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Planning, Italy and Sant Juan! July 15, 2013

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After getting back to Barcelona, the first thing I wanted to do was relax. I spent the last day of the break relaxing on the beach, and catching up on some work. Because I haven’t mentioned before, access to the beach might be one of my favorite parts of Barcelona :)

The next week was largely consisted of work and planning for my next trip. Monday was the feast of Sant Juan in Barcelona, and because the entire city had the day off, so did we. Most of the people in the program wanted to stay in Barcelona because they were tired out from the week break, but also because Sant Juan was a famous party in Barcelona where fireworks and bonfires on the beach lit up the night on Sunday. I knew that I wanted to go, but I also knew that this would be one of my limited opportunities left to travel.

Since nobody from Barca was willing to go, I asked some people from GTL what they were doing. As it turns out, they were headed to Italy for their long break. On Friday they would be in Florence, and on Saturday Cinque Terre. I was beyond excited because this worked perfectly with my plans, and I would be back in time for Sant Juan. I rushed the rest of the week to make plans.

Early Friday morning, I woke up at 4:30 to someone who we didn’t know drunkenly stumbling into our room (it was weird). However, I had to wake up that early anyway to catch my 6:30 flight. I flew to Rome, and caught the train to Florence.

I checked into my hostel and let the GTLers now that I was there. While I waited for the always difficult European communication to come through, I wandered around Florence. I found the Duomo, which isn’t that impressive considering it takes up a good portion of the city. Saying I was impressed by its size is an understatement. THE THING WAS HUGE. Eventually, I rambled on, finding my way to the Galleria Academia where Michelangelo’s David resided. The line was long, but I happened to run into a group of Australians who were going in. I joined with them, so we got to get a reduced rate and skip much of the line (meeting others is one of the best parts of traveling alone). The art inside was beautiful and massive. It’s hard to describe David without seeing it. I never imagined he was that tall, I couldn’t help staring. You get a much better sense of how amazing Michelangelo is when you compare David to other sculptures.

Duomo from Piazzale Michelangelo

Anyway, once I got out, I met up with the group from Lorraine. We decided to go the Piazza Michelangelo, which is famous for the best view of Florence. We took SO many pictures. We headed back to the main city, to the most famous, oldest bridge in Venice that the axis decided to leave standing during WWII. We ate dinner over the river. I split a Florentine steak and spaghetti with Parker Buntin. The steak was up there for the best steak I’ve ever put in my mouth.

The rest of the night was spent experiencing the city. We went back up the Piazza to see the sun set over Florence. We spent an hour watching a band play on the bridge with the sunset in the background. The best part of the night came after we had gotten Gelato. We wandered into a big square, where we happened to find an orchestra playing. All the while, vendors were throwing blue light up toys in the air, which slowly fell back down. They whole scene was surreal.

The next morning, we headed to the Leonardo Da Vinci museum before catching our train. Seeing Leonardo’s drawing ideas actually built was phenomenal. That man was a genius. Before long though, we were on the train to Cinque Terre.

When we got there, we split up so we could check in at our different hostels. I accidently took the long way to get to theirs. I was incredibly lucky though, because it put me on an amazingly scenic route. Riomaggore, one of the towns that makes up Cinque Terre, was situated in a valley on the Mediterranean. It was the most beautiful view of the coast that I had seen so far in Europe.

 

Cinque Terre

 

That day, we decided to hike up to a church on the peak of a hill next to Riomaggore. The hike was rough. I was pretty dehydrated, which was a huge mistake considering how hot it was. I knew the view was going to be worth it though, so we all powered through. We spent a good amount of time on that hill relaxing and taking pictures. The coastline was beautiful. We made our way back down, and started looking immediately for somewhere to eat. We got some pizza and pasta and chowed down. After, we made our way to the docks and the shoreline. The rest of the night was spent skipping rocks and relaxing. I went back to my hostel, which was a town over, discovered how a bidet works, and went to bed.

