Long time no post! I guess that’s what happens when you go on that 3 week backpacking trip that you have literally been waiting for for four months (is that even a sentence..?). There was the good, the amazing, and the ugly, but all in all this trip was a complete success!!
Journey to Berlin
My first stop? Berlin. After 2 days of resting up, cleaning up, and finally packing starting the midnight before my flight, I took off for the airport with a completely undersized backpack and my purse. An hour after leaving my door, I arrived at my terminal. I got through security quite easily, and sat around realizing I had made it to the airport a solid 2 hours before I needed to.. So I did what any rational person would do- connected to wifi and hit up the snack machine. After spending an embarrassing amount of money on processed foods, I look up at the monitor only to realize the gate of my flight had changed.. To across the terminal. So, I hiked out. After sitting at the new gate for 45 minutes, I looked up to see that the gate changed again.. So I moved. Again.
I lined up at the correct gate, as it was getting close to boarding time. A woman came around checking tickets and passports. And then the most dreadful thing happened ever- She told me Easy Jet only accepts one bag, and somehow, my big purse had to fit in my backpack. WHAT?!? Now I have flown with easy jet before.. and I do NOT remember this one bag rule. Ryanair, yes- but I had heard that they changed this rule January 1, so of course I was going to take full advantage of the extra space! So I looked at my backpack, stuffed to the brim so that the zipper was almost popping off, and I looked at my purse. Clearly geometry was not going to be in my favor that day.
So I did what any Europe backpacker has done at least once in their lives- Starting putting on random articles of clothing, and started stuffing my coat pockets, my boots, under my shirt, and whatever else I could with random crap from my purse. Now every woman knows how much stuff can fit in a purse. I swear I looked like Mary Poppins pulling things out of there!
Still, geometry was not in my favor. I even had a nice girl behind me offer to stuff some things in her bag! FINALLY I got everything inside SOMEWHERE, and waddled pass the woman checking tickets again. They scanned my ticket, and let me on the plane. After refilling my purse once I boarded the plane, I was off to Berlin!!
My plane ride was by far the most interesting experience I’ve had to date. It was a few days before Christmas, which may have been why everyone was in such high spirits. First of all, I met a man and his son from the UAE flying to Berlin for the son to start medical school.. in German. He would take a year of German, then immediately start studying medicine. I don’t know about y’all, but I find that the medical field is hard enough in your own language, let alone another! I was very impressed. Secondly, two small children were running up and down the entire aisle of the plane for the entirety of the flight.. Not once were they told to sit down by an adult. It was really bizarre haha. And finally.. A backpacker around my age silently got up, went to the bathroom at the front of the plane, changed into a Santa suit he happened to have in his bag (I couldn’t fit all the clothes I needed let alone a Santa suit in that strict size limit of a bag!), passed out candy to every passenger on the entire plane, changed in the back of the plane, and returned to his seat in normal clothes like nothing was out of the ordinary. It was absolutely heartwarming!
Landing in Berlin, it was time to find my hostel. I exited the airport and followed the walking path to the train station. I bought a ticket, and hopped on the train following the directions the hostel had given me. it was super, super easy. I stayed at Plus Berlin, located right near the East Side Gallery (Berlin Wall). It doubled at a hotel, was extremely clean, and honestly before this trip the biggest hostel I had ever stayed in! It had a restaurant/bar, a swimming pool, jacuzzi, and a great reception area. I stayed in a 4 person ensuite dorm. When I walked in the room, I couldn’t see anything so turned on the light, and up pops this Australian girl from the top bunk. Oops! I woke her up. That’s ok though, because next thing you know, we figured out we were both staying for Christmas, and practically went from Zero to BFF in about 5 seconds. Miss ya Tracy!
So, I settled in, ate some Turkish food from the only place open in Berlin that time of night, and went to bed. The next day, we walked toward the city via the East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall. This is a part of the wall that they turned into an art gallery instead of tearing down. Much of the art work is political in nature, and I thought it was fantastic!
We ate some breakfast and parted ways since we were taking different tours. I wandered towards my walking tour meeting point. I got lost and walked into a random shop to ask for directions.
Here is how it went:
Me: Hi do you speak english?
Woman: (firm) yes
Me: can you tell me where I am and how to get here? (Point at map)
Woman: schmoogaly schmoogaly schmawg stein schmooof schmooorf schmmof platz. Up Shmoogishshmorg. Right schmawg shmag.
Me: (deer in headlight stare) Thank you!
Finally after finding someone who ACTUALLY spoke English, I arrived at the Brandenburg Gate, the walking tour meeting point. YAY!
