After a long week of travel I was quite tired, but I wasn't going to let that stop me from seeing some more local sights. I have been trying to get to see a fútbol stadium near Liverpool for a few weeks now, but hadn't found the time, so I caught a train from Liverpool to Manchester. In Manchester I went to see the Old Tarrod stadium. This is where the Manchester United play all of their games. It was nice to be able to see their field and go through their museum. I had lunch at their cafe and walked through their arena.
After getting back to Liverpool I got some groceries and packed my bag for my first overnight school trip with my classroom of 4th graders! We are off to York for two days. I am excited to see how the field trip and museums are going to go with 50 ten year old kids!
After a long week of traveling we decided ending with a beach day would be a good idea. We walked with all of our luggage to the Olympic beach after checking out of the hostel. The Olympic beach was a very active beach we had heard a lot about. There were countless sand volleyball courts, fitness courses, and racquetball all on the beach. When we were there, they had a huge Marcat sand volleyball tournament going on. This was fun to watch, the crowd was going wild over each point! There were about 10 courts with matches going on, half girls and half guys. There were also plenty of people walking up and down the beach trying to sell you all kinds of things from dresses to drinks. The beach was so pretty and the water was really clear. I enjoyed this day of relaxing beach time.
There were some things about beaches in the states and Barcelona's beaches that were different. We didn't know until we walked up that Barcelona's beaches are nude beaches! This was quite a surprise, but we were also surprised that even though people were just in their birthday suits, it wasn't in a sexual way. It was normal and natural in their culture. Even the children were running around without swim suits on, playing in the water without a care. It was really surprising and different how open and accepting of each other they were.
After leaving the beach, we had to head to the airport; our time in Barcelona was coming to an end. Barcelona is the first city that I have completely loved. I will most definitely come back. I thoroughly enjoyed how different each of the regions of the city were. You had a beach, countryside, gothic region, china town, industrialized area, and so much more all within a 20 minute walk. The city had so much to offer. I would love to teach and live for a year or two in a city like this.
When we landed in Liverpool we were back to windy and cold! It was only 52 degrees outside and raining, a stark contrast to our day at the beach on the Mediterranean. We definitely weren't in Barcelona anymore! It was nice to unpack, do some laundry, and sleep in my own room!
Friday was our day of sight seeing in Barcelona. We started out by having breakfast on the balcony outside of our hostel on this GORGEOUS day. Not a cloud in the sky, and it was already in the 80's. From breakfast we were off to the gothic quarters! Barcelona was divided into 5 different quarters, each a completely different style.
In the gothic quarters was full of little shops and markets. We went to see the Sagrada Familia church! This church was amazing to look at, it was huge and stood out at the heart of the gothic quarter. From the church we went to a few different markets and got us some gelato. This was my first time having gelato and I had strawberry, it was so much better than ice cream!
From the gothic quarters we walked over to la rambla and went to two different markets la boqueria, and Elans Ecant. These two places were fascinating! Full of culture and somewhere off the path that was full of locals. They were packed full of people and fresh food. This was my favorite place in Barcelona, I feel like I learned so much about their culture and tried their local food!
From La Rambla we walked through the Arc De Triomf on our way to park güell. This park was decorated with different pieces of his artwork! We also got to walk through his house, it was all so pretty and colorful. The way the light reflected off all the glass looked so pretty, I enjoyed being able see all of the artwork and hike through his park enjoying our time!
After park güell we went to Futbol Club Barcelona where I walked through the arena! I loved being able to see the arena for myself. Walking in the footsteps of Messi. I picked up a postcard of him to hang up in my room to remember this wonderful day! After our tour we went to clean up for our dinner.
We went to dinner across the street from Font Màgica De Montjuic. We had Tapas and Flan for dinner, two Spanish classics! The fountain was a beautiful sight to go with our dinner. At the fountain there was also a HUGE festival going on for the fútbol game for Athletic club vs. Barcelona Saturday! There were three stages with live music and thousands of people. We spent the night here enjoying the festival and socializing with locals. We got lucky stumbling into such an amazing festival and really enjoyed ourselves!
After our very long 15 hour bus ride, we arrived in Barcelona around 2PM. After checking into our hostel, we headed for monistrol de Montserrat. This is a mountain about an hour train ride outside of Barcelona. On this mountain there are several different monasteries. Honestly, looking back, we didn't do enough research into this hike, but it was an adventure! We took a ski lift over the valley to get us to the mountain where the monasteries are located on.
From the top of the mountain you could see Barcelona and even the ocean. It was breath taking. On the top of the mountain there were several different monasteries that you could hike around to! Unfortunately by the time we got to the top of the mountain we only had time to visit one of them.
