#EuroTrip2013 Wrap-Up: End of an Era

We’re sad to say it, but the days of vicariously experiencing our trip have come to an end. It’s been a drawn out process, which we chalk up to our new lives as busy bees with real jobs in the real world, but I also think it might be a way for us to feel like our international adventures are not few and far between. I’m sure Abi feels similarly at times, but I have almost daily freakouts about being “stuck” in my new life where things are much more routine than they ever were in college. It’s both uplifting and heartbreaking to look back at all of the amazing things we’ve done but think that there’s no way we could pull something off like that ever again.

Knowing that our lives as young professionals were closing in fast, paired with an overnight layover in Dublin, our last hours in Europe did not make for the happiest of endings.

On the airport shuttle out of Edinburgh - "No more pictures."

On the airport shuttle out of Edinburgh – “No more pictures.”

We flew from Edinburgh to Dublin without any issues besides one of my gifts getting taken away. What’s wrong with a glass bottle full of chocolate? You think I’d really use that bottle as a weapon when it was FULL of CHOCOLATE? That stuff is gold to me. Ugh, moving on.

We got into the Dublin airport, found the 24-hour McDonald’s, and settled in for the night along with the rest of the layover hostages.

Abi did it the best.

Abi did it the best.

It was amazing how many people were roughing it for the night sleeping in McDonald’s booth seats, but I guess if we were down for it, there were bound to be other people who were too cheap to pay for a hostel for a few hours. After on-and-off napping/reading magazines/eating McFlurries, it was a semi-acceptable time for us to check-in and go through security (twice – the regular airport security and “U.S. Preclearance”). We were split up on the plane, and I got lucky enough to be sitting next to a kid from rural Ireland who had never flown before but was leaving home at 19 and hoping to find permanent work in the U.S. And we thought we were adventurous! Jake, if you’re out there, I hope Long Island gave you real summer weather and that you get paid loads of tips for your awesome Irish accent in a pub somewhere in NYC.

We flew into JFK, where we chatted with some girls who were on their way back home after studying abroad in Morocco and warned them of the dangers of reverse culture shock. Our plane to Pittsburgh was a little tube, Abi was getting progressively sicker, we were way tired, but the upside was that a tiny British child kept talking about how awesome his daddy was, and we got to see this after a bit…

DSC03074

I knew it was probably the last time I would see the ‘burgh that way for a while, so I tried to take in every detail that my overtired brain could manage.

Once on the ground, the excitement of the private showers and cozy beds and closets full of our stuff that awaited us was too much, and we started jumping around like children trying to find Abi’s brother to take us to all of those joyous treasures ASAP. We stopped at Steak ‘n Shake on the way. WELCOME BACK TO AMERICA.

 

Epilogue (I’m going to partially quote the one in my journal because, yes, I wrote an epilogue.)

“Despite being super ridiculously excited to have a big bed, quiet room, more than 5 shirts, outlets that fit my electronics, and no baggage requirements, I appreciate this trip more and more every day. Abi and I are lucky ladies for being able to experience all of this, but I’m mostly glad that we made it a priority to do so before life ‘got in the way’. I hope we never let that be too true and manage to travel together and OFTEN – for a long time to come!”

As "future us" demonstrated.

As “future us” demonstrated.

– Alexa

Advertisements

Days 18-21: Edinburgh – Yep, It’s Really That Rainy

After grabbing one final crepe with our hostel BFF, Evan, we said our goodbyes and left Paris behind us to get to our final stop in Edinburgh. The trip took some unexpected turns, to say the least. Alexa had to unpack her entire backpack in security because of an only-kind-of-hidden glass bottle full of Angelina’s hot chocolate but ended up getting to keep it (it got taken away leaving Scotland, though). We were in line with some people who started fighting about who was first (because RyanAir sucks.. Have we mentioned that before?) and then they magically all became best friendzies. The Scottish accents started coming out. We ran all over the airport/road/train tracks in Glasgow at 1am trying to find the bus stop we needed to Edinburgh. Our ticket reservation got messed up. But we got a free bus ride in the end! Weeee!

