The Travelers


There is a common language that belongs to those who seek out something far from home. It is an ancient language, that of nomads, journeymen, and wanderers, it is now the language of hostelers. It is old, it is beautiful, and it unites the strangers of the road.

One learns this language innately; moving from place to place, never long enough to feel at home, there is a longing to connect. It is learned, unwittingly from others, those wiser and more experienced. It is unintentionally taught to the newcomers of this world. “Where have you come from?” “How long have you been away from home?” “How long do you plan on traveling?” These questions, which seem common on the surface, go to puzzle out some deeper, more powerful questions. “What drives you to keep going?” “What are you running from?” “What are you running to?” “Why are you here?”

Wanderers. Each unique. Different ages, different pasts, different lives, united by a common yearning to move on. Some are road weary from months, even years of travel, still unable to find a place to call home. Others are wide eyed and excited novices eager to begin the adventure. You bond with these people, perhaps over a pint or two. The bond is deep and intrinsic; you bond over your common purpose, or perhaps common lack of purpose.

It doesn’t matter if you meet for only a couple nights or of you end up taking the journey together for a brief time. The friends you make on the road are different. Whether you ever meet them again, nothing could change the adventures you had together.

To the wonderful travelers we’ve met (in mostly chronological order):

Paris-

Jaime from Australia

Brian from Arizona

Dan from Australia

Rio (Otavio) from Brazil

Cynan from Australia

Alex and Sam from San Diego

Reneé from Australia

Adam “Rainman” from Ohio/Hawaii

Marseille-

Luciana from Switzerland

Silja from Finland

Vanessa from Germany

Rob and the Americans from the United Kingdom and Boston

Florence-

Franzi from Germany

Ed and Omar from the UK and New York

Floriane from France

Madrid-

Times from New York/Montreal

Kit and Fliss from Australia

To the wonderful people who let us into their homes and showed us the city:

Sushma and family in London

Veronica, Patricia, and Leticia in Alicante

This will likely be my last post since I am once again Stateside and have to begin living my real life once again. Here’s to travel, adventure, and living life to the fullest!

Cheers!


American Girl.

My blogging name is “the Europhile”, I’ve just spent a month backpacking Europe and I had an awesome time. So obviously I like Europe. I love the history, the architecture, the food, and the people I meet there. Once, a while back, I had a conversation about all the places in this world to which I’d like to travel. The response I got back was “Wow. You must really hate America.” Seriously, someone actually said that to me.

A love of travel, adventure, and new experiences does not somehow lessen my love for my own country. If anything, travel makes me appreciate and love my country even more, it inspires me to want to make it a better place.

I often get asked “where do you come from?” when what the person really means is “what kind of Asian are you?” This happens at home as well as abroad. It’s pretty annoying so I always give the most truthful and least helpful answer possible “I’m from Denver” “I’m from the States”. Sometimes it gets followed up with “But what is your nationality?” Dude, you’re already going down the race road, just have the balls to follow through. “I’m AMERICAN!”

In the end, no matter what other places I fall in love with, I will and always will be an American girl.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers- American Girl (lyrics not 100% relevant but you get the idea).


Alicante and London

Those of you who know me might have guessed that I don’t really know anything about Spain, specifically Madrid, nor had I shown any interest in the country at all until about February of this year. Those of you who really know me probably know that I didn’t decide to go to Spain for the country at all, I went to Spain because we are all fools when it comes to matters of the heart. That being said, I do not recommended basing one whole leg of your travel itinerary around the word of an old lover with whom you chose to break your own heart. Especially one that’s proven to let you down in that arena on a fairly consistent basis. So I can’t pretend that I didn’t see it coming and I can’t pretend I wasn’t prepared to be let down. He did have a really good excuse, pretty much the best, but then again he always did.

There is nothing like time and travel to heal any wound. Especially extended travel. There’s a certain point where you are just too exhausted to feel the sting. And then comes the day you realize you no longer feel it, it’s sad in its own way. Sad but liberating.

So, I know I won’t be going back to Madrid or Spain anytime soon, and to this day I can’t puzzle out whether this part of the trip was really worth it. I mean, we could have gone to Amsterdam!

After Madrid, we moved on the Alicante to meet Neera’s friend, Veronica. When I say “meet” I mean “MEET”. It wasn’t until Vero picked us up from the train station that it was revealed to me that Neera and Vero had never actually met IRL (in real life). I’ve gotta be honest… I was more than a little alarmed. But at that point we were tired, hot, and what could I do about it? We were in an unfamiliar place and we were already in Veronica’s car. But still, I had the plots of “Taken” and “Hostel” running through my head. For future reference Neera, not cool. You tell your travel buddy something like that next time. This is incredibly relevant information.

