Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ace of Cakes

There were real fireworks in my cake! Thanks, Choccy Woccy Doo Dah and Jenny! And thanks to everyone who came out and made my 21st so fun :)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thanks, Ally!

Yesterday Ally took Jenny and I on a wonderful day trip through something like 6 or 7 different counties in England!

First we drove to Tylney Hall in Hook, which was just absolutely incredible! It's a huge old fancy hotel that is on lovely grounds and feels like a movie set because it's just so picturesque. It feels like the kind of place that if you were filthy rich and getting married, this is where you would dream of having your reception or something. Anyway, we strolled around the gardens and explored the water garden as well before we decided to feel really posh and order coffees at their terrace. It was such a beautiful day and we enjoyed feeling really fancy and sipping our drinks in the sunshine.

After that we headed to Henley upon Thames but before going there we passed through Reading and met Ally's friend for lunch. Then we wandered around Henley, a cute little town on the river filled with little boats and things. And after that we went and visited Ally's house and had a lovely dinner with her and her parents. It was such a nice treat and a great way to spend a spring day in England! Thanks for such a fun day, Ally!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Baffling Bavaria

I always leave Germany feeling very very confused (to say the least.... if you know about the last time). I try so hard to like you, Germany, I really do. But all you can do is hate me. Whyyyyyyyy?

This time in Germany was certainly much much better than my last time but I still feel a little let down. And I know that I didn't really give Munich the chance it deserved (I wasn't there long enough [only 2 full days properly in the city]) so I want to go back and really have a good time there like I want to do for Berlin. But I think I will wait a very long time before returning to Germany to give it those second chances. Looooooooooong time.

I had a lot of fun though, I swear!

Day 1 was mostly spent traveling. I got in to Berlin pretty late and eventually found my hostel and checked in. As I was making my bed and locking up my things one of my room mates came in, Kok Liang, originally from Malaysia studying in France. He was super nice and interesting to talk to, although I was a little sad to hear that he disliked Munich and found that there was nothing to do there. As we were talking a new roommate came in, Rodolfo from Brazil now working in the Netherlands. Also super nice and interesting. We decided that once Kok Liang's two friends came back we would all go out to dinner, so once they did, the three of us and Young Chang and Daniel all went out to the Augustiner Brauhaus restaurant on the way to Marienplatz. We ate some surprisingly delicious typical Bavarian food (free pretzels yeah!!!!!) and had a great time. I was really relieved/comforted to hear that all five of us have similar struggles as people living abroad in foreign countries. It felt really good to relate and commiserate about things and to know it's not just me! After dinner Rodolfo, Kok Liang and I wandered around the city at night and walked down Maximillianstrasse which is super posh and high-end. After that we returned to the hostel and went to the bar at the hostel and continued hanging out and having a good time. A nice introduction to Munich!

