Rainy Days in Venice

Italy part 3: Rainy days in Venice

Hey Everyone, sorry for the delay! Writing blogs while simultaneously getting ready for Christmas and New Years wasn’t easy. Anyways, here’s the final section to the Italian chapter of my semi-recent Europe adventure…Enjoy!

After missing our train to Florence, we made sure to get to the station with plenty of time to catch our train to Venice. We got there on time and boarded the the train, but one of us must have pissed off the transportation gods, because the train was delayed and got to Venice 90 minutes late. Thank goodness Catey, who was in charge of organizing Venice, hadn’t made any plans until later that evening. We tried to get some compensation from the train company (TrenItalia) but they only offered us a 25% discount on our next train ticket (so basically tourists are very easily screwed over).

Despite that slight annoyance, our first evening in Venice was very nice. The weather was cold but sunny. After checking into the hostel, we grabbed a quick, fried lunch (very american as a matter of fact), and explored the city for awhile. Venice is quite a cute little place. It reminds me of a maze, but instead of hedges everywhere, there are canals. It would be the perfect place for a city-wide game of tag, which, incidentally has been a childhood dream of mine (any city will do really, I just want it to happen).

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PC: Mary

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Accepting my Dad’s scavenger-hunt challenge and finding the places he visited when he was in Venice

That night Catey had bought us tickets for a gondola ride. It took us awhile to find the place because google maps kept malfunctioning as we walked through the narrow streets. When we finally found the booking office, we joined a group of six for a nice gondola ride along the canals. The ride was pretty fast and our gondolier was very silent, but I throughly enjoyed it. Gliding silently along the canals made me feel like a spy on a mission or something. Mary, on the other hand, who was sitting right next to me, was not happy about being so close to the water (apparently she had had bad experiences with sail boats). However, she made it through the ordeal with her dignity intact for the most part (hey, the dismount was hard for everybody) and we said goodbye to our fellow gondola riders. Night had fallen by the time we finished our ride, but the church mass we were planning on attending hadn’t quite started yet. In order to kill some time, we explored St. Mark’s Plaza. There were a lot of people in the plaza as well as a lot of pigeons even during the night. Several people in the square had handfuls of grain and were offering tourists the chance to feed the pigeons (as long as the tourists paid of course), which I found to be slightly ridiculous as you can feed pigeons with just about anything, not just special ‘pigeon grain’ (they’re not particularly picky eaters).

 

 

(sorry for the poor quality, my phone’s a little challenged at times).

At around 6:00, we headed to mass at a small church called San Zaccaria’s. Now, let me just say this, although I am, technically-speaking, Catholic, I never really made much of an effort to go to mass while traveling. So, when Mary became one of my primary travel buddies, I was a tad apprehensive about the whole hassle of finding different masses and churches and then actually attending. But I am so grateful that we did (thanks Mary!). I saw so many breath-taking churches and cathedrals that I never would have otherwise seen, not to mention the fact that I got to hear sermons in entirely different languages. So, a bit of advice? Don’t rule out attending a mass while traveling around new places. Even if you’re not really religious, you will see and hear some pretty cool things, plus it’s free!

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San Zaccaria’s PC: Mary

After mass, we had some dinner at a restaurant that had successfully lured us in while we were on our way back to the hostel. I had the cheapest thing on the not-cheap menu, which happened to be a margarita pizza, and a glass of very expensive water. The food was good, but not great, which, for the most part, was all the food we experienced in Venice—expensive and ‘meh.’ After dinner, we headed back to the hostel, stopping on the way to pick out some candy at a very hip and yet very overpriced candy shop.

The next morning, the weather was not good. It was raining and cold and it didn’t help that our room’s heat had turned off throughout the night which meant getting out from under the covers took way more will power than it should have.

After grabbing breakfast, we took a quick peak at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco and then headed to the Galleria della Academia. When we were buying the tickets, the nice man behind the counter gave us the E.U. student discount even though we told him we were from the U.S. which brought the tickets down from 12 euros to 7 (Gotta love nice people!). There was a lot of nice artwork and in each room there were little computer screens where you could read the history behind a certain painting.

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Young Mary being presented at the temple

After leaving the museum, we walked around looking for a place to eat lunch. It was raining and cold so when we finally found a place that wasn’t out of our budget, we grabbed the last table and sat down even though there weren’t enough chairs. The waitress brought us an extra chair and we had a decent lunch, although I will say I was getting rather sick of eating pizza (always the cheapest thing not the menu).

