All Across the Land

SWITZERLAND

Laax

Lac Neuchâtel

Sierre

Photo courtesy of Adam

Zermatt

Etzel

Rhine Falls

Zürich

My Village

Not Pictured: Basel, Einsiedeln, Luzern, Rapperswil

ITALY

Pidemont

Milan

Como

Cinque Terre

SPAIN

Granada

Not Pictured: Cadíz, Madrid, Seville

ENGLAND

Manchester

Cambridge

 

IRELAND

Dublin

Belfast

Not Pictured: Galway

 

SCOTLAND

Edinburgh

 

PORTUGAL

Lisbon

 

Photo Courtesy of Adam

Porches

 

Photo courtesy of Adam

 

GERMANY

Munich

 

TURKEY

Istanbul

 

FRANCE

Paris

 

Photo courtesy of Adam

 

AUSTRIA

Vienna

 

Photo courtesy of Adam

There it is. Ten countries in eleven months. At least thirty cities within those countries. I may have had some really tough days in there, when I seriously questioned the sanity in choosing this job, but in the end, it was worth it. Absolutely, one hundred percent. Look at all I’ve done.

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More Spain

I am in Laax with the family for the Easter weekend and enjoyed a long hike this morning before taking over for the Grandma this afternoon. After being away from this town for a few weeks I was reminded today how beautiful it is. A beach fan myself, I can’t help but be in awe of the view here. Looking around at the picture-perfect scenery makes the early mornings and cranky toddlers all worth it.

Now, for more of my holiday:

Day 3: Jill and I woke up, tip toeing around around the room in order to not wake our slumbering roommates. We were also inclined to get out of there as soon as possible lest someone offer to dread our hair. Optimistically we put our swimsuits on underneath our shorts, grabbed a towel and set out to find some breakfast. Unfortunately the Spanish coffee was the highlight of the day; cloudy skies and a wind chill dampened our spirits and we were forced to wander aimlessly through the streets of Cadiz. Cruzcampo jokes dominated the majority of our conversation and we set out to find some fruit for sustenance. The only supermarket we came across that day had a large stockpile of fruit in the back, past the salted pork rinds and expired cans of who-knows-what. Just in front of this gleaming treasure was a sign written in not one, not two, but three different languages reading, “DO NOT TOUCH FRUIT.” We were banished back to the streets to wonder what to do for the day. After putting some generous mileage on our legs throughout the afternoon, we made it back to the hostel to shower and hopefully meet some new residents of the Casa. On the roof hammocks abound and one can swing away and contemplate the natural world, which is exactly what we found three young travelers doing. Except these fellows were not interested in becoming our friends. They only wanted to tell us about how they dream of living on a commune, growing pot and vegetables, making music, and having no money. Really aspiring. Jill and I were clearly nonplussed and made haste to get downstairs. The rest of the evening proceeded with more tapas and hanging out with some other guys from our mixed dorm who teach English in Madrid. Thankfully, they hated Cruzcampo and had no plans to “reject common ideals” so they proved to be good company.

Day 4: Today we decided to book it out of Cadiz and make our way back to Madrid and spend some time in Sevilla along the way. All of the trains and buses began to take their toll by this time, but frankly it was so great to see so many different parts of Spain. This culture is worlds away from Switzerland’s and it was nice to have a break from the usual. Also, I was finally able to use some of the Spanish I learned in high school. The only differing factor is that in Spain, as opposed to Mexico, they drop most all their “s” sounds and instead insert a “th.” So, essentially, everyone is running around with a lisp. Clearly this is fine, but it just isn’t what I’m used to. Let me tell you, there is nothing more intimidating than a 200 pound man siddling up to the bar to order a “thervetha.” Nevertheless, traveling is what I came to do and I am thoroughly enjoying it. It also doesn’t hurt to have a buddy who is great company. Luckily, Jill and I have a lot in common, including taste in books and music, and also have a very similar social agenda. We both wanted to see the sights but also knew when it was time to take a break and simply people watch. A nice sangria to accompany the people watching always sounded good to both of us. It was also fun to swap stories from high school and college. We even went as far back as elementary school to discuss all the long term relationships we were in in second grade and our all-time favorite movies. It made the trip so much better. After a six hour bus ride and beautiful stop in Sevilla we finally made it back to Madrid. Lady Fortune was back on our side when we found a restaurant around the corner with Negro Modelo and some of the best chips and guacamole I’ve had in a long time. All that was left to do was rest up for my trip home the next day…

Day 5: I have named this one Disaster Day. I arrived at the airport at 9:13 sharp for my 10:20 flight to Basel, from which I would take a train to Zurich. I came across the first set of monitors and decided to check which Hall I needed to go to for check-in and saw it : CANCELLED. I actually had a miniature “Home Alone” moment, you know when he slaps the side of his face and screams? Well this involved all the hand gesture but instead I just said, “No!” I ran to the next set and was greeted with the same response. And then at the next set. Isn’t the definition of insanity repeating the same behavior and expecting different results? I headed to the Easy Jet counter and commenced to wait in line for an hour before speaking to someone. He told me I would be able to fly back to Basel on the 2nd of April. Negative, Sir, those kids can’t watch themselves, I need to get home. I was instead put on a flight to Milan, which left three hours later. That flight was delayed an hour and I happened to be sitting in the “family section.” A baby actually lost her voice on the hour and a half flight from crying and screaming during the whole thing. Of course when we land she is making spit bubbles and smiling. From the airport in Milan I take an hour bus ride to the train station. I wait at the train station for two hours before finally taking a four hour train ride home to Zurich. My town is 40 minutes by train from Zurich Main Station. When it was all said and done I finally was home by midnight. It was a hot mess of a day. But here’s what I learned: I am actually incredibly capable of getting myself around, even in a foreign country (or two). This one day taught me quite a bit of making lemonade out of lemons and thinking on my feet. In the grand scheme, it was only one day and life goes on. Many a person can relate to having a terrible day of travel, but how many people can say they were in three countries in one day. I thought I came over here for a reason…