Day 2 I woke up and met a new roommate, Sarah, from Boston studying in Bilbao, Spain. We went to breakfast together where we met Alexandra, originally from Paris, now living in London. We all hit it off and decided to go on a tour of the city together. We ended up deciding on a free bike tour that departs from Marienplatz. The three of us walked over to the square early and sat down to people watch and we were actually just in time for the glockenspiel! It was really cute! Right as that ended we hopped over to the fish fountain where the bike tour group was gathering. There was a pretty big group, about 35 of us and 1 tour guide (from America!) He gave us a little history of Munich and then lead us over to get us our bikes. It was pretty entertaining seeing 35 people test ride bikes in a small little area off the main square. The bikes were the kind where you have to pedal backwards to break, it was hard readjusting to that. On the tour we stopped at a bunch of interesting places and learned about the history of Munich and it's buildings and stuff. About halfway through the tour we entered the English garden which is apparently the biggest park in the world? Like a few times the size of Central park? It was gorgeous and full of curious little places. We stopped by the nude sunbathing section which was PACKED and full of characters. Then we stopped at the Chinese Tower Beer Garden in the middle. Sarah, Alexandra and I decided to split two of the obscenely/heavenly large pretzels, and it turns out they were so big we couldn't even finish them off, although we came close! It was really hot out though and there wasn't much shelter from the sun, but there was an Oompa band playing so it was all fine and dandy! After that we went to go see the river surfers. Yes, surfing in Munich. There is a standing wave in the river that flows through the park and surfers flock to it! It's super entertaining. After that we continued our ride and at one point, RICK STEVES RODE PAST US AND WAVED!!!!!!!! Ok so I was too busy trying not to kill myself or someone else on my bike to notice, but our cool tour guide dude told us after! Apparently Rick went on the tour last year and loved it, haha! After that we headed back to the hostel for a little bit of much needed rest, and Alexandra switched into our room because her roommates were a little inconsiderate. So we were resting when Rodolfo returned from the BMW museum and as Sarah and Alexandra were napping he showed me pictures from his trip so far and it was nice to see how someone else was enjoying the city. Once everyone was recharged, all four of us went out to dinner together at Weisses Brauhaus. Sarah and I split wienerschnitzel and steak which were both once again absolutely mouthwatering. After that there was no way I couldn't say no to dessert, so I had this spectacular thing that was sliced pancakes with apple slices and raisins covered in cinnamon and icing and with fresh apple sauce on the side. Heaven? Maybe! It was soooooooo gooooooood and there was soooo much of it! Deeeeeeeeelicious! After dinner we wandered around some more before heading back to the hostel and eventually going to sleep.

Day 3 Sarah and I headed out to catch an early train to Fussen to see Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles. After the 2 hour train ride we got there and got our tickets (you can't enter the castles without participating in a tour.). We climbed up to the Hohenschwangau castle and met a nice older man and his daughter who was also studying abroad in England. After chatting with them we went and it was time for our tour. That castle was interesting and pretty but not as impressive as the next one. Once we left Hohenschwangau, we climbed back down the path and got ourselves some bratwurst to charge us up for the 40 minute climb up to Neuschwanstein. It was a tough climb but it was nice! The castle was pretty but unfortunately not nearly as fantastical as in the photos you see but the time of year has a lot to do with that as the trees weren't green yet. However, the inside of the castle is absolutely STUNNING. I would have loved to have spent hours in there but unfortunately you have to go on a tour and the tour isn't very informative and it only lasts about 45 minutes and barely shows you much of the castle, maybe like 6 rooms! I was pretty disappointed :( On the way back down we got some yummy doughnut like things and looked at the touristy stores before heading back to Munich where we met back up with Alexandra for dinner. This time we traveled in the opposite direction of Marienplatz and went to Augustiner Steuben which felt even more authentic than the other two! Actually as soon as we walked in, on the only-for-drinking side a man theatrically drunkenly fell to the floor (he was fine)... Oh, Bavaria! We sat down to order some food and I got the German version of mac and cheese which is wayyy better and has cooler noodles for lack of a batter way to describe them. doughier, I guess. I also got potato pancakes with applesauce. Scrumptious indeed, probably one of my favorite meals although they were seriously all spectacular. After that we were desperate to go to Hofbrau Haus, I was particularly excited because it's my dad's favorite place everrr and I really wanted to experience it and tell him about how I like it. But by the time we got there it was closed! BOOOOOO! So I never made it there, sadly :(

