Paris, France

Paris was fun but also definitely a very welcome change in temperature. We finally had temps in the 80’s rather than 100’s and there was always a nice breeze. We got in really early our first day since we decided to sleep on the train; we arrived at 6:30 and after walking to the hotel and checking in we started our tour of France at the palace of Versailles, once home to Louis the 14th. After seeing the palace from the outside, it’s clear why the French were upset and started a revolution. The palace was gorgeous, huge stone buildings, gold trim on some of them, and the gardens were at least 5 times the size of the palace. With the admission into the palace (27€, 18€ on days without fountain shows in the garden or without the garden part on show days) we saw many of the palace’s apartments, Napoleon’s office, and other rooms used for various activities. By apartments, I mean a group of 5 different rooms that each had different purposes. Every individual in the family had their own apartment- those must have been the days!


 After looking through the palace we grabbed an over priced lunch and made our way out into the gardens. The gardens spanned a space MUCH bigger than the palace itself, housing many different gardens, groves and fountains. Many of the fountains were named after Greek Gods and Goddesses, and on weekends they spotted water to music, the “fountain shows” which we had to pay and extra 9€ for if we wanted to see the gardens at all. At the furthest park of the gardens, it’s the canal where you can find families and couples sitting in the grass under canopies of tress and people in the water in small boats enjoying the view. While I wouldn’t say it was worth the 9€, it was definitely an experience I am glad I had. 


After getting back from the palace, we took some time to rest and recover before making our way to the Eiffel Tower. We walked along the river for the hour and 15 minute walk to the tower and once we arrive walked around and then decided to go grab dinner. We settled on a pizza which we got to go, along with some drinks, and made our way back to the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower. We enjoyed our pizza with a view of the Eiffel Tower and plenty of people to provide us entertainment for a while. We sat and people-watched while we ate and hung out until the sun set and the tower was lit up a brilliant orange and watched as it sparkles bright in the night. We also enjoyed crepes before packing up and heading back to the hotel for the night. Yummy! 


The next morning we enjoyed breakfast, and actually sat down to eat it for the first time since our eggs Benedict in Prague! We had coffee, juice, croissants and scrambled eggs with sausage while we discussed our plans for the day. We had another long walk ahead of us, about and hour and a half, to make it to the Sacre Coeur, followed by the Louve Museum, the Notre Dame, and a walking tour of Paris. It was a long walk to the Sacre Coeur but it was fun to see the shops and restaurants along the way. The inside was big and intricately decorated and definitely worth the long walk up the stairs. 


After the Sacre Coeur, we made our way to the Louve. The Museum is definitely large, with a beautifully carved stone facade. The Museum also surrounding the well known glass pyramids which stood tall above pools of water and the long lines of people trying to get into the museum. While we didn’t go in, it was still worth seeing the outside.
Our next stop, was the Notre Dame. Once we got here, we began our audio tour with Rick Steve’s which brought us through the Notre Dame and a few other important sites in the city. The Notre Dame’s outer facade was definitely a memorable one. The carvings showed the 12 disciples, and 28 other important figures. Additionally, there were gargoyles above and carvings showing scenes depicting life and death and decision day. The inside was equally beautiful, taking 2 centuries to build. Statues of Joan of arc and past arch bishops were found along the walls, along with carvings on the choir walls depicting important scenes in the Bible. The most beautiful part was the stained glass window, still containing the original glass. After finishing the walking tour around the city, we packed and got cleaned up for our last dinner in Europe. We enjoyed drinks and steak frittes while We people watched for the last time after a month of traveling across Europe. It was definitely an awesome and relaxing way to end our trip. 

Paris Highlights

  1. Versailles and its gardens 
  2. Picnic in the lawn of the Eiffel Tower 
  3. Notre Dame and Sacre coeur 
  4. The Latin quarter 

Backpackers Update 

  1. Versailles took credit cards so I had 30€ for our last day and a half in Paris, Yipee! 
  2. We can’t wait to be home! We’re also glad it’s only a 10 minute walk to the subway station. Our feet can’t take much more torture! 

