European Tour 1

So much has happened in the last couple weeks; I decided to just highlight what I could remember from each city:

Scotland March 20-23: Edinburgh, stop in Newcastle, back to Leeds for one day

  • Stayed in a kinda sketchy backpacker’s hostel w/murals painted on all the walls and staircases that clearly indicated the artists were high.
  • Skyped my family from a pub somewhere in Edinburgh. Strange, I know.
  • Chatted with a little boy, Sean, from Portugal and showed each other our homes on Google earth.
  • Toured the city and wandered into a beautiful old church on Sunday where I spent an hour talking to an older Scottish woman named Audrey who has gone to that church since 1949!
  • Went into my first real live castle!
  • Didn’t end up meeting up with the girls but had a good time with new Australian friend
  • Met up with my other girl friends coming to town in our rented flat – very nice!
  • Danced around our flat to my ITunes before they arrived.
  • Took a picture with a bagpiper(in a real kilt)!
  • Went out on the town with the girls and was shocked at all the locals staring at us.
  • Cooked spaghetti and pasties, drank wine, and decorated our new ‘home’.
  • Watched TV in our flat for the first time in years, literally.
  • Did a Scottish ‘jig’ in the grass with Pri on top of the train station.

Italy March 25-27: Venice

  • Met a fellow Leeds student from Canada on our flight, and his friend Sophie from New Zealand, who missed the flight because security called her back to check her visa and couldn’t decide if she needed a stamp or not. So we made a new friend and stayed a traveling three-some for most of our time in Italy.
  • Wandered around that maze called streets and admired all the beautiful bridges and tiny streets (there is no point in taking a map. It will only confuse you more).
  • Politely refused gondola drivers who prodded us to get into their boat, ‘very relaxing, only 60 Euro’. I’m sure it would have been relaxing, but we were on a tight budget.
  • Ate all the pb and j sandwiches I packed and found a market to buy cheese and bread to make more sandwiches.
  • Ate out once, Italian food, for Pri’s birthday.
  • Romeo and Juliet lived here!
  • Danced in San Marco’s square to an outdoor orchestra band that was playing. I entertained them and a lot of onlookers. I should have gotten paid. Left before we had to pay them.
  • Joined a free tour inside the palace because we were too poor to pay to go to the islands with Phil.
  • Spent a good amount of time practicing ballet steps with Phil on our hostel’s wooden floors.
  • Met a fourth Leeds student in our hostel room, from Brazil. Crazy.
  • Met two sweet British girls sharing our hostel and went out with them one night.
  • Got the party started in a local bar by dancing to the reggae music inside. Once we started dancing, some of those Italians caught on and one guy broke out his Samba moves!
  • Lay in the sun on the harbor.
  • Learned a short vocab of Italian, including, ‘mi scuzi’, ‘grazie’, ‘por favore’, ‘vorrai una cappuccino’, ‘Dov’e del gabionetti/toletta?’ My favorite thing about the Italian language is you say ‘ciao’ for hello, goodbye, see you later, just about anything. What easy-going people.
  • Bought glass rings to remember Venice by.

March 27-29: Rome

  • Paid to stay in a hotel last minute because my planning/organization/couch surfing plans failed. Hard lesson learned. But the old man who owned the hotel was so kind and helpful.
  • Stuffed our faces with chocolate croissants that morning so we wouldn’t get hungry later. It worked.
  • Agreed to forget our first crazy night getting to Rome.
  • Stayed in a cramped hostel up 5 flights of marble stairs that seemed more like 10. We got lots of workouts!
  • Went to the Vatican and the Basilica in Saint Peter’s Square on Palm Sunday. There were swarms of people carrying olive branches, what a sight! Too bad we missed the mass given by the Pope.
  • Joined another tour inside the Vatican for free. This time it was given by an American theology student studying to be a priest in Rome.
  • Imagined bloody gladiator fights that took place in the Coliseum, and how much excitement must have filled the stalls for the games in Nero’s day.
  • Vowed to return to Rome one day with a lot more time and money to see everything we missed.
  • I was surprised and dismayed to see a McDonalds across from the Pantheon. As poor as we were, we did not bend.
  • Ate more pizza, like we did in Venice, because it was the cheapest. Oh, and the gelato is to die for!
  • Every 5 minutes you are hounded by some street vendor though, that got annoying.
  • I am still in awe at the amount of history in that place, and the normality of the life of the locals there, as if they are unaware that this stone structure they’re sitting on is thousands of years old.