Our next stop was St. Mark’s Basilica. It was very beautiful but extremely crowded. Furthermore, because it was so grey and cloudy outside, there was hardly any light coming through the windows which made it very hard to see the beautiful ceiling of the basilica. 39016505152_35f5436eac_o (1).jpg

We spent a good couple of hours exploring the Basilica (I highly recommend going up to the upper balconies! The stairs are near the exit and it costs about 5 euros, but it is definitely worth it). As we were leaving, I noticed a flyer that said there was an organ concert later that evening, so we decided to see the Duke’s Palace and then head back for the concert. It’s actually quite remarkable that I noticed the flyer at all, because by this time, I had somehow managed to lose one of my contact lenses. Now I have absolutely horrible eyesight, like really bad (all my fellow near-sighted buddies know what I’m talking about). So I had to keep one of my contacts in so I could see where I was going. Unfortunately, this led to a very skewed depth perception that made my head hurt quite a bit. Moral of the story? Either keep an extra contact lens or glasses with you at all times or don’t rub your eye vigorously while wearing contacts.

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Catey’s selfie stick comes in clutch at the top of the Basilica

Unfortunately, the Duke’s Palace closed earlier than Catey had originally thought, so we simply spent the time getting an espresso and, in my case, a gelato. At five o’clock we headed to the organ concert. It was a good thing that we went to the concert, because the lights in the basilica had been turned on and we could finally see its beautifully detailed ceiling. I was so tired that I fell asleep during the concert.

Since the weather was pretty bad, and I was falling asleep on my feet, we decided to grab a quick dinner at a self-serve deli that Catey had found which had pretty decent prices and then headed back to the hostel. I went to bed almost immediately, while Mary- bless her heart- talked to the hostel owner about our lack of heat and finally got it fixed.

The next morning we had a flight to Barcelona at 10:00, so we woke up pretty early (quick shoutout to the random guy we were sharing out hostel room with– he very kindly turned on the lights to make it easier for us to pack and didn’t complain that we had woken him up so early). We made our way to the Venice bus station, munching on croissants we had bought the night before. We made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare and said goodbye to Venice and hello to Barcelona.

Although we were by no means done traveling, this brought us to the end of our Great Italian Adventure and I am so grateful and happy that I got to be a part of it.

Happy New Years Everyone!

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Sunsets in Florence

Italy part 2: Sunsets in Florence

My first memory of Florence is a rather hazy, golden dream. I remember that when my family got there I was exhausted, but that stepping out into the pink and gold tinged streets of the city gave me new life. At some point in the evening, I remember that we stumbled upon an orchestra performing near the Ponte Vecchio and I knew that I had fallen head over heels in love with the city. Several days later, as my family’s time in Florence was coming to an end, I made sure to rub the nose of the Bronze Boar statue which, according to legend, guarantees your return. Four years later, I proved the legend right as I have come back, only this time sharing the adventure with two friends.

I was determined to make this year’s Florence experience as magical for Mary and Catey as my first visit had been for me. Unfortunately, the trip didn’t get off to a great start. As I mentioned my last blog, we missed our train from Rome to Florence. Thus, we had to buy second-class tickets for a three hour train ride and, to make matters worse, we actually ending up getting off at the wrong stop and had to catch another train ten minutes later. All of this resulted in us getting to Florence very late and eating a dinner that was good but way overpriced. So…not really the magical first day I had envisioned. But I shouldn’t have worried too much, because the next day was almost as perfect as I was hoping for.

The next morning we had a delicious and cheap breakfast at a little cafe called ‘Caffe Rosano” (a croissant and a freshly squeezed o.j. for 4.5 euros). Then we headed to the Galleria Academia to pay a visit to Michelangelo’s David. I had bought tickets before hand so we had to get there a little early to exchange our vouchers for the tickets.

The gallery is, in my opinion, the perfect size for a museum. It only takes about an hour and a half to see everything and, especially with the David, you feel like you get your money’s worth. The David is very impressive (I think Catey might be in love). The details in just the hands of the David are absolutely incredible, you can even see the veins. Definitely a ‘must-see’ of you get the opportunity.
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Quick note: Seeing the David during the off-season was actually a lot better than seeing it during the summer, because in the summer the museum is extremely crowded.

After our wanderings through the museum, we got a quick sandwich to go at a little shop called ‘Sandwichic.’ The guys behind the counter were super helpful and gave us each a button for good luck as we left. The sandwiches were absolutely delicious and we ate them on the curb of the Piazza Della Signoria while fending off pigeons.

After lunch, we made a quick stop at the Ponte Vecchio, took some lovely photos and headed to the Pitti Palace. I had only given us two and a half hours for the entire palace, because I forgot how large it really is. Unfortunately, even with the Museum of Fashion and Costume closed, we didn’t see everything. I had originally planned to take a quick tour of the Boboli gardens, but both Mary and Catey were pretty tired so we headed to a coffee shop instead. After being reinvigorated with caffeine, we headed to the Piazza Michelangelo to watch the sunset. Now, I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but watching the sunset from that hill was a great idea. The entire city of Florence turned gold and pink in the sunset and right behind us a street musician played beautiful songs on his guitar. We even saw a professional model shoot happen right below us. I felt the same magically beauty that had originally made me love Florence, and this time Catey and Mary could experience it as well.
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The Ponte Vecchio

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Pc: Mary

After climbing down from Piazza Michelangelo, we headed to the Santa Croce where both Michelangelo and Galileo are buried. Unfortunately, the church was closed by the time we got there, so we spent the evening exploring the Christmas market nearby. For dinner, we headed to a restaurant named ‘La Fettunta.’ I split a lasagna and an eggplant parmesan with Catey. Both were absolutely scrumptious. After dinner, we headed to a nearby gelato shop to meet up with an old friend of mine from Denmark named Natascha, who just happened to be studying in Florence when we were there. The gelato was pretty subpar for the normally delicious florintine gelato, but sitting in a warm room, surrounded by friends and catching up is always a nice way to spend an evening.

