D U B L I N , I R E L A N D

Major bucket list item checked off this weekend: spend St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland!

Morgan and I spent four days in Dublin and absolutely loved it. It’s an amazingly lively city with the nicest people I have ever met. Everyone we met was so friendly, helpful, and up for a good time. One of the hotel workers, Innocent from Malawi, was taking the same bus into the city literally gave us a tour of the town instead of going home. He walked us all around, paid for one of those touristy bike carriages for the three of us, and showed us a fun bar–then left! We were so surprised by how nice he was and then he didn’t even stay. Then a couple days later, we got lost and asked a bus driver for directions, and he told us to get on and took us there for free. He was so sweet and cracked the funniest jokes. The people at the pubs we went to were also insanely nice and welcoming even to the most blatantly American tourists. Thanks guys! ☺

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We spent our days wandering the streets of Dublin and our nights pub-hopping. We talked to so many people from different countries all there to just have fun, drink a lot of Guinness and meet people from all over the world. The whole city had such an interesting vibe all weekend. One of my favorite parts was walking around Trinity College Dublin–I thought about applying there when I was in high school and it was really cool to see it in person. I loved the campus and the students seemed very friendly. I could totally see myself there, all bundled up for the Irish cold spending my days in the fabulous library. Sigh. Maybe I’ll come back for another degree one day… 😊

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One afternoon, we took a train to a nearby fishing village called Howth. We didn’t stay for very long but it was beautiful and very picturesque. I really wanted to take a boat to the nearby island but it was pretty windy and cold so the ferry wasn’t running that day. Howth was great, despite the blustery day and I can imagine it’s even more gorgeous in sun.

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The day of St. Patrick’s Day was absolutely crazy. The streets were so packed, we could hardly walk. Especially with those €1 green glasses obliterating our vision. We had to catch a flight in the early afternoon so weren’t able to spend much time at the parade, but it was such a unique experience to see the parade in Dublin itself!

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G R A N A D A , S P A I N

Several weeks ago, I spent five days with one of my favorite Chapman people, Tessa, in her new home–the south of Spain! It was a perfect weekend and just what I needed. After two months of numb toes and cold winds, I got to spend almost a week in above 70 degree weather. It was amazing and actually felt a lot like Santa Barbara! The day after I arrived, we took a day trip to a beach town about an hour away, Nerja, where it was a beautiful 73. We spent the day eating tapas, drinking tinto vernano de limón from the bottle on the sand, and listening to the sound of waves crashing. My first tan lines since California were more than welcome 😊

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The next few days were simple, relaxed, and normal… Except for the little part where we were in Spain. Our usual adventures and obstacles of being awkward people became even more ridiculous and fun. We went to tapas multiple times a day, saw a whole lot of PDA (do yo thang, Spaniards), got chased by a gypsy offering us weed and beer, drank wine while watching the sunset from a mirador, and laughed like we just saw each other yesterday instead of months ago. Many of my favorite memories since going abroad happened in these few days. It was so cool to see Tessa thrive in this new city and I loved trying to understand Spanish with the Andalusian accent. I didn’t feel like a tourist because she has gotten to know Granada so well in just a month of living there. She showed me her favorite spots around town, all of which had amazing views and required a bit of hiking. I missed mountains so much!

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I was sad to go but truly had one of the best times ever. What’s better than spending time in Europe with a dear friend? …Maybe shawarma. Holla at T-Pratt for introducing me to this delicacy. Love you Teha and I will see you again someday, Granada ❤️

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B U D A P E S T , H U N G A R Y

Budapest is one of the most interesting places I’ve ever been. The city is a total mix of old and new, with something to learn at every turn. We arrived really late on Thursday, so our first excursions had to wait until the next day, which was so worth the wait. After getting a delicious breakfast of croissants and carrot cake (YOLO?), we spent the morning at the Szechenyi thermal baths. It felt like a complete dream! I’ve seen pictures of this place and fantasized about seeing it in person for years.

