Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

- Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

All The Books In The World... Except One

beautiful and sad.


Mambo Italiano

So I took the train from Barcelona to Florence.  My initial plan was to go to Aix in Southern France but the hostels there were so over the top expensive.  So I decided to change my plan and go to Florence instead.  Now I have an undying love for Florence (Firenze) ever since I first read EM Forster's "A Room with a View".  And saw the movie.  Read it, watch it, visit it, love it.  However I did not have a hostel booked when I got there, merely the addresses of a couple of hostels.  Which I never found.  So I wandered the city with my pack trying to find a place to stay.  I ended up paying way more than I wanted to but stayed in a nice centrally located hotel.   Then I went out to explore the beautiful city that I was in.  I walked around and stopped for some pizza, wine, and gelato.  Because if there is something more Italian than that I would be hard pressed to find it.  I walked across the Ponte Vecchio and saw all the street vendors.  I found a little carousel.  The next day after my free breakfast I found the Florence Cathedral (Il Duomo) and was stunned into silence by the beauty and vastness of it.  Then I went walking through the city and ended up by the city walls that used to surround the whole city.  I walked through the gates that were closed every night and opened every morning.  On my way back I walked by the river at sunset.  One of the most beautiful walks I went on my entire trip.  The next morning I headed to the train station to go to Rome.

Rome!  The history... the food.... the men!!!  Now granted, you would think that it would be fine to find a hostel in Rome.  And I am sure that most times it is quite easy to find a cheap hostel there.  But that's not how I rolled.  No, I decided to roll into the city on Easter weekend without a reservation.  So after walking around for 3 hours trying to find a place to stay and getting laughed at or being told that the rooms were over 100 Euro a night I went into an internet cafe and booked a hostel.  So I was staying near the train station in a single room for way more than I wanted to pay.  But it worked out quite well for me. Except the one night that a drunk girl tried to come into my room.... and did.  Either her key worked for my room or the door wasn't closed all the way.  Regardless, I slept with the desk in front of the door the rest of the time!  But Rome is magical.  There is a reason it is called the Eternal City.  Rome will never "die".  I spent five days there and feel like I merely scratched the surface of what there is to see and do there.  I did the big tourist attractions: Coliseum, Forum, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Panthenon, Vatican City/Museum, Via Condotti.  There was just so much to see and do.  And every where you go is an iconic site that you have seen so many times and places before.  But to see them in real life and to be in their presence is almost overwhelming.  Rome has a presence that few other cities have.  I was able to sit on a hill top near overlooking the Coliseum and hear the Pope give his Good Friday speech.  Which was awe inspiring and weird, as I don't speak Latin and am not Catholic.  But to see the crowds surrounding him was incredible.  A once in a life time experience.

Leaving Rome proved to be interesting.  I was on a completely full train and was quite glad that I had a reserved seat.  The compartment was full was was the entire hallway.  But taking the train from Rome, through the Alps and into Vienna (Wien) was beautiful.  Vienna seemed so clean.  I didn't see any trash on the ground.  I walked around the city for a couple of hours, got some breakfast, went to St. Stephens, wandered.  Then found the train to Budapest.  Well sort of.  While at the train station a Turkish man came up and kept saying Budapest to me.  So I said yes.  He then stuck with me.  When we accidentally got on the train going from Budapest to Munich.....  Luckily it went to a different train station in Vienna and we could get on the train to Budapest there.  Which was coming two hours later.  Not a problem for me but my Turkish Delight was catching a plane in Budapest to Turkey which I think he missed.  So sorry dude.  Hope you made it.


"Women like looking at a view.  Men don't."  Mr. Emerson.  

Il Duomo

Il Duomo

Iconic Rome

Gladiators and the Police.  

Pope.  Good Friday.  

St. Stephens Cathedral.  Vienna.

Vienna Park

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

And just like that.... I'm back.  When people say that traveling is life-changing, I expected it to be in big dramatic ways.  But it wasn't.  Big and dramatic that is.  It was life-changing.  But in small ways that I didn't quite realize were happening.  Now I am back in the States and deciding what my next steps are.  I have an idea.

My goal would be to temp for a while and save as much money as I can so I can travel somewhere.  Then come back and temp again to travel.  But my main focus would be to create a blog that will help people my age with the fact that there are more options out there than just a career or getting married.  There are other options out there.   So I am going to revamp my efforts on this blog.

