Adventure Time: Venice, Italy

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Stop #2 on our Semana Santa vacay was the beautiful island-like city of Venice! We arrived to Venice by train, and we were instantly greeted by one of the city’s beautiful canals. We then instantly realized we had forgotten to look up directions to our hotel before we got there, this is of course a problem when your phones don’t work… While Logan and I usually stay at AirBNBs when we travel, there weren’t any in Venice so we stayed at a moderately-priced hotel (woo hoo big spenders. Luckily it was pretty centrally located so we were able to ask a nice lady at the train station for directions (the old fashioned way). Our hotel was also super close to this Basilica.

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So the thing I liked about Venice is that there really isn’t a huge array of globally renown monuments and historical landmarks that you HAVE to see. This aspect makes Venice the perfect city to simply wander around and take in the narrow streets (there are no cars, only boats), the winding canals, and the numerous colored houses. This is exactly what we did.

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We were only in Venice for a little over 24 hours, but honestly that’s all the time you need there. We did see some of Venice’s more popular tourist attractions like Saint Mark’s Basilica, Rialto Bridge, and the Grand Canal.

5 Things I absolutely loved about Venice:

  1. Gelato is everywhere and super cheap (I’m talking 2 euro status)
  2. There were 1 billion adorable dogs (lots of muts)
  3. There is a lunch special similar to the Spanish Menu Del Dia
  4. The gondoliers really all wear striped shirts and straw hats
  5. The canals and scenery in general is TDF (translation for mom: to die for)

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3 Things about Venice I thought were weird/annoying

  1. The winding streets often end in a dead end
  2. There are like 3 places on the whole island where you can cross over the grand canal
  3. Everything seems a bit touristy (like does anyone actually live in Venice…?)

Stay tuned for the next stop on our Semana Santa vacation: Barcelona.

Adventure Time: Rome, Italy

As profesores de ingles, Shannon and I get a well-deserved spring break away from the children. We decided to take advantage of all this time by making an extended trip to Italy. We figured Italy deserved a little more time because it seems like THE country to go to on a European vacay.  Stop #1 of 3 (and my personal favorite) was Rome, Italy.

We spent just over 2 days in Rome and honestly loved every minute. As usual, we stayed in an Airbnb, and it worked out really well for us. We tried to see as many sites as possible, but I think you could spend an entire week in Rome and still feel like you need more time.

Day 1

1. Vatican

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We got to our airbnb a little early due to a super early flight out of Madrid, so while it was being cleaned we decided to visit the Vatican. The man cleaning the room told us the pope comes out to speak at noon, so we thought it would be perfect timing. There were TONS of people there, but after waiting around for a while, we realized we were too late and he had already finished speaking.

2. Delicious Italian Lunch 

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On our way to the vatican, Shannon and I passed a really great looking local place close to our apartment. It looked authentic and not overly priced, our favorite. The food was by far some of the best we had in Italy.

3. Trevi Fountain  

Our next stop was one Shannon was really excited to see. Unfortunately, we were met with some disappointment because all the water is drained and they have built scaffolding all around it for extensive cleaning. We still managed to beat back the British tourists and get kinda close.

4. Roman Pantheon

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We actually found the Pantheon by accident while following the narrow and winding streets of the Roman center. We didn’t even find out what it was until later in the day. Its a really cool building, and like most ancient buildings in Rome, has been converted to a church of sorts. Every time you get close to buildings like this, you are completely amazed that people were able to build such things with out ANY modern construction equipment.  

5. Altare della Patria (Alter of the Fatherland) 

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This was another site we really didn’t recognize, but we still really liked. Inside it’s essentially a military museum complete with guards that take guarding things super seriously and yell at tourists who step out of line. However, if  you climb to the stairs to the roof of the building, there is a really great view of all of central Rome and the ruins all around.

6. Gelato

This is obviously a necessary part of every Italian vacation. We repeated this step throughout the trip numerous times. Because, necessity.

7. Dinner

After wandering around Rome and getting around 3.5 hours of sleep the night before, Shannon and I were obviously super tired. We went back to the apartment for a quick little nap then headed out for dinner a little later.

We went to a great local pizza place (well one of a billion) that was recommended to us by anther teacher at my school. The pizza was obviously amazing and the 5 Euro liter of red wine wasn’t half bad either.

Day 2

1. Vatican (again)

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Our first trip to the Vatican was half hearted at best. Our apartment was only about 15 minutes away on foot, so we thought it deserved a second stop. This time we wanted to see the inside of the basilica, so we waited in a ridiculously long line for about an hour. But it was totally worth it, and we were really impressed by how much detail was in every inch of every surface.

2. Lunch…and more gelato

3. Colosseum 

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This was one of the big ones for both of us. We were really excited to see the Colosseum, and it did not disappoint. It was probably my second favorite site in all of Rome. There’s not much more to say, it’s the Colosseum and a must during a trip to Rome.

