SPRING BREAK! amsterdam, madrid, barcelona!

11 Mar

Ok so I will try and sum up these 10 days in one blog post and really try and not bore you to death, because I understand you have a life! (haha)

I left with 5 other girls to Amsterdam from Florence early saturday morning. Our flight was at 7:30. The flight wasnt too bad at all, however the weather was pretty terrible in Amsterdam the first 2 days. When we got there we checked into our hostel, which was outrageous. It was 7 floors and was only a year old, it was basically a big hotel. When we got a map, and figured out what we were going to do, we went into the city center and decided to go to the Anne Frank house, which was ABSOLUTLY amazing, it literally blew my mind. It was unreal what these families went through. Knowing Anne was only 15 years old when this was going on was just mindblowing. To think she could only go to the bathroom for about an hour a day because they were afraid of being shot and captured, was just so sad. The museum or house, was very well done. You walk through the building and it is like her story, the quotes are on the wall, and she was an amazing writer. Then when you get to the part where you go through the secret bookshelf, that is where it starts to get more realistic. You see where they had to sleep, eat, and bathe everyday. The reason her diary was able to be saved was because when the Nazis came after 2 years of them hiding, they through it in the corner and the people living below them saved it because they knew it would be valuable someday. They gave it to the father when he returned from Auschwitz.

After that we just kind of walked around and got to experience Amsterdam. I could not believe how friendly people were. They were literally the nicest people I have ever met. Once we got back to our hostel around 6 we decided to get ready and get some food. We just grabbed dinner on the go and headed out for the nightlife. We first took a walk down the Red Light District. I actually thought it was really interesting. Even though it was a little disturbing, it really showed a lot about their culture. The nightlife was awesome as well. We went to this bar for a little while and had the most hilarious waiter ever. Later we went to this nightclub called Escape, which was awesome. The next day we split up, and Amy, Emily and I went to the Heineken museum. It was really interactive and so cool. They let you help make the beer, and the people were so fun. They had this “ride the movies” thing and you could also record commercials of you and your friends and email them to people. They also had really cool suveniers in the gift shop, which I thouroughly enjoyed. When you were able to taste test the guy gave us a demonstration of the proper way to drink beer. He said that your supposed to tip your head back just a little bit instead of tilting your glass in order to get a better taste, and it is true! After the heinken tour we met up with a couple guys from our program and just hung out. The weather was terrible because it was cold and rainy so we decided to head back and make it an early night because the other girls had an early flight. I was able to stay an extra day because I booked my flight later than the others on accident, but it was convenient because the whether was amazing and I wanted to get to see more of the city because I was already in love with it.

My hostel had flyers for this free tour starting from the city center. I decided to take the metro and see if I could catch one of the groups even though I was a little late. I got there when they were meeting and had a great experience. I met these really nice American girls studying in Dublin. Our tour guide was Australian and British. She was awesome. She gave us all the history of the city, and basically gave us the background of why Amsterdam is such a liberal city. They are very proud that they are so liberal, because they have fought to be different for years. She first took us down the Red Light District and gave us a little background of why it is “tolerated”. She also explained that all the women work for themselves, and they pay taxes just as any other business would. Because it was during the day, it was not near as dirty. The women were a little less scandalous and (not to be rude) but much less attractive. There is actually a church right in the Red Light District where the priests used to live. They would get with women and then go back to the church and pray for forgiveness, ironic. Everywhere you would go through the city, people would be saying hello to you, and had the biggest grin on their face (something I was not used to while studying in Italy). She also took us around to the famous prisons that they used to have, a famous coffee shop that Oceans 11 and 12 were filmed. The tour was about 3 hours and at the end we talked outside of the Anne Frank house where she gave us a little background about Anne’s life and what it was life for Jews during that time. It really made me want to visit a concentration camp because after hearing 130,000 Jews during that time just from the small country of the Netherlands less than 70 years ago, was unbelievable.  At the end of the tour she gave us the opportunity to go with her to a Dutch resturaunt. I went and it was a lot of fun. I got a Rootworst, which was basically a huge sausauge with mashed potatoes. You were able to get seconds, but there was no way.

I took the train to the airport to get on my flight to Madrid. I had no problems with Easyjet (the lower quality airline in Europe, but typically really cheap). However, when I went to check in the lady informed me there were 2 reservations with my name under it. I had booked the flight but never got a confirmation email so I assumed it never went through therefore I booked it again, so I got charged double, something I could not afford, so I am going to have to fill out a form to get a refund. I got into Madrid just fine, and was able to get to my hostel via the metro pretty easily. We were in the heart of the city. Our hostel was right by Puerto del Sol which is a main area. The hostel we stayed it was by far my favorite. It was called Hostel One. The guys were students but from Argentina. It was just a very homey hostel. They had a kitchen that everyone could share, and they were just very friendly (and definitely not bad looking). When I got up I was SO excited to explore the city. I had wanted to go Spain for so long. I walked along a busy road and went into this restaurant to get a typical Madrid dish. I ordered this ham on bread thing. This lady next to me was so nice and showed me on the map where everything was and all that I needed to see. She gave me directions to everything too. I couldn’t believe she was so friendly because in Italy, that would NEVER happen (haha). I went into the Royal Palace, which was very beautiful. It had all the rooms of where the King used to live. When I was done, I went up towards the art museums that I wanted to check out. I came upon the Prado Museum but I knew that it was free from 6-7:30 so I decided I would come back later that evening.

