Jelling, Denmark

For day two in Denmark (Friday), Louise, Eva, and I did a half day trip to Jelling to learn about the Vikings!

We stopped first at Jelling Church which dates back to 1100. Outside the church, two different Viking rune stones are displayed. I found the Danish cemetery to be very interesting (no surprise). Hedges surround each plot and grass does not grow around the stones. Louise, Eva, and I climbed up the two nearby hills to enjoy the view.

Next, we made our way to the visitor’s center across the street. There, I learned more about the Danish Vikings, the evolution of Christianity in Denmark, and the emergence of the Danish monarchy. All I found very interesting!

After the museum, the three of us headed back home. Louise and I ate a traditional Danish lunch of Rye bread with fermented fish. Delicious (not lying)!

Louise and I relaxed for a while after lunch while Eva took a nap. When Kristian (Louise’s boyfriend) came back from work, Louise and I headed into Herning to check out the textile museum.

The textile industry helped shape the Central Jutland into what it is today. At the museum, a new exhibit was opening so Louise and I were able to get in for free! Students at the local college researched the sailor shirt and identity. All of the fashion pieces were entirely unique. I was thoroughly impressed with what each student came up with when discussing identity and their ability to use machines to incorporate intricate text. My favorite piece happened to be a sweater that highlighted the power of of an individual’s passport or citizenship. Besides the sailor shirt exhibit, Louise and I tried out some of thee sewing machines and also learned about the evolution of the textile industry.

After Louise and I had our fill on fabric, we headed back to the house. There, Kristian, Eva, Louise and I grabbed a few things and piled into the car to go to Louise’s mom and step-dad’s home for dinner.

I am afraid to say I did not take any photos of dinner, so you will have to imagine a traditional Danish sandwich and lemon dessert. After dinner, we headed back to the house to get some shut-eye.

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

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Aahurs, Denmark

For my first full day in Denmark (last Thursday), Louise, her 8-month old daughter, and I took a day trip to Aahurs, Denmark! Back in her undergraduate days, Louise called Aahurs home. As a result, she took me to all of her favorite places in the city and reminisced while we spent the day there.

Our first stop of the day was the ARoS Aahurs art museum to see the famous rainbow panorama created by a Danish-Icelandic artist. Louise, Eva, and I also explored some other art exhibits while we were there. One of the exhibits had to do with the idea of home. For one of the displays, an artist had purchased signs from homeless people in different countries. The signs were then framed in a golden/ornate frame to show the juxtaposition of wealth and poverty.

After the art museum, Louise, Eva, and I walked around the city. We stopped at the public library down near the harbor. I found myself thoroughly impressed with Danish architecture and playgrounds. At the library, for example, the outside perimeter of the library has multiple play sets for children to climb all over. What a great way to bring convince children to get outside and read! Once finished at the library, the three of us traversed the streets soaking in the sunshine.

After a quick lunch of sandwiches outside, I helped Louise load up the car and she drove us to an art warehouse. There, artisans have workshops to create and build and visitors can stop in to have a bite to eat at the cafe or watch the artists at work. I went up to the rooftop where you could walk up and see the city.

Aarhus from the rooftop

When I climbed back down from the roof, Louise, Eva, and I hopped back into the car and drove to the deer park. Yes I typed that correctly. A DEER PARK! There, we saw deer (of course) and wild pigs during our nice walk through the forest.

After admiring the beach and ocean for a few minutes, Louise and I took Eva and loaded up the car again to head back home. A great first day in Denmark!

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

The 2.5 Week Adventure Begins!

On Wednesday, I said a “see you later” to Harlaxton manor and my friends following my final British Studies exam.

Alexa, my roommate, and I had a mini photo shoot before I hopped on the shuttle to head to Stansted airport to kick-off my 2.5 adventure to Denmark, Italy, and Slovenia!

Roomie pic: me and Alexa

For my journey to London, I opted to take a train and then a bus to Stansted instead of taking the train all the way to the airport. Now, upon arriving to King’s Cross, I took the tube to London Liverpool Street to catch my bus. I had never been to this station before and I had 15 minutes to find the bus stop. As the minutes pass by, I start to panic as I cannot find where the buses drop-off and pick-up. Finally, I find the bus area only to find out the entire area is under renovation. I decide to go out front to the street side and ask a city worker where to find the bus. He kindly gives me directions and I start SPRINTING because I have less than 10 minutes to catch my bus. I arrive just in time, albeit out of breath, and find out the 4:00 pm bus has been canceled. WHAT?! The bus ride to Stansted is roughly 1.5 hours and waiting for the 4:30 pm bus puts me arriving at the airport around 6:00 pm IF traffic is not crazy. My flight to Denmark, my destination, is at 7:30 pm so arriving 1.5 hours to the airport is a bit too close for my comfort. I decide to book a train ticket to the airport to be on the safe side.