4. Roman Forum 

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When you buy a ticket for the Colosseum, entrance into the Roman Forum is included. This site turned out to be my favorite. It’s basically the old Roman marketplace, and it’s huge. You would need several hours to really walk through the whole area. Visitors also get to be a little closer to the ruins than you do in the Colosseum. You are pretty much walking right where ancient Romans bought and traded goods. It’s a really cool place.

5. Dinner and Dessert.  

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Much to Shannon’s dismay, up until this point, we had not tried ANY cannoli. After what I can only imagine was very thorough research, she located one of the best cannoli places in town.  We got one to go and decided to eat it after our dinner.

For our actual meal we went to a great little place that used homemade noodles in all their dishes and again was excellent. Rome did not disappoint on the food front.

Oh…and the cannoli were delish too.

3 Spanish Habits I Envy

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1. The double cheek kiss

 This is the most common greeting in Spain. Not only do you do it when you first meet someone, other acceptable times to give besitos are: if you haven’t seen each other for a few days, holidays, birthdays, or simply just because. Something about the intimacy and kindness of this greeting is really touching to me, and I desperately wish this was common in the states *hmph.*

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2. R&R
  Taking things slow, resting, and relaxing are pillars of the Spanish lifestyle. I’m not saying they don’t work hard, I’m saying that they are better at mastering a good work/life balance (at least what I’ve seen from my colleagues and roommates). So let’s all take a chill pill and understand most seemingly stressful situations are actually nbd.
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3. Not drinking to get drunk
  Fellow youths take note. If you set foot in any bar here you’ll immediately notice the striking differences between these bars and the ones in the states. Whether it’s the florescent lighting (but hey, at least I can see your face), lack of club music (I can actually hear you *gasp*), or the tapa that comes with every drink – Spaniards know what’s up. The bar scene is geared more towards catching up with your friends, eating some good food, and ultimately relaxing (refer back to habit #2). P.S. it is still very easy to get drunk solely from red wine and beer.

Selfies in Spain

Buenas mis amigos! When I was packing my life away for a year in Spain I had to decide which of my favorite clothes would make the final cut into my 50lbs of allotted baggage. While I’ve been here I feel like I have truly become the master of layering, accessorizing, and putting together solid outfits with my minimal wardrobe. So I wanted to share my daily style with all of you wonderful people.

P.S. I think I have a bit of a selfie problem… s3lfie4 s3lfie3 s3lfie2 s3lfie1

Adventure Time: Paris, France

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We did it guys, we did one of the most cliche things a couple can do; we went to Paris for Valentine’s Day. That’s right, the city of love was our home for the weekend of love, and it was kind of amazing. Although it did rain for a bit of our stay, we just pretended we were in the painting “Paris Street; Rainy Day,” and still had a bunch of fun. So let’s chat about the places we went, the things we saw, and most importantly the food we ate.

Places we went:

Logan and I are pretty lazy travelers, and by that I mean we don’t leave our apartment/hotel/hostel until like 11:30 in the afternoon. So we got to the Louvre Museum at peak tourism hours: noon. The 2 hour line scared us away, so we left and went to Notre Dame instead.

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Notre Dame was pretty cool, I can’t even count how many cathedrals I’ve visited over the last five months, so I’m sorry if I seem a little underwhelmed. The coolest part of Notre Dame was the little architecture drawings that showed the construction of the cathedral which began in the 11th century. How neat is that? Pretty neat.

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After our first failed attempt at the Louvre earlier that day, we had come across some insider knowledge via google.com that there is actually more than one entrance to the museum. And wouldn’t ya know it, the less known entrance took us roughly ten minutes to get through (compared to the 2 hour snake-of-a-line outside). Once inside, I realized The Louvre is the biggest fucking art museum I’ve ever been in (pardon my french), and since Logan and I didn’t want to spend all day there, we quickly made our way to the Mona Lisa (her eyes do follow you around the room), along with a few other exhibits and then peaced out.

Things we saw:

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Holy shit, Paris has a lot to see. One weekend is definitely not enough time if you’re little heart needs to see every little thing in a city. Logan and I prioritized and settled for the Eifle Tower and Arc de Triomphe. We also ran into a couple other cool buildings and things along the way (i.e. Hotel des Invalides, and the Opera house).

Food we ate:

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Paris cousine did not disappoint. While the coffee was incredibly overpriced, the rest of the food was on point. We ate a menu of the day type meal, which included: wine, bread, entree, and dessert for 10 euros. We also had to treat ourselves to crepes, macaroons, and nutella. But my favorite meal, by far, was our Valentine’s Day dinner. Logan and I went to a super local Parisian restaurant that had cheap drinks and an amazing menu. We had a half liter of wine, a French cheese plate, chicken in a four cheese potato puree, and a leg of lamb – it was AMAZING.