The next day, didn’t go as smoothly as I had planned unfortunately. I had bought tickets for us to se Il Duomo at 10:00. They were supposed to be ‘skip the line’ tickets, but we ended up standing in line for about half an hour anyways. As we were nearing the front of the queue, I noticed that some people with tickets that looked similar to ours were being turned away. I asked the couple in front of us what was going on and they told me that not only did you need a ticket, but you needed a reservation as well. I was pretty confused because I had bought the tickets for a specific time, and had the physical copies of the tickets with me. But when I showed them to the security guy, he told me that because we didn’t have reservation we couldn’t enter. I was starting to get a little frustrated by this point, but we made our way to the ticket office in the museum to figure out the problem. It turns out the company I bought the tickets from sent me an email with two separate links–one for the tickets and one for the reservation–and wrote that I only needed to print one or the other to enter, when in reality, I needed both. After figuring out the problem we went back to the guard and he finally let us into Il Duomo. The moral of the story kids–always print out every link from a ticket website because it’s better to be safe than sorry.

I forgot how long the climb is to the top of Il Duomo and Catey and Mary were pretty tired of stairs by the time we got to the roof. The view, however is definitely worth the climb. 24993194_1141385252658950_1572070914499339006_n.jpg

After walking around the Duomo museum for awhile we met up with Natascha had an amazing lunch at Toscini Panini (6€). If you get the opportunity definitely eat there! You’re allowed to sample all the different meats and cheeses before choosing the ingredients for your sandwich and all the employees are very nice.

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Right after eating a delicious sandwich, I felt the overwhelming desire to hug my Danish friend, a.k.a. Natascha

After lunch, we grabbed a quick gelato (Florence gelato is the best), and headed to the Uffizi gallery to spend the afternoon looking at art. Unfortunately, there was another mix up with the tickets (although this time it was entirely my fault). Somehow I had bought tickets for the 5th and the 7th but not the 6th, which was the correct date. So yeah…another piece of advice would be to always triple check your ticket dates before buying them. I bought some more tickets and we headed inside. The museum itself is quite large and beautiful. We saw Botticelli’s ‘Venus’ and many other stunning paintings, but unfortunately I think we were rather museumed-out by the end.

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We left a little earlier than planned and headed to the laundry mat to wash our clothes. For dinner, we headed to a small, Chinese-food restaurant. We had all been craving Chinese food because, as good as Asturian food is back in Oviedo, they don’t have a lot of good international restaurants. Thus, we ended our final night in Florence eating delicious fried rice, spring rolls, and in my case, sweet and sour chicken.

The next morning, we got to the train station extra early to make sure we didn’t miss our train this time. It was hard to say goodbye to Florence yet again, but I know I’ll be back because I paid a dear old friend a visit.

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Midnight in Paris

I could never remember if Paris was known as ‘The City of Light’ or ‘The City of Love,’ now that I’ve been there, however, I realize it could easily be both. I only spent a total of three and a half days there, but my friend Mary and I must have gone to almost every big tourist attraction there is and more. Our time in Paris was so busy and full of experiences, that If I were to try and write every single one down, this blog post would go on for hours. Thus, in the spirit of keeping things short, well, shorter anyways, I’ve decided to just focus on giving quick reviews to the biggest and most famous monuments/ places we visited (Mary’s blog has a more day-to-day write up of our experience, so there’s a link to her blog below).

Musee D’Orsay: The Museum itself was quite nice. For a ticket costing around 10 euros, you could see hundreds of paintings, sculptures, and pottery, including works by Van Gogh and Monet. The size of the museum is very nice—large but not overwhelming.

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Quick note: The Museum is right by the River Seine, and, unfortunately, if you stop to take pictures you might be targeted by a group of swindlers. They look like well-dressed, young hipsters, but I assure you their intentions are not benign, especially if they tell you they are collecting for the ‘blind, deaf and handicap children.’ Beware! I’ve been a victim of swindling in the past and it’s the absolute worst feeling because you blame yourself entirely (seriously, it sucks).

Sacré Coeur: The Sacre Coeur is a beautiful Basilica on top of a hill (it’s pretty easy to spot while in Paris). It takes a while to walk up the incline and then climb the stairs, but it is well worth the time. The view of paris is absolutely incredible and the basilica itself is very nice.

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Quick note: This Basilica is called the Sacré Coeur (Cu-ur) not Sacre bleu (which is one of my little brother’s go to phrases when badly impersonating a frenchman). Try to remember this as it can help prevent extreme embarrassment in the future.