We got a glimpse of Glasgow while passing through, but once we stopped in Edinburgh, despite darkness and delirium, we knew we had made the right choice to go straight there.

First building we encounter off the bus: Church of Scotland. Huge, ornate, & totally awesome.

First building we encounter off the bus: Church of Scotland. Huge, ornate, & totally awesome.

We checked into Castle Rock Hostel at about 3am and literally rolled into bed without looking at a single thing, but then woke up the next morning and were immediately greeted by musical sounds and this…

DSC02997

Oh yeah. That’s a kilt-wearing marching band just casually rolling through the street. We actually thought we were hallucinating, but we were in Scotland, alright.

After consulting a map, we decided we’d have plenty to do right in Edinburgh. Here’s what our last days of European travel were filled with and what our final memories of #EuroTrip2013 looked like…

DSC03942

DSC03944

DSC03946

Closest neighbor to the hostel was Edinburgh Castle. NBD.

Closest neighbor to the hostel was Edinburgh Castle. NBD.

Rain, rain. Go away... Actually, we don't even care. Edinburgh looks badass in the rain.

Rain, rain. Go away… Actually, we don’t even care. Edinburgh looks badass in the rain.

DSC03973

DSC03972

DSC03962

Our breakfast spot of choice - Deacon's House Café

Our breakfast spot of choice – Deacon’s House Café

SCONES 4EVER <3

SCONES 4EVER ❤

Got lunch at The Elephant House Café, where JK Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series!

Got lunch at The Elephant House Café, where JK Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series!

Orange juice machine! We were completely enthralled.

Orange juice machine! We were completely enthralled.

Got lunch at Elephant House Café, where JK Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series!

Did some walking through Diagon Alley - uh, we mean Edinburgh Castle.

Did some walking through Diagon Alley – uh, we mean Edinburgh Castle.

View from the hostel room

View from our hostel dorm

DSC03973

Somewhere in here we sprinted in the downpour to the local movie theater and saw Star Trek 2. No shame. It made for some awesome people watching, we got a taste of everyday Scottish culture, and Scotty, the Scottish (obviously) character in the movie was a lot funnier given our surroundings. Also, we may have made fools of ourselves by laugh-singing the entire Star Trek theme on the hike back to the hostel. The abundance of young people (seriously, so many) really didn’t seem to mind.

Watched mini superheroes battle.

Watched mini superheroes battle.

Climbed Arthur's Seat aka THE TALLEST POINT IN EDINBURGH

Climbed Arthur’s Seat aka THE TALLEST POINT IN EDINBURGH

Oh wait, no we didn't. That was just a hill because Arthur's Seat was ahead of us the whole time. Oh well.

Oh wait, no we didn’t. That was just a hill because Arthur’s Seat was ahead of us the whole time. Oh well.

DSC03067

Who WOULDN'T want to see a ballet like this? I mean... kilts. Come on.

Who WOULDN’T want to see a ballet like this? I mean… kilts. Come on.

Vegetarian full Scottish breakfast - haggis included.

Vegetarian full Scottish breakfast – haggis included.

We took our last day as a true sign that we were meant to be in Edinburgh. After going to what we like to think of as our secret café corner of Edinburgh for breakfast, we met up with one of Alexa’s friends from Pitt who was also traveling in Europe and happened to be in Edinburgh at the same time we were. His friend he was visiting was studying abroad for a semester in St. Andrews, Scotland, which we thought was an interesting choice. The four of us went to meet up with a girl Alexa met in Madrid, named Bryony, who was au pairing at the time. Her and her friend from the University of Edinburgh took us to an awesome hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurant that was so good! It was fun chatting with a motley crew of people who all enjoyed traveling but came from very different places.

Due to some Christmas miracle, the sun appeared, and it actually warmed up, which meant there was no way we were going back to the hostel. Sun! In Edinburgh! There was a moment where we looked out off of a bridge and realized, “wait… is that the OCEAN?” It was, and we had to see it. Immediately.

