Sisterhood of the Traveling Backpacks

After graduating from college there’s a certain time period that I knew I would certainly miss. Unfortunately, your job doesn’t consider spring break a holiday anymore so your ability to take a week vacation is gone. Luckily for us spring break was back! A 10-day long trip through 6 countries, multiple cities and loads of new adventures. First stop…

Milan, Italy! 

If traveling has taught me anything, it’s that I hate not knowing the local language. It doesn’t keep me from going though, it just makes me feel terrible every time I need to re-explain myself and expect the other person to understand. This makes traveling to Italy such a joy for me since I have long studied it and truly enjoy practicing every chance I get. I didn’t get a chance to make it to Milan while I studied abroad so this was a long desire of mine. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect though, from everything I’ve heard Milan is the “fashion capital” but that’s about it.

Milan was pretty much what I anticipated, very industrial with a multitude of shops from Gucci to Versace. The Cathedral was pretty but some parts of it were under construction (a theme that continued on the trip). The food of course was excellent but I was surprised with how underwhelming the scenery was. We walked through the city which was easily done in a day and saw some various highlights of Milan. We walked through the Galeria and outside of the Sforza Castle. We searched for a place to try some Italian wines and ended up at Signorvino, probably my favorite part of the trip. We tried different cheeses, wines, snacks and more wines. Our goal was to be as un-american as possible and sit and truly enjoy our time there… which turned out to be a 5 hour stay.

I would recommend visiting Milan but it was possible to do in about a day. Our second day (with thanks to the sun) we simply revisited all the previous monuments so we weren’t constantly searching for shelter from the rain. It was still a great trip though and my anticipation started kicking in for what was to come…

Athens, Greece!

Athens was probably my favorite time spent on this trip. It had nothing to do with all the cool ancient buildings we saw but more about the people and the culture. Everyone was so friendly to us and we had the absolute best airbnb host. Shout out to George! Having studied Western Civilization I arrived in Athens realizing I remembered nothing I had studied about Western Civilization. I knew the Olympics originated there and people used to run track naked and I knew about the old buildings with all the pillars but that was about it. (Sorry to whatever teacher I had during this class)

When you’re young and able you realize just about every city can be done in a day. I think each day we at least clocked in over 10 miles and saw more than people come and see in a week. Since we didn’t know what we were looking at the time our helpful tour guide google gave us small history lessons. We started at the Acropolis which we now know is the center to many ancient buildings such as The Parthenon and The Erechtheum. Like Milan, there were scaffoldings covering some of The Parthenon and ropes that wouldn’t let you get too close. It was a cool sight to see, but didn’t quite meet the “wow factor” I had in mind. What did meet the wow factor was the food. Just about everything I ate while in Athens was delicious. From the Tzatziki sauce to the gyros to the baklava I was amazed with how much I fell in love with Greek food. The weather was absolutely perfect as well which made for such a great time in Athens! It felt like summer until we reached our next location…

Sofia, Bulgaria

Due to our tiredness and the amount of rain in Sofia this seemed to be a quieter part of our trip. We were able to walk around on the first day seeking out all the old churches, cathedrals and mosques that decorated the city. It was a vastly spread out city that reminded me of the images I had in my head of Russia. The cyrillic letters on top of buildings made it feel significantly more foreign than Western Europe. It didn’t appear to be tourist season either as we were also closely approaching orthodox Easter. The food was just as good as Athens and even cheaper which came as a relief to all of us. We went inside many of the churches and realized that unlike Athens many of the buildings were not kept up with. Inside the Cathedral Saint Alexandar Nevski many of the murals on the wall had turned black.

