Monday, October 28, 2013

!Bienvenidos a Espana!

Finalmente! I could use my Spanish in its natural habitat! We docked in the southern part of Spain in Cadiz. Shortly before docking, I learned that the “s” or “z” in southern Spain was pronounced as a “th”. So, needless to say, it was a little hard to understand the locals, saying things like “grathiath” instead of “gracias”. 

It was a rainy day in Cadiz (after the weather told us it would be a beautiful day….) but covered almost all of the small city in that one day. We walked to a castle that used to serve as a fort only to reach the entrance gate saying it was closed on Mondays. Oops. My hallmate and I went into a cathedral that was really elaborate. There was a pressed penny machine inside, I could not believe it! There was also a morgue in the basement with remains of some Spanish poets laying there…

My friend and I spent the day running in and out of the rain and walking, walking, walking the city! We were along the coast for much of our trek so I loved being by the water. We finally found the main shopping, hopping, popping district and had to eat. What a great choice we picked! I had this fried eggplant dish drizzled with balsamic glaze (did not know vegetarian options would be so hard to come by in Spain haha!) and could not have been happier. It was DELISH! Nice and very thinly sliced grandma :) We were also on a mission to find churros. I had to go into a tourism office to ask where they would be!!! We were told they were a breakfast food so no one had them. We were not taking no for an answer! You may wonder why I was having so much trouble in Spain if I can speak Spanish. Well, once I opened my mouth, people must have thought I knew much more than I do! They spoke 50000 miles a minute and whew that was tricky! I also realized I do not roll my “r”s enough.  When I asked the tourism office lady where the churros were, she had no clue what I was saying. I described long, sugary dough sticks and it finally clicked – “Oooooh, churrrros!” she exclaimed! Whoops, guess I need to practice my “r” rolling.

The next day for my business ethics class, we visited a vineyard to learn about ethics in winemaking. That was pretty cool. It was a locally-owned place and the CEO spent the day with us in the vineyard talking to us and enjoying a tapas lunch with us. THERE WERE AVOCADO SLICES AT LUNCH…..YUM!!! But probably the coolest site I saw that day was one of the Disney Cruise Line ships in dry dock. I think it is the same ship I’ve seen in the Bahamas so it was neat (albeit sad!) seeing it all ripped apart and under construction. 

Spain was our last European port. Time to touch down on a new continent…..AFRICA’s next!


Surf City

Well, I can certainly say I am learning something new everyday!

Here I am, all excited to speak my Spanish in Portugal and Spain. I’m thinking, this will be great, I’ll know what I’m doing, seeing as reading was a little tricky in Russia and Germany. Well, I never got the memo that Portuguese was spoken there! Duh! That did nothing to hamper on our time there though because we had a GREAT time.

A couple of days before we docked in Lisbon, I was eavesdropping on my friend’s conversation, learning that she was going surfing. How cool! She asked if I wanted to join and it seemed it would be a little touristy, but why not? I had no other plans!

Well, learning to surf with Epic Surfing School was one of the best things I have done so far on this voyage! It was such an incredible day. Our 2-hour lesson took up the whole day….and were thrilled about that)!!!
I was able to stand on the board a couple of times. The instructors kept asking if I had done it before because they said I was really good as a beginner. I was ecstatic that at 20 years old, I finally found a sport I am good at!

The beach we went to was beautiful and had clear water. The water was freezing but wet suits are magical and after your feet and hands are numb, you are set for the rest of the day! It turns out, the World Surfing Championships held an event at the same beach two weeks after us!

The next day I had an outing with my art class. We looked at tiles that adorn the city. They are used to insulate buildings but end up being so beautiful themselves! We even designed our own. Not sure anyone is going to be running to thrown mine up front and center on their house.

The cool thing about Morocco is that it has Moorish influence. I can’t remember why this is so LOL What this meant for me is that I had a wonderful falafel, couscous and hummus pita! Also, we were in the same port that Christopher Columbus left from. The weather here was nice and warm and of course I loved that. I would love to visit this port again and wish we had a teeny bit more time than 2 days. However, the memories made, during our surfing lesson especially, are so special that they’ll have to continue to make me smile until next visit!

The Dolphins Made me Late!!

Top of the Mornin Everyone!

Hope you’ve all had a great month or so. Wow, time flies! Can you believe it is almost the end of October? I literally feel like the month started.
As for the title of this entry, this was an actual excuse I had to use when I showed up late to my art class. There were dolphins spotted at lunch and I couldn’t pull myself away from them!!!

Ireland was phenomenal. The locals kept commenting on how lucky we got with the weather – sunshine! We were lucky indeed in the land of Erin  The first day, a group of us went to Trinity College to take a look around and see the Book of Kells. I ran into a girl who was born in Winston-Salem, NC! It happened to be freshman move-in weekend so that was fun to be a part of! People thought we were joining the class LOL The Book of Kells was not as awesome as I thought it would be. The handwriting was beautiful and it was crazy how old it was so I’m glad I saw it.