Luxembourg Gardens: Mary and I decided to go to the Luxembourg Gardens rather late in the day, so we only had about an hour to explore them. They were quite pretty, although I imagine they would be ten times prettier in the summer, and a great place for some photos.

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Pantheon: After being kicked out of the Luxembourg Gardens (because it was closing—not because we were obnoxious), we kind of stumbled upon the Pantheon. It is a very impressive structure from the outside, and since it only cost seven euros to go inside, we decided to give it a try. There were some crypts, including Madam Curie’s (fun fact: Madam Curie was actually born in Poland), and an impressive, spacious main floor. Although it was cool to see the inside, I wouldn’t consider it a ‘must see.’ If you have time, go, but If you don’t, don’t worry about it.

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Quick note: The bathroom looks like it is for both men and women, because the sign for both is placed at the entryway, but if you keep walking there’s actually two distinct bathrooms.

The Catacombs: Oh, the catacombs. Mary’s probably still a little salty about that one (for those who are not familiar with the word ‘salty’ it basically means ‘peeved’—the more you know, right?) Anyways, my parents had told me that the catacombs were a must see, but because we were visiting Paris in the winter and planning on getting to the catacombs early in the morning, I didn’t think it was necessary to get tickets ahead of time. I was wrong, very wrong. We ended up waiting in line, in freezing weather, for about an hour and a half. By the time we finally went down into the catacombs, I was afraid for my health, both because of the fact that my toes felt like they were falling off and because of the dirty (playfully dirty, I like to think), looks I was receiving from Mary. The catacombs were basically just a vast sea of bones. There were so many that it seemed to go on forever, especially if you shined a flashlight into the crevices. I’m not sure how I felt about it. I mean, it was almost as if all the bones were sticks or just plastic props. It was very hard to picture the pile as actually human remains, and it just made me think of my inevitable future as a corpse (I know, super happy). As Mary put it, I had a mini-existential crises. So, overall, I’m glad I went but I wish I had bought tickets ahead of time. 14.jpg

Quick note: The floor of the tunnel leading to the catacombs is basically a death trap. I twisted my ankle like three times. Also, a warning to my fellow tall people, the ceiling is quite low at points.

The Louvre: Before leaving for France, one of our Spanish friends told us that unless you have a lot of time on your hands, The Louvre isn’t worth it because you can’t even begin to see everything. Well, she was right about the fact that we barely scratched the surface, but I think that even if you only get to see a fraction of what the Louvre has to offer, it’s still worth it.

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Quick note: The Mona Lisa is fine, but what’s really impressive is the painting right across from the Mona Lisa. It’s called The Wedding at Cana and it’s absolutely huge.

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The Circus: The friends we were staying took us to go see a circus with them, as it was a show that their young cousins would enjoy and we would understand. I had never actually been to a real circus before, and I felt like I had been transported back in time. It was a fine way to spend an evening, quite entertaining. With that being said, however, I don’t think I would pay to go back, I think it’s probably a lot more magical for younger children.

The Eiffel Tower: On Sunday morning we headed to the Eiffel Tower. The Tower is so iconic and beautiful that even though it was a little chilly, it was quite full of people. Mary and I decided to go all the way to the top. The line on the ground level took about 30 minutes, but the wind wasn’t too bad and it was sunny. After we got into the elevator, I thought we would go straight to the top, but you actually stop on the second level, get out and take another elevator. The line for this one was really long and to make matters worse it was freezing, like Chicago freezing (my fellow Chicagoans you know what I’m talking about). The line took forever, but we finally made it to the elevator and got all the way to the top. On the top level you can see the entire city and you can peek into Eiffel’s apartment where there are wax replicas of Eiffel himself, Thomas Edison and Eiffel’s daughter. Overall, it was worth it. I would like to return one day, but only in warmer weather. 1.jpg

 

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Quick Note: Knowing good time-wasting games can help pass the time in line Also, if your friend doesn’t like your singing, try to refrain from humming continuously while standing next to them. Trust me, they don’t like it.

Île San-Louis: This isn’t really a tourist monument or destination, but I thought I would include it because it was so cute. Despite the freezing weather, our host family took us to get some ice-cream and walk around the shops. I definitely wish to return when I’m not shivering my butt off.

Quick Note: For all you romance-lovers out there, this Island is definitely a romantic spot. I would imagine it’s absolutely incredible in the summer, crossing over bridges, eating ice-cream and listening to the bells of Notre Dame…*sigh* I’m definitely coming back.

 Notre Dame: Mary and I went to mass in the Notre Dame. It was huge and quite beautiful, but I still think my favorite church is in Madrid (Catedral La Almudena). 37798865865_06638c3016_o.jpg

Quick Note: The sermon is in French, but they give you a program that has sections in both English and Spanish, which is nice because trying to read along in French is hard!