After I arrive to Stansted, I pass through some security and grab some sushi for dinner. Yum! Not long after, my gate is assigned so I make my way to where I need to be and I find out my flight is delayed by 30 minutes. Sigh. Finally, passengers are told to make their way to the priority and non-priority lines.

While standing in line, the associate for RyanAir pulls me out of line for my bag size. I will admit my Cotopaxi backpack does not comply with Europe’s budget air backpack regulations. HOWEVER, the bag fits under the seat. As I politely explained this to the associate, she tells me that does not matter and I must pay the 20 pounds to put my bag in the plane’s hold. I pull out my credit card and insert it to pay. My card is declined. I ask the associate to try again. My card is declined a SECOND time. I go to my wallet and pull out 20 pounds cash and the associate informs me they do not accept cash and asks if I have another card. I respond with ‘no.’ Internally, I am panicking again. Are they not going to let me onto my flight? She sternly tells me for this one time only I can take my bag for free, but I need to put it into the hold. THANK GOODNESS! At this point, I cannot wait to get onto the plane. Being the rebel I am, once my boarding pass is scanned and I pass out of sight of the RyanAir counter, I rip off the tag and take my backpack onto the plane. No hold for this girl’s bag! My seat neighbor asked me how I managed to get my credit card not to work and get my bag on and I had no response for him. Pure luck?

Finally, my flight landed in Billund, Denmark. There, Louise (my aunt’s exchange student from 2003) picked me up from the airport and we headed to her house where I promptly went to sleep.

My family with Louise July 2015 during her last visit to the United States

Eventful and memorable!

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Highclere Castle aka Downton Abbey: An Easter Day Trip

Are there any Downton Abbey fans out there reading this post?

I watched Downton Abbey a couple of years ago after my mom highly recommended watching the series. After the first episode, I was hooked and promptly binge watched all six seasons in 2.5 weeks. Mind you, each episode is around an hour long…how embarrassing!

Prior to coming to Harlaxton, I had “visit Downton Abbey” on my bucket list. However, I did not entirely think I would get to the famous estate purely because getting to Highclere Castle is REALLY expensive! The tickets themselves are very reasonable, but the taxi ride to and from the train station is 15 pounds on a weekday and 25 pounds on a Sunday/holiday. For me to go by myself, I couldn’t justify spending that kind of money. Factor in too that Highclere is only opened to the public at limited times during the year – the Earl and Lady of Carnarvon call Highclere Home – and I didn’t think a visit would happen. However, I discussed wanting to visit Highclere Castle with another student named Marissa during the Wales trip back in February. Before I knew it, Marissa had talked with Caroline, another Harlaxton student, and we promptly booked the trip. A few weeks ago, Marissa and I were discussing going to Highclere on Easter and another student, Elizabeth, asked to come along too. In total, four of us made the trip to Newbury on Easter Sunday.

On Sunday, Marissa, Caroline, and I hopped into our streetcar to head to the train station. Elizabeth accidentally overslept, so she arrived in a separate streetcar right as our train to London pulled into the Grantham train station. The poor girl was flustered, out of breath, and dehydrated, but everyone, SHE MADE IT!

Once we arrived to London, we took the tube to Paddington and then switched to another train that took us to Newbury. Around 12:30 pm, our group of four made it to the train station where our pre-booked taxi was waiting for us.

After doing some research, I had Marissa book our cab round-trip with this company because they had set fares to Highclere Castle. Websites I had read highly suggested booking a taxi in advance and round-trip to Downton Abbey to ensure availability.

Malcolm, our taxi driver, took the four of us to Highclere. During the 15-minute drive, he elaborated on Newbury’s history and the castle’s history. So kind!

Upon our arrival, we were met with Easter festivities at Highclere Castle. There was a petting zoo, games, live music, and lots of kids completing a map for an Easter egg hunt! I found myself completely in awe and filled with so much happiness of seeing this GORGEOUS castle in person.

Highclere Castle from the backside

After walking around for a bit and enjoying the festivities, our group made our way into Highclere for our self-guided tour. The four of us discussed how we could see the similarities architecturally to Harlaxton, as both the manor and Highclere had the same architect! Inside the castle, each room had a laminated informational sheet discussing the history and artifacts in the space. I also enjoyed seeing the huge canvas prints of filming that took place in each room that were on display. For me, this helped job my memory of particular scenes and provided context for how the whole series was filmed. Pictures were prohibited, but Elizabeth came in clutch and took some sneaky photos!