The next morning, I boarded a train to Milan, took a shuttle to the airport, boarded my plane, and went back to Barcelona by 5:00 PM. I felt pretty accomplished because I somehow managed to successfully plan two plane rides, two bus rides, and four trains by myself.

By the time I got back to my room, it was almost time for the Sant Juan. I went with most of the program to the beach with lots of fireworks. We were up late that night laying back on the beach and experiencing the fireworks. By the end of the night, the beach looked like a warzone.

That’s it for this part, stay tuned for more!

First Days Out of Spain! June 16, 2013

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A LOT has happened since my last blog post. I am currently writing this on a train headed to Zurich from Lucern in Switzerland, but I won’t be able to upload it until I have a laptop so I can add pictures easily.

So last time I left off, I was about to head to Tarragona (a city an hour down the coast from Barca) for a day. I woke up that morning bright and early to catch the earliest train possible to Tarragona. It was my first time on the train system and I was going by myself, so I made sure to triple check the correct train. At the train station closest to myself, I quickly found out that there was no option to buy tickets for the train. Realizing I was going to miss the first train, I headed over to Sants (the biggest station there). I had a whole hour and a half to figure out how to get there. After about an hour, I was getting pretty worn out, and I still wasn’t any closer to my ticket. I had waited forever in the ticket window, only to find out that the person couldn’t speak English and I had to wait again.

All of the sudden, someone jumps on my back. Being in a foreign country with no one I knew around, adrenaline started pumping. However, having stood in line for an hour, I was too tired to do anything about it. After the dude on my back started hugging me, I figured out it wasn’t some crazy Spaniard. It turns out it was a very good friend visiting from Madrid who was studying abroad from University of Kentucky. We weren’t able to meet up that weekend because neither of us could communicate without phones or constant Internet and we kept getting lost. I had no idea he would be at the train station so I was happy to see him, but I got worried when I noticed he was having trouble talking.

As it turns out, he had his bag stolen at the station. The bag had his wallet, passport and all of his other belongings in it. He had no way of getting back to Madrid because he had no phone or money. We literally couldn’t believe that we happened to see each other in such a big station without any prior knowledge. After I helped him get a ticket, he helped me order the pass to Tarragona because he was near fluent in Spanish. So as it turns out, it worked out for both of us. After all this, I still happened to barely miss the train. I decided to go back after that, and I was dazed all day because I was so dumbstruck. Sorry that took long to tell, but it was one of the most odd, least likely things to ever happen to me. Picture below.

Me and Sean

The next two weeks were more of the same. That next weekend, a lot of the people from the GTL program came to Barcelona. A few of them were even fellow purple snakes! I went with some of them around Barcelona, and it was perfect weekend to be there: bright, sunny, and very warm. We did all of the Barcelona activities that weekend like beach, tan, parks, and clubbing. It was a solid weekend, but I was still looking forward to the week-long break that was a week away.

The first stop of the trip was going to be Zurich in Switzerland. My friend who I was traveling with me had an Uncle that lived in Zurich, so we made Zurich our base camp in Switzerland. We had Eurail, which meant a lot of train travel. The night train was incredibly long, and it was my first time hearing French. There was a small fight in the train that night, and we did not understand a word of it. It was very uncomfortable, especially because it was almost right next to us. One benefit of the trains is the layovers though. There are some beautiful towns that we got the chance to stop through such as Cerbere in France (pictured below) that we never would have seen otherwise.

Cerbère, France

When we got to Zurich that day, we were supposed to head directly to Interlaken for canyoning. Unfortunately, the canyoning was moved due to weather, and so my friend decided to go to Zurich for the whole day while I headed to Interlaken by myself (I had paragliding scheduled for that day as well!). Here’s where the very bizarre circumstances start. On the train ride, I happened to meet two girls from Atlanta who were now going to college in Kentucky. After talking for a while about how we had switched places for school, we walked around a little when the train arrived in Interlaken. Interlaken was stunning. There were huge mountains with a lake reflecting them, and it was a perfectly sunny day.