The next morning Sarah, Alexandra and I had breakfast together before Alexandra headed out to catch her train back to London. Sarah and I then headed over to the Alter Peter Church where we climbed an exhausting 306 steps to the top for a lovely view of Munich. After soaking in the sights we got back down and I said goodbye to Sarah as she left for the airport to continue on to Barcelona. Right after I said bye in Marienplatz, this young guy came up to me and started talking really fast in German. Once he realized I didn't speak German he switched to English and asked me to let him ask me a quick interview question for this magazine, Neon. He and his friend were so nice and also they caught me off guard (exhausted and sweaty from the climb, hadn't really brushed my hair, wearing clothes that i've been traveling in for a good two and a half weeks...) so I agreed. They asked me "What is overrated?" and I thought and though and thought and couldn't think of anything. Eventually macaroni and cheese popped in to my head and i thought about it for a second and i was so desperate for an answer that i just blurted it out. And then i though 'ughhhh what a dumb answer'. It totally sounds like the answer you read of someone TRYING BUT FAILING to sound funny. So now I look like the idiotic egotistical American girl. Yeah cause next they took like a mini-photoshoot of me.... ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhugggguhguhgug. Funny but embarrassing but entertaining. Oh and then of course after it all I thought of some good answers to the question but it was obviously too late. I don't know what to think of it all! Now I just need to find someone who can get the magazine when it comes out and send it to me, haha!
Anyway after that fiasco I was on my own for the first time, and I headed over to the hauptbanhof and caught a train to Salzburg, Austria. Once I got there I walked over to Mirabell Garden and enjoyed the flowers and fountains in the sunshine before heading across the street to get on the "Sound of Music" Tour. I don't care if you are reading that and laughing at me, whoever you are, I had a good time and that's all that matters to me! It was really fun and it was an opportunity to see more than just Salzburg as it took us to the lakes and mountains region. The tour guide was absolutely hilarious and entertaining and knew so much about the history of the place and the movie and tons of other little tidbits as well (and he is from Florida!). I sat next to an absolutely fascinating man originally from Lebanon but working in Germany after studying there for something like 6 years. He was such a nice and funny guy and told me lots about German culture and history and random stuff. Later on the tour we stopped in a mini town for an hour and we just got to walk around and explore. I ended up spending the entire time with another fascinating person, a lady who had grown up in Chicago, went to college in NY, and just 2 years ago moved to Budapest with her husband and had a baby there and just absolutely loves the place. It was really interesting to talk to her about living abroad and the culture in Hungary and all kinds of things. Really lovely.
Once the tour ended we were back in Salzburg where I wandered the city for quite some time before going to the Modern Art Museum which had some nice exhibits. After that I wandered around and got really lost and confused but eventually found my back to the train station. And that is when things started going down hill. I got on the wrong type of train back to Munich and ended up having to buy a different ticket on board for 33 euros cause mine was for a different type of train. Whoops. Then I got back to the hostel pretty late and did some stuff before going to bed. However, everyone who had been in my room the previous nights had left, all of them, and they were all so wonderful! So when i went to bed that night I think there was one new person in one of the beds across from mine, and then the other ones were empty but had sheets on them so i knew there would be new people in those beds, too. Wellllllll there certainly were. I tried to sleep as i was dead tired, and i was half asleep around 2am when i heard someone come in, TURN ON ALL THE LIGHTS, and laugh (probably cause they saw me sleeping... jerk!) Then he left. Then maybe at 2:30 he brought his friends back and once again turned on all the lights even though there were CLEARLY people sleeping. And they laughed and spoke in German and laughedddddd and were loud and rude and obnoxious. But I just pulled the covers over my head and pretended to be asleep. Then they left. Then at 3:00-3:30 ish they came back, turning all the lights on again and being drunk and loud and rowdy and rude and obnoxious but i just stayed huddled under my covers. Well then I heard one pull up one of the chairs by my bed and sit down and talk obnoxiously loud. And then like 5 minutes later he just RIPS THE COVERS OFF FROM OVER MY HEAD!!!!!!!!!! I WAS FURIOUS TO SAY THE LEAST!!!!!!! And he just starts laughing with all his friends, THAT ASSHOLE! So I look at him and say "I'm trying to sleep" and he laughs and says "oh." and I say "you're being incredibly rude, am I going to have to switch rooms?" and he said "you can switch rooms if you want" And i say "Ok then i will. I'll be back" and he goes "i no speak good english" WHEN HE OBVIOUSLY DOES! Anyway so little old me heads downstairs in my pajamas at 3:30 am to the "24-hour reception desk", only to find that there is absolutely no one there. And I waited downstairs all alone for a FULL HOUR until at 4:30 am this guy waltzes in and seats himself back behind the desk where he belongs. Luckily he was really nice and helpful and immediately switched me to an all girls dorm room and came back up to my room with me to help me get my stuff cause I sure as hell didn't feel comfortable being back in a room alone with them. And he talked to them in German and then told me later they apologized..... suuuuuuuuuuure. So anyway that is when I decided that Germany really really hates me.