All in all, our self-guided tour took around an hour. When we finished, we took a lunch break and then went and explored the gardens. During the walk, Marissa, Carolina, Elizabeth, and I reflected on our semester at Harlaxton discussing the ways in which we had changed and the new friendships we had formed.

After we finished our walk, the four of us popped into the gift shop and then found a nice spot on the lawn to sit and chat. As the afternoon passed by, the crowds started to clear out.

At 4:45 pm, we hopped back into Malcolm’s taxi to head back to the train station.

A lovely last English adventure for the end of the semester. I am so glad I had a great group of gals to share this experience with on Easter.

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

London, England: Days 1, 2, & 3

Hello and happy Monday!

Last weekend, I FINALLY went and explored London!

For my British Studies course, all Harlaxton students had to go to London for another mandatory field trip. Since the field trip would occur on a Friday, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to see the capital of England.

After I finished my last class of the day on Thursday, I boarded the 3:10 pm shuttle and headed to London via train. I checked into my hostel and hung out there for the duration of the evening.

On Friday, I woke up bright and early and took the tube into the city. From there, I hopped off at stop and decided to walk to Tate Modern (the modern art museum). As it was 9:00 am, nothing in London was open so I took my time traversing the streets and alleyways and taking in the calm of the city in the morning.

By the time I finished my exploring, the time was almost 10:00 am, so I headed into Tate Modern to look at the modern pieces on display. The most intriguing pieces for me were those that dealt with human rights and immigration.

Around 11:00 am, I met up with other Harlaxton students at the National Gallery. There, we looked at some paintings our British Studies classes had studied during our seminars. Then, my group popped over to the National Portrait Gallery where we once again saw some paintings our class had discussed.

After the art museums, my group made our way to St. Paul’s Cathedral. There, we broke into groups with different professors who took us inside and explained the history of the church. St. Paul’s is meant to rival St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The church is similarly structured with a large dome, paintings within the dome, and gold decorations. Pictures, unfortunately, were not permitted, but I managed to sneak a few.

Once the tour ended, I headed back over to Tate Modern to look at a different exhibit I previously did not have time for earlier in the day. My friend, Maria, met up with me and eventually we made our way to Borough Market where we grabbed some Ethiopian food for dinner! The food reminded me a lot of the Eritrean food I ate in Switzerland with Estelle.

Ethiopian food from Borough Market

After dinner, Maria and I parted ways: she to our hostel and myself to a show! A Harlaxton staff member sold a theater ticket last minute. I impulsively purchased the ticket and went and saw “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.” The show is based on a true story about a gay, high schooler named Jamie from Sheffield, England. Jamie aspires to be a drag queen, but finds himself battling against bullies at school and parental relationships at home. The show was fantastic!

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Once the show wrapped up, I took the tube back to my hostel.

On Saturday, Maria and I grabbed breakfast, made some sandwiches, and headed into London to explore and visit some museums! We stopped outside Big Ben (hiding under scaffolding), the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the Cenotaph, and Trafalgar Square before heading to the British Museum.

Upon arrival at the British Museum, Maria and I had to pass through security. The gentleman checking my backpack asked me where I was from. I responded with the United States. To my surprise, he told me I looked Italian. I replied with I had been told my face looked French this semester by someone else. To him, French and Italian are very similar. “I would have never guessed you were from the United States. You do not look anything like your president.” Thank you sir for that compliment and laugh!

At the British Museum, Maria and I went into a few different exhibits. This particular museum primarily focuses on ancient history such as Egypt and Greece, which does not coincide with my interests. However, I enjoyed seeing the Rosetta Stone in person!

After the British Museum, Maria and I hopped on the tube to head to the Portobello Market. This particular market had an array of antiques and food. When we had peered at all of the stalls, Maria and I got back on the tube to head to Paddington to walk to Hyde Park and Kensington Palace. Of course, little Paddington bears could be found throughout the area. I hope to go back to Paddington to explore a bit more!

Finally, Maria and I arrived to Hyde Park and Kensington Palace. There, we took a brief break on a bench and enjoyed the sunshine.

After our pit stop, Maria and I went in search of ice cream for our dinner. We popped into the famous department store, Harrod’s, and admired the expensive goods. Then, we made our way to a local ice cream shop in SoHo called Udderdelicious.

After our healthy dinner of ice cream, Maria and I both got back on the tube to head back to our hostel.