 Arc de Triomphe: We only saw the arc from the outside and didn’t spend the money to go to the top. From what I’ve heard, you have a very nice view of all the different avenues coming together, but it’s rather unnecessary if you’ve been to the top of the Eiffel Tower (that’s just what I’ve heard, so correct me if I’m wrong!). With that being said, it’s a lovely spot for some pictures.

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Grand Palais: Again, Mary and I didn’t actually go into the Grand Palais, but it is absolutely beautiful from the outside.

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Quick Note: Does anyone know if there was something special going on this weekend? Because there were a bunch of vans full of older police officers lining the street next to the Grand Palais.

Pont Alexandre: Lovely bridge, great for photos!

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Quick Note: The bridge decorations reminded me a lot of Game of Thrones (a fact that isn’t really useful or helpful for you but I thought I’d just let you know anyways—you’re welcome).

Galleries Lafayette: O.K. So the Galleries of Lafayette is actually a giant shopping center (similar to the Water Tower Place in Chicago). We honestly had no idea it existed until our French friends told us about it. We decided to go to check it out and it. was. awesome! The entire mall was decked out for Christmas and there were also different ‘Christmas stations,’ for example, a Santa Claus (I wanted to get a picture but we didn’t have time), a fortune teller, and a virtual roller coaster (so much fun!). So if you’re in Paris around Christmas time definitely give the Galleries Lafayette a visit.

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Quick Note: The clothes were super cute too. So if you have money to spend and love fashion, this place is for you.

Well folks, those are all the big monuments and typical tourist attractions we saw. We did a lot more, including, but not limited to the following: watching a documentary on whales in the iMax theater, eating at numerous, delicious, french restaurants, walking through the Tuileries Garden, seeing the Eiffel Tower light up at night from our bedroom, and eating Thai food.

Before I sign off, I just want to give y’all one last tip. Before going to Paris I had heard that the Metro system was really complicated and hard to follow, but I found that to be very untrue. Even Mary, who has almost never used public transportation in her life, could easily figure it out. The only aspect of the system that might be a little confusing is how often you have to switch trains, but it is extremely easy to follow the signs. So don’t be afraid to use the Metro. It’s cheap, quick and really useful!

P.S.–Berets are always a good investment

P.P.S–check out Mary’s blog and Flicker pictures (a lot less of me and more of, you know, Paris)

https://marycecelia12.wordpress.com/2017/11/30/paris-is-always-a-good-idea/

 

Ireland and The Cliffs of Insanity

*Sección de español al final

Ireland. To me, the word conjures up images of rolling green country sides, small, lively pubs, and old men with caps, pipes and charming accents. I have only been to Ireland twice now, and I have fallen in love with it both times. Most recently, I traveled with two friends, Mary and Catey, and stayed in Dublin for about 4 1/2 days. It was, to put it simply, pretty awesome.

We left extremely late Thursday night to take a bus to the airport in Madrid. The bus was not the most comfortable unfortunately, but we did end up sitting next to a couple of American girls who were also studying at the University of Oviedo.

We got to the airport in the quiet morning hours of Friday, and, after having some trouble locating our gate, finally made it onto the plane. The flight wasn’t particularly bad, but my admittedly freakishly long legs were pretty cramped. After touching down in Ireland and going through customs, we got to the baggage claim area where I immediately noticed all of the Halloween decorations adorning the walls. In Oviedo Halloween isn’t that big of a holiday, although it has become more popular in recent years, so it was a nice shock of familiarity to see the pumpkin streamers and skeleton cut outs.

After talking to an extremely nice man at the information desk, we took a double-decker bus to our hostel in Dublin.  Mary and I were staying at Isaac’s Hostel and Catey was staying at Spire hostel which was only about an 8 minute walk away.

My experience at Isaac’s Hostel was a good one overall. The entrance room/ dining hall was completely decked out in Halloween decorations–streamers, skulls, pumpkins–the whole bit. Mary and I stayed in a 16 person room on the third floor. The beds were fine, as were the bathrooms. My only complaint was that the room had a weird and rather unpleasant smell (not entirely unexpected when sleeping with strangers), but apart from that, everything was fine.

After settling in and picking Catey up from her Hostel, we had a fish and chips lunch at a restaurant. For dinner, we found a cute little pub and I discovered my new love of a hard cider called Orchard Thieves. For anyone like me who has the taste pallet of a five year old, I highly recommend Orchard Thieves. It’s basically apple juice with a nice zing.

The next day two really cool things happened. First, we went on a free ‘Irish Folklore and Myths’ walking tour which was absolutely fascinating. Our guide was really funny and a self proclaimed alcoholic scholar. He told us all about the legends of the Tuatha Dé Danann (Irish Fairy Folk), Darkey Kelly, The Hellfire Club, and Molly Malone, among others.

 Second, and this was really odd, I ran into one of my high school classmate’s exchange students. Her name is Franziska and she’s from Germany. She was visiting Dublin with a friend and if I had taken any other street, or had stopped to tie my shoe, or done anything differently, I would not have seen her.