Anyways, it clearly all worked out for the best. Vero is awesome. She and her friends are obsessed with American television and movies and they all speak great English. They took us to the beach, to tapas bars, and to a place where they served the most amazing “real paella” (apparently having paella in Toledo was a really dumb thing to do). We were introduced to an ABC drama “Castle” which is really funny and a great break when you’re hot, tired, and just want to sit around. We finished the whole first season plus some of the second.

On a side note, in one scene of “Castle” our protagonist’s daughter (who is having boy problems) says something along the lines of “why do guys always have to do that? Why do they always make excuses? Why can’t they just say I’m sorry“. Sound familiar? At this point, Neera cast me a rather significant look. All I can say is, why indeed, sister, why indeed?

Overall, Alicante was a pretty good time though by the end we were very happy to escape the heat and humidity.

Milo, Vero’s cat. Very cute and friendly. He made me miss my dogs a lot more than I did before.

The City:

A view from Alicante’s castle.

This is actually a town nearby called Altea.

The Food:

The “real paella” definitely miles ahead of the paella in Toldeo. Sooooooo delicious.

The paella on its way to my stomach.

Vero made an amazing dinner for us the last night.

Vero’s amazing Spanish omelette. Can’t wait to make this one at home.

Not many pictures from Alicante I was too tired, it was too hot, and honestly, the city isn’t very pretty or inspiring.

The next day we headed back to London for two nights before heading back to the States. There have been a lot of riots here, but it didn’t really affect us. We met up with Jaime again (our friend from Paris and Venice) and went shopping at Camden Market. Not a bad way to end our Euro-trip.

We got matching anklets! How cute :)

I’m not sure if I’m excited to go home yet. I will be happy to see my family, my friends, and my dogs and I’m very happy to stop moving around and living out of a suitcase. But I don’t know… I could put off real life for a couple more weeks I think.


Last night in Madrid and Flamenco

On our last night in Madrid we saw a great little flamenco show near to our hostel. These are just some great shots Times took from the night.

You can find Times’ blog here at timesgood.wordpress.com 

Again, Neera’s blog is here at lookingforpassenger.tumblr.com

 All photo credit goes to Times.

Will post more about Alicante soon!


Holy Toldeo, Batman!

After we got settled into Spain, we went to the Museo Reina Sofia which features a lot of modern art which was a nice break from all the renaissance and classical art we’ve been seeing. This museum focuses a lot on surrealism and cubism and features artists like Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso. It also houses Picasso’s famed Guernica painting which is a lot bigger in real life. They didn’t allow photos though…

On our third day in Spain, we decided to take a day trip to Toledo. Many of my friends have said great things about Toledo, so we gave it a go. That being said, we really didn’t know much about this medieval city. Everything I know about Toledo I owe to  my high school AP European History  teacher, Mr. Peters. From what I recall from way back when, Toledo was once a very cosmopolitan and wealthy city. This was largely in part due to the fact that Jews, Christians, and Muslims all coexisted there rather peacefully, which was a rarity during that time (and I guess it still is, unfortunately). This coexistence allowed for an abundance of trade in goods, ideas, and culture. That’s all I knew about Toledo before we went there, and that’s pretty much still all I know. Thanks Mr. Peters!

Toledo was a pretty cool site. We randomly walked into the Museo Santa Cruz which was free! This museum was actually pretty interesting and hosts a lot of renaissance period art.

The next day, we went out with a new friend from the hostel and explored a fun food market (the Mercado San Miguel) where we had the famous Iberian ham, some delicious cheese, and bread. Most of the photos from this day were taken by out new friend. He forgot his camera’s memory card, so I let him have mine since I was pretty sick of taking photos and his camera was much fancier than mine.

To the photo-mobile!

The People:

Two adorable matching children. They’re looking up at a statute in front of the Museo Reina Sofia.

This was a really awesome roller skating dude in the park. Photo credit to our friend Times, you can find his blog here.

The City:

A pretty street in Toledo we took in the attempt to find the Synagogue. We found it, but didn’t want to pay 3 Euro to get in.

A courtyard in the Museo Santa Cruz in Toledo.

The Food:

Paella!

Look it’s a ham shop! The famous Iberian Ham. It was magnificent :) Photo credit to Times.

A tasting plate of cheese with bread. Photo credit to Times.

Apparently Spain is big on churros dipped in chocolate. It was underwhelming. I think the chocolate is supposed to be a lot thicker than it actually was. Photo credit to Times.

Unless you’re really into partying and nightlife (like REALLY into it) Madrid is a city that can probably be covered in 2 days… We managed to compensate for our extended stay by using siesta as an excuse to not do anything and spending time in McDonald’s drinking McCoffee and using the free McWee-Fee. McWee-Fee is awesome.

Tomorrow we leave for Alicante and the beach! Can’t wait!