I said goodbye to the girls and headed to the paragliding base. The circumstances continued as I happened to run into the group from GTL that I had seen the week before. We chatted for a while, and soon it was time for paragliding. Paragliding may have been the best experience in my life. Interlaken was even more beautiful from thousands of feet up. The guide let me steer for a while and did all of the tricks. Again, the group that I was going with happened to be from Cincinnati (15 minutes from where I live in Kentucky).

Me steering the ship

The next day, we were back in Interlaken for canyoning. Have you ever tried hiking in a wet suit? It is very difficult. The workout was worth it, and now I have some good footage of me failing at rappelling. After Interlaken came Lucern, where I’m headed from now. The train there was a huge surprise. It took us through the hills with a great view of the alps and smaller villages. We didn’t have as much time in Lucern as we planned for, so right when we got off the train, we picked a spot on the high hills and headed there. It took us a while, but we were rewarded with a great view of Lucern, the lake and the alps. And here we are, on the train back to Zurich. Stay tuned for more vacation adventure featuring Brussels, Amsterdam, and Munich!

Guten Tag Europe! May 15, 2013

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Guten Tag Europe!

We have arrived! After a long journey with little sleep, the whole GTL crew has landed at various airports and convened in Metz, France. It is my third day in Europe, and my, it’s certainly been a whirlwind so far! Image

After arriving in Frankfurt around 6am on Mother’s Day, Matt Waples and I walked off our plane to a dreary and rainy Europe. That’s okay though, because after going through customs and collecting our luggage, we found our way to a hotel right next to the airport (we arrived a day earlier than most people, so we decided to split a hotel room for that extra night before the shuttle would leave the following day). Once we were checked in, we each took a nice 6-hour nap. Thanks jetlag!

What to do with an extra day in Europe? Explore! That’s exactly what Matt and I proceeded to do. We woke up, made our way down to the S-Bahn (a German subway system) and grabbed a train into the heart of the Frankfurt. Image

That building looks cool—Okay, let’s go see it! This brief dialogue appropriately began Matt and my somewhat haphazard exploration through Frankfurt. We wandered around and took in all the culture that Frankfurt had to offer, which, as it turns out, is more than the industrial stereotype that most travel websites give it credit for. The sleek, modern look of Frankfurt is attributed to the massive rebuilding that occurred after Frankfurt was bombed mostly to the ground in World War II. That being said, there are some old cathedrals and buildings that give off a cool mix of old and new styles.

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“Hallo! Ich spreche ein bisschen deutsch.” Matt and I got to use some of the German we had learned in our respective middle and high schools. Even after not taking German for over a year, I was surprised by how much came back. I can’t wait to use more German on future trips! Matt and I ate dinner at a little German restaurant right next to the Main River, which runs through Frankfurt. The cuisine was interesting, but quite good!

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After catching a train back to the hotel from a long day of exploration, Matt and I grabbed some rest before heading off to Metz with the rest of the shuttle the following day. The flight with most people on the shuttle was delayed that next day, but we were all accounted for in the end. The shuttle left for Metz, France that afternoon (Monday, May 13, 2013). Unfortunately, I don’t remember much of the bus ride, because I slept through most of it. When I did wake up, however, I awoke to beautiful German, then French, landscapes out the window. Rolling hills and lush, green grass made me excited to travel on future weekends throughout Europe.

Yesterday (Tuesday, May 15th) was a full day of orientation and exploration both on the GTL campus and in downtown Metz. The orientation was fairly straightforward: lots of rules, advice, and common sense information. It was helpful though, and I appreciated all the orientation info sessions. In the afternoon, some busses took everybody at GTL to downtown Metz. Metz is awesome! It’s a beautiful city with plenty of rich culture and history. Everybody was treated to a short bus tour through Metz, which was informational and a good overview of the city. I’m definitely going to check out Metz some more during my time here!

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I’m so glad and fortunate to be in Europe! Au revoir!