After making plans to meet with Franziska later that evening, Catey, Mary and I headed to church and then started looking for a place to eat dinner. There weren’t many options and I was pretty hungry and had to pee. Thus, I suggested TGI Fridays because believe it or not, I had never been in the states and Mary and Catey told me it was pretty cheap. So we went. It was way more expensive than I was expecting but the atmosphere was nice and they had warm bathrooms. My favorite part of the night was halfway through the meal when the song Get Low started playing. For those who don’t know the song it’s not exactly what I would call family friendly. The lyrics go something like ’to the window, to the walls, till the sweat drop down my balls all these bitches crawl, till all skeet skeet motherfuckers’… yeah, it was pretty fun.

On Sunday, we took an all day trip to the cliffs of Moher, or as some of you may know them ‘The Cliffs of Insanity’ from The Princess Bride. The cliffs were absolutely stunning and we were lucky enough to have really good weather.

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P1020905.jpgP1020931.jpgIMG_5314.JPGOn Monday, we took a tour of Dublin Castle. I adored the castle and spent a good deal of time pretending I was a guest at a royal ball, dressed in a fancy gown, and holding a glass of champagne (or hard cider). 23517670_1123139517816857_4550301336902798633_n.jpg

Later that evening we toured Kilmainham Gaol, an old prison that had been turned into a museum. This visit was a little more serious than our castle wanderings. We learned about the Easter Uprising and the fight for Irish independence. Do you know that the Irish Declaration of Independence is the first document of its kind that explicitly mentions women? It begins ‘Irishmen and Irishwomen…’ and the uprising was full of badass ladies. 23456577_1123138114483664_3127798052309746974_o.jpg

Our final day in Dublin, we explored St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Now as impressed as I was with everything we had seen so far, I must say I was a little disappointed in St. Patrick’s. Don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful and big, but it felt very commercialized. For example, there was a gift shop inside the church as well as a play section for kids. I’m still very glad I saw it, but I wouldn’t put it on a list of must-sees.

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We left Ireland late Tuesday afternoon (Halloween for those of you not paying attention), and flew back to Madrid.

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A stop on our way to the cliffs

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Taking a tour of Trinity College

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I can’t resist Christmas lights

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finding my love of Orchard Thieves

Ireland is a place of warmth, of magic, of good story-telling, loud laughter, and lots of bars. It has beautiful countrysides that seem untouched by modern times, as though they have been preserved in their own little sheep infested snow globes. Dublin itself is the perfect balance between the intimate feeling of a small town and the hustle and bustle of a large city. If you are ever lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit, take it. You won’t be disappointed. And who knows? You might come to love it just as I have.

Español

Irlanda. Para mi, la palabra evoca imágenes de paisajes con colinas verdes, bares llenos de gente y música, y abuelos con gorros, pipas y acentos encantadores. Solo he ido a Irlanda dos veces, pero cada vez me encanta más. Recientemente, fui con dos amigas que se llaman Catey y Mary. Nos quedamos en Dublin durante 4  días y medio y fue increíble por no decir menos.

Salimos el jueves por la noche y cogimos un autobús al aeropuerto en Madrid. Desafortunadamente, el autobús no era el más cómodo, y no tenia espacio suficiente para mis piernas tan largas (si, soy una freaky≤,).

Llegamos al aeropuerto la madrugada del viernes, y, después de tener algunos problemas para encontrar nuestra terminal, subimos al avión. El vuelo no fue horrible, y solo duró un par de horas. Llegamos a Irlanda por la tarde. Lo primero que noté, fueron las decoraciones para Halloween. Halloween no es una fiesta muy grande en Oviedo (aunque es más grande ahora que en el pasado), entonces me gustó ver algo familiar.

Cogimos un autobús (con dos pisos!) a nuestro hostal. Mary y yo nos quedamos en un hostal que se llama Isaac’s Hostel y Catey se quedó en uno muy cerca, que se llama Spire.

Mi experiencia en el Isaac’s Hostel fue buena. Nos quedamos en un cuarto de 16 personas en el tercer piso. Las camas eran un poco cortas para mí, pero los baños estaban limpios y había wifi. La mayoría de la gente era amable y respetuosa (había algunos Australianos que no paraban de hablar toda la noche).

Después de dejar nuestras maletas en las camas, salimos a comer con Catey. Encontramos una tienda de ‘pescado y papas fritas’ un plato típico de Irlanda. Estaba rico. Para cenar fuimos a un bar y ahí fue donde encontré mi amor por la cerveza que se llama ‘Orchard Thieves’. Para alguien como yo, que tiene el sabor de un niño de 5 años, Orchard Thieves es la bebida perfecta. Sabe como jugo (zumo) de manzana con un extra ‘zing’.

Al día siguiente dos cosas extrañas pero realmente geniales pasaron. Primero, tuvimos un tour de ‘Folklore and Fairytales’ por Dublin. Eso fue muy divertido. Aprendí mucha mitología y muchas historias de Irlanda como Los Tuatha Dé Danann (La gente del mundo de hadas), Darkey Kelly, The Hellfire Club, y Molly Malone, y mucho más.

