Mi Blog: Click here to view posts  OR scroll below to breeze thru      

Cerro Negro Volcano, León, Nicaragua

 ‘Tuanis’ Nicaragua

January 2017 – 

‘Tuanis’  the Nicaraguan word for really cool/awesome, was one of the first words I learned when I arrived, and personally it sums up all the wonderful adventures I went on while there. I had the unique opportunity to visit Nicaragua as the Travel Component to my Advanced Spanish class at St. Lawrence University. Nicaragua is absolutely stunning, and incredibly diverse! Though I only saw a handful of cities, they were each very unique in terms of climate, atmosphere, and geography. It is definitely essential to travel to several different regions in order to develop a true appreciation of the culture. I suggest breaking away from the busy tourist areas and simply walking the streets as the locals do. Whether you are looking for historical sites, sand between your toes, adrenaline rushes, natural rainforest, or a peaceful retreat in a hammock, Nicaragua has it all.   : )  

El Tiburón de Salamanca

January 2018 – 

As I had never traveled to Spain prior to my semester abroad in the spring of 2018, I was extremely eager to see what was in store for me! Shortly after arriving at the Madrid Barajas Airport I boarded a bus with my fellow program participants to head for the northern city of Salamanca for a nearly one month stay. All along our journey from Madrid to Salamanca I watched how we climbed in elevation and how there was increasingly more mountains in view. ‘Twas so exciting to see the Spanish countryside and to think of all the wonderful experiences that lay ahead. 

I was nervous, albeit even skeptical how my stay would be with my host family in an unfamiliar city given my small town background.  However, I quickly began to adjust and soon I was walking by myself to and from my language classes, an almost 2 mile walk through the city to the small pueblo, or village, of Santa Marta de Tormes. This pueblo was just on the other side of the river from Salamanca, so it was quite literally perfectly situated! 

El Rastro, Madrid 'Flea Market'
Parque del Retiro, Madrid central park

Un semestre en Madrid

February 2018-May 2018 —

In February, being semi-acclimated to the city life, my fellow SLU participants and I boarded our mini bus to head to Madrid. I felt very unsure of what to expect, but confident that it would change me for the better. After having met my host family at the Universidad Complutense, the main university in Madrid, they helped me settle into their apartment and my new room. My host family consisted of a mom, dad, and three brothers around my age. The view from my window of the Paseo de la Castellana, a main thoroughfare, was magnificent. I happened to receive an awesome placement and I could see the metro stop entrance of Cuzco from my window as well! 

 

Throughout the semester my fellow program participants and I went on various short trips around Spain : ) 

León ~ This northern city is quite beautiful and was once occupied by the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte when he conquered Spain during the Peninsular War of the early 1800s. The  library inside the Basílica de San Isodoro was actually ransacked by Napoleon for its contents of hundreds of medieval manuscripts and books. There is a tremendously detailed and hand painted Roman calendar on the ceiling in one room as well. The Catedral de León is a work of art with tons of handcrafted stonework and wooden figures. It reminded me a lot of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France. 

Bilbao & Santander ~ These magnificent Northern cities of Spain host some gorgeous beaches and completely contrastive climates to that of Madrid and Southern Spain. The world famous Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art is in Bilbao, as well as some wonderful little restaurants with rich samplings of the fertile land of the North. The costal city of Santander has that perfect salty, moist, and adventurous taste in the air. Though we went in the end of April, it was quite warm yet refreshing! I should also point out that just a short drive from Santander there is an absolutely incredible cave, Cueva del Castillo, which has perfectly preserved Stone Age art in it! This a top tourist destination as it is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is extremely hard to get into due to limited availability. However, our program director was able to get tickets when we were there, and let me tell you it was utterly wicked!  