For lunch, I happened upon this wonderful vegetarian place and met some tourists from Wales. I have been lucky in happening upon vegetarian places a lot lately!

Later that day, I went to the Museum of Natural History. Well, that just ended up being a museum of cute taxidermied animals from around the world so a little different than I expected. There were over 2 million animals there!!! No, I did not get around to seeing them all!

We visited the Kilmanham Gaol for my sociology class and that was really interesting! Who knew jails could be that interesting?! Our tour guide was great. He said that people would purposely commit crimes during the famine because in the jail, they were guaranteed at least one meal a day whereas they were not guaranteed that meal at home.

I decided to venture up to Northern Ireland (let me just hop over to another country for the day) to visit the site of where the Titanic was built. Belfast has this incredible new exhibition all about the ship building and its fate which was wonderful. I liked this trip because I booked it through a tourism agency but instead of being with Semester at Sea kids, I met people from all around the world. I had lunch with a girl from the Czech Republic and a boy from Australia. I loved hearing where everyone was from on the bus.

The last day in Ireland, some classmates and I thought we wore out Dublin. It was a great city. But we were ready to see some green! So we took a train to Wicklow, a small coastal (and BEAUTIFUL) town to hike. Our intentions were to hike to the cliffs so that we could see the beach. Well. That never happened. We never reached those cliffs. We ended up in someone’s pasture and after realizing it was private property, turned around. Oh well, we still got a great view of the ocean from the commuter train believe it or not! We met an older gentleman who used to work in the kitchen at East Stroudsburg University. We were blown away (one of the girls I was with is from Philadelphia) and it just reminded me how small the world is. You never know who you will run into!

One of my favorite memories of Ireland was dining at an Asian restaurant for dinner. At this point I had already had my Irish cuisine and I saw vegetarian so I was in. Sorry, no more bangers and mash. All the tables were filled as a middle-aged couple came in looking to eat. I told them they could have my table, I would be done soon. Then I said, well, you might as well sit while I wait. They declined and shortly after were seated at the table behind me. This time, the tables turned (hahah) and they said I should sit with them. After all, I just had my computer and map out planning the next day and wasn’t doing much of anything by myself. Well, joining them was a fantastic conversation. We just had a nice evening talking about life in Dublin and my life in America. Turns out, the lady used to go on holiday to Bayonne. I could not believe how close that was to me (and that that was where she went in America haha). I plan to stay in touch with them because they were just such hospitable people.

Ireland was really phenomenal. I thought that was my favorite country…..until we got to Ghana. Hahah more to come on that!


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Cities times 2

Hi all!

Wow, we’ve already been on the voyage a month! In some ways, it feels like we’ve been on the ship forever but in other ways, it feels like it’s flying by. It’s a hard feeling to describe.

Belgium and France were considered overland ports. What this means is that we had the option to travel from Belgium to France without the ship and could just meet up before the ship left France. That is why I am grouping these two postings together J

Belgium was really pretty. The architecture is really amazing, it looks like you are in Disney World if I had to compare it to something haha! There are many medieval castles and buildings and they transport you into a different world. During our stay, we ventured to Ghent, Bruges and Antwerp of course (because that is where the ship was docked).

However, the first day we were docked in Belgium, I signed up to visit Friedensdorf International. In English this translates to Peace Village International. We drove through The Netherlands and back into Germany to visit this sanctuary for children who have been involved in war. Some of the children were burn victims while others were missing limbs, whether it is how they were born or if they were lost due to an explosion. They were primarily from the Middle East and north Africa. It was a little difficult to do our crafts and interact with the children because none of us spoke the same language but after warming up to each other, smiles were the best that would do and we still had a lot of fun. I brought a photo album of my life in America to share with the young boys I was with. Some of their favorite pictures were of a man feeding a squirrel in NYC and of the Statue of Liberty – they kept imitating her holding up the torch. Before we left, we went into the courtyard playground area. I had brought a couple of beach balls for when we reach Africa but packed one along for today…and I am so glad I did! After blowing and blowing and blowing up the beach ball (I couldn’t give up with all their little eyes staring at me!!) they ran off with it and were laughing and screaming. It was amazing how well they were able to play games regardless of missing limbs or while on crutches. It was incredible actually!

The next day brought us to Ghent and Bruges. Well, it somehow did not occur to me I would find chocolate and Belgian waffles everywhere!!! Waffles here are more of a dessert than a breakfast food. I had a delicious one with caramel and fresh whipped crème – delish! The Belgians also claim to be the ones that invented French fries or frites. I tried one of my friend’s (just one LOL) and I don’t know why they were really bragging out them, they didn’t taste special or anything haha! We walked around the two cities and there was quite a downpour for part of the day but that didn’t stop us! We just loved the majestic buildings.