I explored the area a bit and waited for my walking tour to start. Let me just take a moment to promote the tour I did. It’s called “Sandeman Tours” and they do a free walking tour in many of the major cities. Sounds touristy right? It was. But guess what? I have sworn to do their tour in every major city where ever they have it, because I learn more about the city this way than I ever would on my own. The tour guides are extremely knowledgable, and depending on the day, you could have 6 people on your tour, or 60 (which then they would divide the group in half). The reason these guides are so good is because they live completely off of tips. So, if they want to be tipped at the end, they have to be interesting and knowledgable!
Here are some of the things I saw on my Berlin walking tour:
After the walking tour, I headed back to the hostel, this time by train. I started to realize they don’t check train tickets which I thought was strange. After resting for a bit, I went and picked up dinner, then called in an early night because I was touring a concentration camp the next day.
Sachenhausen concentration camp was completely an eye opening experience. Words would not do this place justice for what it really was. Pictures can only do so much. My advice is to go see one and to let me know what you think.
The weather was bone chilling cold, rainy and windy, and everything was eerily quiet. The guide reminded us that the weather would sometimes be 30 degrees colder than it was in that moment, and people would have to stand and work there for hours upon hours. wearing no more than a layer or two. This place was absolutely sickening to see, but I am very glad I took the time out to go see it. As I said, go see one, and let me know what you think.
After the concentration camp, I went home and met up with Tracy for a Christmas Eve dinner. One thing I learned about Germany is that their Christmas is actually celebrated on our Christmas Eve. So, our Christmas Eve dinner was spent… Wait for it… Eating at an Indian restaurant- the only place open on our side of Berlin! It was super good though, except a drunk kept wandering into the restaurant and talking to random people eating dinner, and getting dragged out by the owner. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for guy and whatever happened to him to be spending Christmas alone and drunk. The restaurant ended up giving him some food though, which I thought was part good Christmas spirit and part a way to sober him a bit.
After dinner, we decided to join up with a pub crawl from our hostel. We went super far away, but it was worth it because they brought us to some really cool places! One of which had a PINBALL machine. Yeah, that happened. I also met some really cool people on the crawl! Of course, everyone pretty much was Australian go figure. It’s like Australia’s young population relocates to Europe every year!
One guy told me about his adventures in New Orleans, one being him drunkenly getting a tattoo on his foot that said “I am zee lobster lover”. I knew I should have told him he had actually eaten crawfish, but I mean the guy had a tattoo of it.. Why rub salt in the wound?
The next morning was Christmas morning, and besides a slight headache, Santa Claus also brought me two other gifts- a chest cold and BED BUGS. That’s right. I said it. I woke up at 5 am as if I had woke up in an ant pile. Tracy, who was in the bunk above me also had them! I told y’all how clean this place was.. But apparently that does not matter. I went to reception with bumps all over my body. They sent someone in our room, looked around, and completely removed the mattresses from our rooms. Then they took all of our clothes and bags and put them in a gigantic freezer for the rest of the day (Because apparently that “kills” them). Likely story.
So, we spent Christmas Day hanging out in the lobby of the hostel, waiting for our clothes to freeze. Then after they froze, we washed and dried them on high heat. I thought the worst was over. IT WASN’T.
So after that tabacle was seemingly over, Tracy and I decided to head out to some Christmas markets– it was Christmas after all! This absolutely made my Christmas. German Christmas markets are absolutely fantastic. It is a bunch of different little stalls of food, live pleasant Christmas music, hot mulled wine, crafts, and more. It was so nice to walk around sipping on some hot honey wine while listening to brass and string instruments play Christmas music, eat some good food, and look at peoples amazing craftsmanship!
After this we decided to head back home. But not until.. We get caught riding the train without a train ticket! *womp womp* This woman and man undercover started checking tickets on the train.. When it came to us, the followed us off of our “stop”, as we tried to reason with them. Tracy showed them her euro rail pass, which someone told her would work (it doesn’t). And I just kinda pretended to dig through my bag.. I didn’t know it was a big deal! Everyone told me at the hostel that no one really buys the tickets. They demanded we pay 40 euro in cash, which was not happening- you know they just stick that in their pocket. We kept saying we would be happy to go pay an official place, and they eventually let us go. PHEW! Close one! I definitely bought train tickets after this!
So after some last drinks and dinner with another guy from California we met while finishing up our laundry, it was time for me to get to bed since I was flying out the next morning!
