A Cafe con Leche Each Day Keeps the Doctor Away

With my love for coffee, I have become very familiar with this drink while in Barcelona. The cafe con leche has been my best friend during the rough hours of studying. Cafe con leche essentially translates to coffee with milk. But it’s not simply milk poured into the coffee. The milk is steamed and then infused in the coffee, which creates the nice white foam on the top of the drink. My waiter thought he was really creative when he put a duck design on my drink (See the top picture, can you spot the duck?). If you want to learn how to make the cafe con leche, or even just the cool designs on the top, there are millions of how-to tutorials online.

If you’re not a huge fan of the actual taste of coffee, I don’t really recommend this drink for you. It can be pretty bitter, even after you add sugar. The milk adds more of a creamy consistency to the coffee, which is why I really enjoy it. I also got my mom hooked on it when she came to visit Spain. She started to make her own at our rental with an old french press, which turned out pretty well. After she went home she even ended up buying her own french press for the house. Anyways, the cafe con leche is one of the typical coffee drinks in Spain, along with the simple shot of espresso, which I can barely drink. You can step into any café or restaurant and order either one, but I’ll stick with the cafe con leche. If you want something to pair the coffee with, scones are pretty common, but my favorite is a chocolate frosted donut. The sweetness (in my opinion) pairs well with the creamy bitterness of the coffee.

If you’re ever wondering what I’m doing with my day, you can probably guarantee it’s something to do with coffee, whether it’s sitting down to enjoy one in a local café or taking it para llevar (to go). Hopefully the cafe con leche my mom claims to be making at home is just as good as it is here in Spain.

 

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Feria Festival

Feria Festival takes place in Seville, Spain during the beginning of April. It is one of the most magnificent celebrations I have ever been to. I only went for one day, but during this one day, I was able to see how important the celebration is to the people of Seville.

The fair takes place in a huge section of the city along the river. On the fair grounds, there are two parts. The first part is an actual fair ground with carnival rides, but the second part is where the tents are set up. For miles there are rows and rows of beautiful tents set up with people dancing inside of them. Most tents are private, and you must be invited inside, but many others are free to enter. The tents are beautifully decorated, the outside is often green striped and the inside looks like a small house with detailed wall paper and paintings hanging within. Each tent is also equipped with a dance floor. Here people dance a certain kind of dance, similar to Flamenco. The fair goes from early afternoon to early in the morning, where people eat, drink and socialize he entire time.

One of the most amazing parts of Feria is the dresses. Women of all ages dress in beautiful long mermaid gowns, each with its own design and colors. My pictures hardly do them justice, thus I suggest you go to google and type in Feria Seville dresses and scroll through all of the amazing pictures. I don’t think I saw two dresses that looked alike. I ended up going into the dress shops and they pretty similar in price to what some people pay for a prom dress. The average cost that I found was around 600 euros. The women not only wear these dresses but they also add brightly colored shawls, their hair is perfectly done up, their makeup is perfect and most have flowers in their hair to top it off. The men on the other hand are dressed up in a suite and tie and look very nice as well.

The entire city has an excited energy during the Feria and I wish I was able to go for more than one night. Throughout the city you can spot decorated horse-drawn carriages as well as women and men dressed in their finest outfits. I’ll never forget this experience and my only regret is not taking enough pictures.

A Weekend in Amsterdam

Weekend trips can be a bit crazy. Trying to fit an entire city into 2 or 3 days can be (very) hard. My trip to Amsterdam was especially crazy because my friend and I booked our trip less than 48 hours before we actually left. We booked our flight on a Wednesday night and left early Friday morning. Overall though, it turned out to be one of the best cities that I’ve experienced.

Amsterdam is an extremely charming city, with it’s small streets, busy canals and friendly people. Amsterdam is often described as an onion. No, not because it smells, but because the canals create different layers to the city, each with different characteristics. The people of Amsterdam were some of the nicest I have met since studying abroad. I don’t understand any Dutch but the people here were more than willing to answer any questions I had.

