Spring Break Part 2 in Spain!
Spring Break Part 2 in Spain!
Spring Break in Spain!
Since I am sure you have waiting at the edge of your computer chairs to read about the rest of my Spring Break adventures, I guess I shall keep you waiting no longer. In case you missed the first blog, a quick recap follows:
I flew to Paris to meet up with my family, we had been before a few years ago so we got to skip the major touristy things and stroll the streets, eat, and relax. After four days my brother and his girlfriend returned home, and my Mom and Dad accompanied me for the rest of the week.
For years my dad has had this strange infatuation with train rides, more specifically train rides in Europe so on Tuesday morning we caught a train from Gare de Lyon and headed to Liechtenstein via Switzerland. The plan was to A. save money because traveling from Paris to Switzerland is much less expensive than Paris to Venice, B. save travel time, and C. give my parents a glance at the world in which I have been living for the past month. So after a brief 4 + hour train ride (sarcasm not intended, that really is brief for that amount of distance) we arrived in Switzerland and began the trek to the Uni.
We had warned my dad about THE HILL that awaited us, and if you have been a faithful reader you know my previous experience with this same “hill”. Father still convinces himself that he is “the kid” so he paid no attention to our warnings or preparations. Needless to say, “the kid” was huffing and puffing his old self up by the middle of the hill and CPR was almost a possibility by the top. Ok maybe it wasn’t that bad but…he certainly was more prepared the next time!
After settling in, we explored the downtown area and picked up some souvenirs and later that night traveled up the mountain to Treisen for traditional raclette. (cook your own veggies, meat, and cheese) My family was very impressed by the raclette, and it was definitely a good decision to let them try! Hopefully when I get home the fam will have purchased a raclette grill…here’s hoping!
Exhausted from traveling the next day we slept way later than usual, but still made time to explore nearby Switzerland and Austria in the dreary weather. I swear every time and everywhere that my family goes on vacation it is either A. raining or B. freezing cold…no joke. Anyhow….Thursday morning we set off to end our Spring Break with four days in Venice, Italy and man was it a great ending for the week!
Venice is definitely now among my favorite cities list…I’m pretty sure it even bumped Paris out of the running. Granted, Venice is only a 2-3 day city so our trip there was perfect! We stayed at the most amazing inn right on the border of “tourist trap Venice” and “local Venice” so we were literally surrounded by the best of both worlds. We spent the days roaming the city, and by roaming I of course mean lost.
Before leaving everyone said oh you just HAVE to “get lost in Venice”, now I know they really meant it is absolutely impossible to not get lost in Venice and just forget about reading a map. Seriously…I consider my father and myself very adequate maybe even good map readers, but this took our skills to a whole new level. You’d be headed in the right direction and come to a square and just forget it…you’re NOT going to choose the right street out of the square, so as long as you don’t have a specific time or place to be no worries you’ll find something at some point.
Having been born and raised on the water, another neat aspect of the city was the boating and nautical way of life. Obviously they have no choice but to do everything with boats, but seeing a boat hurse leaving a funeral I mean how strange is that! Or picture a water ambulance bumping and bouncing along the waves headed to the hospital…I hope no one ever has a neck injury! Or the garbage boat which was my dad’s personal favorite. The ability for a community to adapt to their environment has never been more evident to me, and I can thank Venice for opening my eyes…oh and my stomach to the most amazing food!
Now don’t get me wrong some places we ate were indeed tourist traps that tasted more like Papa John’s than actual Venetian pizza, but others…now those places were good! Alberto’s was my personal favorite. Just a few blocks from our inn, Alberto’s is a osteria filled with locals and packed to capacity. Fantastic pasta, and THE BEST tirimisu I have ever had. I don’t even like tirimisu, but this was unbelievable. I convinced myself that because of Alberto’s I know liked tirimisu and proceeded to order it at multiple restaurants afterwards, and it just wasn’t the same…long story short if you every find yourself in Venice go to Alberto’s! (and get the tirimisu)
We also had a day for visiting the nearby islands Murano and Burano. Murano is known for glass blowing, which really is amazing as you think and the island definitely has no shortage of shops selling the local creations. Burano on the other hand is much smaller and known for its lace and brightly colored houses, and by bright I mean literally neon yellow and pink among other colors.