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Después de the most relaxing three hours of our lives, Jordan and I walked through an outdoor market and perused the different antiques, food, jewelry, and various trinket vendors. We both bought a couple things, including pretzels and pastries. I should really rename this blog “Chronicles of a Hungry Girl in Europe” because I have never eaten so much in my life. Praise the lord for the gift of excessive walking, or I’d probably look like Violet from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory after she eats that gum.violet-beauregarde-willy-wonka-1971We stumbled upon the House of Terror while exploring the city and bought tickets and audio guides as soon as we found it. Our hostel manager told us it’s a must-do, and it really was. I learned a lot about Nazi Germany in school growing up, but never much about the Soviet occupation, so that was really informative and I’m so glad we took the time to learn about it. Neither of us had any idea how long Hungary was occupied (1945-1991). There’s an area of Budapest that used to be a Jewish ghetto and was abandoned for over forty years, until recently. You can definitely tell when walking through the area. There was a weird haunting feeling about the street we walked down. Something else really fascinating about Budapest is the story behind this photo. The Hungarian government commissioned this statue in July 2014 which is supposed to represent the country being occupied by Germany. People are protesting the statue because Hungary was actually the first country to ally with Nazi Germany, and they don’t want the government to try to rewrite history in an attempt to make itself look better. There was a long line of pictures and items left by the families of Holocaust victims. We stood here and looked at everything for several minutes, amazed.

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That night, we did a pub crawl and went to three different ruin bars (old abandoned buildings that were converted into bars or pubs). I absolutely loved that! Each place had its own story. My favorite was the building that used to be a prison.FullSizeRender

On day two, J-Penn and I walked for about six hours straight. Our legs/feet were super sore but we saw so much of Budapest: the Parliament building, St Stephen’s basilica, and the Buda side of the city (there are two sides).

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I thought it was really fascinating that the Parliament building and basilica are the exact same height, which represents the equal importance of church and state. Apparently, during the Soviet occupation, a Communist star was erected on the Parliament building to show the Hungarians that government is superior to their religions. You can see both buildings in this next picture… Parliament is on the far left and the cathedral is on the far right.

DSC_0056Tomorrow we head back to Prague. I wish we had more time here, so I guess I will just have to come back someday! See you again, Budapest!

L U N E B U R G , G E R M A N Y

Being in Germany with the lovely Megan Mize was the perfect was to spend Valentine’s Day weekend. We spent four days and nights relaxing in the adorable city Luneburg, where she’s studying abroad this semester. Megan showed me her favorite cafes, bars and pubs, restaurants, and ice cream shops. We don’t mess around when it comes to food, hee hee. We also went on a ton of walks and just appreciated the town’s history, architecture, and nature. One of my favorite moments from the trip was when we hiked up to the grounds of an old castle. It’s not there anymore, but I loved imagining what it must have looked like when it was around hundreds of years ago. We had the most beautiful view from up there and could see all of Luneburg. Peekaboo!

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B R U S S E L S + B R U G E S , B E L G I U M

The day began with quiet tumultuousness. Paige and I waited at the stop in the lovely English early-morning weather for forty-five minutes as we watched every bus except the one we needed zoom by.Nine somewhat painful hours and a broken coach door later, we arrived. The world’s most reckless taxi driver took us to our hotel, which felt like the Plaza compared to a hostel. The room was huge and equipped with two full beds, and the bathroom had a giant bathtub. You could say I was in heaven—what a nice change from a rock hard twin bed and communal shower stall!☺

An hour or so after getting settled, we set out to find what we came for—WAFFLES. Just kidding… mostly. The receptionist told us there was a waffle restaurant a short walk away, so we braved the frigid Belgian wind to no avail. There was no waffle place to be seen, and let me tell you, we searched harder than most self-respecting people would do for any carbohydrate. We got pizza instead, which was great and came with a delicious chocolate dessert pizza. Mmmm. We were exhausted from sitting all day (which I will never understand), so we went back to the hotel to have a movie night and relax. We promptly passed the heck out about five minutes into the movie.

Day two was our day to see Brussels. We visited the Palais Royal, Grand Place, a museum, and went up and down the city center streets. We both loved the architecture, chocolate, kind people, and multiple statues of children/animals peeing that we’re still a little confused about. There was a whole exhibit in the museum dedicated to costumes for the famous peeing boy statue: the Manneken Pis. Most importantly, we finally got our waffles!

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We spotted a fun looking Chinatown-esque street and decided to walk down it. Waiters from every restaurant instantly approached trying to get us to come eat. They complemented our perfect English, and gave us coupons and hugs. It was definitely a different experience from anything else I’ve seen! That didn’t happen in any other street in Brussels, though. Maybe it’s a ‘fun looking Chinatown-esque street’ thing.

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Bruges was charming. I fell in love with it instantly. It felt like the town from Beauty and the Beast, which is incidentally my favorite Disney movie, so I loved it a little more because of that. There were cobblestone streets, a canal, and more chocolate shops than I could count. We bought some sour candy and ate it on a bench in the town’s main square, the Grote Markt, while people watching. It was so peaceful and interesting to watch tourists and residents go about their travels and daily life.

