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]

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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!

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Ditch the Digital: The Abroad Guide to Guidebooks

“With all the focus on apps, social media and smart phones (oh my!), don’t forget that using a traditional non-digital guide book (the kind written and published by travel experts as opposed to just user reviews) can be incredibly effective at planning and navigating any abroad adventure.

While of course using maps and smartphone apps are nearly essential to today’s traveler (I would probably still be wandering Amsterdam if it weren’t for the offline map app Stay), there are some benefits of using a traditional guidebook…”

Read the rest of my latest Abroad Guide post here—–>  DITCH THE DIGITAL: WHY YOU SHOULD USE A PRINT GUIDEBOOK WHEN TRAVELING

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Research, people. It’s all about the research.

While I was studying abroad last fall in Madrid I did plenty of “research” about the best party spots and this is what I came up with:

Madrid is one of the few places in the world that literally parties all night long. With several major clubs, hundreds of bars, and a passionate and social culture, it’s perfectly normal (and a common thing to do while studying abroad) to end your night on the town at the same time people are making the morning commute to work…

Check out the rest of this article on The Abroad Guide. ——->  THE ABROAD GUIDE TO PARTYING IN MADRID

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Have you visited any of these awesome places? Let me know in the comments!

¿Tienes Hambre?

Who’s hungry?

“Spanish food is considered a Mediterranean diet – not Mexican. So while you might be expecting amazing amounts of salsa and refried beans when in Madrid, you’ll be in for a (hopefully pleasant!) surprise. You won’t find tacos and nachos on every menu– instead, you’ll be delving into little appetizers that make up a big meal – with a multitude of ingredients from shrimp, to eggs, to ham croquettes. Spanish food uses fresh, high quality local ingredients, and can vary depending on the particular region you’re in. Here’s a rundown of the top places to go to grab a bite while in Madrid…”

Read on here ——-> THE ABROAD GUIDE TO EATING IN MADRID

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Have you visited any of these delicious eateries? Let me know in the comments!

Imperium Reunion

Valencia is the favorite band of the boy I had a crush on in middle school third largest city in Spain and the site of the Imperium reunion. This is gonna be good…

After a glorious night on the town in Madrid, the biggest case of déjà vu ever set in as I boarded the bus at 9 am with the kids from my seminar, and of course our faithful guides Jose Luis, Alfonso, and Elena.

I slept most of the hours-long bus ride, but woke up between tracks of John Mayer’s Where The Light Is: Live In Los Angeles playlist just in time to catch glimpses of the rivers, rock formations and manmade tunnels that brought me back to driving through the mountains in Colorado a couple summers ago. Like the drive to Barcelona, the way to Valencia through the eastern Spanish countryside is breathtaking. Shades and textures of browns and greens laid perfectly unevenly beneath a blue sky.

We arrived in Albufera Park in Valencia in the early afternoon, where we were treated to the most delicious paella (famous in Valencia) lunch I have ever consumed. Rachel was especially in her glory. Paella is her spirit animal. Mine is croquetas.

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After lunch, we toured the estuaries in Albufera that used to be a major fishing spot where the salt water of the ocean meets the freshwater rice fields. The temperature was perfect at the golden hours of the afternoon, and all I wanted to do when I got off the boat was take a nap in the sun.

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Once we checked into the hotel, Allison, Rhiann and I had about an hour of downtime to digest lunch rest before we set out to explore. We met up with Rachel, Hailee, JenBundy, Amanda, and Michelle and took the bus across town to walk along the beach before dinner. The moon was full and bright and you could feel the humidity in the hair air. We took some classic jumping pics, then sat down at a restaurant for some sangria and tapas for dinner. Allison and I split shrimp croquetas and an order of shrimp sautéed in garlic and olive oil, followed by homemade cheesecake for dessert.

We spent the hour waiting for the bus back across town discussing the wonders of Disney World, explaining the rules of “Mafia” (ask Hailee, I still don’t get it), and laughing about #sh*tJenBundysays, which I think will be my next blog idea. Hilarious. The best thing about that night was that after we got back to our room, I had almost the same feeling I get after spending a night out to dinner with my home friends. It was really nice to come back to the same group of people I started this whole “study abroad” adventure with, especially after we’ve all had a chance to gain a little more world experience on our own.

On Saturday, MY “LITTLE” BROTHER TURNED 17! I can’t believe it. Seems like just yesterday I was writing this note about him…

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In-class writing assignment, circa 2001.

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BFFs, May 2013.

ALSO on Saturday, we had the most delicious fresh squeezed orange juice (Valencia is also famous for oranges…Go ‘Cuse) and hotel breakfast. DEFINITELY beats the crap out of the plain cereal and coffee I get at home in Madrid.

We saw the cathedral in Valencia where the Holy Grail is kept… casual. And while a young handsome Harrison Ford didn’t come to sweep me off my feet, there was a demonstration about fighting pobreza in Spain that had some really awesome drum lines.

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After, we set off to the L’Oceanogràfic, the largest aquarium in Europe. I had a great time reliving childhood field trips and babysitting outings to the Boston aquarium, but this place was on another level, with each building dedicated to one of the nine main marine ecosystems. We also got to watch a dolphin show. Is it too late to change my major?

