Tag Archives: europe

The Great Trip Home

London pictures here.)

Okay, so it wasn’t really a great trip home, but as far as trips home go, it was pretty good.

I got home a week ago, but I’ve been pretty busy (read: procrastinating) on writing this blog entry until today.

I got to spend two days in London, or rather a few hours of one day, a full day, and a day in the airport. I took the train from Edinburgh-and the British trains are surprisingly not smooth and seem determined to throw everyone around the train cabins without actually managing to crash the train. It was an interesting ride, and after four hours of jostling I arrived at King’s Cross, where I spent half an hour waiting in line to get an Oyster Card while listening to some guy complain about his lost Oyster Card and a few other guys get really angry at him.

Anyway, the next day I spent wandering around two different types of shopping areas. This:

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And this:

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The first is Camden Market, which is an awesome place full of interesting items and clothes of various styles. Also fried oreos. That’s right. Fried foods that aren’t meant to be fried aren’t limited to the United States.

The second is Regent Street, which is full of Stores I Can’t Afford and several H&M’s. It’s a pretty street to walk down and window shop and stare at what might have been had you been born rich, or at least wealthier than you are now. It’s pretty much the opposite of Camden Market.

Now, I’ve already been to London twice, which is why this blog entry only includes something about a market and not any of the more iconic things one might do in London. One might say that I’d gotten lazy on this part of the trip–and that’s true. But I did spend a few days in London a few years ago, and a few weeks in London two years ago, so I covered a lot of ground. This visit I had less time, so I did less. And what I did was explore an awesome market that people should go to more often.

The next day I went to the airport nice and early (Heathrow, for the curious) where I wasn’t allowed to check in for three hours. I arrived six hours before my flight because my hotel check-out time was early, and my flight was relatively late. I ended up puttering around, buying a paperback version of JK Rowling’s secret book (the one she wrote under a pen name), and drinking coffee.

Heathrow Terminal 5 is a nice place to spend a few hours once you’re allowed to check in. There’s a TARDIS, several shops, a noodle restaurant, and a fair amount of free wifi, all of which I took advantage of. Never have I spent more time in an airport so willingly.

I had a flight on British Airways, which was really nice–good service, back of seat entertainment systems, and relatively good food. The flight went faster than I expected, probably because I watched Casino Royale and then spent the next three hours writing with Les Mis in the background. Not a bad way to spend a flight. I didn’t feel like dying once.

And when we got into JFK, we were treated with a lovely sunset as a backdrop to New York City.

NYC sunset from JFK airport.

NYC sunset from JFK airport.

It’s been surreal being home. I kept thinking, “Oh, yesterday I was in Europe.” And then, “Oh, this time last week I was in Europe.” I’d gotten tired of traveling but I miss it, too, which is always the problem of coming back from somewhere. Being left at home with nothing to do is quite a change from exploring new places, and I’ll probably go stir crazy in another week. I love traveling. I love planes, which sounds weird but probably isn’t. I love the feeling of being in a place with a lot more stuff going on than at home. And I love doing what I want.

But never fear! I’m accompanying my family on college tours for my sister in about a week in Boston, which is a really nice city that I haven’t been to enough. And after that, we’re going to Cape Cod for some relaxation and good ice cream and one really scary beach that constantly changes and is surrounded by sharks. It is the best beach, and it is in Chatham if you ever want to explore a creepy beach.

So, although I leave you with this last bit of the trip, travel isn’t over for the summer. Interesting things are still going on, and thankfully the rest of the summer won’t be me staring at the computer screen wishing I was elsewhere, as I often do.

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Barcelona: Part II

Today was a day of food porn. Let me start with this:

omg chewy chocolate covered croissants I had two today don't judge me

omg chewy chocolate covered croissants I had two today don’t judge me

And this

it looks so good

it looks so good

And this

what even is this salt but it looks good

what even is this salt but it looks good

Yeah. We went to La Boqueria and it was open, so food porn happened, a lot of it.

It was also cooler, thankfully.

We went to this bar to eat food that was, apparently, in the New York Times. We’re going back tomorrow to get their powdered donuts. The market had everything you could possibly imagine-meat, eggs, veggies, fruits, popsicles, full meals, pizza, bread, desserts, candy, live seafood. It’s basically a food heaven located off of Las Ramblas, the main street that has a ton of shops and stuff. Anyway, I ate a ton of stuff today and I don’t even feel bad about it because we did a ton of walking and my back hurts but the food is good. Really, really good.

We also went to the Olympic Stadium, which is suitably grand. There was a pretty garden right next door, which seems a bit out of place in an area dedicated entirely to sports, but it was nice to sit down and admire the flowers and the birds. There were some interesting birds.

