Thursday, May 5, 2011

Paris with Katie, Tamara, and Alyssa
Friday 4/29
It was pouring rain in Granada as we packed our bags and headed out to catch the bus to the airport. For the first time we were flying out of the Granada airport so we only had to take the bus for 45 minutes from the city center to the Granada airport. However, on our way to the bus station we got COMPLETELY soaked. It was not a good way to start out our trip. We made the bus just in time and arrived to the airport with plenty of time before our flight. The Granada airport is tinyyy but we settled in on the floor and played cards. We are expert travelers now. Our flight ended up being delayed for about an hour due to the rain so we continued playing cards until we took off. We arrived in Paris at around 7pm at the ORLY airport. We took the bus to the metro and then took the metro for 15 stops to our hotel in Monmarte (spelling? I’m a Spanish major okay?!) The hotel had given us the wrong directions so we were wandering for awhile and our street wasn’t on our map but we finally found it. It was quaint and our room didn’t have much more than a bed but we were only paying 25E a night so we couldn’t complain. We put down our stuff and went out to find dinner. It was about 10pm at this point. We found this chic place with red velvet sofas and we settled in. Our waiter spoke a little English so that was good. We all ordered French onion soup and savored it while we warmed up and began to relax. Katie and I also ordered tortellini to split and it wasn’t until Alyssa and Tamara were done with their entrees that he informed us that they were out of tortellini and did we want salmon instead? It was kind of strange but Katie and I split another appetizer instead. I ordered tortellini with mushrooms…no I do not want salmon. Duh. We went back to our hotel and fell asleep.

Saturday 4/30
We woke up early and hopped on the metro to the Lourve. Now in the past 2 weeks we have been to the Uffizi, Accademia, Vatican museum, Prado, and now the Lourve. We were a bit “arted out” as we like to say. We learned later on our boat tour that the Lourve is the 3rd largest art museum in the world. However, we simply looked at the most famous works (Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, Venus de Milo) and some of the Egyptian work and left. There is such a thing as too much art. From there we wandered through the Touilleres (again spelling…sorry) and ate our apples and peanut butter by the fountain as we watched the ducks. Then we went to Plaza de la Concorde and ate crepes while we watched the crazy tourist groups and enjoyed our first view of the Eiffel Tower. Then we decided to brave another art museum and went to the Monet Water Lillies Museum (the name in French escapes me) I had gone here with Alex and have never forgotten how it made me feel. It just feels so peaceful and simply beautiful. I saw in the big oval rooms for awhile just absorbing the water lilies. I love this museum!! After that we went over to Notre Dame. There were a lot of people but not unbearable. We went inside and took pictures of the Rose windows. Being in the Notre Dame reminds me a bit of Kari because when I was there last time with Alex, Kari was sick and we lit a candle for her strength. This time, I lit a candle in her memory. It was emotional. It is such an incredible place. After the Notre Dame we went over to Saint Chappelle and Le Concierege. Saint Chappelle is famous for its incredible stained glass windows and we spent time just looking at the beautiful artwork and colors. Le Concierege is where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned before she was beheaded. We saw her cell and everything! It was a bit freaky but cool to see. Then we took the metro over to Tocodero (spell?) to look at the best view of the Eiffel Tower. It was so beautiful! We were pretty exhausted by this point so we took the metro back and grabbed paninis and sat in the park behind the Notre Dame just enjoying the sunset and the Paris atmosphere. At about 9pm we went over to the Seine and got on a night time boat tour of the city. It was so beautiful to see everything lit up! Alex had taken me on this tour and I had remembered how much I loved it so I thought the girls would like it too! We had, had quite the day and were poooopped. So we took the metro back to our hotel and passed out.