Next stop: HOME

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Toulouse, France

Toulouse was pretty much just a nice little day trip for us. We got in late (around 10 pm) got settled in and went to bed and then got up to see a few sights before taking the night train at 11 pm to Paris. Our first stop was the Japanese garden, filled with flowers, little ponds, metal sculptures and little kids running around in the grass. After the garden we made our way to a few museums. We peeked in the museum windows and admired the architecture of the outer facades and then moved on as we didn’t really have the money to pay the entrance fee, nor the interest in doing so. We get a little hungry after walking for a while and had our first “French” meal of hamburgers and ponme frites, or French fries. While there were a lot of foods in other countries we visited that I really wanted to try, French cuisine haven’t really had that appeal to me. Aside from a fruit tart and possibly escargot, all of the other French dishes are either much too expensive or aren’t that exciting since you can find them really anywhere in the US. Even on the menus at many restaurants you see the same thing as you would see at a restaurant in Minnesota: burgers, pizza, salad, maybe a few unique desserts, but not much is different. After lunch, we walked around the square that houses the capital. Similar to many other European cities, the plaza was surrounded by streets lined with shops. We went into some and looked around and then continued on to the convent in Toulouse which Napoleon used as Barracks at one point. The architecture inside was beautiful, the ceilings the most decorated part of the structure, as many of the paintings were no longer on the wall. We also stopped in the basilica.


After all of our sight seeing, we went back to grab our backpacks from our Air BnB stay (thank the lord for giving us hosts who allow us to leave our packs places), and wandered around until our train was to leave. We sat in the station for a while and then went across the street to sit and eat at a restaurant while we people watched and admired the stone facade of the train station. Finally, we boarded at 10:30 pm and were in for a night sleeping on the train.

Toulouse Highlights

  1. Japanese Garden
  2. Capital and plaza

 

Backpackers Update

  1. The night train was a good experience but definitely not something I hope to repeat
  2. We are getting more and more excited to be home as the days go by
  3. We can’t believe time has gone by so fast!
  4. At this point, pedicures may not help us… we may have to consider amputation to spare the eyes of the public

Next stop: Paris 

Barcelona, Spain

After listening to Ed Sheeran’s song “Barcelona” probably over 20 times this trip, we finally made it! Unfortunately, we also reached a new laziness low. Once we got in and found our Air BnB stay, we pretty much laid in bed for a few hours sucking up wifi and finally letting our bodies rest (and cool off). The heat was definitely a surprise since it was cooler than Toledo, but more humid, so it felt a lot stickier than we expected. We finally got our butts out of bed for what reason? Obviously to eat! We went over to a local tapas bar and had white sangria, nachos, tortilla española and patatas bravas. Everything was pretty good, though the sangria wasn’t our favorite. After feasting, and barely finishing everything, we headed back to our room and continued to be lazy in bed. I know I know, we really did hit a new low. It was hot, give us a break. 
The next day really wasn’t much better, as I think we’ve finally accepted that after 22 days of walking and sweating profusely we should take it easy every once and a while. So we woke up probably around 8, which was actually probably the earliest we’ve been up without alarms or plans to be up, and then laid in bed on our phones until about 10. Our bad. We did take that time to rehydrate though… and pack. So it wasn’t totally useless? After finally getting up, dressed and packed, we made the 45 minute walk to La Sagrada Familia. Unfortunately being poor, soon to be professional students, we didn’t have the $40 each to go inside. We also really didn’t have the 3 hours to wait in line, but let’s be real, money was the real issue. So we took pictures and admired from the outside before walking around town more. Luckily we had another audio tour (thanks Rick Steves) and we listened to that before heading to the train station. Rock led us to the cathedral, the art institute where Picasso went, the gothic quarters, the Jewish quarters, and the home of queen Isabelle and King Ferdinand who were really the creators of a United and catholic Spain. After our walking tour, we grabbed our bags, stopped at a grocery store for dinner to bring on the train (croissants, candy, and fruit all for the low price of $3.50) and made the long sweaty trip to the station. Of course, we listened to the song Barcelona one last time as we rolled out of the station on to our next destination.