We went to the port, where tomorrow we’ll take our cruise from. (It’s a Mediterranean Disney Cruise, which is cool.) Las Ramblas ends there, so we walked back up towards the area where we originally came from. There were lots of street performers and men with whistles, which made my sister angry, and more good food and stores with sales. Everyone was having a sale. And off the side streets were more specialty stores. Which were fascinating to look at but also painful-we couldn’t afford any of it.

Or fit it in our packing.

(Sometimes I forget I still have a month left.)

We went back to the food market to get food for dinner, and now I’ve got a lovely view of the sun setting over the city, a chocolate-covered croissant, and Strawberry-Lime Rekorderlig Cider. A perfect set up to relax before the next leg of the trip.

So, I’ll miss Barcelona. It’s a great city with a lot of energy and a mix between old and modern. Maybe, sometimes, it can be too aloof and chaotic for my tastes. There’s a lot that’s pretty high-end. But it’s beautiful most of the time, and there’s good food, and the language difference is interesting-most things are in Catalan even though a lot of people also speak Spanish. It gets confusing for someone who’s used to Spanish and then sees slightly different words.

For more photos, check out my photo-blog entry on Barcelona. There’s tons of pictures I couldn’t really put here.

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Barcelona-Part I

So, Madrid was short, beautiful, and sweet. We took a walk around this morning before heading to the train station, which was beautiful up until we got through their “security.” And then it just looked like any other run-of-the-mill train station. But, the train was fast and in three hours we were pulling into the station at Barcelona.

Barcelona has a different feel than Madrid, even though they run by the same schedule (more active at night.) Barcelona is like a mix between Madrid and the Bronx-old, but modern in some places, except the modern is kind of worn down a bit. Everyone seems more aloof. Also, there’s a stadium with a mall in it.

Thanks to my mom’s excellent awesome skills, we have found ourselves in an apartment for the next few days. It’s a great apartment with a great view of the city. I kind of want to live here. But I imagine living here would be out of my budget.

Barcelona from our apartment.

Barcelona from our apartment.

We walked around for a bit and got some food to make, because we’re going to be self-sufficient for the next few days apparently. Spanish supermarkets are different than American supermarkets, in that they’re ten times smaller and have ten times less stuff. But they also have a lot of different stuff. And there are street markets, which we’ll visit tomorrow.

After searching around for food, we went to the mall inside the stadium. The top floor had a great view of Barcelona and the mall itself had a lot of swanky stores. As in, I-can’t-afford-this stores. We puttered around for a bit, had dinner, and then went to go look at the fountain show in the nearby Placa de Espanya. (It’s spelled weird because things are spelled weird here. It might not be spelled right. I’m sorry in advance.)

The Placa was also having a sort of Harley Davison festival going on, so there were tons of motorcycles hanging around, bikers, and anyone else who wanted to browse the stalls and get fair food and go on rides. Yes, there were rides. I was shocked too.

We watched the fountain for a bit. Fountains put on excellent shows at night it seems, and this one was no exception. Here’s an example:

The water is so photogenic.

The water is so photogenic.

And then we walked back. I’m completely exhausted, but luckily we have more time to explore Barcelona than Madrid, so we don’t have to run around like panicked chickens trying to see everything. So far I’m enjoying Barcelona, though I still miss Madrid. But the view we had in Madrid is nothing on the view we have in Barcelona.

Barcelona at night from the apartment.

Barcelona at night from the apartment.

That view…

I will have to grab a book and relax up there one evening. Maybe watch the sun set. Or cool down at night. Either way, one of the best times I’ve ever had on a vacation was sitting on the balcony reading, watching the city go by. I’d love to have a similar experience. (Even if the book is “The Red Dragon,” which is about Hannibal Lecter.)

 

 

 

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First Stop: Madrid

I’ve left the United States quite a few times on the 4th of July, but I’ve never taken off right at sunset with the whole of New York City lit up beneath the plane. And what a sight it was-hundreds, maybe even thousands of fireworks going off all over the place. On any other day it would’ve been terrifying to see little explosions up until and past the horizon, but last night it was awesome. And then the plane turned over the Atlantic Ocean and so began the rest of the not-so-great flight.

In other words: they played a film I never heard of, didn’t turn off the lights for two hours, I didn’t sleep at all for some reason, and we went through a storm. Also the breakfast was…I don’t know what the breakfast was, actually. Strange would be one word. Apparently the coffee was terrible, but I didn’t have it. The milk was powdered. But, we took off and landed on time which is pretty much impossible at JFK International Airport.

