El Mejor Lugar en el Mundo

El Mejor Lugar en el Mundo

Ready for the longest description of a one-week vacation ever? Good because I’m ready to re-live the best trip EVER. If you need a little refresher because I’m super behind on blogs, I traveled to Spain for my second travel break. Tbh I picked Spain pretty arbitrarily, but I am so glad that I did – I loved literally everything about it, from being able to actually communicate with people in Spanish to eating tapas for every meal. It also helped that I got to travel with some really cool people (some of whom I didn’t even really know before this!) I don’t even know how to organize this post so I’m just going to take it day by day.

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Friday

  • It took about three hours to fly from Copenhagen to Madrid, and I’m pretty sure I was asleep for the entire flight other than waking up for 10 minutes to eat my giant sandwich. It’s funny because I used to be TERRIBLE at sleeping on planes, as in I couldn’t even fall asleep for 10 minutes, but now I can conk out for hours like it’s NOTHING, yo. I realized a few days ago that I’ve probably been on more flights in the last few months than in my entire life combined, which is pretty weird to think about. Mostly it just means that I’m really good at going through security and kind of treat going to the airport like a routine. This is how people who travel all the time for work must feel…
  • I also saw like 6 people I knew at the airport who were going to Madrid, so we had a little DIS party at the Ryan Air terminal (s/o to Gate F, otherwise known as the furthest gate in the history of the world). I think DIS is a lot smaller than I think it is, because I definitely feel like I know a bigger percentage of the people at DIS than I do at Vanderbilt.
  • When we landed, we tried to take the Metro to our hostel, but apparently the Metro stop at the Madrid Airport is under renovations, so we just took a cab. When the cab driver started speaking Spanish, I realized that it had been a really long time since I actually had to converse with anyone in Spanish. I got a little nervous, there, but don’t worry I actually remembered how to speak Spanish after a while! More on that later.

Saturday

  • We got up pretty early to start sightseeing on our first day in Madrid! The hostel provided a nice free breakfast of toast and pre-packaged muffins, which I ate while on the phone with T-Mobile customer service to try to get my data to work. Luckily, the customer service guy was surprisingly competent, so he was able to fix it in like 20 minutes and we headed toward Plaza Mayor for the “best free walking tour in Madrid” (according to TripAdvisor).
  • Our tour guide, Juaquin, was v knowledgeable and v entertaining, which was a nice surprise because I’m usually not a big walking tour person. We saw most of central Madrid and actually learned a lot about the history of Spain. Fun facts:
    • Tapas were invented to prevent people from getting day drunk
    • Certain churches used to bribe people to go there by giving out free bread
    • There’s a statue in Plaza Mayor that smelled really bad and they couldn’t figure out why but it was because birds kept getting trapped and decaying inside of it.
    • All of the kings during the golden age were named Felipe. The earlier Felipes conquered a lot of stuff and made the Spanish empire HUGE, but then the later Felipes lost it. I mostly remember this because Juaquin used audience participation to talk about all of the kings, and Zack had to play Felipe IV, aka “the loser king.” Good times.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • After the tour, we found a tapas restaurant and paid 25 euros for a pitcher of sangria and an assortment of tapas, which were very yum. This was the first of many tapas adventures of the course of the week.

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  • For the rest of the afternoon, we visited a bunch of parks and gardens and took cute pics, which was SO nice because it was actually warm and sunny (thanks to Copenhagen for making me appreciate this).

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  • That night, we signed up for a Flamenco and Tapas “experience” tour. During the tour, we tried a few different tapas, and this drink that legit tasted like juice but was apparently some kind of white wine + bubbly water + juice + ??? mixed drink. We also went to this pasteleria for a drink, which was v confusing because a pasteleria is a cake shop, but then they brought out SHOTS IN CAKE CONES. Best day ever bc if you didn’t know, I love cake cones.
  • At the flamenco show, they served us a bit of dinner and dessert and more sangria (classic), and then the show started, which was SO COOL. There were like 4 dancers, a singer, and a guitar player, and each dancer had their own little section of the show. It was so upbeat and a great way to kick off our ~Spanish week~
  • After the show, we were all exhausted, but we decided to rally and go to a ~discoteca~ that my grandbig recommended called Independance (haha get it?). It was a pretty crowded club, but it was also weird because there were people there who were like 40-50 years old just out there having a good time.