Up to a big hill with an observatory, we went.

DSC_0428

DSC_0427

The Queen’s digs when she visits dear ol’ Scotland

DSC_0426

Water! Too bad we didn’t have enough time to go touch it 😦

DSC_0425

DSC03059

DSC03062

DSC03060

All in all, Edinburgh was pretty awesome. The city definitely had the most young people milling about (maybe due to the fact that the University of Edinburgh is there, or maybe because we spent a lot of time in H&M) but it made us feel like we never graduated, so that was pretty nice. We have to say, we are definitely glad we made the last minute decision to include Edinburgh on our #EuroTrip2013 itinerary.

Up next – The final day of #EuroTrip2013: Dublin airport edition

-Alexa & Abi

Days 13-17: Parisian Adventure

As you may have seen, these posts have taken a bit of time to get through – actually, a little too much time. We have decided to wrap up the final two stops of #EuroTrip2013 in two posts, Paris and Edinburgh, so we can move on and blog about present day. Without further ado: PARIS!

Like Dublin, Paris didn’t really live up to the hype. Not really sure why, maybe it was too touristy? Maybe we just had too much fun with Robby and Stefan in sunny Spain and we weren’t expecting Paris to be so rainy or cold. We both will probably visit again in the future, but it didn’t really do much for us. Without dwelling on that, let’s move on to the things that made the longest leg of our trip worth it.

The sights
Duh. The one thing Paris was not short of was beautiful places.
Eiffel Tower sunset
Eiffel Tower at night
View from Eiffel Tower 1
View from Eiffel Tower 2

The Pantheon, located conveniently just blocks away from our hostel!

The Pantheon, located conveniently just blocks away from our hostel!


Luxembourg Gardens. It's a park so you know we went here a lot

Luxembourg Gardens. It’s a park so you know we went here a lot


Scare Coeur from a distance

Scare Coeur from a distance


The Louvre looked pretty cool from the outside. Don't ask us about inside though ;)

The Louvre looked pretty cool from the outside. Don’t ask us about inside though 😉


Seine at sunset

Seine at sunset

The people
Since we stayed in Paris for 5 days, we were really able to meet and hang out with the people in our hostel for an extended period of time.
Evan, a fashion design student in Ohio, was staying in Paris for 2 weeks and was our wine, bread, and cheese buddy.
DSC02970
We also made friends with Abi’s hostel roommate Charlotte, a rare German/New Zealand mix who took a hike up the Eiffel Tower with us (birds not included in the price of admission…but that’s probably a good thing).
Tower birds

Other than hostel people, Alexa kept pulling acquaintances & friends out of left field so we were never left without a fresh face to show us around the city. Annika, an au pair living in Paris for 2 years who Alexa met on a short trip to Portugal last summer, was our favorite tour guide. Seriously, everywhere she took us was so cool. And she let us grill her about the intricacies of being an au pair, which we found insanely interesting.

DSC02943

DSC02944

Yohan, the roommate of the Chilean Javiers while they were studying in Pittsburgh, treated us to drinks and crepes one evening and discussed the differences between French and American work culture (which would you prefer: 12 hour works days with 7 weeks time off, or the typical American work schedule?)
Crepes!

Yohan and a glimpse of crepe man!

Yohan and a glimpse of crepe man!

Crepe man. He made fun of the way Abi kept repeating the French pronounciations of Nutella and banana and called us “the Americans” in a loving way. AND he remembered us the next day as we walked by his crepe shop. Made our day.

Make crepe magic

Making crepe magic

The food
Speaking of crepes, Paris definitely gave Spain a run for it’s money when it comes to delicious food. Paninis were so conveniently delicious. Gelato may have been our dessert of choice…multiple times a day. Macarons, obviously. And you haven’t had hot chocolate until you’ve had Angelina’s.
Gelato
Angelina 1
Angelina 2
Pierre Herme macaroons

Overall, five days was a pretty decent amount of time to spend in Paris. We learned that reaching out to the random people you know living somewhere can really make the difference in whether you enjoy a trip or not, even if you’ve only met some of them once. Chances are they’d love to play tour guide for a few hours 🙂

Last stop: Edinburgh!

