Saturday, July 6, 2013

London Baby!

So I am continuing to write post my trip to try to document all my memories before they fade away. Here is my post about my trip to London!

So within hours I was in love with London! It just felt so quaint. Our hostel was located right by the Thames river and it was lovely to be in fresh sight of a body of water after being in Madrid for about a month with no body of water within sight. After living in San Diego, I had grown accustom to seeing water every day on my daily commute. Its just soothing.

Anyways, we arrived in the morning, dropped off our stuff at the hostel, and hit the ground running. We had 2 1/2 days in London and by golly we were going to see everything we could! The hostel advised us a bus right outside would take us where we wanted to go (which was picadilly circus) so we hopped on and try to interpret our money to give to the bus driver. Luckily, he was nice and helped us sort our change. I had finally gotten used to Euros and now I had to figure everything out in Pounds. So we start our journey through London and everywhere I looked, I just felt such a sense of joy by being in this amazing city.

The one tricky thing about riding a bus in a foreign city is that you need somewhat an idea of where you are going or else you won't know when to get off the bus. It was even trickier that day because after seeing the bus not turn where we thought it would (following along on our map), we realized the buses were still on the detour route from the Olympics, the paralympics olympics were taking place while we were there. So after we realized we were just getting further and further from picadilly circus, we decided to get off and have lunch. I was quite excited for lunch because Spanish food had not been curing my appetite very well. We had lunch at a pub and I had never been more excited to order a grilled chicken sandwich in my life (my go to menu item). I went for the combo and it came with beer, even better! America, you need to get on this trend.

Finally we navigate our ways by walking to Picadilly Circus. It felt like a mini Times Square.It had the electronic billboards and it was packed with tourists.

So then we just continued walking and taking pictures of everything. Everything we saw was so iconic, the Underground signs, the phone booths, the buses, Big Ben. The Olympic signs were still up to add a little flare to the photos. And I will admit, I got quite giddy when I saw all these things because I feel like it really captured London's quaintness.

When I first saw Big Ben, I was much more excited than I had anticipated. I am not really into history so I don't even know the significance of it but it just made you feel like you were in such a magical place. Maybe I watched Peter Pan and Mary Poppins one too many times. I have learned that my astrological sign, Virgo, has the tendency to research anything they have interest in as we are very curious. That night, I researched Big Ben. And since I am not into the history, I found the trivia about it more interesting. Turns out a girl has actually "married" Big Ben. I suddenly felt a little competition for my love, just kidding ;-) but look how cute we are together...

So we continue our wander in awe throughout the afternoon and get caught in a slight rain shower which we should have expected in London. It also started to get a little chilly so we attempted our route back to the hostel. As we were walking back, it seemed to be much farther than we thought so we stopped in a local pub for some kind of meat pie and cider. I say local pub because it was definitley outside of the hustle and bustle and a guy at the bar was smoking a pipe so I am sure we didn't look like we fit in. Nonetheless we left a little warmer and full on our way "home" for the night.

The next day we decided to tackle Camden market. I am a huge fan of markets, you never know what you are going to find! I loved this one, probably one of my favorites and I don't even care if it is touristy.

I also really loved the "food court." There were all these food vendors in one area along this little river and there were these long boats, not sure what they are called.

 So Mariana really wanted to go to Abbey Road. I was not really excited about it, I mean its just a road. Like a real road too so there are people trying to drive on it. Its also really out of the way so logistically it wasn't the most efficient tourist spot but I was a good sport and accommodated Mariana to this hot spot.

**Note, if you decide to go see Abbey Road, do not go to the subway stop called Abbey Road. I don't remember the name of the subway stop where it really is but luckily we asked a policeman before we hopped on the Underground. 


Mariana has our cool crossing the Abbey Road photos so if you want to see them, please see her. I am a slacker in blogging, she is a slacker in photo sharing. 

After we did Mariana's tourist spot, we moved on to mine, Notting Hill! Yes, I wanted to go to Notting Hill just because of the movie, don't judge. Side note, Mariana made me go with her to see some Harry Potter spot so I felt this was equal. So off we went to see this cute town!
Unfortunately it was a little gloomy and the famous market there had closed for the day but we enjoyed walking around and ended up at a pub meeting some interesting Londoners. To make it short, lets just say this old man tried to convince Mariana, three guys, and I that he was famous but wouldn't tell us who he was. Also, one of the guys went to New Zealand to be a sheep shepherd and showed me photos for proof. I can't make this stuff up.