This is a segment I like to call, how to obtain a single benadryl in Germany: Christmas edition
Flash forward to 5 am, where I wake up again like I’m in another ant pile, with bumps on my FACE, neck, arms, legs.. You name it. I also woke up with asthma from all of the allergens and my chest cold. Since it was still a holiday in Germany, almost no pharmacies were open.. And the only 24 hour one was an hour in the opposite direction to the airport.. So at 5 am after expressing my discomfort to the front desk, I figured I would just hike out to the airport and wait for a pharmacy to open in there, or take a taxi from the airport to find one close by.
News flash: not only do they not have a pharmacy in the Schoenfeld airport, they also don’t even have a medic or a first aid station..
At this point I’m a wreck.. I have whelps all over my body, possibly looking like I have an allergy to the chicken pox, or at least some contagious disease, I am wheezing, I have a chest cold, and I am running on 4 hours of sleep. As I said.. I am a wreck. I walk up to airport information, and ask them where I can get to a pharmacy because there’s no way I can stay like this- I need Benadryl to bring down my asthma (compounded with a chest cold) and allergic reaction to the bedbug bites. They said no pharmacy was open, and the only thing they had was a hospital 10 miles away. Done.. How do I get there I ask? And they call… The paramedics (what?!). I tell them that all I need is a Benadryl, and they told me to take it up with the paramedics..
So next thing you know these freaking cute paramedics (sorry Ryan) walk in like someone’s having a heart attack, and here’s little ole Maury here with some moderate asthma, a chest cold, and bed bugs. I tell them that literally all I need is a Benadryl, and they said they would have to bring me to the hospital for that.. “Ummm ok.. Is there a cab I can take?” They told me they would bring me there.. “In an ambulance?! I can’t afford that, plus it’s ridiculous! I need an allergy pill, and maybe an antibiotic!” The paramedics start bargaining with me over how much I would pay them to bring me, and finally they start talking in German to each other, and say ok, we’re bringing you there for free! You look like you’ve had a rough morning. “Well.. That’s cheaper than a cab..” I guess I can no longer say I’ve never ridden in an ambulance..
So next thing you know I am sitting in a hospital room trying to hand motion that I simply need a Benadryl and that I need to leave because I have a flight. Not a single soul in this small hospital speaks English, which if you know anything about German education.. This is WEIRD. Everyone at least speaks a little.
I can say to this day that this was the strangest experience I’ve ever had.. Possibly ever. A nurse/doctor/random person came up to me with a bandaid with some sort of white cream on it and pointed to my ear. I was so confused what she was spouting in German, and finally she says “worry- no”. And puts the bandaid of mysterious substance on my earring hole. Later on they came in and they took BLOOD FROM MY EAR. 10 minutes later, I have no idea what was happening but everything from my ear down to my shoulder went all tingly, and I stopped caring I might miss my flight, or that I got bit by bed bugs, or about anything really. They came in ran some tests, gave me an antibiotic of some sort (didn’t take it- i was meeting Ryan in London who was bringing one my mom knew I needed) and gave me a pill and said “itch-no” (I definitely took that pill..). Then they called me a cab to bring me to the airport.. Everything from then until my flight is a bit hazy, but at least the asthma and itching stopped! My dad and I are still trying to figure out what the heck they gave me to make me so loopy!
So anyway, that’s my German hospital experience.. All of that just to get a Benadryl. You’d think it would be more efficient to just have a 24 hour pharmacy...!? I miss you America.
(HASHTAG this is my life)
Journey to London
So I flew to London and I took a Terravision bus to the actual city to meet Ryan (yay!), but traffic was really bad because it was “Boxing Day” there so it was a long ride. Finally around 5 pm- I had been up for a LONG 12 hours- I got to our hostel called “The Walrus”. It was so cute! It had a pub below it with couches, so it was a nice place to hang out.
Finally seeing Ryan after 4 months was one of the greatest moments of my life! However, he took one look at me and could tell I was miserable from the entire day of awfulness. He made me go to an after hours center where I was prescribed some proper medications to keep my asthma in check and to make sure my chest cold wasn’t developing into something worse. I started the antibiotic my mom sent up, and it was time to hit the sack and put that horrible day behind me!
The next day I was already better and it was time to explore London! One problem- it was raining. So, we headed to the British Museum! One interesting thing about London is that all their museums are free! (Maybe why the city is so expensive…?) Honestly though, neither of us were super impressed with the museum. It may have been partly due to the fact that since it was raining, every tourist had the same idea as us to go to a museum that day! It was MISERABLY crowded. After scooting through the museum, we came out and decided to go get lunch.
We found a fish and chips place called Rock and Sole on the map that our hostel recommended to us that claimed to have the best fish and chips. Not going to lie, they weren’t too far off. TIP: it was grossly more expensive to eat there instead of to go.. Maybe a 5 or 6 pound difference? If you have to eat there, the portions are huge, so me and Ryan split a plate! We were stuffed, too!