Espana

I have finally arrived home from Spain!! After a disastrous day of traveling home yesterday, which included a cancelled flight, I made it back to find it snowing this morning. Worst April Fool’s Day joke gone wrong. I have a slight tan on my face, a burnt chest, and arms that are peeling; I don’t belong in snow! It can’t be denied how pretty it is though. Almost reminds me of Kansas weather…

I’m not exactly sure how to begin my tales of Spain. May be best to just work in chronological order. I’ll skip through some of the boring bits and only share the true gems. So, here it goes:

Day 1: Jill and I arrive in Madrid, only to catch the first bus to Granada. We travelled with our Spanish comrades south and finally made it to the beautiful city by 10:30 P.M.. Upon arriving at Hostal Arroyo we discovered we would be slumbering in the Princess Suite. This is a self-coined names as there is no such placard. It just happened to sit about 80 floors up and was tucked away in the corner. We spruced ourselves up a bit and headed out to find some decent tapas. We stumbled around the streets a bit before settling on a seafood joint. With a sangria sitting in our hands, we were a happy duo. Now, I have debated telling you what happens next, but I must share because it is one mistake I hope you never to find yourself making. In Granada the tapas are free and plentiful. With the ordering of one drink you are treated to a smattering of tasty bites. So, there we are, a couple of Americans just sitting, imbibing in a sweet cocktail and this plate of fried sardines is placed in front of us. I love trying new foods and Jill has no qualms so we just popped those suckers in our mouth. The whole thing; the entire fried fish. I am talking fish head, spine, fins.We assumed this is how you eat it. Thirty minutes later we are sitting at a new table and Jill happens to look at the plate of our neighbors. Her eyes wide, she catches my attention and directs my gaze to follow hers. There, sitting clean and organized on our fellow diners’ plate are discarded bones and heads of the fish. Being natives, they know to eat only the meat and leave the skeletal portion for the trash. Why we didn’t assume this is was the correct, and frankly more palatable option, escapes me. We burst into a fit of laughs, drained our drinks and uttered the phrase that was to follow many more uncomfortable situations, “We need to leave here immediately.” We busted out of that joint, vowing never to show our shamed faces again. We found another tapas bar and were served the World’s Strong Mojito Ever. Again, this is a self-imposed title, but it’s still true. Two ham and cheese sandwiches and a fistful of fries accompanied our drinks and we were thankful we knew how to eat them. First night in Spain and we had only made one major faux pas. Off to a good start.

Day 2: A visit to Alhambra was on the agenda today. We strolled through through the gardens and admired the views of the Sierra Nevada range. Afterward we found a square at the base and enjoyed a beer and some time in the sun. On our walk down the hill I shed my cardigan, under which was only a tank top. Sitting in the sun after a 7 month hiatus leads to uber-sensitive skin. After only a short while Jill ventured a guess that I was getting pretty burnt. Turns out I was tremendously so, and am now sporting one of the trendiest looks of the season- a farmer’s tan. That afternoon with increasingly sensitive skin and some red wine we jumped on a train and headed toward Cadiz. We had a layover in Dos Hermanos with just enough time to run through the streets and find kebabs for dinner. To wash down our Middle Eastern delights we grabbed a couple of Spain’s most DISGUSTING beer–Cruzcampo. It should be noted that Spain is apparently not known for their beer. Coming from a Germanic country I am used to particularly good brew. This beer was so gross in fact, we were using our overcooked, soggy fries as chasers. I would rather drink 29 kegs of Milwaukee’s Best than drink another Cruzcampo. This beer ended up becoming the running joke for the remainder of the trip in the fashion of a “Would you rather…”game. Such as, “Would you rather drink water that the pigeons are bathing in or have to drink Cruzcampo for the rest of your life?” The choices we came up with were ridiculous and it was clear we were the only ones entertained by it. We met some guys (more on them later) in our hostel that night that actually loved the stuff. One guy even declared it “full-bodied.” If you are indicating that it makes you feel bloated and rotund, then yes sir, you are correct. Otherwise, you have no idea what you’re talking about and are clearly too drunk to know what good beer tastes like. In any event we arrived safely in Cadiz only to discover we were staying at a commune/hostel. A full-on jam session was in progress as we entered the lobby. It was apparent our J. Crew ensembles and perky attitudes were in stark contrast to many of the other residents. We were led to our accommodations– an eight person mixed dorm. This normally wouldn’t be a problem but Jill and I were the only girls so there was no “mixed” about it. We were in a straight-up dude’s dorm. The bathroom for use was one step up from an outhouse. The water pressure in the shower was practically non-existent; I think I have woken up drooling harder. I don’t want to complain by any means, but the reviews and descriptions on hostelworld.com made it out to sound much different. Had we been properly prepared I want to believe our attitudes might have been different. Jill and I feel asleep in the same bed with dreams of beach time in our heads. Big hopes for the following day.

More to come…