DSCN0617From day one in Amsterdam, it was almost non-stop. My friend and I arrived in Amsterdam around 9:30 am. We took an early flight, thus we had all day Friday to explore. Our first outing on Friday was to Keukenhof Gardens, which is a 30 minute drive outside of Amsterdam. This place was by far one of my favorite sites that I’ve been to in Europe. The garden is only open from March 24th to May 16th. I had no DSCN0641idea this was even in existence when I booked my ticket to Amsterdam and I got extremely lucky that it was open during this time period (April 8th). Most of the flowers were in bloom, especially the ones that were located indoors. Everywhere you turned there were more flowers. The park is huge and it consists of lakes and small rivers that flow throughout, as well as an old windmill. Luckily because I went earlier in the season, the crowds weren’t as bad. I was told later on that the crowds get very crazy during mid and late season when everything is in bloom, which is understandable because it is so beautiful. If you ever plan a trip to Amsterdam, I really recommend going during this time of year, just so you are able to see the flowers.DSCN0680  The weather this time of year isn’t terribly warm and rain is very common, but if you are able to experience this garden, it is definitely worth it. I spent a good portion of the day walking around here and I probably could of stayed until it closed but after being up at 4:30 am, I was pretty exhausted.

My next stop on Friday, was to the Red Light District in Amsterdam. I wasn’t about to go to Amsterdam and not see this infamous place. My friend and I went later in the evening, and there were many people walking around the area, which was essentially a long strip of buildings along either side of a canal. The experience was interesting to say the least, but it was (in my opinion) worth seeing. Each building has large windows on the street level with women dressed in either lingerie or very skimpy clothing. They try and get both men and women to come inside by flirting with them through the glass. I did see a few people go in and also a few come out as well. The name of the area also suites it because every window has a red light on, giving the entire street a red haze effect. Overall though it was interesting, my friend and I actually ended up looking up the rules and regulations of the area when we got back to our hotel. One rule for anyone who may end up in Amsterdam, don’t take pictures of the girls, it’s illegal!

On Saturday I had another eventful day. First I visited the Van Gogh museum, which was very interesting. I learned a lot about his life, the struggles he encountered, as well as his difficulties with mental illness. He was a very intelligent man but he was very tortured as well. One of my favorite paintings was Tree Roots, which is rumored to be one of his last paintings, due to the fact that it is unfinished on one corner and because the painting doesn’t make much sense. The picture was beautiful, but slightly haunting because of the chaos within it.

After the Van Gogh museum, I made my way to the Anne Frank House. This was probably the most emotional stop on the trip. We got there later on in the day and waited for an hour to get inside.FullSizeRender (1) It was worth the wait though. The house was very interesting, it had a lot of narrow staircases and we were able to actually touch the secret bookcase that lead to the hidden portion of the house. Unfortunately the house wasn’t furnished, probably due to how small it was, but there were pictures on the walls of how it had looked when Anne had actually lived there. Towards the end of the tour you were able to actually see some of the journal pages she wrote on. It really made me stop and think about what happened in the house and I can’t imagine being locked inside for so long, only to be discovered. I left the house not knowing how to feel. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity though and I’m glad I was able to go.

Later in the evening on Saturday, my friend and I went on a canal cruise. I loved this part, especially because I love being on the water. We were on the water for an hour and a half and went all over the city. It was great to be able to see Amsterdam from a different view, especially when the sun went down and all the city lights came on. Our captain pointed out a few of the main points of interest and we even floated down through the Red Light District. On Sunday we went back out on the water, this time in a paddle boat. We rented one for an hour and we were given a set route to follow. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard due to the fact that it was very hard to steer the boat and I think we did more circles than anything on the ride.

Overall Amsterdam is a wonderful city and I would definitely go back if I had the chance. Even though I did a lot during the 3 days, I still feel like I missed out on some of the city. I would of maybe done a city tour or gone to a few more museums if I had the opportunity. So far, Amsterdam has been one of my favorite cities, especially because of the canals and because the city isn’t too large. It was easy enough to walk from one attraction to the next, which was really nice. Hopefully one day I’ll find myself cruising along the canals again, until then I’ll just keep scrolling through my hundreds of pictures from the trip.