The next morning I woke up in my nice all girls dorm and met a lovely person named Becca from England and talked to her for a while, then had breakfast with her and a guy form Australia, and they both were very compassionate when i told them about my nightmare night before. Then I headed over to the Viktualien Market or whatever it's called and wandered around the stalls for a while and found there was an oompa band playing and old men cracking whips to the music and it was pretty entertaining. Then I went to some church that starts with an F that's name I can't remember. It was pretty allright inside. After that I headed over to the toy museum and enjoyed their adorable collection. Then I went back to the hostel because I had to check out and then check back in to yet another all girls dorm because the one i was in the night before was booked out for the next night. As I was making my bed I met my new roommates, two super nice girls form Barcelona and another girl, Wendy, from Australia. Wendy and I decided to head over to the Munichen Stadtmuseum together. It was quite a strange museum. The first few floors were dedicated to the history of Munich but it was all in German so we basically just talked about traveling and stuff which was nice! Then we go to the good part of the museum, the floor dedicated to puppets and freak shows and circuses and amusement parks and curiosities of things like that. It was soooooo creepy and cool, especially cause it was kinda dark and empty and creepy in the first place and then certain things would just start moving on their own when you walked by them! there was one that made us both scream! After that we walked around and ate at the Augustiner Brauhaus again where I had wiener sausages and potato salad followed by an apple strudel that was pretty good but not as good as the bit i tried of sarah's at the augustiner steuben. Then we headed back to the hostel where I packed my things and got ready to leave the next day.

The final day I had breakfast with the two girls from Barcelona and then headed out to run some errands and mainly find tea and kinder products. Which I successfully did! I even found NEW (to me) Kinder things in the refrigerator aisle. Let me tell you, I was ecstatic. And so I bought 2 individual fridge things, a 5 pack of fridge things, and a pack each of two limited edition things. Anddddd i ate the 2 individual and 5 pack things right away cause they were going to melt otherwise! hahahah but it was so worth it! Then i packed up some more and headed off to the airport where I finished my book (the brief wondrous life of oscar wao... go read it it was incredible). Then I finally made it to Brighton where I am now and will need about 2 weeks of recovery time, sadly I dont really get any. Oh well!

So Munich just didn't really do anything for me, but I feel like it could if I give it another chance. We'll see.... someday.
More pictures here and here.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Malta Time!

Jenny and I ventured off to a tiny 19x9 mile island country between Italy and Tunisia for a few days, and it was bright and sunny and warm and lovely!

When we arrived at the airport Monday night Frankie's son Matthew was super nice and picked us up to drive us to our hotel. It was really nice to catch up with him! And then he stopped by a Maltese pastry shop on the way and picked up a ton of delicious typical Maltese things like these cheese-cakes that are pastries filled with ricotta cheese, ones filed with peas, pizzas, and all kinds of yummy stuff. Then before dropping us off at the hotel, he drove us over to his sister Jessica's house where Frankie was staying. It was so nice to finally meet Jessica and Alec, her baby who is the cutest kid on EARTH. So we mad a fun time visiting with everyone before Frankie drove us to our hotel and once we settled in we walked around the area, went into a very bizarre club/bar place, and then left and wandered around some fancy hotels on the seafront.