When we landed in Madrid it took half an hour to get from the gate to baggage claim. There was no line at immigration, so why did it take so long? Because apparently Madrid’s airport is HUGE. Like, we had a pretty decently long tram ride just to get from our terminal to baggage claim. And we had to walk for ten minutes to get to the tram from our gate. Which was in the middle of the terminal. What? But it was a beautiful airport, very modern, very colorful, and pretty high-tech if I’m any judge of what high-tech is. A little confusing, but what isn’t when you’ve just pulled an all-nighter on a plane?

As with all European vacations, we jumped straight in. Okay, we took an hour nap, then jumped straight in. So running off of one hour of sleep, I set off with my family into the 100 degree heat of Madrid to do some exploring and learning. Luckily, Madrid isn’t humid, so it wasn’t 100 degrees of unbreathable heat. (I’m looking at you, North Carolina)

First we went to the art museum, el Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. We spent a bit of time there looking at impressionists, post-impressionists, expressionism, and modern art. I don’t know a lot about art, but I know I liked the Dutch landscapes, the two Dalí works I saw, and the other surrealists, and the three Van Gogh’s on display.

Having had enough of art, we went off to find the main plaza, Plaza Mayor. It’s this huge plaza that reminded me a bit of St. Mark’s Square in Venice, surrounded by equally old buildings. It took about half an hour to walk there, and all of that half an hour was beautiful (and uphill.) The buildings are old and colorful and a bit like art in themselves, and the streets aren’t meant to be pedestrian streets but they’re made of stone and are extremely narrow, so people have reclaimed them anyway. We shopped a bit, walked around a bit, took pictures a bit, and then headed back to the hotel for some much needed leg rest. Also, I got to practice my Spanish. As always, my listening and comprehension is better than my speaking skills, though the Spain-Spanish (as opposed to Latin American Spanish, which I’m more used to) can be a bit confusing.

After a break of sorts we went out again to experience Madrid at night and have some food porn. Madrid at night is, well, awesome. The buildings light up and everyone comes out. Whereas the streets had been empty when we walked them earlier (or nearly so), now they were full of people. Cafes were packed. Venders were selling little toys you could launch into the air that lit up.

Here’s an example of the food porn we got up to:

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Yeah, it was good. Very good. Churros dipped in warm chocolate sauce. Can’t get much better than that.

We also ate dinner at a tapas bar, so I got to try a lot of interesting and tasty foods. We spent some time fooling around the plaza and found the Market of San Miguel, which was, apparently, hiding just behind the Plaza Mayor.

I’m impressed, honestly. Experiencing Madrid by day and by night on jetlag and no sleep isn’t easy, but I feel lucky to have sacrificed the rest. Madrid is a beautiful city, a vibrant city, and one that deserves to be explored. I wish I had more time, but we’re heading off to Barcelona tomorrow. Which is going to be awesome but I’m sad to have spent so short a time in Madrid.

Still, I’m excited about the month that follows this one day. And the food. And the few days of Spanish immersion. And the new places and beautiful sights. And the food.

For images from today, see this post from my photo blog.

More to come!

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One Day More

I am in the (probably bad) habit of using Les Miserables songs to describe how I feel. But in this case, it’s justified. Tomorrow, I embark on my month-long trip to Europe, and this blog will be the medium (or one of them) with which I record my trip.

So here’s the deal: armed with some clothes, a camera, a passport, and a huge desire to not be in New York during the month of July, I’m headed to explore a few cities as a sort of post-graduation/college celebration. I might find myself. I might find that really good pear cider I’m looking for. And I’ll probably learn a lot of things.

The first ten days will be spent with my family on a cruise. We’ll visit Spain (Barcelona, Madrid) and various places in France (I should probably learn the names of the places besides the one I know-Cannes) and a day at sea, during which time I’ll try not to eat too much food. Cruise ships are full of food. And it’s a problem. During the cruise days you probably can’t expect much out of me, seeing as there’s no internet, but before and after that there should be plenty of internet to go around. Hopefully. (I live off internet. It’s my thing.)

l then go off to more parts of Europe. All you need to know is that it’s a really convoluted trip through Italian Switzerland (and Italy) to get to the Alps, and then to Berlin, and then to Dublin, and Edinburgh, and London. I’ll probably end up wandering around London and seeing a play (and it might be War Horse) and going to a market. As for the rest of the cities–who knows?

And then I come back home because family obligations are a thing that don’t stop even when it’s summer and you would much rather be sipping wine on the Seine. (Not that I’m going to Paris. But it’s the idea that counts.)

If you’re curious about my previous travels, you can check out my previous (and not nearly as good) blog. The archives from June, July, and August chronicle my last European adventure. The link here is for the one entry in August.

