From Rain to Sun and Back Again

From Rain to Sun and Back Again

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The Luck of the Irish

I was glad I had one final weekend in Salamanca before I leave—I finally cooked for my host mom! I was really struggling with what to make her; she’s very picky. But I went for a crowd favorite: Chicken-a-la-King. Dad’s recipe. It was a hit! She even wants the recipe so she can make it once I leave.

On Thursday (11/28 - Thanksgiving) Danni and I left for Dublin, Ireland! When we booked buses the week prior, and had 2 hours between arriving at the bus station and the time our flight left, felt like more than enough time. However, due to traffic we arrived at the bus station a little late, and then had to wait 20 minutes for the metro to come. Our flight left at 8:30, and by the time the metro came it was 7:10 and it’s a 30-minute metro ride to the airport and we still had to take a shuttle to a different terminal, go through security and passport control. Needless to say, our brows were sweating a bit. With a little bit of jogging we made final boarding and enjoyed some hot cocoa on our 2.5 hr flight to Dublin.

We got to our hostel about 11pm that night, which we figured, by our previous European experiences, that that would be a prime time to go out.  However, when we walked in our room at the hostel every one was asleep… that’s something I’ve never seen. So we decided to go walk the streets by ourselves, and what was even weirder is no one was there either! Dublin shuts down early!  The Christmas lights in the streets were lit though and it really got me in the cozy Christmas spirit.  We did find a pub though in the Temple Bar, paid 5 euros for a beer and met an array of people: some sloppy drunk AF Irish men that invited us back to their hotel (we didn’t go) and some Swiss guys that bought us our next few rounds.  Only some of them spoke English though, so the language barrier was a bit of an issue. Although, when the American songs came on everyone started singing them—instant bonding. I love that music is a universal language.

The next day we went on a 3 hour walking tour around the city—saw the essentials: Trinity College, U2’s hot spots, PARK, and Dublin castle—GOT CHIPOTLE FOR LUNCH, and then headed over to the Guinness Brewery where we learned how to taste the beer and how to pour the perfect pint. Star pupil right here! Back in the states I do not like the taste of Guinness, but I don’t know what they do to it in Ireland, it’s so good! 

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It was quite nippy in Ireland and we had to be up decently early the next morning, so we decided to just go to a bar close to our hostel the second night.  We were recommended by our hostel to go to Celt’s Pub just down the street. So we strolled in, but the crowd was much older than we were.  We were hesitant at first, but we embraced it and just rolled with it.  Danni and I were quickly approached by an older Irish man. He was very touchy and claimed his cousin was Vince Vaughn.  He proceeded to hug us a lot and lick our heads. Come to find out, he owns the bar, and that was our sort of “initiation”, and his cousin really is Vince Vaughn!! How cool!! He wasn’t there though, that would’ve been even cooler. We found these two younger Irish guys, Paul and Collim, and hung out with them the rest of the night while continually getting interrupted by the owner and a guy from Jersey that kept giving Danni shit (she’s from Long Island). The guys we were with loved OUR accents for once! And listening to them try American accents was histerical—all they know how to say is “Oh My Gaaawd.” We as a nation HAVE to stop saying that phrase… that’s all the world thinks we say!

The next day we went up to Howth—a little fishing village on the East coast of Ireland about 20 minutes out of Dublin. We hiked up to a castle that people still live in, and then up to the top of this little mountain to see a view of Dublin and the entire east coast of Ireland.  It was a clear day, blue skies all around—it was so beautiful.  By this time it was time for lunch and we stopped at a little pub for lunch. I got some Beef Goulache and Danni the Fish and Chips. It was SO delicous and fueled us for our next hike over and to the cliffs.  We got to the cliffs right at sunset. Could not have asked for a more perfect setting.  God created some BEAUTIFUL places on this Earth—exihibit A.

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We were supposed to see seals in the harbor in Howth. We didn’t see seals. Yea, I’m mad about it.

That night we met up with Lauren and Kathleen who were spending the weekend there, too, and tried to find a pub/bar/club to go to.  We couldn’t find the one we wanted, and settled for one we stumbled upon.  So Thursday night isn’t the night to go out, but Saturday sure is! The pub was PACKED with tons of Irish people in ugly Christmas sweaters. I must say, I’m a fan of the going out attire in Ireland.  None of us had very much energy, so we called it a night early.

