Archives for category: travel

With only final exams between me and a flight back to the U.S., this whirlwind of a semester is finally coming to a close. My return to America is definitely bittersweet… maybe a little more bitter than sweet. I can’t even put into words how much the people I’ve met, places I’ve been and things I’ve seen have impacted me. So instead of writing a sappy paragraph or two about how much I love this place, I’m just going to post some of my favorite pictures from the entire semester.

I’ll be seeing you, Barcelona. Thanks for an amazing four months.

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The past four months have been a break from real life. Sure, I still have papers to write and tests to take, but there’s nothing normal about weekend trips to other countries, casually passing the Sagrada Familia on a daily basis, or even going to the beach between classes. This semester has been more like a vacation than anything else. But still, spring break merits another vacation, so Brittany, Grace, Alexa and I went to Málaga, Spain in La Costa Del Sol for a week.

Unfortunately La Costa Del Sol was lacking in the “Sol” department, so it wasn’t the relaxing beach vacation that we planned. But it was still a great time. Our hotel was in Torremolinos, a resort town about 15 minutes outside of Málaga. We went to a lot of hole-in-the-wall bars and restaurants and met a ton of people from the UK, Ireland and all over Spain. We also went to the city one night to meet up with friends from school and saw some of the traditional Semana Santa celebrations. It was nice to get away for awhile, but I’m happy to be spending my last full week back in Barcelona.

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I think I got more sleep this weekend than I have since I got to Barcelona. But it wasn’t because I didn’t have anything to do – it was because Munich wore me out.

We arrived in Munich around 3 p.m. on Friday and immediately met up with our friends who are studying abroad in  Italy – Eric, who is in Rome, and Caroline, Tori, Kelsey, Kate and Olivia from Florence. Our first stop, naturally, was a beer garden. We all ordered beers bigger than our heads and spent a good hour or so catching up. When it got dark we moved indoors and made a stop at the world famous Hofbrauhaus for dinner and more beer. (Beer is actually considered a food in Germany!) Since I have the taste buds of a 5-year-old, I stuck to pretzels while everyone else tried brats and weinerschneitzels. At both the beer garden and the beer hall, I was amazed by all of the people wearing lederhosen and beer girl outfits. Apparently those aren’t only in the movies. We were all cashed by 10 p.m. and in bed by 11 – the earliest night I’ve had in the last four months.

Saturday morning we woke up early to meet up with the girls before our bike tour. We climbed to the top of the St. Peter’s bell tower for an amazing view of the city and watched the Glockenspiel go off at noon. Then we split so we could go on Lenny’s bike tour around the city. I got the sparkly blue and pink bike because it was the only one where I could touch the ground. We biked around for three hours, stopping at the Marienplatz, Munich Residenz, English Gardens and Chinese Tower, among other places.

We met back up with our friends Saturday night for the Starkbierfest at Löwenbräukeller. It was an experience to say the least. We got to the beer hall around 7, and everything was pretty tame. Most people were eating dinner, dressed in lederhosen. But by 9:30 the Germans were dancing on tables, so we followed suit. We met a ton of great people and even got to dance on stage with the band. Munich is definitely another underrated city that greatly exceeded my expectations.

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When I told people I was going to Dublin, and not even for St. Patty’s Day, I got a lot of blank stares. I could tell a lot of people were wondering why the hell I would ever want to spend a weekend in Ireland. I really didn’t even know why I was going there. We found a cheap flight and booked it on a whim. But after going, I can confidently say it is definitely somewhere I’m going back to someday.

There isn’t a lot to do in Dublin, and that is exactly what makes it so great. When I went to Paris and Rome, I was constantly running around trying to fit everything in. In Dublin, we wandered around until we found something that looked interesting, and then went to a pub for a few hours. So the first day, Friday, was our only “touristy” day, and it wasn’t even that touristy. We took a Wild Wicklow tour to the countryside, where we visited DunLaoghaire, Sally Gap and Glendalough. It was actually breathtaking. I hate when people say that, but it’s the only way I can think to describe it. A picture is worth a thousand words, so I’m going to post a ton of pictures instead of trying to explain the scenery.

Saturday we did a lot of eating, and even more drinking. We started with breakfast at Brick Alley Cafe. Spain doesn’t really do big breakfasts, so scrambled eggs and a bagel was amazing. Then we wandered around for awhile until we stumbled upon the Guinness Storehouse. I wasn’t expecting much from it, but it was actually really cool. It was only 11 euro, including a complimentary pint. The whole place was really interactive, and the Gravity Bar at the top with a 360 degree view of the city made it worth the price. The rest of the day was basically pub after pub after pub. We hit all the big spots on Temple Bar – Gogarty’s, Temple Bar, The Auld Dubliner and Quay’s – and wandered off to some of the more local spots. I’m officially obsessed with live Irish music, and we made friends with a ton of locals. Overall great night.

Our flight didn’t leave until 6 p.m. on Sunday, so we had another great breakfast and went to Trinity College. Then it was pubs and shopping until about 4, when we had to drag our feet to the airport. We all went into the weekend with no expectations, and we all left contemplating moving to Ireland.