I took a walk all around Retiro Parck which was a huge park in the city (similar to a Central Park). There were beautiful monuments throughout the park as well. When I got back to the hostel Amy and Emily had mentioned they wanted to go to Retiro Park so I decided I would go back because I hadn’t taken any pictures since I left my camera at the hostel. We got there and wanted to take a boat ride in this river in the middle of the park. It was about a euro each. The boat ride was pretty fun, even though I had a little bit of a struggle with my rowing! After the boat ride, I went into the Prado Art Museum. It was really awesome to see Spanish art because I had really only seen Italian art. I really enjoyed it actually. I’m starting to really appreciate art now, and find it very interesting. When I got back I went and got some dinner at this random restaurant called Te and Caffe (not the best food but it was just fine). We went out towards the bars and I couldn’t believe the amount of people giving away free drinks on the streets to entice you to come into their bar. We finally went into this Irish Pub, which ended up being really fun. I know I should have gone to a Spanish one, but this one looked the most fun. We met these people that were studying abroad and went to Yale. They were pretty cool, but we were more interested in their stuffed dog that they were carrying around with them. They were pretty funny and we ended up talking to them for a while. Later there was this Australian kid that was sitting by us, who kept telling us how much he loved Americans! 

 The next day I did major shopping because I couldn’t believe how much cheaper it was in Spain than in Italy. I bought a new leather jacket and boots and then some other clothes. The next night Alex got into town so I met up with her for a little bit but stayed in for the evening because we had to get up for our flight to Barcelona in the morning.

Our flight to Barcelona was not too bad at all. Emily, Amy and I were so excited to be on an actual “typical spring break”. There was a beach, and it was decently warm. We checked into our sort of sketchy hostel. It was right on Las Ramblas, which is the main street in Barcelona. It was great location, which was really awesome. We took a walk down Las Ramblas to the boardwalk. It was gorgeous. I couldn’t believe people studied abroad in such a beautiful city. It reminded me a lot of L.A. We went down to the boardwalk then came back to our hostel to get ready and get some dinner. Emily knew some friends that were studying abroad there so we met up with them. They were all very nice. All the girls and the guys were very friendly. We went to a bar before we went to the discoteca, Opium. They typically don’t even get to the discoteca until about 2am (how do they stay awake?). The discoteca was so fun and it was nice to have some American guys show us around. The next morning we went to the beach and just relaxed.  The whether was so nice. We wore a t-shirt and pants and were just fine! When walking back Las Ramblas we stopped to enjoy all the cool people. These people dress up in outrageous costumes, and perform acts. Some of them were so interesting, like there was this floating man with this black huge cape. Also there were these gymnast men that would pick people out of the crowed on the street to stand in a straight line and they would do flips over them! I had wanted to get tapas all week, and we went to this restaurant for dinner, where I got these fried potatoes with garlic sauce and chicken with sweat mustard sauce. It wasn’t exactly what I had planned on getting but it was good! Barcelona is really famous for Paella, which is a seafood dish, but it was pretty expensive. The second night we went out with some of Emily’s friends again and we went to some really fun discotecas. We went to Shoko and Catwalk. They were outrageous. The last night we met up with one of Amy’s friends and went out with a couple of girls. At the club I met this guy that had gone to Purdue his freshman year and was a Sigma Phi Epsilon, which is a fraternity I hang out with a lot. I went back and in the morning our hostel randomly made a rule that we were supposed to be out of the hostel at 11am and it was like 10:30. We were able to get out of there in time. I had an earlier flight than the other girls did so I headed for the airport. I was lucky to have one of Amy’s friends that is studying abroad in Florence, on my flight. It was delayed an hour which was a little frustrating just because we were so exhausted and were just ready to be home. When I got on the plane I actually was excited to hear Italian. I was super excited to be heading back to Italy, and I hadn’t even realized how much I had missed it. When we landed I actually felt like I was home! It took me awhile to get back home, almost 2 hours because it was free to take the bus or 20 euro to take a taxi, and I was poor after my trip. I finally got home and was so excited to be in our apartment. I had felt like it had been days since I had been there! It was interesting to hear from other people’s perspective about their vacations. Majority people were also very excited to be back in Italy.

I felt like I actually learned more about Italy from being away from it, than being here. I realized that people in Italy are much less friendly in social settings. It isn’t a bad thing, it’s just they are used to being around Italian people, and if you are not Italian, they probably won’t talk to you. I also realized how expensive Italy is. Another thing I realized is that Italy has so much culture compared to other parts of Europe. It’s very distinct and there is a lot of pride for the Italian culture.



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