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Adventure Time: Barcelona, Spain

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The third and final stop of our Semana Santa vacation was Barcelona. We were only in Barcelona for a day, but since we’ve actually been to Barcelona once before in February with my mom we had already seen all the big sights Barcelona has to offer (Park Güell, Sagrada Familia, and Gaudi Architecture). So we devoted our day to seeing the part of the city we hadn’t seen before.

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We found a fantastic AirBNB right in the center of the gothic part of Barcelona, so it was super easy for us to spend the whole day exploring. Logan and I started our day with a rooftop breakfast at our airbnb (he made us tiramisu). With our bellies full of dessert for breakfast (what’s better than that), we set out for Parc de Ciutadella.

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One of my favorite places in Madrid is Retiro Park because it’s big and beautiful and has a little pond with rowboats in the center but, goddammit, Barcelona’s park wins this one. Parc de Ciutadella has a giant fountain plastered with gold, a man-made pond with little rowboats you can rent, and palm trees!

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On our way out of the park we saw the Arco de Triunfo, we’ve seen a lot of arches (seems like every major city has one), but Barcelona’s looks a bit different because it’s made of red brickwork which I had never seen before. The rest of the afternoon was devoted to wandering the streets of Barcelona, and wander we did.

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We made our way to the beach, where people were delightfully playing in the sand while only wearing bikinis (it was a whopping 68 degrees outside). We had some tasty coffee at a hipster cafe, then we made our way to the market. This market, La Boqueria, is the coolest market I’ve ever been to. It’s littered with fresh fruit stands, treats, and Spanish meats and cheeses. But, hands down, the best product at this market is the freshly made juice blends that they sell for a bargain of 1 euro. Logan had a strawberry banana, and I tried the blackberry coconut. LIFE CHANGING I tell you.

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By this time we had walked about 156 miles and were ready to catch our train back home to Madrid. Throughout our entire spring break we had ZERO mishaps. While I can’t wait for our next mini vacation, for now we are ready to chill at home for a few weeks until our next adventure!

P.S. I forgot to post this and we are leaving for London on Friday…

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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.

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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Cathedral

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