Sevilla ~ As soon as you arrive in the Spring or Summer you are greeted with the most pleasant aroma of orange blossoms and fresh ‘naranjas agrias’ (sweet smelling sour oranges)! This was an incredible journey because during  the entire 7 hour ride from Madrid to our hotel in Sevilla, as far as my eyes could see there were olive trees!!! this was stunning for me, and aided in my new obsession for Spanish olives! Yummy!  The Catedral de Sevilla, or the main cathedral, is really gorgeous and its’ accompanying ‘torre,’ or bell tower is open for climbing. It is well known for hosting the remains of Spanish explorer Cristopher Columbus, and for the excess of steps needed to surmount the bell tower. It also boasts a terrific royal palace and gardens, El Real Alcázar de Sevilla, which has lots of Moorish and Arabic influences. The most notable are the illustrious tiles and flawless arches. 

Mérida ~ There is a decently intact Roman built amphitheater and mini fighting colosseum among other awesome Roman ruins that you can walk around in. These are super cool, and surreal, as I felt that I was standing in the real Colosseum in Rome! I highly suggest checking out these structures in the region of Extremadura, Spain. 

El Valle de los Caídos y El Escorial ~ The Valley of the Fallen and the Escorial summertime royal palace, are two of the most well known landmarks just outside of Madrid. The Valley of the Fallen attributes all those who were lost in Spain’s Civil War that were unknown, which was from 1936-1939. It was built by the dictator Franco, whom ruled Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975. It is a sight of great conflict as he himself was buried there until recently. This monastery and tomb is well known for the massive cross that is perched above it some 40+ feet into the air. El Escorial was the summertime palace for the King Phillip of Spain in the late 1500s. The architecture is awe inspiring, and extremely detailed. This is also a UNESCO World Heritage site jam packed with some amazing history. It has a super fascinating history and is a sight well worth the 40 minute drive from Madrid! 

Emily and I also went on two short day trips: 

Segovia ~ This is a wonderfully historic city filled with fantastic mountain views and a completely intact Roman aqueduct that fills the skyline. Plus, it is only a 30 minute train ride from Madrid. The Alcázar de Segovia, or Segovia Castle, is said to have influenced the Walt Disney Castle icon, and is spectacular inside! There is a draw bridge, a mote, real medieval armour, and they allow you to explore its nooks n’ crannies from top to bottom! Be sure to add this to your list of destinations when visiting Spain : ) 

Toledo ~ When you step off the train, the first thing you notice is how familiar this place looks to you. You ask yourself, “Hmm, why does this look so familiar?” The answer is that the deep river valleys and rocky green terrain are the perfect stages for some pretty well known movies! Toledo is just a short trip from Madrid and a must see. There is a   Medieval torture museum and a Knights Templars Catapult museum, as well as the home of the famous artist El Greco, which is now open to the public. One of the first things you notice is the huge stone castle rising up from the hilltop. This castle has seen many fires, and thus is built with several different materials as they mended it over time. Also, try to make time to stop at one of the many incredible marzipan shops! 

The view after getting off the train in Toledo, Spain.
The pristine view from the Alcázar de Segovia, Spain.
The rocky scenery that makes you feel like you are in a movie in Toledo, Spain.

Barcelona Con Em

February 2018 – 

Shortly after meeting my new best friend Emily, aka Em, she asked me if I would accompany her to Barcelona for a three day weekend, and of course I said yes! Only just a few short weeks after arriving on Madrid we struck off for the Madrid Barajas Airport to head to Barcelona. I was soo excited to start exploring the world with my new partner in crime! When we arrived I recall it being almost nightfall, and we needed to catch a bus to get to the hostel from the airport. Given that neither of us were too prepared, we didn’t really have a firm idea of where we were going, and as such we ended up sprinting to catch our bus.  Suddenly, we were ravished with hunger, and out of nowhere I remember that Em pulled a loaf of bread out of her backpack!! We gobbled it down in such a manner that I am sure the other passengers were disgusted, but ohh well, we were hungry!

 

‘YAH-soo’ de Atenas

March 2018 – 

Hello from Athens!” in Greek, is just how Emily and I felt when we were joyously jaunting around the streets of Athens, Greece on our spring break during our semester abroad. Greece is like no other! Tis a whimsical paradise filled with poppies, a rich ancient culture, and olive branches. One can loose themselves amongst all of the splendour of the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. 