We then made our way back to the hostel to close out our second day in London. 
**Traveling tip: find a hostel near a convenient store, restaurant, because if you are hungry, you are SOL unless brought snacks. There is a side story there but it is not significant enough for this blog. Let's just say there was alcohol involved and food was not to be found.

So our third and last day in London was quite grand like the others. We decided to do Tower of London and the Tower Bridge. I say we but Mariana did the Tower of London and I walked around. Mariana and I had different travel styles but found a nice compromise. I don't like museums, I like walking around and sitting in cafes, absorbing the culture. She likes history and museums. So while she did those things, I did my thing. The tricky part of this compromise is that we didn't have cell phones that worked in London so we had to time constraint our solo tours but I think it worked out well since we had limited time in the city anyways.

I really loved the Tower Bridge, it was my second love after Big Ben in London.Again, it could be a Peter Pan or Mary Poppins thing, I am not sure.

Yes, we really lucked out on the weather. I was so glad we didn't have to endure a foggy day in London town. We then continued our compromised exploration. Mariana went to Westminster Abbey and I walked around.

For evening activities we went our separate ways again, I saw the Michael Jackson show, and she went to see Phantom of the Opera. I wasn't impressed with my show, probably because it wasn't the real MJ, but Mariana enjoyed her show. 
We then said "goodbye" to London the night before heading to Barcelona the next morning:

Thanks London for showing us a wonderful time! I will be back for sure!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Granada~ Amazing hummus and the Alhambra!

So even though I have returned from my European adventure I still want to write about each place before the memories fade anymore.

First week in September Mariana and I traveled down south in Spain and went to Sevilla and Granada. I wasn't sure what to expect from Granada but was told to go so I did. It was only a few hours away from Sevilla so it made for a nice travel day.

We arrived to Grandad at the bus station and luckily the hostel in Sevilla had given us a map of Granada. I knew which bus to take and where to get off. However, I forgot the bus doesn't really tell where you are like metros so when you are in a new city, you may as well just guess. We were greeted by a nice older man running the hostel, he lived in the apartment next door. The hostel was more like a hotel with shared bathrooms. We even had a sink in our room which made us thinking we were living high class. I think we saw one other person while we were there which was much different from our 8 bed bunk room in Sevilla.

 Since our travel day was short but over lunchtime, we set out to find lunch, unfortunately during siesta time so we found a place opened and settled on some mediocre food which wasn't unusual for me in Spain. We then went exploring, this small yet bustling city. It had such a nice feel to it. It was a city but not overwhelming like some. It was clean, pretty, and easy to figure out. Our lovely host at the hostel told us to go up the hill to see the view of the Alhambra. We wandered up the hills via the cobblestone streets, reminding me of my days getting lost in the hills of Valparaiso, Chile. After a couple of wrong turns, we were finally there and shocked at our view.There we saw the Alhambra.

There was a crowd atop this mirador (lookout point) and we could see why. We decided to wait until sunset and see the Alhambra light up.

We then trekked down the cobblestone streets to find the bottom of the hill full of Moorish influenced stores and restaurants. I loved every bit of it! I just love the style of their jewelry and everything. We went into a restaurant and had hummus. It was served warm so I convinced myself it is more authentic that way but I don't think thats true. It was pretty good which made me think I should try more hummus in this town.

The next day we visited the cathedral before going to the Alhambra. I can't really say much about the cathedral as they all have merged in mind as one grand cathedral but here is a photo to jog the memory.

We then took the bus up to the Alhambra where we waited in line to enter at our ticket time. I felt like I was at a zoo or amusement park the way everything was set up.

We explored the Alhambra for a few hours in the sweltering heat but had some good views.

It was nice to see a place with such history and imagine the people that use to live there. They even had a little "house" across the way where they would escape there palace.

We ended our time in Granada haggling some deals and eating the best hummus of my life at this restaurant they felt very authentic.

All in all Granada was a wonderful trip to take in Spain. I highly recommend it if you are in the area :-)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Travel Joy!~Sevilla

So about five minutes ago I was looking up tours for Cinque Terre in Italy. I literally squealed with joy and squirmed in my chair as I read about the tour and didn't care what the price was. All I need is Mariana's confirmation and the tickets will be booked! This a continuation of the travel joy I have experienced in the past couple of weeks and will embark on in the next few weeks. Its going to be busy but amazing! Next Tuesday I embark on a three week trip. In those three weeks I will visit Paris, Italy (Venice, Florence, and Rome), Croatia, Montenegro, Prague, and Switzerland. It will indeed be filled with travel joy! The past couple of weeks we have visited Sevilla, Granada, London, and Barcelona. 

