, 2011

It's easier to post pictures separately...

Not THE statue of David but A statue of David so that counts, right? (please say yes, its 10 euro to see the real one!)
A view of the coty, river, and mountains.
The Duomo (in Milan). So many pidgeons!
Ponte Vecchio, the most famous bridge in Florence. The windows that run along the top was a private passage that the Medici's had made in case they needed to escape from the city. Now it is a museum that costs 80 euro to get into.
Street artist doing an amazing copy of Girl with a Pearl Earring in paint and chalk.
View of the city from the roof of our hostel.
Florence's Duomo (I think every big city has their own, it really just means cathedral). When it was being constructed they couldn't figure out how to support the dome because it was so tall. Finally, the architect figured out how to make a self-supporting dome by putting a smaller, support dome within the main one.

Me on the Ponte Vecchio

Worst Vegetarian Ever

Greetings from Florence!

I realize that, once again, I have been neglecting my blog. Sorry! We've been in Italy since Sunday. We flew into Milan where we wandering around in the rain having failed to book a hostel or form any sort of plan whatsoever. We are awful backpackers. Eventually we found a jank-but-pretending-to-be-nice hotel that gave us a room for 35 euro each. Not ideal but it was nice to have space to ourselves!

We tried to hang out in Milan the next day but after a bad start in which it took us ages to find food and water, we ended up snapping a few quick pictures of the Duomo and then hopping a train to Florence. Florence is lovely. We've been taking it pretty easy, mostly eating and walking around. We did go on a free tour that covered a lot of the architecture from the Medici area. I'll post some pictures later.

Near our hostel, there is a big market that sells tons of leather goods along with the usual fake jewelry and souvenirs. After an agonizing search for the best price with decent quality, Michelle and I both caved to our craving for leather duffelbags. Pricey but we got a pretty good deal and, as I keep telling myself, they'll be great as carry-on and weekend bags even when get back. I also picked up a new small, cross body purse yesterday (when I discovered that mine was breaking) as well as a couple of gifts. Not bad for three days although I should probably cool it on the shopping for a bit!

Wednesday we met up with Amy and Dan, the Aussie couple we met in Barcelona, and went to a festival for St. Lorenzo, who is an important saint in the area where we are staying. It was good to catch up with Amy and Dan and the festival was fun. Along with some live music, it included free watermelon, yogurt, and pasta. The pasta had meat in it so Michelle, being a proper vegetarian, gave hers away. After 12 seconds of deliberation I decided that if I picked around the big pieces, the little ones that stuck to the noodles didn't count. To solidify my title as worst vegetarian in the world, I ordered Spaghetti Carbonara on Thursday which turned out to be pasta with ham or something instead of tomato like I thought. There wasn't much I could do so I figured, as my mo (or someone) says, might as well get hung for the the sheep as the lamb (or something) and I ate it (I did avoid the big bits of meat again). So that was a failure.

Last night we hit up an American bar with all of the people who were staying in our dorm. It was a little too club-y with a bunch of creeps but a bunch of us staked out the hall between the two rooms of the bar and spent basically the entire night dancing around and cheering for all the people who came through the hall. People either thought it was great and danced with us or looked terrified. One Australian girl liked us so much she treated us to a long speech about how Canadians are much better than Americans. It was really awkward. I think she thought we were all Canadian but when she tried to introduce a friend to "the Canadians" I told her I was American. That was even more awkward.

We leave for Perugia tomorrow. Florence has been really fun and I can't wait to check out a smaller, less touristy town! Ciao!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Pictures from the Emerald Isle

Still struggling with blogger so I can't caption these pictures. Here is what the captions would say in order:

1. A colorful street in Galway
2. The coastline as seen in my wanderings through Doolin
3. Michelle and Ben in a pub in Dublin
4. Cows
5. The beach. I was suprised by how popular surfing was in Ireland. Seemed way to cold for me even in a wetsuit.
6. Doolin, cutest place ever
7. Live music in one of our favorite pubs in Dublin. Dad, you will be happy to know th5 they identify themselves as "Obama's pub" because he went there when he visited.
8. Looking pensieve in front of the Cliffs of Moher
9. Sigmund the donkey who lived by our hostel in Doolin
10. A random picture of a sign in front of a shop that had the best veggie soup. Added this picture on accident and sideways and could't seem to get id of it.
11. A totally unstaged picture of me reading Harry Potter in the common room of the hostel in Doolin.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Livestock and Tiger Suits

Greetings from Dublin again! Sorry I'm the worst blogger in the world! Here's the update on the last few days.