The next day Danni and I had some time to blow before our plane, so we just walked the city, did some souvenir shopping and got some Starbucks :)

On the way back, we experienced a similar bus situation as on the way there… We had JUST missed the metro that left. And apparently on Sunday nights they only come once every 30 minutes. We literally were sprinting through the bus station as the bus was pulling out of the parking spot.  I had to flag down the driver to stop for us to get on the bus. But we made it with minimal damage to our health. 

Besides the transportation issues we experienced on this trip, I loved Ireland. I want to go back with my family and see more of the island: Blarney, Cliffs of Moher, Giants Causeway.  I know we didn’t see any of these big landmarks, but I feel like we got to really experience Dublin and see things that not every else gets to see.  But I also loved the ambience of the city: in the streets, in the pubs, in the people. Couldn’t have asked for a better Thanksgiving weekend to remind me what I’m thankful for!

Filed under Ireland Dublin Howth Guinness cliffs beer

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Día de Acción de Gracias

This last week has been one spent in Salamanca. We weren’t able to go to Alicante to run our 10K.  It was going to cost us over $150 just to get there, and we’re all so broke at this point we figured it wasn’t worth it. It was nice though, to have a weekend spent here in Salamanca to relax before the marathon of the next 3 weeks ensues.

Today is Thanksgiving. It’s difficult to not be home at this time of year.  It’s not for the food (honestly I like Christmas food better), but for the time I spend with my family in Grandma Marty’s living room and the warmth her fireplace and spirit bring our family.  I’ve spent Thanksgiving away from Portland before, but I’ve always been with family.  This year is different.  The program I’m with is putting on a big dinner tonight, but I unfortunately won’t be here.  I will be spending Thanksgiving this year by heading off to Dublin, Ireland and trying to find some luck—even though I’m already the luckiest girl in the world.  

I am so thankful for the opportunity I’ve had this semester.  Looking back (and forward), I  have done so many things and gone so many places I had only dreamed about.  And none of it would of been possible without the love and support of my family.  I’m so thankful to have a family that supports me 100%.  Also, being here has made me so thankful for my friends back home. We’re 5000 miles apart and sleeping while the other is awake, but I can’t tell you how much I’ve appreciated you guys while being here.  I’m so thankful for the friends that I’ve made here, I know they’ll be ones that last a lifetime. And I’m so thankful to have a God that created all of this BEAUTIFUL world for us to see and experience!! 

Only 23 days! :D

Filed under Thanksgiving Spain Thankful

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Lisboa

Being so close to Portugal, I was going to kick myself if I didn’t get a chance to go. Ariel and I looked up train prices to Lisbon, and when there was a sale on tickets, we jumped at the chance of using our last free weekend to go to Lisbon! We hopped on a 1am train Thursday night (11/14) and arrived in Lisboa by 8am the next morning. The train was less than comfortable, but I knew I had to sleep because we had a full day the next day.

At this point, I have been in Europe for almost 3 months, and with the conversion rate and added foreign transaction fee, my funds are depleting at a rate much faster than I anticipated. Ariel is the same boat, so we try to travel as cheaply as possible. This being said, there’s a website called couchsurfer.com where people rent out their couches to travelers for free! We found someone that wanted to house us, and he was picking us up at 2, so we had some hours to kill. It was a beautiful day (much different than freezing Salamanca) so we walked around Alfambra for a bit and up to the castle and then down the hill to this beautiful view point of the city and the river.  

When we were on this terrace there was an artists who’s pictures we were admiring, and he gave us 2 for FREE! First impression of Portuguese people: the best.  We then took the metro to Orient to see the longest bridge in Europe, the Vasco de Gama bridge. It’s 11 miles long!! After eating our bocadillos packed by our host moms it was time to meet our host for the weekend.