Inside the monastery were chandeliers from all the big family churches in Barcelona. Each generation of a family with a cathedral in Barcelona has their own chandelier in Barcelona. When it's time for the next generations to go up they take down the old one and put it up in this monastery. There were chandeliers dating back to the 14th century in this monastery!
Inside this monastery there were also several famous family members of the Barcelona church buried within the church. We also saw several monks that were at the monastery. This was the first time I have ever seen a monk in person. There were various workers in the monastery that explained what the various monks were doing in each monastery. This was interesting to learn about and see it all in person.
When taking our train ride up to the 3rd highest mountain in all of Spain I couldn't help but think why did they choose to put monasteries so far away and out of of the city. When we got there we learned that monasteries are generally on top mountains so that they are closer to God. When there is monasteries there are generally a few located on top of that mountain. This was a first time for me visiting a monetary and I was fascinated when learning about all about it!
We caught the trolley back down to the train station and it was quite a journey! I am not a fan of heights whatsoever so taking a trolley strait up to one of the highest train stations was quite a fright! This trolley was shaking from the sting winds with a strait drop off the edge of this mountain! The view was so pretty, but I was more concerned about making it to the bottom!
Once we got back into Barcelona we got dinner at a grill outside of our hostel! The dinner was quite delicious, France and Spain most definitely have better food than the U.K. After our long day of travel and hiking around the mountain top we all went to bed having experienced a lot of new cultural experiences
It was an early 6am start after a late night at the Eiffle Tower. We were determined to go to the Louvre and beat the lines. We got there before it opened and got our spot at the front of the line. I was hesitant at first about going to the Louvre, overwhelmed by its size, wondering if we had enough time to see all the things we had listed, but we accomplished our goal! The Louvre was MASSIVE! We did get lost a few times, but that didn't stop us. We got to see the Mona Lisa, Nike, raft of the Medusa, Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss, Liberty Leading People, Venus de Milo, Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon, and THOUSANDS of other pieces of artwork along the way! Each room was bigger than a house filled with many pieces of artwork or statues. You could go there every day for a week and not be able to see it all. It was incredible to be able to see so much artwork under one roof! It's a must see for anyone who has time in Paris!
After spending all morning in the Louvre, we went to have a picnic at the Eiffel tower! We got fresh baguettes, fresh cheese, and fresh macaroons. We took some time to enjoy our last sights of the Eiffel Tower and watched some of the Roland Garros tennis going on! Fresh baguettes in Paris are delicious, and incredibly cheap.. about 50 cents! Paris also had delicious fresh croissants. We frequently went in to to get a snack at the bakery each time we passed one to try something new!
On our way to the picnic we went to one of the attractions I wanted to see in Paris, where Princess Diana passed away. This was an underpass that to this day is lined with flowers. On the walls of the underpass were wonderful things written about the impact she made and how she will not be forgotten. Even though this was right near the Eiffel Tower, it was a silent and peaceful place. People came to pay their respects. After attending Princess Diana's exhibit at the Cincinatti Museum last summer, it felt right to be able see where such a horrible tragedy occurred.
After our picnic at the Eiffel Tower, and relaxing listening to the live musicians on the lawn, we went to see the Sacrè-Coeur Cathedral on top of the highest hill in Paris. This was quite a hike up with several boutiques and shops on our way up. Inside the church was amazing stained glass work and an active prayer church. It was completely silent inside and their were nuns leading a prayer at the front. We sat down to watch and take it all in for at least 30 minutes before heading back outside. There were people inside talking about how far they've traveled just to visit this church. It was amazing what people went through to get there, and I was glad to be beside them.
When we went back outside we could see all of Paris, every monument, statue, and building we had hiked around to see. We sat outside and reflected on each person's favorite sight and all of the differences we had seen in Paris!
Reflecting on Paris, it was different from what I was expecting. To be honest, the locals were rather rude and didn't want to help with directions at all. French people came off to be very snooty and let it be known that they were better than others. Everyone was dressed in extremely high end clothing from head to toe. It definitely was not acceptable to be out in public in sweats or jeans. The women had on huge heels and would walk around like it was nothing; my feet hurt for them.
Once we got back from Sacrè-Coeur, it was time to start packing up and catch our 15 hour bus ride to Barcelona. Our trip to Paris had a lot shoved into two days and I feel like I could have spent at least a week here exploring more of the city, but until next time Paris!
Bonjour Pari! We arrived in Paris at 6 am, and after a few tries to figure out how the subway works we finally made it to our hostel, which is really nice. Shout out to my mom for the great find! The subway at 6 am was standing room only, so you can only imagine how crammed it got later in the day. After checking in, we listed out all of the things we wanted to see and/or do with our next two days in Paris!
We decided a hop-on-hop-off tour would be the best way to see everything in such little time. We took the subway to the arch. This arch represents France's version of the tomb of the unknown soldier. The detail and size of this arch was fascinating! When we arrived, they were doing their French version of a Memorial Day ceremony. This was so interesting to watch. From there, we continued down the avenue the Tour de France has finished on since 1975, the Champs Elysees. I know my dad would be jealous!
It doesn't take long in Paris to notice all of the CRAZY drivers! They have sides of the roads, but no division lines for the lanes, making road rage a very common occurrence.
We also went to see Grand Palais where Chanel puts on fashion shows every year. After this we went to Notre Dame, which was STUNNING! The stained glass was so pretty and the stone carvings outside were so detailed I couldn't believe it. I would recommend this stop for at least a few hours to anyone visiting Paris! It is also right near the Louvre, which I never knew was so large until I was walking by it. The museum took up an entire square block and was four stories tall. The size from the outside was overwhelming alone.. I don't doubt people can get lost in there very easily!
Some more beautiful stops along the way we're Musèe d'Orsay, Palais Garnier, Saintè Chapelle, Panthèon, concierge, point Neuf, national museum of modern art, and hôtel de ville! These are all wonderful sights to see, not to mention all of the things we passed along the way visiting these sights. Needless to say, it was a long day with a TON of walking!
We finally headed back to the hostel and went to change and shower! Jess and I decided at the last minute that we had to take everyone's advice and see the Eiffel Tower at midnight. No one would tell us why we had to go to see it at midnight, but simply said its Paris' best kept secret. We got there a few minutes early and got some crapes to enjoy while laying in the lawn with hundreds of other tourists. When the clock struck midnight . . . it was like a fairy tale! I don't want to spoil it for anyone else who would ever visit Paris, but WOW! This was the most beautiful sight I have seen so far. It honestly made my entire trip. In addition to the surprise, people were popping champagne, there was a proposal, . . . it was all so much to take in, but I could repeat that night forever.
One of the first things I found when looking up things to do in Amsterdam was countryside bike tours, and from that moment on I knew that was the one thing I wanted to do! Today was our bike tour day, and I could not contain my excitement! I knew Amsterdam was known for biking, but I never knew how much it relied on biking for transportation until I arrived there. Just to give you an idea there are more bikes thank people in Amsterdam! There are around 600,000 people if that give you an idea for how many bikes! One after another the streets were lined with bikes. Our tour guide told us that it's not uncommon for people to leave bikes in different places across town, or have a leisure and racing bike!
This might all sound really cool until you have to walk the streets of Amsterdam, and then it's frightening. Bike riders don't care if they hit you or not, and if you get in their way you can count of them screaming at you in Dutch about it. Amsterdam I would relate to being as busy as New York City. Not only were their vicious bike riders, but also taxi drivers, trams, and other cars all trying to get around leaving the pedestrians on their toes, looking both ways a few extra times to assure you're not about to get hit.
It was interesting to see that in Amsterdam the bikes had their completely own lane though everywhere you went. In the more rural areas it was not common to see a car driving either. In Amsterdam only 1 out of 8 people have a car. I don't think I could even name off 8 friends, let alone 8 adults, without a car. This is how much they rely on bike for their main transportation.
The bike ride lasted 4 hours. It took us through some really rural areas of the Netherlands. We even took a ferry over to an island, this was my favorite part! We got to see 1 of the only 6 operating windmills left in the Netherlands. On our way back we are at a local dinner on the docks and it was really tasty with a wonderful view on this sunny day! The villages we rode our bikes through were the same places Rembrandt did a lot of his artwork/ painting and I could definitely see why because of how gorgeous the scenery was! From there we took the ferry back to Amsterdam and ended our tour unfortunately. A bike ride tour is something I feel you have to do when visiting Amsterdam since that's how the locals get around it truly gives you the best tour experience of Amsterdam!
After our bike tour Jessica and I went back to Rembrandt square which was probably my favorite area in Amsterdam with all of the local music and also art work! We just laid in the grass and did some people watching while discussing how different The Netherlands is compared to the states. In Amsterdam prostitution, gay marriage, and pot are all legal. These things are very acceptable in their culture and people don't even look twice at it, this was what I enjoyed most about Amsterdam. Their culture was so unique and accepting of all differences and nationalities.
From Rembrandt square we went to the Netherlands head library, 8 stories tall with a dinner on top that had a wonderful view over Amsterdam, and also a WWII memorial. Our four days in Amsterdam went by so fast, but I thoroughly enjoyed it! Their culture is so completely different it is something that you could never explain until you experienced it yourself! We ended our time in Amsterdam with a Heineken, since that it is where it originated from while waiting for our overnight bus to Paris!