Emily and I booked a 6 day 5 night trip to Athens for our spring break during our semester abroad. I had never imagined that it’d be possible to visit such a monumental place in the history of the world. Emily arrived a day before myself and I followed suit the next morning. I recall being both eager to board a plane where the auto seat allocation had allotted me seat #1 in first class! This was unheard of for me and the only time I have ever ridden in first class. I suppose I got the luck of the draw! 

 

‘Obrigada’ Oporto, Portugal

April 2018 – 

“Thank you Porto, Portugal,” for enlightening Emily and I with the Portuguese way of life and to the many diverse splendours of the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the next door neighbour to Spain in terms of geographical location, and as such the two European countries have had an immense intertwined history. As close as they are though, they are each very distinctive from the other. Portugal is well known for its trade in making ‘Port wine,’ as one of the worlds largest cork producers, and for its precious ceramic tiles, vases, and dishes. 

Our flight from Madrid to Oporto was very short, approximately an hour and a half I recall. During the whole flight there were sprawling snowy mountain views of the ranges that run between Spain and Portugal. When we landed, the first thing I noticed was how incredibly green the land was, and how moist and damp the air was.

Louvre Museum

Paris, ‘Se la vie

January 2019 – 

“Paris, that’s life” in French sums up my fairytale trip to Paris, France which was as sweet as could be. However, like most relationships it has bittersweet meaning. During my semester abroad I entered into a relationship with someone, and we went to Paris when I came to visit. What a wonderful time we had! It was a dream come true trip, but let’s just say that the relationship was short-lived, and thus I have many mixed emotions when it comes to Paris. I would absolutely recommend visiting Paris though! I am even thinking about returning someday because I felt like I only saw a small part of the city. The Louvre and the quaint streets left me in awe!

 

Madrid por el año 

September 2019 – March 2020   

Throughout my senior year in college I applied to numerous jobs, had countless interviews, and went to several job fairs, but nothing seemed to make sense to me. There was only one thing that I knew for certain, and that was that I wanted to return to Spain to explore, expand my language skills, and to live my life! 

Therefore, I applied to teach English public high schools  in Madrid, and I got accepted! Suddenly it was like my whole life came together. I felt like what I had always dreamt of was possible, like I was laying the foundation for my life puzzle to be completed. 

‘¡A Valencia y más!’

September 2019 – 

This was my first overnight solo trip, and the trip that really started my inspiration to create my own blog!!! I had considered going off on my own and exploring many times prior, but this time I put aside all the little doubts that I had inside me, and I just went! All I had was a backpack and about 50 euros in my pocket. It was only an overnight, but it felt like so much more!

Just days after securing my room in a shared flat in Madrid, I decided to send it and I booked a two day trip to Valencia, Spain in late September. I knew that the beaches in Valencia would still be spectacular with the Mediterranean having been warmed all summer long. I also found myself with a week until I had to start teaching, so I figured why not?

 

La muralla de Ávila

September 2019 – 

“The walls of Ávila” were predominantly constructed during the 12th century, making them almost 1000 years old!!! How awesome is that?! Today they are the most well preserved in Spain and are open to visitors for exploration. This UNESCO World Heritage sight is a true work of art! Many times I had driven by and seen them from afar, but it wasn’t until I booked a day trip, that I got to see them in person! Ávila is an amazing city just an hour and a half northwest of Madrid by train. I was totally psyched to see them towering above me with mystical Spanish sun rays beaming up from behind. 

Un día en Córdoba 

November 2019 – 

Oh my gosh if you have the opportunity, you need to see the Mosque-Cathedral in Córdoba, Spain!! I just about cried when I walked in because it is absolutely and purely incredible!! This UNESCO World Heritage Site was built in the late 700s AD, and is like receiving a historical and cultural awakening at the same time. The strong Arabic influence on almost everything in Southern Spain is extremely evident, meaning everywhere you go there is something to see!

