Getting Adjusted to London

It’s difficult to break from an old routine and create a new one. I realize now the importance of finding simple things you enjoy to keep you grounded and calm in times of transition, and also using each lesson to grow. To say going from a small urban area to one of the most busy cities in the world is challenging would be an understatement. It is easy to get overwhelmed being in an unfamiliar place, thrown into true independence because you can’t just call a family member to come help you when they are an ocean away! It’s also a time to be exactly who you want to be with no outside influences. There are a lot of lessons London has already taught me:

-Always bring your own grocery bags unless you want to pay for them

-Be on time

-It’s okay to rush but also take time to enjoy your surroundings

-Respect all walks of life

-Gloomy days actually make for some of the best times being holed up inside with new people

-Even the most directionally challenged people cam learn

I’m finding joy in the idea of being in charge of every aspect of my life and taking on each day with a positive frame of mind and using each one to become a better individual, student, family member, and friend. 

Making Barcelona a Second Home

I’ve officially been in Barcelona for two and a half weeks and can now say I’m feeling more at home. Don’t get me wrong, I feel like I have so much more of the city to see, and often times get overwhelmed, but I am getting much more comfortable here. 

Before arriving in Europe, my biggest fear was navigating public transportation. I’d never caught a taxi, been on the Tarc, let alone been in a metro station. How was I supposed to go from driving everywhere to having to figure out catching a train to class? Well, it really wasn’t that bad. First of all, Google Maps is a blessing, and has told me which bus/train to catch and when. And second of all, the other people in my program were just as unfamiliar, so we figured it out together. Turns out I have more common sense than I thought.

Typically, I’m someone who tries something at a restaurant, loves it, and doesn’t order anything else. I’ve been making slower progress when it comes to trying new food, because how could you not order patatas bravas every time you’re at a tapas bar? But, at the same time, I have tried a variety of new things — the most adventurous being octopus! Back in Louisville, we’re not really known for seafood, so I hadn’t had much outside of the basics. So, tackling a big pan of paella with unpeeled shrimp, mussels, and squid rings was seriously intimidating, but also surprisingly delicious. It’s my goal to continue to try more amazing and unique food, because so far, it’s been rewarding.

But, it was most clear to me that Barcelona was becoming my second home when I felt ready to get back to my bed in my apartment after this past weekend’s trip to Seville and Granada. I enjoyed the views, the greenery, and the lovely Spanish culture outside of the city, but in the end, I was ready to be back in my place in Barcelona, Spain. 

Palma de Mallorca

When I arrived in Mallorca, I was able to understand why my friends had recommended the place to me and I was able to discover so much more than the beaches. Castle Bellver is one of the few circular castles in existence and overlooks the port city of Mallorca.

Sites to see:

-The Old Town

-Cathedral-Basílica de Santa María de Mallorca (La Seu)

-Plaza Mayor

-La Playa

-Castle Bellver

London

On the Tower Bridge in London, the London bridge that actually falls – not the London Bridge – is next to the fabled London Tower. I was able to get a free tour by Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and see the Crown Jewels that are on display – a must see if in London. Across the river a circular-shaped building is City Hall and beside that is the Shard – fourth tallest building in Europe.

It was a surreal experience to see many landmarks that had been in movies. And to be in the place where iconic events unfolded. In addition, I was able to understand the culture more than other places I had traveled because I was fluent in the language.

London is a place that is on my list to travel to again.

Things to see:

-Parliament Square

-Westminster Palace

-London Tower

-St. Paul’s Cathedral

-Shakespeare’s Globe

-Trafalgar Square

Napoli

One of the best sunsets I have encountered is on the coast of Italy in a city called Naples. The sunset over the islands in the Mediterranean. To the left of those islands was the Volcano Vesuvius and lost in the night was the town of Pompeii.

I was able to climb Vesuvius and explore Pompeii, but I was unable to go to the Ruins of Ercolano. However, I was able to have pizza in the home of pizza. I missed the train to Ercolano by one minute and had to wait forty minutes until the next one – in Spain I was used to a train every six minutes.

The trip was a great experience after exploring different cities and places within the city. I was even able to meet some friends in Naples. I look forward to my next visit to this city.