I was in Doolin for three days. It's a really cute little village and our hostel was really adorable with stone walls and a donkey out front. The owner, Karl, is a really nice guy and there were a lot of families with kids running around which was fun. We went to the Cliffs of Moher, which were amazing and to some good pubs with great live music. There was this thirteen-year-old who sang and played the tin flute and was amazing! Seriously, I think people like him are the reason that people like me have no musical talent. They took it all. Michelle left Doolin a day early to get another new camera because the one she got was bad. I decided to stay in Doolin for some r and r. Had a nice day reading and walking along the beach. It was chilly and windy but there were some great cliffs and rocks so it was a nice walk. That night I had a nice pub dinner with a friend I met at the hostel. Really need to get back on a real budget!

Yesterday I met Michelle and Ben in Dublin. We are at a different hostel but it's pretty nice. We've taken Dublin by storm, hitting the pubs, wandering through the streets, and buying tiger suits. That's right, tiger suits. As in full body, fleece, tiger print outfits. They are amazing! So glad Ben was able to meet us! It seemed like it wasn't going to happen for a while but he made it and the three of us went Ireland crazy!

Tomorrow we all fly out, Ben to the states and Michelle and I to Milan. I'm going to miss Ireland, I like it here even more than I thought I would! The music is so fun and the people are so nice. I love going to pubs where everyone is having a beer and singing along to live music. I wish there was something like it in the states. Guess I'll just have to come back!

Promise to post pictures tomorrow! Can't wait to show you how beautiful it is here!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Never leaving Ireland

  Seriously, I love it here! The people are nice, the music is good, and everything is completely adorable. Been a while since I posted (other that the London pictures) so here's what went down between Dublin, our one day Galway, and today.
 We did a walking tour and a pub crawl in Dublin. The tour was great. Our nineteen-year-old guide gave the most passionate speech about Irish independence ever. It was nuts. The pub crawl was less great. I think after the awesome ones in Spain the rest of Europe can't compete, at least "bang for your buck" wise. Anyway, Michelle and I decided we would both rather hang out at a pub and hear some good music than bounce around to different places and end up at a bad club. So that's what we'll be doing from now on. We meant to go to the Guiness Storehouse on our last day in Dublin but we lost track of time and didn't make it. Ended up at a ally fun bar that night for a couple pints and a good singer/guitarist who mixed traditional Irish music with Johnny Cash and Mumford and Sons (Grandma, you would not have approved).
  Yesterday, we took the train to Galway. When we looked at hostels the night before there was plenty of availability so we decided to wing it instead of booking ahead. It worked out well because we met a girl from Alabama on the train and ended up tagging along to hostel she was staying in and getting beds there. We walked around the town a bit, got food, and then we tot eh pub with Carley (the girl from Alabama). There was a band playing and when they finished their set they told us that not a lot happens in Galway on a Monday night but they directed us to a bar that has music. The bar was pretty dead but we had fun dancing and hanging out until a drunk man celebrating his sixty first birthday spun Carley into my beer, spilling it all over our stuff. Michelle got the worst of the spill because it seeped through the zipper on her purse and broke her camera.
  Today we took a bus to Doolin, a little town on the coast. The drive was beautiful but Michelle and I both got really car sick and spent most of the trip with our eyes shut trying not to die so it was lost on us. We are here for a few days during which we want to see the Cliffs of Moher, the Aran Islands, and listen to a lot of music. Our friend Ben was supposed to meet us here Thursday. He is on a business trip and was going to take a couple of days afterward to hang out but he has to work through Thursday now so we are going to meet in Dublin Friday instead.
  I'm having picture issues but I will try to post some in a bit! Cheers!

Monday, August 1, 2011

London in Pictures

Finally posting some London now. We just got to Galway where we are spending a night but more on that later.