We had BEAUTIFUL weather on Sunday! We took advantage of this by going to several markets in the historical part of Amsterdam! These were full of old antiques that I feel truly say a lot about a city's history. I wish I had enough room in my suitcase to bring home all of the things I am finding! One of my favorite markets was in Rembrandt square. This square had a large memorial in the middle for the historical artist Rembrandt. Surrounding the monument were lots of artists painting and selling their gorgeous artwork.
After our third market we started heading to the Anne Frank house. It was amazing getting to see the house I have read so much about growing up. When you get to finally see what you have been learning so much about, you truly make a connection with the history that happened there I. We sat outside the house and ate our lunch on the Canal! It was so pretty outside, and a lot of boats were out on the canals. It was so nice to be able to relax and enjoy my time where so much history has happened!
After seeing the Anne Frank house, we all split up and I went back to a market with a friend. Jess and I found some great crafts and met some new friends. We later went to the docks and had dinner on the water at a nice restaurant with a gorgeous view!! Being on the water at sunset with the canals full of boats was such a relaxing and scenic dinner. We tried bitterballen and Dutch fries, both recommended by locals at this diner! The bitterballen was suprisingly delicious. It was like gravy deep fried, quite tasty! Apparently Dutch use peanut oil for their fries and there is a special sauce they put on top; the fries didn't taste much different ,although the sauce was yummy!
After dinner we went on a canal tour. The canal tour was an hour long and went through all the different canals in Amsterdam. We also learned some interesting things about the city. For example, if you have ever been to Amsterdam, you know the houses are narrow and the spiral stairs are steep! This means moving would be a pain, but instead they put levers at the top of every house so you can move things in and out through windows. Most of the houses had double-wide windows for this reason. We also went through one of the mail canals which was built to help with trading, but by the time it was complete, it was already too narrow for boats to pass through. The canals were packed wth boats on the holiday weekend and I was amazed how well the captain of the boat monikered through such tiny canals! We took the canal ride after dark and finally got to see the city after dark. It was so pretty to see it all lit up! We went back to the house after our canal ride and a long day of walking!
On Friday morning we called a taxi at 4 am to kick off our journey to Amsterdam! We were flying out of Liverpool and into Amsterdam. We will be spending our next four days traveling in Amsterdam. We are going to be staying with a host family through some connections. She has been extremely polite and helpful, giving us recommendations on where to eat, what to see, and making us breakfasts! I am so thankful she has been willing to help us all out and offer us a place to stay! She also has two high school kids who are thrilled to have Americans visiting!
After getting settled in we took the subway into downtown to get the lay of the land. Once we were in the heart of the city, we all got lunch. This is the first time we have had to overcome any language barriers, and it is difficult! We cannot read the menus, signs, and going grocery shopping was an interesting experience when you can't read the labels!
We had dinner down by the canal and figured out the hard way that there is no free water in Amsterdam. You also have to have a card with a chip to take out cash from an ATM and pay for any meal or purchase. They are not shy about letting you know either. I feel like figuring all of these things out on my own definitely is making me become a lot more independent.
Amsterdam is a town that was previously all under water. The water has now been redirected and put into the canals, which are used to bring in all of the goods to the areas surrounding the city. The canals also make the city easy to navigate because all you need to do is follow the canals.
After dinner we did a lot of exploring to figure out where we are going to be spending our next three days here. We decided we are going to be going on a countryside bike ride, van Gogh Museum, and visit the Anne Frank house! After a long, action packed day we went back to the house for a good nights rest after a long day of travel!
On Saturday, we got an early start and went into town to buy our tickets for our time here. Our host family made us a wonderful homemade meal! It was hands down the best meal I've had since I have been gone. After getting our tickets in town, we went into the Vincent van Gogh museum. Wow, it was amazing! We were there until the museum closed and I feel like I could have stayed longer! The information on his life was fascinating, not to mention seeing all of the paintings. Looking at a picture of a painting in a book cannot compare to seeing it in person. After leaving the van Gogh museum, we went out to dinner at a Dutch restaurant. I ordered Dutch meatballs -- they are coated in a special seasoning. I was skeptical at first, but they actually ended up being really good! I also had their famous apple tart dessert afterwards. It was truly the perfect Dutch meal. From dinner we went to the 'red light district', which is currently highly controversial in Amsterdam, as they continuously keep downsizing it. The rid light district is something I could never explain to someone else, you just have to see for yourself. Since this is such a big part of their culture, I felt I had to see it myself. In Amsterdam it is also legal to buy and sell pot. This definitely makes for a unique aroma when walking the streets of Amsterdam. From my time here, I'd have to say the people are not the slightest judgmental and are very accepting of others. Everyone is friendly, constantly going out of their way to help others. It's something I really enjoy being a part of while I'm visiting!