Dublin + Barcelona: Cuid/Parte 3

A little note on hostel breakfasts: Yes, it’s nice when your hostel claims they can offer you free breakfast each morning, but know that because it’s included, it will probably consist of white bread and a pitiful selection of spreads. After reading my journal entry about that heavenly Irish Breakfast, I’d like to share how both of my Dublin and Barcelona hostel breakfasts compared to that one-of-a-kind feast.

My white bread pb&j had about 0.5% the soul of my last meal.

You’ve been warned.


Somewhere along the way between turning down a trip to the “must do” Guinness factory and excusing myself from a pricey ticket inside the “unmissable” Casa Mila, I realized that I have to travel for myself. Of course I’ll have to weather the disappointing looks when I tell people I didn’t do X and went shopping instead, but that’s how it goes. For some reason in Barcelona I got caught up in seeing all the academicky, artsy stuff and prioritizing that above pleasurable things like wandering around the El Born neighborhood. When it clicked that, to me, those activities held equal importance and that that was okay, I felt free. Like everyone says, you can’t travel somewhere with limited time and financial budget and do it all. You must believe you’ll be back or else you’ll go crazy. So that’s what I’m doing.

cliche travel photo shot

cliche travel photo shot. Choosing to explore the plentiful art, clothing, camera, and altogether fascinating shops in El Born instead of seeking out more Gaudi out of feelings of obligation

So, if we’re still talking about negative psychology of travel, I’ll mention that for the better half of my first day in Barcelona, I wasn’t completely happy because of all the pressure I felt to ENJOY. SO many people had told me I’d adore it, and while that’s a good thing, it’s also proof that the city is wonderful and if I don’t find that magic then I didn’t do it right and wasted all that money. Yeah, my head isn’t always the most cheerful place to be. But rest assured, I most certainly did find its magic. I think it first hit me at the Casa Ballto. Gaudi’s genius left me simply flabbergasted.

Hold your horses! We’ll get there in a moment.

I started off with a disappointing walking tour that I left in the middle of, preferring to seek out a cafe other than the affiliated one the company herds everyone into. Summoned some Spanish from the depths, which I thought it’d fallen into eternally, and ordered a sauteed zucchini tapa and fresca sandwich with tomato, brie, and avocado. Now, that type of sandwich doesn’t merit much interest off the bat. But what made it so special is that upon my first bite I thought of citrus and intensely fruity flavors: the tomato had obviously been grown in a more natural place and WOW were the results noticeable! Yes, the tomato actually tasted like a fruit!

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Went for a stroll along the Ramblas, a pretty paved walkway mostly for tourists and pickpockets. I guarded my purse like a mother hen. After going the exact wrong direction, I turned around and found my foodie destination: La Boqueria! A big organized market where the front shops cater to tourists and the back ones have chicken feet and pig snouts on display. You know where I made a beeline. (Also FYI the juices in the back were 1/3 the price of the front ones)

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Stopped by the whitewashed and striking contemporary art museum of Barcelona, MACBA. It was closed but still very lively with a gaggle of skaters taking advantage of the geometrical platforms around it.

DSCN1187Strolled down the street and found an art exhibit at the university. Wasn’t too into it but turned it into a fantastic nap-and-rally site! There were various installations all honoring/connected to a German writer named Sebald and one was a long movie with large portions of soothing classical music flowing through it. So, I plopped down in the movie theatre-like seat and enjoyed a very needed siesta.

Next stop: Casa Ballto. AMAZING AMAZING AMAZING.

caught between wonder, happiness, and shock

Amazing.

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After gazing at the Casa Mila, I found a fun tapas place for dinner. Partook in some braised artichoke hearts, steak tartare, and calamari with a glass of Catalan cava. Called it a night and went home to prepare for my next huge day.

Casa Mila

Casa Mila

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enamored with tapas


Leave for home tomorrow! So I’ll probably post my last trip post in a couple days. So long, London!

What, you thought I was travelling by airplane? Of course not! TARDIS is the only way to go!

What, you thought I was travelling by airplane? Of course not! TARDIS is the only way to go!

Prague & Amsterdam: Part Three (last one!)

I’m going on a one-day trip to Venice Wednesday and wanna write a post about my mom’s lovely visit here this past weekend so I’m aiming to write about Amsterdam today, my mom tomorrow, and Venice after I get back after Thursday. Marathon blogging starts NOW!

So, Amsterdam. You are a cool city, for sure. Your government and social structure is very enviable, your insanely coordinated multitasking bikers impressive, and your canals a pretty sight. But compared to Prague, I’m sorry to inform you that according to a recent trio of travellers, you didn’t measure up. Why? Well, for one, your weather was dastardly and it felt like you wanted us out. Yes, you provided us with a one-of-a-kind tour guide replete with history and free cheese, but a surprising number of your residents made us feel unwelcome thanks to various rude and obnoxious interactions. It’s funny you say that you love us, because we didn’t really feel is too much. Maybe the winter wasn’t the right time to visit. I’d love to return to see your tulips blooming all over your country another time. Maybe then I’ll change my decision on you, but until then, Prague was much better.

Eh don't be so aloof then, Amsterdam!

Then don’t be so aloof, Amsterdam!