Under the Tuscan Sun

On our last day in Florence with a visit to the famous leather market. We went with our new roommate, who was the loveliest girl from Toulouse in France. We spent a lot of time there agonizing over some gorgeous leather handbags, wallets, and other various doo-dads. It was pretty bad. We ended our time in Florence and Italy with a gorgeous view of the city from the Piazza San Michelangelo. We got there around 7.30, just in time to see the sun set behind the Tuscan hills. The way the sun lit up the Arno river and Il Duomo was stunning. Pictures of this region do not do it justice. That would have been a perfect way to end the night. Only it didn´t end there. We decided to walk home to the hostel. It took about an hour and a half total. On the way we walked by the riverside at twilight and down the Ponte Vecchio (I believe the oldest bridge in Europe). We walked through the Piazzale Uffizi where there were great street musicians (like amazing) playing classical guitar pieces by Barrios. The atmosphere created by the beautiful music, the lights, shops, and people in the Florentine evening was simply… enchanting.

We had a great time in Florence.

The People:

People at the leather market. You can see the dome of San Lorenzo in the background. This is where I had a small altercation with a shop keeper who kept telling me “this isn’t the dome!” I proceeded to tell him that I knew it wasn’t “the dome as in Il Duomo, however it is A dome. A dome is an architectural feature”. He proceeded to argue with me so I yelled at him for treating me like an idiot.

We seemed to walk into some sort of Italian fashion shoot. The models looked down right silly posing for the camera. Actually, the whole crew seemed like they walked right out of a cartoon. And this is coming from someone who respects the fashion industry.

The City:

The Tuscan sun setting behind the hills

The river at dusk

Ponte Vecchio at night.

The Food:

I didn’t take any pictures of the food we ate on out last day in Florence so I’m posting a photo of the one meal we ate on our first night in Madrid.

I’m only slightly ashamed to say we ate at Burger King. In our defense, we went there because we are now dangerously short on cash (well I am at least, Neera fixed her cash issues) and they are one of the few places that accepts credit cards. Also, Burger King is cheap. I did find it interesting that my salad came with fancy pants bottles of extra virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar. We took them back to the hostel so we can make pasta or something later.

We left Florence and arrived in Madrid in the afternoon. It was very hot, and we were pretty beat from the last two days´activities so we spent most of our time in the hostel and didn´t explore the famous night life. We´ll get a better idea of Madrid tomorrow when we´re well rested and more cognizant of what´s going on. The wi-fi here doesn´t work very well and there are always a lot of people waiting to use the computers so posts will probably we very irregular until we reach Alicante. We´re searching for a Starbucks or McDonald’s tomorrow in hopes that there will be free internet there, fingers crossed!


The Medici had a lot of Balls.

The Medici family, a powerful Florentine banking family which controlled the Tuscan region back in the Renaissance, had an interesting family crest. It was meant to symbolize the family’s wealth and power by representing the weights used in banking (weighing gold). These are commonly referred to as the Medici Balls. I’ve always thought the Medicis were really interesting historical figures, but I’d never heard of the “Medici Balls” before today. I’m trying not to be immature about this, but it’s really difficult. I forgot to take a picture about of said family crest, but you can find a link to it here.

Today we got to visit the Tuscan country side among other things. We started in San Gimignano, moved on to Siena, and then ended with a wine tasting in Chianti. San Gimignano is a great little medieval city which is also known as “The City of One Hundred Towers”. Apparently the medieval families here liked to keep up with the Joneses by building larger and taller towers. There’s something very Freudian and phallic about the whole thing. It was a great stop.

Siena is the home of a gorgeous cathedral that apparently rivals the one in Florence. It was indeed beautiful but I’m pretty sure the one in Florence is more impressive.

The drive up to Chianti was amazing, the Tuscan countryside is so amazingly beautiful, it’s pretty much exactly like the post cards. I wasn’t able to capture the greatest photos due to the fact we were in a moving vehicle but I gave it a shot. The winery was fantastic. Again, there were breath taking views and also good wine. It was an all-day trip so the three of us are beat. Onto photos.

The People:

A cute little boy in Siena.

A resident of San Gimignano tending to her lovely vegetable garden. Everyone here seems to have a great little vegetable patch for fresh produce. It’s be great to see everyone in the States grow veggies instead of unproductive and resource draining grass in their yards.

The Countryside:

One of the not so blurry images I captured.

A lovely olive grove.

From the bus.

The colors in Tuscany are incredible.

The Food:

GELATO!!!! It’s soooo beautiful :D

More Gelato!!!

The first wine from our wine tasting. It came with bread, salami, and prosciutto. P.S. Italian bread sucks after you’ve been to France.

Our visit to the countryside was a smashing success. Aside from a slight lull during the Siena portion, we had a great time enjoying the majestic scenery. I love this part of Italy! Tomorrow we get to go find Neera a big leather bag to solve our packing issues.

