Pin of the Week: How to Travel in Europe for Three Weeks

[REPOST from March ’13 when I was first accepted to study abroad! How the time flies. #tbt]

Unknown

This week’s topic: How to Travel in Europe for Three Weeks

Spring break 2013 allowed for plenty of time for browsing Pinterest and in celebration of people getting accepted to study abroad programs, this week’s Pin of the Week is “How to Travel in Europe for Three Weeks”. Although you may be traveling for more than three weeks in somewhere other than Europe, this blog post I repinned from fellow PRSSA blogger Katie Lofblad offers great tips for traveling on a tight budget.

Top Tips for Traveling:

  • Pack Light– Trade traditional suitcases for bigger backpacks designed to maximize space.
  • Pack Smart– Bring only things you can mix and match. You will go shopping!
  • Research– Sure traveling abroad is supposed to have some spontaneity, but you’ll definitely appreciate knowing where you need to go when you need to go there.
  • Spend Money Well– Do a little price hunting so you won’t feel like you have to skip out on any sites on your Bucket List. The experiences will be worth having one less croissant or another London snow globe.
  • Best Souvenir: photos– Save money and use your own photos to make postcards instead of buying them!
  • Embrace Culture– Know some basic phrases in the native language and make an effort to understand and appreciate the local culture. You’ll get so much more out of the trip!
  • Write Everything Down– Whether you make a blog or keep a private journal, take a little time every day or week to write down the places you go, people you meet, and new foods you try.
  • Give Yourself Free Time– Don’t forget that some of life’s greatest moments are the ones we don’t plan for. Don’t be afraid to give yourself the afternoon off and explore a new place or have a relaxing picnic people watching.

If that doesn’t get you even more excited to travel abroad I don’t know what will. As long as you stay open to new experiences and are willing to try new things and stick to some of these tips, I’m sure you’ll have the semester or vacation of a lifetime!

Don’t forget to check out other posts on Steph’s travels blog to learn more tips for traveling abroad.

What are some of your packing/ traveling tips? Let me know in the comments!

Advertisements

[M]eloise at the Plaza [Mayor]

Hey, guess who came to visit me (a month ago…)!

IMG_0465

Madre y Padre

Yes, worlds collided about a month ago when my parents came to visit me in Madrid. I crossed a lot of milestones while I was away, traveling to/living in Europe for the first time, turning 21, speaking a foreign language, coordinating international travel plans and a whole bunch of others things all by myself. I’ve always been a pretty independent person, but I didn’t realize just how much I missed my parents until I saw them standing in my new home country.

Fortunately, they had booked a hotel right near school, so when we met up on Friday morning, I showed them where I had been doing all my “studying”…

escuela (2)

Instituto Internacional

It had been a long overnight flight for them (and a long Thursday night for me) so we spent the afternoon catching up and strolling around Parque del Buen Retiro, which was a perfect way to incorporate some natural beauty and history of Madrid with my mom’s love for gardens and flowers.

IMG_0464 IMG_0480 Padre!

We started in the Banco de España metro area and I showed them my favorite building in Madrid, the Ayuntamiento as the sun was setting. I just can’t get over how beautiful Madrid is at any and all hours of the day.

IMG_0494

From there, we walked up and down Gran Vía, which is the only real “New York City-esque” part of Madrid. There are theaters, shops, hotels, luxury stores, and restaurants EVERYWHERE and up and down every side street you pass.

After that, we took the metro back to the hotel, and enjoyed the self-serve open bar (perks of parental visits) and then went to Dona 59 for dinner, based on the concierge’s EXCELLENT recommendation. I got paella, Dad (daringly) got squid ink paella, and my mom got a tuna and avocado dish that I kept “trying.” We went back to “The Club” for dessert, which included chocolate-covered strawberries, cookies, fruit, and “dessert shots” which were creamy coffee or fruit-flavored deliciousness served in a shot glass. It’s amazing how different traveling abroad can be when you’re not on a student budget…

IMG_3394

Luckily for a true Madrileña like me, I didn’t have to end my night around midnight because my dear friend Madison was in town! I met up with a group of my friends at Dubliners in Sol and got chocolate and churros at St. Ginès Chocolatería with them after. It was so great to see Madison (who is studying in Strasbourg, France), I miss that chica.

1377590_10151928210480071_1048129489_n

Photo cred to RDobbs

The next day, I had breakfast at “The Club” with my parents. Eggs, ham, fresh orange juice, espresso, pineapple, these yummy red pepper things and several other goodies was a huge step up from traditional Spanish homestay breakfast of sugarless cereal and coffee.

I got a guidebook before I left for Spain, and thankfully it included a “Self-Guided Walking Tour” around Sol and Plaza Mayor. PERFECTO. (Gracias, Rick Steves.)

IMG_0521

Rick Steves’ Self-Guided Walking Tour:

  • Puerta del Sol– Spain’s city center.
  • Plaza Mayor– 17th-century cobblestone plaza.
  • Mercado de San Miguel– Stations of gourmet tapas, perfect for a snack or a meal.

IMG_0529

  • Church and Convent of Corpus Christi– Charming old Hieronymite church where cloistered nuns sell sweets (closed when we went, but still on my bucket list).
  • Town Hall– Madrid’s ceremonial Town Hall from the time of Philip II, when the capital was located in nearby Toledo.
  • Almudena Cathedral– It took 100 years to build, and the colorful ceiling and 5,000-pipe organ are worth the peek inside.

IMG_0546

IMG_0551

  • Plaza de Oriente– Spaniards sure love their plazas…
  • Plaza de Isabel II– Not déjà vu, keep reading.
  • St. Ginès Chocolatería– We stopped here for churros, my second time in 24 hours.
  • Joy Eslava Disco– Old-style theater turned nightclub.
  • Back to Sol. 

After all THAT, it was time for a siesta, so we headed back to the hotel and passed out for a little bit, then went to a restaurant for gourmet roasted lamb and potatoes, more wine (obviously) and then some anisette dessert liqueur. YUM.

We went back to “The Club” and talked some more. Whenever it’s just my parents and I,  I always feel more grown up, and it was really nice to be able to show them how well I had adjusted to living in a foreign country and having to speak a different language every day. Of course, I did miss my siblings too… just a little.

That night, I went off to Kapital, the 7-floor dance club with different music on each floor to meet up with some friends. I have yet to find anywhere else in Europe that can top Kapital, and I don’t think I ever will.

Photo cred Madison D.

Photo cred Madison D.

On Sunday, after another delicious breakfast with my parents, we went to the Prado Museum, where I was able to explain some of the art I learned about in class, and then we walked around the city some more, stopping for a bocadillo de jamón y queso cut right off the leg, just like my dad wanted.

IMG_0572 IMG_3388

After another quick siesta, we went out to dinner where I had a delicious mozzarella cheeseburger and we all got chocolate cake. We met some older American women who had been traveling around the north of Spain, completing a portion of the religious pilgrimage Camino de Santiago. Meeting them and hearing their stories reminded me that even though I go home in December, the end of study abroad doesn’t have to be the end of my travels. I slept in the hotel room with my parents that night, and after they left in the morning I ate breakfast at “The Club” and then walked a block over to school at 10:30 am.

My parents went off to Barcelona for a few days on their own, but I am SO happy I got to spend so much time with them in my home city! They came at the perfect time for the perfect amount of time, and I’m happy that they were able to see at least a few reasons why I love this city so much.