La segunda, y esto es muy extraño, encontré el estudiante de intercambio de una de mis compañeros de secundaria. Se llama Franziska, y es de Alemania. Ella estaba visitando a un amigo en Dublin, y si yo hubiera caminado por otra calle, o hubiera parado para atar mis zapatos, no la habría visto.

Después de hacer planes con Franziska para encontrarnos esa noche, Mary, Catey y yo fuimos a una iglesia y después, empezamos a buscar un restaurante para cenar. No había muchas opciones y yo tenia hambre y también necesitaba orinar. Por eso, fuimos a un restaurante que se llama TGI Friday. Era más caro de lo que  pensaba, pero la atmósfera era buena. Mi parte favorita de la noche fue cuando la canción Get Low empezó a sonar. Para las personas que no la conocen, la letra es algo como “a la ventana, a la pared, hasta que el sudor caiga desde mis bolas, todas estas zorras se arrastran, skee skee motherfucker”…sí, no es un canción para familias y por eso, fue muy interesante oírla en un restaurante lleno de niños.

El domingo, fuimos a Los Acantilados de Moher. Eran absolutamente asombrosos. Tengo muchas fotos. El lunes, fuimos al palacio de Dublin e imaginaba que era una princesa, bailando en un baile real. Luego, ese mismo día, fuimos a una cárcel vieja que ahora es un museo. Aprendí mucho sobre la revolución Irlandesa. Sabes que la declaración de independencia de Irlanda es el primer documento de ese tipo que dice explícitamente ‘mujeres’? Empieza con ‘Los hombres y mujeres irlandesas…’ Eso me gusta mucho.

 Nuestro ultimo dia, fuimos a la Catedral de San Pedro. Para ser honesta, no estuve muy impresionada. La catedral es bonita, pero si tienes que escoger entre eso o Los acantilados de Moher, Los acantilados ganan por mucho. Salimos el Martes y regresamos a Madrid.

Para terminar, quiero decir que Irlanda es un lugar de magia, de historias bien contadas, de risas duras y muchos bares. Tiene un paisaje hermoso que parece como si no hubiera sido tocado por ningún ser humano, como un lugar sin tiempo. Pero, por otro lado, Dublin es una combinación perfecta de los tiempos modernos y el pasado. Si tienes la buena suerte de tener una oportunidad para visitar Irlanda, hazlo. Quién sabe? Tal vez vas a enamorarte de ella, exactamente como yo.

Life of an Exchange Student

I write when I am either frustrated and need to vent, or inspired and want to share. For example, I was inspired to write ‘Finding your Happy Place’ and frustrated enough to write “The Weekend from Hell’. For a while now, however, I have been neither inspired nor incredibly frustrated, which means that writing requires a lot more effort. That’s not to say that I haven’t been doing anything, au contraire, I’ve been pretty busy with volleyball, tutoring sessions (yes, I am now a tutor!), school and weekend excursions with the rest of the students from Rollins. I definitely have a lot of material to work with, but for some reason every time I sit myself down to write, I find myself distracted by other things. Thus, instead of writing in great detail about one experience or place, I’m going to break this into sections and write a little bit about everything I’ve been doing.

Siempre escribo cuando estoy estresada y necesito desahogarme, o cuando estoy inspirada y quiero compartir mi experiencia. Por ejemplo, yo estaba inspirada para escribir “Finding Your Happy Place” y estaba tan estresada que escribí “The Weekend from Hell”. Pero durante un tiempo ahora, no me he sentido estresada ni inspirada así que escribir es mas difícil. No quiero decir que no he estado haciendo cosas, al contrario, he estado muy ocupada con voleibol, la universidad, las clases de ingles (si, soy profesora ahora!), y los viajes con los demás chicos de Rollins. Entonces, tengo mucho material con el que puedo trabajar, pero por alguna razón cada vez que siento e intento escribir, no puedo. Entonces, en vez de escribir solo una experiencia o un día con pelos y señales, voy a romper este blog en secciones y escribir un poco sobre todo lo que he estado haciendo.

Volleyball

I guess I’ll begin with volleyball. It’s been about month since I started practicing and playing with the team, and it has been interesting to say the least. I played volleyball in high school and wasn’t half-bad, I even played club ball for a close to a year. Unfortunately, my long absence from the sport combined with my inability to understand the coach (his accent is especially difficult), has made me less than stellar. Because of my height (especially obvious in Spain), the coach thought my level was close to professional and because I could talk to the girls on the team, he thought I was basically fluent in Spanish. This led to me playing in my first game, not knowing the names of any of the positions, running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Not my proudest moment. Apart from disappointing the coach however, it has been a pretty positive experience. The girls on the team are awesome. One of them is even teaching me French to help prepare me for my trip to Paris. So if you see a tall, female American wondering around Paris speaking French with a heavy Spanish accent, don’t be afraid to say hi, it’s probably me.