*Pictures coming soon 
Barcelona Highlights

  1. The royal palace
  2. The cathedral
  3. La sagrada familia 

Backpackers Update

  1. As of today (putting aside money for hotels and Versailles in France) I have about 22€ to buy food for the next 3 days
  2. If you didn’t know, were tired. We’re excited to see France, but also really excited to be home with our friends and family (and boyfriend).
  3. We also can’t wait for fruit, vegetables and meat! And yes, it is possible Togo a month in Europe without really having any of those things… impressed?
  4. We are also excited to sleep in our own beds in houses with air conditioning, cold drinking water, and showers 

Next stop: Toulouse

Toledo, Spain

Toledo- the city on top of a hill. And oh how wonderful it was to climb up that hill with a 20+ pound backpack and no food in my belly. Can you hear the sarcasm? The walk sucked and was not fun. For those Gustie grads that may (but probably not) be reading, getting to Toledo was like walking up death hill for about 35 minutes. Finally after you’re dead and crawling, you’ve made it. Woohoo. For those normal people out there, it was pretty steep and completely uphill, so you can imagine walking up it for over 30 minutes was painful. My calves were definitely burning. There was a silver lining though- when we checked in, our host so nicely showed us on the map the escalator we went up (he assumed). HAHA. ESCALATOR!? Yep, you heard right, there was an escalator that comes all the way up. Good time people. At least we got our steps in for the day right? Well, now we know. And you bet your ass we went down on the escalator when we left- It’s the small victories.
After braving the hill and checking in, we cooled off a little in the air conditioned room and then went out in search of some sort of fruit or vegetable. After over 3 weeks without basically any, we’ve been craving them lately. We found a local smoothie place and grabbed smoothies for our first meal of the day. They definitely hit the spot and gave us enough energy to walk around. We started out seeing Plaza Zocodover, the main square in the city, surrounded by restaurants, fast food places and other shops with clothes and souvenirs. From here, you could get to the escalators, the Alcazar, shopping, the cathedral, and much more. We set out first for the cathedral. Known for gold leaf, Toledo’s cathedral was full of gold everywhere you looked. While I didn’t pay to go in, Anna did and said it was amazing. Being poor, I peeked in from a different door though it only allowed me to go in about 10 steps into the church. That was enough to see some of the beautiful artistry and golf leafed sculptures and other structures. 
After the cathedral we made our way to the alcazar and the museum. Unfortunately, it seems our luck had run out for the day, because it was closed for the day. Of course the one day we are in Toledo it’s closed! It was a huge bummer, but we survived and instead walked around town more, looking in and out of shops. I also made my way into an art exhibit that was fascinating, showing Toledo in the eyes of a local artist featuring Toledo’s people and also art featuring his beloved mother. After a while we went to find something for dinner and I had some chicken fingers (solomillo in Spain) and Anna had a salad. Can you guess who is healthier out of the two of us? It’s not me. Oops. I figure I can eat healthy when I’m home, right? After we ate, we walked around a little more through town and then found the escalator we so conveniently missed that morning. We went all the way down to see where it came out, and then walked around at the bottom, taking in the town from a different perspective. A little later, after making our way back up to escalators, we grabbed dinner; my dinner consisted of a medium Fanta from mcdonalds and a bag of chips, and Anna’s was a medium Fanta and a milkshake. Solid, right? Eventually we got hot and bored of walking and turned in for the night to pack up and go to bed to get ready for another morning of travel the following day.

Toledo Highlights

  1. It’s very cool that the city is on a hill
  2. The escalator
  3. The Alcazar (even though we didn’t get to see it)
  4. The cathedral 

Backpackers Update

  1. We are officially self diagnosed as exhausted. 
  2. We have also officially worn all of our clothes at least once, yay! 
  3. My Birkenstocks may be cracked in half by the time we get home 

*Pictures coming soon

Next stop: Barcelona  

Cordoba, Spain

We got into Cordoba around 3 and made the half hour walk in probably a little under an hour. We get pretty slow with our backpacks, especially in the heat. Once we got to the hotel and relaxed a little with some A/C (woohoo thank the lord), we set out into the heat and walked for a while. We went to the Roman Bridge, which ran into the Calahorra tower museum on the other side of the river, and also saw the puerta del puente. Our time was mostly spent walking and looking at sights on the outside rather than going in, but they were still very cool.