Afterwords, the sun started to peep out, so we decided it was a good day for one of my favorites, the free walking tour. We took our time walking there, taking in the city, walking through Piccadilly Circus (which was very circus-like actually.. SO many people!) and we even walked into the m&m’s store.. Which was 4 freaking stories!? Who knew there could be so much to do with m&m’s!
Finally we found ourselves in St. James Park where the walking tour started. The rain scared people away, so we were 2 of about 8 people total. Since all of us were young people, I think the guy thought he wouldn’t get tipped much, so he didn’t do as well and enthusiastically as I thought he would. This was also through a different company than Sandemans- if I went back I would definitely go with Sandeman’s again! (In the end, we tipped him quite well though. Kill them with kindness right? Plus, it was Christmas time!)
We saw everything from Buckingham Palace, to the first Gentleman’s club (Fun fact- Golf stands for “Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden”), to a place where you can buy a trip to outer space, to the Prime Minister’s home, finally Westminster Abbey and Big Ben (or “Clock Tower”). It was really cool to see all the big things in one afternoon! Afterwords, we were close enough to walk home and grab a brewski at the pub below our hostel.
That night, we went and saw a play that I found on none other than Livingsocial. It was a small Soho Theatre “dark comedy” play that, although was extremely crude and I would never in good conscience recommend for someone to go see, absolutely had us rolling in laughter. It was basically an adult humored twist on Christmas spirit and where it comes from. It was called “The Night Before Christmas” and the basic plot was this elf was found by this guy working late on Christmas Eve, and he tied him up. He calls his co-worker to come help him with this “situation”, and they try to decide if he is actually an elf. The elf eventually reveals that children are so joyous and hyper on Christmas morning, and everything is hyped up because they sprinkle a little “powder” on them while they are sleeping. And since the elves work around this powder all the time, they are all addicted to it, and that’s why they are so hyped up about Christmas too…. cue the dark humor. Uncomfortable at times, but you couldn’t help but laugh at this pathetic little elf.
After the play, we found this little hole in the wall fantastic Sushi place in SoHo. I LOVE that neighborhood!! Finally my sushi craving was gone! (Ok not quite.) After, we called it a night and hit the sack since we were going to see Stonehenge the next day!
Our tour to Stonehenge with Premium tours was such a good day for us! Although we felt herded and rushed at certain times (for example, when they realized we were running late on our last stop), it was just a day for us to talk, relax, and get outside of the city a bit. We started off by going to Windsor Castle, one of the 7 homes of the queen. It was such a beautiful place, and looks over the surrounding towns. You could see for miles! We ate lunch in town there- fish and chips again.. Oops!
Our next ride was super long, all the way out to Stonehenge. They had just built a new visitor center two weeks ago about a mile from the actual stones, and had these little global wildlife type long trailers pulling people to get out there. Unfortunately though, they hadn’t quite gotten the routine down. And it was high season. You get the picture. We could’ve walked had we known it was as close as it was and probably been fine getting out there. If the weather is warmer and drier, I suggest doing that if you like to walk! I’m so glad we went and saw this- it is just really neat to see something you’ve seen pictures of your entire life, and even studied, in person!
After Stonehenge, it was back on the bus and off to the city of Bath. Because of the lines for Stonehenge though, we were running late to Bath, so we didn’t get as much time here as I had hoped, plus it was dark. I would love to go back and go to the actual Roman baths one day.
Finally we headed back home, and drank, talked and caught up at that little pub! I love the Walrus :). I suggest you go there just for a beer even if you don’t stay there.
The next day we woke up and did something called the “queen’s walk”. This was by far my favorite day in London! We strolled along the river, went where we wanted to go, ran into different things that we didn’t even know existed. It was absolutely fantastic.
We came across Borough market, which was an AMAZINGLY delicious food market. I want to go back to London solely for this place. We walked all the way passed the unexciting London bridge to Tower bridge, which was more than impressive. Then we doubled back and went in St. Paul’s Cathedral. Finally, we sat down at a little Irish pub and warmed ourselves up before heading to the London Eye by metro!
We had signed up in advance for the London Eye champagne experience, which was really awesome! We were given a glass of Champagne and took in the views of the city lights. I wish we could have stayed up there all night!