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Paige and I went on a boat tour through the canal and saw a lot of Bruges while a lively old man told us about its history. Hannah Montana’s “This is the Life” was stuck in my head the entire time, and there’s just no stopping that song.

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I N T E R L A K E N , S W I T Z E R L A N D

Interlaken was the second most magical place, if not the most magical place, I have ever seen. Switzerland is beautiful—my jaw was dropped for the entire ninety-minute train ride from the airport into town—but this small village was really something special. White string lights that parallel colorful shops line the streets and snowcapped mountains peek out from behind. Morgan and I spent our first day getting acquainted with the town, per usual. That night we took a long walk and discovered the cutest outdoor ice rink and café. As we were walking, it began to snow for the first time since we arrived and it totally transformed the place. It didn’t quite stick yet, but the snowflakes were enormous and not too wet so it was amazing to walk through. Call it strange timing, but we decided getting ice cream was a good idea. And it was! The server put apple and orange slices on top, which was basically a dream come true. We’ve been surviving off of 85% carbs and were craving fruit like you would not believe. :’)

The next morning, we woke up to the sound of our weird hostel-mates packing up all of their things. Yippee. We put on about a thousand layers (okay… four) and set out to find Outdoor Interlaken, a rental shop (if you’re ever in Interlaken, definitely go here! The employees were super friendly and so helpful). We decided to snowshoe since we wanted to explore the Swiss Alps but be able to take our time and really absorb our surroundings. After a bus, train, and gondola ride, we reached our destination of Gimmelwald and were left speechless once again.

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There are some close seconds, but I’ve never been more blown away than I was in the moment when we first walked out to look down into the valley. This was our mindset for the rest of our time up there. We trekked through the fresh, deep powder for about three hours, going nowhere specific, with the biggest stupid grins on our faces.

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The Lego Movie was right! Everything was awesome. “Did you see that tree? What about that house? What an adorable cat!” Yep, we really found another cat. It climbed onto me and, TBH, was another top moment that day. Have I mentioned I miss my bunnies…?

DSC_0094The next two days were a blur of coffee, nonstop discussion about how much we loved the town, pizza, exploration, and more chocolate than I think I have ever consumed. We couldn’t get over how blessed we feel to be able to see all of these wonderful places and are truly having the time of our lives. Shoutout to nuestros padres.

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Interlaken I love you and hope to see you again someday!

S T R A T F O R D – U P O N – A V O N

It’s definitely safe to say that Morgan and I can’t get enough of seeing new places. We spent Sunday and Monday in Wales and booked a trip for Tuesday before we’d even left. We chose Stratford-upon-Avon for our next adventure, a small, picturesque town about three hours by bus northwest of London. It’s the place where Shakespeare was born, which apparently attracts about five million tourists a year. I believe it, and met people from India, Iran, South Africa, and Australia! Aside from museums and preserved homes, the town has dozens of cute shops and cafes. My favorite was an entire shop devoted to Peter Rabbit memorabilia. I miss my bunnies.

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We only had seven hours to wander, so we bought tickets for the main, most tourist-y attractions possible: Shakespeare’s birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s family cottage (his wife, not the actress from Les Misérables), and Hall’s Croft (his daughter and son-in-law’s home). We saw the birthplace first, which was the most interesting to me, a mild history geek. There were three actors placed throughout the house who explained the history of the rooms, one of which even reenacted a bit from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Some of the furniture in the home dates back to before Shakespeare was even born, which is actually pretty hard to wrap your head around. “Oh, that dresser is from the 15th century… Neat” doesn’t quite cut it.

Anne Hathaway’s cottage was absolutely beautiful. The cottage itself was so quaint and cozy–exactly what I picture when I think of the English countryside. The backyard was extensive, with orchards, a lavender maze, and even a section of woods with a long path running through it.

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We didn’t get to go into Hall’s Croft, which was unfortunate. It closed at 4:00 and we got there around 4:08… of course. We tried to see Shakespeare’s grave, but the church was also closed when we got there. So, we just walked around the cemetery which is actually a pretty weird thing that people do. Creepy as it was, I thought it was really interesting to see the graves of people who lives hundreds of years ago. People who are so dead that even their tombstones are dead. Most of them were completely covered in moss, or cracked, or no longer had engravings on them. Stratford-upon-Avon still has an antique charm to it and is full of history, so I could begin to imagine what life may have been like for these people.

This may have been my favorite day since arriving in London. We saw the bed where Shakespeare was born, learned how to make gloves (finally), befriended a feral cat, and drank hot chocolate while it snowed. Pretty top notch experience.

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