 After a while we grabbed tapas and sangria (obviously) at a local restaurant. We tried salmorejo cordoba, basically a thicker tomato based soup/dip similar to gazpacho but thicker and creamier, topped with egg and jamón ibérico, along with calamari and croquettes of potato and ham. 
After a long night, we got up refreshed and ready to see some stuff (woohoo)! 


The first stop was the Mosque, now a Christian church. The mosque was very big and looked even bigger due to the arches inside all perfectly in line from every direction. They gave the illusion that the mosque went on forever! The architecture is definitely unique and makes this a really interesting place to visit. After the mosque we grabbed lunch; I had risotto with shrimp and a lobster head to get my fill of seafood, and Anna had a salad. After lunch we were disappointed to find that the Alcazar de los Reyes Christianos was closed for the day. So, if you’re traveling abroad, make sure you check the hours in person if you can because sometimes the hours online are wrong! And then you miss out on some cool stuff. Since we couldn’t see the Alcazar, we walked around more along with hanging out in the pension (yay for a/c) before grabbing dinner around 9:30. We have loved tapas, so naturally we got a few new ones to share. We tried jamón ibérico for the first time (cured meat, you see the legs hanging everywhere in Spain!) and it was weird at first, but definitely grew on me! We also had potato croquettes and a little bit of chicken (we are definitely probably a little low on protein and iron at this point, to say the least, since we’ve barely had any meat or vegetables). It was a great last dinner in Cordoba, and we got some free wine out of it too, so what’s better than that?


Cordoba Highlights

  1. Mosque 
  2. Alcazar
  3. Walking around the shops in the city 

Backpackers Update

  1. Someone told me my Spanish was really good, woohoo! Hope it wasn’t just because I bought something from him…
  2. We’ve definitely accepted that the heat is draining a lot of our energy, as we spend a lot more time inside that initially in our trip due to the heat.
  3. We will never take air conditioner for granted
  4. I am so tan my family may not recognize me when they pick me up 
  5. The birkenstocks are still surviving, though unfortunately this will probably be their last trip.

Next Stop: Toledo 

Sevilla, Spain

After a nice 2.5 hr flight, we finally stepped foot on Spanish soil and were immediately shocked by the heat. At about 105 degrees at 8:30 pm we were definitely in for a hot week. Unlike Rome’s humidity, Spain was more of a dry heat which was welcomed after spending the last 3 days constantly sweating. Don’t get me wrong- it was hot. But it wasn’t a heat that had you constantly feeling wet and sticky and sweaty- at least not right away. Once we got to the hostel and all checked in it was around 10:30 and just about everything around us was closed, so we went to a small restaurant at the corner of the street. There we got our first experience of authentic Spanish sangria and tapas! The sangria was fruity, refreshing and delicious, with a hint of cinnamon in it, which isn’t always found in sangria we get in the US. For tapas we tried cola de toro (bulls tail)- it had a great flavor, and came as a deep fried ball, crispy on the outside and somewhat of a mushy mix of tails meat and a few other things to make the filling- it was yummy, but the texture made me hesitant on whether I’d ever try it again. Additionally we had pork meatballs, which were juicy and definitely one of my favorites, tortilla de potata (basically potato pie without a crust) and gambas rebozadas (deep fried shrimp) which were all also pretty yummy! After dinner we treated ourselves to a little ice cream before heading to bed. 
The next day, we got up with planes to see the Real Alcazar de Sevilla and the Catedral de Sevilla. It was already hot out but luckily the alcazar was a mixture in walking outside and inside. The alcazar was amazing, surrounded by a wall of stone, looking almost mid-evil on the outside, but on the inside looking more middle-eastern with beautiful mosaics, arch filled rooms and large gardens spanning 2/3 of the property. We didn’t really have breakfast other than croissants so we ran out of steam after being at the alcazar for a few hours. We found a great restaurant for lunch where we enjoyed paella for the first time! YUM. It was delicious, season well and tasting like seafood but not fishy at all, just full of flavor. The seafood paella we ordered had shrimp, octopus, squid and clams and I would definitely eat it again! We also cooled off with some free sangria (used to convince us to eat there). After lunch we made the hike back to the hotel and I promptly passed out for about an hour and a half. 