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After the aquarium, we took a tram tour around the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias that looked like some new age space park, with a giant model of Gulliver from Gulliver’s Travels that serves as a children’s play park…casual.

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Our “SWEET SURPRISE!!!!!!!!!!!” on the itinerary was horchata, a traditional Spanish beverage that tastes kind of like very sweet and nutty almond milk. You can drink it straight or dip in a pastry, either way it’s very good!

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After exploring a little more of the area around our hotel with JenBundy and Maya, it was time for dinner at the hotel, where we had more paella. Score. At night, Hailee, Rachel, Rhiann and I bought some bottles of wine and enjoyed an evening of pretty deep conversation about dreams and after-life on a bench outside a church near the lively downtown, until we were approached by four entertaining Spanish suitors all slightly resembling Christian Bale. We ended up with almost all of the other Syracuse kids at a local bar/club Bolsería Café and danced until it closed at 3:30 am to the best DJ I’ve ever heard. Wow, what a great night.

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The next morning we walked to the Lonja de la Seda, a late Valencian Gothic building which was used as a major trading house for oil, silk (seda) and other types of business and conveniently located next to our infamous church bench of the night before. Culture truly is all around us.

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Morning after.

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We strolled through a local flea market on the way back to the hotel before boarding the bus home to Madrid. I had an exceptional weekend in Valencia. Great food, great music, great company, and another fantastic Spanish city to check off my list!

The Abroad Guide

“Weren’t you that guy on The Abroad Guide: Awesome Study Abroad Blogs?”

Yes! I am that guy. [laughs] How kind of you to notice.”

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In all seriousness, I have some cool news! First, before I began my wonderful adventure studying abroad in Madrid, I was scared out of my wits researching what to pack for your semester abroad, what to expect from a home stay experience, and maybe even how to make your friends jealous with an awesome travel blog… I found The Abroad Guide on Twitter first, and it really helped me get more excited about my semester ahead.

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After my trip to Lagos, Portugal, I tweeted at The Abroad Guide to share my post. I wasn’t really expecting much of a response, but a couple days later the Creator and Editor Jessica Dante commented on this blog, and asked if she could use one of the photos from Lagos for some stickers to hand out at study abroad events. I sold my soul said sure why not, and this is how they came out!

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Jess and I continued to correspond over email (she loves my blog, I love hers) and she asked to feature me on the new series of Awesome Study Abroad Blogs. How could I object?! I answered some questions (which you can read here) about where I have traveled and the most exciting things I’ve done so far, and it was published on the website. So exciting. I didn’t realize so many people were reading this blog and enjoying it so much! I got a lot of great feedback from my friends and family, so I just want to take a moment to say THANK YOU & GRACIAS for following along with me on all my adventures.

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Real (Actual) Madrid Weekend

Since we are all traveling so much throughout the semester, it’s important to remember to get to know your host city too. Special thanks to my friends who have sent me lists of things to do in Madrid. I’m working through them and making my own as well!

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Here’s a rundown of our real Madrid weekend:

Thursday

  • Saw “Place Beyond the Pines” in a Spanish movie theater. It was in English but with Spanish subtitles. Not exactly a jarring cultural experience, but rest assured, Ryan Gosling looks just as good in Spain.

Friday

  • Day trip through SU Madrid to Segovia where we saw an original Roman aqueduct, did a walking tour of the city, toured more towers and castles, and tried the famous Segovian dessert Ponche (marzipan cake). So many flavors. It took about a minute and a half to experience them all, but 100% delicious.

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  • At night we went to El Tigre, which has really cheap drinks and gives HUGE plates of FREE tapas. Definitely one of my favorite bars in Madrid. Then we went to the club Joy and I had a conversation with someone completely in Spanish! Anna and I took the bus home around 4 am cause it’s fo freeeee.

Saturday

  • Ate Chipotle-style burritos at Tierra with Scott, Rhiann, Miriam, Hannah and Anna.
  • Took a gondola ride over the city (Hi Hannah).

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  • Discovered Egyptian ruins with a super sketchy guy inside at a park.

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  • Saw (3 minutes of) rain for the first time in over a month. Too much for the umbrella apparently though…

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  • Explored more of our beautiful city!

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  • Siesta and tv catch-up time with Anna.
  • Dinner with Emi.
  • Watched the Real Madrid vs. Atlético de Madrid futbol game in a packed MARCA Sports Café.
  • Churros & chocolate at the famous Chocolatería San Gines (since 1894) to end the night.

Sunday

  • Spent the day at El Rastro, the giant weekly flea market at the La Latina metro stop. So much to see.
  • Bought my first pair of Spanish shoes! 8 Euro for a pair of little red sporty sneakers. I’m practically a local.
  • Tapas for lunch at the Mercado De San Miguel. This time I tried a homemade chocolate truffle, burrata (whipped mozzarella and cream), and pesto pizza with tomato. YUM.

Had to reload my monthly metro card today. I can’t believe it’s already been a month in Madrid. Time is flying by too fast!