We headed back to the hostel for a quick warm up, and then it was time to go out on a pub crawl. I’m not sure what the heck happened, but our pub crawl fell apart, something that’s never happened to me before. Somehow they wouldn’t let us into one of the bars, so the pub crawl people just brought us to a salsa bar, looked like they bribed the security, and left us there. So, to all you travelers out there, beware of Camden pubcrawls! I don’t know if it was situational or one time, but it was not what we were expecting. That’s why I like hostel-run pub crawls better. At least we met another Brazilian couple and a few other people who were awesome! There was even a guy that reminded us of Chow from the Hangover, down to how he dressed. He was also an amazing salsa dancer, and wowed some ladies!
Arriving in Paris
The next day was a travel day for us. We went and got lunch at “The Horse and Stables”, a one minute walk from our hostel and a sister hostel to ours, then took a bus to Victoria station, and finally a Terrabus to the airport. We said goodbye to the English language, and boarded a plane to Paris. We arrived at Charles du Gaul, and took a train to Gare Du Nord train station. We found our hostel called St. Christopher’s Inn Gare Du Nord with ease and learned quickly we did something right. This places was fantastic- hotel quality even! The bar downstairs called Belushi’s was a sports bar and I think I heard a choir coming out of Ryan’s head. We found his happy place!
The next morning after eating a buffet breakfast at our hostel, we did a walking tour with Sandeman’s, and I was impressed! We learned tons about the city, and it was just such a nice time.
Sandeman’s also offered to bring anyone who wanted to eat at a restaurant for lunch. Of course they got commission and it was a set tourist menu and all of that, but the food was not bad considering! Ryan got his escargot fix in at least.
It was Christmas time, so we decided to waddle our full bellies over to a local Christmas market and drink some “Glutenwein” (hot spiced wine- it’s a German thing) then decided to wander through the streets in the direction of the Eiffel Tower. Although it was a bit damp and rainy, it was such a nice walk. We also were wearing fantastic, warm jackets that doubled as rain jackets, so this helped! After a while, we got so close that we lost the tower because the buildings were over our heads. Next thing you know, we pop out right in front of the massive structure! Ryan was amazed, and I definitely was too!
By this time, it was already getting dark, so we decided it was time to go back to change for our big New Years Even plans!
We had purchased some tickets for a private event out in a park in Paris at a reception center, since not much happens in Paris for New Years (they don’t even have a public fireworks display over the city?!) The tickets were 70 euro each, but included was not only entrance to this absolutely beautiful two story reception hall and gardens, but also lasted from 10pm-6am, 10 drinks were included, we had a private fireworks display right after midnight, and breakfast was going to be served in the early morning hours. Oh, and you could see the Eiffel Tower light show in the distance. We definitely agreed it was well worth the big splurge (we’re backpackers, give us a break!) since most other plans probably would have run us the same amount, and we definitely wouldn’t have had the same amazing experience. Absolutely an incredible night that we will never forget!
The next day.. Was definitely a recovery day. After having a lazy day, we ventured out to find some decent food. We settled on a little local cuisine restaurant near gar de l’est station (trip advisor approved) and had a fantastic linner (lunch/dinner). We started out with pate, I had this huge lamb shank that was absolutely to die for, and Ryan had a Salmon in a white butter sauce. Mine was better ;).
Since LSU was playing that night in their bowl game, we headed out to find a place to watch the game. We wanted to stay at our hostel’s bar to watch it, but they had a semi-important futbol game on, so that took precedent. We found a Canadian pub called.. None other than “The Great Canadian”. I thought that was ironic because they weren’t that great. It was obnoxiously overpriced, but they had the game on, so we settled on in! Sitting next to us was an older couple and a few other LSU fans! It is so cool seeing people from home half way across the world! The couple had just moved to Paris for 2 years because both of their jobs had offices there. What a fun move! After watching the Tigers stressfully win their bowl game (Geaux Tigers!!) it was back to the hostel to finish out the night with a couple drinks.
The following day, we set out to complete our “must-do” list before leaving Paris, since we were leaving SO early the next day. We started off by getting sushi for lunch to curve my sushi cravings again (this won’t be the last time). After, we headed down to the center of Paris and put a lock on the bridge of loooove (or to cynics, the bridge of 6 months.. when they clear off all the locks to make room for more).
After finding the perfect place to put our lock and throwing our keys in the water, we decided it was time to brave the Louvre. We came up with a list of 10 big name things we wanted to see to keep from being overwhelmed, and set off. Our tour guide from Sandeman’s did us a favor and told us about a “back entrance” to the Louvre.. We were very grateful for this as the line to get into the pyramid was the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen! We basically slipped right into the back, way ahead of all the people standing in line. Feel free to message me and I can share with you where the back entrance is! Of course the place was nuts, so we got in and out as quickly as possible, while still checking everything off of our list.
After the Louvre and hearing about it on our tour and by several different people, we decided to metro out to see the Sacre Couer. Although absurdly touristy walking up to it- and yes I mean walk UP to it- I understand why because to me it looked like something you would see in Asia! It was incredibly beautiful. We ascended what seemed like 200 itty bitty stairs up to the front of the place, and turned around to see a spectacular view of the entire city of Paris. When we walked up even closer, we saw a staircase going down to the left, so naturally we went down to see what it was. As it turns out, you can ascend the Sacre Couer!
We did just that, climbing a dizzying, claustrophobic 300 spiral stairs that follow 0 fire codes. Although the journey up and down was a bit disorienting, there are few things in the world that beat that view. You could walk 360 degrees around this tower and literally see every part of Paris. Better yet, we got up there just 20 minutes or so before sunset, so we got to watch the whole thing.
We descended, and decided it was time to head back to eat, since we would have to wake up at 3 am to get to the airport. Note to self- I will never fly before 9 am ever again!! It ruins the rest of your day!
Arriving in Rome
We got to Rome bright and early and honestly, a bit cranky. We couldn’t check into our room until 1pm, so we had some time to kill. We hung around the pub next door to our hostel, called The Yellow. The pub and the hostel were run by the same people, and served excellent food and cheap drinks! After napping in public until it was time to check in, we got to our room and crashed. I’m telling you- traveling that early is deadly!! Once we were finally up and moving it was already starting to get dark out. We decided we shouldn’t waste the whole day, so we went out to explore! We saw the Coliseum and walked all the way down the road until we reached Plaza Espagna. We then kept walking all the way down the road until the Fountain of Trevi and threw in our coins!
After walking a couple miles, we were ready to get some food into us! We decided on a place right across the street from our hostel with amazing recommendations called Mama Angela’s. I cannot recommend this restaurant enough!! We had the most fantastic meal there. It was a little out of our price range, but we were in Rome! We wanted to do it big, so we did. Complementary glass of wine while we waited on our table, Antipasti, lobster ravioli, cheese plates, bruschetta, a great bottle of wine. You name it, we got it. We loved this place so much, we went back a few nights later!
That night, we met a few travelers, played some cards with them, and the basement turning into a micro night club.. It was almost the craziest thing I’ve ever seen at a hostel!
The next day we headed out and went to the Vatican. After we set some of the worst “tourist pizza” either of us had ever had in our entire lives due to rumbling stomachs, we took a look around Vatican square, hopped on over to the Vatican museum, took the “short route” to see the Sistine chapel (I HIGHLY recommend the short route..), and then headed back to see St. Peter’s Basilica. They were setting up for a mass for King’s day, which was pretty cool to see. Apparently the whole square was going to be filled with people for the mass going on inside! One thing I thought was funny was the fact that I watched a nun discreetly cutting everyone in line to see the basilica. Very ironic if you ask me! Because it was drizzling lightly (and we had our awesome raincoats) the lines to the basilica were cut I half!
After channeling our inner holy, it was time to fill our stomachs with something over than horribly stale pizza. Back to the hostel we went to rest our feet and fill our stomachs with excellent.. Excellent.. Hamburgers. Don’t judge us.
After eating our American chow, we decided to do something extra Italian and headed out across the river to the Trastevere neighborhood to have a stroll. We walked up and down the streets, just enjoying the scenery. We stumbled upon so many little things, one including a square with a little church. It seemed like all roads lead to this square!
We finally sat down at this little bar with wifi, chatted, built up our appetite and decided on a place to eat our dinner. We finally found a place we were both psyched about going to and arrived there only to find out we needed a reservation! We were so bummed! Eventually we just walked into a place, and not too much to our surprise it was subpar at best. But, it filled the empty void. We took a bus back towards the main city, in hopes to find a sports bar that was showing football playoff games. We found one, but soon found out they were closing at the start of the Saints game.. Which started at.. Wait for it.. 2 am. So after a couple drinks, we headed back to the hostel to watch the game in the comfort of our room. I dozed in and out, but of course Ryan was wide awake until it ended around 6 am!!
The next day was for sleep. I guess staying up until 6 am will do that! We ate lunch at the hostel again, then with the rain, we decided to leave the main touristy things for the next day which was supposed to be bright and sunny. We took the bus out to the main part of the city, and decided to walk to the Pantheon. That building never ceases to amaze me! Unfortunately because of a service taking place there, we could not walk in, but you could peak in and see the hole in the top, and the surrounding structure.