The last day in Belgium, I stayed in the port city since we only had half a day before we left for France. Antwerp was cute, it’s just that things didn’t open til 10 AM at the earliest and it was a little tricky to do much of anything when we needed to be back on the ship for noon. Soooo I explored the city streets and window shopped. I did happen upon a vegetarian café and I knew this was a must-go. At 10:30 I had lunch (I guess when I had such an early start and got off the ship early, this was mid-day for me haha) and was beaming the rest of the day. Not only did the café have wif (!!!!!) they offered amazing meals and an incredibly friendly staff. The name of the café was Lombardia. The walls were plastered with screenshots of Tweets and Facebook statuses about this “Ginger Love” tea. The day before I had seen a little paper about it in the grocery store and wondered what the fuss was about. Well, turns out I happened into the place where it was invented! I tried a sample and I was hooked. OMG, it was soooo good!!! It is a ginger tea with citrus mixed in and foam on top. I bought boxes to bring home so some of us can try it together. It was phenomenal. One of the kind workers actually ended up being the creator and he was so nice to talk to and helpful in figuring out my plans for France the next day. Pictures of famous people drinking the tea in his café were everywhere so we took a picture together in case he wants to throw ours up too ;)

The next day, I decided to take a day trip to Paris. Looking back, it was kind of far away (3.5 hours each way) for a day trip, but I’m glad we made it happen. Of course we saw the Eiffel Tower J my friend and I stopped at a café and had some sort of giant piece of bread with vegetables and melted cheese – yummy whatever it was! Since we were on a tour though, there was no time for a cute little picnic with nice bread in front of the Eiffel Tower. Oh well, next time! Because it was a Sunday, most of the stores were closed but just as well since they were Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Rolex haha!
Well I don’t know the name of it but I will call it the Lovers Lock Bridge. This is where you can buy a padlock and put the name of you and your loved one, lock it on the bridge and throw the key overboard into the water so that you’re together forever. I could not believe how many locks there were!!! They were filming a movie on the bridge, we saw a man playing a saw blade instrument he crafted and a man told me Hakuna Matata. So those were the bridge highlights haha

Hope to be in touch soon about my Irish adventures!
My friends from the Peace Camp

typical tourist pic with the Eiffel Tower in the background!

Belgium looked like this......unreal!!!

Just hanging out at the Lovre

Soooooo many locks!!

Au revoir Eiffel Tower!

Some of the many chocolate displays in Belgium

YUM Waffle!!!

Xoxo, Erin 

Germany.....Guten Tag!

Guten Tag all!

Greetings (from a couple of weeks ago at this point) from Germany! Germany was a cool place and different than what I expected. I pictured it kind of old and run down but in fact it was really modern, clean and a nice place to visit.

For half the time we were in the country, my hallmate and I travelled to Berlin. Her teaching assistant from University of Virginia moved back to her home country and offered for us to stay in her apartment in Berlin. What a treat! I did not realize that when they say “flats” are tiny in Europe, they are not kidding! The bedroom was the same room as the living room, office and dining room.

Our hostess, Elina, served us a beautiful German breakfast before we headed out for the day. I have been craving crème cheese and finally had some with some nice fresh-baked bread! Tons of fresh fruit too as well as “breakfast” juice, as she called it. Just a vitamin fruit drink that was tasty.

We found a free walking tour of the city to check out the graffiti of the city. In Berlin, graffiti is embraced and while I think it is illegal, people sneak onto buildings all the time and put their work up there for all to see. Some of the art is only up for a couple of months due to weathering. I could not imagine doing all that work just to have it destroyed shortly after!

The Berlin Wall was cool to see, especially all the art on there. We were able to cross it with such ease as compared to how it was just 20 years or so when my parents were there visiting. Our guide told us one story of a lawyer who had his practice on one side of the wall and his family on the other side. Somehow he was able to zipline over the wall with his children hanging onto each leg and managing to cross to the other side to stay with them. Amazing!

My authentic meal was spaetzle which was amazing, just looked like cow brains.

Back in Hamburg, our port, I visited Miniatur Wunderland – this place was INCREDIBLE! For those of you who are familiar with it, picture Roadside America with a handful of floors. It was a miniature “museum” with scenes from around the world. Words cannot even describe it, I am so glad I decided on going. It was funny seeing the depiction of America. I saw sights that I’ve never even been to in the States such as Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. But NYC was not there! They definitely need to add that. But it was incredible seeing the detail and it was evident how much hard work was put into making it as great as it was. I admire those artists for taking so much time and their attentiveness to detail!

Later that day, I saw……Der Konig der Lowen! The Lion King in German!!!! It was phenomenal. Thankfully, I have seen the movie enough times that I knew what was going on for the most part and was only lost on occasion. I bought the CD and it’s fascinating listening to it. The music sounds the same and being able to understand it while it’s in German is really cool. (Man, how many times have I used the word cool in this entry HAHA).

Germany was a great couple of days with a lot of travel that wore me out, but I’m thrilled I was able to experience the things I did! =D

The CUTEST little amusement park ever!!!

A delicious German breakfast!

In front of the Berlin Wall :)

This is the ferry we took from one side of the river to the next to reach the Lion King theatre - except this was the miniature one!


I love these Lion King chairs!

During was a great show!

My traditional German meal of spaetzle

View from the ship of the Lion King theatre, we were in perfect view!

A pretty sunset in Berlin

See you again! Xoxo, Erin J