The next morning we headed over to Valletta, the capital of Malta. Taking the bus was really fun because the busses are super old fashioned and are bright yellow and orange and covered with religious imagery inside like huge pictures of Jesus and all these religious saying and then there will be like weird airbrushed mall like typography... it's pretty sweet! Anyway once we got to Valletta we had no idea what we were doing so we just wandered around in the astonishingly hot sun (I'm talking middle of summer in Chicago it's so hot let's go swimming heat). Stray cats everywhere, beautiful old colorful houses everywhere you look, and no matter where you walked you would look down a side street and see the ocean. Incredible! We went in St. Paul Shipwreck church and saw some craaaaaazy relics, and then we also went in St. John's Cathedeal and it was gorgeous inside. There was also a museum with cool illuminated manuscripts and an enormous Caravaggio painting. After that we explored more and more, ate some yummy food, and then as we were looking at the sea some old man started talking to us and struck up a conversation about how he lived in Buckingham Palace for 7 years and stuff.... anyway, he told us we should go see "The Malta Experience" so we did, it was a little movie about the history of Malta and it was actually really cool to see just beacuse the history of the island is sooooo old and intense and crazy! I had no idea!

The next day Me, Jenny, Frankie, Jessica, and Alec went on a day-long ship ride around Malta, that stopped on Comino (Malta is made of 3 islands: Malta, Gozo, and Comino). It was nice and relaxing in the morning, nice to see all around the island and hear about certain villages from Frankie and Jessica. Once we got to Comino..... I was in heaven. I've always wanted to go somewhere with perfect clear water, AND I GOT IT! It was just unbelievably gorgeous.... I think it's the 2nd most beautiful sight I've seen behind the starry sky in Ireland which is pretty much unbeatable. Jenny and I went on a little mini tour thing on this funny boat where they took us in these little caves around the island which was nice. Once that quick thing was over we went straight to the sandy beach part where everyone was splashing and swimming and enjoying the sun and the water. It was just perfecttttttttttttttttttttt I could have spent ages and ages just sitting there, I wish I had my swimsuit but alas I only got to wade in with my pants rolled up hahaha. Bt it was still so worth it. After Comino we headed back to the boat, finished the tour and got back into Sliema harbor where Jenny and I walked back to our hotel and had some gelato on the way. It's a really nice walk along the sea! About 2 hours later Jessica picked us up and brought us back to her house where Matthew had cooked us all an absolutely incredible traditional Maltese fish dinner! Jessica's husband Manuel was there and it was nice to meet him too! We had pasta with clams and shrimp, and then a fish dish with tomatoes and potatoes, and usually I am not a big fish eater but it was just SO TASTY! Thank you Matthew! We spent the rest of the night visiting and talking about cameras and watching the scores come in for the Chelsea-Liverpool match (....let's not get into that...... Liverpool had better come back with a vengance on Wednesday!) and playing with Alec and relaxing. It was such a wonderful day, I am so lucky to have such amazing family friends!

The next day Jenny and I went to Gozo. It was quite a journey getting there but it was really fun! When we finally got there we had to take more transportation and eventually we got to this little craft-village with tiny little stores of lace makers and pottery and stuff. It was fun! After that we just walked all the way back from that town to the main city, Victoria. It was a long walk but the scenery was just so gorgeous that it was no trouble at all! We had lunch in this cool place that overlooked a man square. After a long day we headed back to the hotel to rest and then later that night said goodbye to Frankie.

On our last day we went to the ancient town in the middle of the island called Mdina. It was soooo cool! The whole city is designed that so every street/corridor/road is only as long as an arrow's flight! It was absolutely gorgeous and completely unique from anywhere else I've ever been. And since it was Good Friday all the churches had crazy exhibits going on because Malta is ridiculously religious. They were really cool to see! We walked around the city looking at stray cats and old doors and people watching for a nice long tim before taking the really long bus followed by bus ride back to Paceville where we walked around and had smoothies and sat at the beach before going to the airport and saying goodbye to the amazing island of Malta! More pictures here.

I'm off to Munich in a quarter of an hour.... all on my own! Terrified? Yes. Excited? Yes! Wish me luck!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Rain In Spain...

(this is going to be another long one.... sorry!)