Ciao!


Obviously I’m a Space Pirate… duh!

This is our second day in Florence. We headed out early to try and beat the crowd in line for Il Duomo. It worked out pretty well for the most part. It was a long climb to the top, but the view was well worth the climb, the wait, and the gross heat inside Brunelleschi’s Dome. After that we headed to the Galleria Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David. On the way there we got side tracked by lunch and shopping. I accidentally bought something again. David was magnificent. Even if you’ve seen a million photos of it, it’s nothing compared to the real thing. The details and artistry of it are fantastic.

Back at the hostel we finally did some laundry! Yay for clean clothes! We then headed to the river to see the famous sunset, but were thwarted by evil clouds… sad day.

The City:

A view of Florence from inside Il Duomo. There are 463 steps up to the top.

A view from the top of Il Duomo. Florence is magnificently beautiful.

The Arno River around sunset.

The People:

This old man played beautiful music while we waited in line for Il Duomo.

Some guys we met at our hostel. They’re fun guys. Apparently born as conjoined twins in a dragon egg. Also, I’m a space pirate from another galaxy.

The Food:

I forgot to take a photo of this meal before I ate it. It was delicious though. Pasta with mushrooms.

Tomorrow we head to Siena and Chianti to visit the Tuscan countryside and a vineyard. We’re also facing somewhat of a baggage crisis, so we’re going to look for some large leather bags at the leather market in Florence on Saturday.

Loving Florence so far!


Ditsy is begeerlijk, comprende?

No… no comprende at all…

Our Venetian hostel offered a selection of 3 books. One of these was American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. I’ve been meaning to read this book, so I took it. It wasn’t until I tried to read it that I realized it was printed in Dutch. I’m keeping it anyways. I plan on taking it to Madrid and leaving it there.

American Psycho

So without plentiful amounts of money, we ran out of stuff to do in Venice rather quickly. We window shopped (okay so I did buy a couple things…). We did end up doing a lot of people watching and dog watching. There are a lot of cute dogs there and most of them come in matching sets! Venice is beautiful but tough to do on a tight budget.

The City:

Another beautiful view of Venice.

Gondaliers’ oars.

The Food:

Gelato!

Yummy window

We left Venice in the morning for Florence! Florence is beautiful. I love the architecture here. There is an actual city vibe here and locals. We’re here with one of Neera’s friends from Germany. Our hostel is pretty cool so far. Not too much to write about as of yet since we just got in but we had a wonderful dinner near our hostel. The staff was kind of rude, but the food was great. The Duomo and the Accademia tomorrow! Also leather market and trying not to spend too much money.

The City:A flower shop near out hostel

Piazza San Marco

The street.

The Food:

Pasta with wild boar… yummmm!

Can’t wait to explore Florence tomorrow!


Where’s the Wee-Fee?

I’m not going to lie; we spent most of our time in Nice in the hostel. It had a great common room and lounge and free wi-fi, of which I took full advantage. We did take a nice walk around at night and found Nice was still very pretty.

After we departed Nice, we spent the majority of the day one trains to Venice… not super exciting. We arrived in the city around 7 pm. Surprisingly, I think my French (which is better than I thought it would be) is actually stronger than my Italian (which apparenltly stinks) … weird.

Our hostel here is weird. Actually, it pretty much sucks. There’s no front desk, computer access, or internet. But the room is big and as far as I can tell it’s clean, so it’s not worth complaining about too much. We finally found free wi-fi (or wee-fee as I now like to call it) in a pizza shop 10 minutes from our hostel.

Venice is beautiful and there are a lot of cute clothing shops and souvenir  shops. It is however, rather crowded and touristy. Also things are very very expensive here. But hey, we’re in Venezia!

On the second day in Venice, Neera and I went to Murano. We saw some artisans create insane shapes out of molten glass. It was pretty astonishing. There were so many gorgeous sculptures and intricate designs… unfortunately this stuff is also very very expensive. Later, we met up with one of our old roromies from Paris for a drink. We went to a fun jazz bar with bras on the ceiling (always an indication of a good time) and then another tiny hole in the wall place near the Rialto Bridge. It’s kind of amazing we got to meet up with someone we met just a week before in a totally new country.

Leaving for Florence in the morning. Ciao!

The People:

A nun sitting across from us on the train to Venice.

Some tourists feeding pigeons in the Piazza San Marco… They’re letting them perch on their arms… I find this behavior disgusting and horrifying. They’re PIGEONS! Ewwww….

A rather attractive gondalier.

Neera looking at her bank statement. Not a staged photo.

The City:

The Grand Canal at night.

The Grand Canal in the day.

A view from the water bus on the way to Murano.

The Pizzeria where the Wi-Fi lives!

The Food:

Mmmmmm….

Pizza!


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