But first - the trip!

I flew out of JFK.  Note to all travelers:  make sure you walk around in your shoes you're going to wear for at least 4 hours before you plan to take them.  I had a pair of Chuck Taylor's which were comfortable - until I wore them for 4 hours walking around NYC.  That's when I found out they really weren't.  So I put them in a package and mailed them home.  Sorry for the smelly shoes mom and dad!  Then it was off to the airport.  Had a minor heart attack when checking in for my flight.  The agent asked me for my passport (fine) and my visa (!!!!!).  It was the classic feeling of feeling your heart jump to your throat and your stomach drop.  I knew I didn't need a visa but being asked for it made me instantly second guess myself.  Quickly I came to my senses and remembered that no, I didn't need a visa since I was going to Europe.  Then went through security and jumped on the plane to Europe.  Of course the plane I was on would have a baby who cried all night.  So not much sleep - but I did watch a couple of movies while snoozing off and on.  After a quick layover in Brussels (where I was able to wash my face and put on deodorant) I boarded the plane to Madrid.  I was about to jump out of my skin on that flight.  I was so excited to get started.

Madrid was a beautiful city.  I was able to meet up with my friend who lives in Spain and I hadn't seen in over a year.  We booked a hostel right off the Puerto del Sol (the main plaza in Madrid) and set out to explore the city.  We meandered around and came across the Museo Reina Sofia which was free that night.  Which really fit my budget.  So we walked and got some supper before going back to the museum.  After that we went and grabbed a glass of wine at a local restaurant and caught up.  By about 10 pm, I was exhausted.  So we went back to the hostel.  Apparently a very early time for a Spaniard to go to bed.  The next day we walked up to a park and hung out and played penny poker.   Since she had to get back to Granada the next day we went to dinner and had more Spanish wine.  The next morning after chatting with some Swedes (and being shamed for not going to Sweden) we boarded the bus to Granada.

Granada was an absolutely beautiful city.  It was very helpful to have someone who lived there to show me around and give me a tour.  Apparently Granada is one of the only places that still offers free tapas when you buy a drink.  So for supper people will go out and order a couple of glasses of wine and eat free tapas.  I had some delicious peppers, beef, paella, and some mushrooms.  The NGO that my friend works for had a open house that ended with a potluck (or whatever the Spanish version is) and I was able to eat some real Spanish food.  I could eat that forever.  The food was so amazing.  We also walked around the entire city and she showed me some of her favorite places.  We went to the Cathedral of the Incarnation.  But hands down the best part of being in Granada was going to the Alhambra.  When I saw it for the first time it literally took my breath away.   It is a palace from when the Muslims ruled Granada.  And I have never seen such an amazing building.  The second to last day we took a day trip to Salobrenas, a beach town about an hour outside of Granada.  So I can check off going to the Mediterranean Sea off my list of things to do.  Then my friend put me on the train to Barcelona.

Barcelona.  What can I say about Barcelona.  Amazing.  Eclectic.  Beautiful.  I was there during a strike which closed down the entire city and erupted into violence at night.  This city is covered with Gaudi buildings and parks.  I stayed in a hostel in the Gothic Quarter which was my favorite place to wander around and get lost in.  I also went to the home of the 1992 Summer Olympics.  Which is the first Olympics I remember watching.  So that was really cool to walk around there.  Las Ramblas was sensory overload and the Mercat de la Boqueria was absolutely incredible.  Fresh fruits and veggies (and meat - as in really fresh), flowers, and everything you could want to buy was there.  I bought a fresh squeezed orange juice and continued walking around.  It was sunny and warm and the last day I was there I went to the port and sat by the water and read.  Such a relaxing time.  I would go there again in a heart beat.

A few pictures.  Next up:  Italy, the former Soviet Bloc, Belgium and France, then England.

NYC-ya later

My first view of Madrid.

Beautiful light posts in Madrid.



View of the mountains and the Alhambra (Granada).

Words to live by.

I love the beach. 

View of Granada.

I wanted one of each. 

Port in Barcelona. 

Christopher Columbus letting me know where America is.
Barcelona Olympics.

Fire set by Barcelona protesters.

Police ready for the protesters. 

Just a little church Gaudi started.