So, I’m really excited. I literally cannot wait. I’ve been waiting for this trip since before I even knew it was a trip. I love Europe. I want to live over there some day (preferably in London) so any trip over there is The Best Thing Ever. I don’t know how I’ll handle myself until tomorrow’s late flight. I can only check my packing so many times, and then I start to get paranoid.

If you want a quick link to all my travels (though this blog will be pretty much exclusively travel for July), then go to the category “Traveling Shakespeare” on the sidebar.

See you on the other side of the Atlantic!

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Blogkeeping and Exciting News

Hey all! This post is primarily to do a little bit of housekeeping around the blog, pretty much to set up for this summer. Why? Because this summer is going to be much more exciting than last summer. I’m going on a month-long trip to Europe!

But first a bit of exciting news: I’m now a contributing writer at The Artifice, an online magazine about entertainment. It’s not paid, but it does get my writing out there and it’s something to do while I look for a paying job. I’ve only written two articles so far (on Shakespeare and Hannibal), but I’ve got more planned. My articles are here: http://the-artifice.com/author/cristinabarletta/

Second, at some point in the near future this is going to become a travel blog. Posts will be categorized under “Traveling Shakespeare.” (You’ll notice I redid the categories so different types of posts are easier to find.) I’m leaving July 4th, but there might be some prep posts before then, and hopefully I’ll be able to cross-post photographs to my photography blog from the trip. I got a new camera which is better than my point-and-shoot from years past but not as heavy or expensive as my DSLR, which is too bulky to drag along, much as I want to.

I’m also excited about the trip because it’s pretty much a return to the origins of this blog. The blog was originally on blogspot (for some reason) and chronicled my study abroad in London two years ago, studying Shakespeare. Hence, timetravelingshakespeare. You can read the posts about my time abroad here: http://timetravelingshakespeare.blogspot.com/2011_06_01_archive.html and here: http://timetravelingshakespeare.blogspot.com/2011_07_01_archive.html

But now I’m setting off on my own, free from college and, at least for part of the trip, from family. I’ll start off with my family in Spain, but then I’ll go off on my own to a few choice places: Switzerland, Berlin, Dublin, Edinburgh, and London. And then it’s back to New York to finish out the summer doing I-don’t-know-what.

So, there are travel posts coming. I hope you enjoy them as much as I (hope to) enjoy the trip! I’m very, very excited.

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What Happens Abroad

Traveling to another country–indeed, studying in one–is like a really long vacation where marvelous things happen. It’s weird to think that people actually live there, going through ordinary lives in a place that we’ve been so touched by. It’s the same as if someone came to Chapel Hill, NC to study abroad and found themselves, so to speak, in the United States, while I, who have lived in this country my whole life and seen plenty of the wonders it has to offer, have only come out the other end more confused.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t places within your home country that can give you the same feeling of freedom, life-changing perspective, and escape. There are plenty within the U.S. that I feel produce a similar effect.

But what does travel offer us? How does it change us? And more importantly, why?

One of the draws of study abroad, and what the Study Abroad Office (at UNC) likes to advertise, is that living in another country will change your life, and you will come back a different person. I tend to disagree on a very fine point; living in another country will change your life, and you will come back a different person, but the change isn’t permanent unless you stay in that place. When you come back, you come back to everything  you wanted to escape in the first place.

Or maybe that’s just me. This is, after all, a personal account. My family loves to travel; we value a good trip over all other luxuries; when we save money, we save for that fantastic trip that’s going to put us in awe. I’d gotten a taste of feeling inspired by being abroad way before I lived in another country. I skied down a mountain in Canada, watched glaciers calving in Alaska, and wandered the canals of Venice, and on each trip I felt the desire to escape. This was not my life, and I wanted it to be my life more than anything.

London came at an interesting time in my life. I was unsettled, and for the first time, being in another country couldn’t fix whatever was wrong. But it helped, I think, to have everything be so new. I walked six miles across London because I could, because I was curious, and because I needed some distraction. I walked around Edinburgh. I saw the Swiss Alps. And I was relieved to have escaped, and I wanted to stay.

I was still the same person when I came back as when I left, albeit more willing travel alone. London had shaped me, made me confident that I didn’t need other people to share my travels with me. I felt good, exploring in my own time. That isn’t to say that I didn’t like the presence of other people-I did-but peace of mind required me to be alone, on that trip.

I’m still the same person I was. People change me more than places do. But I am different in one way-I have a constant tug, a desire to go back, to go where no one knows me and where I can find something unfamiliar every day. It’s a great feeling, the best feeling in the world. It doesn’t change anything, but it makes me feel better for the time period that I’m there.

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