Sunday

  • In the morning, we took the metro to the west side of the city to hit the Reina Sofia museum, which was this huge art museum with tons of stuff by Dali and Picasso. I love surreal and abstract art so this was one of the more enjoyable art museum experiences I’ve had.
  • Then we headed to the HUGE and amazing Retiro Park, which was right next to the museum. After we saw the crystal palace, Zack had to peace out to go back home, so we said goodbye in what Dana deemed “the least dramatic goodbye ever.” Which, knowing us, sounds about right lol.

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  • Big Sami (my grandbig) recommended checking out the paddleboats, but when we got there, the line was SUPER long because it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, so we decided to take a rain check and try again on Monday. We did, however, stumble upon a magic show that was happening in the park, which was super cool. The performer was really talented and even made a motorcycle out of balloons, which we both thought was v impressive. After the show ended, we realized that the show was entirely in Spanish, and we didn’t have any trouble understanding him! Go us.
  • As we were walking around the park, we encountered a LOT of mascots walking around and trying to get people to pay to take pictures with them. The reason why this is both relevant and hilarious is that Dana was super afraid of them, but they ALWAYS chose to chase her, which led to some panicked moments. My favorite (her least favorite) was the “headless” man mascots where there was a hat suspended from a wire to make it look like an invisible person. As a good friend, I tried (rather unsuccessfully) to get a good picture of one of them chasing her.

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  • There were also a ton of ice cream stands all over the park, so of course we got ice cream. There was a really cute old man working at the one we went to, and after talking with him for a while (in Spanish!), we bought some Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, and he gave us both a free bracelet that matched our outfits that day, which made us both soooo happy (and #enriched)! I still wear mine like every day because they are actually pretty cute bracelets.

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  • After the park, we walked around for a bit and got lunch at a really delicious tapas restaurant (with more sangria, of course). At this point, we were getting really comfortable speaking in Spanish, and were easily able to order without speaking any English. It was a nice break from trying speak Danish because I could speak it pretty naturally, and didn’t have to panic if they spoke back to me in Spanish. Anyway, lunch was sooooo good – we got some potatoes, some artichokes covered in cheese, some chicken skewers, and some mussels, all of which were delicious. (Sidenote/PSA to family: yeah I eat artichoke now. I also had asparagus the other day and it wasn’t terrible).

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  • After lunch, we goofed off/walked around for a little. I bought some pants that are soooo comfy, and we went to some convenience stores to pick up a few necessities. We also learned a new word – sacapuntes, which means pencil sharpener! Dana needed to get one for her eyeliner, but we both didn’t know the work for it, so we just did pencil sharpener motions, and we like “para lapices…para hacer mas…” and they finally understood what we were talking about.
  • Our last stop of the day was a churros con chocolate place, which was soooo delicious (and cheap! Another reason to love Spain). The churros are fun because they’re less sweet than churros in the US (and definitely less cinnamon-y), which makes the chocolate soooo good on them.

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  • We headed back to the hostel to rest for a bit before going back to the park to watch the sunset. While we were at the hostel, Dana met this Norwegian guy. Even though he introduced himself to me like 4 times, I still couldn’t figure out how to pronounce his name, although I did get that it started with an R because it had that back-of-the-throat R sound that I practice while I’m on the train in Copenhagen. Our new friend came with us to the park and taught us how to play “Liar,” which is like Norwegian BS, and we taught him how to play American BS. He also told us about how he was from this tiny town in Norway where there are like 60 residents, but he was just traveling around randomly for three months.
  • We went back to the hostel for a bit after the sunset, because it was only like 8:00 and apparently in Spain that is way too early for dinner. The Spanish schedule is super shifted back, as in people aren’t out and about until like 10 or 11, and then you eat lunch at 2 or 3, and then dinner at like 9.
  • At around 9, we headed out to find dinner, and found a cheap sandwich/burger/nachos place. After dinner, we found a place to get mojitos, because Dana had never had one before!

