About Me

Alabama, United States
Originally this blog was just a journal of my year studying abroad in England, but now its just my life. I can't seem to sit still so most of it is travel related, but who knows where it will go from here. Don't be fooled by the name. I LOVE to travel, I'm just not always merry.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Bit of Advice

Well I have learned a few tips from studying abroad and travelling so I thought I would share them.

Tips for Studying Abroad:
-research the area because you will be living there
-explore your town/city
-join a club or some sort of activity, basically get involved in your community
-don't burn yourself out by trying to go somewhere every weekend
-remember that whatever you buy you have to get home somehow
-meet locals or people who go to the university full time
-keep a financial journal
-set aside alone time
-have fun

Tips for Travelling:
-pick good travel buddies
-always have a plan b or c or d
-don't be too uptight, sometimes you miss trains
-eat local food, but cook most of your meals yourself to save money
-check the free shelf in hostel kitchens
-don't spend all your time on a computer
-do what you enjoy doing, not what you think you should be doing
-have restful days
-keep a financial journal
-really consider what clothes you are bringing, you don't need as much as you think you do
-go on free tours (you tip at the end, but its still cheaper and all the ones I have been on were fantastic)
-sending postcards to people is cooler than getting them stupid souvenirs
-ask people staying in the hostel for advice about what to do and where to go
-take more pictures of people than things and places
-keep a travel journal or blog 'cause otherwise you will forget the details

Hope it helps!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Our Final Days

Well our final day in Madrid finally came. We ended up hanging out with 2 of Ally's friends that she met while studying in Italy. We walked to this gorgeous park and they even treated us to dinner 'cause we didn't have much money left. It was no kebab but it was very nice of them to do that for us. I think Ally was really thrilled to see them and they both seemed nice enough. It was just weird that it was our final day.

A night of packing, a subway trip to the airport, and then a flight to Miami. We had a 7 hour layover there but thankfully Ally's boyfriend rescued us. He took us to get Cuban food and to see the beach. So much better than sitting in the airport. And then another quick flight and I was back at home eating Chinese food and watching The Newsroom.

I still haven't gotten it through my head that I am not going to Bradford, but I have so much to do here in preparation for this school year. Hopefully it won't be too long until I am travelling again and I can see my friends.

But for now I am a homebody. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

San Fermin 2013 (Pamplona)

As we headed to the bus station we ran into the Australian couple (DJ & Allie) we had met in our hostel. They were headed to Pamplona on the same bus as us, but they looked much more prepared. They were all decked out in the gear so we ran to a store around the corner to do the same. Honestly it wasn't a bad deal and now I have souvenirs.
The bus only took about an hour and then we checked our stuff into the storage area in the bus station. We ended up losing track of DJ & Allie so we just decided to wander the streets and take it all in. So many people were out in the streets and were already drinking, or still drinking. We decided that we needed to catch up so Ally got a bottle of sangria and I got a jug of mojitos that was pretty disgusting. We sat and drank in the square and then enjoyed some traditional dancing that basically pushed us out of the main part of the square.

Unfortunately it was still early and we had to get through the whole night. While sometimes this is not a problem, I was just tired and it was a struggle. After roaming around again and hanging out we went back to the park next to the bus station and tried to get some sleep. Lets just say it didn't go well. I think Ally and Alex managed to get a bit of sleep, but I was awake the entire time. It was so cold and I just couldn't get warm. Also more than once some guy approached me and tried to get me to sleep with him. Basically I would open my eyes and some random dude would be bent down staring at me so it was a bit creepy.

Anyway the night slowly creeped on by and finally it was time to go to the stadium so we could get tickets for the bull fights and get in line for seats inside. We had decided not to run, although we kind of wanted to, because multiple people had told us that basically there was no way that we wouldn't get pulled out because we are girls. Also we just didn't know what to expect so we were a bit nervous. Anyway it is now officially on my bucket list to run with the bulls in Pamplona so I am going to have to go  back and at least try.

So we watched the run on a screen in the stadium and parts of it were pretty intense, but the best part came later. After all the runners made it into the arena and all of the bulls were taken out, people were just casually walking around and taking pictures. Little did they know that one by one the bulls would be re-released into the stadium. You should have seen how quickly some of them jumped or threw themselves over the walls. Sometimes you couldn't even see the bull because there was so many people in the stadium, but then you would see a pair of legs fly through the air and thats not normal. Apparently its also a thing to try and jump clean over the bull. Its like the people in the arena wanted to get hurt. Really the real danger came if you mistreated one of the bulls because then one of the locals in the stadium would beat the shit out of you. I saw one guy get kicked in the face, one get fiercely punched in the face, and another person was beating on guy so badly that someone came and had to pull him off. Of course what counts as "mistreating" the bulls isn't clear.

