Spring Break Stop #1: Rome

Spring Break was upon us– a time we had always spoken of in imaginative, hypothetical terms. “Greece would be so beautiful to visit,” we’d say. “The Amalfi Coast could be magical,” we thought. Spring break seemed like this time that would never really come and we would just be able to imagine and wonder and picture ourselves in these places that we had only seen in magazines. But now, it was here and we were able to actually make these imaginative, hypothetical thoughts into real life experiences… something that is still sinking in as I write this post.

So, we planned our itinerary for the 10 days, booked the necessary modes of transportation (two flight tickets and one train) and set out for our first destination, the land of the gladiators and gelato– Roma. Most of what I knew about this monumental city came from the one, the only… Lizzie McGuire movie (a clip shown below). I was excited to see what it was really all about.

After a short plane ride which I slept for the duration (no surprise) and Sophie and Emmie watched episodes of their respective shows, we arrived. We took the bus from the airport to Roma Termini, the city’s major train station, and then took a short cab ride to a little bed and breakfast we had found online for a cheap stay in a great location. We dropped our bags and headed out the door to Trastevere for dinner. We wanted to eat at the restaurant that had been a strong recommendation to us by some friends called Da Enzo, but discovered upon arrival that the entire city of Rome also had this desire. So, we rolled with the punches and walked along the dark, quiet streets until we came across a different little restaurant with dimly lit rooms, large mahogany tables, and a band that walked around to each table when their pasta and pizza arrived. Needless to say, we were happy campers. After filling up on some Spaghetti, we went back to the bed and breakfast to get a good sleep before not one but two three-hour tours we booked for the next day.

The first tour started at 8:30AM so we ate bananas and drank coffee as we walked from our building to the meeting place. We were about to embark on a three-hour tour of Vatican City. We waited in a long line with our tour group to hand in the tickets and go through security, and then were led by a very knowledgable, organized guide through the highlights of the area including the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. Fact that stood out to me the most: Michelangelo was in fact not a painter before he was instructed to restore the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel… by himself. No big deal.

Inside the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica

Ceiling of the Vatican Museum

After the tour ended in St. Peter’s Basilica, we refueled with some pizza and then met up with our second tour guide who would lead us on a three-hour walk through the highlights of Rome outside of Vatican City: the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and Piazza Navona. Learning about the history of all of these ancient entities was really great, but we were about to reach the activity that would become the favorite part of our day, and one of the favorite parts of the entire trip. This activity was so great that… it requires its own post! Click here to read 🙂

The Colosseum

London, Eye Love You

The next trip we took was to London. I had not planned on going to London before I left for Barcelona, but I am so glad I did. Our trip started off great until we got on the wrong train from the airport. OOPS. Even signs in English can’t lead us to the right place. Well, it was quite a shock realizing that we were going deep into the countryside instead of towards the heart of the city. When we handed the man our ticket to get stamped on the train, I knew immediately from his crumpled brow and lengthy concentration on the ticket that something was off. He told us that no, we were not on the right train, but yes, it would be easy to transfer back to the right line.

Where did we mean to go? To tea, of course J We had made a reservation for late afternoon tea at the Strand Palace Hotel. I had only had afternoon tea once in Washington, D.C. We got off the metro and stored our bags with the front desk in the hotel. I ordered a mint tea which was absolutely delicious. Then, came the towers of finger sandwiches and sweets. Our eyes widened as we realized that not only one of the four towers the waitress was holding was for us, but ALL of the four towers. We would each get our own tower. Wow. After picking through most of the tower and finishing our last sips of tea, we left the hotel to go check in to our hostel.

We decided to stay at the Generator Hostel which was great—highly recommend. Very cool, comfortable atmosphere. Very clean, as well. Music was playing in the lobby and the people at the front desk greeted us with welcoming smiles. So far, London was great except for the little train incident. We quickly dropped our bags (which was something we would be getting used to during all of our weekend trips), changed, and then went to Wahaca for dinner. I got a pork burrito and Passion Fruit Margarita—perfect meal. The guacamole is superb and must be ordered as an appetizer by anyone who makes a visit to Wahaca.

