Friday, April 16, 2010


How come traveling can never be easy? Budget travel gets you what it gets you ... from point A to point B ... with no luxuries in between!

My friends and I had a 7:30 am flight out of Madrid to Lisbon ... so we wanted to get to the airport around 6 ... only problem is the first train from our town to Madrid is at 5:30 ... so we'd get to the airport at about 7:00 .... no dice.

So, we did what apparently ever other american college student living in Spain was doing ... took the 11:30 pm last train into the airport and slept there! When I say literally every college student was doing this ... the entire check in area of RyanAir and Easy Jet (two low budget european airlines) was literally lined with sleeping bodies. It looked like a mix of the end result of a concentration camp or pre school nap time on steroids ... still haven't decided which. But, that's what you get for $20 flights!

We landed in Lisbon only about an hour later and checked into our hostel. We had so much time that day, plus 3 more days ... we really didn't know what to do with ourselves. My friends wanted to nap so we ended up wasting about the entire afternoon which I wasn't happy about, they woke up just in time for dinner ... which was at a buffet all you can eat for 5.95 ... good enough! Then we went out for the night. Lisbon has this amazing drink ... its sort of a fruity twist on a mojito ... instead of crushed mint leaves its crushed strawberries, sugar, and a special Portuguese alcohol ... i'm definitely going to have to learn to make this when I get back to America.

The next day we did the hop on hop off bus tour, went down by the water, explored a little ... but my friends got a really bad sunburn because they just wore tank tops so then we had to search for sunscreen and lotion for them! we ate dinner down by the water and then again they napped (they napped a lot ... it wasnt my most fun trip) after two kind of boring days I made the executive decision that we were going to the beach. One of my friends was too sunburnt and stayed home ... i really didn't care, i wanted to go to the beach so i hopped on the train and i went. It was the coolest thing ever! I've never swam in an ocean the first week of april! not only that but this beach, called Cascais is the western most point of europe ... i had to hike over a lot of rocks and up some long streets to get there, but i was determined to stand on the westernmost point ... aka the closest i've been to home in 4 months. It was definitely worth it. Cascais was an amazingly beautiful, bright colored beach town. The entire train ride went parallel to the ocean so it was cool to see how the beaches changed the further west we got.

I have always known that I love the beach, I swim in the water in Maine when its 60 degrees, I'm a Pisces, we love the water, we love watching the waves and getting lost in day dreams ... but after two kind of grouchy lame days seeing the ocean really had a magical way of lifting my spirits. the two friends who came with me were still very sunburnt so they couldn't really lay out in the sun but i parked my butt down in that Portuguese sand and napped, read, went for a swim, and really enjoyed myself!

Anyways, i wish i had more to write about regarding lisbon except it wasn't the most eventful trip. Don't get me wrong it was absolutely gorgeous weather ... 75 and sunny, and the city itself was affordable, and quite pretty but my friends and I clashed a lot about what to do and where to go ... which is always frustrating when traveling in groups. oh well.

Then on the way home our flight got delayed ... as a result we missed the last train out of Madrid back to our town ... but we had class in the morning so we couldn't sleep at the airport. we took the metro from the airport to a big train station, transferred there to another metro which brought us to a bus port, caught a bus to the center of our town and then had to take a cab from the center of town back to where we live ... not so fun! Which made me realize I have no idea how im going to get from my dorm to the airport when I leave for good because I have two fifty pound suitcases! can't walk far, nor can you really do public transportation because you cant wheel two suitcases thru the turnstiles at the metro. oh dear! looks like I'll have to splurge for a 50 euro cab ride.

in other news, I bought a dress for the ring dance which I'm quite excited about! I have a fitting on Monday so I'll post some pics then. I still took lots of pics of portugal, it was really beautiful, i just didn't have a lot of fun ... except the beach ... that was amazing!
here's the link: lisbon pics

Monday, April 5, 2010

Paris ... again

Well, it's 10pm at night my time and I'm in the airport because I'm too cheap to buy a hostel for a night when I have to get up at 3am anyways to head to the airport for my 6:30 am flight.