At 2 we met him outside of the mall. He’s name was Hugo (pronounced Ugu), he’s a 34 year old software consultant that speaks a million languages (like most people in Europe). He picked us up and I was a little sketched out. What if this is when he kills us…? BUT we got in his car, it was new so that was a good sign. However, on the back of one of the seats was a Scream mask -_- that was comforting… He drove us to his apartment, which was a beautiful bachelor pad, and we freshened up. He was so warm and welcoming—we all became friends very quickly :) 

That night in Portugal was a World Cup Qualifying match: Portugal v. Sweden. Hugo had tickets with his friends, but we tagged along in an attempt to get tickets by scalpers outside the arena. But no luck :( So we let him go to the game while we went in the mall across the street to get food and try and find somewhere to watch the game. Every restaurant had the game playing on their TV and there was no one walking around the mall—everyone was watching it. Futbol really is a lifestyle here in Europe, it’s crazy.  But we ended up getting some ice cream and Burger King and watching the game there with some middle school kids.  When Portugal scored to take the lead I’m pretty sure I felt the whole mall shake; it was nuts!

After the match Hugo took us to Bairro Alto, the best neighborhood for bars.  We parked in this parking garage and when we reached the stairs he told me to go up. I was super confused, but when we reached the 5th floor, I understood why.  There was a secluded, unadvertised bar called Park. It was a rustic, wooden bar with a beautiful view of the city.  The owner was one of Hugo’s clients so we got a free mojito shot! Not a bad deal.  After some pictures we headed down to the local street bars and enjoyed a night of euro shots and cheap beer. The Portuguese party the Spanish, late into the night, and after the long day we had by 4 am we were SHOT. I fell asleep in the car on the way home. Only to be woken by Ariel telling me to wake up because Hugo had gotten stopped by the police.  The police were sitting on a street and they stopped every car that passed because they knew this was a popular route that people leave the city on after a night of partying.  The legal BAC limit to drive in Portugal is .05 (lower than in the US), and Hugo blew a .046. Ha, only pushed our limits a little bit. But we made it out just fine, and passed out when we got home. 

The next day we woke up at noon.. oops, and got ready for the day! We ate lunch at Hugo’s which consisted of his grandma’s leftovers. SO delicous!! We then headed to the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos on our way out to a cute little beach town by the name of Cascais, where we tried the “Best gelato in the world” (it was pretty freaking good) and Ginja (cherry liquor in a chocolate shot glass), and then stuck our feet in the sand at the old queen’s private beach. NBD. At this point we were pressed for time, we were racing the sun. By we got some pictures of the sunset and then tried to speed over to Cabo da Roca—the most western part of contiguous Europe, literally what they used to think was the edge of the world.  We didn’t beat the sun, but we hiked a little bit in the dark down the cliffs, but were freezing so badly that we hopped back in the car and headed back to town.

Next, Tour Guide Hugo took us to Torre Belém, where the ships used to take off from on their voyages, and then the infamous Pastéis de Belém to eat the BEST pastries I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating—a custardy, sugary, cinnamony heaven. Because we had been saving so much money because a) we weren’t paying for accomodations, b) Hugo was a GEM, and c) Lisbon is just generally cheaper, we decided we wanted to splurge a bit on our last dinner and go have a big, typical Portuguese dinner.  Hugo took us to a delish restaurant in the hills of a town outside of the city, where we enjoyed an overabundance of various types meat, fries, and white sangria. I could not have been more satisfied.  That night, we taught Hugo and his friend Andre how to play Beer Pong in Hugo’s apartment—they kicked our butts, badly (3-1), and just had a relaxing, late night in. 

We woke up late, again, the next day, but just went into the city today and walked around, enjoyed some more Portuguese pastries, STARBUCKS, and great views of the city.  Before catching our second night train, we enjoyed some typical Portuguese soups: Caldo verde and a tomato-ish soup, and hunted down some cheap Port to take home.

This was honestly, my favorite trip I think I’ve ever taken. I had an amazing time! The people were so kind and generous, the city was beautiful—mountains and beach all in one—and staying with a local was just the cherry on top. (Plus, spending 40 euros the entire weekend wasn’t bad either) I now have a friend in Portugal, and he now has two friends to stay with in the US. Thank you Hugo for an AMAZING weekend!! It was weekends like this that make me realize how truly blessed I am.