Bright and early (3:30 am) Tuesday morning Alex and I said our sad goodbyes to Mary Ellen and then an hour later also headed off to the train station to get to the airport. Eventually we made it to Barcelona and then to our absolutely wonderful hostel called Mambo Tango. We were warmly welcomed by the owners, Toti and Marina, and shown our beds after meeting a few of the other people staying at the hostel who would all become quick friends in just a few days.

After we unpacked and settled in a little, we were off on a 10 minute walk from our hostel to La Ramblas and the Mercat Boqueria, the famous food market! I was super thrilled to actually get to see the market after hearing so much abuot it and seeing it on tv and stuff, it was so cooooool! I got a delicious strawberry-coconut smoothie thing right away and drank it as we walked around the tons of sellers showing off the fish and skinned lambs heads and fresh fruits and all kinds of crazy foods. After that we walked around the Ramblas in the freezing cold pouring rain which was honestly a little defeating and put a damper on things for a while. But we overcame! We wandered and took in the sights on the unusually empty street before heading back to the hostel to rest a little bit.

Once at the hostel we rested a tiny bit and then headed downstairs into the common room-ish area where we met tons of wonderful people. We also met some girl from Park Ridge and other things that make you realize how weirdly connected things are. Alex and I were talking to one new friend Steve, when we met some other new friends, Maggie and Sarah, also Americans, and Andy from England as well. As the basement got more crowded we met more and more new people, it was great. Steve then suggested we all go out to eat at this place he discovered in his guide book called "Foodball". Haha!! Sounded mildly suspicious to me but who was I to say no, it sounded like a ton of fun! So Me, Alex, Steve, Maggie, Sara, Andy, and other new friend Robin decided to venture back into the pouring rain to find Foodball. After getting to La Ramblas and searcing for a while without luck, we discovered Foodball had been shut down (not enough business...) and so we all headed in to this authentic Catalan place instead. It was a really bizarre and new and fun experience for all of us, I think. All of our food was raw, and it wasn't really what anyone expected but it was pretty good.... Alex literally just got a plate covered in Spanish salami but it was DELICIOUS. After that fun we got some Gelato at some place and went back to the hostel to hang out and watch a movie. Great first night in Barcelona!

Day 2 in Barcelona was also rainy but nice. Alex and I headed over to Parc Guell, the gorgeous nature-y park designed by Gaudi. It was really nice to just wander around it and explore for a few hours. And the sun actually came out at the end! Oh, and there is a kid's elementary school or kindergarten or something literally INSIDE THE PARK! How lucky are they? It was really cute to see the kids playing soccer and having fun in the middle of such an inspiring environment. After the park and getting a very quick lunch, Alex and I took our time and eventually got to the MACBA, the Museum of Contemporary art in Barcelona. Before we got there though we found the world's most amazing bookstore. Well maybe not the world's most amazing but it was really great and we maybe spent something like 2 hours in there haha it was just massive and had an amazing collection of books. Anyway, after that was the museum; the building itself is really impressive and pretty and modern looking, and it's crazy because outside it there is a huge pavement space...courtyard....something, and there are literally about 45 skateboarders there ALL THE TIME! Poor old ladies probably never get to go to the museum becuause they'll probably get run down and killed just trying to get to the door of the place. But heyyy it was cool. The exhbits were nice albeit a little repetitive for my tastes. But it was really cool, Alex and I walked in an installation that you neded to sign a release form to go in because it was a really narrow maze made out of things like wire fences and fish tanks and sheets of clear glass suspended from the ceiling and get this, the floor was made of somethig like 2 tons of crushed broken glass. I was so excited to go in but then once I set foot I was like "oh my goddddd i need to get out of here I'm going to die", soooo I went through that one pretty fast. I think that night was spent watching F.C. Barcelona (whose logo you literally see about 300 times a day in Barcelona, no joke!) and hanging out in the common room meeting more fun people (and fellow Chicagoans!) before calling it a night.

