6 Months After the Adventure

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HOLA AMIGOS!!

So I know it’s been a while since my last post, but I was just now able to get over the traumatic ending of our trip (LOL that was dramatic but boy was it interesting.) I am currently sitting in my room in the United States (Athens, Alabama to be more exact and boring) reminiscing on my wonderful adventures abroad. So I figured it was about time to FINALLY write my last post on our European endeavors!

ITALY

First things first, I need to describe the BEAUTY of the Italian Riviera! We ended up staying at the “Excelsior Palace Hotel” in Genoa, Italy. It was beyond amazing. It was spectacular. It was PERFECT. We even got matching robes and house shoes to wear down to the pool. After a stressful week of train strikes and last minute flights, (not that I didn’t enjoy every second of the experience) it felt wonderful to relax with the view of a lifetime. As far as meeting interesting people, as we always seemed to do, we met a group of couples who were racing through Italy in the nicest cars I have ever seen for a “car show” for fun. They even let us step outside and check out their Maseratis! So that was cool to say the least. I’m pretty sure we were the youngest and loudest (which wasn’t surprising at this point in our trip) people at the Excelsior Palace, LOL. Needless to say, it was a fabulous and beautiful time in Italy. As you can see from my pics above!

NOW ON TO THE EXCITEMENT

At this point in our trip, we knew from experience that we needed at least 48 hours of train travel to ensure that we WITHOUT A DOUBT would make it back in time for our international flight back to America. So that’s exactly what we did. Little did we know the travel struggles ahead as we sadly kissed the beautiful coast of Italy goodbye! We each downloaded several movies to watch on the journey, and we headed for the train station!

24 HOURS LATER

We had made it to Nice, France. We knew that France might be an issue with all the previous train strikes, but we figured a week after the Paris/Jerez debacle that we would be in the clear. WRONG! The people at the train station informed us that we must spend the night in Nice, and catch the first train to Barcelona, Spain next morning. We were excited to prolong our French Adventure for one more night, but at this point we were all a TINY bit nervous. Despite the worry, we had a nice dinner in Nice, France overlooking a lighthouse and the crystal blue water!

THE MORNING BEFORE THE FLIGHT

Here we are. 24 hours until our flight home after a month in Europe and the trip of a lifetime. Tensions were running high as we all dragged our luggage to the platform of our intended train. Everything ran smoothly throughout the day, and it seemed to be working to our advantage. We had connecting trains scheduled so that we would arrive in Barcelona the night before our flight, which we did. We were all super thrilled that we would make our flight, especially since Sarah and I (overpacking as we did) still had 2 huge luggage bags checked in the Madrid airport to retrieve before boarding our flight.

THE NIGHT BEFORE OUR FLGHT

We arrived in Barcelona in plenty of time, but we were still 5 hours away (by train) from our flight in Madrid (where it all started). We patiently waited in the ticket line, hoping to get the 8pm train and arrive in plenty of time for rest before our flight at 11AM the next day. BUT worse case scenario (so we thought) we would leave on the 10pm train and be a little exhausted, still making our flight. GUESS WHAT? because of strikes (stupid strikes always causing problems) ALL THE TRAINS WERE FULL. Or reserved. The only train we could MAYBE catch was at 5am the following morning. Putting us at the Madrid train station at 10AM, still needed a taxi to the airport, and a trip through security (not to mention retrieving my luggage that contained my MacBook) before boarding our international flight just ONE HOUR LATER. Needless to say, I was having a small, yet very panicky, PANIC ATTACK. (Okay that might be a little dramatic, but I was freaking out.)

One by one, we called our parents on WIFI and informed them of the current situation. We planned to sleep in the train station lobby since by this time it was almost 2am (we explored the airport and car rental places for other options before deciding the 5AM train was it for us). BUT they kicked us out bc “sleeping there was not allowed” so we checked into a hotel for 3 hours of laying wide awake waiting on our train!

