Monday, April 29, 2013

Anti-Tourism: Dublin

I've recently discovered that I am a terrible tourist.  Not in the typical way, such as giving snide comments when people don't speak American, or being absolutely guffawed when there isn't a Starbucks I can get my coffee on at every corner, or complaining that my food is just simply too strange and, quite frankly, shit. No no.  I mean that I make plans to go somewhere (and by make plans I mean search Ryanair for the current cheapest flight, review my Facebook friends list to see if I have any friend living in current cheap destination, and book) and stop all thinking processes about the destination until I have to pack.  Then, I arrive and my friend will say "So what do you want to do?" And I stare blankly and the realization hits me... "Oh yeah...There are touristy things to see when you're a tourist, aren't there?"  

But am I a terrible tourist or a really excellent tourist?  Am I lazy or am I actually adventurous?  Do I take the paths bent in the undergrowth or the ones less traveled by?

See, I went to Dublin about a month ago and it was one of my favorite trips so far, yet the single and only 'tourist' spot my friend Andrea and I hit was the Guinness storehouse. (A really awesome brewery, by the way, if you are into breweries or just in general love Guinness [which I don't]).  Apart from a few hours we spent in Howth, I basically saw nothing but pubs, inns, plates of food, and the inside of her awesome host family's home. 

                                 Proof of said tourist experience

In Howth, eating the market goods
The gorgeous views of Howth

What made it so great is that I spent the weekend living more like a local rather than with my face stuffed inside a map just trying to get from attraction to attraction to snap a few photos and get on to the next thing before it got too dark or too cold.  We spent our first and last nights at The Raheny Inn, a "kip" as the Irish say (or at least the Irish in Kilbarrack), and that is where I first realized that the Mexicans were having a run for their money as my favorite people in the world.  I'm head over heels for the Irish.  They're crude, they're honest, they're open, they keep me laughing and they just seem to know how to have a great time.  The minute we came into the pub, every old man bellied up to the bar was keen on finding out who Andrea's new friend was, where I was coming from, and how many pints I wanted. Well, to be fair they didn't really ask how many pints I wanted, they just kept right on ordering in your stereotypical Irish fashion.  We chummed up with the bartenders who Andrea was already acquainted with and made fast friends by the end of the night.  

Andrea and I with her host dad, John.
I felt completely in my element the minute I stepped foot into Andrea's host family's place.  Her host dad immediately started giving me a hard time, her host mom had made an amazing chicken curry dinner for us, and we wasted no time getting down to the pub for a drink.  The whole weekend was glorious; not having to worry about who would mean mug me if I said the F word, no qualms about saying whatever ludicrous thing came to mind, and definitely not caring about striking up conversations with strangers which proves to be a lot more difficult and awkward here in España.  When Sunday came I absolutely did not want to return to Spain and the Spanish, but my wallet and my liver were both saying "Honey, it's time" and the wonderful Éire weekend came to a sad end.  

In conclusion, I am the anti-tourist. I would much rather spend a few days like a local than a few days running myself ragged just to say I saw something that millions of other people have seen too and I think that's the best kind of tourist one can strive to be. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Rachel Perry Takes Europe by Storm

It has been a crazy, fun-filled 3 weeks and of course I'd like to share just how much fun I've been having, which my now ailing body can attest to, with you all my lovely readers. All 2 of you. Or however few of you exist.

I can't believe it happened, but my best friend and former roommate Rachel Perry made it out of the US for the first time and crossed the big ocean blue to visit me here in Spain. And boy did we make the most of it. Let me give you a quick summation of her 12 day trip so you get an idea just how little rest there is for the wicked.

Day 1 - 7am flight arrival and 7 hour nap (to get over jetlag) for Rachel to Bar hopping and drinking in the street on St. Paddy's Day
Day 2 - Full day tour of Madrid
Day 3 - 7am out the door to go to school for the day
Day 4 - 7am out the door to catch a flight to Rome
Day 5 - Full day tour of Rome + a crazy night of partying in our hostel
Day 6 - Full day tour of Rome + Sadness and disappointment at not getting to the Colosseum before it closed
Day 7 - 7am out the door to catch a flight back to Madrid + naps and back out for a night on the town
Day 8 - Rest, Romantic dinner for two at 'The Secret Garden' cafe, late night last minute trip planning
Day 9 - 5 hour bus ride to Granada, Spain
Day 10 - Full day tour of Granada + Flamenco show and dinner
Day 11 - 2 hour bus ride to Cordoba, Spain + Full day tour of Cordoba
Day 12 - 5 hour bus ride back to Madrid + Last night out
Day 13 - 8am Back to the airport we go to say our goodbyes :(

We shared some great laughs (as we always do), Rachel took enough pictures on her Samsung Galaxy to fill an entire galaxy, I fell in love with Spain again just a little bit, and we didn't waste a single minute. I loved Italy and would advise anyone who thinks you can see Rome in 2 days to understand that you CANNOT. We thought we could do it and... well, we were wrong.
One thing I always tell myself I need to work on is asking for help. I can be really stubborn and when I travel I have a hard time stopping and saying 'you know what let's just ask someone'. I am completely self-aware on this fact, and as much as I hate it it's been really hard to change. That's when it's great to travel with people like Rachel. She was always willing to stop and ask people how to get to the nearest landmark, street, restaurant, or bus stop even though she doesn't speak any Spanish or Italian.
Traveling with her also helped me to like Spain again. Showing someone a place they have never been before always opens your eyes to something you may have been overlooking. When we went to Granada I had this feeling like I was seeing it for the first time too (even though I had already been there before) and during the Flamenco show I found myself thinking how beautiful Spanish culture is.  Of course, then I went back to school the following week and was reminded quickly all the shit I hate about Spanish culture...But what can you do?

Here are some photo highlights of our trip:

Outside St. Peter's Prison Museum. A very...strange..experience

Rachel with her delish Italian pizza
And me with this amazing pasta

Trevi Fountain - Where dreams come true

Met some British Army soldiers in our hostel...Yes that is a hand check

Enjoying views of lovely Granada

Melt in your mouth dessert

Our last day in Cordoba. We had no money left so we sort of snuck into this place...Woops!