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My program took my group to Madrid for the weekend, and I don’t think I could have seen less. I didn’t make it inside Museo del Prado, or Palacio Real, or Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. But I did have an amazing time.

We took the train there, which I had never done before. Grace was feeling a little under the weather and ended up throwing up on the train. The toilet was filled with this nasty blue, fizzy disinfectant, which naturally ended up in little spots all over Grace’s face. One of the highlights of my day for sure.

Our train got in around noon, and after checking in at the hotel we went straight to 100 Montaditos, the place we were obsessed with in Sevilla. It was the first of three trips to this little sandwich place throughout the weekend. After lunch, we walked to Parque del Retiro, a huuuuge park in Madrid. We sat and people watched most of the afternoon, but it was a lot of fun.

The next day, we went back to 100 Montaditos and back to Retiro. We tried to explore, but it didn’t work out too well. The weather was beautiful, so we ended up sitting outside all day. I spent a lot of quality time with the park  last weekend.

Saturday night we met up with some of my friend Ryan’s friends and went to Kapital, the biggest club in Madrid. It was insane. There were people dancing on stage, lights everywhere, a woman who did an acrobatic act in the middle of the dance floor, breakdancers, and huge puffs of cold smoke shooting from the ceiling. It was nothing like anything I’ve ever experienced in Barcelona.

Sunday morning, before catching the train back to Barcelona, we found a new park to sit at and people watch. I’m not sure what it was called, but it was near Plaza Mayor. By 2 p.m. we were dead and ready to come back to Barca. I loved Madrid, but I’m still glad I call Barcelona home.

That phrase got waaay overused this weekend. Many euros and many calories later, I’m back in Barcelona after spending three days in Roma.

The city itself is incredible. I’ve been studying Roman culture in school since I was 7, and it was crazy to finally see all the monuments I’ve read about in books. We kind of screwed up because we went to the Vatican on its birthday, so the museum and Sistine Chapel were closed, and we didn’t make it to the Coliseum until around 4 p.m., right when it closed. But we still saw Vatican City and St. Peter’s Basilica, sat on the Spanish Steps, made a wish at Trevi Fountain, went inside the Pantheon and walked around the Coliseum.

But, my favorite part of Rome was the food, by far. I’m such a picky eater, so having it be socially acceptable to eat pasta at every meal was heaven. In two days, I ate lasagna, gnocchi, pizza (margherita AND four cheese), tortellini and spaghetti al pomodoro. Plus gelato on three separate occasions.

A weekend in Rome was fun, but it made me so thankful that Barcelona is home.

Seville, Spain is one of the most amazing places on earth. I left Barcelona on Friday morning with no expectations, but it’s been almost 12 hours since I got back in Barca and I still can’t stop talking about the weekend.

When we first arrived, we ate lunch at Robles Laredo in Plaza de San Francisco. While we were eating, my friend James who is studying in Sevilla randomly bumped into us. A little later, four more of our friends from Barca stumbled upon the place. Within an hour there were 15 of us, and our lunch turned into a three hour long event.

After, our friends were amazing hosts and showed us around the city. There isn’t a lot of “sight-seeing” in Sevilla, but the city itself is unreal. We wandered around the streets for awhile, ending at Plaza de Espana. Plaza de Espana is one of the coolest places I have ever been. The walls of the Plaza consist of beautiful tiled alcoves that represent each province in Spain. We all posted up in one of the alcoves and passed out for awhile – we’re probably sleeping in the background of a lot of tourists’ photos.

Friday night we went out for tapas. The six of us decided to each get two tapas to share. We ended up with 12 different tapas, including stuffed peppers, squid, eggplant cake and a potato omelette. I am the pickiest eater in the entire world, but I tried to make a point to try all of them. Except the squid – definitely would not be able to stomach that one. They were all so, so good, and it ended up being insanely cheap.

Saturday was another beautiful day. We started the day at Starbucks, a great cultural experience. With a little caffeine in our system, we went to Cien Montaditos for lunch. They NEED to bring this idea to the States. Basically, they have 100 different mini sandwiches for only 1 euro, and all the one’s we tried were amazing. Plus, you get una cerveza for only a euro when you get a sandwich. Best concept ever. Then we toured the Catedral de Sevilla, where Christopher Columbus’s remains are supposedly kept. We climbed to the top of the tower to get a beautiful view of the entire city.

That night, IU took over one of the local bars. It basically turned into Sevilla’s version of Kilroy’s On Kirkwood. A short two hours later, we were supposed to be headed back to the airport. But after our 5 a.m. return to the hostel, we slept through not one, but two alarms, and missed both the 6:15 and 7:15 buses to the airport. Frantic, we sprinted out of the hostel and piled into the first taxi we could find. We made it to the airport with plenty of time, but I guarantee I left something behind after that 5-minute pack job.

Sevilla was a great start to the weeks of traveling ahead of me. And if I can find a weekend in my incredibly hectic schedule, I would love to go back for round two.