THE MORNING OF THE FLIGHT

I am currently getting anxiety just reliving this morning in my head while typing this blog. We rode the train from Barcelona to Spain in silence, as we all strategized how we would make the flight. We arrived in Madrid at approximately 10:01, and I am not exaggerating when I say that I have never ran so fast in my entire life. We booked it to the taxi line, and screamed AIRPORT PLZ as loud and fast as we could! We arrived at the airport about 20 minutes later. At this point, I still had to stop by the luggage locker outside the airport and retrieve the bag before checking in for my flight. My friends just had to head to the check in, so we said our goodbyes in about .5 seconds as they assured me I would make the flight (I so knew I wouldnt.) At that moment, after another small panic attack, I became like super brain power woman and began to strategize the steps to make this flight. I only had about 26 minutes (precisely) to get my self AND my luggage on that plane. I began to run for the luggage locker. One problem. I ran the wrong way. I finally got there, retrieved my luggage after some small language barrier issues, and sprinted for the check in desk.

20 MINUTES BEFORE DEPARTURE

Breathlessly, I made it to the desk after an English speaking airport attendant saw some tears forming and took me straight to the front of the line. In the thickest spanish accent ever the man said “HELLO MISS!” And I screamed “AM I GONNA MAKE THIS FLIGHT?” That is when I heard the hallelujah chorus in my head as he said “oh yes just in time!” I checked ALL my bags, even my carry on (4 in total) and put my hands on my knees to catch my breath as I realized what this meant. I WAS GOING TO MAKE IT! The man then tapped me on my shoulder in the thick accent again and said “Don’t relax yet, mam. You still have about a 5 minute run to your platform I believe.”

“WHY DIDNT YOU MENTION THAT BEFORE?!?” I thought in my head as I was already sprinting on my way. But don’t worry. My friends all cheered as they saw me running up as the plane started it’s final boarding. That was it. I was going home.

AFTER THE FACT

SO overall, the endings to my trip was a little stressful, but I wouldn’t trade my experiences in Europe for anything in the world. When we are having a bad day, or just feeling a little down, my friends and I go back through our pictures from our trip. It never fails to make us laugh for hours and reminisce on all the wonderful memories of our adventurous summer. 6 months later, I would do anything to go back again. It was the experience of a lifetime. The people I met and the places I visited taught me more about life than I could ever imagine. I loved every second (even running like a crazy woman through the airport) of the experience, and the friends I traveled with will be my friends forever, no doubt about that. Needless to say, it was the perfect summer, and I am so thrilled to have my blog to go back and relive the experience.

Like I said in my previous posts, I hope each and every one of you at some point in life gets to experience a new place filled with fascinating new people and lessons to learn. You won’t regret it. I promise.

As a quote a once read states “travel-it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller” and hey, I guess you could say that’s exactly what it did.

THANKS for all your time and interest in my blog, it was such a fun experience. I’m glad I could finally finish, 6 months too late. But you never know where life will take you and I figured it’s not really a story if it’s unfinished, so I needed to add the last chapter of this one story of mine.

XOXO, until my next adventure,

Alyssa

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SWITZERLAND

To begin, Switzerland was spectacular. Absolutely beautiful. Thank goodness we made it past hateful train passengers and riding 3 hours in the luggage area, because it was so so worth it. We’re currently on another train headed to Italy. I’m beginning to feel so well-traveled (even though I’m so not!!) I wanna go everywhere now. Anywhere and everywhere. I feel like I’m finally seeing that there’s so many things out there in the world that I didn’t even realize existed. So so many. And I feel like I have so much to see and so little time. (Guess I’ll start planning my next trip as soon as I get home-seriously)

NOW, to describe our time on the Swiss Riviera, I will definitely just have to post the pics (even though they don’t do the beauty of the little town justice-no picture ever could) BUT I’ll tell y’all a little about what we did. We checked into our hotel after our interesting day of train travel, and hurried to get ready because we only had one short night and day in Switzerland. We had dinner at a quaint little restaurant overlooking the lake and the mountains. We giggled and told stories and discussed all our adventures and how we always get by SOMEHOW and just took in the breathtaking view together (laughing about how this is such a typical girls trip-WE LOVE IT) We also talked about how each time we enter a new country we ask ourselves “HOW IN THE WORLD DID WE GET HERE” and honestly I have no idea how we have made it. HA BUT we have. Funny how things work out (on planes and trains and luggage compartments and buses).