A wonderful weekend exploring London! I can’t wait to go back in a few weeks!

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Barcelona, Spain: Day 2

Day 2 in Spain began with Tenshi and I heading to Park Güell at 7:00 am to meet our 8:00 am ticket time slot! We hopped on the metro and hiked up to the park only to find out that admission to the park is free before 8:00 am…so, if you plan to visit Barcelona and Park Güell, go before 8:00 am to beat the crowds and save yourself 10 euros!

Now, the majority of Park Güell is free to tourists. The only portion you pay to enter is where Gaudí’s mosaic work is found. When I went, part of the bench and other areas were under restoration/repair due to the amount of tourist traffic (I assume).

I felt slightly disappointed by Park Güell if I am completely honest with you, friends. Perhaps the three tourists taking a zillion photos who wouldn’t give anyone else a turn got to me? Don’t get me wrong, Gaudí’s artwork at the park is fantastic! I am flabbergasted this man dreamt up La Sagrada Familia AND Park Güell. What did his brain look like on a daily basis? However, I thought the iconic bench where every tourist takes their photo did not live up to the hype. I thought the bench would be taller in person! BUT, despite enduring frustrations with tourists, Tenshi and I found some other great places in Park Güell where there were less tourists and I think photo opportunities were better. It’s all about perspective!

After taking a bunch of photos, Tenshi and I hopped back on the metro to go to the hostel to grab some breakfast. Then, we took some pictures at some murals nearby.

After an impromptu photo shoot, Tenshi and I got back onto the metro. We hopped off at the same stop as Park Güell. Instead of going to the park again, we hiked up to the bunkers where a panoramic view of Barcelona awaited us.

Once we had our fill of the gorgeous view, Tenshi and I hiked back down and decided to explore the area of Barcelona near the bunkers. For me, this will stick out as one of my favorite portions of this trip because I finally felt like I was not in a touristy part of the city. Locals were out and about doing their shopping at the bakery and fruit market. I was able to practice my Spanish when ordering my bread, which made me feel SO happy. FINALLY, I was experiencing the Spain I had imagined.

When I had purchased my bread and fruit, Tenshi and I hopped onto the metro to go to Dona i Ocell, a sculpture by Joan Miro. Once again, an area free of tourists! This park was empty and the statue was really beautiful!

Dona i Ocell by Joan Miró

Afterwards, the plan was to go to the Olympic Park. However, I noticed some amazing murals. Since I am a sucker for street art, Tenshi and I decided to go over and check them out. Absolutely worth the detour!

Then, next to the murals happened to be the biggest street market I had ever seen. Food, artisans, and music galore! As Tenshi and I walked the length of the market, a band was really working the crowd. Onlookers were dancing and singing in Spanish and I ate up every moment! Tenshi and I were about to continue on when the band started to play ACDC’s “Highway to Hell.” When the song started playing, I whipped out my camera to videotape the moment and to sing along. Music, friends, is such a powerful way to bring people together!

At one of the food booths, a GIANT cast iron skillet contained paella. Eating REAL Spanish paella was one my bucket list for the weekend. After using some broken Spanish, the cooks told Tenshi and I to come back in 20 minutes and it would be ready. We walked around some more before heading back to the same booth. The man we had spoken with immediately remembered us and said “you came back!” For 8 euros, this paella did not disappoint!

Street paella. Delicious!

Once we ate our paella, Tenshi and I went back to the hostel where we reunited with Miriam. The three of us headed to an Italian restaurant a local had suggested to us the previous day. Where the restaurant was located did not even seem like Barcelona. Only locals were in the area and the architecture had the Spanish feel I had been anticipating seeing in person.

At Bellillo, I had a pizza with a fried base. Sounds gross, but absolutely delicious! Afterwards, we headed over to the ice cream shop the same woman had recommended, DeLaCrem. In her words, “GREAT ice cream you cannot see, it is in a canister. Ice cream on display with bright colors is bad ice cream.” Friends, canister ice cream is the best. I am still thinking about my dulce de leche ice cream.

Once we ate dessert, Tenshi headed off to her soccer game and Miriam and I walked around exploring the area. Eventually, we made our way to Magic Fountain of Montjuïc. During the summer, this fountain puts on a 30-minute show timed to music and lights. Fortunately for us, we happened to be there the first weekend the show occurred for the season. I have seen the Bellagio fountains in person in Las Vegas. In my opinion, the Magic Fountain put the Bellagio to shame. I was impressed!

After the show, Miriam and I made our way back to the hostel. There, we “napped” until 2:45 am and hopped on the metro and then bus to get to the airport.

