El Pais Vasco- Day 3

My friend Brittany is *FINALLY* catching up with some picture posting, so I can continue my blog!  I left off with my third day in el Pais Vasco.

It was Easter Sunday, and we were going to get up early and go to church, but after the stress of the whole bus situation from the night before, we decided to sleep in.  We grabbed a quick breakfast and wandered around the town for a while and went to find the churches to take some pictures.  Luckily when we got to one of the churches, mass was starting!  We stayed for mass and I can honestly say it was the coolest church I’ve ever actually attended mass in.

It was finally sunny, so we spent some time wandering the beach area and part of the town we hadn’t been to yet.  We took some pictures by the beach, and then headed up to the mansion that is in town.  There were so many beautiful flowers I took a ton of pictures until… MY CAMERA BROKE.  I thought I was going to break down crying in the middle of San Sebastian.  But I didn’t.  I just said well, there’s nothing I can do about it, and I’m hungry anyway, so let’s go find some food. 🙂

We continued wandering into new parts of town and found a bar to get some pintxos for lunch.  We pretty much spent the rest of the day chilling and wandering around the town until we got hungry for dinner.  We decided we wanted to go on a big pintxo outing for dinner.  I know I’ve mentioned pintxos before and said that they’re the basque version of tapas.  If you know me, you know I love tapas, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE pintxos.  San Sebastian is known for its food, it has the most Michelin rated restaurants per capita in the world, and even though we didn’t go to any Michelin rated restaurants, you can find good food anywhere there.  I also love that most of the pintxos are on display, so you go up to the bar, point at/ grab the one you want.  Brittany and I spent hours of this trip just going from bar to bar seeing what each place had.

At the first stop on our pintxo outing, we were trying to decide what to eat/discussing what we thought the things were.  I was trying to explain to Brittany what these little black things were (that Mom, Jenny, AJ and Rena all ate when they visited).  I knew I liked them, but I had no idea what they were.  An American guy was standing next to us, and he told us they were blood sausages. Oops. Sorry guys.  You all ate blood sausage.  The guy ended up joining our little outing, which ended up being a whole lot of fun!  We were introduced to the sparkling wine el pais vasco is known for, txacoli.  I love pinxtos and txacoli. 🙂  Once we were full and tired, we headed back to our hostel for bed.

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The Final Stretch

Well, I got back from Rome yesterday, so I’m officially done traveling in Europe.  We may go to Madrid a couple times in the next 2 weeks, but that’s like going from my house to KC, so it doesn’t really count. 

Sorry I’ve been slacking on my blog again, since my camera died in San Sebastian, I’m waiting on my friend Brittany to post pictures on facebook.  She has a bunch of presentations this week, so don’t expect anything till late this week/next week at the earliest.

Looking back on my trips, I can’t believe every where I’ve gone.  I’m probably the luckiest person ever. I’ve offically been to 6 countries on this trip.  That doubles the number of countries I’d been to prior to this trip.  I’ve also been to the three biggest churches in the world: St. Peter’s, St. Paul’s, and the Cathedral in Sevilla.  I’ve climbed more stairs in monuments than I could have ever imagined.  I didn’t go to one city I disliked, but of course there were things I liked and disliked about each city.  Here are some of my favorite things for each city:

Alcala: FREE tapas, my host family and my friends

Madrid: Retiro Park and the Royal palace

Sevilla: Gardens at the Alcazar, the Cathedral, and the people we met at our hostel

London: Sister Act, Borough Market and National Gallery

Paris: Versailles, Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame stained glass, Orsay Museum, Il de la Cite

Galicia: Santiago de Compostela cathedral and the coast in A Coruna (and of course AJ being here)

Barcelona: Parc Guell, Sagrada Familia, and getting to travel with Jenny and Mom

Pais Vasco: Pintxos, beaches, the Guggenheim

Ireland: the people, Cliffs of Moher, Blarney Castle gardens

Rome: the food, Colosseum, the Trevi fountain, St. Peter’s Basilica, the sistine chapel

Favorite city overall: Rome.  It has a great mix of history, culture, and shopping.  The food was amazing and the people were super nice!