Ally even saw someone she went to Spring Hill with in the mass of people avoiding the bull and we saw DJ. We ended up leaving with him and Allie and a couple of friends they had made that night. We ended up going to a bar and celebrating the run 'cause a couple of them actually ran with the bulls. DJ said it was the best experience and he was so hyped up about it all.

Eventually the day came to an end, and we didn't get to see the bull fight 'cause we had to catch our train. I think I could go back and do it all more effectively, but we just didn't know what to expect. Still it was a blast and it definitely was an experience. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

San Sebastian

Well things did not go as smoothly as planned. The first thing we did was go to the wrong train station. Yep, there is more than one station in Madrid. We had to take a train from were we were to another station, and we even almost made our train. If we hadn't gone to the wrong platform we probably would have been able to get on our train, but we were not that lucky. Instead we had to spend about 4 hours in the station waiting on the next train.

No big deal really, but once we got to San Sebastian it took us about 1 1/2 hours to find our hostel. We were staying inside a park and the directions said follow the yellow arrows, but then the arrows disappeared and we had to find another way to get there. Thankfully, with some help from some really nice people, we made it. And all the grocery stores had closed by then so we were forced to order a pizza (no complaints on that one). Also Ally got to finally see one of her friends that she studied abroad with in Italy last year.

Since we got in so late we didn't get to explore the area until the next day. But it was beautiful once we got to see it. The beaches were all pretty crowded, but I just picked a spot on a wall near the bluffs and watched the waves roll in and crash against the rocks. Its definitely a place you could spend a bit of time in, but that afternoon we were off to Pamplona.

Saturday, July 6, 2013


Well one thing is for sure, Madrid is so much hotter than Barcelona. At times it seemed a bit unbearable. And for some reason we always found ourselves out and about during midday. I'm still impressed that I didn't get burned.

But starting from the beginning...

As soon as we got to Madrid we had to spend four long hours in the station waiting for our turn to buy tickets to San Sebastian and then from Pamplona back to Madrid. For some reason you cant use your Eurail pass to reserve seats online in Spain. Despite the wait we did eventually get our tickets and man was it a load off our shoulders. All of our transportation for the rest of the trip was taken care of. But we were beat when we got to our hostel. Basically all that we could manage to do was run out and grab some groceries and then eat.

The next day we headed out to explore and walked around El Sol and then to the temple. It was so hot, and since we had no plans we chilled at the park. I think we both even managed to fall asleep for at least a few minutes. For a portion of our lounging about we even got to listen to some guy play the guitar. I am pretty sure we saw some other noteworthy landmarks, but the heat completely erased all memory of them.

To see Madrid a bit more efficiently, we did another free walking tour which started at Plaza Mayor. Turns out below the plaza is where the torture chambers for the Spanish Inquisition were, but now it is just a carpark. Also Madrid had its own Robin Hood who really liked the ladies. We got to see the old city walls and the opera house and some other old stuff. Oh, another fun fact: The oldest restaurant is in Madrid. It has a Guinness World Record plaque and everything. Then we got a shot of this liquor that is only made in Madrid and it is served in a chocolate shot glass. A CHOCOLATE SHOT GLASS! In my opinion that should be the only kind of shot. The bar we went to was right off Plaza Mayor and also off the plaza is a lovely market with tons of tapas. I got this lovely squid one, but stupidly I only got one. Do not make the same mistake I did.

The next day we just rested up for Pamplona and enjoyed some churros. We were both a bit apprehensive about San Fermin so we didn't want to tire ourselves out. That night however, on our way to drop off our bags with someone Ally goes to school with, we ran into the Mrs. Pride pageant and had to weave through a mass of people enjoying the celebration. Everyone was in such a good mood and and so spirited, but the place smelled like piss.

So while Madrid does have its places to see and things to do, I personally prefer Barcelona. Then again, maybe it was just that it was way too hot.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


After a mad dash to the airport (well not really that mad, but still) we flew to Barcelona and began the Spanish leg of our European tour. We even managed to make a friend immediately after exiting the metro station. This sweet man asked us how to get to La Sagrada Familia but all we could was tell him that he was close. He ended up chatting with us and giving us his hostel info and email. Too sweet. It was a bit off putting. After that we got to our hostel despite the fact that a police officer told us that it was in the opposite direction. And as soon as we went out to wander around, we ran into our new friend again. So much for never seeing him again.

Also that day the Supreme Court ruled on DOMA/Prop 8 so we headed out to get a celebratory drink with this girl from our hostel. Unfortunately the drinks didn't happen, but we did get to see the beach at night and enjoy a spectacular moon. 

The next day was our beach day and we had been looking forward to it for a long ass time. We had a bit of trouble getting there, but no one else did 'cause it was packed. The beach was full of people, but we wormed our way in. Oh, and I didn't get sunburned! 
We also "snuck in" to the W Hotel and wandered around a bit. We even stole fruit from a tray that someone had placed outside of their door. I mean who gets rid of perfectly good fruit?! We also stole a napkin and an apple just 'cause we could. Guess we didn't get it out of our systems in Venice. 