Not a particuraly flattering picture (it seems I inherited my mom's closed-eyes-in-pictures issue) but it's good to show you the Brick Lane Market, not to mention my me rocking tights with shorts.
A piece of "art" from the Tate. It is literally a shape cut out of white paper and stuck to the wall.
Standing in front of Millenium Bridge aka the bridge the Death Eaters took out in Harry Potter 6 (I think it was 6).
One of the pieces I liked friom the Tate. The artist filled things with paint, plastered over them, and then shot at them. There was a video of it and it looked really fun!
There was RIP Amy Winehouse grafitti everywhere in London. So sad, she was really talented.
Lovely green and white chairs in Hyde Park. We meant to have a picnic here but never made it.
Having trouble with formatting so it might be a while before I get pictures of Ireland up (sorry Grandma). More soon though!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Guiness Time

Sorry for the lack of updates. We are in Ireland now. We thought we were leaving London today but realized our sense of time is terrible and we actually got here yesterday. Thus the lack of connectivity. I promise to post pictures from London (and Dublin) tomorrow. For now, here's the quick rundown of the end of our London time.

Things we did:

Went to Camden markets, home to everything from Goth t-shirts to corsets to giant horse statues. I bought tights and some Indian food.

Did the Camden pub crawl with our friends from Norway. It was not that good since there were not many free drinks and the last bar closed at 1. Although that might have been a blessing in disguise since we had to hop on the ferry the next day.

Blessed the ears of everyone in the Green Man by not singing karaoke.

Heard the worst karaoke I have ever been tortured with, provided by a tiny tone-deaf woman with literally no sense of musical timing.

Watched Michelle have her fortune told by a wasted Welsh lady. Apparently her life is going to be terribly boring.

Visited Platform 9 3/4. We got mixed up because King's Cross is under construction but we teamed up with some equally confused girls from Frankfurt and approached a station worker who said "Platform 9 3/4?" Before we even had the chance to open our mouths. It was amazing!

Got our nails done. I had an awesome pedicure that made my feet feel and look great. Michelle had a bad manicure that made her hands look like they were painted by Barbie. She is currently on a quest for nail polish remover.

Watch the changing of the gaurds which was terribly crowded and boring. Michelle loved it so maybe I was just being a hungry grump.

Things we did not do that we meant to do:

Marry Prince Harry.

Meet any members of the cast of Harry Potter.

Go look at Tower Bridge or the Tower of London.

Pretty successful I think.

We had to take two trains and a ferry to get to Dublin yesterday. The ferry was really swank. It looked like a casino and had a little theater which showed Tangled (first time I've seen it and it is great). Of course, we forgot to write down the name of our hostel much less where it was so we spent an hour wandering around trying to find wifi. We finally found an internet cafe. It was closing but I did some crazy/desperate rambling and made some crazy/desperate eyes and the guy let us use the computer to find our way.

So far Dublin is lovely! We missed our walking tour today because they moved the time up and we didn't know so we wandered around. It started out looking rainy but turned out to be nice. We saw some old cathedrals and ate French Fries outside a pub so we could hear the music (we'll go in eventually, we are just trying to get the lay of the land). We meant to do a pub crawl tonight but we napped to long so we are doing it tomorrow.

More plus pictures tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hipster Markets and "Art"

Sunday, at the suggestion of one of Green Man's esteemed bar tenders, we headed to Brick Lanes Market. Unsure of what to expect, we walked a ways down the a road chock full of Indian restaurants before hitting the brewery-turned-market that seemed to be the first stop of many in this particular destination. All together, the 2-3 block series of indoor and outdoor booths sell vintage clothes, handmade jewelry, screen printed onesies, and pretty much anything else you can image. Especially if what else you can imagine is food. They had every type of food you can imagine. Seriously, pick a country at random and, as long as you didn't pick the US or Antarctica, that country's cusine was represented. We saw Mexican, Spanish, Brazilian, Ethiopian, Mongolian, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, French, and more. After wandering through the booths of clothes and jewelry to work up an appetite, we went for Ethiopian and it was amazing! In fact the only drawback to the market was how extremely full of the extremely hip it was. Even dressed in my new fashion-y get up known as "shorts with tights," I felt out of place in a land full of red lipstick, extreme accessorizing, and see through shirts. Still it was a very good afternoon.
After an uneventful evening, we woke up Monday morning and headed to the Tate, the big modern art museum here in London. Full disclosure: I like museums. I might not be a person who intently studies each and every piece but I like wandering through and checking out the stuff that catches my eye. However, at museums like the Tate there some pieces that I just don't buy as art. You might find the mirror mounted on canvas and hung in a gallery to be an insightful look at the relationship between art and reality but I think it is bullshit. Looking at myself in the mirror is not art, it is a reminder that I need to shower. Anyway, other than the mirror and some other exceedly dumb "art" (sculpture made of a broom and some toilet plungers anyone?) it was a good museum and I was glad we checked it out.
Not sure what we're up to today but I have to go buy a toothbrush because I dropped mine in the radiator.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Made it to London yesterday. The trip wasn't too bad although we did end up with a long wait in Brussels.