Favorite city in Spain: Sevilla.  It was beautiful.  Perfect first trip

Favorite country: Ireland.  Dublin was cool, but didn’t get my favorite city because what really made our trip to Ireland was going to the country and seeing the natural beauty of the country

I can’t believe I’m almost finished with my time here.  It has gone by so fast… I come home in 12 days, so you people in KC better get ready!! :o)

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El Pais Vasco- Day 2

The second day we were in el pais vasco, we decided to go to Bilbao.  I REALLY wanted to go to Bilbao because I wanted to go to the Guggenheim museum.  Brittany slept in, but anyone who knows me knows I always get up early, so again, I wandered around the town by myself in the morning.  We were right in the center of the old part of town, where everything was happening, and it was nice out, so I enjoyed myself.  Once Brittany got up, we went to the bus station and got on a bus to Bilbao.  It was about an hour bus ride, and it was BEAUTIFUL.  Green hills, cute little houses, I loved it.

We got to Bilbao and walked towards the Guggenheim.  I was extremely surprised at how modern Bilbao was.  It is definitely the most modern city I’ve been in since I’ve been here.

We made it to the Guggenheim without any problems.  It’s a really weird looking building, so it sticks out pretty well.

We got in for cheap (love those student prices) and they had a pretty good free audio guide.  I’m usually not a huge fan of modern art, but this place was awesome.  They had quite a few rooms of modern paintings, but they had some really interesting stuff too.  They had this room that was full of HUGE spiraly things made out of metal that you could walk in.  In each of the shapes, the walls were slanted differently, so you got really weird feelings from them.  Some of them felt like they were going to fall over on you, and some of them made you feel like you were walking sideways.  It was weird.

They have always have two exhibits that change, and the two they have now are really cool.  One of the exhibits is on Anish Kapoor.  His name didn’t sound familiar to me, but he’s the guy who designed and built the bean in Millennium Park in Chicago.  His art was WEIRD.  We were only allowed to take pictures in certain parts of the museum, so I only have one picture of his stuff. 

A lot of his works in this exhibit were made of wax.  For example, one of his works was a cannon, from which every 20 minutes, a worker shot a big chunk of wax towards the corner of the room.  It was really cool actually.  We weren’t exactly sure if they cleaned it up at the end of every day or just accumulated the wax forever, but it was interesting none the less.

The other exhibit, I can’t remember who the artist was, but he made what he called gluts.  He basically took left over trash (old road signs, car parts, hoses, etc) and put them together into artwork.  Again, it sounds weird, but it was actually really interesting.

There were also lots of cool statues outside the museum, including a giant dog made of plants. Its name is puppy.

After leaving the Guggenheim, completely satisfied, we headed to find some dinner, but along the way, we ran into a semana santa parade.  Semana Santa = holy week.  And they do it big in Spain.  They have parades on Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  This parade was bigger than the one we saw in Barcelona.

After the parade was over, the guys in the parade take all the flowers off the float and give them out, so Brittany and I got flowers from the float!

We realized we should probably start heading back to the train station to catch our bus.  We grabbed some sandwiches on the way.  We got to the train station, found out where our bus was going to be, and waited.  A bus showed up, and we tried to get on it, but the bus driver told us our tickets were for a different company.  We waited for a while, and then we were concerned, so we started asking other people where they were going.  It seemed like no one was going to San Sebastian, and some lady told us the bus had already left.  Well, we had gotten tickets to come back on the last bus of the night, so we thought we were stuck in Bilbao.  Brittany stood in the LONG line to talk to the ticket person, and I wandered from bus to bus asking where they were going.  Most of the buses were done running for the night, so I kind of started to panic.  About 20 minutes after we were supposed to leave, our bus showed up.  I’d never been so happy for a bus to show up late.  We made it back to San Sebastian fine, and we went to our hostel and went to bed.