Monday

  • On Monday morning, Jesper joined our trip! I had never met Jesper before and all I knew about him was that he was captain of the Frisbee team that Dana played on. This fact made him seem really cool and serious, but it turns out he’s just as much of a goofball as we are. The funniest thing about this trip was that most of us didn’t know each other very well, if at all, before it started, but we ended up getting along SO well and becoming supergodtlidehyggeligt friends (don’t google translate that lol. We made up a lot of Danish phrases on the trip that were complete nonsense, which was extra fun because we had a native Danish speaker with us. It was also hilarious because we kept changing between English, Spanish, and Danish within the span of 30 seconds, which was surprisingly fun).
  • Before we left for the morning, we made Jesper introduce himself to R… (our Norwegian friend) in the hopes that he, as a native Danish speaker, would be able to understand it, but even Jesper had NO IDEA how to pronounce it. Which made us feel a little bit better about ourselves, but we still didn’t know what his name was. While we were walking later in the day, we were talking about what his name could be and I started throwing out random names that started with R, and we landed on Ronald. For some reason, we all thought this was hilarious, so we started not only calling him Ronald, but also just saying Ronald any time we didn’t know someone’s name/couldn’t understand something in Spanish or Danish. This joke continued to evolve over the course of the trip, and there were times when we literally could not stop laughing about it so people probs thought we were crazy.
  • Our first stop on Monday morning was to go back to the park to try to get on the paddle boats again. On our way there, Jesper got pooped on by a bird, which we decided would be good luck for the rest of the trip. The paddle boat line was much shorter, so we were able to get on one pretty quickly and paddled around the lake for like 45 minutes, which was sooooo nice because it was a beautiful day again.

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  • After the paddle boats, we got ice cream again (though we couldn’t find our favorite ice cream man) and headed back to the city center. We took Jesper to the cathedral we had seen on our first day (which hilariously is built in three different styles because they kept procrastinating and the architects kept dying), and found lunch at a cute tapas place where we each got to pick three different mini sandwiches.

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  • We then decided to take the metro to a park a little further outside the city. On our way to the metro stop, we found a field of flowers, and picked a bunch so that we could make flower crowns (my favorite activity). We had so many flowers that we had to make Jesper hold them for us, which led to some great photo opportunities on the Metro.

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  • The walnut trees weren’t quite in bloom yet, but the park was still beautiful and so fun to walk around. We then headed back to the hostel to take a nap before out nighttime activities.
  • After resting at the hotel for a bit, we went to our favorite park one last time to watch the sunset. Then, we made our way to a tapas place Dana found called La Tia Cebolla, which weirdly means The Aunt Onion. When we were about halfway there, I made a “joke” about getting more cake cone shots, but because Dana and Jesper are Dana and Jesper, they thought this was a great idea so we rerouted. We felt kind of awkward about going into this cake shop at 8:30 and just asking for shots, but luckily, as soon as we walked in, one of the workers saw us and was like “3 shots?” and we were like “yup” and were not sure whether to be embarrassed or proud.
  • At dinner, I was able to have a few nice conversations with the waiter in Spanish. According to Jesper, sangria gives you the accent and mojitos give you the vocabulary. I’m not sure how much I would trust him considering all he could say at this point in the trip was “muchas gracias.” After dinner, we had a great time just wandering around the city and repeating all of our dumb inside jokes (75% of them had to do with Ronald.) At one point Dana and I started speaking to each other on Spanish to show Jesper what it felt like to live in Denmark for us, so he just started talking to himself in Danish. Good times. We went to bed pretty early because we had to catch an early flight to Seville the next morning, but before I went to sleep, a group of really weird and hilarious people moved into my hostel room and started telling me about their adventures in the Spanish countryside. They also gave me earplugs as a preemptive apology for their loud breathing lol.

Tuesday

  • After waking up super early and heading to the airport, we were off to Sevilla! The flight wasn’t that empty, but by some weird stroke of luck there was no one else in my row, which meant we could all sit together and take dumb snaps on the plane ride.
  • We met Claire at the hostel, set our bags down, and headed out to explore Sevilla. Before we left, this really nice lady who worked at the hostel gave us breakfast and showed us where to go on the map. As a result, we called her “Mom” for the rest of our time in Sevilla. This is what you get for being nice to us. Mom also helped me print my boarding passes and took a picture of us to put on the Facebook page so I feel like the nickname was justified. Also, look, we’re famous!

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  • During breakfast, we explained the Ronald joke to Claire and she thought it was equally hilarious, which kind of gives you an idea of the dynamic of this group…
  • On our first walk through of Sevilla, we all fell in LOVE. The city was so beautiful and walkable and a lot less touristy than Madrid. If I were going to live anywhere in Spain, it would definitely be here. I kept thinking how crazy it was that if Patrick weren’t studying there, I never would have thought to come, but it ended up being my favorite place I have traveled so far. Speaking of Pat, he was just getting out of class as we were walking, so we met up at the Torre de Oro and climbed to the top for some nice views (or as Pat calls them, “elevated surfaces”). I was so excited to see Patrick again after a few months apart!