Sunday 5/1
We woke up early and took the metro over to the Eiffel Tower. Alyssa, Tamara, and Katie went up but I sat in the grass with my book enjoying the weather and the view. It was such a beautiful day. After they came down we went and got sandwiches and sat in the park behind the tower just enjoying the sun. That was when we looked over and saw this girl Julia who is in my sorority back at Bucknell and lived on Katie’s freshman hall! It was crazy to run into someone from Bucknell in Paris! After that we walked over to the Arco de Trioumphe and then walked down the Champs Ellyess (ahh spelling!). It was really crowded but we stopped at my favorite paris coffee shop chain PAUL and grabbed macarons and watched street performers. We went home to rest up and then went out to find a place to eat. All the restaurants around us were really tiny and expensive. It was kind of discouraging and we couldn’t find a place. Finally we stumbled upon this American restaurant and we all looked at each other and knew exactly what we were all thinking. BURGER! It was really funny but we were so happy to just sit down and have a big burger and fries. We were exhausted so headed home after dinner. We were to have an intense day ahead of us…

Monday 5/2
We woke up around 10 and packed up our bags. Katie and I have itouch ipods that can access wifi so we went down to the lobby to check our e-mail before we headed out. That was when we got an e-mail from the US embassy in Madrid advising us not to travel and to stay close to our residences in Granada. We were so confused so I decided to check CNN. That was when we saw the news. Osama bin Laden was dead. I was speechless. Katie and I just sat there in the lobby in shock. We had no idea what was going on in our country and could only barely access the internet. We had just received an email not to travel and to stay at home but we were in Paris…and were unsure of what to do. We gathered our things and took a walk to the Sacre Cour where we lit a candle for the victims of 9/11 and all of those that have been victimized by the terror of Osama and Al Queda. It was a very emotional day and we ended up spending most of it talking about 9/11 and our lives since then. We hadn’t heard anything from Delgado or any new news so we began our journey to the airport. We were suddenly very aware of how little Americans there were in Paris and how obviously we stood out. We spoke very little and tried to keep a low profile although it still seemed as if everyone was staring at us. As soon as we got off the bus at the airport we saw lots of army men with HUGE guns. They immediately approached us and offered to help us find our terminal. They escorted us to our terminal where another officer guided us through security. Obviously it was solely for the purpose to make us feel safe but I could not help but feel more vulnerable. Security was insane and very strict. Usually the airport security throughout Europe has been very lenient and nonchalant. However, today it was the opposite. We settled in at our gate and tried to avoid the glares and whispers from the French around us. There was the news on that kept flashing (what turned out to be false) photos of a dead Osama Bin Laden. I finally got in touch with my family before we boarded our plane from Paris to Granada. Obviously, we arrived safely in Granada and took the bus back home. Lolita was ecstatic. She was like HAVE YOU HEARD HAVE YOU HEARD HES DEAD HES DEAD. Katie and I were kind of numb and still pretty freaked out and tried to brush her off. Then she turned on the news. IT was Obama’s speech translated to Spanish with a slide show of the most graphic photos from 9/11 that I have ever seen. The news here is much more graphic than in the United States. I just started crying. Lolita didn’t understand why I was upset. “El era un hombre malo y ahora esta muerto…por que estas llorando…por que estas llorando…no entiendo” HE was a bad man and now he is dead…why are you crying…why are you crying…I don’t understand. I just could not explain to her the emotions that the 9/11 photos brought up. I wanted nothing more than to be back home in the US. It was a weird way to end our trip to Paris…


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Spring Break in Italy (Venice, Florence, and Rome with Tamara and Katie)

Wednesday 4/13
We left for the airport at 9pm. We had to take a bus to Malaga to get to the airport. On the bus Katie was sitting next to this really nice woman who offered to drive us from the bus station to the airport. It was really nice of her and we love making friends! We got to the airport around 11:30 and our flight wasn’t until 6am roughhh. There were no buses in between 9pm and 7am so we had to spend the night in the airport. Luckily for us we found a lounge with couches so it wasn’t TOOO bad kind of loud and bright but not that uncomfortable.