Falling in Love with Paris

Paris was one of the most amazing cities I’ve seen so far. When I first arrived, I was unprepared for how large the city actually was. After living in Barcelona, I thought Paris would be of similar size, maybe slightly larger. But of course, I was wrong. I can’t even begin to explain how large Paris is, but for example, I took a 3 hour tour and still only saw about half of the city. Even though the city is large, I feel like it’s still pretty manageable and there are definitely a lot of amazing sites to see.

My trip to Paris was roughly 3 days long. A friend and I caught an early flight from Barcelona and arrived in Paris around 11am and left the following Sunday around 8pm. It was nice to arrive early on Friday because it gave us plenty of daylight time to explore, the only downside was we were exhausted. When we first arrived in Paris we were starving and we had no idea where to go for food, so after stumbling around for 45 minutes or so we found a small restaurant called Le GOÛ-THÉ on Rue Surcouf. We got extremely lucky with our server, who spoke English and was extremely nice, and the food was amazing. If you ever find yourself in Paris, I highly recommend it!

Even though my friend and I were only in Paris for a short time, we were determined to see as much of the city as possible. Most of what we saw of the city was by tour. I had done some research before about recommended excursions (I use TripAdvisor religiously) and I had come across a tour called Midnight In Paris. This was by far my favorite part of the trip. I had reserved a time slot for 2 hours on Friday night, which was to start at 9. The tour started with Nicolas, our driver, picking us up at our hotel. When reading reviews of this tour, many people commented on the car, I could understand 12042705_10207742128383995_3162763777821804180_nwhy when Nicolas picked us up. The car was amazing, old fashion, and had a clear roof so when inside, one could see all the buildings above. I don’t know much about cars, but this one definitely left a lasting impression. Once inside the car, we took off. Nicolas knew all the side streets, the hidden charms of the city and he knew a lot about the history as well. His driving was pretty reckless, we knew it would be an interesting drive when he asked us if we enjoyed roller coasters (my answer was yes, of course!). Nicolas showed us around as much of the city as he could. We went from the Gothic area, to around the river, to famous historic spots as well and some of the large tourist attractions. He knew the history of every spot we went to as well as a lot of little facts along the way. I really admired how much knowledge he had about the city. Nicolas also let us get out at whichever stop we wanted and he was more than willing to take pictures for us.

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetOne of our last stops was to his favorite Gelato parlor which also happens to be the oldest in the city. We didn’t end up getting back to our hotel until 12:30 am, an hour and a half past the original 2 hour slot I had booked but Nicolas kept wanting to show us more and we were more than happy to see everything possible! Overall it was an amazing experience (did I mention you get a bottle of champagne for the trip?) and I highly recommend taking this tour if you ever get to Paris!

The next day my friend and I explored more in the daylight. Luckily I was able to figure out the metro system and we bought 3 day passes, which was much cheaper in the long run. I’m used to the metro in Barcelona so it wasn’t too hard to figure out. Our day consisted of a lot of walking though (comfortable shoes advised). We started at the Arc de Triomphe and from there walked down the famous Ave des Champs-Élysées. This long stretch of shops was pretty impressive. The only places we stopped were Starbucks and H&M, but the other stores, which I can’t afford, were very beautiful. I could only gawk at the size and beauty of the Louis Vuitton store.