Filed under Lisbon Lisboa Portugal

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Cheetahlicious Barcelona


My goal in going to Barcelona was to basically see/do everything that the Cheetah Girls had done there. I mean, who can blame me, it was my childhood?!  API took us Friday (11/8) by bus to Madrid, and then we flew from there to Barcelona.  We finally arrived at our hotel on Las Ramblas at about 6pm. We decided we’d try to make it to the beach before sunset, but due to daylight savings time, time was not on our side. But we still made it to the playa. I was surprised that it never really smelled like ocean; I don’t know if that’s because we were in such an urbanized area, but I missed the seawater smell!  The water was about as warm as it was outside—but considering it’s now November in the northern hemisphere, it’s pretty brisk regardless of where you are here. So we just stuck out feet in the water and then decided we’d getting our walking in for the day.  So I embraced my inner tourist, busted out my map with my big camera, and 3 miles later we found our way over to this fountain light show at the “Magic Fountain of Montjuic”. It was this big fountain with lights cascading down this hill infront of an old “castle” (now museum). It was beautiful!  And it was also the site 1 on my Cheetah Girls Tour.  By this time it was about 9pm, and we were starving. We figured we’d find something on the way back to the hotel. We were in Barcelona, so our goal was CHEAP because that seems to be something the Barcelonians don’t understand.  We proceeded through a SKETCHY part of town, but found a great, cheap Afghany restaurant and got some kebabs. And even had the pleasure of seeing the waitress kill (or did she…) a cucaracha while waiting for our food! Dinner and a show! I guess you get what you pay for…

One thing I had heard about Barcelona was that the nightlife was POPPIN! I had brought a nice lookin dress and my boots (or so I thought), but when I went to put on my boots there were no where to be found. Rolled up into a club in TOMS. heeeyoooo! But we walked down to a club on the beach called Opium. It was a really sweet club, but definitely more upscale. We were only allowed to sit down if we were drinking something, and at 15 euros a drink, I had to pass. So we danced and jumped on the dance floor like our usual sardine selves until we couldn’t dance no more and trekked our ways home.

The next day we had an early morning bus tour with API. This was the majority of the sight-seeing that I did. They took us up the the Olympic Park, to Parque Guell, and the Sagrada Familia.  My favorite part of this trip was all the architecture. Parque Guell was beautiful! It blows my mind that Gaudi’s architecture was built almost 100 years ago, but yet it’s still so modern and innovative. After our tour we went to this huge market place to get food (The fruit was exquisite), got Starbucks, and I had my first Chinese food since being in Europe. It was much needed and appreciated.  We then walked back down to the beach just to see the sunset and then back to our hotel for nap time! I knew we were going to go out that night, so I needed to get my second wind—a 3 hour nap is just what I needed.

When I woke up, my roommate, Kat, and I were starving so we decided to walk around the Gothic Quarter to find food. We found this cool little hipster square where we found an amazing vegetarian restaurant. This restaurant looked like it was right out of Portland. We had quinoa and asparagus risotto and a mixed green salad with goat cheese and roasted apples. LITERALLY one of the best things I’ve tasted in my life.  We then found a great little bar where we split 5 chupitos for 5 euros (very rare for Barcelona) and began our night! 

A huge group of us hopped on the metro and headed to “one of the best clubs in Europe” called Razmatazz. It was a 5 room club with a terrace. I’ll admit, it was pretty cool, but the music was awful… Electronic indie pop really isn’t my jam. But we still had a great time, met some awesome group of french guys and of course we always find something that’s higher than the floor to dance on. We’re THOSE Americans. At about 5 am we figured we should head back before the metro closed, and so we did.

The next day we had to check out of the hotel early, but still had almost a full day to spend in the city.  We walked through the Gothic Quarter again, found some really cool markets and a group of people dancing Sardana, a Catalonian folk dance, in front of the Gothic Cathedral.  A little old man saw that I was trying to catch on to the dance, and he grabbed my hand and started counting with me.  He then grabbed Kat and Olivia’s hands and pretty soon we had our own Sardana circle and tourists were taking pictures of US. It’s moments like these that I’ll remember forever—REAL experiences like the locals. 

Even though Barcelona is a big city, everything is still closed on Sunday. Even el Corte Inglés!! So I had to result to actual touristy shops for my souvenir needs.  I needed some coffee real bad, and we missed the Starbucks, but we found this really cute coffee shop right off Las Ramblas.  Everything was made out of wood and tins—another place that seemed to be right out of PDX—and the coffee wasn’t bad either :) We just wandered the streets of Barcelona some more, enjoying the last bit of sunshine and taking in the city (everything except the smells… it smelled awful), ate some BOMB pasta and then began our journey back to Salamanca.