On Sunday after a whirlwind week we returned to Liechtenstein, and by early Monday morning my parents were headed back to the states. I am beyond blessed to have such a fantastic and supportive family, and the week was the best reminder of just how lucky I am. It couldn’t have been a better Spring Break, but I can’t say that I won’t be soaking up the sun on a beach next year. As they say; You can take the girl from the Coast, but not the Coast from the girl!
Interesting facts learned:
1. Venice does in fact appear to be sinking. I mean it could have been high tide, and it certainly doesn’t look like that in all places, but along the Grand Canal the water was literally entering the basement levels of homes.
2. It is entirely impossible for the Cantrell family to have a sunny and warm vacation.
3. Traveling with a camping style backpack (mine from SF Alman) is the way to go! Mine of course doesn’t look like a camping backpack, but it fits all of my clothes for a long weekend and I can just throw it over my shoulders when walking to the train station or metro.
5. Gelato in Venice isn’t actually as good as in Vienna. Strange since gelato is Italian and everything, but true! I guess we will have to test the gelato in Milan this weekend just to be sure….
Having been born and raised on the Coast, for years Spring Break has signified the official beginning of pool time, boating, island time, and overall “summer weather”. Sure there were those years where the weather was just a bit colder than preferred, but as those loyal to sun bathing know put on a pair of socks with
the swimsuit, and it is like it is the summer heat in the middle of July. Well not exactly, but socks certainly making tanning in colder weather a possibility. And on the Coast you BETTER not return from Spring Break without a tan…or else.
This year however; not only did I return to school without an inkling of a tan, but I didn’t even set foot near a pool or beach let alone put on a swimsuit. And for once, I am actually ok with this fact. Now don’t get me wrong, next Spring Break I will have my happy butt placed next to a pool with no intention of moving, but this past week was certainly one for the memory books!
Since I am a bit far from the Gulf Coast this semester, and instead in the Swiss Alps sun bathing and beach lounging wasn’t a Spring Break option but…traveling to meet my family in Paris certainly was, and it is most definitely what I did! The Uni ended classes the Thursday before Easter weekend, and on Friday morning I was on my way to Zurich en route to Paris! I was lucky enough to have a former Millsaps study abroad student that attends school here offer to give me a lift to Zurich which saved me about a 45 francs train ride! (although I did promise to cook him sloppy joes) Once in Zürich I had the entire day to explore the area, and see just what the second most expensive city in the world had to offer.
Fortunately for me Good Friday is considered a work holiday here and nearly every store was closed for the weekend. Why fortunate you ask? Well let me just tell you I have a BIT of a shopping problem and while studying abroad having to choose between shopping or food, I have had to choose food for the past month. An extremely difficult decision for me, and with all of the tempting shops lining the Banhofstrasse in Zürich the big guy was looking out for my wallet by closing the temptations.
I roamed the city for hours seeing everything from a breathtaking lake, which my father renamed as “Swan Lake” when I retold the story of how there were swans literally EVERYWHERE in the water. And whatever beautiful serene images you have of swans in your head…WRONG. Those things are mean little birds, chasing after each other nipping with their beaks, and starting all out beak brawls over a piece of bread. Some aren’t even all white! Sorry to crush your dreams, but thought you should know.
Towards the end of the evening I remembered I didn’t exactly have anything to do when I returned to the hotel, so instead I sought out a tourist office where I could find a nearby movie theater that just might be showing movies in English. And found one I did! Plus the theater was showing The Hunger Games, which for those at home isn’t a big deal, but try having every single person you know
having seen it and being stuck in a country that A. only has one movie theater and B. shows the movie only in German. Needless to say I happily dished out those 16 francs to see the Hunger Games without a second thought.
The movie theater/ experience deserves a tiny paragraph all to its own so here goes. First off you have to buy specific seats for movie theaters here, just like a concert you buy a ticket in a certain area and that is where you are assigned to sit. Second, in the middle of the movie there is an INTERMISSION! I mean how brilliant is that? They stop the movie at a climatic part and allow everyone to take a bathroom break or get more popcorn without missing a minute of the movie. Take note Cinemark..the Swiss are on to something there.
