Monday, April 8, 2013

What We've Been Up To

It’s been a little while since I’ve written as we’ve been very busy hopping from place to place, so I want to catch you up on where exactly we've been and where we are going. I plan to write more detailed posts about the specific places soon, but for now here’s an overview. 

We arrived in Barcelona on Tuesday night, after a six hour or so train ride from Sevilla. Our friend, John, who we met on our diving boat in the Galapagos invited us to stay with him at his flat in the Barceloneta area, which is right near the beach. We stayed until Monday morning when we left for San Sebastian, a town up on the northern coast which was recommended to us by one of our hosts in Toledo. (I wrote this quick post about Barcelona while we were there, and this one after which has a little more detail about why I love the city.)

San Sebastian and Hendaye (France!)
We took a bus from Barcelona to San Sebastian on Tuesday morning, and arrived in the early afternoon. We took another bus from the city to our accommodation for two nights – another stay. Our host, Elvira, was wonderful and her place was extremely clean, homey and welcoming. The only downside was her apartment is about a 50 minute walk into the city. You can catch a bus easy or a train after a 10 minute walk, but we tend to like to walk, so we made the trek a couple times. While in San Sebastian we took a day trip up to France because why not and Drew really was hoping to get to France so this gave him a small taste! (I have a full post on our time in the city and our excursion to Hendaye, France coming soon).

Thursday afternoon we took another bus (about 1 hour 45 minutes) from San Sebastian to Bilbao. We both wanted to visit the famous Guggenheim, for different reasons. I took an architecture class my senior year at Canisius where I learned about the museum and architect and thought the building was amazing. (This class is actually what sparked my interest in Gaudi as well.) Drew, on the other hand, is a big James Bond fan, and apparently the Guggenheim Bilbao was featured in one of the movies. (More to come on this soon).

Saturday morning we took another bus (just under five hours) back to Madrid. Before we left the states this winter we opened up a Marriott Rewards credit card which gives us no international fees and points towards nights at hotels and other perks. One such perk was a free night at a category four Marriott hotel. We had booked a night at the AC Marriott in Madrid (for free!) before we left and boy did it come at the right time! We’ve been staying at some decent places, some hostels and some people’s homes through, but in Bilbao our accommodation was pretty terrible. The location was fine, but the apartment smelled like mildew and mold and was pretty much disgusting and we couldn’t wait to leave. On top of that, the weather the entire time we were in the city was the coldest we’ve experienced on the trip thus far, and rainy. Cold, cold rain. Oh, and hail. And we did see snowflakes. Yuck. So anyway, when we arrived in Madrid we were so excited for the fancy hotel room awaiting us! It was gorgeous: king bed, beautiful bathroom, washcloths (!) (read my post about One Month In: What it Feels Like to be a Backpacker if you don’t get my excitement about that one), a nice hair dryer, a bidet (lol), I could go on.

Anyway, we checked in and quickly made ourselves comfortable before heading into the city. There were a few things we knew we wanted to do (mostly for me and my gluten free food needs). We found a Pizza Jardin restaurant near our hotel and had a late lunch there. We ate at another location of this restaurant for dinner on our first days in the city because I had read about their gluten free pizza (yay!). So we had pizza and then headed to the wonderful Celicioso Bakery which is also completely gluten free. Drew stopped at a regular bakery for a treat for himself afterwards, and then we stopped at McDonald's because I had heard that all McDonald's in Spain have gluten free rolls. It’s true. I’m really not a big fast food person, ever, but I felt I had to get and try one of these rolls, so I got a plain hamburger to have for dinner later. (It was ok…a little hard. I guess if you really loved McDonald's in the first place you would probably be more excited than I was).

What’s Next
And now, I am writing from the airplane. We are on our way to Rome! Spain has been absolutely amazing; fun-filled, new sights and amazing places, beautiful architecture, good food including many gluten free options, moving around a lot. I've enjoyed every part of it, but I can’t help but be excited for all that’s ahead, beginning with Rome.
The details aren't set yet, but we’ll be in Rome, then Sacile to visit family of our friends, up to Venice and into and around a few places in Austria, making our way to Prague. From Prague we fly back to Rome where we have two days before we depart on our Mediterranean Cruise! Yes, that’s right. We booked an eleven night cruise which will take us from Rome to several Greek isles, Turkey, Sicily and Naples. We found a good deal online a few weeks ago and decided we wanted to do it!
After the cruise we will fly to Romania, where we will go to Transylvania and somehow make our way down to Istanbul before we fly to Dubai on May 27. We are two months in, halfway through our adventure, but we have so much ahead, lots to figure out, and heaps to look forward to. I’m afraid time is going to fly by because we will be so busy, but I’m excited to take it all in and experience all of the places we are going to go! Stay tuned for more…

Update (Monday, April 8)

We're currently in Rome and it's AMAZING! I am finding lots of awesome gluten free food (including pizza and pasta!) thanks to Trip Advisor and some other great websites. This is where technology really comes in handy! Lots to say about this wonderful place...hope to post blogs and pics soon. Here's a couple, just to hold you over!

Drew and I at the Colosseum

The Trevi Fountain at night
The Pantheon at night

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