I didn’t have a lot of expectations for Barcelona (besides my Cheetahlicious ones), but I think they were met. I was bummed that Barca (their futbol team) was away that weekend, I bet that would’ve made my trip 1000000x better.  It definitely wasn’t my favorite city I’ve visited, and I had kind of hoped for some better night life, but the food was unsurpassable :) My pallet thanks you, Barca.

Filed under Barcelona Spain travel playa beach Sagrada Familia

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Examenes

This last week I had midterms in every one of my classes: Spanish Literature, Medical Spanish, and Spanish Cinema.  This would be the only test in every class besides that of my final. Basing these tests on the tests I had taken for the first 3-week classes, I hadn’t anticipated that they were going to be difficult, but I figured I would study anyways. Thank GOD I did. Turns out I underestimated the difficulty of these tests… whoops. Don’t worry, I passed with flying colors. It is me, of course ;)

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ARABIAN NIGHTS in Morocco



One place I never thought I would go in coming to Spain was Morocco—it hadn’t even crossed my mind. But we found a company called Discover Excursions that did some different group excursions and thus our Moroccan dream was born!

There were about 50 of us from Salamanca that were interested, so we hopped on a bus at 7am (11/1) to head to Sevilla where our tour would actually begin.  We arrived in Sevilla 6 hours later and had 2 hours to do the quickest of sightseeing in Sevilla because I knew that I wouldn’t be going back there on this trip.  We booked it over to the Plaza España, which looked like something out of Disneyland, through the park, and then to the Torre de Oro, the Cathedral and the old Tobacco factory.  Sevilla is huge, and I would love to go back, but I felt like we saw a sufficient amount for the time allotted. 

We then got on bus ride #2 and on to Tarifa where we then caught the ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar at sunset to Tangier. My butt couldn’t have hurt worse; I was so tired of sitting. Around 8:30 at night we arrived at the hotel in Tangier and were EXHAUSTED from all the traveling! We couldn’t see a lot of the city we were in because it was dark when we arrived, but there would be enough to see the next two days.  That night we had a delicious buffet meal at the hotel with real veggies and cous-cous—amazing deviation from what I’m used to. That night we passed out early for an early, loaded next day.

We woke up early to another buffet breakfast. That was also AMAZING! I love big breakfasts, and that’s something I don’t get here in Spain.  So I stuffed by face with bacon and nutella crepes and we got on (ANOTHER) bus to head to our first stop—Camel rides and Caves of Hercules!!  The caves were small, and looked like someone had lived in them at one point, but they were right on the ocean, and as you stood near the edge you could smell and see the tide go in and out.  The camels were tall and smelly, but really fun; especially when the galloped! The scariest part was the camel getting up and down, without leaning back I would have fallen off.  We then stopped briefly at the place where the Mediterranean and Atlantic meet, and then on to another 3 hour bus ride to the beautiful white washed mountain side city of Chefchaouen.  All the houses were white with beautiful blue doors that they said were to keep out bugs.  There were a ton of shops where we were able to do some bartering—it’s a part of their culture. Lots of jewelry, tapestries, pottery, and a box of live turtles?

We spent another night early in the hotel with a great buffet dinner.  We didn’t want to chance going out because it’s necessarily safe for women there.  There was a bar on top of our hotel, and even there we felt like the men were looking at us as how much they could sell us for.

Another early morning on that Sunday, and we headed to Assilah—another white washed, blue door city but this time, on the beach. It was gorgeous! We were able to do some more shopping here, and got some henna! I originally wanted my hand done, and then she proceeded to go up more arm. She then proceeded to pick up my foot, and when I told her I didn’t need it, she answered with, “TRANQUILA!” and went to town on my foot. When I was ready to pay, she wanted me to pay for both! I said “no” and gave her the money for my arm and walked away… she wasn’t happy. But I really didn’t have enough for both anyways! And it’s not like it was my fault she kept going when I said stop…  It’s crazy what people sell there, though—they try do and sell anything to get money. 