After the movie, I had a lovely balanced meal of McFlurry and fries and returned to my hotel in the airport. Since my flight was early Saturday morning and no train would get me there early enough this was the reason for the overnight hotel
stay. Early Saturday morning I headed to the terminal and before I knew it I was off in the air Paris bound!
I met my mother and father at the airport (yes Mama was crying) and we headed to the hotel to meet up with my brother, Cree, and his girlfriend. I’ll save you the other lame arrival details and get right to the point….Paris was BRILLIANT! My family had been a couple of years ago for ten days, so this trip was so great because we didn’t have to do the crazy tourist stuff (Louvre, Eiffel Tower, museum, museum, museum, get the point?) and could instead hang out, stroll, and act like a local. Hey Cree and I both speak a fair bit of French so we could fit somewhat, well until they heard our accents of course….
Since Cree’s girlfriend hadn’t been to Paris before we did in fact do a few of the major highlights for her, but not as half day events like the previous trip. The Eiffel Tower was among the stops, and instead of waiting in the elevator line for
oh 4-5 hours we instead had the brilliant idea to CLIMB THE STAIRS. Seriously. We climbed the stairs of the Eiffel Tower to the second story, where Mama, Daddy, and I let the other two go ahead and wait in line for the lift to the top. Waiting in line for another hour to see something we had already seen? Not worth it so instead we parked ourselves in the cafe where we met the neatest couple from London/Ireland. The man, Pat, kept repeating a sentence that has since stuck with me. “Traveling is all about the people you meet, you remember places by people not museums you visit.” And I can’t help but think how true he is. Nice life lesson learned.
Another highlight was of course Easter Sunday mass in Notre Dame Cathedral. Such an amazing building, and the gathering of so many nationalities in one area to celebrate the resurrection of a common Christ was more memorable than any Easters past. Oh and the Easter Bunny even flew all the way to Paris to see us! Yea, be jealous.
One of the most memorable events from the trip was not a sight, nor a meal, nor a place, but instead a conversation that took place one morning at breakfast. My dad and I had gone down before the rest of the family, and a young couple from
the states sat at the table next to us. They began to order, but it was clear they spoke ZERO French and the waiter spoke ZERO English. Without a second thought I walked over and began to translate the couples order to the waiter and who would ask a number of questions in French to clarify, and I DID IT! The waiter understood my French and looked to me for translation and the couple was convinced I spoke French! While I clearly am not fluent nor even close, it was a reminder that I am in Europe having the time of my life, and my years of education combined with my family support and God’s blessings can make me a strong powerful woman. Ok, that all might be a stretch for just translating a breakfast order, but its true!
The weekend was filled with roaming the streets of Paris, good food, amazing sights, late nights, and most importantly time spent with my family. On Tuesday Mama, Daddy, and I headed to Liechtenstein while Cree and his girlfriend headed
back to the states. Since I have already droned on long enough, I will save the details of the rest of my Spring Break trip for future blogs, but just a hint it involves goats, mountains, oh and Venice!
Five facts acquired over Spring Break:
1. Climbing the stairs of the Eiffel Tower is indeed the equivalent of two hours on the stair stepper. Don’t believe me? You try it.
2.Never underestimate the power of crepes. Hungry for something sweet? Try a crepe with sugar. In the mood for something salty? Try a crepe with ham and cheese. Craving a chocolaty delight? Try a N crepe! Crepes are all-powerful.
3. Europeans have their act together when it comes to hot dogs. None of the split slippery hot dog bun that breaks half of the time. No, they take a piece of po-boy bread (French bread for those not from the Coast), cut a hole in it, but not all the way through, pour the ketchup in and stick the meat right down in the hole. No slippery dog, no messy hands, and pure genius.
4. The Easter Bunny is like Santa. He can travel everywhere.
5. The French really do appreciate the effort of at least trying to speak French.
Granted, they will usually switch to English to make things less confusing BUT they certainly gain respect for you if you try!
Skiing in the Alps!
Time to learn some German!