I enjoyed Barcelona, but I would not go back. For me, I found Barcelona to be too touristy and as a traveler, that is just not my style. By far, this was my least favorite city I visited this semester. Sorry Barcelona friends!

Perhaps, I did not do and see the right things? I would love to go back to Spain, though, and visit other cities!

Have you been to Barcelona? What are your thoughts?

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Barcelona, Spain: Day 1

Hello and happy Monday! Today I am recapping my last out of country weekend for a couple of weeks. Fear not, I have some in-country trips planned!

Now, I really had no intention of going to Spain at all this semester. This is not because I did not want to go to Spain (I am minoring in Spanish). Rather, there were other European countries and cities higher on my bucket list for my semester abroad in England and I figured I could go to Spain later on in my life. However, my friend Miriam REALLY wanted to go on a trip together and REALLY wanted to go to Barcelona to see La Sagrada Familia. With that being said, we booked this trip together months ago. Tenshi, another friend, happened to be on the same train and flight as Miriam and I even though we had not booked anything together. As a result, the three of us ended up booking a hostel together and traveling together during the weekend!

On Thursday after my only class of the day, I headed to the train station with Miriam and Tenshi. After traveling on four different trains, we finally arrived at London Stansted. From there, we flew the two hours to Barcelona, Spain. By the time the three of us made our way through border control, the time was midnight.

Now, when flying into Barcelona El-Prat you have four options to get to the city:

  1. Take the metro. However, the metro lines only operates during select hours of the day. At midnight, this line does not run.
  2. Hop on the Aerobus, which drops off at two different stops in Barcelona and takes roughly 30 minutes. This is the cheapest, quickest, and most direct bus to the city. However, the bus stops running at 1:00 am.
  3. Take the city bus that stops 10+ times. If you have a public transport card, the pass can be used for this bus. The city bus is the most time-consuming.
  4. Hail a cab and pay anywhere from 30+ euros. Quick, but expensive!

Fortunately for us, the night bus that runs directly into the city happened to still be running. This meant we could each get into the city for 5.60 euros instead of splitting a cab for 30-35 euros. Woohoo! After getting to our hostel, HelloBCN, we finally managed to get some rest at 2:00 am.

Later that morning, Tenshi, Miriam, and I grabbed a quick breakfast at the hostel and looked at a map of the city to figure out our itinerary for the day. We decided to go to all the tourist hot-spots, which happened to be nearby our hostel.

With the help of Google maps, we made our way to the metro where we each retrieved our 48-hour public transport passes which allowed for unlimited use of the metro and city buses.

Barcelona, without a doubt, is best navigable by metro. A 48-hour pass cost around $15 USD and if purchased online results in a slight discount. Of course, if you have a longer stay in the city, passes for 72+ hours are available too. I cannot recommend purchasing a metro pass enough! If you plan on visiting museums and other attractions, the Barcelona Card may be the better option for you. This card is specifically for tourists and includes unlimited access to public transport and offers discounts for certain attractions and museums. For me, the 48-hour public transport pass made the most sense.

Now, with riding the metro, you MUST wear or hold any bag at the front of your body. Why? Pick pocketing is very common on the metro and on the streets. The Barcelona metro screens actually run advertisements in the metro cars to remind passengers to watch their belongings. This semester alone, four students from Harlaxton have had their phones stolen in Barcelona.

For the entirety of the weekend, I wore my backpack on my front as a precaution and kept my phone close to my chest when navigating our group from place to place. With my camera, I had my strap across my body as if I was wearing a cross body bag thinking this would make stealing the camera more difficult. However, a local actually told me when exiting the metro to watch my camera even closer.

This is not to say pick pocketing does not exist in other European cities or countries. However, in Barcelona, pick pocketing is common. Be on guard when traveling there.

Back to my day…

We rode for one stop and got out to see the Columbus Monument at Las Ramblas.

Hola, Christopher Columbus

Miriam, Tenshi, and I then made our way down Las Ramblas. This is a famous tourist street in Barcelona known for its tacky tourist stalls and street performers. As we made our way down the street, we came across the famous La Boqueria or food market. Of course, the three of us made our way inside to look at the fruits, candy, and fish (some of which were still moving) that were available for sale.

After La Boqueria, the three of us continued down Las Ramblas and eventually hopped on the metro again to see the Arco de Triunfo de Barcelona.