Anyways. TODAY we woke up early, and explored the town. (Don’t worry I even bought some Swiss chocolate to bring back.) After shopping around, we had breakfast outside on the hotel balcony (again just staring in awe at the “swalps” which is what we decided to name the Swiss alps for the time being bc it was fun). A bird flew inside the hotel and the server told us she wanted to “make the bird sizzle” or something like that doing weird motions with her hands in her broken English-we aren’t really sure what she meant. Of course we all lost our minds laughing because it was hilarious. After breakfast, we got to see a boat tour of Montreux (that was the name of the town). It was so so cool. I don’t know where I’ve been and what I’ve been looking at all my life when views like that exist somewhere out there in the world. Honestly where have I been? It’s just like looking out over that water I didn’t see one thing in the world that I could possibly complain about. Moments like that are what makes traveling so spectacular, they make life happier.

SO BASICALLY, in case ya can’t tell, I loved my time in Switzerland. I was sad to leave after such a short time, but I am more than thrilled to be headed to the Italian Riviera!! (Right now we are on the weirdest train we have seen yet-and we have no idea where in the world we actually are) but it’s raining outside and me and Katie decided that this is the best rain we’ve even seen. LOL. Even rainy days in Italy are perfect. Nothing can seem to ruin days here (not even concussions and final exams-HA) We’ve decided it’s kinda like a constant uphill ride, and we love it.

WELLL I guess that’s all for now, and I’ll post pics under here bc that’s the most important part, ENJOY!

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PARIS FOR A MINUTE

Bonjour!

We’re currently sitting in the baggage area of a train to Switzerland, so I have a hot minute to tell y’all about my time in Paris. (I’ll explain the baggage area thing in a minute).

After my last blog, I’m sure you are all wondering how we got to Paris…well we ended up taking control of the situation and booking the first flight from Barcelona to Paris to keep our trip on track. We avoided the 9 hour bus ride to what will now be our last stop, Nice (well maybe).

Since the taxis AND the trains are both striking (we know why the taxis are but still have no idea what the reasoning for this train strike is-and we don’t see the point in strikes because despite all the craziness and screaming, we are still sitting on a train) we had to call and reserve a driver to pick us up from the French airport. He helped us into a van and took us straight to out cozy little hotel in Paris, the hotel Vic Eiffel. Four of us piled our stuff into one tiny little room, we later found out they weren’t very happy about that.

PARIS
I’ll go ahead and tell you all that we probably did more in 2 days than anyone in Paris ever has. Pretty sure we saw everything there was to see (including 2 visits to the Eiffel Tower with outfit changes-LOL). And we even met some Auburn fans at the Eiffel Tower, so war eagle to that. We also got to meet Mona (aka go to the Louvre and see Mona Lisa), sit on a blanket in awe and watch the Eiffel Tower blink at night, see the Arc de Triumph, ride around Paris in a carriage, sign a lock with our names at the famous “love lock bridge,” and drink the biggest coffees of our lives filled with a tower of whipped cream.

ALSO we had lunch yesterday at the number 1 rated restaurant in the world (THANKS SARAHS DAD FOR THE TREAT) Grand Vefour. Let’s just say we felt a little out of place eating about 100 courses of meals, cheeses, and desserts, but we loved every second of it. I probably won’t eat again for 6 weeks.