Overall Paris was a good weekend host to us and is definitely a city I feel like I need to go back to some day.

Besitos,

Shannon

Adventure Time: Manchester, England

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What? Manchester? Everyone knows London is THE city to go to England.  Before you judge our English destination, you should know two things.  One, we still plan on making a weekend trip to London, so don’t be worried we’re missing out. Two, Manchester is actually a fun, cheap alternative to London.

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Originally, instead of spending the whole weekend in Manchester, Shannon and I planned on taking the train from Manchester and spending Saturday in London.  However, we kind of missed our window to get the cheaper train tickets and decided it would be better to spend an entire weekend in London instead…especially after we sort of fell in love with England.

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Now down to the trip.  We stayed at a nice Airbnb really close to Manchester University.  It was a pretty central location and made it really easy for us to walk everywhere we wanted to go.  It also meant lots of drunk college students at night, but its quaint because they talk funny.

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We got in really late on Friday night, so Saturday was really our first day in the city.  We started off by getting the traditional English breakfast at a little place called Bowlers.  It consists of bacon, sausage, eggs, tomato, mushrooms, beans, toast, and coffee/tea.  I admit the beans are a little weird, but I ate it all.  I wanted to taste English culture, and evidently that means eating beans on buttered toast for breakfast. After our healthy meal, we decided to walk around the center of town for a while.  We went to see a few sites like the cathedral and a little victorian era cluster of buildings, and later stumbled onto the shopping area.  Manchester has a really good shopping district and a huge mall in the center of town.  We spent a while wandering around the Americany mall and even went into Aldi to find some real peanut butter.

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We were still pretty full from breakfast so we decided to forego lunch and grab an English pint from a cool little bar in the center.  Naturally, I chose a Sam Adams because…America. After spending some time in our room relaxing from all the walking, we found a collegy place to get dinner.  I felt like we were the only ones eating because I’m pretty sure 7:30ish is a little late for dinner for them.

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After that, we went to a few more places to get a couple more pints.  We had to take advantage of the good beer because Spain has like 4 types of the same crappy stuff.  I have to say though, a pint seemed like a lot of liquid after spending so much time drinking cañas (200 mL glass) in Spain.  The bartender seemed baffled by the fact that I wanted a half pint and by the fact that I asked for it with an American accent.  I get the feeling they don’t get a lot of tourists there.

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On Sunday we went back down to the center to do some shopping.  We found the Manchester Primark, and I’m pretty sure it was Shannon’s shopping heaven. To be fair, the store is really impressive.  It’s like the size of a WalMart, but only for clothes. We also went and grabbed a cup of tea and a delicious piece of cake, treat yo self – am I right?

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We worked up an appetite walking around the never ending land of Primark and decided to get some lunch.  We found a cool English pub with lunch deals and decided to get fish and chips and a beef pie.  They were both really good!  I’m not sure I’m among those who hate English food.

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After that we went to John Ryland’s Library to see some cool old stuff.  Basically it’s a really old library that looks like something out of a Harry Potter movie with old books and really great architecture. By the time we left the library, it was getting late, and we had to catch our flight back home.

5 Mini Cultural Differences

Who doesn’t love cultural differences?! I do! I’ve been living and working in Spain for almost 5 months now; and while there are obviously some huge cultural differences between the states and Madrid, there are also some little differences that I think are pretty funny.

1. They always use gridline notebooks

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You know those notebooks you only used for AP Calculus, yeah they use those for everything here. Another weird school supply I’ve noticed is that people don’t use mechanical pencils they use the wooden ones, but these pencils don’t have erasers attached to the end.

2. The ground level of a building is 0.

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If you push “1” you will go to the floor we usually refer to as “2.” I feel like their way makes a little more sense, seeing as how the ground floor is the 0 floor, and the first floor is the first floor up. Come on, America.

3. No coffee creamer.  

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Say goodbye to your beloved Sugar Free Hazelnut coffee creamer. Coffee con leche is the only way to dilute your favorite brew here.

4. Wine is cheaper than water.

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If you go to a restaurant, or if you’re at a bar don’t expect to get a free glass of water. Un vaso de agua will usually cost you around 2 euros, whereas a copa de vino will only cost 1.50 euros. No complaints over here.

5. Spanish people eat 5 meals

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Yes, the meals are smaller, but I’m referring to them as meals because, unlike snacking in American, these tiny meals happen around the same time every day.

  • The first meal is breakfast and they usually have a pastry or piece of bread with coffee,
  • The second meal is around 11 where people have another coffee with a small sandwich, a piece of tortilla, or a pastry
  • Around 2:30 they eat lunch which is the biggest meal of the day,
  • The fourth meal is around 5pm and I’ve noticed people eating mainly small sandwiches, salads, fruits, or yogurt
  • The last meal is dinner (a light meal:soup, salad, sandwich, etc) around 9:30-10pm.