Day 3 was really fun, though still rainy. After breakfast Alex and I joined Maggie and Sarah on a trip to the Barcelona Cathedral which was spectacular! Really ornate inside and filled with gorgeous opulent golden dioramas and altars and stuff. Super cool. Even better was the cloyster outside. It was really lush and green and unexpected. There were white ducks and fish and turtles swimming around, plam trees and orange trees everywhere, old fancy fountains, and more gold leaf and hand painted stuff. When the church closed for siesta the four of us headed right outside to the Gothic marekt filled with tons of antique treasures. I got a pretty little pendant thing for 2 euros and spent way too much time gushing over the old comic books, FC Barca memorabilia, old Spanish crests and pins, and just about everything else you could imagine. After that we headed back to the hostel where we were going to meet two new friends Sean and Jim for lunch, but they were late and didn't show up so me, Alex, Andy, Sarah, and Maggie went out instead and went to a place Sarah saw earlier that had 6 euro paella. DELICIOUS. It was really nice and fun. After that we all walked over to that great big book store and poured over books for a while longer. After that we all walked around more together and then visited El Ingenio, the most wonderul store EVER, filled with circus things and paper mache masks and confetti and just everything that makes you happy. Such a fun place. Then we continued wandering in the rain and walked around Placa Reial and then down La Ramblas to the pier and stuff. Thennn we split and Alex and Sarah and I decided to go stock up on some chocolate and Kinder stuff from the supermarket before heading back to the hostel to meet back up with Maggie and Andy where we spent the rest of the night hanging out and watching Superbad and talking and having a good time before they all continued their journeys and left Barcelona the next morning.

Day 4 WAS SUNNY! Alex and I headed over to the Bullfighting museum bright and early where we admired the super detailed and amazing bullfighting outfit things and looked at the taxidermied earless bull heads on the wall and learned all about the history of Barcelona bullfighting. Fascinating stuff! From there we walked to the Sagrada Familia and of course we stopped in a local bakery on the way and ate some yummy doughnut like thingies. The Sagrada Familia was hugeeeeeee, way bigger than I ever expected, but it was under construction and had about a ten billion hour long line to pay a ton of money to see construction soooo we skipped it and just walked around it from the outside. After that we went back to the Ramblas area and walked down to the pier and walked all along the pier and stuff for a long time. Then we explored a little and found a really nice shopping area and did that for a while before finding el Corte Ingles which had a supermarket inside Filled with those cookies Alex and I are obsessed with with the chocolate and milk and stuff, YUM. After that we headed back to the hostel where we got ready to go on the "nice night walk" that the hostel owner, Toti does for people who want to go on it. The hostel is right by the park Montjuic, a hugeeeee mountain with tons of stuff to do on it. Alex and I along with friends Caroline, Brian, Jim, Tyler, Matt, Anya, and a few other people went to join Toti on the night walk and it was one of the highlights of the trip! We trekked up the mountain guided by Toti who knew the best ways to go and the best sights to see. At one point he told us all to stand side by side in a line, hold hands, walk sideways, and told us that we could only look straight ahead and that if we looked behind us he'd do us in. So we all walked sideways holding hands very confused until he told us all to stop and said "on the count of three, turn around and say "wow!" hahahha. So we all counded to three and did as he said and behind us was just the most incredible and breathtaking view of Barcelona just as the sun was setting! PERFECT. The we kept walking and finding more amazing views and listening to Toti tell us all about Barcelona and answer our questions and he even told us interesting facts like that his grandmother had all her hair cut off because she was heard spaking Catalan on the street. As we climbed further up the mountain we found a cool old castle and all kinds of other fun things. We made it back to the hostel tired and exhausted a few hours later and then Me, Caroline, Matt, Tyler, and Brian went out for the typical 11pm Spanish dinner which was fun!