Thursday 4/14
Our flight left bright and early Thursday morning and we landed in Venice around 9am. By the time we got to our hotel it was around 11. We got very lost on our way to our hotel and were using our Italian dictionary to try and get directions. Finally we found it! We booked all of our hotels for the week through They were about 25E a night each. For this price for spring break in Italy we were expecting to be staying in some pretty sketchy places. Our hotel in Venice, however, was a REAL hotel. It was really nice! The three of us had our own room and own bathroom. We quickly changed out of our airport clothes and went to explore the city. We knew that if we stayed too long in our hotel that we would fall asleep. Our hotel was a little bit outside of the city center so we took a bus to the city. From there we took a boat (I think its called the VAP) to Piazza de S. Marco. The boat ride was so nice and it was a great first impression of the city. I loved Piazza de S. Marco. Being a Spain girl Plazas are my favorite thing. We went inside the cathedral/basilica and listened to the street musicians soaking in the Italian air! Our map was basically useless since none of the streets are marked so we followed the arrows from Piazza S. Marco to Rialto. We wandered the streets and found lots and lots of glass shops! We went into so many of them because we were just blown away by how beautiful they were. In a lot of the stores the owner was sitting at a desk painting and making glass. It was so cool! In Rialto we saw the famous bridge (the name is escaping me right now) and had gelato. I had cantaloupe! So yummy. After wandering and wandering for hours we were starving and happened upon this pizzeria that wasn’t quite open yet. We were peering in the windows and probably looked pathetic. We were hungry and this place looked good and was in our price range. The owner came out and opened up for us. He didn’t speak any English so he sent Alberto to wait on us. There are few words to describe Alberto (view pictures). He claimed to speak English and Spanish but he didn’t really speak either. He LOVED us and kept coming over multiple times to chat. He loved music and told us that rock, metal, country, and jazz were his favorite genres and didn’t understand why we thought that was funny. He gave us free wine, free gelato, and a free shot! It was a hilarious evening. We went back to our hotel around 9pm and passed out. We were so tired from travelling and exploring!

Friday 4/15
We had heard about the surrounding islands and that they were worth the trip. We bought a day pass and took a boat from the city to Murano which is famous for glass. We saw a glass blowing demonstration and went in lots of galleries. It was so beautiful. From there we took a boat to Burano which is known for its lace and colorful houses. Then we went to Torcello which is full of lots of green! The air smelled so sweet and we enjoyed strolling along. I had ravioli in a creamy mushroom sauce and we went to bed early.

Saturday 4/16
We got up early and got on the train to Florence. We got off the train station and followed our directions from the train station to the hotel. It wasn’t until we were lost that we realized that we had arrived to a different train station than in our directions so we had to go back to the train station and get on another train to the OTHEr train station and THEn walk all the way to our hotel. At this point I was veryyy grumpy. We arrived at our hotel and the lady was a puta and had over booked their hostel and MOVED us. I was so annoyed. Then she gave us the WRONG directions. So we got even MORE lost. When we finally found it we were running late for our tickets to the Accadmia to see the David. Our new hotel turned out to actually be someone’s home. There was this little old lady and her daughter that lived there and it smelled like cheese heaven all the time. We quickly got out of there so we wouldn’t drool on our clean sheets. We found the Accadmia and were happy that we got to completely skip the line with our online tickets. The Accademia itself was mehhh veryyy religious. But the david. OH MY GOODNESS. It was so beautiful and much bigger than I had ever imagined. I could have stared at it for hours. There was this really tiny security guard who was running around and making sure that no one was taking pictures of it and we watched her for a good 10 minutes because she was so funny and could say “no cameras, no photos” in about 100 different languages. After that we walked to the Duomo and there was some strange parade going on with lots of people dressed up. We watched that for awhile and then went into the Duomo. The outside is definitely more impressive than the inside but I lit a candle and we left to wander the leather markets.
The leather markets in Florence were incredible!! We wandered up and down for hours it was really cool. Finally we decided to go home for a bit to shower rand get ready for dinner. There were some other Bucknell kids in Florence so we met up with them at this pizza restaurant near the duomo. I basically had macaroni and cheese but it had all these crazy different types of cheese on it and it was SO good. I’m drooling just remembering it ☺ After dinner we went to this famous gelato restaurant and I got peanut butter flavor. OH MY GOONDESS. They don’t have peanut butter really in Europe so I was already feeling deprived but PEANUT BUTTER GELATO. Its just too good to be true!! We were exhausted from our first day in Florence so we went home to sleep.