-Abi & Alexa

Day 12: Sevilla – Adios, España.

If you couldn’t interpret from the last few pictures of our previous Spain post, we decided to have a night out in Sevilla! Because it’s a smaller city, there are a few choice areas that people tend to congregate, one of them being Calle Alfalfa (we LOLed, too), which is where we went.

That being said, our next day started a little later than usual. When in Spain, do as the Spaniards do and stay out super late so you can sleep half the day away, right?! Right. We woke up in juuust enough time for a feast in the forest, though!

Best seat in the house

Best seat in the house

Honestly, some of our best meals have been when we grabbed a bunch of cheap stuff at a grocery store (the bread, cheese, & chocolate combo works best) and taken it to a nice place outside.

DSC02864

Robby took us to Sevilla’s version of Plaza de España, where we feasted and explored Parque María Luísa.

DSC02863

DSC02866

It was weird because we were IN the city but completely surrounded by greenery, and yet… we kept hearing “Try” by Pink ? We followed our ears out to the open to discover that some sort of Italian conference thing was about to go down because there were fancy tables and lights everywhere. What happened to our invite, huh? We got shooed away from creeping on the festivities but managed to take in the crazy architecture and tile work all around us.

DSC02852

DSC02851

DSC02855

After making a quick stop at Robby’s mamá‘s house to give her keys back and say gracias and hasta luego, we took a gander at the bullfighting ring. Not during a fight! Alexa would probably cry/vomit on the spot. It was a pretty cool little structure.

DSC02869

Some of the posters for the fighting seasons were a little much, though.

DSC02870

It got to be so hot that we were all melting, so we unabashedly grabbed some Ben & Jerry’s (oh yeah, it’s there) and took it to our air conditioned living room to cool down a bit. The boys meandered off to watch a soccer game while we took in the last moments we had of NOT being in a hostel. The whole Spain part of our trip felt like studying abroad again – probably because all four of us have done that and kind of automatically settled into it – and we didn’t want to go back to the check-ins and baggage rooms and tour planning and anonymity. Basically, if over 2 years of blog posts haven’t clued you in: WE REALLY LIKE STUDYING/LIVING ABROAD.

DSC02872

Bye, Sevilla rooftop

Can’t knock Paris, though! Let’s get on to that…

– Alexa & Abi

Day 11: Sevilla – An Unwanted Visitor

The day started our just as any normal day in sunny Sevilla would. Robby and Stefan headed out before us girls and we all agreed to meet up at 12:30 to go shopping. We were finishing doing our laundry when Alexa comes running out of the bathroom screaming, “THERE’S A BIRD IN THE SHOWER. OH MY GOD! THERE’S A BIRD IN THE SHOWER!” Turns out, a bird flew through the tiny open window in our bathroom and was flopping around in the shower (seriously, Spain, get your act together, and invest in some screens…) After a few feeble attempts to get into the bathroom (avoiding the bird) and open the window a little further in the hopes of tempting the bird to fly out on its own, we had to give up. We could barely take a step in there without the bird flapping around, which would lead to us running away screaming. No judging! YOU try it!

Evil bird

So, leaving the bird in the shower, we set off in search for the boys, who we weren’t supposed to find for another 45 minutes. We checked every Zara and H&M on the main drag, but the boys were less predictable than we thought. We decided to camp out at our designated meeting spot and wait for them to show up. Why not take some pics of Sevilla while waiting, eh?
Sevilla 1Sevilla 2

The boys turned up and we headed back to the apartment and started Operation: Get The Bird Out Of Our Bathroom. Stefan and Abi tried many different approaches, but after about 30 minutes we opted for 1. Throw towel on bird. 2. Cover with trash can. 3. Slide cutting board underneath. 4. Go to patio and release bird back into the wild, never to be seen again.
Scoop the bird

Optional step: hide from the bird

Optional step: hide from the bird


Transport the bird
RELEASE THE BIRD!!