Arco de Triunfo de Barcelona

Then, we hopped back on the metro to see the Palau de la Música Catalana. Originally, I had wanted to see the famous mosaic columns at the concert hall. However, to get up close, you had to go on a tour. Miriam, Tenshi, and I decided to go on the next English tour to see the interior of the Palau. The 1-hour tour did not disappoint! Each tour begins with a short video of the history of the concert hall and then the guide takes you around the building.

Out of all of the paid landmarks I saw in Barcelona, the Palau de la Música Catalana was my favorite!

After our tour, we made our way to the Barcelona cathedral. Since you had to pay an entrance fee to go inside, Miriam, Tenshi, and I opted not to go inside since we would be going to see La Sagrada Familia later in the evening.

Barcelona Cathedral

For the duration of the afternoon, we wandered around Barcelona taking in the architecture, sights, and smells. Around 4:00 pm, we made our way by metro to La Sagrada Familia.

I cannot even begin to explain to you, friends, how crazy this church is to see in person. Pictures do not do La Sagrada Familia justice. This semester, I have been inside too many churches to count and La Sagrada Familia is by far the most wild of them all both structurally and artistically.

Antoni Gaudí designed this Catholic church and it has been under construction since 1882! With being under construction for so long, the older parts of the church have become dirty on the outside, while the newer parts are cleaner.

If you are interested in going inside, you MUST purchase your tickets in advance! Miriam and I purchased our tickets back in March and there were only evening time slots available. If we would have planned our trip earlier, I would have opted for tickets around 12:00 pm. Supposedly, the sunlight streaming in through the glass is best during that time of day. However, early evening is the second best time to be in the church light-wise.

Once we wrapped up inside the church, we headed to a tapas restaurant for dinner!

That’s all for day one! Stop back tomorrow for a day two recap!

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Porto, Portugal: Day 3

My last day in Porto began with visiting two local markets! The first market had more homemade items like earrings, necklaces, and art prints, while the second market had antique goods. On our way to market #2, Miriam and I passed by the outside of Steak n’ Shake. Isn’t the exterior beautiful?

Who knew Steak n’ Shake could look so pretty?

After the second market, I parted ways with Miriam to go to Clérigos Church and Tower.

Diego highly recommended going here because the tower provided fantastic aerial views of Porto. For 5 euros, you are given access to the museum, which provides some history of the church’s architect and construction, as well as iconoclasm and its role in Portugal.

I did not realize I would be able to go through the museum portion. All in all, I found the information and artifacts on display to be very interesting!

I will say Clérigos Church and Tower is EXTREMELY touristy! The stairway you must go through to reach the top of the tower is VERY narrow. If you are claustrophobic, I do no recommend visiting. For me, I almost feel I went to the top of the tower and snapped my photos and came back down. There were so many people that I could not focus and take in the view because there was not a whole lot of room to move around.

After I wrapped up at Clérigos Church and Tower, I met back up with Miriam and we walked to Church of São Francisco. This particular church is famous for its Baroque interior and exterior and catacombs. Additionally, Church of São Francisco is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Admission is 7 euros, which includes entrance to the museum, catacombs, and church.

For the museum portion, information was given on the church’s history and some of the interior rooms.

This was my first time seeing any sort of catacombs and the whole experience can be summed up in one word: eerie. The tombs below Church of São Francisco are numbered with names and some have skulls on top. When walking around each area of the catacombs, the wood floor squeaks which adds to the whole experience. One portion of the floor had clear Plexiglas inserted which showed the bones and skulls below my feet! Due to legislation, people can no longer be buried in the catacombs.

Next, Miriam and I headed to the portion of Church of São Francisco where services are held. Now, no pictures were allowed. However, I decided to hide behind some pillars where the security guard couldn’t see me if she happened to peak her head inside; therefore, the pictures are not amazing nor do they adequately capture the amount of gold in Church of São Francisco.

After absorbing the beauty of Church of São Francisco, Miriam and I walked across the street to another church that had beautiful blue tiles. My dress matched pretty perfectly I will say!

Who doesn’t love blue tiles?!

Nearby the churches happened to be another market with locally produced clothing, jewelry, and art. Miriam and I ate our packed lunches on the grass listening to the music and enjoying the sunshine.

After lunch, we both walked around together exploring some more as we had checked off our big “to-do’s” for the day. The two of us stopped in a bar and antique store combo to look around. The exterior had these fabulous chairs attached to the wall.

Armazem

At this point, Miriam and I split up for the afternoon. I decided to walk across the Luís I Bridge, which connects Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. On this side of the river, I walked through another market and took in the view of Porto from the other side. I also wandered through some alleyways, which had some fantastic art and more local shops. Compared to the Porto side along the Douro River, Gaia seemed to have more restaurants and wine tasting opportunities.