Italia. casa di gelato July 27, 2012

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Following my short stint in Madrid to meet a good friend of mine, I hopped on to one of the finest airlines in the world, Ryan Air, and found myself in Rome. [At this point if you are not familiar with Ryan Air I suggest you look it up.] Once in Rome, I grabbed some Chinese food (If you haven’t had Chinese food in Italy, I don’t recommend it) and met up with my group. It was nighttime so we decided to grab gelato and head to the Coliseum. It is definitely a sight worth seeing at night as well as in the day. Fine Italian gelato only enhances your experience. The next day we decided to cover much of the major tourist attractions of Rome: Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps.

The following day, before setting off for Florence, we saw the Coliseum and the ruins in the morning. I can understand now why people rave about this Eternal City. From the earliest centuries to present-day, its rich history is very evident through the architecture, the food, the language, and the overall culture. I considered Rome a good city but one of the best cities (second only to Madrid) I have visited this summer has to be Firenze, or Florence as we know it. It was a fantastic mix of the past and present. Phenomenal, in fact. There weren’t too many major sites to see, but I think that’s what made Florence more special. My idea of a great experience is finding myself in a completely unknown city and roaming it to learn something that I never could have otherwise. Florence consisted of me doing just that. The Piazza Michelangelo, a spot offering a view of the entire city, was marvelous. The city of Florence, at the foot of the Apennines and outlined in red, boasted itself under the hazy weather that evening. Our time in Florence was rounded out with a fantastic Tuscan dinner followed by delicious gelato (Florence also had the best gelato in Europe…or the world for that matter) and live music. One of my favorite parts of a city is its market. Going to the market gives you feel for the city, I believe. Walking around, chatting [bargaining] with the vendors, and eating the market food gives me a sense of that culture.

The next morning was a bit rushed. On that day, we were to travel to, and hike, the five villages of Cinque Terre. But before that, we had to stop by the Leaning Tower, in Pisa. From Florence, Pisa was only an hour away. After taking the infamous picture with the Leaning Tower, we set off for Cinque Terre….

Cinque terre was simply breathtaking. from Riomaggiore to Monterosso, every village was unique. I had never been to such a place. It seemed as if everyone there were locals. Parts of the hiking trails literally meandered through the streets of town and in front of residents’ homes. I would liken Cinque Terre to an Italian paradise, and nothing less.

I had not thought that Italy would be one of my more memorable trips. I was completely mistaken. Italy, the people, the culture, the language, the food, and the gelato…Italy continually impressed me. I have become a fan. Below are links to my Italy albums. Feel free to enjoy them.

 

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150919874397713.401885.727097712&type=3&l=d29ef9a961
 
 

Field Trip 1: Lorraine Memorial Cemetery and Hackenberg July 11, 2012

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Posted on June 18, 2012

I just got back from Munich, so look for a post soon about how awesome Deutschland is! Before getting to that however, I wanted to briefly fill you in on the field trip I went on last Wednesday. We were able to visit the Lorraine Memorial Cemetery, followed by the largest fort on the Maginot Line, the Hackenberg Fortress.

The Lorraine Cemetery has the graves of 10,489 bodies, about 40% of the bodies recovered near Lorraine- the other 60% were repatriated. Of those 10,489, 151 were unknown soldiers. There were also 4 Medal of Honor recipients, and several women buried there as well. It was a very powerful experience; we were able to just walk around and pay our respects in our own way.

Beautiful

Afterwards we had lunch at an authentic French restaurant, and then visited the Hackenberg Fortress. It was cold, damp, dark, and really cool to walk around and see remnants from wars past. I don’t really have much else to say about Hackenberg, other than that it was hard to imagine actually living, working, and fighting in a fortress like that.

One of the exhibits in the Hackenberg Fortress

Again, see my pictures on facebook for a better story of the field trip. Now to edit the ones from this weekend!

Paris! July 10, 2012

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Paris: a picturesque place for a relaxed weekend

Posted on June 14, 2012 at http://tinysteinygoestofrance.wordpress.com

As I’m sure you have seen on facebook so far, I couldn’t stop taking pictures this weekend. Paris was just so gorgeous. Just feast your eyes on this picture:

The Eiffel Tower

So pretty!