The night we arrived, we diligently (and arguably maddeningly) made a two day itinerary that covered tons of attractions: Museumplein (Van Gogh and Stedelijk (modern art) museums), the Albert Cuypmarket, Anne Frank House, flower market, sexmuseum (this is Amsterdam, home of the–>), Red Light District, Jordaan neighborhood, canal ride, walking tour… so much!!

The food: Pretty good. From what I saw, Amsterdam didn’t push as much of a uniquely regional cuisine than did Prague. I tried stroopwafel, a chocolate/caramel/cookie sort of concoction that was yummy and almost overdosed on gouda cheese. Expecting three euro to fetch me a sliver similar to that from London’s Neal’s Yard Dairy stilton I’d enjoyed previously, I was shocked when I was handed enough cheese to last a baguette-and-cheese tourist half a week!

If you’ve ever even heard of my existence, you probably know of my intense appreciation for food (consisting of both flavor and the biological side), so here is a market slideshow!

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As I said above, the weather wasn’t very nice. Worse than London, even. But the architecture aided our eyes, especially the curious sights of leaning buildings and tiny houses!

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MINISCULE house! Back in the day, owners were taxed according to how many windows they possessed, so this house is a cheeky response to the taxman.

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EVERYBODY BIKES! If I return, I’d like to take a cycling tour of the city.

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Such a hopeless houseboat romantic. Wouldn’t that be a good prompt for a movie?

DSC01450Our hostel was positively adequate. We were given beds, heat, safety, and a one-minute walk to Dam Square, the historic and current center of Amsterdam. There was one bathroom for eight people and no common room. I, the hotel booker, didn’t actually realize this until a week before we left but it was also situated in the Red Light District! Ha ha! Turns out this area is one of the safest places in the city because it’s so heavily policed. We strolled around one night, taking in the sight of women selling themselves in the windows. In the canal swum waterfowl that, as my friends said, must’ve wondered why our species was so obsessed with sex while they handled it without much fuss.

Can’t finish this post without a shoutout to THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (a major part of this movie relates to Amsterdam)

(only click this link if you know the end because it’s is a SPOILER joke)

and now I can’t end without showing you all more from a great well of laughter: Remix and autotune videos!!! AAA SO GOOD k done. (jk never done with these)

The Anne Frank House was phenomenal.  This was the actual house where the family hid for two years, outfitted as a living museum. Absolutely incredible.

Here are some last photos:

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Prague + Amsterdam: Part One

“You win some, you lose a lot.”

That quote is a gem of miss Erica, one of my lovely tripmates. It’s not meant to be taken too heavily- just a way of humourously validating that travel can lead to situations involving unfortunate losses, like unpredictable ATM fees and astonishingly rude packs of college boys (>= 9) who think that an easyjet flight is a great excuse to plug up the aisles while drunk off of smuggled alcohol and upset everyone around them. But that’s not to say that obstacles always overpower the magic of travel! Indeed, we had a wonderful trip. Prague was definitely more fun than Amsterdam for some reasons I’ll list soon, but overall, Erica, Beth and I enjoyed the companies of each other and the cities we speed-dated over reading week.

I learned so much over the course of this one week trip. Lemme sum it up Buzzfeed-style:

4^01 Secrets All Twentysomethings Only Learn While Travelling Abroad

  1. Just like the title of this absurd list, be vigilant of advertisements and offers. For example, while walking around the Charles Bridge in Prague, we were inundated with at least 4 Thai massage shops advertising 9,99 euro massages. The next day we happily popped inside, our sore feet and knotted backs aching, only to discover that that rate applied for 2 hours in the morning for a 15 minute foot massage. Also, we knew this before, but worth noting that on our table once laid an unassuming bag of peanuts that cost money if you ate them. We made sure to always indicate tap water when ordering drinks.
  2. Even if you do feel ripped off at such massage place in Prague, GET ONE ANYWAY. Or, in the case of us, get two. That’s right. Prague was so inexpensive that it was completely worth it. I could justify our decision with mentions of birthdays and body aches and low prices and such but I won’t. Two massages in two days = YES.
  3. If you want time to shower and brush your teeth in a hostel room with eight people and one bathroom stall, you either sprint out of bed after your alarm clock wakes everybody up, or you go at a strange hour when no one is up. This is harder to accomplish, though, since the hostellers we met slept at all hours (more about that below: See N&R)
  4. Great strategy for experiencing the day sights and nightlife with limited energy and time: the Nap and Rally (N&R). This genius idea also originated with Erica. Basically, do stuff all day, slog back to your hostel around dinnertime, sleep like a log for an hour (Nap), and then use all of your newfound energy to wake yourself up and go out for another 6-8 hours at night (Rally). This may include a trip to an 80’s/90’s music video disco club with a fellow Chilean hosteller where you dance all night and absolutely do. your. thang.
Erica, me, Beth just after arriving in PRAGUE!

Erica, me, Beth just after arriving in PRAGUE!

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pre-departure excitement

Even though I strove to leave much of the cities in their physical locations and resist from trying to capture every detail in photographs (i.e. I *only* took 250 pics in 8 days), I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed by the task to tell you all about the trip in sufficient detail, so I’m gonna start with a slideshow of some pictures and will provide narratives in the next post(s?). Enjoy! (Alert to EVERYBODY who told me to take lots and lots of pictures: This is your moment!!)