I was so tired of buses at this point, but we still hadn’t even begun our trip back to Salamanca yet—there was so much that awaited! On our bus ride back to the Tangier port, we were passing through a rough part of town, and in the bus in front of us, some Moroccan kids opened the back and jumped aboard! Then we saw that it was happening to our bus!  The guide on my bus was nothing telling us anything about it, and the people sitting in the front of the bus said they saw them throwing things off the bus! We were freaking out! We arrived at a round-a-bout where some police were standing, all the kids jumped off and we were able to see that what they had opened in the back was just to the engine—there was no way of them accessing anything.  After the chaos had simmered, THEN the guide came on and said that they were a) just hitching a ride or b) trying to get in to Spain. They weren’t trying to steal anything; but it would have helped if he would have told us that BEFORE it was happening -__-

Our reverse trip seemed to take even longer than the one there, but thank god for the movies that were played on the bus, and that it was at night so we could pass out during the ride. We finally arrived in Salamanca at 4 am Monday morning.  So much time on a bus! But it was definitely worth the experience!  Morocco wasn’t my first 3rd world experience, but every time I go back to a country like it, it’s so humbling. Humbling to see how much I really do have when I feel like I don’t, and gets me to really appreciate all the opportunities that I am given. 


Filed under Morocco chefchaouen Assilah Tangier travel

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EL GRIPE


The last day in Paris, I started to feel like I was getting sick. Then while on the bus on the way back to Salamanca I felt AWFUL! I had a fever, my throat my killing me… the flu was upon me. The next day I woke up with an ear infection and nausea. Turns out classes were out of the question that day. By Thursday, I couldn’t keep anything down and my ear infection hadn’t gone away still! So my first Spanish Doctor’s office experience happened.

I was very apprehensive about this, because I didn’t know how it worked. But I checked it at the equivalent  of “Urgent Care”, waited 15 minutes, saw a doctor (free of charge) and got a prescription for antibiotics that only cost 3.50 euros. Going to the doctor is no big thing here. Thank god for universal health care? And let me tell ya: this lack of a language barrier thing is fantastic! 

A week later I’m feeling MUCH better, and my ear infection is finally going away. 

Being sick in Spain: CHECK!

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OUI OUI, PARIS!

Left Thursday (10/24) for Paris! After a bus and train ride, finally made it! The sun was setting when we arrived and due to traffic it was an hour long bus ride to our hotel. On our way there, we caught a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower right as it was doing it’s hourly sparkle. Even from a distance, it was beautiful!

By the time we got to our hotel in Bastille, it was already dark. But we were starving and didn’t want to waste the night! We had the BEST crepes—mine with chocolate, others had ham and cheese. I also discovered my new found love for NUTELLA!!! We then hopped on the metro towards the Eiffel Tower. Up until this point, it still hadn’t hit me we were in Paris, France. Even dealing with the language barrier at dinner and seeing the Tower from a far, it hadn’t hit me that I was in Paris yet. It wasn’t until I got off the metro and turned the corner to see the Eiffle Tower in all its sparkling glory that it really hit me—Wow, I’m in Paris, France. I sat there, gazed and took pictures for almost 2 hours. It was beautiful! On the way back, we grabbed some bottles of wine and then attempted to find a jazz bar. They were all closed (turns out they don’t party at the times that Spain does), so it just turned into a wonderful night wandering the streets of Paris!

The next day API took us on a bus tour and finished our tour at Notre Dame. With 4 days of not talking to my mother, with her lack of WiFi, 1:30 at Notre Dame was a very vague, long shot meeting point. But met Mom and Patsy in front of Notre Dame no problem. We walked around the Cathedral—HUGE AND BEAUTIFUL!!—and then embraced our inner Quasimoto and climbed the first of many towers in Paris to see the gargoyles up top. What awaited at the top was a beautiful view of the city in all its cloudy glory.  From there we made our way to the Pantheon, and although they took out the big pendulum FOR THREE YEARS we were able to see the crypts of Voltaire and Braille. An eerie, yet inspiring, feeling. Giving me the same feeling was standing in front of the Pantheon, where French Revolution gatherings had been.  I’d been in the city for less than 24 hrs and had already underestimated the amount of history there was.