What we didn’t account for was that the bird may actually FLY BACK INTO THE APARTMENT. Alexa recorded the traumatic experience for your viewing pleasure.

We may or may not have each watched this video 100+ times. It never gets old! (Note from Abi: Yes, those are my terrified screams in the background because I was trapped in the hallway with the bird; Alexa and Robby are evil and locked me out of the apartment. They’re the greatest friends ever.)

The bird finally flew out where it belongs and the bathroom window was locked for the remainder of the trip.

We did some other things that day, but they were dull in comparison to this whole ordeal. Even so, post-bird trauma went something like this:

DSC02799

DSC02802

DSC02806

DSC02817

DSC02818

DSC02821

DSC02830

DSC02845

– Abi & Alexa

Day 10: Madrid & Sevilla – Views Galore

You know a day that begins with your friends lounging in hostel beds chatting about old Nickelodeon shows is going to be a good day. And a good day it was.

Way Hostel street

Robby and Stefan caught an earlier train than us to Sevilla, so we had the morning for Alexa to play tour guide around Madrid. We grabbed a metro and set off in search of Templo de Debod.

The road wasn't so easy.

The road wasn’t so easy.

True to our style, we got just a teensy bit lost and sumbled upon the Rosaleda de Madrid.
Rosaleda 1
Rosaleda 2
Rosaleda 3
Rosaleda 4
Rosaleda 5

We seriously don’t know how our wrong turns always seem to end up in the best places… After exploring the rose gardens, we backtracked and found what we actually came across the city for: Templo de Debod and it’s amazing views.
Templo de Debod 3Templo de Debod 1
View from Templo de Debod
Palace view from Templo de Debod
Templo de Debod feet pic

We stopped back at the hostel to grab our bags (and say goodbye to the wonderful Argentinian who ran the front desk), then we were off to Sevilla!
View from train

Train > Ryanair

Train > RyanAir

We got into Sevilla around 6pm, trudged across town with our lives on our backs then met back up with Robby and Stefan at our amazing AirBnB-supplied apartment!

Can't complain :)

Can’t complain 🙂

The boys had got there a few hours earlier and had already made a grocery store run to grab mojito mixers. Couldn’t have asked for better travel companions.

DSC02784

Mojitos + laundry. A winning combination

Mojitos + laundry. A winning combination

We let Robby play tour guide (he studied abroad in Sevilla while we were stumbling around Argentina) and took a spin around town at night.

DSC02788
DSC03772
DSC03775

Never knew our eyes could handle so much pretty in one day.

– Abi & Alexa

Day 9: Madrid – Tour Ditching 101

Step 1: Don’t expect tours in Madrid to start on time. Go shopping while you wait!

Spain had some of the best shopping out of our entire trip – a Zara and H&M on every corner, as well as some awesome (cheap!) Spanish shops, like Pull and Bear and Lefties. (Secret lesson within a lesson: bring clothes on your Euro trip that you don’t have too much of an emotional attachment to. This way you can throw away those shirts from Gap you’ve had for years and pick up some fancy European clothes OoOoh! Or, take the Abi Approach and just wear any clothes that can’t fit into your bag on any flights and voila, you keep your clothes.)

Put your happy tour faces on!

Put your happy tour faces on!

Step 2: Stay in tour only for one or two anecdotes, then bail! Our favorite method – tour guide walks right, you walk left. Foolproof.

Yeah, that story about Isabel II was pretty interesting, but one was enough.

Some cool sights we did see while on tour:

Views around the Palace
DSC02760
Royal Palace

SIBlings in front of the Palace

Almudena Cathedral

Step 3: Find better things to do. For example:

Eat kebaps in front of a Palace.

Lomogram_2013-05-09_04-47-03-PM

Go to 100 Montaditos (again), and sip tinto outside of the Royal Theater.

Lomogram_2013-05-09_05-14-17-PM

Hacky sack with some locals.

DSC02766

Crash a fashion university’s party and get free alcohol.