The next day, we woke up early and had a quick breakfast of eggs and toast at the hostel. Before we left, we glanced out the window and realized it was snowing. According to our friends studying abroad in London, it was the coldest weekend yet of the semester. We bundled up and made our way to the London Eye, warm coffees in hand. We waited for about 45 minutes in the line to get on the huge contraption. I looked across the river at Big Ben as we made the loop in what seemed like a snow globe. After the Eye, we walked to Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. We took pictures in front of the red phone booths, of course. Then, the cold got to us. All we wanted to do was warm up with a nice hot drink… so tea it was! This time, we went to tea at Harrods. What a store. We shared two types of tea—Vanilla and English Rose—and snacked on warm scones with jam.

That night, we went to a favorite bar of our friends called O’Neill’s. On the first floor, a DJ played music that was similar to what we hear at bars near school. On the second floor, however, a live band played throwback nineties songs that we sang and bounced along to. Such a unique experience and so, so fun.

Another magical trip filled with good music, snowy London streets, and a new found love for afternoon tea.

First Stop– Copenhagen

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetIt was our first trip out of Spain—our first weekend adventure abroad. We chose to go to Copenhagen because of all the wonderful things we had heard about it. It would be cold—really cold compared to Barcelona. So, we packed our bags with sweaters, hats and scarves and set out on Friday morning.

As we went through security, it hit me. I was about to go to Denmark… a place I had only heard about once or twice in school, mostly in my psychology courses since it has been called the happiest country on earth. We were so excited to see, to taste, to experience everything that we could in the city over the two and a half days we would spend there. As we went through security, our passports or IDs were never checked and that came as a shock. Later we learned that when you fly within the EU, they don’t check for ID until it is time to board the plane. Different. Really different.

The hotel we chose was a short train ride from the airport. We checked in, dropped our bags, and made our way into the magical city. We decided to go to Café Norden for dinner as it was a strongly recommended restaurant from my friend at home. It was AMAZING. And so cozy.

First, we ordered blueberry mojitos. Then, I got the open-faced sandwiches—a Danish specialty. There were three of them (yes I was stuffed after). One was tuna, one chicken salad, and the other shrimp. All piled on thick, toasted bread. Yum. Sophie got the tuna tartar and Emmie got mini chicken burgers. We were quite satisfied. Little did we know we were about to fall in love with the city even more. Big time.

The next day we woke up early to get the most of the day. First we had breakfast at Union Kitchen, which I highly recommend! Then we headed to Nyhavn—the area of town with the line of colorful buildings that sit right on the water. As we approached Nyhavn, we could hear music from the little band that sat on the square in front of the dock. The sun sparkled off the canal and the houses sat in their colorful glory. This is where the love came. I was absolutely amazed at the beauty and simplicity of the place. We signed up for a canal tour where we were taken on a large boat and shown many of the landmarks, including Hans Christian Andersen’s little mermaid, the architecture museum, and the Copenhagen Street Food market where we would go for dinner later. The tour guide told us that the city burns garbage to produce electricity, but they don’t have enough garbage to produce enough for everyone so they have to import more garbage. How perfect could this city get?

After the tour, we warmed up with some Irish coffee at a little café on the canal. We then tried to find the trampolines that are set in the sidewalk somewhere along the water but just couldn’t. Instead, we decided to take a ride on one of the bike-buggies and the driver showed us some cool views along the way. We were cold, but it didn’t matter. The beauty kind of distracted from it.

Then, we experienced what would be our favorite part of the trip. We took a cab to the Copenhagen Street Food market also called “Paper Island.” I had never been in awe so many times in the span of two days. The market is inside a giant warehouse, right on the water. It is bustling and beautiful and warm at night. Music plays throughout the entire place and everyone is just so happy (no surprise). There are stands and stands of different foods from Moroccan flatbreads (which we got) to Italian to Chinese, to every dessert you could imagine. After the market, we met our friends at a small, local bar where everyone danced and sang and requested songs.

In the morning, we packed our bags and headed for brunch before going to the airport. We went to the restaurant Mad & Kaffe where you are given the freedom to pick either three, five, or seven small dishes to make up your meal. The choices range from oatmeal to fruit to avocado to eggs to a freshly baked cinnamon roll. I chose to get three: fried eggs with chives, yogurt with granola, and blood orange slices.

Needless to say, the weekend went by way too fast. Copenhagen was an absolute dream city, a winter wonderland. It was like nowhere I had ever seen before. Even though we were sad to say farewell to our weekend love, we were ready to return to our first love—the beautiful and spirited city of Barcelona.