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El Pais Vasco- Day 1

I got up early the next morning, packed up my bag, said goodbye to Jenny and Mom, and I was off to the Montparnasse train station.  Little did I know, Montparnasse is the BIGGEST train station EVER.  I basically speak no French, so I was kind of freaking out when I got there and had no idea where to go.  All the information booths were closed because it was so early in the morning.  I stood in line at the ticket booth, but the line was pretty long, so I finally asked the girl in front of me if she spoke English, she kind of did… and from her I got the gist that I had my ticket… and something about something yellow, and something about the big black board. Sweet.

I asked another guy, and his English was even worse, so I was really freaking out by this point.  I was pretty aimlessly wandering around the train station when a conductor saw me and asked me if I needed anything… he spoke English really well, and told me that I have my ticket and I just need to watch the black flippy board to figure out which track to go to.

Black flippy board

I got on the train, found what I thought was my car, and what I thought was my seat.  The lady who sat next to me looked nice, so I got out my ticket, pointed to the seat number and asked oui?  She kind of laughed at me and told me I was in the right spot.  I rode the train to Bordeaux, where I had a train layover.  I got lunch, and I randomly ran into my friend from Alcala, Richard.  His Spring break plans had fallen through, but he had a friend who was living in Bordeaux, so he was there waiting for her.

I grabbed a sandwich for lunch and sat and watched the black flippy board until my train came up… then I did the whole point to my ticket and say oui again thing once I got on the train.  I took the train to Hendaye, which is basically on the France/Spain border.  I wasn’t exactly sure what I needed to do at this point, but I knew I needed to get on the regional train.  The people working in the train station in Hendaye spoke Spanish, so they helped me figure out which train I needed and where to get off.

I got to the San Sebastian train station fine, and then again, I wasn’t exactly sure where my hostel was.  I just knew I needed to get on bus 28.  Again, I asked a few people where to go (Spanish people aren’t the best at giving directions) and then I got on bus 28.  I got off where I was supposed to and attempted to find my hostel.  I couldn’t find the hostel, so I stopped into a bar and asked where the hostel was.  The bartender looked at me like I was crazy and told me the hostel was closed.  Wonderful.  I guess the hostel had closed because of noise complaints from the neighbors and the owner had basically passed the reservations out to the neighboring hostels.  The bartender called 3 or 4 hostels until he found the hostel that had our reservation.  I say our because I was supposed to meet my friend Brittany in San Sebastian.  Brittany had made the reservation and since my name wasn’t on it, I needed the reservation number to be able to check in.  Minor problem: I didn’t have the reservation number, I didn’t know where Brittany was, and my phone didn’t have any minutes so I couldn’t call her.  The bartender let me use his phone to call Brittany.  I got the reservation number, he called the hostel back, and the people who worked at the hostel came to get me.

As it turns out, I’m pretty sure our hostel closing was a good thing, because we ended up in our own room, and we only had to share our bathroom with two other people.  Brittany had missed her bus, so she was running 2 hours behind schedule.  I wandered the town by myself while I waited for her.  When she finally arrived, we  went to get pintxos (their version of tapas) for dinner… delicious, and then we went to the beach.

We had both had pretty stressful days, so after seeing the beach, we went back to our hostel to sleep.

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Paris with Mom and Jenny- Day 3

Our last full day in Paris.  We slept in and I made amazing espresso for everyone.  I am obsessed with the espresso machine we had in our apartment.  I totally want one when I’m a grown up.  Once we left the apartment, we headed to Notre Dame.  Notre Dame ranks up there in my favorite churches I’ve ever seen.  I am completely in love with the stained glass there.

From there we wandered to the Ile St. Louis, which is my favorite part of Paris.  It is the cutest little island with lots of cute little restaurants and shops.  We got crepes at a restaurant and then wandered the shops.  I got an AMAZING bracelet at a cute little jewelry store.  It went home with my mom, so I can’t wait to wear it!  Then we got ice cream at Berthillion… probably the best ice cream I’ve ever had.