The Louvre was free for those under 26 that night at 6pm, so we made our way over there (getting lost along the way due to construction) and attempted to explore. MY GOD IT WAS OVERWHELMING!!!! IT’S HUGE! I honestly had no idea where to start. So we decided a good plan of action would be to head to the Mona Lisa (because there were signs for it) and then go from there. Saw Ramsey’s sculpture, a ton of ancient egyptian artifacts, statue of Aphrodite, and these awesome ruins of the castle that used to be where the Louvre was.  Due to the mass amounts of walking and art on the walls, my head hurt, feet were tired and stomach very hungry. We ventured out for our first french dinner where I had ACTUAL greens and my first taste of escargot! Honestly, it was delicious!

We had a great first day! Because we were so exhausted, instead of walking back to the hotel, we figured we’d take the metro back. At the bottom of the stairs, there was no where to by a ticket, the gates were open, nor would the turnstile accept our current tickets.  Therefore, in our minds that equaled a free metro ride! However, the security guard at the exit of the subway thought differently.  The city of Paris is now 90 euros richer due to their own faulty metro system. Parisians really are rude AF.

After the all the feather rustling, we decided we’d attempt to go out! It was 3 of us girls, and the french guys are handsy. In the span of 15 minutes we witnessed the biggest brawl I’ve ever seen, got touched and ogled at by an infinite amount of men, and heard rap music for the first time in a club since being in Europe. Needless to say, we didn’t know how to feel so we called it a night.

Saturday morning we took a boat tour and I met up with my Mother and Patsy again to climb the Eiffel Tower. It was a beautiful day, so we climbed to the 2nd floor, took some photos, and then my mother and Patsy jetted off to Versailles while we took the elevator to the tippy-top. What a BEAUTIFUL view!! Clear blue skies and buildings as far as the eye could see.  The weather was like that of Portland—bipolar. By the time we had descended the tower, it was POURING! So we hopped on the metro and up to the Sacre-Coure. By the time we got out of the metro, it was clear blue skies again!

In addition to the drastic change in weather, when we stepped out of the metro, we were in what truly felt like a small French village. It was a completely different side of Paris; that I loved! Ariel and I purchased some baguettes and cheese and marched up the hill to the Sacre-Coure to watch the sun set over the city and the Eiffel Tower. Who needs boyfriends when you have a twin? :) Once it got dark, we decided to walk our way through Paris: down to the Moulin Rouge, to the Opera House, and the Champs-Élysées to l’Arc de Triomphe. After heading back to the hotel to find out I had several messages at the front desk from my mother, I was able to track her down again. A beautiful evening it t’was!

The next morning was our last day in Paris. Headed to the Musée d’Orsay to see some Monet and Van Gough and then to one last European lunch with my Mom and Patsy.  Had some delicious French Onion soup to top off my french cuisine, and then headed the the metro station to catch my bus to the airport. I thought we had left the restaurant with sufficient time… but I was very wrong. I didn’t have time to wait for my mother and Patsy (who was walking around with a knee brace), and I was sprinting my confused way through the metro. Made it above ground 5 minutes after the supposed meeting time, screaming at some french men about where to go. Sprinted to the hotel with SECONDS to spare and tears running down my face.

Regardless of the few negative experiences, Paris was incredible! And while I didn’t get to say goodbye to my mother, the time I spent with her in Europe was incredible, and time that I’ll never forget! It was perfect!




"It is perfectly possible to be enamoured of Paris while remaining totally indifferent or even hostile to the French" - James Baldwin 

Filed under Paris France Travel Eiffel Tower l'Arc de Triomphe

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MOM CAME TO VISIT!

I didn’t realize how much I’d missed my Mom until I saw her in Madrid.  I left early on Friday (10/18) morning to go meet her and her friend, Patsy, at the airport in Madrid because, let’s face it, my mother and her friend have zero knowledge of the Spanish language—could’ve been interesting… Found them with no problem, and we proceeded to tackle the Madrid subway system and find our hotel.  They had a great hotel located near Sol, the center of the city.  We checked them in and the had no time to be jet lagged because we had 1 day in Madrid. The walking began! Apparently I like to walk around Madrid… we walked the equivalent of another 5 miles. And by the end of the day, the ladies were pooped! Saw the Plaza Mayor, Royal Palace, Temple of Dabod, Parque de Retiros, Alacalá, and even had time to manage some churros con chocolate. A very successful day if I do say so myself. 