Voleibol 

Supongo que empezaré con voleibol. Hace un mes más o menos, que comencé a practicar con el equipo, y ha sido interesante por no decir menos. Jugué en secundaria, incluso jugué en un club por un año. Desafortunadamente, mi larga ausencia del juego combinada con el hecho de que casi no puedo entender al entrenador (su acento es muy difícil de entender), me ha sido menos que fantástico. Por mi altura, el entrenador pensaba que yo era una profesional o algo así, y porque podia hablar con las chicas en el equipo, él pensaba que era casi bilingüe. Esto me llevó a mi primer partido sin saber los nombres de las posiciones, corriendo como un pollo degollado. Sí, no es mi momento más orgulloso. Pero a parte de eso, ha sido una experiencia muy buena. Las chicas en el equipo son la leche. Una de ellas esta enseñándome francés para prepararme para Paris. Así que ustedes ven a una Americana alta, andando por Paris, hablando en francés con un acento español, deben decir hola porque, probablemente, soy yo.

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School 

I am currently taking classes in a specific part of La Universidad de Oviedo which is called La Casa de Las Lenguas (The House of Languages). Here, exchange students from all over the world take classes that help them learn Spanish. I am currently taking Art, History, Oral Expression, and English to Spanish translation. Although I should be in the advanced levels for all of my classes, I chose to remain in intermediate for several reasons. First, advanced and intermediate count for the same amount of credit at Rollins College, and second, with everything else going on, I simply don’t have time for too much homework.

The classes themselves are pretty good. I’m especially enjoying Art, where I’m learning the latin roots of a lot of words, and History where we just finished watching Gladiator in Spanish. The students in La Casa de Las Lenguas are usually American or Chinese and in their late teens or early twenties. It’s absolutely fascinating to hear the accent of the Chinese students and I find it impressive that there are so many in my English to Spanish translation class.

La Universidad

Estoy tomando clases en La Casa de las Lenguas, que es una parte de la universidad de Oviedo. Aquí, estudiantes internacionales de todo el mundo, estudian y toman clases para aprender español. Yo tengo clases de Arte, Historia, Expresión Oral y Tradución Ingles a Español. Las clases son muy buenas, especialmente Arte, donde estoy aprendiendo las raíces de las palabras. Los estudiantes en La Casa de las Lenguas son normalmente americano o chino y de edad joven (como 19 o 20). El acento de los estudiantes chinos es muy interesante y estoy impresionada que hay muchos chinos en mi clase Traducción Ingles a Español.

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Me, Catey and Sara (my conversation partner), taking a break from school and enjoying a club night in Gijón

Tutoring

The classes in school are fine, but they pale in comparison to my tutoring skills! (just kidding, I’m still figuring this whole teaching thing out). My host mom put a tutoring add on some website when I first got to Spain, and I finally got a a response about two weeks ago. So now I am the proud tutor of a fifteen year old boy named Sergio. He’s planning on spending the next year in Ireland, but he still isn’t comfortable having a conversation in English, so it’s my job to prepare him. I will admit it’s not as easy as I thought it would be. For one, it’s very hard to figure out his level of English; sometimes he seems to understand everything I say and sometimes he’s entirely lost. For another, it’s very hard to not speak to him in Spanish when he doesn’t understand my English. I constantly have to remind myself that I can’t just repeat my statement in Spanish, I must find another way of rephrasing what I said in English. The hardest part, however, has been finding fun vocabulary games for two people.

So far we’ve played ‘memory’ using different English verbs, good old twenty questions, and boogle. I’ve even had him listen to English songs while reading lyric sheets that I gave him and filling in the blanks. Does anyone know any other games we could play?

Las Clases de Ingles

Las clases de la universidad son buenas pero son nada en comparación a mis clases de ingles (estoy bromeando todavía estoy aprendiendo como ser profesora). Hace un mes, mi mamá española puso un anuncio online que dijo que yo era un nativo en ingles y que yo podia enseñar, y por fin, recibí una respuesta hace dos semanas. Ahora, soy la profesora de un chico de 15 años se llama Sergio. El va a vivir en Irlanda durante el próximo año, pero todavía falta mucho con gramática y vocabulario. Tengo que admitir que enseñar no es fácil. Es muy difícil averiguar el nivel de ingles de Sergio porque a veces al puede entender casi todo, y a veces ni una sola palabra. También es muy difícil encontrar juegos divertidos de vocabulario para dos personas. Ya hemos jugado ‘memoria’ usando palabras en ingles, 20 preguntas y Boogle. Alguien sabe mas juegos que podemos jugar?

 

Excursions

Finally, to end the post I’m just going to quickly mention that I was lucky enough to visit both Ribadesella, (almost as beautiful as Santiago de Compostela–definitely a must see!),  and León, which has beautiful cathedrals.

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I only have one picture of Ribadesella, but If you go to my friend Mary’s blog, there are a ton

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Catedral de León

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So that’s what I’ve been up to. I hope you have enjoyed reading and if you know of any fun vocabulary games, please let me know.