Then we decided to take the metro up to Montmarte.  We went up to see Sacre Coeur, which was just as awesome as the first time.  Then we followed Rick Steve’s Montmarte walking tour, which took us a little off the tourist path.  They had a square full of artists, which was amazing.  Then we got to see where a bunch of famous people used to live/work.  Montmarte was a huge area for artists in the 19th and 20th centuries… Van Gogh, Picasso, etc, lived there at one point. 

Picasso’s studio… I think.

We had wine and cheese at a cute little bar that again… famous people used to hang out at.  Our waiter was hilarious. 

We found the last windmills in Paris, the MoulinRouge, and then headed back to our apartment. 

We ate dinner at a little restaurant by our apartment… the food was OK.  Then it was to bed for me because I had to get up early to catch my train to San Sebastian!

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Paris with Mom and Jenny- Day 2

Today we got up early to head to Louvre to hopefully beat the crowds.  We got some pain au chocolat on the way there (yum).  And we waited in line until it opened.  I noticed a huge difference in the crowds from the last time I was there.  The Louvre was the Louvre, the building was amazing, some of the art was cool, but some was overrated.  For being supposedly the greatest art museum in the world, it is definitely not my favorite.

After the Louvre, we grabbed lunch in the fancy food court in the mall type area attached to the Louvre.  I didn’t even know that part existed.  Then we headed to the Orangerie.  Again, it started raining on us, but it wasn’t as bad as the day before.  PS.  One of my favorite things about Paris: students get in to almost everything free.  The Orangerie was pretty amazing.  It has Monet’s water lilies in room specifically made for the pictures.  They are amazing.

Then we wandered down the Champs-Elysees.  Jenny was not a fan.  I got a pair of pinstripe shorts… which I am completely in love with.  Jenny was then tired of shopping, so we found a bar in an alley off the Champs-Elysees, which was super cute.  After this, we went back to the Champs-Elysees so we could see the Arc d’Triomphe.  It looked like it was about to pour rain, so we hopped the subway back to our apartment.  We had a little break in the apartment because we were all tired.

Around 6 we took the subway over to the area near the Eiffel tower.  We ate dinner at the same delicious restaurant Carlyn and I ate at… good choice.  I’m pretty sure it was the best food I’ve had in Europe.  Then we walked over to the Eiffel tower.  It was night time, so it was lit up and beautiful. 

However, it was FREEZING.  Super strong wind.  We took a few pics and then headed to find the metro to go back home.  I saw a little stand selling the art I wanted from Paris, so I stopped to buy a painting… and perfect timing.  Jenny and Mom got to see the light show on the Eiffel tower!

We took the metro back to the apartment and Jenny and I went in search of wine, snacks, and milk to make to put in our espresso the next morning.

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Paris with Mom and Jenny- Day 1

We got up the next morning and headed to the airport to fly to Paris.  This wasn’t nearly as hectic as checking in for the flight to Barcelona.  When we got to Paris we had a driver picking us up.  He had a sign with our name on it… kinda… Cullough.  Close enough for us to get the picture.  He drove us to our apartment, which was awesome. 🙂 The lady met us there, and she had gotten us some bread and two bottles of wine.  Apparently the bread was from the bakery where Nicolas Sarkozy gets his bread.  How cool.  Naturally the bread was delicious, as was the wine.

We went to get crepes at my favorite crepe place in Paris, and they were as good as the last time.   After that, we went to the Orsay Museum.  On the way, it started raining super hard.  This is the second time it’s rained like this on me in Europe.  It was seriously raining sideways.  Ridiculous. Anyway, we got to the Orsay, which was awesome.  It used to be a train station, and the art was sweet.  They had some traditional art, and lots of impressionist art.  They had this art that was made of little dots, which was my favorite.  When the museum closed, we were cold, wet, and tired, so we headed back to the apartment.  Jennifer and I went in search of cheese, bread, and champagne for dinner.  We did good work!  It was a great, simple dinner.  As I’ve said, we were all tired, so we just went to bed after dinner.

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