Taking a day trip to Córdoba is well worth the wait to get into the mosque-cathedral, plus there is a very intact castle with massive strolling gardens! The beautiful and fragrant pomegranate, lemon, and orange trees give off a pleasant aroma when wandering the castle grounds and there are lots of lively flowering plants, palm trees, and fountains. I felt like I was a princess in a Disney movie. : )  

Al Norte: Vigo, Ribadavia y Ourense

December 2019 — 

This adventure all started with my desire to see Galicia, one of the greenest, most moist, and distinctive regions of Spain! I knew that I really wanted to visit the oceanside port city of Vigo, but I wasn’t sure about other possible destinations along the way. I had a long weekend off from teaching for a Spanish holiday, and planned a 3 day, 2 night trek northwards by train. I was eager to see a region of Spain that I really had not visited very much, and so I researched what other locations would be synonymous with train travel. It is around this time, that I discovered my new favorite Spanish wine, Albariño, which is sweeter but not too sweet with notes of citrus and stone fruits. This grape grows in the Northwestern region of Galicia, and there are prominent vineyards all over, specifically in the little town of Ribadavia. In addition, the city of Ourense has lovely sweeping river views with several bridges, hazy horizons, and a lots of gorgeous architecture.

 

The Girl with the pearl earrings

February 2020 – 

I have always wanted to connect with my Dutch heritage, and visit the Netherlands!! My senior year of college I found myself with space in my schedule for another class so I decided to take a Renaissance History class because I love history! As it turned out this became one of my all time favorite classes because we read many books about the various factors that influenced things like social class, race, art, politics, and trade from the 1200s to the 1700s. One of the books we read that I particularly loved, Vermeer’s Hat by Timothy Brook, melded into my realisation that I could in fact visit said locations from the book! 

Therefore I decided to book a long weekend trip during my year teaching abroad in Spain. This was my first solo trip to another country which meant it had to be amazing no matter where I was going! I knew that the Netherlands was a yes and that Amsterdam was a yes, but where else? 

 

Bruselas, Bélgica: Ohh sweet chocolate! 

March 2020 – 

Although it was a short one, twas very sweet!! My sole goal in going to Brussels, Belgium was to sample lots and lots of chocolate!!! Belgian chocolate is world renowned and I wanted to gorge myself to get a first hand experience of its deliciousness!! After spending the two days prior in the Netherlands, I decided to take a train from Delft, Netherlands to Brussels, an almost 3 hour ride. I loved how delightful the scenic the views were the whole way! Though I was only spending an afternoon in the city, it was as sweet as could be! 

 

En la Palma del ‘Al-Andaluz’

November 2021  

Per usual I arose early to give myself plenty of time prior to leaving for my 7:30 a.m. train to Granada, Spain. At this hour in Madrid the sun is beginning to rise and one is naturally greeted with the emerging rays of a brand new day. What I love the most about heading to Southern Spain, the region known as Andalusia, is the groves upon groves of olive trees! Their green symmetry weaving around the landscape gives a scenic vibe whether traveling by car, bus, or train. 

The three hour Ave train, a high speed train, provides ample time to reflect on just how special it is to be able to travel again. The past almost two years, have been filled with ups and downs, but also frustrations and desires to continue exploring the unknown. I am thankful for this first journey back into the person that I desire to be. In choosing Granada, Spain I had several reasons. If you have not yet done your homework on the ancient citadel El Alhambra, or the Alhambra, you should! ‘Al-Andaluz,’ as it is historically known from its Islamic creators, dates back as early as the 8th century. 

 

Ruta A La Rioja: Caminado Entre Uvas Y Gotas De Lluvia 

December 2021 — 

Waking up late lead me to grab a taxi for 13 euros instead of taking the Madrid Metro, a 12 minute versus 40 minute journey. I had gone to bed later than I wanted the night before but having packed and prepared everything, including food, I was all set to run out the door. Embarking by train gave me the opportunity to admire the early morning skies of bright orange, purple, and pink as they shown bright across the wispy stratus clouds above. The ground along the sides of the tracks sparkled with frost, a clear sign that it is winter in Spain. La Rioja is a very small but super important province in Spain as it is known for its’ wine production. As far as the eye can see there are rich fields filled with rows upon rows of grape vines. You can see this world famous wine, ’Rioja,’ in any sizeable liquor store across the US and many other countries. 

