europe

Adventure Time: Prague, Czech Republic

SelfiePrague in pictures!

Alright folks, I’m writing this from my apartment in Madrid (It’s our last day here), and it’s currently 100 degrees (literally), so let’s keep this one short and sweet.

CollageBridge* These two pictures are from the famous Charles Bridge, it’s pretty cool and no cars can go on it

* This was where we saw a momma dog and her 12 very little puppies (cue Shannon meltdown)

* It’s also lined with these really weird statues that I think are derived from Catholicism CollageCastle*So I was really excited because Prague has a “castle,” but it turns out the castle is just a lot of houses built around a beautiful cathedral #woeismeCollagedessert

* Prague has this traditional sweet that’s like a hollow churro, we opted for a chocolate-filled one

* Funny story: we ordered a chocolate-filled one which turned out to be a regular one and a packet of nutella we had to spread on ourselvesCollageFood

*Prague food is all alarmingly similar (and delicious)

*Most dishes are some type of meat with sauce, potato dumplings, and that’s allCollageMarket

*We stumbled across a market where there were lots of pretty trinkets

* How cool is Czech money?!

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*Prague has a super dope Old Town Square

* All of the buildings are pastel colored with pointy tips (I’m sure there’s a technical term for this architecture, but I’m feelin too lazy to look it up)

* This is an astronomical clock that not only tells the time, but also the date, and the position of the moon LOverlook SOverlooks

And ya esta! Our next adventure is homeward *TOMORROW!*

5 Reasons Spain is the Best European Country

So what’s the deal with everyone referencing, almost exclusively, Paris and Rome when they talk about taking a European vacation? I don’t get it. Where’s the love for my beloved country of Spain?! By this time I’ve been to my fair share of European countries (Portugal, France, Italy, Germany, UK, Netherlands, Switzerland) and literally none of them hold a candle to Spain. So I’m going to declare it, loud and proud: Spain is undoubtedly the best European country, and here’s why:

1.The Food PicMonkey Collage

THE FOOOD! Where do I even begin?! Paella, tortilla, tapas, cured meats and cheese; the list is a long one. Spanish food is amazingly delicious and wonderfully cheap. There’s no other european country where you are basically guaranteed a free snack with every drink you order.

2. The People peopleeee

Working as an Auxiliar and living with Spanish students means I get the best of both worlds. I’ve witnessed the kindness, warmness, and overall welcoming disposition of pretty much everyone I’ve met here, both at work and at home. The warmth and kindness of the Spanish personality is deeply ingrained in their culture: e.g. double cheek kissing STRANGERS when you first meet! If that doesn’t tell you about what kind of people they are, then I don’t know what will.

3. The Architecture architecturee I live in the center of Madrid which means I have the pleasure of being surrounded by the most beautiful buildings. Whether it’s the colored apartments, the never-ending sea of terraces, or the ornate details on the older structures – pretty much every building here is a work of art.

4. The History aqueducts viewSHANNY

Spain is old. This has made me realize that, in comparison to Europe, nothing is very old in the U.S. There’s stuff here from the Roman Empire! Isn’t that crazy? It seems like every Spanish city is rich with history: Granda with the Alhambra, Segovia with the Aqueducts, not to mention all the castles and walls and other miscellaneous historical things scattered throughout the country.

5. It’s Affordable clarasss

Hotels, food, transportation, attractions: everything is so affordable here. To give you a hint: Logan and I usually spend 20 euros on two nights out (lots of eating and drinking), and a weekend lunch. Beers are rarely more than 1.50, and menu items are hardly ever priced over 10 euros. Needless to say we’ve been living a bit of an indulgent life here.

So have I convinced you that Spain is the greatest country in Europe? I hope so.

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: Lisbon, Portugal

sunnySelfie Lisbon, Portugal: aka the hillier version of Spain. On a whim, Logan and I decided to hit up Spain’s neighbor to the East for our last couple of days of winter break. Logan and I have realized we are actually pretty laid back travelers, so we didn’t go to Portugal with any to-do items. As always, our main objectives were trying the local food and touring the city by foot.

Day 1: DomeChurchX

We were in Portugal for 2 full days, and in that time we saw a lot of the city. With our tourist map in hand, we set off to see some of the mega old buildings that litter the streets of Lisbon. Above is a picture of the Church of Santa Engracia, they were doing construction inside so we weren’t able to go in. Across the street was a super beautiful park, full of wild geese, swans, and ducks.

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Lisbon still uses ancient street cars, so Logan and I used it to see the other side of the city because we didn’t want to walk up and down the city mountains (seriously, walking around Lisbon feels like continuously walking up a giant ass mountain). P.S. the street cars are actually pretty expensive, 1 ride costs 3 euros.

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We ended up walking up and down the hills of Lisbon because we got off our street car too early, and saw the old convent, the Santa Justa Lift (an excellent view of the city), and the main plaza. We eventually made our way to the Rua Augusta Arch which happens to be right by the water. Look! Sand!

Day 2:  SLbalcony monestaryX CourtyardX

We started our second day in Lisbon bright and early! Our first stop was one of the most famous sights in Lisbon: Jeronimos Monastery. The courtyard was BEAUTIFUL, it was definitely worth the 5 euro entrance fee.