Unfortunately the cathedral was closed by the time we made it back that way so we walked around town and went to the Plaza de España (Spanish square). It was equally breathtaking as we approached the square which was hidden from the outside. Inside we found a huge building adorned with flags, a great water fall in front and a small “moat” going in front of the building, resulting in bridges leading up to the buildings steps. The intricacy of the tiles used to decorate the bridges and parts of the building were equally beautiful. 


After walking around and just wandering, we grabbed a few snacks (including a bowls of instant spicy ramen which I am now still carrying around 3 days later), and I proceeded to eat a whole bag of chips. Not saying that’s the reason we weren’t hungry for dinner, but between the chips, Anna’s wafers and our paella, we didn’t get dinner that night. 

After a nice nights sleep we hit our last stop in Sevilla, the cathedral. The Cathedral of Sevilla is absolutely gorgeous from the outside, looking almost like a big castle as it is HUGE and extremely detailed on the outside. Luckily we were able to make it inside for a while before we had to rush to the train station! Needless to say, the inside was just as detailed as the outside and definitely worth the look. Huge shoutout to Europe for also providing great student discounts (at most places)! 


Sevilla Highlights 

  1. Alcazar de Sevilla
  2. Plaza de España
  3. Catedral de Sevilla 

Backpackers Update

  1. I love love love Spanish and I am so happy I am getting to use it! Definitely a little rusty, but it feels good to try and use my Spanish and get a little better and more comfortable each day! 
  2. My feet are a mixture of tan and dirt. Ew. 
  3. I truly can’t wait to hopefully have the opportunity to visit Spain when it’s not over a hundred degrees from 10 am-10 pm. Even better all restaurants are closed from like 2-8 cause they know it’s hot too. Sweet. 
  4. After 3 weeks, I finally actually know our departure date… it’s not Thursday or Wednesday. Or the 28th. Oops- sorry mom and dad! 
  5. Anna still has blisters on her feet. Moleskin- if you need a poster child, I found her.

Next stop: Córdoba 

Rome, Italy 

Rome was an amazing experience, further validating that Italy is a wonderful and beautiful place, with something for everyone. That is unless of course you hate the heat, then it might not be the place for you. The first day we got in from the train station we had a nice hour long hike to the hotel that we were not thrilled for-even better, it was all uphill which was a great surprise! We made it a little over half way before we found a place to rest and eat lunch to refuel a little. I had some yummy carbonara and tea, and Anna had a sandwich with some tea. Finally we got the strength to make it to our hotel, and after checking in, we relaxed and got settled in for a bit before heading out again to explore the town a little. 
One of the things that I loved about Rome was in the city center, you could see leftover ruins from long ago. The ruins were preserved and kept in great viewing condition, allowing your imagination to run wild, showing you what it was like to live here in the times of roman emperors like Julius Cesar. We set off to see the colosseum and the roman forum, which were unfortunately no longer selling tickets for the day. We viewed the sights from the outside, taking plenty of pictures and increasing our excitement for getting inside the following day. After, we walked through the city past capital hills grand building full of stairs, statues and fountains to find Trevi Fountain. 


