RyanAir

Spring Break: Brussels

Our last and final stop on our big adventure was the wonderful little town of Brussels and may I say, I think I found a real life Willy Wonka chocolate land. I couldn’t go past one chocolate store without seeing another in the near distance and the smell of French fries and waffles followed me wherever I went. Although mainly coming to this town for the food, we found that Brussels is a lovely city adorned with gold plated palaces everywhere we turn.

Cathedral.

Cathedral.

We arrived on an early cold morning in Brussels and caught a bus to the city centre. The first restaurant we came upon was The Waffle Factory (big surprise there), so we stopped in to grab some lunch and use their wifi until we could check into our apartment. I had a “lunch waf” which was a ball of dough that held ham and cheese inside then later it was placed into a waffle machine and pressed to perfection. It was a lovely treat to start off our time in Belgium.

"Frites"

“Frites”

We checked into what we thought was our own apartment but little did we know that we were actually just renting a room in a cute couples apartment. The husband was a short redheaded man with black circular glasses and his wife was the cutest short-haired brunette that I have ever seen. They were gracious and welcoming as we bombarded their hipster apartment. Since we felt rather awkward about staying to chat, we headed out to explore the town with no map in hand. We saw several gorgeous buildings and I nearly had an anxiety attack over the amount of chocolate there was on every corner. Which one do I go to? How do I narrow my choices? Why is there chocolate EVERYWHERE?? I was in heaven. After choosing a couple pieces of Godiva, we made our way around town and got our first plate of “frites” which we were told to eat with tiny forks instead of our hands. Once our exhaustion got the best of us, we headed to our apartment to nap which ended up meaning we were staying in for the night. It was much too cold to enjoy any night entertainment so we ordered a pizza in and enjoyed catching up on sleep.

Godiva chocolate.

Godiva chocolate.

The next day, after a dark chocolate and banana covered waffle (WOW), we headed to the Atomium which is a structure that was built in Brussels for the World Fair. We took the metro and a Belgium lady, who knew we were iffy about our direction, kindly helped us by showing us which routes to use. Over here, you truly realize how nice people are and how much they are willing to help if you just ask. We found the Atomium and took lots of pictures then spun around the little town it was in. Since it was mainly school-aged kids with not a ton of lunch options, we hopped back on the metro and wandered around the main part of town yet again. Seeing as all the chocolate stores willing give out samples, we made our way to every one we saw and left with a stomach ache (oops)…. But totally worth it! We sat in the main square and people watched then headed home to get ready for a night at the rum bar (900+ rums in one place!). We had a lovely time in a good atmosphere and we grabbed some more French fries on the way home.

Banana and Belgium chocolate covered waffle!

Banana and Belgium chocolate covered waffle!

Our trip ended the next day as we flew home to Florence, so incredibly grateful to be back in our little city. It was a wonderful trip that made me realize how fun it is to travel and experience all kinds of cultures. A little of my Spanish language knowledge came out in Spain and as for Belgium, we guessed on just about anything we ordered because we knew zero French. However while being here, it is amazing to see how many people know English. In America, studying a second language is required but only in high school when you are so into cliques and after school activities that learning a language seems like a pain. Here, learning a second language is needed to survive… A trait I hope will filter over into America in the next few decades. It is truly necessary for our increasingly diverse world!

Bottom of Atomium

Bottom of Atomium

Spring break was wonderful but I am excited for a weekend in Florence, exploring museums and getting to know our town even better before we leave in about 6 weeks.

Until next time…

Molly

Spring Break: Barcelona

I made it back to this wonderful land of paella, tapas and sangria! I first traveled to Barcelona while in 2nd grade when my dad was building a new theme park in Europe. He likes to think (and secretly I do too) that this is where my expensive habits began. At the young age of 7, my mom and I hopped on an airplane with business class seats that reclined all the way back and I was able to watch movies on a personal TV thousands of feet in the air… Nevermind the rolling sundae cart that came around after dinner that I will NEVER forget. Caramel and hot fudge and sprinkles for “free”… SAY WHAT? I was hooked and from then on I secretly hope that every long flight I go on will include such lavishness.

Parc Guell.

Parc Guell.

Going back to the story at hand… We had quite the opposite flight adventure as we woke up earlier than the sun to make our way from Madrid to Barcelona. After another cheap RyanAir flight that landed rather roughly (can you say whiplash?), we made our way through the terminal and found a bus that would take us to the city center. Not listening to the wise words my mother has always told me, I traveled with no cash and had to use the credit card machine to purchase my ticket while my friends jumped on the bus. PSA: NEVER count on a credit card machine in Europe, they are INCREDIBLY unreliable anywhere you go. So of course my card wasn’t working and as I turned around to ask my roommates to spot me a couple dollars for the bus fare, the bus they were on pulled away leaving me with no ride into town and a minor heart attack approaching.

Lobster statue at the beach.

Lobster statue at the beach.

Luckily the workers were nice and after a 30 minute delay, I was on the next bus and met my roommates at the final stop to walk to our quaint apartment. We decided to hop on another big touristy bus to hit all the sights and after a 16 hour day, we had seen all of Barcelona including a nice, long stroll through Parc Guell. We made our way home, cranky and exhausted, and I was out as soon as my head hit the pillow.

Que pasa shot at Chupitos.

Que pasa shot at Chupitos.

We awoke the next day to hopefully spend a full day at the beach. Little did we know that it was an incredibly windy day and after being pelted by about 5 sandstorms, Jennie and I decided to take a walk while we left our sunbathing Californian roommate to bask in her motherland. We walked along the ocean and had a wonderful lunch on the deck overlooking the water while we soaked up a couple rays of sun. After meeting back up with Heidi, we took another long stroll to the harbor then headed home to rest our feet and get ready for a night out at the shot bar! Sounds dangerous (700 shots on the menu) but we were responsible and it was a ton of fun! After a quick stop at the Dow Jones Bar, where the drinks get more expensive throughout the night then go dirt cheap when the “stock market” crashes (clever, huh?), we finished our night and got home safely.

Feet grooming by fish!

Feet grooming by fish!

Our last day included a visit to the Sagrada Familia… If you haven’t been, plan a trip before you die. Although the outside was mostly covered due to construction, the inside was something that can only be described as phenomenal. Unlike any church architecture I have seen before, Gaudi is truly an artist. His work, influenced by things in nature, is out of this world. The stained glass windows were amazing and the ceiling was incredible. You must see it to believe it! We left in awe and made our way to a cute Taqueria where the grande quesadilla was smaller than my hand (serious disappointment for this Mexican food lover), but the atmosphere was fabulous. After a swing by the Arc De Triumph, I drug my roommate to the fishy spa where I put my feet in a tub of water filled with fish… Weird but totally cool! Once I got over the tingling, vibrating feeling, I relaxed and enjoyed my smooth feet when it was over. Heidi and I finished our night at a Flamenco show which was a great way to end our wonderful trip to Barcelona.

Inside the Sagrada Familia.

Inside the Sagrada Familia.

Next up, Brussels… Where the chocolate shops are endless and the smell of waffles fills the air!

Until next time…

Molly

Spring Break: Madrid

8 days, 4 flights, 3 cities and 2 countries later… My roommates and I have survived spring break! From our first experience with RyanAir to arriving to a surprise at every apartment we stayed at, there was a new adventure around every corner. We embraced all the ups and the downs and luckily all came home in one piece with lots of memories to share. It was a long but wonderful trip however we were quite glad to be back in our little town of Florence where we know the language (well some of it) and where no map is needed in order to find our next destination.

Madrid Palace

Madrid Palace

Our first stop on our spring break adventure was Madrid. Although not really knowing what there was to do before going, we filled our days with sightseeing and shopping as we ate our way around the city (shocker, shocker). After a short, uneventful flight we made our way through the metro system and into town where we were supposed to meet with the landlord of our apartment. Little did we know that he had overbooked our apartment and the previous guest would not be leaving for another 3 days. Luckily he offered to put us up in a hostel more towards the center of town in a quaint little place run by the sweetest Spanish women. It was clean, quiet and much better than our last hostel experience. We settled in then headed out for some yummy tapas and sangria to start off our trip the right way. However our eyes seemed to be bigger than our stomachs and since the waiter spoke little English, we ordered WAY too much food and even had to pull another table over to fit all of our plates… Yes we were those Americans. After a scrumptious meal, we explored and grabbed churros and hot chocolate for dessert then headed back to our hostel to rest up for the next day.

Pastries at the market.

Pastries at the market.

The next day, since we knew very little about the city, we decided to hop on the big red double-decker tourist bus. When we got on, the lady taking tickets mentioned there would be a “demonstration” going on in the city and that some of the tour routes would be a little skewed. Since we had experienced a demonstration in Rome a few weeks back, we thought nothing of it and continued on our way. We saw the Palace and the Egyptian temple then stumbled upon the Mercado de San Miguel which is where I fell in love. PACKED with Spanish people on their lunch break, it was overflowing with Spanish food and sweets of every kind. It took all I had in me to narrow down my choices and only grab a bowl of paella and a glass of sangria. I ate them happily as I marveled at the bustling crowd around me. Before we departed, I grabbed a piece of a marvelous meringue cake that tasted like a yummy cloud. I left very happy and ready to take on the rest of the day. After a few more stops and a stroll through a lovely park, we came to the main street that was full of thousands of protestors participating in the demonstration. Unlike what we had seen before, we had NO idea how to handle the situation, not knowing what the protest was about and if it was safe for us American girls. After asking a police officer for some help, we ended up having to cross through the middle of the protest because there was no other way around. The three of us grabbed hands and darted through the protesters, heart pounding all the way. Once we got our heart rates down, we made our way home and ended our night at a cute little Irish pub.

Molly Madrid Park

Park of Madrid.

The next day my roommate Jennie planned to go to the Prado Museum and although I like art, I wasn’t up for spending 4+ hours inside a building all day. So my other roommate, Heidi, and I took to the streets and shopped our hearts out down the main strip of Madrid. We had a wonderful day exploring and dodging the mass amounts of tourists (which seemed a lot like NY in the summertime) and even made friends with a churro cook who made us fresh churros in the shape of hearts. We left him a good tip and made our way home to meet Jennie for dinner then settle in early for our 7am flight to Barcelona.

Heart-shaped churros.

Heart-shaped churros.

Although not expecting much out of Madrid, we made the best out of our time and I was happy to experience a large Spanish town where I was forced to use what little I know of the Spanish language. In my next post I will continue with details of my trip to Barcelona!

Until next time…

Molly