It was my third Semana Santa in Spain; my third one spent with my mom. It's always a tough decision on where we want to go, but it's never hard to enjoy ourselves. While the weather was a bit un-cooperative, we managed to turn our journey into a hot chocolate contest...as I believe we saw every cafe in each town we visited to avoid the windy, rainy, cold and even snowy weather. See, there's always a bright side, and since we were on holiday, the calories didn't count. Right?
It's always nice to escape for a little while and get out of your routine, but it's also nice to get back into a routine. As I write this and reflect on all the memories and moments of our Easter trip, I'm also glad to be catching up on sleep and getting into a routine again - where public transport and suitcases are the farthest thing from my mind. Here goes brain, let's relive Semana Santa!
Mom arrived bright and early to Madrid; like all flights of friends and family who come to see me, it was delayed. This flight caused me to have my first hot chocolate of the trip followed by a siesta in the airport, on the ground, coat over head... I later greeted mom with one of those signs with her name on it: MOM. I think she got a kick out of it!
Since we'd both seen Madrid (a few more times for me!) we decided to go to Cuenca, Spain, a town just an hour or so away to pass the weekend. While I didn't know much about Cuenca before, I knew we were to see some houses that are built into a cliff: las casas colgadas. And, wow, when we saw them I was so happy we had gone there! And that was just the start of me saying "how pretty!" The town was super picturesque, with colorful houses and views that allowed you to see for miles. I don't know why I hadn't been there before!
|Together, braving the super bridge in Cuenca to get a good look at the houses colgadas!|
|Trying to be artsy. >> Cuenca was so interesting!|
|We walked to the top of the hill to get a view of the old town, which is built onto the edge of the cliff!|
|Main pedestrian street in Navalmoral during siesta....|
|We ate things like this... blood sausage made of pumpkin and a smelly cheese from this region. |
I absolutely love this stuff.... ol' Extremadura.
|We dyed Easter eggs with the primary school students, and they loved it!|
|Caught in the act! Hanging out with the third graders (who are secretly my favorites!)|
|To pass the time, they had to do a St. Patty's worksheet... |
and Hamid (my absolute fave) took my "color it green" to heart.
|They LOVED "Cool" Carol.|
|And, at some point during our days, mom met Rodrigo's family! :)|
To sum it up a little:
1. We visited 7 countries: Belgium, Holland, France, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Luxembourg. (8 counting Spain!)
2. Spain has the best orange juice.
3. Always pay extra for a good umbrella, especially during these last weeks of March.
4. People don't move out of the way... It's like the know we were foreigners and expected us to move.
5. Staying close to the bus/train station pays off because you don't have to lug your luggage across town or mess with the metro or taxi.
6. Croatia is one of the cleanest countries I've ever visited.
7. Nothing is open on Sunday...
8. Belgium has wonderful chocolate... but I think my favorite cup of hot chocolate was in Croatia - in a wine bar.
9. Maastricht, Holland is a shop-alcoholic's paradise.
10. Venice with no tourists is absolutely fantastic... Early in the morning, just behind the train station, watching the garbage boat do its work.
On our super Euro trip, Brussels, Belgium, was our first stop, where we stayed in a nice bed and breakfast that had the biggest cats we'd ever seen. Unfortunately, I have no photos of the cats that ate breakfast with us each morning. :(
Our first night, we ventured in to the center of town to see, what some people say, Europe's grandest plaza. (which it might just well be...) The buildings have so much detail and a ritzy feel - it definitely has a different air about it than any of Spain's grandest plazas.. It was early evening so we were able to see the lights turn on and get a really good "night view" as well.
To keep the view going, we decided to have dinner in one of the bars located on the plaza (which we ended up doing every night...and each night the food continued to impress us!) After a few unsuccessful tries, we managed to find an open table. Our first meal? Mussels and fries, a Belgian specialty. And for dessert? None other than an original Belgian waffle, which we ate next to the Mannequin Pis statue - a small, little bronze statue of a boy peeing into a fountain. It has lots of fame, but if you weren't looking for him specifically, you'd miss him completely.
|Brussels' Gran Place|
|First waffle of the trip!!!!!!|
|Mussels and Frites for two!|
|What else would you have after you have a waffle in Belgium?|
|Inside Bar Delirium, Brussels' most famous pub that serves 2,004 different beers from over 60 countries!|
|You can go to the top ball by elevator and into the others via steps or escalators!|
|What a view, even on a cloudy day!|
|Brugge's architecture is one of a kind!|
|They say it's best to explore Brugge by boat...|
|Backs of the houses, along the canal.|
|Afternoon snacks, when in Belgium...|
|Up close and personal. Hey guys!|
|Begijnhof Monastery, inside, over the bridge... where there is complete silence!|
|I really loved this place...|
To escape Belgium, and to take full advantage of Brussels' fantastic location and train system, we ventured to Maastricht, Holland, for the day to take in all the bikes. It's amazing how different the landscapes, architecture, and means of transport changes just two hours away from Brussels. All I can say is "holy bikes!"
|How could you ever find yours back?|
|Regular street...normal view...|
|Maastrict had a beautiful bridge!|
|The old city walls...that enter to a shopper's paradise!|
|Basically, we were always lost. How do you even pronounce this?|
We ended the day having fries with mayo before getting the train back to Brussels. And, boy, were they tastttyyyy!
|How do you eat your fries?|
|Stuffing my face at the freitz-erie. jaja|
This was the low point of the trip... mainly due to weather and our day trip being on a Sunday. Lille, France, was just cold in all senses of the word. I don't have much else to say about this place except, maybe we should have gone in a different part of the year, during the week.
|It was snowing in Brussels, so we thought we were lucky to escape for the day...|
|We didn't have a map and we ended up here. A street market gone wrong.|
|We were absolutely FREEZING and walked around like this.|
|...but since we were practically the only people on the street, it didn't matter.|
|This was the cute part of town, nothing like the market we had previously visited.|
|We wondered on strange things, like this "park"...|
|And, when it got too cold to be outside/we had had our fill of Lille, we got nutella/banana crepes. Happy ending!|
This was the highlight of the trip for me, finally visiting Croatia. It had been on my "to visit" list for a while... and while I only got a glimpse of what it is about, I fell in love!
For starters, the people are so friendly. We had some difficulty finding our apartment and the kind people guided us to it; one even got us map and then walked us to the door. We stayed just next to the Coliseum, Pula's main attraction.
|Hello, next door neighbor... this coliseum "Arena" is on the Croatian 5 Kuna bill!|
|Entering the old town through Hercules' Gate.|
|Exploring and taking photos of someone's garden.|
|A bit too cold for terraces...|
Mom and the dvojna vrata, double gates! Can't see her too well under the umbrella...
|Spring time flowers in bloom!|
|Exploring Pula's castle!|
|Although the streets were clean, they weren't in the best shape! They had lots of character though!|
|First views of Rovinj over on the hill.... WOW!!!!|
|Exploring the other side of Rovinj, opposite the port!|
|Shutters and clothes: Rovinj|
|Gaps between the houses let you see the sea~ :)|
|At the highest point in Rovinj! Where we were able to take our jackets off for the first time on the trip!|
|I spy a sailboat in the distance.|
|Rovinj artwork; I love seeing these in the streets!|
|Super colorful... one last view of Rovinj~|
|Dinner in Pula, our first day!|
|Grilled squid and truffle pasta that melted in your mouth!|
|Cheers to us! Lunch in Rovinj. ~ Istra wine~|
|How cute is this place we stumbled upon? I wanna go backkk!|
|My partner in crime, also enjoying the wine!|
|Lunch in Rovinj was just as could as it could get!|
We couldn't pass up the chance to re-visit Venice... as it was just a (short) ride away! We went by bus, early in the morning and were able to see the sunrise over Padin, Croatia, along the way.
|Absolutely beautiful. I didn't mind being up so early....|
We arrived to Venice and were so happy we had chosen to go back. It was really nice to not have to run from monument to monument, but rather relax and just walk around and see what we could see. I have been to Venice three times now, but continue to see new things, new bridges, new neighborhoods... This time we wandered into the "real" Venice, where there are neither tourists nor gondolas. We saw people hanging out clothes, watched the garbage boat / garbage men work, saw schools, etc. It was my favorite part of our short stay in Venice! Highly recommendable... Jut behind/to the right if the Santa Lucia train station.
|Bridge of Sighs|
|Having lunch amongst some gondoliers!|
|Feeding the birds my leftover croissant.|
|New friends in Plaza San Marco!|
|Venice, you are wonderful.|
|Watching the garbage "truck" go down the canal early in the morning.|
|Real Venice, where gondoliers aren't busy at work.|
|Exploring the non-touristy parts of Venice. Check out that house on the right!|
|One of my absolute favorite photos from the trip!|
|Back to touristy Venice, with love locks and gondolas!|
|One lasting image of Venice's main canal from the Rialto Bridge.|
|El mundo es un pañuelo.|
Our last stop of the trip was to Luxembourg, another new country I hadn't ever visited. We spent Easter here, attending mass and treating ourselves to a nice dinner with family friends.
We spent one whole day touring all of Luxembourg, as it is a very small country. We saw castles, small towns, and a flower market in the center of Luxembourg Capital. It was a very local tour, very informational and laid back! We had a wonderful dinner with traditional food in a restaurant my grandparents had eaten in during their first trip to visit Luxembourg. What a nice way to finish our super Euro trip!
|Inside the Cathedral, Luxembourg City|
|Overlooking the old town!|
|Flower market in the center square!|
|American General Patton Memorial, Ettelbruck, Luxembourg|
|Easter tradition on Holy Saturday: the kids go door to door asking for eggs, chocolates, money while ringing bells and beating drums and driving around the cart with their bunny! I want a bunny like THAT!|
|Chateau de Vianden, wow!|
|Mom and our wonderful guides, Robie and Rosie!|
|View while eating dinner.... of GERMANY!|
The absolute final day of the trip was spent in Madrid, having tapas around the Plaza Mayor. We even ran into a very good friend if mine, Kortney, and her mom! It was very cool that our moms were able to put a face with a name after years if talking about each other! And, after a late night if packing and repacking, we finally called it a night and that was that.
|Flying over Spain...|
|I wonder what city that is below?|
|Madrid, Plaza Mayor|
Kortney and her mom. Me and my mom! :)
|Templo de Debod, an Egyptian temple in the heart of Madrid|