Sofia, which was plagued by communism and war had seemingly pulled itself completely back from the worst. The people were still friendly although slightly colder than those in Athens, but for good reason. We walked though one main street that led to the National Palace of Culture which was quite impressive. Lined with fountains, hotels and giant advertisements you could see how much rebuilding must have been done. Regardless of our tiredness from 8 days of traveling we were pretty excited for what was next…

Amsterdam, Netherlands 

Known for it’s wild nightlife and legal ability to smoke marijuana Amsterdam is a twenty-somethings dream. Surrounded by canals and people… oh so many people Amsterdam by far is the coolest city I’ve been to. It can feel like you’ve only been walking for a little while and realize you’ve been walking over 10 miles. Even in such a short amount of time we were able to see so much of the city and what it’s famous for. We ventured through the canals in a boat tour, seeing some dancing houses and old factories. We walked past the Ann Frank house and got a taste of history. We went through the red light district which provided quite an interesting experience. It reminded me a lot of Moulin Rouge, one of those places where you go to see it once but don’t intend on going back.

Amsterdam provided everything that a traveler could want, entertainment, historical sites, great food and good beer. It was a privilege to see it through a locals eyes (Thanks Layla!) and get a true feeling of all that Amsterdam has to offer.

Till next trip!

 

To Switzerland, France, Italy and Back Again.

Ever since I had studied abroad at 16 I dreamed of going skiing in the Swiss alps. The dream was finally going to come true when we purchased our tickets to fly into Geneva, Switzerland and drive to Zermatt. Unfortunately, Zermatt is not exactly priced for teachers in Spain so we decided to venture into the beautiful town of Aosta, Italy.

Our trip had quite an interesting start to it. We arrived at the airport as we normally do for our 8:30 am flight, only to find out it had been delayed due to weather until 12:30 pm. After a few hours of waiting and way too many trips to the customer service desk our flight was eventually cancelled. We opted to take the hotel and free transportation option from EasyJet even though we are all residents here… Upon arriving at our hotel we found out that not only was it a highly ranked hotel but it was all-inclusive. Our food for the entire day was free and an open bar was simply 15 euros. It turned the whole cancellation ordeal around quite fast.

The next morning, we were able to take our 8:30 am rescheduled flight and after circling the air for quite some time (as the airport was still closed) we landed with a small delay around 12:30pm. We picked up the rental cars, grabbed some snacks and we were well on our way to the beautiful alps. The drive was even more stunning than one could imagine, huge mountains covered with snow and small towns lit up brightly at night. It felt strange to arrive in Switzerland and then drive to France to finally end up in Italy.  The 25 degree temperature was quite different to the 65 degrees that we left in Palma. After our long travel day we were all tired and went right to bed so we could begin our first day of skiing.

(Outside our Airbnb, and our new little pupper friend)

We woke up early and ready to ski/snowboard. I was pretty excited as it had been about a year since the last time I skied. Once we arrived to Pila Ski Resort I quickly saw why so many people adored the alps. With each ski lift we took the view got even more beautiful. We were a group with a mixture of skiers, snowboarders, beginners and intermediate so it was fun to see everyone try a totally new sport.

Our Airbnb was situated about 15 minutes from the slopes which made it easy to access. The town however, was 30 minutes down the mountain so we spent most of our time skiing, or warming up in the cabin. It was a cute spot with no wifi or reception which made a cell phone free trip. We made small dinners and large breakfast’s to help us stay fueled for our long days on the mountain. We did get to try a small bit of Italian food for lunch which brought me back to 16 eating loads of pasta and other carbs.

Due to the cancellation, half of our group was departing on Monday and the rest on Tuesday. In order to get the first half back to their flight on time we needed to drive them back to the Geneva airport, which allowed us even more time to see the beautiful alps. It also included a brief trip to the UN! Something I wanted to see after knowing we were flying into Geneva. After a late return into Aosta we got ready for a good night’s rest to enjoy our final day of exploring.

Our last day we had planned to go visit Zermatt but we weren’t quite prepared for distance to get there and it was extremely cloudy which wouldn’t allow us to see the Matterhorn. We decided to keep exploring through different towns on our way back to the airport. We stopped in Cervinia, Italy and Charmonix, France before arriving back in Geneva. In Cervinia we got some pretty great Italian pizza (unfortunately no pictures to prove it). In Charmonix it was a cute little French ski town with a million foreigners (again, apparently I got tired of taking photos). We tried taking our time getting back to Geneva knowing that our bed for the night was the oh-so-comfortable airport seats. Through all the travel and disruptions we certainly learned what to do for next time and I’m already wanting to plan another ski trip!