Since I have quite a few hours on hand here I figured I could update my blog:

the night before we left for paris, wendy, elizabeth and I (wendy is elizabeth's friend) went to a flamenco show, so although my photo album is titled paris, there are some spanish pictures in it as well)

Paris was quite an adventure!

It all started when my sister's luggage was overweight by 200 euro -- 266 us dollars (no idea how much it actually weighed but I knew it would cost a lot!) she went to one counter and I to the other. I only had a small bag, maybe 20 lbs at most so I asked the man a the counter not to put my bag away until I knew my sisters bag was going to go on the plane, because if not I'd have to squeeze some of her stuff into my bag.

I also may have spoken in Spanish, made a few innocent mistakes on purpose, got him to smile and laugh ... then in English explained that if her bag is overweight not only will she cry, but she wont come on the trip and I've been dreaming to go to Paris for my entire life ... and as my predictions would have it ... the woman at her counter would not let her get away without paying 266 usd .. so Elizabeth declared she would not go on the trip

I waved her over to me to see if we could readjust some things and at least get the cost down when the man at my check-in counter snuck her bag onto the conveyor belt and told her not to worry about the cost because "paying that would really ... really be terrible" phew! crisis averted ... or so I thought.

So we made it to Paris no problem, but had to take a 1.5 hour bus into the city because we flew into a small airport outside of the city. That was no problem. However, once off the bus we had to take the metro to our hotel ... Wendy and I have longer legs than Elizabeth and we got on the metro first, as she was getting on the doors began to close and in a panic she let go of her suitcase!!! the metro took off, wendy, me, our luggage, and elizabeth were on but elizabeth's very large, very heavy suitcase was still sitting on the platform! wendy got off at the next stop, while Elizabeth and I backtracked back to the original platform to hope the bag was still there. Wendy htought maybe a nice person would bring it onto the train so she was going to watch for that at the next stop. By the grace of god a very nice woman brought the luggage over by the police stand and stood with it, took nothing from it, put nothing in it and was really just being a nice french person ... so why does everyone always say the French are rude??? :)

well, once we got settled into our hotel it was about 5pm, we walked down around to a big hotel, went to the post office, window shopped and then met 2 of Elizabeth's friends for dinner. She studied in China with these friends and hasn't seen them since so it was fun for her to hang out with them and they were very nice people to me as well. After that Elizabeth and her friends stayed out while Wendy and I went to bed.

In the morning we essentially covered Paris in one day ... we hit the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triumph, Moulin Rouge, and Notre Dame!

Now, when we got to the Eiffel tower we learned it was cheaper and faster to climb 1/3 of the way up and then take an elevator to the top. after staying in line for about 1/2 hour we bought tickets and began to climb ... right away my fear of heights kicked in but I knew I couldn't stop or I'd be stuck ... afriad to go down and afraid to keep going up ... so I tried my best to look only at the stairs and not the very distant city or river below me, and we made it up. It was about 40 degrees, windy, cold and rainy though so when we reached the stopping point we grabbed some hot cocoa and peeked in the gift shop. Then we had to buy tickets to go up the elevator, waited in line about an hour for that, and then up we went!

i found it really funny that at the first stopping point after the climb up the stairs they had pay phones! you could call home just to say "hey, i'm on the eiffel tower!" I thought about it, but it would have cost about 15 euro so no one in America got calls from me :(

After the eiffel tower we stopped for lunch and to warm up!! i got french onion soup mm good and of course, a crepe. the picture of the crepe didn't upload onto flickr for some reason so here it is:

mmm banana, nutella and whipped cream!

well after lunch we headed to Notre Dame which was breathtaking but so dark inside it was hard to take pictures! After that we headed to the Lourve but unfortunately it was closed so then we walked down the very expensive high fashion district which ended with the Arc di Triumph which celebrates Napoleon's conquests ......