Sunday 4/17
We had early Uffizi tickets so we woke up and found our way over there. It was SO crowded and once again we were glad that we thought ahead and booked tickets online. We wandered around the museum for a couple of hours but quickly got hungry. We met up with Sam and Taylor who were also in Florence and went back to the leather markets because we had gotten this recommendation about this restaurant named Zsa Zsas near there. I had ravioli with a creamy truffle sauce and it was the most amazing meal of my life. I literally licked my plate. I could not even believe how good it tasted. Thikning about it now….i miss it. I want it again! After lunch we went back to the leather markets because Sam and taylor wanted to buy jackets. I had lost my 2 favorite silver bracelets in Morocco and had been on the look out for new ones. Lucky for me I found some and haggled my way down and got them for a really good deal! I rock. Sam and Taylor were taking a long time so Tamara, Katie, and I went to the Piazza Vecchio and the Ponte Vecchio. It was so beautiful over there and the weather was so nice. We found a park and lay in the sun for a bit just relaxing and chatting about our trip. Then the pigeons started attacking us because we had snacks so we had to leave. We went home to shower and change and met up with Sam and Taylor again. They both were wearing very spiffy new leather jackets and looked fab. Sam’s brother had been to Florence and told her about this restaurant with a well priced tasting menu. We went there and got to try 5 different types of pastas. One was risotto with gorgonzola, penn ala vodka, spinach penne, ziti in red sauce, and bow ties in a vegetable red sauce. It was incredible. I have never tasted red sauce like this in my entire life. yUM YUM YUM. After dinner we went back to the peanut butter gelato place and got more! We sat in the back for almost 2 hours just chatting and enjoying our ice cream. It was so nice. Then we had to head home because we had an early train to Rome the next day!

Monday 4/18
The train to Rome was a lot faster than the train to Florence but it was much nicer. We got to Rome at about 10am and checked into our hostel. We had been really lucky so far with our hotels but this one was a little sketchy. We had our own room and our own bathroom (which was very nice) but it smelled weird and there were lots of bugs and strange wires hanging down from the ceiling. We unpacked and grabbed a map and headed out to the coliseum. IT WAS HUGE AND REALLY FREAKING OLD. I don’t know what I was expecting but I didn’t think we would be able to go in….for some reason I thought it was only the outside left and there was nothing on the inside…I don’t know but regardless I was blown away. I took lots of pictures! We splurged on an audio guide and took turns listening to it. I learned a lot! From there we walked across the street to the Forum which is the other part of ancient Rome. At this point we had spent almost 2 hours walking around the coliseum and we were hot, dirty, and tired. We definitely liked the Forum but we were pushing it energy wise…and it was a lot of really old stuff. So we decided to leave and went to the Trevvi Fountain. I loved it! It was a lot bigger than I had imagined and was so beautiful. It was really crowded but we got our pictures in and made a wish! We sat admiring it for awhile until we got too hungry and found a restaurant. I had heard that the food in Rome wasn’t as good as Florence but this restaurant was very disappointing and made us a little grumpy. We sat next to this man who was drinking so much alcohol and making all these weird noises as he ate. We left there and wandered home. We had early morning Vatican tickets and did not want to be tired for ANOTHEr big day.