We kept walking around that area while taking note of places to eat and drink. After ducking into an Irish pub for a bit to get out of the weather, I communicated with a friend of a friend from New Orleans who lives in Rome (and who I met up with last time I was in Rome), and we made a meeting point back in the Trastevere neighborhood! We met with her and her boyfriend at the main square, and they brought us to get a mojito, and finally to a small tiny little place which they knew the owner to watch Rome play in a big futbol match. The place was so small, I felt like I was sitting in their living room that had a bar! It was so fun! They ended up losing, but it was such an experience to see people get so excited over soccer. They were just as mad as we get when we lose in a football game!
After the game, Breck pointed us out to the place where we ate pizza last time I was in Rome, and Ryan and I went to finally get our GOOD pizza fix. And boy, was it good. It was a place just down the main road from the river, and you sit at these long tables with other people. The kitchen is right next to you, and they cook the pizzas in these brick ovens right there. Fantastic pizza! I want to go back just for that place. Hint- don’t order the wine. It taste like Jesus’ personal pond.
After dinner we went back and hit the sack so we could have a good long day the following day. When we woke up, I remembered that it was King’s Day and that the pope would be speaking! After getting a little breakfast, we went down to get on the metro towards the Vatican, and hit a WALL of people. And I mean a WALL. There was no getting on the first metro. Or the second. Or the third or fourth. We aborted that plan immediately. Off to the Coliseum we went! We stood in line to get in, then decided we wanted a tour guide to tell us a little more detail (I really can’t stand those audio sets). As it turns out, they handed us an audio set anyway to be able to “hear the guide better”. Most people like this, but I absolutely hate that. If I wanted to listen to an ear piece, I would have bought the audio recording. It was cool to hear the history though, and you could tell Ryan was really fascinated by this place! I loved seeing him so interested and excited about something. He turned to me and said- “it’s like basically the oldest football stadium in the world”.
After the coliseum our stomachs were grumbling, so we headed back to eat some cheap grub before heading into the Roman Forum. By the time we got back to the forum it was 3:38. Come to find out, in the winter, it closes at 3:30. FAIL. Ive never been so sad in my entire life!! With lots of free time on our hands, we took a stroll all the way around the forum and went on over to the “Mouth of Truth”. I told Ryan I was going to ask him all these questions and he was going to get his hand chomped off. Don’t worry. He still has a hand.
We continued to stroll around the city, and by the time we got back to the hostel, we were whipped! We hung out, built up an appetite, and we both knew exactly where we wanted our last meal in Italy- Mama Angela’s right next door. So round two of awesomeness ensued, we caught some sleep, and got on our flight back to Madrid.
I loved being out and about, but boy was it nice to see my own bed! I took Ryan to get some cheap eats at 100 Montaditos as I tried to get my cellphone working and my life back in order. After, we got him oriented with the city and showed him the main city center. It was so surreal seeing him in the city I had been living in for 4 months! We eventually headed to the rooftop bar at the Bella’s Artes, where we took in the views and watched the sunset over the city.
For dinner, we headed over to the one and only El Tigre AKA Ryan’s favorite place in the entire world. The free food thing had him sold! After dinner, it was time to get back to the house to get a good night sleep- My job started back up the next day.
After work Wednesday evening, we headed to a other favorite spot of mine, San Anton market. We sat up on the rooftop and talked and discussed his day of getting lost in a city where he didn’t know the language. After a few glasses of wine, we were nice and ready for what came next- a sushi all you can eat buffet. Yup, sushi cravings were back.
Thursday evening, after laundry and other monotonous tasks, we met some of my friends here for drinks. It was the WEIRDEST thing. Madrid was dead! There was hardly a soul in the streets- I’ve never seen the city like that before. I told Ryan he was cursed.
Friday, we left for Barcelona! Getting from the airport to our hostel was super easy, since my cellphone service worked in Barcelona. Checking into the hostel called Hostel One Sants, we knew we were in for an interesting weekend. The guy who checked us in was.. A character. He clearly wasn’t in a completely.. sober.. mindset, taking about 30 minutes to actually get us to our room. He also kept repeating things over and over, and finished what he was telling us off with.. “The only written rule here is.. If you smoke marijuana, you must invite the person who is working at the desk to smoke with you. It’s an actual rule. And if you don’t, I’m calling the cops on you”. We started laughing and he literally goes- “I’m not kidding.” Well then Mr. hostel guy..tell us how you really feel haha. Nice guy though!
We checked in our room and went down to join the hostel in a group dinner. It wasn’t bad at all! We met a guy there that was really cool. He’s Canadian and loved football and hockey, so he and Ryan hit it off pretty well. After dinner we were still a little hungry, so us two and the Canadian decided to go to a popular tapas bar area. It was so awesome hopping from bar to bar trying different drinks and having different tapas! Definitely right up my alley. In one bar we sat down in, some guy behind us literally belt out about 30 seconds of an opera song.. Turns out he was an opera singer!! The whole place started clapping!