Yep, looks like we were photoshopped, but no, we were actually there. Be jealous. So Friday we got into to Paris around 10, and after checking into our hostel we went to find our friend Ralf’s show. For those of you who don’t know, Ralf Popescu is a seriously talented and impressive electronic producer, so much so that he has been signed by AM Only (aka on the same level as Skrillex). He was playing a show at Le Red Light, so we were able to meet up with him and other friends from the Barcelona program. It was so much fun, and great to see him.

The next morning we started off with some fresh fruit at a market, and then breakfasted on the lawn near the Eiffel Tower. It was so gorgeous, and of course we had fun taking pictures. Then we headed off to Louvre to try and meet up with other friends. However, we soon realized that saying, “Let’s meet at the Louvre” was about as descriptive as “Let’s meet at Georgia Tech,” and we actually didn’t get to see them. Instead we got lunch, then headed to Notre Dame followed by the Arc de Triomphe. We had a DELICIOUS dinner at a place called the Bellagio, and then headed back to our hotel (there was a little mix up that had us walking 20 minutes across town to a different hotel, but at that point we were just tired and ended up going to sleep).

The next morning we visited Versailles. We ended up not touring the Chateau because of a massive line, but instead toured the gardens, which was quite fun despite how overcast it was. We were greeted by several baby swans, ducks, and surprisingly affectionate fish at the lake, and then headed home. I think this was a very relaxed weekend, and we needed it; with all the traveling we have been doing, we are getting really tired. Case in point, I think I turned my alarm off in my sleep this morning, and woke up at 8:05 (made it to my 8:15 class by 8:17, I was pretty proud of myself).

Cloudy, but pretty

ITALIA July 5, 2012

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At GT-Lorraine we have a 5-day weekend in the middle of the semester. For this weekend, we decided to go to both Venice and Rome, Italy, 2 very well-known cities.  Simply because of the amount of time that we spent in those two cities, this blog post may be the longest I have composed to date though I will do my best to keep it succinct.

We started out in Venice Italy, of the most well-known canal cities in Europe.  Geographically, it is located in the northern part of Italy.  If you view Italy as a boot, it would be on the upper right side near where the wearer’s calf would be.

Once we arrived in Venice, we went looking for food, we found pizza.  Quickly I discovered that Italian pizza is not the same as American pizza.  One of the best ways to describe Italian pizza is to think about homemade American pizza.  The crust was made out of something similar to unleavened biscuit dough and the sauce was a rich tomato base seasoned with oregano and basil.  As much as I wish I could provide a picture for you, I’m not the greatest at taking pictures of food; I’m usually too busy eating it.

After lunch we decided to explore the city and to do so crossed many, many canals via bridges that allow navigation of Venice.  In the canal system, there are many small canals and the main canal, which ranges from one to two hundred feet at its widest points.  The picture that I have of the canal is at one of its narrower points.  One interesting effect of the expansive canal system and lack of roads is the fact that residents, the few natives who are left, typically own boats instead of cars.  Restaurants are supplied by boats, not trucks, water busses not traditional busses are used for public transport and markets are based on the side of the canals where vendors use their boats as stands, not their vans.  The canal system leads to a totally different culture that is almost totally independent of the automobile, something that it was difficult for me, an American, to grasp.

For me the most surprising thing about Venice was St. Marco square.  This square is at least 4 acres is size and is swarming with people and pigeons all day.  At the end of the square is an enormous church, much bigger than I would have ever expected to find in Venice.

The one night we spent in Venice, we stayed in a hostel on the island of Lido, one of the islands surrounding Venice.  Lido had beaches on the Mediterranean Sea that had relatively clean water.  We swam in the Sea for a while and then scoured the beach for some shells to take back to the hotel as souvenirs.  After a long hot day and 5 weeks of academics, the time on the beach was a much needed bit of relaxation.

When we tried to go back to the mainland to buy some souvenirs and catch our train for Rome, we experienced another part of European business culture that is difficult to find if not nonexistent in American business culture today, strikes.  The water bus drivers that took us to Lido the previous night were now on strike.  Thankfully, they guaranteed minimum service and we were able to visit a Leonardo de Vinci museum in Venice and catch our train to Rome without any major problems.

After arriving in Rome, we had a scheduled visit to the Vatican City at night.  We went through the several museums displaying sculptures, tapestries, and paintings before entering the Sistine Chapel, a sight that is absolutely phenomenal.  Every square inch of the walls and ceiling were painted by Michelangelo.  We spent at last 30 minutes staring at all of the paintings depicting stories from both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.  The Sistine Chapel is a holy place and for that reason pictures are not allowed, but even if pictures were allowed, there is no way that they would be able to do justice to the sheer area covered by paintings.

Later in our trip we visited St. Peter’s Basilica at night.  The square in front of the Basilica is enormous and is capable of holding many thousands of people.  Though I am not Catholic, I found my visit to the Vatican to be a very worthwhile experience.  I am Methodist and though the Protestant and Catholic churches split several centuries ago, there is still a long common history and many common beliefs.

The next morning, we went to see one of the most famous Roman sites, the Coliseum.  When it was used, it held 75,000 people and had a floor on which gladiators fought one another in addition to exotic animals.  The floor has since collapsed and the stadium seating has collapsed.  However, with a structure this large, deterioration over two millennia cannot hide the resources and the technical know-how that it took to construct this colossal stadium. We were able to walk around inside and even go up to the second level where you can clearly see the rooms that were located under the stadium floor. The coliseum is one of the sights that you see pictures of throughout life yet actually going makes you appreciate the sheer size of the structure.

Along with the ticket that we bought for the coliseum, we purchased admission to the Roman Forum.  From here, you can look out over Rome and see the skyline, which looks totally different than the skyline of a large American city.  There are no skyscrapers and no buildings that dominated the skyline; the closest to achieving this status is the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.

This brings me to one of the most enjoyable parts of the trip, buying excessive amount of Gelato.  During our time in Rome, the temperature exceeded 90 degrees every day.  With the heat from the stone buildings and asphalt roads, it certainly felt like it was over 100 degrees.  Thankfully, this gave us a great excuse to get gelato multiple times per day.  I didn’t keep an exact count, but I’m pretty sure that we got gelato 10 times during our three days in Rome.   One gelateria stood out, Valentino’s, which was near one of the more famous fountains in Rome, the Trevi Fountain that we visited twice, once during the day and again at night.

Probably our most cultural experience in Italy was when Italy played England in the quarterfinal of the Euro Cup.  In one of the squares, I’m not sure which one it was, there was a large screen set up so that a large crowd could watch the game.  As regulation time ended with the score still tied at zero, we wondered what the outcome of the game would be and whether there was going to be a happy mob or a relatively upset mob.  There were Italy flags being waved in the air as the first and the second overtime began, but again at the end of both overtimes, the game was still tied.  Then, it was time for the penalty kicks.  After four kicks, Italy clinched the game and the Romans when crazy while we quickly found our way out of the crowd.  Locals drove around in their cars well into the night honking their horns and celebrating the Italian victory.  I’m not a fan of soccer, but the game was enjoyable and the atmosphere was full of energy.  I’m sure that this was not the only place in Rome that there was a large gathering of people to watch the game.  As I knew before coming to Europe, but that I have really seen while in Europe, the Europeans really do enjoy their soccer.

We left Rome the next morning at 8am to begin our journey back to Metz, through Italy, Switzerland, and France.  The positive way to describe our travel back to Metz is that, because of some storms and specifically a landslide near Zurich, we took the “Scenic Route.”  We saw some very large wind turbines and a lot of farmland that was reminiscent of getting lost in the United States.  You can’t really say that we got lost; we just took a hodgepodge of busses and trains that got us where we needed to go.

In closing this blog post, I want to apologize for the length if you’re still reading this conglomeration of ideas and experiences.  But I would like to say that our trip to Italy was the most relaxing trip that we have taken so far.  The Italian way of life is much slower and more relaxed than the typical fast-paced American lifestyle. It is relaxing to experience this lifestyle, but for someone that leads a fast-paced life in America, I felt somewhat outside my element.  Italy has been fun, and hopefully my body won’t fuss at me too much for the massive amount of gelato, pasta, and pizza that I ate during my time in Italy.

European Euphoria July 2, 2012

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Hola de Madrid. Es día bonita! Madrid is the number one city I have been to, I am convinced. From the inordinate amount of Plazas (pronounced Plathas due to the Spanish lisp) to the delectable tapas, Madrid epitomized my idea of Spain. Of course I enjoyed Barcelona and its almost fantasized life, but Madrid gave me a true sense of Spain, I felt. I am slightly biased towards Madrid, because on of my friends gave me a personal tour of much of city. He knew his facts, and best of all, he enjoyed showing us around.

            I am currently at Madrid-Barajas, waiting to board my flight to Rome. Yesterday marked the beginning of our mid-summer break, five days. Some friends and I are going to Italy (within Italy, most likely to Rome, Florence, Pisa, and Cinque Terre).  Before Italy, however, I wanted to take a trip of my own. So two nights ago, I came to Paris and met up with some Oxford friends. Then the next day, I took a flight to Madrid to meet a good friend of mine. Finally, I am about to head out to Rome to meet the rest of the gang.

The craziness is a small reflection on my summer. In the last 5 weeks, I have been to 11 cities, taken more than 40 trains, and eaten over 20 kebabs—sometimes what I would define as my cause of sustenance. The kebabs are a delicious conglomeration of vegetables, tzaziki, red pepper, and meat (usually chicken) in a thick piece of pita bread. They are phenomenal AND cheap (not necessarily a combination representative of Europe).

My next few weeks consist of canyoning in Switzerland, Running [with the Bulls] in Pamplona, running around in Prague, relaxing in Budapest, and fulfilling my aspirations in Istanbul—the top city on my list of places to visit for much time. Stay tuned.

 

Barcelona! June 27, 2012

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Sagrada Familia

A very impressive example of Gaudi’s work

This was originally posted around June 7, 2012 at http://tinysteinygoestofrance.wordpress.com

Oh hey, I’m back from Barcelona!

So Spain in general, and Southern France, for that matter, was gorgeous. Absolutely beautiful. Please check my photos out on facebook- I didn’t load them all because I took so many but really it was awesome. We got to Barcelona around noon on Saturday, and met up with our friend Corrigan who is studying abroad there this summer. He took us to his apartment, and we proceeded to devour some Chinese food before heading off to the Sagrada Familia, as shown above.

The Sagrada Familia was started in 1882, but taken over by Gaudi in 1883. Now you can see his unique style in almost every aspect of the church. There are snails, lizards, a nativity scene, and fruit all over the place, and it is just huge. It’s actually not set to be done until around 2030, but already it is quite impressive, as you can see in the above photo.

After a long day of sightseeing we tried our luck at Corrigan’s favorite sangria place, only to find out they were out. So we wandered and found some tapas, which were tasty, but not at all filling. Then we went out and experienced the Barcelona night life. That evening was highlighted when I tried to jump over a shoulder-high pole. Lucky for me, my body cleared the pole, but the somewhat-baggy jeans did not. My jeans (and boxers!) were ripped completely through and we had to go back to change. The rest of the night was very fun, but was super late- I guess that explains why they have to take naps during the day!

Sunday we walked around Barcelona and went to several museums. The Picasso museum was completely packed because apparently that day it was free to get in, but we did go to another one of Gaudi’s works- La Pedrera. It was very cool- again, be sure to check out the pictures. We didn’t do much that day, but we had some awesome dinner at the place we tried yesterday.

The rooftop of La Pedrera

Monday we tried the Barcelona beach! Unfortunately, it was windy, overcast, and not very warm, so we only stayed for about thirty minutes. But we then tried some seafood paella before hopping on a bus tour to catch the rest of the city. We stopped at Parc Guell, another work of Gaudi’s, as well as the FC Barcelona stadium and several other stops along the way. Really there is only one way to describe Barcelona: beautiful.

