So for the past nine days, as most of you know, I have been traveling around Europe for to Rome, Venice, and Barcelona. If you follow me on Instagram I am sorry for all the daily posts that are making you a little bit jealous, when its snowing in Minnesota we were hanging out in shorts and tank tops in 75 degree weather we had to rub it in just a little bit. The trip was everything I expected and more, I saw so many things I could only dream about witnessing along with experiencing the backpacker lifestyle and meeting so many people who do it for months on end. I am sorry but 10 days was long enough for me, I could not just pick up and leave with a backpack for three months, not always knowing where you would eat or sleep. This trip made me realize how much there really is to see in this world and while I am still over here I really need to make the best of it.
(yes I did take daily notes in my phone for this blog and there are literally hundreds of pictures to see)
We left after our classes on Thursday, right after our exams, eight of us packed up and took a cab over to London Stansted to catch our afternoon flight. We arrived into Rome pretty late so we just got accustomed and met our roommates, in Rome there were six of us in one room. A quiet guy from Brazil I think, and another American who was traveling for three months. After doing some quick planning and getting a good nights sleep we were off to see Rome! We found out about a free walking tour, and of course being college kids we had to go along with that. Our tour guide showed us a lot of the main sites in Rome and explained them into much further detail than we ever could have (like their unemployment is 40%). We started at the Spanish Square, went to the Pantheon (the largest temple in Rome), Navona Square, Castle St. Angelo, and ended up in Vatican City. Vatican City was breathtaking. The main area, which I always thought was just called the Vatican, is St. Peter’s Basilica where the Pope actually speaks from. We missed him by two days, he comes out and makes a public appearance every Wednesday to the crowd outside. We went inside and toured this along with the Sistine Chapel and the Museums of the Vatican. I do not want to bore you with every little step we took, but this day was absolutely incredible. The Vatican City is completely surrounded by walls that separate it from actual Rome. We went all the way to the dome of St. Peters and got the best view of the city. Even if you are completely out of shape, if you are ever in Rome you need to do this! Walking up 551 steps is completely worth the view, you meet some cool people along the way too. We met a woman who went to St. Johns, small world! You could see miles in each direction and see the Colosseum and practically to China I feel like. After our day of walking we needed to nap so we went back to the Yellow Hostel, definitely recommend this place for anyone traveling to Rome! So many cool people and the bartenders are awesome.
Day two we decided to tour the Colosseum. This place was amazing. I never really knew the whole background of it before we went inside. And obviously it is old but the history behind it was incredible. The floor was torn out so you could see below where they actually fought and the small tunnels that they had going on. We saw a few of the Roman Forums, but again hunger and tiredness hit us and we needed a quick break. We headed over the the Trevi Fountain and pretended we were on the Lizzie McGuire movie and would hopefully find our future husbands by a quick wish. Unfortunately none of us found a secret twin that was a pop star, but we did have a lot of fun! We visited the fountain and made our wishes both during the day and at night. At night it is absolutely stunning, all lit up and romantic.
Along with our days of sightseeing, the Italian food was amazing. Pizza and pasta galore. Their pizza was so thin that you never felt guilty eating it, it was always fresh out of the oven and cooked to perfection. Not quite like the Jack’s pizza we eat at home. Also, their gelato. I found a new love for gelato on this trip. From the lemon and strawberry to caramel and cookies and cream, there was literally every flavor imaginable. We spent far too much money on gelato but when its a hot day and you just climbed 551 steps, sometimes you just deserve a reward. Rome was incredible overall and anyone that has any desire to go visit, DO IT!
Sunday morning we took the train from Rome to Venice, I had to pay one whole cent to get Wifi for the train ride, but when its four hours long you sometimes just have to bite the bullet. Studying abroad does not let you use your phone like normal, we can use it for pictures but I leave mine on airplane mode 24/7, this means that you can only I-Message, use the internet, and go on Facebook when you have Wifi. I used this trip to FaceTime my parents, which was absolutely amazing, only 9 more days until they come!! We arrived in Venice to our little hostel, A Venice Fish, which I do not recommend to anyone. I repeat DO NOT STAY THERE! There were bedbugs and it was just overall a not nice hostel. But you win some, you lose some. After checking in we decided to go get some dinner. And of course as we are leaving dinner it is down pouring. We left London to get away from the rain but of course it decided to chase after us. We decided to run home, running through rain = bad idea. By the time we got home we were soaked head to toe. While all the Venetians were siting under the roofs and umbrellas here comes four American girls full sprint towards their hostel in the middle of a rainstorm, you don’t think we stuck out at all do you? Now when they say that Venice is hard to get around they are not kidding. You can’t use a map because there are no street signs and half of the alleys just randomly stop in the middle of nowhere. And if you ask for directions they just point and squiggle their hand, like you are supposed to know what they mean. By the end of our stay in Venice we found out instead of blocks it’s normally “go over four bridges then turn left”. It seemed to work by the end which was nice.
