Explore. Dream. Discover. (Mark Twain)

29 April 2010

Weekend Plans: Ireland

Sora and I are off to find a pot of gold...and for a Paddywagon tour of southern Ireland!
Can't wait to hear some English again!! :)

26 April 2010

Sunday afternoon bull fight

WARNING: those who are animal lovers or generally squeamish should not read this post!


On Sunday, Caitlin, Rosa, Sora, and I decided to go to a bull fight. When I told Esperanza where I was going, she started laughing and saying, ¨Oh take care... yikes...¨ so I was a bit uneasy about what I was going to see!

The bullring is in a big circle, so although we were sitting in the cheap tickets up high, we could still see everything.

Not that missing some parts would have been so bad....

Hiding from an angry bull.

The entire bull fight events consists of 6 actual bull fights. First, matador assistants wave around pink and yellow capes to get a feel for how the bull is.

Next, two picadores enter the ring on horseback. One of these guys must stab the bull with their lancers. The bull almost always went for the horses, who were blindfolded and must have been wearing an insane amount of armour!!

This was a bit hard to watch...

Pretty assitants!

Next, three banderilleros enter the ring with hopes of stabbing their banderillas (spiked wooden sticks) into the neck of the bull. When they miss, the crowd goes crazy!

Bloody bull...

When the star matador, the torero, enters the ring, the pink cape is switched out for a red one. He puts on quite a show, waving his cape around and having staredowns with the bull, until he uses his long sword and plunges it into the bull´s neck.

One bull down, five to go.

Once the bull falls, the ear is cut off and the body is drug out of the ring. The groundskeepers come out, clean up the ground, and another bull comes out.

I can´t say I would go to another one, but I am glad that I went. My favorite part: the traditional matador outfits! What is not to like about pink tights and sequins?

Sora and Caitlin wore red!

20 April 2010

A weekend in Lisbon

This past weekend, Sora and I visited our neighboring country, Portugal. We had purposely planned this trip in April in hopes of warmer weather, but unfortunately that wasn't totally true.

Showers aside, we had a great time! We owe a huge majority of our good time to our fabulous hosts, Teresa and Mafalda. They are sisters studying in Lisbon and they graciously opened their apartment to us. Mafalda had lived in the US (Vail, as an au pair) and Teresa had just returned from a trip to London, so we had a lot to talk about!

They took us around their city--pointing out historical and fun facts. Our first stop in the downtown area was Mude, a fashion and design museum. It was really neat! The building was an old not-quite-finished bank, so it had a cool industrial feel.

The entrance to Mude.

A special Converse exhibition on the top floor caught our eye. There was a video of super cool and creative people from all over the world playing, and I believe this started our urge to craft!
Mafalda led us to a really pretty viewpoint to get a good view of the city. The blue sky shows there was a break in the showers!

The streets of Lisbon.

While walking around, we stumble upon several fabulous shops. We were on a vintage kick, and spent some time "ooh"ing, "ahh"ing, and "oh no"ing at the dresses on the rack. Hello sequins, shoulder pads, and applique!!

For dinner, Mafalda, Sora, and I went to the grocery store and picked up some ingredients for a home cooked meal by Mafalda. It was delicious! We also picked up some wine (1 euro!!! unbelievable) and ice cream to round out the meal :)

Tile on a building.

Saturday was a gorgeous day. Sun and blue skies the entire day! Good weather makes my pictures so much prettier and really fits with the old and pastel style of the buildings. The streets were lined with tiled buildings and drying laundry... so pretty!
Our first stop was a flea market and I could have stayed there all day! The stalls (or blankets laid out on the street) were a nice mix between garage sales and antique malls. Our finds of the morning:
  • Me: old postcards and pictures (the girls translated one of them..."Son, we haven't heard from you in a while... are you still going to class??"
  • Mafalda: brand new zebra print Vans shoes
  • Sora: fringed boots (for 1.50 Euro!!)


After our successful shopping, we unpacked our picnic lunch and enjoyed our sandwiches and fruit at a scenic spot.

Pretty Lisbon.

On our way to the train station, we found a line of stalls selling handmade goods. Sora and I were taking many, many mental notes so we can recreate the cute things at home!

Placemat purse... check!

Padrao dos Descobrimentos.

We took a train to Belem, a district of Lisbon. It is on the river so it was very windy! There were a lot of windsurfers and sailboats on the water and they were flying!

We visited the monastery in Belem and then headed over to the main event, pasteries at Pasteis de Belem. There was huge line outside, so we knew it was going to be good! Both Mafalda and Teresa couldn't really describe the pastery, so we were very intrigued! Result: very tasty! It was a bit like flan (but better) in a crust.

A little piece of heaven for .90 Euro!

We finished the day at a birthday party for one of their friends. The night consisted of Lady Gaga sing and dancealongs, tons of food, and a trivia game. It was a good time!

Photo by Mafalda: origami and tea, our Sunday.

On Sunday morning, we decided lounge around and hang out at the apartment. We drank tons of tea, watched many movies, and were taught by Sora how to make some origami. When the sun went down, we finally spotted a drag queen on their street! (Quite scary)

By the end of the day, we were all very sad our visit was over!

15 April 2010

Weekend Plans: Lisbon

This weekend, Sora and I are headed to Lisbon. The weather is not supposed to be the greatest, but we have high hopes anyway!

My Italian Spring Break: Cinque Terre

Our final destination was Cinque Terre, a series of five towns along the Italian coast. (Some of my pictures are still on another flashdrive, so this is only half of Cinque Terre!)

After 10 days, we really started accumulating a lot of stuff...

We were off the train at town #1, Riomaggiore. We walked the easy and paved Via dell'Amore ("Walk of Love") to town #2, Manarola. Our backs were laden down with our "luggage" so I am happy it was only 20 minutes!

Walk of Loovveee (with the locks of lovers)

Our little town was our favorite! There weren't a lot of tourists and it was very pretty. The main street was lively the night we arrived so we decided to scope it out and explore a little.

Oh we definitely ate here our last night!

Manarola at night.

We started the day off nice and early to get a jump start on the trail. We planned to hike to town #3 Corniglia, #4 Vernazza, and #5 Monterosso. It was a nice, all-day event!

Manarola in the AM, at the start of our hike.

Very shaky bridge.

We may have looked like hardcore trailblazers (har har!) but we definitely took time to stop and photograph at every opportunity! We were particularly in love with the flowers along the trail.

Proof it was Easter Sunday!

Sitting seaside.

Corniglia up in the hills.

Corniglia is the only town not located on the water. We had to climb many, many stairs to reach the town!

We sat by the rocks and wrote postcards in Vernazza.

Rick calls Vernazza the "cover girl" of Cinque Terre.

Vernazza was a world away from our little town. I think all of the Cinque Terre's visitors migrate toward the busy little time. There were so many people concentrated in a tiny area, so we headed to the edge of the town.

They kept a good pace.

Vernazza from up high.

"Cinque Terre: The Rest of the Trail": coming soon!

My Italian Spring Break: Tuscany

While in Florence, we took a day to explore the Tuscany area. We had a great tour that introduced us to the Tuscan countryside.

The owl neighborhood!

Our first stop was Siena, a little city close to Siena. We had a fabulous tour guide who lives in Siena. Her wardrobe made Sora and I very jealous!

Siena has a really cool story. The city is divided into 17 neighborhoods, each with their own animal symbol. Each neighborhood also has its own church, school, color, flag, and everything! "Friendly" neighborhood competition comes into play during the Palio horse race that occurs around the main square.

Stylin' guide!

When we were walking back to our meeting point, our guide shared a little story with Sora and I.... a few years ago, the Pope wanted to come visit Siena. His people sent the Siena people the date he wanted to visit. Unfortunately, his dates fell during the same time as the Palio date. The Palio changes for no one, so Siena told the Pope to reschedule!!

Striped Duomo!

Our next stop was lunch at an organic farm and winery just outside San Gimignano. We had a great lunch of almost all farm-grown/raised food items. Homemade pasta, wine, and more!

Cows on the farm.

Our lunch place's vineyard.

In the "backyard" after lunch.

We visited the hill town of San Gimignano and then headed to Pisa by bus. The bus ride was absolutely gorgeous! A lot of people fell asleep (full of wine and yummy food) but I didn't want to miss the scenery!

Blue and green were the colors of the day.

From the bus window!

We made it to Pisa and immediately tried to figure out the "Pisa photo ops". EVERYONE around us was trying to create clever pictures with the Leaning Tower! After Pisa, it was back to Florence.

I am trying with all of my might, but there is no stopping the intense lean!

My Italian Spring Break: Florence

Welcome to Florence, the land that loves the fleur de lis!

Our next stop: Florence. We had a bit of trouble for our hostels and fell victim to April's higher prices.

In Florence we headed to the Duomo. As we were approaching the Easter weekend, I was expecting the crowds to pick up everywhere we went. Luckily standing in the line allowed us ample time to check out the Duomo's pink, green, and white marble exterior. Sora kept saying that it looked like paper from far away!

Florence Duomo.

Thought of my lovely Kappas a lot here!

We made a visit to our good friend David at the Galleria dell'Accademia. I am not an art expert, but David was really neat! The Mona Lisa may be smaller than expected, but David was much bigger than expected!

"David" replica.

Our weather was a little less than desirable, so we headed to the water to get a little outdoors scenery before it rained. We walked across Ponte Vecchio and admired the little shops of gold and silver jewelry.

At Ponte Vecchio.

My favorite part of our Florence visit was the leather market at San Lorenzo. We bargained like professionals and I left with many, many fleur de lis goods! I am very glad Europe likes all of Kappa's symbols!!

One night Sora and I picked up a hostel friend (Richard, Hawaiian med student going to school in Texas, doing his final fun hoorah before hitting the books) and headed to a favorite local location. Sora had heard that Piazzale Michelangelo was great for city-wide pictures from her friend who was studying in Florence. It was beautiful!

On the way: rub the Porcellino for good luck!

Bridges at night.

Pretty night view from Piazzale Michelangelo.

Before we got on yet another train, we met Sora's sorority sister Colleen (and fellow bulldog!) who had just returned from a trip. She gave Sora tons of Florence tips, so it was great to meet her and just relax!

14 April 2010

My Italian Spring Break: the Pope

Here is my Pope video! We were sooo close!

I am a bit bummed the sound doesn't work... but the Pope alone is awesome enough :)

13 April 2010

My Italian Spring Break: Capri

Rough waves on the boat ride over.

While in Rome, Sora and I took a little day trip down south to Capri. We took a bus from Rome to Naples and then a boat from Naples to Capri.

Our ride from Naples to Capri.

Seaside town.

Capri was gorgeous! It was very nice to see some nature at this point in our trip. Our guide, Pino, pointed out the local flowers and fancy establishments. Capri is famous for its limoncello, a lemon liquor, and we got to sample that and a few other lemon products.


We had a great lunch and had a little time to explore. Sadly, we didn't get to enter the Blue Grotto because the water was too rough. You enter the Blue Grotto in tiny 3 person rowboats, and the water has to be pretty much perfect. The pictures looked so neat so I definitely will be returning someday!

My camera didn't really capture how pretty the water was.

Mountainside view.

The tour was an excellent break from our city-spree thus far. Our weather was great, guide interesting, and scenery beautiful!

Goodbye Capri!