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  • After climbing the tower, we headed the BULL FIGHTING RING, which was on the top of Dana’s list of things to do. It was really cool because a) we learned all about the origins of bull fighting, how it worked, and some of the traditions that are associated with it, b) the tour guide spoke first in Spanish, and then in English, so I got to practice my listening skills, and c) before the tour I knew literally nothing about bullfighting, and now I know a little bit! Apparently they still hold fights there in the spring and summer, but I don’t know that I’d ever want to go to one. Seems violent.
  • We met Patrick again at one of his favorite lunch spots, and it did not disappoint! We got so many tapas and they were all so cheap. The tapas in Sevilla were a lot more homestyle-feeling, which I liked. We even had ox tail! My only complaint about Spanish food (like literally sole complaint. It is sooooo good) is that they serve bread at the beginning of meals without any toppings. Either it was plain white bread or these weird flavorless crouton things. I just wanted some butter…

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  • Tour Guide Patrick had to head to class, so we went to the Cathedral of Sevilla, which was HUGE. You could 100% get lost in there because there was so much to see. When we first got there, someone made a Ronald joke and we really had to reel it in because we were in a cathedral. Fun fact: if you ever want to see Christopher Columbus’s tomb, it’s here. You could also climb the tower, which was very tall but not terrible because it was ramps instead of stairs. The only downside to this was that it took literally forever to climb because the incline was so gradual. Each turn was numbered and Claire and I kept thinking the next one would be the last one, but it never was lol.
  • After the cathedral, we headed back to the hostel to relax on the rooftop terrace. Patrick managed to talk his way past the hostel receptionist (classic Patrick) and joined us after a while. He then took us to this mushroom structure where you could pay 3 Euros to go up, check out the views, and get a free drink.

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  • It was a bit too early for dinner as usual, so we poked around the city for a bit. Luckily, Dana randomly found this art gallery. Ordinarily this wouldn’t be that interesting, but the people running it made a little scavenger hunt to get people ~engaged~ by asking them to find La Giralda (the tower of the cathedral that we climbed) in different paintings. It would have been super fun except the last painting we looked at made it super hard to find La Giralda, and we had to give up (the worst). But we did manage to find this nice patio right at dusk, which ended up being my favorite part of the entire trip, because we just hung out and enjoyed the view.

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  • Dinner time! We went to Pat’s favorite restaurant, which unsurprisingly, was delicious. We got like 3 rounds of tapas and a few other kids from Vandy joined us. One of them was Hallie, who Claire knew from her core course, so we just had this huge web of connections, which was fun.

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Wednesday

  • Day 2 of my favorite place in the world! Our first stop was Plaza de Espana, which was also the site of a world fair at one point. Pat told me that this structure is supposed to be hugging the rest of Europe, which is cute.

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  • When we first got to the park, we saw these boats and immediately knew that we had to do it. We look turns paddling with various levels of success. At one point I accidentally splashed Jesper so he called me Ronald for the rest of the boat ride. I told you this joke would continue to make less and less sense.

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  • After that, Patrick met up with us and we explored the park, which was so huge and so beautiful. I could spend hours there just enjoying the ourdoors. Also, there were a lot of orange trees in Sevilla that you can just pick and eat, although they are v strong and v sour. The trees made the whole city smell sooooo good though. We also went to this museum that had a bunch of ancient remains, which was really cool.

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  • Pat left us on our own for a bit after that 😦 We managed to survive, even though a bird pooped on Dana’s menu at lunch and some of our dry flavorless bread fell on the floor (I almost caught it though so we decided it would still be fine to eat).
  • After lunch, we went to Real Alacazar, which was the royal palace. It was also huge and v confusimg because we kept going in circles by accident and then realizing we had already been there. The gardens were beautiful though, and there was a (slightly anticlimactic) garden maze. We even saw a few peacocks! Then, we got some churros and chocolate as a pick-me-up. Patrick met us there and we even managed to save him a churro, which was a real accomplishment considering how delicious they were.
  • Everyone was pretty tired at this point except me, which is a funny story. Apparently, the guy in the bunk above mine was snoring SUPER loudly, like so loudly that people couldn’t sleep, and I completely missed it. Lol. So anyway, everyone went to go take a nap, and Patrick and I went up to the rooftop terrace to catch up. While we were up there, it rained pretty hard, which surprisingly was not the hardest it rained while I was in Spain. More on that later. Luckily, the rain stopped by the time everyone woke up, so we got coffee and fried squid as a pre-dinner snack, and then had our last dinner in Sevilla, complete with some classy red wine. It was v yum as usual (especially the goat cheese) and a really cute restaurant overall.