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After the courtyard, we walked the short distance to the water. This monument was built to honor and celebrate the achievements of all the Portuguese explorers. How neat is that? Pretty neat.

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Our last tourist stop was the Belem Tower. It originally served as a watchtower in the early 1500s. We decided not to go in it because we were really hungry and wanted food (priorities, am I right?).

FOOOOOOD! foodX

One of my favorite things about traveling is that it gives you an excuse to eat whatever you want (just trying to experience the culture….). Portugal’s food was on point. The typical Portuguese meal consists of meat, rice, and fries with a bottle of wine *yum.* We also tried the typical pastry: Pasteis de Belem (second picture) *also yummy*. Overall, Portuguese food was delicious and inexpensive – my favorite combination.

Another country down, many more to go!

Adventure Time: Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Hello all! Its time for part two of our Christmas break vacation. If you haven’t read it yet, check out Shannon’s post about Cologne, Germany.

Shannon was by far the most excited about the Christmas Markets of Germany, but I was looking forward to going to Amsterdam the most. We didn’t have a ton of specific places to visit for this city, so we spent a lot of our time exploring and wandering the many canals of Amsterdam.

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On our first day our only real priority was seeing the Anne Frank house (this is the canal outside the Frank museum). There is an entire museum now that takes you through Otto’s old warehouse where he ran his business and the secret annex where the Franks spent their time in hiding. I read the diary when I was in middle school, so it was really cool to see the actual diary and to be in the building where Anne wrote it. All of the furniture that used to be there is gone, but you can still see the swinging bookcase that was used to hide the secret entrance and the pictures Anne glued to her wall as decoration. Overall the museum was super interesting and worth every minute we had to wait in line. (P.S. you aren’t allowed to take pics).

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After the Anne Frank house, we walked to a quaint little dutch cafe with a view of one of the many canals for lunch. Luckily EVERYONE in Amsterdam speaks nearly perfect English, so ordering food or asking questions was never a problem. We just walked in to places and ordered in English as if it were the US. When we finished eating, we spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the city and wandering into stores and tourist shops.

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During our wanderings, we stumbled across this little stroopwafel shop. Stroopwafels are very thin waffles filled with a caramel sauce. This place was especially delicious because they made the waffles to order right in front of you so they were nice and warm.

 

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Later on in the evening we went out for dinner at a cool little Dutch pub and then checked out one of Amsterdam’s finest museums: the Sex Museum. In reality it was a super cheesy museum that looks like something out of a bad 80’s movie. You could say it wasn’t what we expected. We then ended the evening by walking through the Red Light District. Although it seems like it would be a shady place, the Red Light District is actually full of tourists and feels very mainstream. It’s another place where we weren’t allowed to take pictures, we even saw a lady of the night throw water on a tourist who took her pic.

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Our last half day in the city before our flight was pretty uneventful because it was Christmas Day. Most of the shops and restaurants were closed, so there wasn’t much to do except walk around and see more of the city.

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Adventure time: Geneva, Switzerland

 

 

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*Click the image to enlarge*

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.

NIGHTtime

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

 

Adventure Time: Granada

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Last weekend Logan and I made the short journey to the southern city of Granada. Granada is most well known for their copious (and delicious) tapas, the Alhambra, and their white washed houses. It’s only about a 4 hour drive, and we found a cheap BlaBla car for Friday morning. We stayed in a wonderful AirBNB with a balcony and a central location (it was also mega cheap). We decided 2 days was enough time, so we got down to business right when we arrived.

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Our first stop was finding a couple bars to drink and eat lunch. The tapas in Granada were pretty good, but Logan and I thought they were pretty similar to the tapas we’ve had in Madrid. After filling up our bellies with vino tinto and our fair share of free food, we trecked up a huge a** hill to _____. This is the best place to see La Alhambra, and it’s one of the most popular destinations in Granada.

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We spent the night bar hopping between the many bars that litter Granada’s streets. And we were not disappointed. The alcohol is cheap, and the food is delicious. My favorite bar was one where they gave us a seafood tapa (a whole plate of fried shrimp *nomz*).

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The next day we were up bright and early to trek to our main destination, La Alhambra. La Alhambra is one of the most visited spots in Spain, and is a Moorish citadel and palace. Since it’s so popular you have to buy your tickets in advance.

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If you could tell from my previous pictures, La Alhambra is situated at the top of a giant f*cking hill, that we had to climb at 9:30am with a bit of a tapa hangover. It was long, and a bit tiring, but TOTALLY worth it. La Alhambra is MASSIVE, and we spent a good 3 hours walking around the beautiful grounds. We decided to get tickets that included everything other than the Nasrid baths, and I have zero regrets.

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This part of Alhambra is called Generalife and it’s filled with beautiful gardens, fountains, and ponds. It was so so so beautiful, and because La Alhambra is so massive, there were never too many crowds anywhere we went. Also, the weather was PERFECT, look at me guys, I’m wearing shorts on the first day of November!

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The other main part of La Alhambra is the Alcazaba, this is where you get the best views of the beautiful city. The clusters of white houses make my heart swoon, so beautiful!

After we left La Alhambra, we ended our trip exactly how we started: with a few more rounds of tapas.

Besos y abrazos,

Shannon