....... and now a homeless man walked into the airport and is setting up his bed next to me, so i'm going to close my computer and get walking.

write more in a minute!

aaaanddd i'm back. i walked to a chair next to customer service and away from the door to the street. much better!

the next day we got up and went to Easter Mass at another famous church called Sacre Coeur or sacred heart in english. There were 13 priests (well one was a bishop) and 30 nuns leading hte mass. the nuns sat on either side of the altar and sang in latin while the priests all participated in the mass. There was an ENORMOUS ENORMOUS pipe organ that when played literally shook the pews. The combination of the 43 religious leaders, the dim lights, the candles and the booming organ music really could have convinced any non believer ... it was really something extraordinary to experience. I wish I could describe it better ... the music shook my to the core and the mass, though in Latin and French, still captivated and mesmerized me. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures inside the church but feel free to google it, it's really quite a beauty.

Then we went for a nice lunch, headed to the Louvre ... again ... but because it was the 1st sunday of the month there was free admissions ... and therefore over crowding and although it was only 2pm they weren't selling any more tickets for the rest of the day!!! so, we walked around a bit more, headed to the hotel, packed our things and at 5pm we went our separate ways. Elizabeth and Wendy hopped on a train to Germany to continue their trip and I checked into a hostel in another area of the city.

I sat in the lobby for a bit on the internet then went to a gourmet grocery store and bought myself some dinner, downloaded a movie and called it a night. I was called a "beautiful little baby" by enough strange african men in paris to know that I shouldn't really go out to a bar or a cafe by myself once it got dark and I didn't have my bearings. Luckily I ended up sharing a room with the most pleasant girl ... she's in Delta Gamma at Northwestern. We spent a few hours talking about our sorority and showing each other pictures of our chapter houses, reading the DG magazine, and then went to bed.

This morning I got up and went to the Louvre ... and finally got to go in! i saw the Mona Lisa, a few other famous paintings and just really walked around amazed at the amount of people inside and amazed at the sheer size of the museum. All in all I had a great trip. I think by now I am museum-ed, palace-ed, garden-ed, fountain-ed out for a few years ... but wait ... in 3 days I am going to Lisbon, Portugal with a few friends. But I'm hoping its going to be more of a relaxing on the beach, not doing anything kind of trip because I'll tell ya ... for all it's glory, traveling sure is exhausting!

so, as my trip is winding down, i can officially say I have seen the crown jewels in London (in 2001), the Mona Lisa, eaten french bread in France, a canoli in Italy, seen Flamenco in Spain, been to the Vatican and Notre Dame in one week, in four weeks visited Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and Paris all while still attending class three days a week -- I've accomplished a lot, more than a lot of people can say in a lifetime ... oh and did I mention in 2001 I also went to Ireland, Scotland and Whales .... and the truth is not a single one of these trips would have been possible without the sacrifices my parents have made. I would never have been able to take advantage of these amazing learning and growing opportunities had it not been for my parents and I am truly truly grateful... to show my gratitude ... I'd like to say I'm bringing them home some nice Spanish wine, or a memento from the Vatican ... instead however, I plan to come home broke, with out any gifts because man is traveling the world expensive!!! :)

hope you enjoy the pics, here they are: click here for paris photos

Sunday, April 4, 2010


we took a tram ride across madrid. ... sort of reminded me of family vacation '93 to Smugglers Notch ... vermont/madrid ... same difference haha.
more touring madrid.
just 'hanging out' in a park in madrid.

well, i just typed an entire post and the finicky internet in my hostel decided to delete it ... i'll re-type it later but in the meantime here are my photos:

ps ... paris looks even cooler in black and white so you'll notice that a lot of my photos are not in color!

also i must warn you, it was very dark inside notre dame so it was hard to take photos.

for easter mass we went to Sacre Coeur ... sacred heart in English ... it was a very beautiful church set high up on a bluff but we weren't allowed to take photos inside the church :(

Happy Easter!