Let’s just say Paris was incredible. I mean come on, it’s such a fabulous city. I feel like very rarely can ya compare to a place like that. I would tell more but that’s about all I can type on my iPhone on this train right now, but my words really won’t ever do this trip justice. We have laughed more than I have ever laughed in my life, to say the least.

NOW FOR WHERE WE ARE HEADED: because of the train strike, they are doing something ABSOLUTELY INSANE in our opinions at the train stations in France. We arrived at the station with our eurorail pass, thinking they would stamp it and reserve us a seat. Instead, it was chaos. Since some trains won’t run bc of the strike, you never know which train you can catch. SO we finally found an English speaking worker who directed us to hall 3. In hall 3, we had to look for the first train to Switzerland and wait on a number to pop up on the screen. When the number “21” popped up on that screen we sprinted like we were running track in the Olympics to the platform in hopes of getting on. They literally let as many people as could pile onto this thing on the train. We didn’t even have a ticket. No one did. We are currently piled on the stairs of this random train to Zurich, Switzerland. Who knows where we will end up next. (The man beside us has a dog with him chilling in the floor-he told us in his broken English that it “bites sometimes” so we took that as we can’t play with it.)

To conclude, as Audrey Hepburn said, “Paris is always a good idea” (even when every method of transportation is on strike for only God knows what reason) I GUESS THATS ALL FOR TODAY, I’ll post some pics of our adventures in Paris/the train station below! Hope you all enjoy!

XOXO everyone

SIDENOTE: Mom and Dad be very glad we got on this train bc a woman just told us it might be the last one out of PARIS FOR A WEEK! (Nightmare) okay. That’s all.

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STAY TUNED FOR PICS FROM SWITZERLAND BECAUSE I JUST GOT HERE AND ITS THE PRETTIEST PLACE I’VE EVER SEEN!!!

PLOT TWIST……we aren’t in Paris.

WELL. I’ll start by telling you all we aren’t in Paris after all. We are actually back in Barcelona. Our good luck might have just ran out because first of all JEREZ to Spanish people sounds a whole lot like PARIS. Let’s just say we were more than thrilled when the lady told us we could get to “Paris” in 3 hours. We all giggled and high-fived and got real excited. Turns out that train was to Jerez, Spain. It’s at the very tip of southern Spain… GOOD THING we figured it out and went up to the desk to change our train to the REAL Paris. We all discussed how much we would have cried if we got off in Jerez and asked where the Eiffel Tower was. (Just picture this scene for a minute)

STEP 2:
As we tried to change our train, let’s just say we ran into a few complications. It’s just too bad that the trains in Paris are on strike this week UNTIL WEDNESDAY isn’t it? Oh and so are the taxis. I didn’t even know trains being on strike was even a thing. It took 30 minutes for the man to understand we needed to go to Paris, then 30 more for him to explain to us there was absolutely no way for us to get there by train until wednesday. Needless to say we had a short breakdown session, then decided to re-route our entire trip. I don’t really know whether to call what we were doing laughing or crying. It was a mixture of both and the same time.

SOLUTION:
Instead of Paris first, we are going to start in Nice, France. We can get there by a bus from Barcelona. THEN head backwards to Italy, Switzerland, and France again. We are currently in Barcelona waiting to catch our 9 hour bus. And if we flew we couldn’t get to our hotel because taxis are also on strike. Who knows what about? I would love to know. (Dad suggested that we rent a car. I’m a terrible driver in the US, so we decided it would be better not to get lost internationally.)

We’ve only been on our trip for a few hours, and things aren’t exactly going as we planned. But that’s typical for us right? More lessons learned. And what fun would it have been to go strictly by the books. What is it they say, you’ll regret more the things that you didn’t do than the ones you did? Well that sure is a good thing because we are doing it ALL. I’ve definitely learned that life doesn’t always go the way you plan it, and it’s all part of the experience. At the end of the day is done I’m still traveling through Europe with 3 of my best friends, so there’s not much I can complain about. It’s a wonderful life after all. And there’s so much to learn from experiences like these (and we also will have way too many stories to tell). LOL.