The fountain was huge, much bigger than I expected from seeing it in pictures! It was large and beautiful, adorned with statues and intricate carvings, and spraying clean, clear water. What also surprised me was the crazy amount of people around. Maybe we came at the wrong time, but I can’t imagine a time where the place wouldn’t be busy. It truly made me wonder how people seemed to get photos without anyone else in the picture after the crowds we had to fight through! 
We found a place for dinner after our little walking tour and shared a salad (probably one of the first time we’ve had a real serving of vegetables) and a pasta with crispy pork cheek. The salad was glorious, the pasta was less so, but it gave us enough energy to continue walking around Rome. We saw the Spanish steps and the fountain below them, as well as walking down the streets of shops, some of which were high end shops like Gucci, Burberry, and others we couldn’t pronounce or afford. On our way back from the steps we also had tiramisu before heading back to our hostel for the night.

After a good, only slightly sweaty, nights sleep the real adventure began as we made our way to the Vatican. We decided on taking a tour, as it allowed us to avoid waiting 2+ hours in line for tickets. The tour was around 2.5 hours and we were able to see the The Vatican museum, St Peters basilica and the Sistine chapel. While it was a little more expensive (46€ for students), the tour was worth it. In addition to skipping the line, we saw a lot of important things at each place that we probably would have glazed over if we were on our own. We also got a lot of historical background which was really great. Ultimately, it was so busy inside that I think we would have rushed through it all if we were on our own as crowds were always kind of pushing everyone to move forward. Our tour guide took a lot of time to stop and talk about different pieces of art and sculptures, and important spots around the Vatican and it didn’t feel rushed at all. The museum was full of beautiful sculptures, paintings and different mosaics of tile that were amazing to see. The Sistine chapel was also breathtaking. It was definitely smaller than what I imagined it to be, really just a small room with a few small windows high on the ceiling. While it’s size and decor on the outside seemed to be lacking, the paintings on the inside were breathtaking. Paintings of scenes from both the Old and New Testament lined the outside of the ceiling, while the center boasted other wonderful artwork including the famous piece where Adam and God almost touch fingers. The most amazing thing about all of the artwork was how they all looked 3-D; the figures looked as if they were coming out of the ceiling, showing how the artists of the time were masters of realism. Lastly, St Peters basilica was incredible and extremely huge. It was beautiful inside and we also got to see the crypt under the basilica which housed past popes. 


After the Vatican, we took a little break to get out of the heat and set off to see the colosseum and the Roman forum. The colosseum was exciting on the outside and probably almost as exciting on the inside as there really isn’t much to see, but it was fun to see it from the inside to feel what it was like to be in the stadium and to see the passageways in the center that were usually under the stage. We listened to another Rock Steves audio tour which was cool because we learned a lot about the colosseum and how it was almost like a stage. There were always different props and settings for the “games” that occurred there. Sometimes it was filled with water and sea creatures, other times it was an African jungle of creatures. After listening to the audio tour, we headed to the Roman Forum, a city where Cesar and other leaders led the people long ago. While everything now is mostly ruins, they are still amazing and allow you to picture what it used to look like in its prime. The audio tour was really great in this setting as well, explaining what each ruin used to be and it’s importance in keeping the city alive. 


After a long day of walking and learning our Roman history, we rested at the hostel for a while and set out again to experience the Festa di San Antonio that was showing on. It was almost like a fair along the river. There were restaurants set up, shops, games, and more. It was a great way to experience some of the night life in Rome! We walked along the river looking at all of the great things that were set up and eventually we set down by the river at a restaurant and enjoyed a late night burger and fries. We were definitely lucky that we were in town when this festival was going on! After a long night we went to bed to prep for a long walk back to the train station followed by a little stay in the airport as we were departing for our next adventure in the morning! 
Rome Highlights

  1. The colosseum and the Roman forum
  2. The trevi fountain  
  3. The city center near capital hill full of ruins 
  4. The Vatican 

Backpackers 

  1. Update definitely gotten a little lazier as the days have gone by, especially because of the heat. We’ve been sleeping in a little later and taking a few more breaks because of the 90-100 degree temps we’ve been in 
  2. We could really use some fruits and veggies right about now
  3. If we though our feet were bad before, they are way more disgusting now. Pedicures are essential upon our return if we don’t want people to be repulsed by us
  4. It’s hot. VERY. HOT.

Next stop: Seville