Places to visit:

-Vesuvius

-Piazza del Plebiscito

-Castel Nuovo

-Spiaggia Gaiola

-Pizzerias

Reflection of Zurich

After a steep climb – in leather business shoes – I made it to the peak of Uetliburg. This journey took two hours for me to complete, in the winter, from Wollishofen. At the peak of the mountain, I was able to overlook Zurich Lake, Altstadt (old town of Zurich), and the snowcapped Alps. On both sides of the lake, vast amounts of buildings stretch into the distance.

This trip was one of the first to test my preparation or lack thereof. I was prepared for the rain, but I was not prepared to walk over 17 miles or climb a mountain. However, that is one of the fun challenges of packing light.

I look forward to my next trip to Zurich, in the summer, with less rain. And maybe next time I will use the train to Uetliburg.

Places to visit in Zurich:

-Uetliburg

-Altstadt

-Fraumünster Church

-Grossmünster

-Lindenhof Hill

Stockholm Reflection

One of my favorite spots in Stockholm, Sweden – located in Södermalm – is the Skinnarviksbergef rock ledge. After an easy climb, up a rock face, you are met with a beautiful view of the skyline of Stockholm. This is one of the best places to enjoy the sunset with the locals.

Each night I was in Stockholm I went to this spot to enjoy the sunset. However, when I was in Stockholm the sunrise was at 3:33AM. This was the first time that I had been so far north that there was no definite night. The least amount of light that I experienced in the night was similar to a night with a full moon except brighter.

Places to visit in Stockholm:                                                                                

-Skinnarviksbergef

-Gamla Stan

-The Royal Palace

-Stortorget

-Riddarholmskyrkan

Berlin Reflection

After a brisk walk across Berlin, sitting on the edge of the Spree River is the East Side Gallery. Or part of the Berlin Wall that stands today as a reminder of the past. Some of the images painted on the wall are an emotional sight and fitting tribute that conveys the history of the wall through a transcending manner. There is a brick line across the city where East and West Berlin were once divided. However, the city has progressed and there seems to be no division in the city landscape.

Some of the nicest people that I met, while traveling, resided in Berlin. Whether it was speaking to an Italian man, in a pizzeria, from Sicily that embraced me like a long-lost brother or with a man that owned an American themed restaurant. Each person shared their experiences and cultures with me that have had a beneficial impact. Plus, it did not hurt to finally eat American food after several months without.

The energetic atmosphere of Berlin is unlike any other city that I have had the chance to visit and I look forward to my next time in the city.

Places to visit:

-Museum Island

-East Side Gallery

-Tiergarten

-Reichstag Building

-Brandenburg Gate

Salamanca Reflection

Another journey taken was out west to Salamanca, Spain. The old city is considered a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city boasts wonderful cathedrals, Plaza Mayor, and one of the oldest universities in the world. Red graffiti scattered throughout the walls of the city and university are the names of doctors that graduate from the university. The new graduates had to pay for their own graduation parties that the whole town could come to and would use the blood of the bull to write their names – this old tradition is no longer practiced.

Since most of the buildings use sandstone as material you may see lines worn into the stone. In the past, Spaniards would use the stone to sharpen tools. In addition, the Casa de las Conchas or ‘House of Shells’ has an ornate outside appearance. The man that built the house expressed his love to his wife by putting her family crest on the outside of their home. Today, the home is a public library.

If you travel to Spain do not miss the opportunity to come to this wonderful place.

Places to visit:

-Salamanca Cathedral

-Plaza Mayor

-Casa de las Conchas

-Roman Bridge of Salamanca

-Monastery of San Esteban

Segovia Reflection

My first trip was to Segovia, Spain less than three hours from Madrid. When we arrived at the outskirts of the city, I was amazed at how well the natural barriers defended the city. Segovia is perched upon a hill with steep cliffs and a river.

As we rode into the city, we saw the sunrise over the Alcázar of Segovia – melting the frost on the blades of grass. The Alcázar of Segovia is the castle that is said to have inspired Walt Disney’s design of the iconic Cinderella Castle. The base five-euro entrance fee is worth it to see the armory, knights, interior courtyard, and the views atop of the cliffs. For an addition three-euro fee, you can climb to the top of the castle – I would highly recommend climbing to the top and seeing the whole city against the snow capped mountains.

The city still has a supply of water that comes from the mountains via the Roman Aqueduct. In addition, do not miss the chance to explore the old part of the city and eat some tapas. 

Places to visit in Segovia:

-Alcázar of Segovia

-Aqueduct of Segovia

-Cathedral of Segovia

-Casa de Los Picos

-Plaza Mayor