Here is a little synopsis of Sevilla.


So Sevilla was our first trip outside of Madrid. I was excited to see a new place. Madrid
definitely has the city feel that I love but I was ready to see a new place since I have limited time here. We arrived in Sevilla in the afternoon and decided we would stay out of the heat by taking a siesta like the rest of the town. We then woke up for a tapas and wine tour that night. The next morning we went on a walking tour with about 40 people from other hostels. I enjoyed the walking tour more than I thought. I don't always like tours because I feel like my timing at each place doesn't always match the tour's but it went well by covering the town in about 2 hours and hearing interesting stories from our young Scottish tour guide. We then had lunch with our tour guide and some other people. I met more people in Sevilla from Australia than I think in my whole life. Apparently their economy is so great and they have a large traveling culture, a lot of Australians just take off to travel for a few months. I duly noted that idea and keep Australia in the back of my mind :-) 

Our second night there we went to a Flamenco show which was very entertaining. We loved every moment of it. We had trouble understanding the lyrics of the songs but would get a few lines here and there so we made up our own stories of the songs and dances. 

The next day we explored the Cathedral which is very pretty. It has Christopher Columbus' tomb which is seen to the left here. We learned that they decided to study his remains and found out they are not all of his because his body was shipped around the world...I think. Our tour guide's credibility wasn't verified. We climbed to the top of the tower  in the cathedral which was about 17 stories by steep ramps. We definitely get our exercise while traveling.

We then walked to Trianca which is across the river. They make sure to separate themselves from Sevilla and will not say they are from Sevilla. We enjoyed a nice dinner with a view of Sevilla across the river. I was very excited to see a body of water.
We said goodbye to Sevilla by climbing a new structure which is nicknamed the mushrooms. They have only been around for a few years so if you've been to Sevilla you may not know of them. We caught a great night view. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

You Just Never Know...

So here are a couple of stories about how you should take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself...

A Spanish Wedding...

So on Friday my friend Mariana and I had planed to go the prado museum at 6pm because it is free then. We showed up right at 6 and saw the line around the building. Being that I am not a huge fan of museums or lines, we decided to keep exploring. We saw a church up the hill and walked toward it. We saw people sitting around it and a priest atop the stairs with a red carpet on it. So who was he waiting for?? A few days ago I said to myself, it would be cool to go to a Spanish wedding but how would that happen give that I have about 3 acquaintances here. Well a black Mercedes pulled up and out came a bride! We then see tourists going in the church after she went in. Mariana and I decided well if they are going in, then so are we! We took a seat in the back and watched the wedding mass, all Catholic and in Spanish so I was a little lost but got the gist given that I've been to a few weddings in my day. The groom was English so there was a bagpiper too which just put the icing on the cake! I was very excited to have this culture experience.

New Amigos :-)

I loved that my rum and coke came in a goblet glass and the lovely decor of this bar
So back in June, I got invited to a Melia Hotel luncheon in San Diego via my work email. I had no idea how I got invited but I saw that there were going to be people from Spain there so I thought hey why not, maybe I could meet someone from Madrid. There were two hotel representatives from Madrid and I told them about about my plans to visit Madrid for two months. One of them, Miguel, offered to take me out and show me around so I emailed him last week to let him know I was here. So last night Mariana and I went out with him and his friends. We grabbed tappas and drinks with his friends and then hit up some bars and small clubs. It was so fun, and great to hang out with locals.
Each place we went to was totally different so it was great to see the variety of places here.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A giant leap followed by baby steps...

So I arrived in Madrid Friday morning. I got to my apartment at about 8 am, 2am Eastern time. This is how jet lag happens because I wanted to sleep all day. I set my alarm though in hopes of trying to prevent me being completely off schedule. On Friday afternoon I walked down the street and then found Parque del Retiro which reminded me of Central Park:

I then walked home and became very appreciative of my sense of direction. I have a map and my iphone can even use the gps without any service but i don't want to look lost so I sort of feel my way home when I have the time.

