Month: December 2014

Adventure Time: Cologne, Germany

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Hello friends & happy holidays! I was lucky enough to spend these special days with my two most favorite people, Kayla and Logan. As teachers, Logan and I get a nice long winter break *yay* so what better time to travel the world? It was easy for us to decide on Germany and Amsterdam (next post) because Cologne is known for their amazing Christmas markets and Amsterdam is easy to get to from Cologne (if you count a 4 hour bus ride as easy….). Prepare yourself for Christmas Markets, really tasty German food, and some old buildings.

1. Christmas Markets

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Cologne had not 1, not 2, but 3 Christmas markets!!! They were all within 15 minutes of each other, so we didn’t have to worry about public transportation. I’ve been a bit obsessed with going to a German Christmas market ever since I researched them my sophomore year of college, so this was like a dream come true. You can easily spend hours walking around looking at all the different booths (which we did). Each market had roughly 75-100 booths *not exaggerating* offering a ton of different goods: food, candy, gifts, toys, everything your little heart could possibly desire.

2. Super delicious & wonderfully tasty German food

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Germans know food. As far as I’m concerned, this is now an undeniable, indisputable fact. We definitely ate our way through Germany, and I’m so glad we did. Brats, pretzels, tasty drinks – you name it, one of us most likely consumed it. It was delicious and also super affordable (my favorite combo). I already miss it.

3. Old buildings & such

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Cologne’s cathedral is the most visited landmark in Germany (over 20,000 visitors A DAY). It took 600 years to build, and allegedly holds the remains of the 3 kings in a very impressive solid gold tomb. It’s in the very heart of the city, and it is SO BEAUTIFUL. Really, pictures don’t do it justice. It’s so massive you have to set your camera to panoramic setting just to get the entire building in it (or stand really, really far away).

landmarksSadly, a lot of Cologne was destroyed during WWII, so there aren’t many historical landmarks remaining. But there are a few scattered throughout the city. The site on the left is where nuns used to pee; that’s right it was originally a bathroom attached to an old convent (history is riveting, right?).

Here are a few more random photos, just in case you didn’t quite get your fill.

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Besos y abrazos,

Shannon

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Adventure Time: Toledo

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KAYLA IS HERE!!! No, you aren’t seeing double, that’s my twin sister, Kayla, who is hanging out with us in Madrid for a few weeks. We wanted Kayla to see an older part of Spain, so off to Toledo we went. Toledo: the land of Marzipan, old ass buildings, and lots of hills.

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Our first objective was hunting down the typical tasty treat Toledo is known for, marzipan. It’s a cookie-like dessert made from sugar and almonds and other things I’m not sure of. If I had to describe the taste I would describe marzipan as edible cookie dough, so obviously it’s delicious.

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Next stop was seeing the Alcazar, which initially I was really pumped about because of the alcazar in Segovia was super awesome. But Toledo’s was a bit of a disappointment. The inside of the building has been transformed into an epic maze-like museum of Spanish history. It’s cool if that’s what you’re in to, but I just wanted to see the view of the city from the top patio. It took us like 35 minutes to actually find the patio, and when we did the view wasn’t that good *womp*. It’s a good place to go if you want to look at a bunch of old armor, but other than that I’d say skip it.

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After a Menu del Dia lunch, we made our way through the winding, hilly streets of Toledo to the Cathedral. If you are going to Toledo please keep in mind that it is very much a walking city, although the different sights are relatively close to each other, the winding streets make it a bit of a journey. This cathedral is super old and super beautiful, but you have to pay 11 euros to go inside, so we decided to just marvel at the outside of the building and the take in the intricacies of the architecture.

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Next sight on the list was the monastery, Toledo has a mosque, a cathedral, and a monastery! So we wanted to get a look at each one. I regret not paying the 3 euros to tour the inside, so if you have the chance you totally should.

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On our trek back to the train station we took the beautiful Bridge of San Martin. This bridge was built during the 14th century and it’s the best way to get to the city center. Sadly, the day turned quite gloomy near the end and we were rained on a bit, but don’t worry it didn’t ruin our trip.

I’m happy the three of us were able to explore another niche of Spain!

Besos y abrazos,

Shannon

Adventure time: Geneva, Switzerland

 

 

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Logan and I have become quite spontaneous since moving to Madrid. One night, Logan came into our room and simply asked me if I wanted to go to Geneva, Switzerland for the weekend because tickets were super cheap. And I responded with a very atypical reaction of “YES! Where’s my credit card?” And that was that. It wasn’t until after we booked our very cheap plane tickets that we found out Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in Europe…

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We went to Switzerland with literally two objectives: 1. Tour the United Nations building (neat and globally significant) and 2. Eat a bunch of Swiss chocolate (the latter was obviously the more important objective to me). The tour of the UN was relatively inexpensive, and pretty cool. Look at Logan and I! The first picture is of me in the room where the League of Nations originally met and made some important decisions, you know ones that impacted the history of mankind NO BIG DEAL. And here’s Logan lookin real important in the Human Rights room (Pop culture reference: Emma Watson spoke about human rights at the UN in New York).

 

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Here is Logan accomplishing objective #2! Good work opening that tasty (and expensive) bar of Swiss Chocolate. As you can see Switzerland is beautiful, so we really enjoyed simply walking around the city, and wandering about. P.S. I haven’t mentioned that Geneva peeps primarily speak is french, which was great because Logan and I literally know 3 words in french! Granted, a lot of people also knew English so we we didn’t have to suffer too much (linguistic privilege is so real). *Side bar* if you are easily reading and understanding this post you are, in fact, a benefactor of linguistic privilege.

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Geneva’s city center at night was already decorated with Christmas cheer! Look at all these lights! Logan and I enjoyed a nice long walk around and taking in the beautiful sights (P.S. walking around is free, which was very appealing to us). Our first day in the city was consumed by grocery shopping (eggs and bread), converting our euros to francs, and visiting the UN. So day 2 we devoted to wandering around old town.

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So, by now you are well aware that Geneva is known for their tasty chocolate. What you can see on the left is a photo of a chocolate cauldron that is *get this* filled with little balls of chocolate!!! Sadly, the price of this bad boy was like 30 Francs (also P.S. Switzerland is one of the few western European countries that doesn’t use Euros). The middle photo is of a market stand Logan and I wandered in to. Lucky for us it was their 75th anniversary, which meant a plethora of FREE SAMPLES!!! Our little cheap hearts just about exploded when someone finally told us we could take the free samples of food and wine 🙂 That´s right FREE GLASSES OF WINE.

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Geneva’s most recognized landmark is this fountain here (Jet d`Eau). It sprays water up real high into the sky and is a symbol of progress.  Please note that the walkway to the fountain has no guardrails to make you feel nice and safe.

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Logan and I are getting our modeling portfolios ready.

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We quite literally stumbled into this amazing art museum. Geneva is really expensive, BUT they offer free admission to nearly all of their museums. This museum had famous works of Picasso, Van Gogh, and Monet.

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Next stop: the cathedral. It seems as though every European city has a really giant and beautiful cathedral, and Geneva is no exception. Look how tiny we are compared to his massive place!

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The inside of the cathedral was equally as beautiful, and offered a nice place for us to sit down and take it all in. Logan looks like an angel, dontchya think? After the cathedral we headed back to our AirBNB, got some beer and pizza and went to bed early because we had to wake up at 5am for our flight.

Overall, Geneva was really beautiful, but I have a few suggestions for you if you plan on visiting. 1.Only stay two full days; 2. Geneva is definitely a day time city, so try to get a night flight out; 3. Go grocery shopping and get some basic food so you don´t have to eat out all the time; 4. Pack comfy shoes and spend the majority of your time walking around the city; 4. Splurge for the chocolate bars, but if you want one as a souvenir wait for the airport, it´s actually a bit cheaper there.

Besitos,

Shannon