Trekking El País Vasco, Navarra y Aragón

February 2022 — 

As part of my time here in Spain, I want to visit all of the autonomous regions in Spain. Thus, two regions of which I had not yet visited were Navarre and Aragón, as well as the coastal area of San Sebastián which is in the Basque Country. In spite of there being less and less Covid-19 travel restrictions, I felt it still was easier to remain in Spain prior to tackling the various requirements of entering and returning from another country. This trip did not disappoint! Picture a landscape where lush green meets deep blue while transcending mountains. If you are not familiar with the geographical layout of the regions, this is the zone of Spain that borders France, and as such I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to see France’s Atlantic coast from afar. I planned a multi-city journey whereby from San Sebastián and Irún I took a bus to Pamplona and from there a train to the Medieval village of Olite from which I caught a train to the city of Zaragoza. 

Málaga & Nerja: La Costa del Sol

April 2022 — 

Where to begin? Well first of all, there is just something magical about visiting a land filled with palm trees, squabbling seagulls, and sun rays. Andalusia, the Southern part of Spain, is a region of which I have explored parts of but not yet conquered in its entirety. Thus, I chose to head to the beach as part of my ‘Semana Santa,’ or Holy Week springtime break. Málaga is known as one of the most beautiful cities in Spain, however its coastal counterparts which together form ‘La Costa del Sol,’ or the Sunny Coast, are arguably even more beautiful! Their rustic seaside shorelines, rocky crevices, and Spanish pueblo vibes cannot be beat! Therefore without hesitation a day trip to the nearby locality of Nerja was essential to taking in the beauty of the Andalusian region of the Mediterranean Sea.  

A Los Pirineos Andorranos

May 2022 — 

Have you ever heard of Andorra? Perhaps yes, perhaps no haha. It is one of those super small countries beholden to treasures galore, starting with the fact that it is nestled in the heart of the Pyrenees Mountains between Spain and France! By winter, this haven is a ski lovers paradise and by summer, it is an eden for hikers and climbers alike. I have desired to visit the heart of the Pyrenees for some time now, and as a female solo traveller I could not recommend it more! A visit to Andorra is like taking a walk back through time for several reasons.  

Italia: ‘Dolce Far Niente’

July 2022 — 

Where to begin.… from the nearly 2000 year old Colosseum to the mystique of the Vatican to almost every street corner there is something historical about Italy. It is like taking a journey back through the centuries only modernity has been built up around the origins of human society. Could it really be that I was finally able to do the trip of my dreams?! In some ways, the entire 10 days that I was there felt so surreal, but in other ways it was the most self-love I had given myself in some time. I was truly able to connect with my inner Julia Roberts in ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ where she finds the pure enjoyment life has to offer inside and out in Rome, Italy. As the title says, ‘Dolce far niente’ which literally means ‘the sweetness of doing nothing’ in Italian, is the epitome of my time exploring the Apennine Peninsula. 

Buen Camino‘ English style

August 2022 — 

El Camino Inglés, or the English trail, from Ferrol to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain is more than just a typical pilgrimage, it is a way to find a different side to your personality. Upon beginning I really wasn’t sure what it would bring but when I came upon the last few kilometers I truly felt like I had accomplished a feat of self-determination. Each step brings you closer to the things that you wished you could be and to whom you never you could be. In the summertime, the number of pilgrims that arrive to Santiago de Compostela (a.k.a. Santiago) is in the thousands daily, but really the routes are ripe for the picking all year round. This camino is about 119 kilometers from start to finish or roughly 75 miles. That’s an average of 20 km, 13 miles, per day.

More Blog Posts Coming Soon! Thanks For Your Understanding : )