The jet lag continued on Saturday having me sleep 4am-1pm. My goal for yesterday was to go to Plaza Mayor. I tried to google map it on my phone and it said it was right around the corner so I thought ok I'll go check it out. Welllll my google map was incorrect and that was something else with the name Plaza Mayor in it. I suddenly had the feeling I was nowhere close and needed to definitely look at my map. It wasn't before too long I became too impatient and couldn't even find it on the map so I went into a store to ask this guy. I start speaking Spanish and he then says in English, would you like me to speak English? Oh my gosh yes please because figuring out directions of a foreign city is hard enough in English. He then told me it would be like a 30-40 minute walk. I am all for walking but it was 105 degrees out so I quickly said umm no how else could I get there. He told me bus or metro. For some reason I feel more comfortable on a metro so he then explained how to get there. I figured if I was going to take the metro, this was the best way, an American to tell me exact instructions.

After figuring out the metro which probably took me just as long as it would be to walk, I arrived in Sol, the touristy part of Madrid. I felt like I was in another city. My area of the city is pretty quiet and low key from what I have noticed. I start walking around getting lost in the bustling streets filled with shops and restaurants. I then decide I need to find this plaza I came for. Not really knowing what direction to, I finally figured out it has to be the opposite direction of the metro stop. I then asked a security guard at a store which way, they have to be used to these tourists. I walk in the plaza and i was like ahhhh this is definitely it. I grabbed a table at a cafe under a mister and sipped some sangria, all I needed was some Spanish guitar music.

I then went out with a new friend, Tory, who is from North Carolina but has lived here for 3 years. We hadn't met until last night but we had been emailing thanks to our mutual friend, Kevin. She actually lives about a block away which I am very glad to have someone close by. We went out to dinner with some of her friends. It was nice to have a little social life starting. 

My friend Mariana gets here Thursday and I am excited so I can have an exploring partner. She will be here for 6 weeks. I am not usually one to go out and venture by myself so the past few days have been interesting. I am taking baby steps as though my friend said I took a pretty giant leap coming over here. Thus far and for the next week  I pick a place to see, today was the grocery store since many things are closed  and I am still catching up from my crazy last three weeks. I completely unpacked and got organized so I can really start living here. 

Tomorrow maybe I will go see a palace...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Convertng a crisis to an adventure...

So you may or not know but I have decided to leave my comfy job and embark on a new adventure in my life. If you are reading this I would suspect you are interested in how this came about so here ya go...

I guess you could say it started about 6 months ago when I felt a little off in my life. In January I got promoted at work which I was very excited about but then the sense of accomplishment came and left very quickly. I soon questioned, what is next? Since you are born, you have goals to accomplish, get good grades, graduate high school, graduate college, get a job. Ok so I did all that, now what? This can't be it, I thought. So then I started thinking what should I do next.

In March my roommate of a year and a half decided to move back to the east coast where she is from so since I was unsure of my future, I moved in with my aunt. I figured giving myself more time to think and saving money would enable me for more options in my life. It did. So a few months ago I decided I needed a plan to move back to the east coast where I can be within driving distance or a short plane ride away from my parents. I've been 3,000+ miles away from them and just tired of only seeing them three times a year. I started applying for jobs in NYC and DC. I had one interview with a job in NYC and they asked when I could move. I told them of minimally 2 weeks but would prefer 3-4 weeks if possible. I began to stress about this uncertain kind of move in my life. If you know me, I like to plan so this was making me a little anxious. I went to the ocean one night and was looking for an answer, what do I do with my life? I totally believe the ocean said to me "what falls into place, is the right thing."

Amongst all of this uncertainty about my future, I talked to my co-worker, Roz, who is also the mother of one my friends, Mikayla. Mikayla has been living in Madrid for almost a year teaching English. Roz was telling me how Mikayla and her boyfriend were going to travel Asia and decided to just keep their apartment in Madrid and pay rent while they were gone. Hold on! There is an empty apartment in Spain??? I casually said to Roz, I should sublease it. Roz was like oh you should! Fast forward a month or so and everything has fallen into place so I will be subleasing this apartment for approximately 2 months while traveling Europe as well.

My top priority on my bucket list is to backpack Europe before I turn 30. When I graduated college I said I would reevaluate that goal when I turned 25. I will be in Spain on my 25th birthday. Traveling will hopefully bring me back down to the earth and help me determine the next steps in my life.I am going by myself but that is how I always envisioned it. I am not a huge fan of doing things by myself but I want to have fun by myself so I am immersing myself in it.

It has also fallen into my place that my friend, Ally, from high school will fly out the beginning of August to drive back to NC with me. We are both very excited about this roadtrip and I think she will be the perfect person to do it with.

So what I thought was my quarterlife crisis is now my quarterlife adventure! Stay tuned!