Friday, March 29, 2013

Adios from Barcelona!

Sorry I didn't blog while I was in Barcelona (well I'm still here, but it's our last afternoon).  We leave our hotel at 4:30am...eek!  I will leave you some of my favorite images and memories from this BEAUTIFUL city!  Sam and I had so much fun!  Let me make one recommendation to you foodies...if you visit Spain you must eat at Tapas 24.  Sam and I are headed there one more time for our last dinner (it will be our 4th visit).  Fellow Asheville friends, you can get your own taste of Barcelona at Curate.  Head Chef, Katie Button, does an amazing job of preparing authentic Spanish tapas.  In fact, she still has my favorite pan con tomate (bread with tomato - we've had a lot of it here, but Katie does it best!).

La Sagrada Familia - definitely on my top 3 from this entire trip.  60 Minutes did a segment on this church, now Basilica, the Sunday before we left (you can watch it here, it's 12 minutes long...very cool!).  Sam and I went up to the top of the Passion Towers (the 2 on the right).  You can ride an elevator up and take the stairs down (or elevator down), we took the stairs. 

I will spare you all of the history behind these sites, but you do need to know one name.  Antoni Guadi - he was the head architect in charge of this church.  They hope to have this church finished in 2026 on the 100 year anniversary of his death!  When it is finished there will be 18 spires, and the center spire will be the tallest church spire in the world.  Anyways, here is the view from the top of the was breathtaking and definitely had my heart racing to be at the top!

This is the view from the bottom of the stairs we climbed down.

Inside the church is just spectacular.  Not all of the stained glass has been installed yet. 

There will be 3 entrances, Nativity, Passion, and Glory.  The Nativity facade is the only facade that Gaudi was alive to see finished.  It features the birth of Jesus Christ.  This was the only side that was finished when Sam visited Barcelona in 8th grade (1997).  There was no interior of the church for him to visit as well, just the exterior.

The next few images are of Park Guell, another Antoni Gaudi creation.  It was intended to be a 60 home wealthy gated community.  When World War I began, construction was halted and only 2 homes had been built.  Now it is a beautiful public park!

View of the Sagrada Familia from park.

One last Gaudi creation, Casa Mila.  We toured this house.  The next few images are from the rooftop.

I was able to teach Sam a few basics about taking pictures with my camera : )   (it doesn't have an Auto mode)

Last, a few images from today walking around the El Born district.  We visited Citadel Park and enjoyed seeing all of the dogs playing...we miss Hans!

Yes, we completely embraced the "tourist" look today.  Sam has one clean shirt left for the plane ride tomorrow, so he broke out his Nike purchase.  My hidden wallet is not very well hidden when I took off my denim shirt...oh well!

Goodbye from Barcelona!  We will definitely be back one day!  We really enjoyed our visit!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Enchanted Forest

This happened today...rented a car...drove to Turnov...drove a little bit further to Cesky Raj...and hiked in what I'm calling an enchanted forest to a castle.  Didn't see any other Americans or tourists...that's what I call a great day!  No time for background to dinner!  

Oh and you can't quite see it in the pictures, but it WAS SNOWING during our little forest hike!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Views from Charles Bridge

The Charles Bridge dates from the 14th century!  For most of its life it has been a pedestrian bridge - it still is today.  The bridge is quite stunning!  Below are pictures taken from the bridge (I'll need to get a picture of the bridge from a distance.  

The bridge is lined with 30 statues!

It was really hard to snag a few shots of the bridge and try to capture it's beauty with all of the tourists around (I guess that includes Sam and me).  We did go at a bad time...midday...when crowds are the worst.  This is what was surrounding us on the bridge...

We're in Prague!

Hello from Prague!  Sam and I are having a great vacation so far!  We both agreed we might have walked a little too much yesterday, so we plan on taking it a little bit easier today.  It's also pretty cold outside (colder than Asheville).  It snowed on Monday night, which made for a beautiful, but chilly Tuesday!  I have found the Czech people to be extremely friendly (except for 2 small occasions).  I feel so guilty that I only know a couple of Czech phrases - but since being here I read that their language is ranked the 3rd most difficult language to learn!  That makes me feel a little bit better.  It seems that most Europeans traveling here (from Spain, France, England, etc) don't know their language either.

I have had 2 experiences here where the people came off as a little bit rude, but really it was just a misunderstanding of their culture.  On our first night here Sam and I went to Cafe Savoy for dinner.  It had a beautiful interior and great atmosphere.  I ordered some sort of beef something or other (it looked like steak to me).  You order your side dishes here separately, so I asked for the bread dumplings...they sounded good (I love dumplings at home).  The waiter said, "No, no, you cannot get dumplings with beef.  That will not work." (imagine that said in thick accent....he said something else too about what dumplings go with, but I didn't understand him).  Although I could have taken it as being rude, the waiter was just helping me make the right decision.  Now, if you didn't chose the dumplings as your side dish, here were your other choices: roasted potatoes, potatoes with chives, mashed potatoes, or scalloped potatoes...NO JOKE!  I said I would take potatoes with my beef : )  Haha!  Since then, Sam has had the dumplings and they are only served with dishes with gravy.  And it makes complete since, the dumplings in Sam's words, are undercooked slices of white bread that are simply there to soak up the gravy that is served with meaty dishes.  

2nd cultural experience (which I think is more European and not just Czech) happened at a restaurant as well.  Sam and I went to eat at very Czech restaurant, U Medvidku.  Most restaurants here allow smoking (yuck!).  We were seated at a table in the smoking section.  We asked our waiter if we could sit in the non-smoking section, he said "No it is full."  We then asked if we could wait, he said "Wait, uh no."  We tried to convey that we didn't mind waiting for a table in the non-smoking section to open up.  The waiter said..."no, no wait? Outside? There's people outside, no wait."  So we were stuck at the smoking table.  Sam cringed every time someone around us lit up a cigarette (for my sake, he can handle smoke better than me).  I know America has it's own huge list of health problems, but I don't understand why Europeans still think it's cool to smoke!  Maybe lots of Americans still smoke, but I don't notice it as much because thankfully Asheville is smoke-free in restaurants and public places.  

I know you want to see pictures, so onto a few pictures.  You can follow me on Instagram and Facebook, where I have been posting about 1-2 pictures a day as well.  Here I am walking up the steps to get to Prague Castle on Monday.

Amazing view from the top of the steps!

Inside St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle....absolutely don't do it justice.  

 You can't beat a European Latte.  Sorry, West End Bakery, Europe is better at lattes, but don't worry I haven't found a replacement for your cinnamon rolls!

Here is St. Vitus Cathedral on Tuesday after the snow.

Strahov Monastery

The view of Prague right below Strahov Monastery.

Happy Wednesday everyone!  The sun is shining today, and it will probably be our warmest day here!  Yay!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Homecoming Memories

I recently looked at my pictures from Wofford Homecoming 2012 - guaranteed to bring back good memories!  This year, we stayed with our friends Katie and Lance.  Katie was my college roommate for 2 years, and we studied abroad in London together.  The really exciting part about staying with Katie and Lance is their baby girl, Genevieve (or not so baby anymore...she'll turn 1 in April!).  I took Katie aside from the tailgate to snap a few pictures of her and Genevieve.  Genevieve is such a HAPPY and sweet baby.  I loved being able to hold her - she even fell asleep in my lap while I gave her a bottle that night.