Thursday, our last day in Amstdam, we went to the Van Gogh museum. I thought it was more interesting than a lot of museums that just have a bunch of painting of people and Jesus because the work was set in chronologically and there were descriptions tying the paintings in with his life and what his influences were. Later, I went to the Anne Frank house, which was obviously really sad. It was weird to be in that space and know all the things that happened there although the annex was actually bigger than I thought it would be. I don't think anything would be big enough if you were stuck there though. At night we went to the Red Light district because "when in Amsterdam" and whatnot. It was bizarre, especially to see the guys who were there to "shop," not just look around like us.

We got into London around 2 yesterday and found our hostel pretty easily. The rooms are on the top two floors over the Green Man pub. The pub is nice and its open 24/7 for anyone staying at the hostel. They serve pizza any time and have cheap pints during happy hour. We mostly hung out yesterday, trying to get our bearings and meeting some other people from the hostel. We met some nice people in the pub but there were also a lot of creeps. One guy sat down beside me, gave me a mysterious piece of fruit (was it an apple? A pear? I have no idea, I didn't eat it) and started muttering about how unsafe America is because of black people. At this point I made serious crazy eyes at one of the bar tenders, who had offered to kick him out earlier, and he came over and told him to leave me alone.

Today we did another free walking tour. We were running late because our metro stop was closed and we had to find another one, so by the time we got to the meeting point the groups had already split up and left. We slipped into one of the groups and were very proud of our sneaking abilities until we ralized that the tour we had joined was in Spanish. We don't really speak enough Spanish for that so we slipped back out, found the other group, and joined them instead. It was a good tour and we saw Buckingham palace, parliment, and Westminster Abbey. Afterwards, the guide showed us to a traditional English pub and I got some fish and chips, so now I can say I had British food.

Tonight is kareoke at the Green Man. So that should be interesting. More on that later!

One of the guards at Prince Carles' house.
Our hostel/pub.
Pretending to be a gaurd.
Buckingham Palace

Thursday, July 21, 2011

So many bikes!

It's our last day in Amsterdsm and I realized I haven't posted anything since our first day. So here's the overview of the last couple of days:

Tuesday we did a free walking tour though the same company that did the one in Paris. Our guide was really good, an Aussie who moved to Amsterdam for a girl, and we learned a lot about the history of the Netherlands and Amsterdam. What we learned is basically that they are very tolerant and really like money. Mostly you can do whatever you want as long as you are discreet and it doesn't hurt anyone. The reason weed is "legal" (it isn't actually, they just don't punish people for it) is that they decided it was more important to channel resources into fighting the war on heroin, which used to be a big problem here. Seems logical to me.

After the tour we did some shopping. We discovered in Paris that we aren't really prepared for cool weather, so we were looking jackets and tights to keep us warm. I picked up some tights but was otherwise unsuccessful. We tried to find a groceey store but everything closes at like 6 here so we grabbed a falafel and then headed to Vondelpark. During the 60s, Vondelpark was the site of a huge tent city full of hippies. My dad used to live there so I thought we should check it out. It's a really nice park, full of playgrounds and exercise classes instead of hippies, and we had a nice time wandering around.

Yesterday, we bought bikes and saw Amsterdam the way it is meant to be seen. Everyone bikes here and its definitely the easiest way to get around. The only thing that trumps bikes here are Vespas, which seem to rule the roads in all the places we've visited so far. We went a flea market where I finally got a jacket. We got awesome bagel sandwiches before heading to one of the closest windmills, which now happens to be a brewery. It wasn't open yet, so we road along the canal and back around Vondelpark. The beer, when we finally got it, was good and it was fun to get something brewed locally.

Last night we did a pub crawl. Lots of bars and dancing! It was fun but probably not the best so far. It was a little too big and since we went in not knowing anyone it was hard to meet people. Still it was a good night.

Heading to the Van Gogh museum today. We have our tickets already, so all we have to do today is check out whatever we've missed so far.