The two places I really enjoyed walking, and where we ended our day, was the gardens around the Louvre and the Notre Dame. It was very peaceful in the gardens and it was nice to stroll along the paths. There also happened to be a fashion week event being held so it was amazing to see all the different styles and designs that people were DSCN0227wearing as they were leaving the area. The gardens were also nice because it offered a quick escape from the hustle and noise of the busy streets. No one was pushing to get past you and there weren’t any cars to look out for. The Louvre itself is amazing as well. Even though we didn’t go in, the old palace offers a lot of spectacular architecture, not to mention it’s massive. We were told that one could spend a week inside looking at all the art and you still wouldn’t have seen everything. Last on our walk was the Notre Dame. The church on the outside is very beautiful and even though it looks repetitive, Nicolas told us that none of the sculptires are the same on either tower or anywhere on the outside, which is pretty impressive. DSCN0239We went later in the day and there were still a lot of people outside the church. It was free to enter, which was nice, and the inside was even more amazing than I thought. There was a lot of intricate stained glass windows and many murals with vibrant colors. Even though the inside of the church was relatively dark, there was a sense of peace and tranquility.As we were getting ready to leave a procession started and we were able to stay and watch for some of it. I found it really interesting, even though I couldn’t understand what was being said.

Overall Paris was an amazing city. I could go on and on about the small shops, the great food and recommendations. I would definitely go back to Paris, and this time I would stay longer. I still feel there is so much I wasn’t able to see. One thing is for sure though, in the city of love, my heart was definitely stolen.

 

The Stella Tote

Official name: Stella McCartney Falabella Tote Bag in Black

Price: $1,295 USD

If you’re anything like me, you’re looking at this price and falling out of your chair. How can a black tote bag with some chains on it cost so much! I could make that myself! Okay, probably not, my sewing abilities are little to none, but still, you get the point. This bag though has become extremely popular, especially in Europe. There are many different varieties and colors and most of the collection can be found on the Neiman Marcus website. But, all of the Stella bags come with the high price. But don’t cry too much, there is hope for those who don’t want to sell their soul in pursuit of the latest bag.

Here are some other options that don’t break the bank:

stella1

From: Shoptiques.com

Price: $49 USD

Find it here: Chain Tote

stella2

From: Jessica Simpson collection

Price: $118 USD

Find it here: Lizzie Tote

stella3

From: Michael Kors

Price: $223 USD

Find it here: Jet Set Large Chain Tote

 

One other option:

Steve Madden came out with a strikingly similar bag. He’s currently out of stock (and possibly being sued by Stella) but he may restock so it’s worth occasionally checking the website.

Picking that Special Person

I know what you’re thinking…that special person…but I’m not talking about love here, not in the typical sense at least. I’m talking about a travel partner. I’ve had some experience in this department while studying abroad and it’s not as easy as it seems. When you go abroad, especially alone like I did, you’re meeting a ton of new people, some of which you may end up traveling with. This of course was the first thing on my mind when I arrived, who will I travel with, I don’t want to go alone! But a lot of what I learned applies to traveling in general and hopefully my advice will help you find that “special person”.

Planning a trip can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be if you have someone, or multiple people helping you. You may be tempted to choose a close friend or a boyfriend to travel with and this is 100% okay! But if you don’t know the person as well, you want to make sure they are just as interested in the trip as you are. It’s never fun to bring someone along who isn’t interested and thus you are stuck dragging them along. If you aren’t sure if they’re interested in the trip, ask them what they plan on doing when they arrive or what they’re interested in seeing and if they answer with “I don’t care” or “I don’t know”, then they either haven’t done their research or they aren’t truly interested.

If you bring someone along for the trip, you want make sure they are going to be helpful in planning. It’s never fun to be the only one planning adventures and activities and always doing the research. I guarantee after awhile you will feel like a tour guide who only has half the attention of their audience. Ask whomever you are traveling with to get an idea of an excursion or tour they want to do while on the trip before you leave and ask them to figure out the cost, times, ect. and if they come back with very limited information and few details, you may be headed for trouble.

Overall I’ve found these are the two key traits you want in a travel partner; interest in the trip and willingness to help plan and organize. I can admit I don’t love to plan everything ahead of time but doing research and looking up things to do can save a ton of time during your adventure and also money. It’s always fun to travel with loved ones and close friends and it can still be fun even if you don’t know the person as well. But hopefully with this advice you can really find that “special person”.