After exploring, I headed back to our Airbnb where I met up with Miriam.

For our last night in Porto, we decided to go out and get tapas for dinner! I found a tapas bar on Yelp! called Tascö. The two of us lucked out because the restaurant had a table available until 9:00 pm. Most people eating here had made reservations.

Based on our waitresses recommendation, we ordered two different rices (not intentional, on accident, one had beans and the other tomatoes), pataniscas de bacalhau (codfish “pancake”), pantaniscas de polvo (octopus “pancake”), pico-pau (mixture of grilled meats) and sangria. Everything was delicious and we were stuffed at the end of our meal!

Tapas and sangria!

The following morning, Miriam and I Ubered to the airport at 4:00 am and said farewell to Porto and Portugal. Unfortunately, I ended up sick in the morning…I only put this on here because I want to remember the embarrassing moment of having to retch into the trashcan at the airport FOUR times! Haha! Cross my heart I was not hungover!

All in all, Porto, Portugal, made for the most perfect long weekend! After reflecting on my three days in Porto, I do believe this particular Portuguese city is made for relaxing. I do not think tourists visit the coastal town specifically to go to museums, not to say they are not fabulous! Rather, I think people vacation in Porto to do wine tours through the nearby Douro Valley and spend time at the beach.

Is Portugal on your bucket list now? I sure hope so!

That’s all for this week! See you back here on Monday! Obrigado (thank you), Portugal!

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Porto, Portugal: Day 2

With sunshine and blue skies, Miriam and I decided Friday would be beach day in Porto!

We hopped on the tram and took it all the way to the end of the blue line to see Senhor de Matosinhos. Outside of the church was a beautiful courtyard with trees and flowers. Similar to Igreja dos Carmelitas, the interior contained lots of gold for decoration.

After Senhor de Matosinhos, Miriam and I got back onto the tram to head to the beach. There, we sunbathed for a few hours. I ended up sunburned, but feeling the sunshine on my skin was 100% worth the pain!

So much love for the sunshine and sand!

When Miriam and I had our fill of the beach, we decided to head back to to our Airbnb to eat an early dinner and watch the sunset. While walking back to the tram station, we took an alternate root through Porto City Park. For being in the city, I thought the park seemed really large! There were ponds with squawking birds, gorgeous flowers, and beautiful trees.

When riding back on the tram, some sweet, Portuguese vovós (grandmas) were overly concerned about Miriam and I getting off at the correct tram stop. At first, one of the three spoke to me in English, but I could not make out what she was saying as the tram was loud and crowded. Miriam replied in Spanish, however, she could not understand what the avó said either. Finally, another Portuguese woman asked us which stop we were getting off at which we told her. She translated in Portuguese to the vovós. Eventually, the woman explained the vovós wanted to help us get off at the correct tram stop because the screens displayed on the tram were not working. How sweet! Kind people are everywhere, friends!

After getting off at the correct tram stop and eating dinner, we set out to find a place in the city to watch the sunset over the Douro River. When walking through the streets, we happened to find an area overlooking the city and river. This happened to be a hot spot with lots of people, since it had a grassy area. Locals and tourists alike were drinking, smoking, and listening to music.

With all of the smoking, though, Miriam and I didn’t stay long and headed down towards the riverside quickly. In the nick of time, we caught the tail end of the sunset.

After sunset, Miriam and I stopped in some local shops to see some wares. I was on the hunt for an ornament, but struck out on Friday. Then, we both stopped to grab some gelato. I do not have a picture, but I had a traditional Portuguese cookie-flavored gelato. Yum!

That wraps up day two in Porto! Short and sweet compared to day one! Stop back tomorrow to read about my final day in Portugal.

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Porto, Portugal: Day 1

Last Wednesday after British Studies, my friend Miriam and I caught four different trains to the airport to fly to Porto, Portugal, for our second and final long weekend of the semester.

Miriam and I on train number two? Three? I can’t remember!

Originally, I had thought about traveling to Bratislava, Slovakia, and Vienna, Austria, for the long weekend. However, Miriam convinced me that going somewhere warm would be a better idea. After this weekend, I have to agree!

Portugal had been high on my “visit” list this semester. I had no idea if I would actually get there this semester, but here I am and can now check Portugal off of my bucket list!

Since my trip to Poland, I have been wearing a reusable medical mask on each flight because I have had four colds this semester. Through process of elimination, my mom and I determined the airplane air was most likely making me ill.