Spain March 29-April 2: Barcelona

  • Lots of angels put in our way to help us out on our trip, and lots of crazies who seemed to be after us:
  • Man who conveniently showed up at the train station to help us figure out which train to take, and even ran down to the platform with us.
  • Older gentleman who worked in the airport and promised to mail our postcards for us in Rome.
  • Harassed by a drunk guy on the plane who threw M&M’s and ice cubes at me. Oh, Ryanair!
  • Chased by a schizophrenic man on the subway and all the way to our hostel. Luckily a nice young Mexican man on the subway noticed him and walked us to our hostel, where he was staying too.
  • Met two lovely girls, one Mexican, one Columbian, who interpreted for us.
  • Random van driver who gave us a lift to the city, although we couldn’t understand a word he said.
  • The friendly gay manager in our hostel, Yarid, a Masters student from Mexico, who greeted us and helped us with everything we needed, from directions, to steaming strong café in the morning, to blankets when we slept on the couches the last night.
  • Myuki, a Japanese chef, and our roommate, who has been travelling the world for 10 months now!
  • I was surprised at the amount of Spanish I picked up in a few days there. Although it’s different from the Spanish I grew up hearing in New Mexico (which I never made an effort to learn), it came almost faster than Italian did.
  • Decided I need to move to a country to learn the language for a year.
  • Spanish people impressed me with their friendliness and openness.
  • Flamenco dancer in the streets stole my heart. He was too good to be dancing on the street to make money, but I’m glad he did, or I wouldn’t have had the chance to see him perform.
  • The harbour was filled with love-struck couples, and I thought Venice was the city of love.
  • Subsisted on canned tuna and toast this time around. Tapas will have to wait for our return, because we are returning.
  • Listened to Spanish guitars around every bend in the colourful mosaic Guëll Park, created by fanatical artist Antoni Gaudi .
  • We were running pretty low by the end of our trip. Finally ate one Spanish meal our last night there: split Paella: skillet-fried rice with seafood with our combined left over cash of 11 Euros.
  • Visited the one and only Picasso museum. That man started off normal and got stranger and stranger.
  • Caught the last musical fountain performance of the night in front of Spain’s National Fine Arts Museum palace. Perfect ending for our trip.

Update from Italy!

I will make a comprehensive blog post (or several) for our travels and some of our photos once I get back on Easter Sunday. This is turning out to be the most exciting spring break I have ever had! It is nice that we have 4 weeks off for Easter from University of Leeds…

Ciao, friends! I am writing from Rome, Italy! My attempts to blog about each city I visit have been thwarted by undependable wireless internet and time constraints while travelling. We (Pri and I) have had a few set backs to deal with, disappointment because of our tight budgets, and lessons learned the hard way, but for the most part we are just thrilled to have the privilege to be travelling and seeing Europe! On our limited budget, we have been staying at borderline sketchy hostels and subsisting on bread and cheese.  I have to say though, the pizza, espresso/cappuccinos, and gelato are to die for!

Today I spent Palm Sunday at the Basilica in Saint Peter’s Square, where the Pope (Benedict XVI) gave mass.  Although I’m not Catholic, it was impressive to see and hold in reverence the thousands of years of history of the Romans, and the early Christian church. I can’t take credit for planning that out;  it just happened. In fact, I didn’t realize it was Palm Sunday until I saw thousands of  people swarming out of the Vatican people carrying olive  and palm branches.

That’s all for now. I need some sleep and energy to walk more of Rome tomorrow before we leave for Barcelona. So far: York, Edinburgh, Venice, and Rome.

Ciao! xxx Becca