My trip to Europe, part two. And as a special treat for you, my dear 18 followers and 2 lurkers, this post was written by a very special guest blogger. For your enjoyment, may I present.... the one and only..... Christie Amrein!!
Mama, You've Been On My Mind
As I previously mentioned, my mom came to visit me in Europe. She managed to blog about the first half of our time together, but has left it up to me to handle the second half. Just thinking back to our two weeks together makes me physically exhausted. I truly do not know how we managed to do so much in such a short period of time. Lots of cafes con leche, and our fair share of siestas.
Seeing as I am surrounded by a bunch of loco 20-year-olds on a daily basis, for which Europe is an endless playground, I figured my trip with my mother would be relaxing, easy-going, and sophisticated. As is usually the case with any assumption I make in Spain, I was wrong. On her first night in town, we headed to a local bar to tag-time a Jarra de Sangria Grande. Please note the “Grande” part of in this description, as the bartender blatantly laughed at me when I ordered it the first time when he realized there were only two of us. However, by our third visit to his place, he no longer doubted our ability to take down the entire pitcher. It was on this first night that I should have realized that my time with Peachie was going to be nothing short of an adventure.
After spending our first week in Bilbao, we were up before the sun at the beginning of her second weekend in Europe to head to Barcelona. We were out the door of my dorm building by 5:00 AM and were on our way to the bus station, which I have been to about a million times, as there is a bus that goes directly from the center of Bilbao to the airport. Usually, I take a metro to the bus station, where I catch the bus to the airport. However, since we were awake before the metros had started running, we had to walk to the bus station instead. The bus to the airport only costs one euro, as opposed to a twenty-five euro taxi ride. I assured my mom that the bus station was not that far away, and that I could find it on foot. I have been living in Bilbao for three months and have been to that same bus station a million times, where I have always taken that same bus to get to the airport.
Forty minutes and one very unattractive meltdown later, we were in the middle of nowhere, helplessly flagging down a taxi to take us to the airport. Apparently, when mommy is around, I remember how to throw one hell of a tantrum. What I could not remember was how to get to that stupid bus station. I was overheated, under-caffeinated, and teary-eyed. Just get me to the airport, and get me to Barcelona –the place where dreams are made.
Upon landing in Barcelona, I whipped out my instructions detailing how to find our hostel from the airport. We hopped on a bus that would take us to the center of the city. We were to get off at the first stop the bus made. Well, the first stop came around and the doors of the bus did not open. We stood there like mute babies and did not think to ask the driver to simply open the doors and let us get off. The same thing happened at the second stop. And the third. I was working up a sweat, screaming about the indecency of our bus driver and the fact that his unbelievably rude decision to keep us as prisoners had taken us way off track from the route my directions instructed me to follow. Finally, at the last stop the bus was to make, the doors opened and we got out, now completely disoriented. It was not until our trip had ended and we were on our way back to the airport on this same bus that we realized the multiple “STOP” buttons located throughout the vehicle, with clear instructions (in English) indicating that we were to press any of the many, many buttons to alert the driver that a passenger was looking to exit the bus.
Luckily, I learned a few things about the metro stations in Barcelona during my last visit there, and I was able to backtrack without too much added hysteria. However, I noticed that my phone battery was blinking on completely empty, and remembered that I had not packed my phone charger. I had plans to meet Chema for lunch and was not going to be able to tell him where to find us. He had planned on skipping his afternoon class to meet up with us, but we had not yet set a time or place. At this point, I was getting just slightly annoyed with the series of unfortunate events that were unfolding. We dropped our things off at the hostel, and I declared that my only mission in life was to charge my dinky little cell phone. I found a MoviStar phone company relatively easily, and asked to purchase a charger. They told me that my phone was so cheap that the charger was going to be 18 euros whereas buying an entire new phone would be 19 euros. I told them I didn’t had neither the time nor the patience to set up a new phone and to please kindly allow me to pay them whatever they wanted so long as I could avoid the wrath of Chema Voilo. Let’s just say that he did not exactly voluntarily decide to skip his class to see me, and he MAY have had to deal with just a BIT of an overreaction on my part on Wednesday night when he had tried telling me that he couldn’t easily meet up with us on this particular Thursday. If I ended up screwing up this lunch then we probably wouldn’t be talking today. Or ever again, for that matter. So, I bought the phone charger, charged my phone for ten minutes, and decided to mentally erase the entire morning and start again.
Alright, Mom, it’s time to put these minor roadblocks behind us and enjoy my favorite city in Europe. We bought a map the size of Texas and, checking the street signs to orient ourselves about six times, headed in the direction of La Sagrada Familia. About 45 minutes later, we realized we had gone in the exact opposite direction from that which we were meant to walk. Luckily, everywhere in Barcelona is beautiful, and we ended up in the Gothic Quarter of the city, which I had missed on my first trip and was happy to stumble across on my second one. We then headed over to Las Ramblas to walk towards the water and wait for Chema, our tour guide for the afternoon. We had a great lunch and walk along the beach, followed by a visit to a magic little café in the style of Alice in Wonderland. Things were turning around and I was remembering why I loved Barcelona so much. Thanks for dealing with me, Chemita!
|This picture is awkwardly in black and white, and I'm awkwardly holding an H&M bag, but BFFs regardless.|
|America's Next Top Mom Model|
After lunch, my Mom and I made the journey up to Park Guell in time to watch the sunset. While that was a beautiful sight, I realized it was already way too dark for my mom to understand how beautiful that park is during the daytime. We decided to return in the morning, and headed out to have tapas in the city. While sitting outside in the middle of Barcelona, sharing our tapas and drinking some more of our much loved sangria, we took a few minutes to realize that this was probably one of the coolest moments of our lives.
|Buenas Noches, Barcelona!|
The next day, we shared the most expensive meal of our trip, AKA we went to Starbucks, and then headed back to Park Guell. I would like to remind everyone about my previous decision to get married there, and would also like to once again reach out to Javier Bardem and let him know that he has 3 more weeks to find me in Spain.
|I miss this woman.|
|Pretending we are on a photo shoot.|
|The perfect place to walk down the aisle.|
After exploring Park Guell for a couple hours, we had to head right back to the Barcelona airport to catch our flight to Rome. I was beyond excited to go to Italy. I brought my stretchiest pair of jeggings to prepare myself for the binge eating that I intended to do. I was also extra excited because I had booked my mom and myself a private room at a place called Salvador Bed and Breakfast. I had never stayed at a Bed and Breakfast before! I couldn’t wait to see our cute little room and settle in.
We stumbled upon our B&B around 7:00 PM or so. It was not much to look at from the outside, but I was sure it was going to be wonderfully charming on the inside. I rang the buzzer at the front door. Nothing happened. Rang it again. Nothing happened. Huh. What now? It was then that I noticed an older, stout gentleman bumbling up the street towards the building. “Salvador?” he asked, as he headed to open the door for us. “¡Si, gracias!” I told him, before remembering that we are not in Spain, but since I knew absolutely zero words in Italian other than “gelato,” I just had to hope that he would get the general idea. I figured this man was just someone who lived in the building and was used to confused American tourists standing outside the door, wondering how to get inside. He did not speak English by any means, but somehow managed to tell us that he had just finished eating dinner. Spaghetti, to be specific. His name was George. Alright, old man George, that’s nice. He took us all the way right up to the door of the B&B. How kind! Wow, Italians sure go out of their way to help people.
Then, he did something that I had not been expecting. He took out some keys and opened the door to the B&B. Wait, are you staying here, too? What’s going on? He then walks up to a very messy little desk, with about a million shreds of paper strewn everywhere, and proceeds to ask me my name. It is then that I realize that this bumbling old man is the owner of this place. And by “this place,” I mean…his place. His personal apartment that he is pretending to have transformed in to a Bed and Breakfast. He sloppily writes down my passport number in a calendar (under the month of March, mind you), and takes us to our room. It is spacious and clean, so I can’t complain. He then points to the clock, at the numbers 8, 9, and 10, and says “Breakfast.” He then goes over to a door marked “Privado” and motions for us to knock on the door. He then goes back and points to the clock again. We figure breakfast is beyond the doors between the hours of 8 and 10. How cute! The kitchen is behind closed doors to keep breakfast a surprise. He must go through great pains to personally prepare our meals, considering we are staying in his personal apartment. Thanks, George! With that, my mom and I head out to eat our first Italian meal.
As we were stumbling through the streets to find somewhere to eat, we happened across the Pantheon. Rome is the most bizarre city on Earth. There is not just a mixture of new and old, as there is in Bilbao, but rather a striking juxtaposition between brand new and absolutely ANCIENT. The magnificent buildings I have read about in history books my entire life are just mixed in amongst commercial shopping and dining areas. It is so amazing, and so weird. We ended up eating on a side street near the Plaza Navonna. I could write an epic poem describing how delicious our food was, but all I will say is, YUM. We also came to love the owner of the restaurant (who also most likely loved my mother), and we decided that we were going to love Rome.
The next morning, my mom and I woke up, showered, and talked about what we might be having for breakfast. It was 9:00, but there seemed to be no one else awake except for us. We could have sworn George told us breakfast was anytime between 8:00 and 10:00, so we awkwardly crept up to the door marked “Privado.” I guess we should just…knock on the door and see what happens? My mom knocked on the door quietly. Nothing happens. My mom knocked on the door loudly. We heard someone rustling about, followed by George’s shouting, “Minuto!” Behind that door does not lie a kitchen. We just knocked on George’s bedroom door. He was asleep, and our knocking has just woken him up. I feel incredibly awkward and run back to our room.
George emerges from his room, groggy-eyed but cheerful. He points to my sock-covered feet and says, “Shoes.” What? Why do I have to put shoes on to eat? He then opens the door that leads out of the B&B. Okay…is breakfast downstairs or something? I put my shoes on and follow him. Follow him out the door, down the elevator, out the front door of the building, down the street, around the corner, and into a café. My hair is soaking wet. We are in a café. There are two cute baristas looking at me like I am an absolute idiot, and also as if they are expecting me to say something. I don’t speak Italian, I don’t know what I’m doing here, and I look like a wet dog. I feel incredibly awkward and run to the closest table. George gets us two cappuccinos and 2 pastries. He tells us not to wake him up the following day, as he will be sleeping, and now that we know where the café is, we know what to do. So, this is the breakfast part of our Bed and Breakfast. We are uncontrollably laughing, and I still looking like a shaggy poodle, so we down our cappuccinos and leave.