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  • To celebrate our last night (noooo) we went to this really expensive rooftop bar. But I got this delicious Moscow Mule and got to enjoy a FANTASTIC view with the coolest people ever. I think I laughed more this week than any other week of my entire life! At the end of the night, we had to say goodbye to Patrick 😦

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Thursday

  • Off to Barcelona! The flight there was pretty uneventful except that a) Dana thought tutti fruity was pronounced tut-y frut-y. Good times. And b) we had to say goodbye to Jesper because he had to go to class the next day.
  • The hostel in Barcelona was way bigger and more comfy than the other two hostels we stayed at. They also had free food all day including this really delicious tropical nectar which was a plus. There was also a poster there that showed how to order a beer in a bunch of different languages, and Danish was on there! I took a snapchat video of me pronouncing “Jeg vil gerne have en ol” HORRIBLY and sent it to Jesper, which got me this reaction:

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  • The first thing we did was the cable cars at Montjuic which were a great and ~scenic~ way to start off our time in Barcelona. We got some nice views and did a mini hike around the area. After the park, I did some googling and found a really cute and local restaurant that served traditional Catalonian food that was soooo good. One thing that I did not take into account about Barcelona in general was that I speak zero Catalonian, but luckily they speak Spanish too. The guy at the restaurant even told me that my Spanish was “bastante bien.” Basically what happened was that he explained the menu to me really quickly and I just pretended to understand all of it and ordered the things I understood like “potatoes.”
  • Next, we headed to Parc Guell, which is this really beautiful park designed by the architect Gaudi, who, you guessed it, is known for making really gaudy things like this gingerbread house. The park was soooo fun though, even though we got a bit lost on the way there and had to go backwards through the park.We also got matching pins at the gift shop!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • At this point, we were tired to the point of deliriousness. At one point on the walk home, I remember laughing so hard that Dana and I had to sit on the sidewalk for a minute. We also made up a song called “Super Godt Lide.” So that’s how that went. Then we went back to the hostel and took a much needed nap.
  • At around 7:30, we got up and decided to walk around the beach before dinner. It was pretty dark and chilly at this point, but I wanted to feel the water so I took off my shoes and waded in. It actually wasn’t that cold, but it was pretty breathtaking because the sky and sea were so dark that they kind of blended together and went on FOREVER. So that was a cool moment. We tried to find dinner, but all of the places were empty and expensive and had people outside harassing us to try to get us to go in, which was v stressful. So we got mojitos instead.

Friday

  • Last day in Spain 😦 We got up pretty early because we reserved tickets at La Sagrada Familia, which is this huge modern cathedral that’s been in progress since the late 1800s and still isn’t finished. Classic Spain. But it’s absolutely breathtaking, especially the way Gaudi designed the stained glass to catch the sun as it moved through the sky. So cool.

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  • While we were walking around, we found a few cute stores and decided to go check them out. While we were in a random home goods shop, something amazing happened: Ronald took a physical form!
    • Me: Cuanto cuesta?
    • Store owner: Una y media.
    • Me: Ok, voy a comprarlo.
  • We carried Ronald around with us for the rest of the day and took lots of good snaps with him. Jesper even had the great idea of making a snapchat sticker out of him so that he could make Ronald snaps from afar. What a time to be alive.
  • It started to rain a little, so we decided to check out the Picasso museum. Like with the Magritte museum in Brussels, it was really cool to get to follow one artist throughout his career. I especially like looking at the early stuff that these guys did because it kind of reminds you that they didn’t just wake up one day and create their own style and paint famous things – there was a lot of studying and practice that went into them.
  • After the museum, we hit up this yummy empanadas place.
    • Dana: I guess we can get water.
    • Me: Or we can get sangria
    • Dana: Yeah sounds good
  • It was still raining after lunch, so we decided to take the metro a bit out of the city to a science museum (aka my favorite). The museum was super cool and interactive, and even had some live animals!
  • After a nap and a quick (and final!) tapas dinner, we headed to a pub crawl. At this point, it was POURING, and only Claire had an umbrella, so we got fairly soaked on the way there (tbh even if we had all brought umbrellas we probs would still have gotten soaked). During the pub crawl, we got to check out a couple of cool places in Barcelona, and meet people from all over the world. Even though I was soaking wet the entire time because I didn’t have a rain coat or rain boots (lol), it ended up being so much fun and a great way to end our time in Spain.
  • The next day (aka like 3 hours later), I got up, said goodbye to Claire and Dana (who were on different flights somehow), and headed off to the airport. Even though my shoes and jacket were still wet (lol), I couldn’t stop smiling because it had been such a good week. Stay tuned for pictures from the reunion!

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