The next morning, we woke up and headed out to explore the city before our walking tour in the early afternoon. We killed time by going for a walk near the water. For lunch, we were recommended the “champañeria” which was a little local place that makes its own champagne and serves a ton of amazing food. We almost passed the place up because there’s not even a sign on it! It’s basically a hole in the wall with no tables or chairs (spanish style) and just a bar where you walk up, hopefully know how to read Catalan, and place your order. It was absolutely phenomenal and I can’t wait to go back!! While you are eating you get unlimited champagne as well!
After, we wandered our full bellies around Barcelona, just up and down streets. Finally, we looked at a map and realized we were right down the street from the market called La Boqueria! We walked in, at which point I was happy that I had already eaten because there was a lot of delicious looking foods I would have spent a fortune on, but also not so happy because there were some foods that made me want to up-chuck my lunch! It was such a cool place though!
After awhile, we headed back over to the walking tour meeting point. Sandeman’s outdid themselves again on the tour.. Our guide was fantastic and hilarious! We did the Gaudi tour, so it revolved around the architect Gaudi and his works. I’m not a big architecture fan, but Gaudi definitely had my attention!
After the Gaudi tour we went back to the hostel to change quickly and to go meet a pub crawl.. Butttt by the time we got to the meeting spot 5 minutes late, they were gone! A group of about 10 of us were astounded. Usually they wait a couple minutes past the hour, but they were gone! So, as a group we headed over to an area where they were most likely located but to no avail. Eventually, as it was getting close to Saints vs Seahawks time, us and the Canadian split off to go grab a quick tapa and head to an Irish pub where they were showing the game. We were the only fans in there, but we made ourselves known! We scared off some, and others stayed around to watch the spectacle! Even though we lost, it was a fantastic night!
On Sunday we woke up and immediately set out to Gaudi park. We took a route that led us past this little small cafe, where we stopped in and had some excellent paella.
Then, it was all uphill from there, literally, as we climbed a basically 45 degree hill until we finally reached a long line of escalators. Finally we got to the top, and hiked up another little hill to where we could literally see all of Barcelona! It is such an awesome view and highly recommend anyone going to Barcelona to make it here!
We went down the other side of the hill, and came across Gaudi park. Last time I was here it was free, but now the entrance is 8 euro per person!! Stupid economy. It was so pretty though. I would love to return there in the summer when everything is blooming!
We had some time on our hands before we had to leave for our flight, so we decided to go out to see Barcelona’s Futbol stadium. I was surprisingly unimpressed! Not much to look at, at least from the outside. (We later went to show Ryan the Real Madrid stadium, which is 100 times more impressive.)
Since we were walking distance, Ryan and I strolled back to the hostel to pick up our things, and decided to leave for the airport an hour earlier than planned. GOOD THING.
This is a segment I will call, “How to make public transportation stop on your behalf, while having a mild heart attack in the process”
We got to the train station, purchased a ticket to the airport, and asked someone where to go, to which he replied track 9. Now, I will say ahead of time, I blame this entire incident on me.. And candy crush. I KNEW more than one train came down each track.. But we were playing candy crush together and weren’t paying attention, so we hopped on the first train that came down the track. We resumed what we were doing and didn’t think anything of it for about 20 minutes. Until the ticket guy came around and looked at our tickets with bug eyes. He asked us where we are going, to which I replied.. The airport. His eyes got bigger. “This train doesn’t go to the airport” he said. I asked, “well where does it go?” I barely heard him say “4 hours south non-stop”, as he was running to the conductors booth. My heart literally stopped. I told Ryan what was going on, and his face said it all.. We were in trouble. 10 minutes later, the train slowed down to a slight roll near a station, the ticket man opened the door just wide enough for us to get through, and let us out at a train station in the middle of nowhere. I’m not entirely certain the train completely stopped. So, we back tracked all the way to the airport with the help of the small town ticket booth lady, and got there in enough time to eat and get on our plane. THAT could’ve been bad.
Back to Madrid we went! My travels were over, and after spending another day and a half with Ryan (and a last trip to El Tigre) he was off on his transatlantic flight back home. It was sad seeing him go, but boy was it good to have him here! We made amazing memories, none that we will forget anytime soon.
Thanks to those who got through this entire post, as well as those who skimmed it! I know it was long, but it took a long time to put together so it’s definitely appreciated.
Stay tuned for some more fun and short posts coming up soon!
Are you planning on taking a trip to any of these cities anytime soon?