After our beach day we actually saw some of the sights. We explored La Sagrada Familia (buy your tickets in advance) and I ran into a girl I went to high school with. It was pretty weird. I mean I don't even run into high school people back home, but somehow I managed to do it in Barcelona. At least it was someone I like. So definitely go to La Sagrada Familia. Technically it isn't completed yet, but it looks like a giant sand drip castle. It's pretty bizarre. Then we explored the city on a Sandleman's free walking tour and like always it was amazing. Turns out all of the sand on the beach was brought in from Egypt before the 1992 Olympics. Also bull fighting has recently become illegal in the area. 
And to celebrate our fabulously productive day we had a romantic picnic next to the harbor, but with paella instead of currywurst.

Saturday was just as busy. We went on this free biking tour of Gaudi's works (bike rentals were 5 euros) and had a blast. It was a lot less stressful than biking in Amsterdam and this time we didn't really have to worry about where we were going. And no one got hit by a car. Also our tour guide, Rudy, kind of looked like Gaudi and was a really cool guy. Definitely do this and at the end they give you cheap beer and sangria. Then to celebrate your not dying, hangout on the beach and watch the sailboats or go to the market on Las Ramblas and get some fruit or do both.

On our free walking tour our guide told us about some traditional Catalonian dancing that takes place early Sunday mornings (like 11:00) next to Picasso's public mural so we had to check that out. It was definitely worth it. There is a band and a huge crowd and a bunch of circles of older people doing this specific dance. It looks beautiful and they all seemed to be having a blast. Then to spice things up a bit we watched some break dancers and I accepted the fact that I will never be able to do that. Rats! 
Once the dancing had ended we walked through winding streets and unfortunately got followed by a drunken man. We even had to pop into a store to get away and when that didn't work the store owner helped us out. Thank goodness for her. Oh, and then we went to the beach again.

Originally we were supposed to leave on Monday, but we were just having too much fun so we extended our stay by a day and went hiking at Monserrat. It is beautiful up there and if you climb all the way to the top of the mountain (after taking the train and the tram) then you get a 360 degree view of Barcelona and the surrounding area. It's a steep hike but it didn't take us long. But after that we were wiped and we had to stand the entire train ride back because it was so full. My poor legs.

Basically I love Barcelona, but it's only the beginning of Spain for us.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Waffles & Chocolate

Basically that's all I had in mind for Brussels besides the fact that it is pretty and near Brugge. Clearly I had not done my research. 

When we finally made it here (a train may have been missed) we made friends with three Canadian guys in our hostel. I am pretty sure their names were Ethan, Josh, and Jackie, but I am not very good with names so who knows. We ended up going out and exploring the city with them that night. It was beautiful. At night all the buildings in the square are lit up, but down lie down to get a better view because the cops are not a fan of that.

We stayed out pretty late so we decided to just rest the next day, but the unbelievable happened. I was chatting with my friendsRachel and Elizabeth on Facebook and it turned out that Rachel had just checked into the hostel I was at. We were both in Brussels!  Of course I freaked out and ran to her room. We ended up to being able to hang out that much, but I thought I wasn't going to get to see her until August so this was an amazing surprise. Talk about timing.

The next day we actually ventured out and just wandered around Brussels. We even got a Belgian waffle with Belgian chocolate on it. My brother warned me against it and he was so right. Don't get me wrong, it was delicious, but I ended up with it all over me and it was just too sweet. But when you pass by those waffle stands it is hard to refuse. We also managed to see the statue of the peeing boy (there are replicas of it EVERYWHERE!), and we saw a bunch of gorgeous parks and government buildings. We even made into another cathedral. That night we were going to go to Delirium because multiple people had recommended it to us, but we had some issues printing off our boarding pass for Barcelona so we didn't make it out. Upside: Spain is basically planned. We have all of our dates and a place to stay booked in Barcelona and San Sebastián.

That morning I woke up at what felt like the butt crack of dawn but was really only 8:00 and said goodbye to Rachel 'cause she was off to Paris. Then we headed to Brugge. It was so adorable and beautiful. Really all that you need to do is wander the streets. You pass by beautiful homes and churches and even windmills. Somehow we made it to the main square and I must say that the area looks a bit different than it did in In Brugge but that could be due to my poor memory or the fact that we weren't there at night. We found this small little park between two windmills and next to a river so we decided to hang out there for a bit. I ended up watching these people play some kind of lawn game that looked like a lot of fun and shouldn't be too difficult for me to recreate. It must be a thing 'cause I saw two other groups playing the same game. Also I bought some fabric to add to my ever expanding collection. Oh, and I got chips with curry ketchup...that should definitely be a thing in the states. 

And now we are off to Barcelona. Two more weeks and then home, and although I love to travel, home is sounding really good right now.