The next morning, Mom and I headed to Salamanca while Patsy stayed behind in Madrid to see some more sights. We really lucked out with weather—it was beautiful!  I was able to show her everything!  We climbed the Cathedral tower to see the view of the city and I took her on my normal walking path through the city. We did some shopping and she even got to meet Paquita, my Spanish Mom. That was fun for me… so much translating back and forth! Paquita had tea/coffee and a bunch of galletas ready for us. It went a lot better than I anticipated, and it meant a lot to me to have my Mom see where I live and who I’m living with. We talked with my Spanish Mom for a while, and while I had hoped my mom would come out with me on Saturday night, we got back to the hotel too late (for my mom) to go out.  Which was ok, because the hotel we stayed in was way more comfortable than my bed in Salamanca, so I was down to sleep as much as possible. 

The next morning, we headed out on an excursion with API to Pago de las Capellanes, a vinyard in Ribera del Duero near Burgos. Another beautiful day to tour the winery and eat the FRESHEST grapes and the best red wine I’ve ever tasted.  They only have one type of grape, but they ferment it for different lengths giving each wine they make a different flavor.  At the end of the tour we got to try their Tinto Crianza, which is their second youngest wine. Delish! Bought a bottle to bring home (after my Mom initally picked up their 115 euro =$150, oldest wine, bottle… I should’ve just let her buy it) First come, first serve to try it when I come home for Christmas :)

We had a wonderful lunch on the way back, and my Mom and I had a relaxing night tapa-hopping, drinking beer, and eating ice cream in the lit up Plaza Mayor in Salamanca! Couldn’t have asked for a better weekend with my Mom!  The next morning I sent her off to Valencia to meet up with Patsy. No tears, because I would see her in Paris the next weekend!! 1:30 at Notre Dame… How often do you say that in your life?!

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Considering it was going to be my last real weekend in Salamanca before my chaotic travel plans began, I wanted to utilize the days I had here to travel around this area of the country since I’ve literally already seen all of Salamanca. The plan was to go to Segovia. The night before, the bus website was not working (the websites here tend to be temperamental), so we figured we’d just get to the bus station early to buy our tickets.

Five of us made the early trek to the bus station at 7am, only to find out that the bus to Segovia was full -_- We figured since we were up and were already at the bus station we should go SOMEWHERE! The conversation with the attend was in Spanish as follows:

Me: “Bus to Segovia”
Attendant: “It’s full”
Me: “Bus to Avila?”
Attendant: “Full, too.”
Me: “Where CAN we go?”
Attendant: “Plasencia or Cacares.”
Me: “Which is cheaper?”
Attendant: “Plasencia”
Me: “5, please.”

We boarded the 2 hour bus ride and landed on the outskirts of a little town… We began walking and ended up in the Plaza Mayor (almost every city in Spain has one).  We found the Cathedral (there’s one in every city no matter how small or big), the Muralla (a big castle-like wall that they ran out of money to build and just left it as is), and the smallest of non-Roman aqueducts. We did that all in about 2.5 hrs… we had 7 hours to kill. So we decided to sit and eat our lunch, got some drinks and then sat in a pretty park by a river to run out the rest of our time.

I don’t feel like we wasted any time though, because I would’ve rather been bored there than in Salamanca.  When I’m bored in Salamanca, I just sit in my room on my computer—and this allowed me to go explore another city in a different Autonomia, Extremadura. 

We didn’t come in contact with a ton of people, except there was one lady that really left her mark on us. There was a tourism office in the base of the Muralla, and when we first walked in, she was a gem—very helpful.  However, after our time wandering the wall, we had to pass her again, and she felt the need to go off on us about Americans.  How we are all close-minded, we think we’re the most important people in the whole world, we’re so wasteful, and the entire world is suffering on our behalf.  Well, it was very nice to meet you, too… I tried to defend my country, and tell her that I’m sure some people are like that, but we’re not all the same, but she would NOT have it.  That was my first blatant anti-USA sentiment I have gotten while here, and it was definitely a humbling and a learning experience for me.  I know I make generalizations about countries as entire entities as well, and it’s important to realize every person is different. Every person, although they have an identity through their nationality, is also an individual with their own identities, personalities, and values, and everyone should be treated as such. Food for thought :)

Oh Placenta, you’ll always mean so much to us.

Filed under Plasencia Spain travel random