After five full weeks in Europe, this baby bitch has officially returned to these beautiful United States. It definitely feels like I’ve lived a thousand lives since I left, but I’ll try my best to condense everything into a neat little blog post. So, here’s part two of #TheEuropeTurnUp:
I’ve been asked a few times what my favorite city was throughout the trip. Without hesitation, I always say Madrid. The food, the people, the museums. Just absolute magic and perfection. Plus, it’s extremely simple to navigate via metro and very walkable, too. Which proved to be a plus for me, since I get lost going to the bathroom. The hostal I stayed in (Hostal Meyra) was staffed by THE nicest people. Legit, I don’t think I’ve received more hospitable service in my life.
If you come to Madrid and don’t visit El Prado or Museo Reina Sofia, just quit at life. Seeing Picasso’s Guernica in real life (after seeing a replica hanging in my best friend’s childhood home for the entirety of my youth) made me feel some type of way. Parque de el Retiro is akin to New York City’s Central Park, but sparkles just a little more (in my opinion). There’s a huge lake where you can rent a rowboat (which I did with my friend Ashley in an extremely romantic The Notebook moment). Also, a glass house that’s pretty fun to walk through and take pictures in.
Do yourself a favor and watch a flamenco show (and chug all of the sangria). Also make sure to have tons of tapas, tortilla and paella. Pro tip: when you order a beverage at certain bars, a tapa (or more) come for free 99. I spent my life ordering tintos and getting ish for free. #themoreyouknow
I felt ignorant as fuck arriving in Barcelona and quickly realizing that Spanish is not the predominant language. It’s Catalan. Which, I always thought was “a form of Spanish.” It’s not. It’s an entirely different language. So, that was a lesson learned. After having my mind blown with that little fact, I booked it to Park Guell for amazing views of the city. Later on, I met one of the girls I would be traveling with for the next two weeks. This is where I pause for a brief story on how life has a funny way of working itself out (and bear with me, because it can get confusing). Two months prior to the trip, my friend Kat introduced me via text to her sassy and incredibly kind friend Dana, who included me in her travel plans with no questions asked. She then suggested I get in touch with HER friend Sam, who wanted to travel to Mykonos and was thinking of going at it solo. So, I did. And now I guess I should let everyone know that Sam and I are practically married.
As a Barcelona native of nearly a year, she took me out and introduced me to her lovely friends, showed me around the city, booked us for a visit to La Sagrada Familia (one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen) and talked art with me at the Picasso Museum (another must-visit location).
Seeing the city through the eyes of a local was SUCH a rewarding experience. And if it weren’t for my friend Kat and her friend Dana and HER friend Sam, I would’ve certainly missed out.
Greece (Athens, Santorini, Mykonos)
While Madrid was certainly my favorite city in Europe, the absolute BEST part of the five weeks was the time I spent in Greece with some of the baddest bitches I have ever met. In addition to Dana and Sam, their friends Valerie and Maggie were also in tow for a week full of laughter, sun, history, culture, tzatziki and romance (at least for Dana). Pro tip: visit the Black Beach and eat at Poseidon for a spectacular ocean/sunset view. Maybe skip Red Beach, which took us FOREVS to get to and wasn’t that impressive.
Highlights: Acropolis in Athens (after you get over all the men trying to holler at you, you’ll appreciate the magnitude and importance of this area).
Daylong boat excursion in Santorini (which included visits to a volcano, hot springs and the blue domed houses in Oia). Oh, and stay in Oia for the sunset. Yes, there’s a ton of people there, but it’s absolutely stunning.
Staying at Hotel Artemoulas in Mykonos. After all the hustle and bustle up until then, this hostel was a much-needed place to simply relax, enjoy the pool and benefit from the close proximity to the beach.
Much like Nice, this was also a “chill” city for me. Tons of beaching and eating on our part (this portion of the vacay was shared with Dana and Valerie). We were staying in a German-centric part of town, which was amusing. What wasn’t? The fact that we were staying a stones throw away from a strip of bars and souvenir shops that could only be compared to an episode of Jersey Shore. Our hostel didn’t have AC either, so that was a bummer, but the staff and their hospitality more than made up for it.
The last city in my incredible adventure! The first night was absolutely miserable due to my hostel not having AC and thinking a single oscillating fan on the ground was enough for six girls. I was on the top bunk, so got zero air. Also, no guard rail on the bunk, so I was afraid to sleep for fear of falling overboard. Needless to say, I had to book a hotel room for the remaining two nights.
The architecture in this city is amazing. The overall vibe is great. But it was so hot (that suffocating type of heat that makes you chug seven water bottles daily) that I couldn’t fully enjoy myself. So, maybe that’s why I had a less than stellar impression of the city? Anywho, Il Duomo is amazing on the outside. The inside? MEH. St. Peter’s Basilica and Sagrada Familia beat it out in my book. I climbed the cathedral bell tower (which, despite being HELLA HOT, was worth it, if only for the view). Accademia Gallery should be visited on a Sunday when it’s free, so you can see the statue of David ~in the flesh~. Otherwise, it’s a skippable venue. Incredibly small and all of the artwork is the same. So, unless you want to see a bajillion versions of the crucifixion of Christ, the virgin’s coronation or Madonna with child, then just leave this one out of your plans. Pro tip: there’s a statue of David replica right outside Palazzo Vecchio if you really want to see his junk. Speaking of which, the Palazzo Vecchio Museum is also pretty dull. Just a ton of unfurnished rooms that the Medici family inhabited. Artwork on the ceilings is tight. Statues of Hercules inside are also dope. Pero, if you’re here with limited time, I wouldn’t bother. My final day in town I ended up meeting an awesome gal in the line for Uffizi Gallery (Pro Tip: spend the extra 4 euro to reserve a specific time to enter and stand in a way shorter line. The main line to enter was a 2 hour wait. Ain’t nobody got time for that). Her and I breezed through the museum, filled with masterpieces by Raffaele, Michelangelo and possibly the other two Ninja Turtles. We then decided to YOLO and take a little trip to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower (SO worth it for me, if only for the photo ops and the lols).
Pro tip: Apparently Florence has some baller ass Chinese food (who knew?) I had a 6 euro meal that was to die for. So, take a break from the pasta, pizza and gelato (which is all divine here) and get in on that Chinese food doe. But if you’re like fuck that noise, I want even more pasta, pizza and gelato, then visit Mercado Centrale (which came recommended by my friend Natalia and is where I ate lunch every single day).
So, that concludes my wrap-up. It was a life altering, magnificent, incredibly special month of June. And, with so many other cities to explore, I know I’ll be seeing Europe again soon.
Much like my last post, I invite you to creep on my Instagram (@GoLourdesDuarte) for pictures and amusing commentary.