View from Parc Guell

Gorgeous, isn’t it?

Coming up next: Paris! and then Munich, an Italy trip, and Interlaken :)

Keep in touch!

Koebenhavn with a side of Hamburg June 20, 2012

Posted by tsteindorf in Travel Log.
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I love this picture- Lakeside in Christiania

Originally published on June 1, 2012, at http://tinysteinygoestofrance.wordpress.com Enjoy!

I intended to write this Tuesday (when I returned from my weekend trip). This didn’t happen because I arrived at 6:15am after “sleeping” on a “sleeper car.” That exhaustion combined with Thermo homework killed that idea. I intended to write this yesterday, when I had free time. Free time which quickly disappeared to groceries, Transport homework, and the like. So now that I have my homework done and got some good sleep, here is a recount of my last weekend! Sorry for the delay everybody

OK. Copenhagen. Wasn’t too sure what to expect, but it definitely exceeded those expectations. It began with a rocky start though. Our already late train (11:25pm Friday) got delayed until midnight, so we decided to spend some time downtown beforehand. After eating delicious Kebab Serpenois, we spent some time at a bar. However, I was in an odd mood- I think I was missing people back home, so I ended up taking a walk alone for a bit. The sleeper car was awful (tall person problems) coupled with awful dreams, but after breakfast at our layover in Hamburg, we got back onto the train which drove directly into a boat! A massive boat! We were ferried across to Denmark, where we continued on to Copenhagen. Oh, and at some point Friday night/Saturday morning, my glasses decided to break again, and without my glue, I ended up wearing contacts for the rest of the trip. Luckily sunglasses were definitely needed!

We were greeted at the station by Erin Walsh, a friend of Nathan’s, who took us onto a local train to her apartment. We dropped off our stuff, and then set out downtown- but not after walking past the LARGEST MALL IN SCANDINAVIA. Yep. It was massive. Downtown was very neat- a lot like other European towns with quaint storefronts, cool food stands, lots of pretty and old things, and good music. For dinner I had an enormous open-faced sandwich, and then we headed back. That evening we went out again with some of Erin’s friends to all of their favorite locations, and got to experience the local nightlife. It was a blast!

The next morning after a yummy breakfast of cinnamon pancakes, eggs, and bacon, we went to other various parts of Copenhagen. It was really pretty- be sure to check out my facebook album for some great pictures- and perfect weather. Then, we visited a commune called Christiania which was definitely outside of my comfort zone, but had some pretty views and awesome music as well. Then we made our way to a local amusement park called Tivoli, with several more sights and experiences, and we rode a roller coaster (we got there late, so ended up not buying a full pass).

After a dinner of noodles and ice cream, we went back to Erin’s apartment with the intention of briefly napping, but ended up sleeping until the next day. We tried to go to Field’s (the shopping mall) before our train, but it was closed for a European bank holiday! So frustrating. We were able to try some Danish hot dogs though, and then got back on the train.

Our layover in Hamburg this time was for 4 hours, so this time we were able to go wander around! We found a local pride festival, so it was basically a regular street fair at home, except it was German. SO GOOD. I got to eat traditional bratwurst, some German chips and beer, and the German take on a burrito (not bad, but interesting). Then, back on the train, we met a French man named Frederick, and played cards with him until passing out. And, like I said, we arrived at 6:15 Tuesday morning, with classes at 8.

Again, I’m finding that what I enjoy most about traveling is just wandering around and experiencing the city. I am not the biggest history buff, and if you start rattling facts off about an old castle, it will most likely go in one ear and out the other, while I just look, smell, feel, and just experience the castle for myself. I love going to the local places for food and drinks, and either meeting new friends, or spending time with my own friends. They’re pretty great. Also, Akash and I have discovered we are awesome at spades, which makes the trains enjoyable too.

Be sure to check the photos out on facebook! Miss everyone

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