Day 5 Alex and I went to Passeig de Gracia and Avenue Diagonal to look at all the Gaudi houses and things. We first saw Casa Battlo which was really fantastical and kinda creepy in a cool way. Then we went to Casa Mila/La Pedrera. We got to go in and walk up it and see one of the apartments that was kept as if it was how it would have been back in the early 1900s, which was cool. There was also a mini gaudi museum in it. But the best part was the roof!!!!!! The roof is incredibleeeeeeee!!! We spent way too much time just walking around the maze of the place but it is just TOO COOL!!! It's so fun and crazy and fantastical and gaudy of course! It was great and had really nice views too. Then we went back to El Corte Ingles to buy more cookies heh hehheh. Theeeen we went to the Spanish Arc de Triomf and walked along that nice street until we got to the absolutely gorgeous Park de la Ciutadella. That park is so picture perfect, a huge beautiful fountain, lakes with boats, a giant wolly mammoth statue, tons of green grass and palm trees, people relaxing everywhere, it was great! We spent quite some time there before heading back to the hostel to watch the Barcelona v. Valladolid game and then Real Madrid game with some other new hostel friends. Then Alex and I went out to find food with Caroline at the wee hours of the morning which showed us an entirely new side of Barcelona haha.

Day 6 was our last day. After breakfast we walked along las Ramblas, went to the huge fountain and musum place on Monujuic, went back to La Ramblas and explored and did some more shopping, ate one last heavenly Churros con Chocolate, stumbled upon a Palm Sunday procession on La Ramblas, and just had a nice day before heading back to the hostel to get our luggage. We were leaving at the same time as a few friends so we ended up taking the metro to the train to the airport with them which was a nice little goodbye to Barcelona. Only thing I really regret not having the time to do was visiting Camp Nou where FC Barca plays... you can go on a tour where you get to go in to the dressing rooms and walk through the tunnel into the stadium on the field... ughhh i wish i could have done it. I guess that just means I'll have to do Anfield instead :D hehehe.

Anyway, Barcelona was a great fun trip and I already miss the place and the people a lot. Overall at the hostel we got to know something like 35 different people from 14 different countries. Pretty awesome opportunity, I'd say! Aww and it was nice, one of our friends told Alex and I before he left that we were some of the nicest people he'd met on his whole trip around Europe so far. AWWWW Heartwarming, isn't it? Damnnnnnn I loved staying at that hostel, Barcelona wonldn't have been half as fun without it. HASTA LUEGO, BARCA!

Lots lots lots more pictures here.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Most Adverb Adjective Few Days Ever!

Last week Mary Ellen and Alex came to England for a visit! It was so much fun and a wonderful reunion although we missed all our other friends from home :(

Friday Meo and I wandered around London doing some hard core shopping and sight seeing. We also saw the Ukrainian national football team walking along Oxford street, COOL!

Saturday Alex arrived and the three of us spent time wandering around London and eating delicious cakes and foods before heading over to Wembley Stadium to see the friendly match between England and Slovakia. IT WAS A BLAST! The atmosphere was incredible! The singing and chanting pretty much never stopped. Anddd there were something like 85,200 people there. Alex and I had spectacular seats, I wish Mary Ellen were near us though! Oh and England 4 - Slovakia 0. Scores by Heskey, Rooney (x2), and Lampard. NICE! After the game we headed back to Frankie's for some cakes and insanely delicious food, Thanks Frankie and Ihab!

The next day we spent also in London doing more shopping and eating and exploring. And after that we headed back to Brighton for a day of fun! We did more shopping, had cakes with Ally and Alex at Choccy Woccy, ate traditional pub food, and relaxed along the beach. Brighton pier was really fun and the day was gorgeous so we had a great time sitting on the rocky beach and inventing "games" of therowing rocks into the water and then throwing rocks into other rocks to make them bounce in to the water. Being in Europe is making me realize how fun throwing rocks is, seriously.

After an exhaustingly fun day we all ate more delicious foods and walked along Brighton and up the hills to look at the pretty houses before packing. Meo went back to Belgium and Alex and I jetted off to Barcelona. More on that soon!