Bikes are everywhere here, but you have to be careful to lock your bike up. Not only can it be stolen, a drunk person might come along and throw it in the canal. Whoever tried to throw this bike in must have been extra drunk because they did not notice that the bike was actually locked. 
A typical canal, lined with boats and tall, skinny houses.
On my bike in front of the windmill brewery.
People lying about in Vondelpark.

Monday, July 18, 2011


This morning, we were up bright and early to catch our train to Amsterdam. Between the easy ticket purchase and how quickly we managed to get ready in time I was worried things were going too smoothly. Apparently the universe agreed. We had to take an RER train out to the station. RER lines are like the metro lines but they take you out of the center of the city and into other zones. We took the RER line to Versailles so we knew you needed a different ticket but the woman who helped us get our tickets for Amsterdam said we could use regular metro tickets (not her fault, by the way, I think there was a bit of a language gap). When we switched from regular metro to the RER line our passes worked fine so we thought we were okay. Wrong. When we tried our passes to leave the metro station they didn't work. And then the SCNF gaurds let us through and then fined us 25 euro a piece. Not even our (genuine) confused tourist faces could get us out of it.

After that terrific start to the day, our trip was rather uneventful. We reached Amsterdam around 3 and were greated by cold rain. I really need to buy a jacket. After the initial coldness of it all, we discovered that Amsterdam is actually really cute, even when it's gloomy out. We checked into our hotel and did some wandering before getting delicious Indian food at last.

Tomorrow we are going to check out the city via another free walking tour. I promise to have pictures in the next day or so but now its time for a much needed shower!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Au Revoir Paris!

Just a quick post on our last night in Paris! Sorry there are no picures. My camera is all packed.

Yesterday we went to Versailles. Since there are no pictures, I will just tell to imagine how fancy and super decorated it is and then triple it. It was nice but probably not worth the mass amounts of money we paid or the long train ride. The crowds in the palace were insane and made it all feel really rushed and claustrophobic. It was cool to see the art and the places where they escaped when the palace was raided during the French Revolution.

The plan last night was to go on a pub crawl with Emma and Lydia, a couple of the girls we hung out with on Bastille Day. After a long day of wandering around Versailles in the cold my cough was pretty bad and I was really worn out so I decided to skip it and sent Michelle on to party for the both of us. I was bummed but Cat Deeley (who is awesome) and the dancers of So You Think You Can Dance kept me company until I took some cough syrup with codine and passed out.

Today we were supposed to meet Emma and Lydia in Montmatre for lunch and then go to d'Orsay, an Impressionist museum. As you could probably, guess things did not go as planned. Let's face it they never do. Emma and Lydia didn't show up (we guessed that either we mixed up the times or they overslept). We wandered around the area looking for something to eat and were momentarily over joyed at the sight of Cafe Indiana, which we thought might have Indian food. Imagine our disappointment when we discovered it served Native American food. That's not even a thing. The menu appeared to consist mostly of quesadillas. We settled on Thai, where I got sushi and some sort of weird curried vegetables. After lunch we continued to wander. Most of the stores were closed but I bought some flats, which is good because I needed closed toes shoes I can go out in. The area was really cool so we ended up skipping the museum and just walked around a bunch. I think we both needed a more relaed day and there is supposed to be a lot of good Impressionist art at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Somehow we accidentally wandered back to our neighborhood and headed home for dinner (tomato and cheese sandwiches, how new).

We thought we would have to spend our entire evening at the train station getting tickets for tomorrow but it went remarkably fast, so we decided to go to the Eiffel Tower to see the light shows they do at night. We got there at 8:30 and the first show isn't until 10 so we did some more wandering and hit up some souviner shops, mostly to keep warm. Of course everything is covered in the Eiffel Tower. There was even a cow shaped like the Eiffel Tower for some reason. We did see a light show, although it was less of a show and more a bunch of lights blinking really fast. I was sort of underwhelmed.

That's all from Paris! I'll be back when we hit Amsterdam where we are going to the Heinekin museum. Apparently they have a ride that demonstrates what is like to be a Heinekin (or something). Pretty excited to become a beer!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Bastille Day Blunders and Other Parisian Adventures

Going to make this quick because I'm still battling a cold I picked up during the first week of the trip and that means it's bed time.