Our first full day there we headed over to San Marc’s Square which is incredible. Venice is based on the water and all the housing numbers are numbered for the canal instead of the street. You see fisher boats, motorboats, gondolas, police boats all just roaming the canal waters because that is their main way of transportation, I did not see one car until we got off the island. We started out our Thursday with the stereotypical touristy gondola ride throughout Venice, our guide was awesome and probably loved the six of us since we were actually social instead of some lovey dovey couple just ignoring the driver. He told us there are over 420 bridges on the island of Venice. We saw Marco Polo’s house, yes MARCO— POLO, that guy. We toured the Basilica de San Marco right in the square and saw the Bridge of Sighs. After five days of Italian food you do get sick of it at some points, so we had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe which was so delicious, I never thought I could love stereotypical American appetizers so much. The rest of the day was dedicated to simply getting lost and wandering which is what most people do in Venice for at least a little while.
Our second day in Venice we decided to do some island hopping. This started at Murano, about a 30 minute water taxi ride. Their public transportation is all on the water, instead of the tube or taxis they are all on the water. Their bus system you just get on a boat and get off at your stop, pretty similar just on the water which is awesome! In Murano we wandered and saw some glass blowing, in the end we got to actually blow glass ourselves which was awesome! For them to keep the glass they have to slowly cool it down or else it will break so unfortunately we could not keep our masterpieces. There were so many little shops all selling glass merchandise from ornaments to bottle openers to chandeliers to vases, literally everything you can imagine. But we just happened to meet the nicest store owner to let us come to the factory and blow our own glass, which not many can say that they did. We then headed over to San Michele Cemetery, another island in the group of islands in that area. It was incredible to see all of the family burial sites there, although a little creepy.
Venice was completely intriguing. It is definitely taken over by tourists but their lifestyle is just completely different. Also the whole canal transportation system and how they drive those boats so fast without hitting anything is just incredible. After driving a boat for a few years, I can hardly dock the thing, no way could I drive it through a canal of gondolas and sharp corners.
We arrived in Barcelona on Wednesday afternoon and checked into our hostel right in Plaza Real off Las Ramblas, pretty much the main center of town. We went very cheap in this hostel, only paid 25 euros total for three nights. Given we were in a 18 person room, definitely reminded me of army barracks, just a lot of bunk beds and lockers. We met up with a few our of friends from our program who happened to be their at the same time. Got to see the water at night and try out the Barcelona nightlife right away. We also had to try the sangria since we were in Spain, and I have to say it is amazing!
Our first tourist day was mainly just around our hostel because we were right in the middle of it all! Las Ramblas is a huge street with shops, restaurants, and goes from Placa Catalunya to the water. We walked up and down that a few times and saw all of the monuments. We pretty much followed our map and went to the big tourist places. It was not quite like Rome where there were huge moments that you had to see. One thing I do love about Spanish culture is those siestas. We got into their lifestyle and everyday took a few hours to nap in order to get on the Spain time schedule. Their time schedule is lunch around 230, dinner around 830, and don’t go to the club until around 2am or else you are way too early. Our sleep schedule was a little off by the end thats for sure.
Friday we did some of the more major sites of Segrada Familia and Parc Guell. Segrada Familia is just absolutely massive. The line was way too long for us to wait and go inside which was very disappointing because I really wanted to but even just seeing the outside was breathtaking. Parc Guell was incredible as well, we walked all around it and got some amazing views of the city from the very top. The Cheetah Girls had their movie here, so we kept picturing ourselves as superstars. The Parc was incredible and huge, we saw so much of it but I am sure there was tons that we missed completely just because walking up that hill in flip flops was not ideal.
Saturday we flew home on RyanAir just one more time. Then had to take the bus into town and then catch the tube back home finally. It was quite the commute thats for sure. Ryanair ended up not being as bad as I had expected. The horror stories that I heard scared me a bit. But I never had a problem getting my bag on even though it was way bigger than it should have been. One of my friends was only stopped once but somehow rearranged her stuff to get her bag to fit inside! Since you can only bring one bag on the plane (including a purse) and I swear my bag got heavier and bigger every time we flew, I learned just to hide your purse under your jacket and make it look like you only have one bag. Just working the system as usual.
During the trip I was only mad about a few things::
1) You cannot drink tap water so you have to pay for bottled water, and if you know how much water I drink the amount I spent on water was not okay
2) They bring food out to you when it is ready, not all at the same time. So sometimes if people having pasta got their food first, the rest of us getting pizza might have to wait 20 mins for ours to be ready. You have to eat it when its hot so you have to eat while the others just sit there
3) McDonalds was not open 24 hours
4) I did not have room in my bag to go shopping
5) Drinks at clubs were 12 euros, thats about $16 for one drink
6) I could not wash my clothes, I am sure whoever I sat next to on the plane on Saturday just thought I smelt so bad
7) I want to go back NOW!
NOW ITS PICTURE TIME…. okay I can only upload so many on here so check the rest out on Facebook!!
View of Rome from the top of the Basilica:
Our 18 person hostel room:
Gondola ride in Venice: