Medieval Girona

Girona is one of my favorite places in Catalunya. In fact, depending on my mood, I sometimes prefer it to Barcelona. It’s a small city that spans a river and has an extensive medieval quarter. Also, it has some pretty awesome bars in the park–but we’ll get to that later.

We abandoned Barcelona and went to stay with my wonderful friends Raul and Mayita, who generously found room for us in their already-crowded flat. Basically, Raul’s parents and another friend were already staying there. But there was a couch for us, so no worries.
Over the next couple days, Rach and I spent way too much time avoiding the disgustingly HOT sun. However, during the mornings and evenings we managed to explore Girona. Rach spent most of the time with her camera glued in front of her face, taking pictures of “pretty things.”

 

I mean, there’s the cathedral, the ancient wall, and the still-functioning medieval section of town. That’ s a bunch of things to look at 🙂

 

(And cause we’re cheap asses, we timed our visit to the cathedral for the free day) Also, fun Girona story…while in the church, Rachael mocked me for nearly face-planting on the marble steps in my shitty German sandals. Two seconds later, she found the exact same step landed, butt-first, on the marble. I think the security guards were laughing at us. A lot. And yeah, I’m immature and giggled through most of the cloister.

We also made it up to Figueres (again for me!) and explored the craziness that is the Dalí Museum (riding the train for free cause we’d “forgot” to buy tickets). Rach was impressed by the crazy and we both enjoyed the shiny shinies in the Jewels section.

Our last night in Girona, we decided to go out with Mayita. Now, a little background on my dear Mayita–she’s from Honduras  and adorable and tiny, with a great partier spirit! So we gathered up some crazy girls and headed out to a series of bars in the city park. Yup, Spain is awesome.
They were basically cantina-style, with outdoor dance floors, pretty decorations, and (in one) way too many teenagers. Luckily we drank mojitos (which are always a good idea) and danced a bunch, starting our own little party. Unfortunately 😦 I didn’t have a camera that night, so dear readers, you must use your imagination…

At the end of our Girona time, I promised to bring Raul Dr. Pepper from the USA and we hopped two trains back to Barcelona and one plane to Santiago. I was going home!

 

Back to Barcelona: Why do I Always Drink Sangria?

Rachael and I left the moderately sunny Bavaria in favor of Mediterranean Spain. And, of course, we landed in Barcelona in the middle of a heat wave and had to haul our backpacks all over the sweat-inducing metro. I seriously thought I was going to pass out at some point, and basically bee-lined for our hostel (which, unfortunately, was a little outside of the city center).

We went wandering through a million awesome Barcelona neighborhoods, en route to Parc Guell. (On our hike up the sweaty hill, we found an awesome little car).

However, the best part of Barcelona was…the beach! Now, we’d been traveling for several weeks and decided that doing any real touristy thing was massively overrated. (Plus I’ve been to Barcelona and didn’t want to pay to see the Sagrada Familia again). Yeah, basically I’m justifying the fact that I spent 3 days on the beach…

We also experienced one of the worst hostel nights ever. First, imagine someone who snores. Right above your head. And then multiply the loudness of their snores by 10. And then by 100. My iPod didn’t even drown out the snorting, wheezing, ogre-like noises. I seriously was planning on stabbing this girl. In her face.

In other news, my baby sister turned 22 and we celebrated in true Barcelona fashion–by drinking shit-loads of free sangria.
See, the Yellow Nest hostel has an on-going “get the tourists drunk” party, wherein they offer all-you-can-drink sangria before hauling you out into the city (jumping the barrier at the metro, naturally) and abandoning your ass at a couple sketchy bars. But we still had an epic time. And also got rejected by a cab driver for being too drunk. Yeah, that’s right. At 4 a.m. in Barcelona, a taxi driver rejected us. For being too drunk. Cause that’s completely rare in a 4 a.m. fare.

The following day we went out celebrating San Juan, which is an awesome perfect celebration! As in, people set things on fire and set off fireworks all weekend long. Plus we invaded a neighborhood party and scored free cake!

After a long hot night in the hostel, we hopped a train up north to Girona and further Catalan adventures…

River Surfing in Munich

Wow, I have fallen quite far behind on writing my updates. Here goes…

When I arrived in Munich, I had no intention of doing anything beyond soaking up the hot German sun. That and drinking a bunch of Bavarian beer. So that is what I did for the next couple of days.

During our time in Munich, Rachael and I went to the English Garden, which in the summer months is full of pretty people sunbathing. We essentially spent two full days in the park, enjoying the sun and the view 🙂


One thing of note in the Garden is the river surfing–which is about as weird as it sounds. Basically, a man-made creek runs through the entire Garden. And through creative engineering there’s also a man-made wave that perpetually breaks across the creek.

We also went to watch the German team play the quarterfinal qualifier game, in  a beer garden of course. Now, we were planning to bike to the beer garden. However, my dear sister hasn’t rode a bike in about 10 years. No big deal, we thought; “it’s just like riding a bike” and all that. Yeah, not so much.
Rae got on the bike and started peddling down the sidewalk, and almost took out a lady with a stroller. She then emphatically stated that she wouldn’t be riding a bike in city traffic. At all.
At the game itself, we drank loads of giant Bavarian beers and amused ourselves by sitting in “the wrong place,” according to the anal retentive German waiters. However, the place was packed and we decided to ignore their annoying rules and watch football instead. I also watched a couple of enterprising Germans break off a tree limb that was blocking their view of the screen.

At some point, Rae and I decided that we were being too lazy and needed to be more cultural (plus the weather turned cloudy), and we went to the Munich Residenz, as well the Nymphenburg Palace on the outskirts. We viewed the “Gallery of Beauties,” which is essentially a series of portraits of the many women that one Bavarian king thought were hot (okay, it also includes his daughter–but many of his mistresses as well).

During all this fun, I drank a bunch of German beer. And went shopping all over downtown Munich. Oh, there was also an epic rainstorm that almost drowned us and the entire city center. Luckily we hid inside a conveniently located Pimkie and bought some cute accessories.

After Munich, it was back to Spain and Barcelona–just in time for the Fiesta de San Joan and Rachael’s birthday!

Three Countries in 24 Hours

Yeah, we were in 3 different countries in 1 day. The fact that I can even write that sentence is proof of how awesome Europe is.
We started out from Verona, with Paul finding the only Italian waiter in the province who happened to speak German (okay, maybe not so weird considering how many German tourists there are). He then proceeded to order his Italian coffees in German. In another example of my not understanding a word that’s said but completely understanding the meaning, I watched said Italian waiter give Paul bro props for being with 2 cute American girls.
After drinking way too much Italian coffee, we hopped into the car and headed north toward the Alps. While Rae napped in the backseat, I drooled over pretty mountains and mocked Paul’s overly helpful GPS.

When we crossed the Austrian border there was just a sign, not even a tiny checkpoint. Rae is slightly depressed about not getting any stamps in her passport. I think that after 5 different countries and 4 international European flights she only got stamped in the Madrid airport. How sad…

We stopped in Innsbruck and got a lovely close-up view of the Alps, and wandered around the city, sweating and nearly dying of heat stroke before hiding from the sun. I saw some freaks and weirdos (think pirate costumes and a lot of hot pink) as well as a wedding parade.
Austria has apparently recognized that much of the world is shit at geography and has a running joke about their lack of kangaroos—you know because Australia and Austria are very confusable.
And then to round out the day, we crossed over into Germany (after the GPS sent us off into the backroads to avoid a supposed traffic jam) and there, I re-introduced myself to some German beers.
You see, 3 countries in 1 day—it’s completely doable!

Day Trip to Venezia

The last time I was in Venice, it was December and quite possibly the complete opposite of tourist season. Therefore when I suggested a day trip to the city, I had no idea who different the floating (sinking) city would be in the summer, especially in the roasting hot weather of an Italian June.

Basically, there were about 10 times as many people as last time and millions of tourist trap stores and vendors. Especially traumatic for me were the ugly fake gondolier straw hats on the tourists.

Despite the high 90s temperature, Rach and I decided to wander the city in search of Venetian coffee and food, as well as any entertainment that the city could provide. Rach quickly discovered Venetian lace and happily browsed the shops until she found some pretty lace butterflies. I drooled over the gorgeous masks again, but managed to not buy another one (mostly because we had several more weeks of travel time and I doubted that it would survive those weeks while being totted in my backpack).

 

Even though the heat was suffocating, no one was even touching the canal waters. Apparently they are that scary. And no, they didn’t reek—some small little alley-like canals smelled like swamp water, but nothing too gross all things considered.

St. Marco’s Piazza was about 100F and we quickly made the decision that waiting in the LONG line was not worth it. I prefer to not die of heat stroke. Instead we hid from the heat in a precious little Venetian café, marking ourselves as tourists in need of ripping off by sitting down at a table instead of standing at the bar.

I didn’t even care because Venetian coffee is always amazing and sitting down in air conditioning for an hour was worth the tourist surcharge. I also got to witness one of my favorite forms of entertainment: Americans trying to order coffee in Europe. This dad in Bermuda shorts sat down nest to me in the tourist section and tried to order. Key word being, tried.

“Umm, Can I get 2 coffees?”

“Espresso or Americano?” asks the waiter who is obviously used to American sand our coffee expectations.

“American coffee,” goes Bermuda dad. “With milk.”

“Ahh, with milk! You want cappuccinos,” the waiter suggests, probably misunderstanding on purpose to punish the dumb foreigners.

“Yes,” Bermuda dad nods, though that’s nothing like what he wants.

To add to my entertainment, he then notices me watching and asks, “Did I pass for a local?”

I tried not to snort coffee out my nose.

After coffee we continued to wander, getting gondola offers every five feet and climbing up and down a million Venetian stairs.