We also met 2 of the sweetest women on our train to Barcelona who spoke English, and they got a serious kick out of our story. It felt good just to laugh with them and it felt even better to not have to attempt our broken Spanish to communicate. The beautiful views on the train weren’t too bad either.

WELLLLL to wrap up, keep reading my blog and looking for updates this week, because you never know what country we will be in next or what we could be doing.

UNTIL NEXT TIME,
Xoxo my friends

(Ps mom and dad I love y’all and I’m ok!! AND to Bobbilu and Paul-Hannah gray is phone less but she’s safe and loves y’all too!)

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ONE LAST BLOG FROM MADRID

(Insert tears here)

This past month in Madrid has been absolutely UNBELIEVABLE. I have learned so much more than I ever thought I could about the culture, the people, and Spain in general.

“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things MAY be, to see them as they really ARE.”

Reading this quote this morning, in a little coffee shop in the city, while waiting to take my last final, I realized just how true this really is. I got the once in a lifetime opportunity to study in another country for an entire month. And experience and see things I will never see again. Before I came, I pictured Spain as beaches and sun and a language that frustrated me. Wow, was I wrong. After this month here, I see the BEAUTY of the culture. I see the fascinating way people here conserve everything they possibly can. I see the way people here are so gracious for so little. EVERYTHING matters, whether it be an inch of space in an apartment or 1 single cent. I see the way the language differs from English, and I am so lucky to have gotten this experience. I see that this new culture isn’t frustrating, it’s only just different. I realize that being close-minded will get you nowhere, and when you open up to the opportunities new places and new things offer, you will learn more about life (and yourself) than you ever knew you could. Before this trip I read, “travel far enough and you just might find yourself.” And I also believe this to be very true now.

NOW FOR THE FUNNY STORY OF TODAY:
Sarah and I decided to take one last taxi in Madrid to the coffee shop where Katie and Hannah Gray study. During the ride, the driver reaches in his glove compartment and pulls out 12 US DOLLARS…what? We haven’t seen dollars since we have been here. We had no idea what he was saying to us, so we giggled and held the money. At the end of the ride, he just kept telling us “cambiar” which means change. So we got out of the cab with 12$ LOL. He paid us to ride. So that was interesting. Guess there’s a little luck/magic in every day, and if ya look for it, you just might find it. (That’s something we have definitely learned.)

All this being said, I am extremely sad to leave this beautiful city I have called home for a month, BUT I CANT WAIT TO HEAD TO OUR NEXT ADVENTURE!!! Today we have our final, followed by a dinner with the school. A whole new adventure begins tomorrow, as we head to PARIS. (Can’t wait to see what will happen to us there. Excitement has seemed to follow us around here in Spain.)

STAY TUNED FOR BLOGS ABOUT PARIS, followed by Switzerland and Italy! Hope you all have enjoyed following my blog, and I hope every one of you gets the opportunity to travel to a new country at least once in your lifetime. I promise you won’t regret it.

Until the next one!
XOXO

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Madrid’s newest local AKA ME

HOLA AMIGOS!!

I’m back. Again. LOL. This past week and weekend were fabulous AS USUAL, and I saw and did even more new things. I see a new aspect of this amazing city every day. And I don’t think I will ever get over the amount of beautiful people in Madrid. I love it here. Now for some details of my life here! I know you’re all dying to hear.

THE OLDEST RESTAURANT IN THE WORLD

We made reservations to eat at the “oldest restaurant in the world” this weekend. It’s called Botin, and it’s been a restaurant since 1725 (how insane/cool is that?) There were 15 of us from Auburn who went, and if you can imagine we weren’t the quietest bunch. We definitely got some odd looks. My friends went out on a limb and ordered the most famous dish “the suckling pig” BUT Hannah gray and I couldn’t force ourselves to eat something called a “suckling pig” so we stuck to croquettes and bread. It was delicious, and I can cross eating at “the OLDEST restaurant in the world off my bucket list. Here are some pics!

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SUPERMERCADO DE SAN MIGUEL

We finally had our first experience at “the market.” Then we liked it so much that we went again the next day. It was amazing. You walk through the doors to huge displays of ice cream, paella, wine, CHEESE (my favorite part was definitely tasting all the different cheeses), more croquettes, and just anything else you can imagine. People walk from place to place tasting and trying and embracing the beauty of Madrid. A day at the market is a perfect day in my eyes. Here’s a quick look at the market!

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ROOFTOPS AND SWEET HOME ALABAMA

We got the opportunity to finally go to one of Spain’s famous rooftop bar/restaurants. It was absolutely beautiful. The view was SPECTACULAR. Looking out over the city in the perfect weather on the perfect night with even more perfect company was just, how should I word this, PERFECT. After spending a few hours out there, we headed to hear live music at a new place. GUESS WHAT SONG THEY KNEW? Yep. You guessed it. SWEET HOME ALABAMA. All the Spaniards for a serious kick out of 20 something Auburn students from Alabama standing on the table screaming the lyrics like we owned the place. It was so much fun. We loved every minute of it. Here are some pics from the view!

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ALSO there have been big protests going on all week about how the Spanish people want a choice on whether or not there is a king. So it’s been interesting to see. Here are some pics of that

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LAST THING. We have seen so many cool things, but we have also seen some very strange ones. People around here dress up, paint themselves colors, and simulate floating people to make money during the days. It’s seriously like a weirder version of New Orleans. Here’s some of the weird characters now. Enjoy

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WELL I guess that’s about all I have time for tonight. I hope you enjoy reading a little about my life in Madrid! I am seriously so incredibly thankful for this opportunity. Every single day. I can’t believe today is my last Monday here in Madrid before heading to travel and explore even more of Europe. I CANT WAIT FOR THAT BY THE WAY. Even more to blog about.

UNTIL NEXT TIME
Adios amigos

Xoxo!

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El 3 de Junio

HOLLLLAAAAAAA EVERYONE!

Lucky for you all, I decided to blog again since I have a little time tonight (you will see the reason why in a minute). I loved being back in Madrid today. It felt like home after only 2 weeks here. Kinda weird huh?

I’m sure you will all be glad to know I received an A in my first class here. AUsome. Must mean I speak fluent Spanish now. We have a new teacher so we get to play Spanish Tabu everyday. It’s pretty fun. If only I REALLY could speak fluent Spanish I might could win. LOL.

NOW FOR THE BULL FIGHT:

After class today, we went to the “must see” event of Madrid. The bull fight. It was actually crazy. SIDE NOTE: I wasn’t aware that sometimes the PERSON dies (it’s very rare but apparently it happens) and if the person doesn’t die, obviously the bull does. After we entered the huge arena (feeling like I was in a Spanish Jordan-Hare LOL) we were taken to seats in the top. The fight had already started, and tons of men filled the arena with big pink flags. The bull was in the middle (looking very confused in my opinion). THEN the men proceeded to stab the bull until it died. That was about all I saw before my eyes began to black out and I had to leave. (I have a very weak stomach and don’t do well with blood). BUT I went. I can tell my grandkids that I attended a Spanish bull fight!!! HA.

LUCKILY, I had Sarah with me to step outside while our other friends watched the remaining bulls be brutally killed (also made my heart hurt, but apparently they are treated like Kings their whole life before-my friends told me that to make me feel better about it).

SOOOO that was that and here’s some pics!

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WELLLLLL I guess that’s all for today. Getting A’s and attending bullfights.

UNTIL NEXT TIME LADIES AND GENTS!

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