Yesterday morning we did (yet another) free walking tour. Our guide was from Philly and it was weird to hear such a familiar accent explaining the sights and history of Paris. We started in the Latin quarter and saw the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and a lot of the Seine. It was a good tour that helped us get a feel for the city and brush up on our French history. Since it was Bastille Day we decided to check out the fireworks over the Eiffel Tower. Some girls from the tour invited us to watch with them at the top of Montmarte. We were hoping to miss the crowds, but the hill was still pretty crowded. We had a picnic of bread, cheese, and wine as we waited on the hillside for the fireworks to start. Fortunately there was a lot to keep us entertained, including bongo players and a guy who balanced a soccer ball on various part of his body while climbing light posts and stuff. Unfortunately, a large tree entirely blocked our view of the fireworks. Weird that half of Paris seemed to also make that mistake. Still, it was a fun way to celebrate Bastille Day.

Today we went to the Eiffel Tower, promptly decided that the crowds were more than we could handle, and spent the rest of the time leading to 6 wandering up the Seine. We were waiting for 6 because after 6 on Fridays the Louvre is free to anyone under twenty-six and we wanted to take advantage of this policy. We walked and sat and stumbled on a random carnival right outside the Lourve (is it always there or was it just for Bastille Day? We may never know) which we wandered around. Then we spent a couple of hours in the Louvre checking out the Winged Nike (my all-time favorite statue), the Mona Lisa (and its massive following), and the rest of the massive collection. Even though it was the Louvre, I somehow didn't expect to recognize so many of the paintings and sculptures and was surprised when I kept having Art History flashbacks.

Tomorrow we check out Versailles! More later!

Sun setting over Paris.
Mona Lisa and her groupies.
The Eiffel Tower. Obviously.
Bastille Day picnic. The building behund us is Sacre-Coeur Basillica.

In front of the Lourve.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Adios Espana!

As promised, here is the full story of our last day in Barcelona:

We started out by heading to one of the mountains in Barcelona, which is supposed to have great views of the city. We took the metro tram halfway up and decided to walk the rest of the way instead of taking the cable cars. This is where the little teaser I gave you yesterday comes into play. As we were walking up the street a man approached us, flashed us, and offered a photo op for the low price of 3 euro. We declined. The walk took longer than I thought it would but when we finally got to the top we did have a good view even though it was a bit foggy.

After we got down from the mountain (without any more photo offers from creeps), we headed to Plaza Reial to meet a group for a free Gaudi walking tour. We met some nice people and saw some of Gaudi's works, starting with some lamp posts in Plaza Real and ending with la Sagrada Familiar. It was interesting to hear more about his life since he's such a big deal in Barcelona. Apparently he was really fanatically religious and also eccentric about people taking his pictures. He was really difficult to work with, always going over budget and running behind schedule, so we heard about some of his issues with clients as well.

Made it to Paris today, after a long day of train travel. Haven't had a chance to see much of the city but we did see Harry Potter 7.2!!!!! It was amazing! I might have cried. A lot. I would strongly suggest going out right now and purchasing tickets for a midnight showing. I also recommend bringing tissues and asprin because for a while there I thought my heart might implode and asprin is supposed to help with that.

Here are a few other things I discovered in my first 8 hours in France:

1. The bread here is fantastic. We had a baguette from the bakery next to the apartment we are staying in and it was the best baguette I've ever had. And I eat them a lot.

2. The people here are not the heartless meanies my dad made them out to be. People have been nice so far when we have asked them questions in our mangled French/English/Spanish. Also, when we were in the movie, everyone around us was laughing and sniffling together at the funny and sad  moments like one big Potter-loving family. So that was nice.

3. Temperature-wise it is much cooler here than in Spain. I think ut is lovely. Michelle thinks it's cold.

4. I know more Spanish than I thought. This becomes clear whenever I try to figure out how to say in French what I could easily have said in Spanish. Also I keep using Spanish on accident.

We are taking a walking tour tomorrow and hopefully checking out an Impressionist museum, so I'm sure I'll have many more tales of France later!

A foggy view of Barcelona. You can kind of see la Sagrada Familia on the right.
The tiling and the very cool roof on Casa Batlo, a house Gaudi remodeled for a client.
The rest of Casa Batlo.
Casa Mila la Pidrera. Gaudi got into so many fights with the owners of this house that he never finished it. It was completed by his apprentices.
Pau Guell, one of the first houses Gaudi designed.