On the train back to Verona we roasted because the air conditioner was very old-fashioned: roll down the windows and wait for the breeze. Which doesn’t work when the windows are broken…On the plus side, I finally saw a conductor, which means that TrenItalia only has ticket control on 1/5 of their trains! Good to know.

We ended up in Verona 90 minutes ahead of schedule and had to drink beer while waiting for the B&B receptionist to show up. That night we also drank Italian beer for the first (and last, it sucks!) time. Italians should just stick to wine because their beer is just…ick.

Verona and Italian Lakes

I woke to a room full of sunlight and the most ridiculous Italian shower in the world. I should have taken a picture of it—it was that terrible! To fully understand the horror, you must know that the bathroom is built in a converted attic. An attic with ceiling height going from about 6 ft to 0 ft at a perfect diagonal. Also the roof is hard wood and very painful.

Now, where did the builders put the bathtub? Right at the low end of the room. Which means that the bather in question has at maximum 4 feet of space to stand in. So, in order to shower, I had to crouch in the tub, holding the water overhead and try very hard to not make any sudden upward movements at the risk of giving myself a naked concussion.

Oh and also there was no curtain, so the water went everywhere and made a disgusting mess!

After this auspicious start to the morning, we hiked off to the train station and headed to Verona. No conductors appeared, which was lucky as I’d forgotten to validate our tickets and wasn’t sure how well the “stupid foreigner” card works in Italy. We found our B&B (Verona doesn’t have a youth hostel so we had to find cheap B&Bs instead) without any problems and met the owner Luca. Two important things I learned about Luca in the first minute of meeting him: he gets “we” and “you” missed up, uses them interchangeably, which makes for some interesting conversations. Oh and he’s perfectly comfortable answering the door in his boxers.

Italian undies aside, the place was nice and had a normal shower.

Our time in Verona consisted of finding pizzas to devour and tripping over the entrance to Juliet’s house. Which is a great tourist trap, some old mansion where they pasted an old-looking balcony on the wall, giving tourists a place to take pictures. The courtyard is covered in graffiti (letters to Juliet and lovers’ initials) even though “defacing” the walls is technically banned.

And to top it off, there’s a Juliet statue with a very shiny right boob—because groping the statue is supposed to bring you your soulmate in a year’s time or something like that.

That night we went out with my British friend Hannah for (more) pizza and vino, which were amazing and delicious. We also got a great recommendation for a nearby lake, and so made our plans for the following day…

On beach day, we collected picnic materials and wandered off through the city to the train station, bikinis in tow. We ended up at Lake Garda, at the same train station as what appeared to be a lame Italian version of Disneyworld. However, the beach itself was pretty and most importantly, it was a beach! So we sunbathed all afternoon. Rae got her first glimpse of the wondrous phenomenon that is the European Speedo, as well as plenty of topless old ladies, woo!

Back in Verona, we made last-minute hostel reservations for the following day and then went to the pizza place from the night before, yeah, AGAIN! And the pizza was delicious again. Also worth noting: we saw Hannah and her mom at the restaurant again too; we’re all just addicted to that place I suppose.

That night we also had a miscommunication with the waitress, which fortunately resulted in us ordering a much better wine than we’d intended (haha). We wanted the cheap house wine, but somehow used the wrong words and ended up with 14€ wine instead. Now, I maintain that this was a fortunate mistake because the wine was yummy and…very potent.

On a completely unrelated note, we crossed the wrong bridge on our walk back and ended up taking a long moonlit stroll along the Verona riverbanks. We finally made it back to the hotel and crashed, ignoring the loud drunk Italians yelling below our window.

Hey Italians, Milano is NOT Ugly!

 

We arrived in Milano to rain (by the way, the Italian airport shuttle was cheap and completely fine–I officially hate the French). Oh and a message to the Italian guy trying to hustle me for “ticket money”:  Jackass, look at me. I’m wearing my old Paris-dirt-covered jeans and carrying my life in a pack. Do I look like I have money to give to your lazy ass? Va fan culo.

We finally found our hostel after some bus trouble and sleepily made plans to see the city, the city that the entire world had warned us away from. It usually went something like this: “Why are you going to Milano? It’s ugly, boo.”

However, I beg to disagree. The city was more industrial than much of Italy, but gorgeous nonetheless. We wound through a ton of clothes shops, Rae drooling as always. We found a place where the clothes are priced by weight. Unfortunately, they were still overpriced and ugly. However, the Duomo was amazingly huge and gorgeous. I also made new friends with the bored security guards who were convinced I was Spanish. The fact that I answered them in Spanish, saying “no probably just confused them.

We then made pasta for dinner, with our perpetual mozzarella (it’s yummy and cheap!). Rae attempted to open our wine but (according to her) the corkscrew was damaged, from overuse. Luckily a friendly American wino helped us out and joined our dinner, drinking his 2 bottles while we shared 1. I must also quote his Eurotrip philosophy because it’s so practical: “Every 2€ I save is another bottle of wine.”

And on that note we went to bed, completely crashing out.