Tuesday 4/19
The Vatican was an interesting experience. Again, we were glad to have bought our tickets online because the line was SO long and completely in the sun. Inside the Vatican it was also really really crowded. We went first through the museum and although it was interesting and pretty we were also a bit “arted out”. The frescos on the ceilings were beautiful but I really just wanted to see the Sistine Chapel. Everyone was pushing and grumpy and it was very hot. When we finally got to the Sistine Chapel it was SO crowded that we could barely move, we weren’t allowed to take pictures (although I snuck 1 or 2), and the guards kept yelling at us to be quiet. It was a bit of an anxiety attack but I’m glad I saw it. After that we grabbed Panini sandwiches and sat in the shade while we recovered from the crowd. Afterwards we went to St. Peter’s Square and Basilica. I was blown away. It was so incredible on the inside. The marble and the grandeur of it all was just breathtaking. It truly was incredible. Katie had read online about how on Wednesday the Pope holds the Papal Audience and that tickets are free if you ask the Swiss Guards. She found the very silly dressed swiss guards and got us tickets to see the Pope the next day. She was VERY excited. Nicole Jensen (Lindsey’s older sister) had studied in Rome and saw on my facebook that that is where I was. She sent me a message with some restaurants and ice cream recommendations. After showering and cleaning off the Rome dirt from our shoes we walked all the way to the “cool” part of Rome for dinner. There I had the best pizza of my life. It was simple, cheese, mushrooms, and sausage but it was just so good. I can’t even explain it. We were happy to have had good food and wine. We talked about how wonderful our trip was and how grateful we were for our good fortune.

Wednesday 4/20
At around 7am we woke up, packed our bags, stored them in the hotel, and made the trek back to the Vatican. We got seats way up close and fell asleep on each other until he came on around 10am. He is so small and very old! He rode around the crowd in his little pope mobile which is actually a very customized hummer. He and the Cardinals spoke for almost 2 hours in 7 different languages. The crowd was INSANE. We were so lucky to be up front and away from it all. After he was done we trekked back to our hotel, picked up our bags, and found the airport bus. It was time to leave Italy ☹ We were flying from Italy to Madrid and midway through our flight the pilot came on and announced that the Madrid airport was closed due to bad weather and that we would have to go to Valencia instead. Katie and I were freaking out! Valencia?! That is so far from Granada and Madrid! We were not happy. Then about 10 minutes later the pilot came back on and said that we were going to land in Madrid after all. IT was the roughest landing of my life. It was pouring and the plane was swaying and we could see the thunder and lightning in the distance. It was a little bit scary. The Madrid airport is huge and due to all the delays in the air we were cutting it close. The metro closed in 30 minutes and we were very far from our hotel! So we were running through the airport and caught the metro JUST in time but our metro stop was closed. It was POURING rain and we didn’t have a map. We navigated our way (somehow) to our hotel and were soaked, hungry, and cold. We hauled our stuff to the third floor where our hostel was and the man told us that he was moving us to the fourth floor (which was a hotel) because they were over booked. We were not excited because the last time we were moved it was kind of awkward. They move us upstairs and we’re in this BEAUTIFUL suite with our own bathroom and big comfortable beds. After being soaked and lost for 2 hours we each took long steamy showers and watched tennis on our BIG TV until we fell asleep. It was heavenly.

Thursday 4/21
We woke up and headed to the Prado. We had gone with our group in February but we weren’t there that long and it was so chaotic with our whole group that we really wanted to go back. I’m currently taking a Spanish art history class so I’ve been studying these paintings lots and it was incredible to see them all in person. We spent a long time just looking at everything. We went from there to Plaza Mayor and ate churros and watched the street performers. Our next plan was to watch the semana santa parades through Madrid but they were canceled due to rain ☹ We wandered back to our hotel and played cards until our bus at 1am to conclude our Italian/Spanish adventure!!!