After getting comfortable in my seat to Portugal with my black medical mask strapped to my face, the woman next to me looked slightly puzzled. She eventually asked: “Why are you wearing a mask? Typically, I only see Asian people wear the masks to protect against germs and pollutants.” I only could laugh and explained I had fallen ill after each flight I have taken this semester. And…guess what? Since wearing one of my medical masks for each flight, I haven’t caught a single cold!

We landed in Porto, Portugal, around 11:30 pm. After passing through border control, Miriam and I decided we would try to figure out the metro system to get to our Airbnb.

Now, if you are visiting Porto, the metro system stops running after 1:00 am. Uber is available and is pretty inexpensive!

Both Miriam and I managed to “figure out” the metro ticket booth which was half in Portuguese. When we made our way to the platform, our confusion must have shown (or maybe it was the giant folding map of Porto we were holding) because a gentleman asked if we needed some help. He answered our questions and made sure Miriam and I knew where we were going. #bless

After riding quite a few metro stops, Miriam and I disembarked the metro and made our way to our Airbnb. At this point, the time was 1:00 am. Our host had indicated someone would meet us outside to let us into the apartment. However, Miriam and I waiting for 15 minutes and no one showed up! I tried calling the host to no avail.

Eventually, we decided to walk to the other address listed to see if we could get some assistance. Miriam and I lucked out and the owner happened to be at the other location. He reprimanded us and said, “My colleague is waiting for you. I tried contacting you and you didn’t respond.” To which Miriam responded, “He was not there.” After some back and forth and apologies, Miriam and I walked back to the apartment where Diego was waiting. He apologized profusely to us. Turns out we had missed him by a few minutes. Diego graciously gave us some recommendations of things to do, see, and eat in Porto. Around 2:00 am, Miriam and I finally fell into bed from exhaustion.

After some much needed rest, Miriam and I headed out to the city around 9:30 am. Our plan on our first day was to simply get a feel for the city and do the combined Port wine, train, and boat tour we had booked.

When traversing the streets, I repeatedly said over and over again, “Oh my gosh! The tile! It is so beautiful!” The weather was an absolute dream! 70 degrees, sunny, with clear, blue skies! Miriam and I came across this church and stopped for some photos.

After going inside the church, Miriam and I continued wandering in the direction of our tour. We stopped inside a few local stores selling handmade goods before eventually reaching our tour destination. At this point, neither of us had eaten any breakfast. We decided to do the wine tour anyways!

Miriam and I hopped onto a little train that drove us through the streets of Porto to the Port wine cellar. There, we watched an introductory video about the nearby Douro Valley where the grapes are harvested. After the video, our guide took us through the cellar and explained how the Port wine is blended, aged, and bottled.

When the tour wrapped up, Miriam and I went to the tasting room where we sampled a red Port wine and a white Port wine. Now, Port wine is a “dessert” wine of sorts. Typically, the wine is drunk after dinner and served with chocolate or cheese. Additionally, the alcohol content is pretty high. The red port wine we sampled was a 19% proof. I found the wine to be syrupy and pretty thick!

After drinking our samples, Miriam and I hopped back on the train. The train drove us through the streets of Porto where city highlights were pointed out. Eventually, the train took us back to where we started and Miriam and I set off to find some lunch near the river.

We happened to find a restaurant that was reasonably priced along the Douro river. Accordion music happened to be playing in the background while Miriam and I sat in the sunshine waiting for our food. An absolute dream! I settled on a Francesinha (recommended by Diego). This is a traditional sandwich of the country and I have to say that it is the only food this semester I would not order again. Maybe I had a bad one? To me, the sandwich did not have a whole lot of taste and the whole combo just was not working for me.

Francesinha

Miriam and I hung around the area for a while before boarding the boat for the river cruise!

I cannot recommend the combined tour Miriam and I did enough! In total, the combined tour rounded out to about $25 and I feel we were offered a different perspective of the city and knowledge of Port wine!

When the boat tour ended, Miriam and I decided to head towards the city center to check a few more items off of our “to-see” list.

We decided to head to Livraria Lello, which is considered one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. Additionally, the bookstore is well-known for the inspiration it offered J.K. Rowling when writing Harry Potter. For 5 Euros, you can enter the bookstore and see the beauty firsthand.

After Livraria Lello, Miriam and I walked to São Bento Railway Station, which is famous for the blue tiles found on the interior.

Once we had our fill of the blue tiles, Miriam and I decided to call it a day and headed back to our Airbnb. We stopped to grab some groceries and cooked our dinner.

Such a great first day! Stop back tomorrow for a recap of day two!

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo