A Travellerspoint blog

Back in Vera...

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After a long Christmas break during which we traveled quite literally the entire time, Matt and I have returned to Vera and are settling in for our second semester as language and cultural assistants at our fine institutions here in Almería, Spain. While we saw many things over break as we traveled first through Andalucía with my mom and later up through other parts of Spain and then on to Italy, we seem to often find ourselves in just as many strange and quirky situations here in our quite little town of Vera. For instance, at one point this week Matt and I ended up having to help a dog who was stuck in an old torn up T-shirt and would not move out of the middle of the road. Furthermore, I’m little worried that Matt may never leave Vera now as earlier this week he found out that even after returning library books weeks after they are due, the Vera library does not charge any late fees.

Yet, as exciting as life in Vera is, the following blogs are written about the three weeks we spent traveling over Christmas break rather than the past few weeks since we’ve returned to Vera. During the 20 day trip, we traveled on seven trains, six buses, stayed in eleven hotels, took two airplanes, and visited the following cities: Granada, Córdoba, Sevilla, Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona, Rome, Venice, and Milan. In other words, we’re now quite broke and eating lots of bread and cheese in Vera until we receive next month’s stipend. So, enjoy the following entries and pictures as it may still be a few more weeks before we will be able to afford to travel anywhere again!

Posted by staley 15:27 Archived in Spain Tagged living_abroad Comments (2)

Italia

Rome, Venice, Milan

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We went to Italy with one clear goal in mind: to eat as much gelato as possible in the six days we would be there. Even though we didn’t always meet the daily recommended intake of 2-3 servings of gelato one should consume during each day of traveling in Italy, we were sure to always supplement the gelato with other Italian staples such as homemade tiramisu, cappuccino, fresh pasta, and plenty of pizzas. Other than eat, as we traveled through Rome, Venice, and Milan we also managed to have a taste of some of the beauty and art and history and culture that Italy has to offer.

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We began our Italian adventure in Rome, where we (along with every other tourist who has ever visited Rome) saw the Vatican, the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and this fountain and that fountain and this piazza and that piazza. Even though Rome is clearly a touristy place, we found that the sites themselves truly do hold up to their fame because of their profound historical significance and overall beauty and charm.

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From Rome we traveled north to Venice, a one-of-a-kind place that we found quite pleasant. With its water taxi public transportation system, we felt a little like we were in Disney World, except that Venice really is a city that just happens to be built in a lagoon filled with islands and canals. Highlights of Venice for us were St. Mark’s byzantine cathedral and a little restaurant which was just around the corner and across a few canals from our hotel. In fact, the calzone we had there the first time we visited was so good, we went back the following night and ordered the exact same meal.
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Our arrival in Milan marked the final city we would travel to on our multi-week journey through Spain and Italy. We got off to a rough start in Milan as we spent over an hour walking around a two block area in the pouring rain in search of our hostel. We finally found the hostel, marked with a sign printed out on a piece of computer paper, and decided that we had probably walked past the entrance a dozen times. However, our time in Milan quickly improved as we found ourselves a few hours later sitting at an Inter Milan soccer game, Italy’s top club soccer team. Throughout the game we enjoyed trying to join in with the Italian fans who would yell and contest every call. In the end, we were treated to an Inter Milan comeback, culminated by the winning goal which was scored in the 90th or final minute of the game. Piazza_del_Duomo.jpg

Posted by staley 15:14 Archived in Italy Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

¡Feliz año Nuevo!

New Years in Madrid, Trips to Valencia and Barcelona

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After waking up at 4am to see my mom off to the U.S., Matt and I headed to Madrid to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Spain’s capital. Upon arriving in Madrid, we raced to the city’s main plaza with only minutes to spare before fireworks and champagne bottles erupted amongst cries of ¡Feliz año Nuevo!

The next morning, we groggily made our way onto a train headed to Valencia, a coastal city known for its oranges and paella. While we only had one day in Valencia and did not care to seek out any oranges or paella, we did enjoy it’s free fine arts museum and made it to the top of the main cathedral’s bell tower, treating us with a beautiful view of the city and the mountains which surround it.

We were soon back on another train, this time headed up the coast towards Barcelona. You’ll notice that there are no pictures from Barcelona. This is because while in Barcelona, we ran into a few bumps along the road and consequently did not see anything in Barcelona other than the area around our strange “hostel” which ended up being an extra bedroom in the apartment of the friend of a man who owned six chihuahuas and worked at the actual hostel that we booked.

By far the biggest disappointment about our time in Barcelona came when we went to an internet café to check the time of the F.C. Barcelona game later that evening. F. C. Barcelona is one of the best club football teams in the world, and we had made the trip to Barcelona primarily in order to attend this game which we had purchased tickets for weeks in advance. That said, you can imagine our frustration when we went to the team’s webpage and were greeted with the final score of that very game- which had been played the night before (apparently, Spanish soccer game times and even dates are always subject to change?). So, after I denounced my support for F.C. Barcelona and became an instant fan of their rival, Real Madrid, we both uttered a few palabras fuertes and decided we’d have to move on and enjoy the city without the game.

After spending over three hours and 20 Euros doing one load of laundry later that afternoon, we were more than ready to have at least one positive experience in Barcelona before we would fly out early the following morning. However, as we were heading out to dinner, we double-checked how we would get to Barcelona’s airport in the morning, and were less than pleased to find out that the budget airline we were flying actually left from a different airport in a city about an hour and a half outside of Barcelona.

Knowing we wouldn’t be able to catch a train early enough in the morning to make our flight, we unenthusiastically packed up and headed to the train station. Fortunately, we caught the last train to the city where the airport was located and eventually set up camp on the floor of the main terminal, resolved to spending the night in the airport. As we spent the evening in front of check-in desk number 28 and reflected on the sub par day we had had in Barcelona, we decided to chalk Barcelona up to a bust and realized that we couldn’t complain because we were headed to Italy in the morning.

Posted by staley 15:10 Archived in Spain Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Paraguas

Granada, Cordoba, Sevilla

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If you look at the pictures from the week that Matt and I spent travelling around Andalucía with my mom, you’ll notice a common theme: umbrellas. While I’ve found that Spaniards often follow fashion trends which are mostly unrelated to any practical purpose, umbrellas were in style that week for a reason. Southern Spain is known for it’s sunny weather, but unfortunately during the entire week that my mom was here it rained literally every day. Even with the rainy weather, each day we all slipped on our galoshes and managed to see the highlights of Granada, Córdoba, and Sevilla.

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On Christmas day in Granada, we prepared an extravagant dinner of hard boiled eggs, scrabbled eggs, bread, cheese, and a squishy apple. Later, we climbed the steep , narrow, and slippery cobblestone streets of Granada in order to be rewarded with views of the city’s most famous landmark, La Alhambra. In all, the day in Granada certainly turned out to be a memorable and unique Christmas.

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From Granada we headed on to Córdoba, a city in northern Andalucía known for it’s huge mosque, or Mesquita. Before the Christian Re-conquest of Spain, Córdoba was at one point the largest city in Western Europe and home to a flourishing population of Muslims, Jews, and Christians. As a result, throughout the city important buildings and neighborhoods established by each group remain. In the few days we spent exploring the city, we were able to tour the impressive Mesquita, the charming Jewish quarter, and the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, a palace built for the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabel which also served as headquarters for the Spanish Inquisition.
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We finally ended up in Sevilla, the proud capital of Andalucía. Here we saw the city’s bullring, walked down the river walk , and got out of the way of the many horse-drawn carriages which trek the city. We also visited Sevilla’s enormous cathedral, where we saluted Christopher Columbus’ tomb and even got my mom to climb up to the top of the cathedral’s bell tower.
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Overall we had an enjoyable time touring Andalucía with my mom. We also did our best to offer her numerous history lessons about each castle and mosque and cathedral we visited, so be sure to quiz her on what she learned!
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Posted by staley 14:42 Archived in Spain Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Franc-ly We Like Switzerland

and we know why Swiss Banks are so successful...

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Chocolate. The UN. Swiss Alps. Lake Geneva. Christmas Markets. Reformation History Museums. Chocolate. Last week, over a five day weekend the Spanish government granted us, Matt and I decided to take our first international adventure to Switzerland. Even though we were greeted with temperatures dipping as low as 3 or 4 degrees Celsius (I still don't really know what that means either), the gorgeous scenery and charming Christmas markets soon welcomed us to the beautiful country of Switzerland.

We first traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, home to hundreds of International Organizations, the cathedral where John Calvin preached during the Reformation, and the world's tallest fountain (OK so it wasn't turned on because it's winter, but it's still cool that it's there). Final_Lake..a_Photo.jpg

From Geneva we traveled north to Basel, Switzerland, a town bordering both France and Germany. We found Basel's German influence clearly displayed within it's huge Christmas Market which filled blocks and blocks of the city's center.
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Overall we had a wonderful time in Switzerland, but the number of Swiss Francs we spent certainly revealed why Switzerland is known for its banking industry. Check out some of our photographs below as well as those recently added to our photo gallery.

As the Swiss regionally say, Auf Wiedersehen/ Bonjour!

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First stop: The United Nations.

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View of Lake Geneva from the bell tower of the Cathedrale Saint-Pierre

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Matt picks an unfortunate place to stand.

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We happened upon this Christmas Market while exploring Basel.

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The longest illuminated street in Europe, who knew?

Posted by staley 14:55 Archived in Switzerland Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

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