Pardon the crappy photos from the Absolut Citron gala. We were in "be cool, be cool!" mode

Pardon the crappy photos from the Absolut Citron gala. We were in “be cool, be cool!” mode


Lomogram_2013-05-09_08-13-57-PM

Lesson’s over! Now celebrate. Dance like idiots in a club and eat churros with chocolate.

Lomogram_2013-05-10_05-03-07-AM

You’re welcome.

– Abi & Alexa

Day 8: Madrid – Tapas, tapas, tapas, repeat.

4:30am in London is definitely a sight to see. We were driven through the rain past an eerily dark Hyde Park by our super nice, Russian mobster taxi driver who was mysteriously really cool. We don’t know why he was so cool, since we barely talked to him, but he was one of those people that you you see and think, oh yeah, you’ve probably killed someone with your bare hands, but then that weirdly makes you feel very safe with him driving you around in the middle of the night.

Well, that was a weird tangent. Anyways… we got to London-Stansted (aka Not-in-London-Stansted) about an hour later, surviving one of the sketchiest bus rides ever. #YOLO, right? After waiting in some long lines and squishing our purses into our backpacks for the evil that is RyanAir law, we were off to Madrid!!

Our plan was to meet up with our BFF Robby and his high school friend, Stefan, at our hostel, but not until after Alexa got that weird feeling you get when you go back to a place for the first time after you lived there for a summer. All it takes is the metro lady telling you what the next stop is, and it all comes flooding back. Watch out.

A few stops later, and we arrived at one of our favorite hostels of the trip: Way Hostel! It’s in great location, right near Puerta del Sol, so we were easily able to shop, eat, and drink close to home *thumbs up!* Oh, and one of the receptionists was an Argentine, so that may or may not have boosted our opinion a bit.

After a heartwarming reunion with Robby in the hostel lobby (LOL, rhymes), we headed out for some lunch. We found the perfect spot to enjoy the first of many tapas-filled meals, almost always including: croquetas ((our) English translation: nug ballz), tortilla de patata, queso manchego, patatas bravas, and SANGRIA (you all know that one).

DSC02749

Streets in Spain

Look! Alpargatas in Spain!
Alpargatas in Spain!

Filled with tapas and sangria, we walked to the Atocha train station where the WORLD’S LARGEST FAMILY OF TURTLES LIVED. It was disgusting. Picture this rock times a million and you’ll have a sense of how many turtles were in this place.

Too many turtles

A quick nap later (stop judging – WE WERE IN SPAIN!), and we were off to the infamous bear statue in Puerta del Sol to meet up with one of Alexa’s friends from last summer, Jimmy. Jimmy was running Spanish-ly late, so we watched the plaza come alive with people at dusk. It’s definitely true that Spain during the day and at night are completely different.

This is our tourist pose

This is our tourist pose

We all walked over to El Tigre, which is a tapas haven: order drinks and they bring you food. LOTS of food. Needless to say, Alexa knew what she was doing by taking us there.

The Spain family with Jimmy

The Spain family with Jimmy

After being completely stuffed for the second time that day, we wandered around Mercado de San Miguel, which is a big fancy schmancy market that is a highly suggested stop for anyone visiting Madrid. It’s chock full o’ ham, cheese, wine, and a wide array of other goodies that will make you drool. If you hadn’t guessed, Spain’s big on food. In true college kid fashion, however, Robby remembered that it was Wednesday, which in Spain means Euromanía at 100 Montaditos! Which, translated to American understanding, means we could get more drinks for only 1 euro each! Decision: made.

Following that flurry of excitement, we wandered through Plaza Mayor to look at all the silly vendors throwing light up toys into the air and whistling at the passerby. Then, we managed to check off a Madrid tourism bucket list item that Alexa never got to the first time around – standing on THE central point of the city, from which all things are measured.

Engage: tourist mode!
Kilometre zero in Madrid

That’s about when our 4:30am wake-up (and all the food and drinks) kicked in, and we strolled home to drift off to sleep like happy little Spanish cherubs.

– Abi & Alexa