Our day is filled with sightseeing and exploring. Rome is by far the most touristy place I have ever been, which makes sense seeing as the entire city feels like one big museum of amazing buildings forever frozen in time. For lunch, I was able to meet up with the BEAUTIFUL and amazing Sara Gil, who is Rebecca Drake’s roommate at Emory College in Atlanta. Although I had never met Sara before, I had heard so much about her and had wanted to meet her for what feels like forever, so I was beyond excited to get the chance to see her…in Rome. She took us to eat one of the best meals of my entire life, followed by the best gelato in the world, followed by a tour of the city. She knows just about everything about Rome, and was simply the most lovely person with which to spend the afternoon. I seriously feel like I have known that girl for years, and am so, so, so happy to have finally actually met her in person!
|Mama making a wish at the Trevvi Fountain!|
|Sara!!!!!!! I'm so happy just writing this caption and remembering this happened.|
At this point, it was Saturday evening. Saturday, November 12th, 2011. I had been waiting for that day for months, for that was the day that Bob Dylan was playing in Rome. That was the day I picked out last Spring from Dylan’s tour dates as the concert I wanted to see while studying abroad. That day was the reason I traveled to Rome. That day was the reason my Mom’s trip fell at the time that it did. I was going to see Bob Dylan…in Rome. I couldn’t wait. There was just one little problem, that being that we didn’t actually have tickets due to an unsurpassable error with the ticketing site. However, I have been to over 40 Dylan concerts, and I have witnessed countless numbers of people pick up tickets the day of the show. My mom and I got at the venue at about 5:30pm, for a 9:00 show, which we figured would give us plenty of time to buy a ticket (either from the ticket booth, from someone with an extra ticket, or from a scalper). I saw some people I recognized who I have met during various legs of the Never Ending Tour in the States.. I also met a very nice (and very handsome) fellow Californian with whom to pass the hours outside the venue. I was so happy to be there. I couldn’t wait for the concert to begin.
The next 5 hours are a blur of emotion that I do not really wish to describe. Let’s just say that at 10:30, in tears, I turned to my Mom, still ticketless, and simply said, “I’m ready to go home now.” I’ll leave it to the words of Bobby D himself to sum up how I felt that night:
“I see nothing to be gained by any explanation There are no words that need to be said You left me standing in the doorway crying Blues wrapped around my head.”
We took the metro home in absolute silence. I suddenly really missed my Dad, who I know would have found a way to get us in to that show, even if he had to rip down the walls to do it. When we got back to the B&B, I decided that we had to look towards tomorrow as opposed to dwelling on the unfortunate events of that night. I took out the tickets to the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and the Roman Forum that I had bought weeks ago in preparation for our trip. The tickets were valid for 2 days. I thought that I had purchased them for Saturday the 12th and Sunday the 13th, and my Mom and I had planned on visiting these sites on Sunday. I was especially looking forward to seeing the Colosseum. I took out the tickets and read, “Validity: Friday, November 11th- Saturday, November 12th.” I pulled the blanket over my head and went to sleep.
The next morning, my Mom and I resumed speaking. Maybe last night had not gone as we may have wanted it to, but we were visiting the cradle of Western Civilization. We truly could not complain about anything at all. Not one thing. We could not have been more lucky and blessed to be in Rome together. However, we still decided to cut our losses and scratch every item off our to-do list so as to have a completely stress-free day. We spent the entire day shopping and eating. It was the best decision we could have made. We headed to the airport with our suitcases stuffed with souvenirs and our bodies stuffed with pizza. It was a good day. It was a great trip. We headed back to Bilbao on Sunday night.
On Monday, I skipped the majority of my classes (school isn’t real, my life isn’t real, nothing is real) and had a picnic with my Mom and my best friends here. I then reluctantly helped my mother pack. Well, that’s a lie. I mostly just watched her pack and yelled at her not to leave me. Then we went for Sangria.
|My mom looks younger than my friends.|
My mom left on Tuesday, and I spent the entire day in my bed, in mourning. I had gotten so used to having her here with me, and I was just truly so sad for her to leave. Luckily, I had spent two of the best weeks of my life with here –two weeks that I will never, ever forget. I have so many wonderful memories with her that I will genuinely always cherish.
I woke up the next day and went to the cafeteria to have some coffee by myself. I was still feeling very sad, especially while having my coffee alone, as having coffee with my mom is one of my very favorite things to do. I went to my first class and came home to take a run. I put on my left running shoe, and went to put on my right one, but there was something blocking my foot. Something rather large. What the heck? I stuck my hand in my shoe and found a little package, with a note from my Mom. She had bought for me the bracelet I had obsessed over in Barcelona but had not bought for myself, wrapped it up, and left it in my running sneaker. What’s more, she left me a little bag with euros inside it, with directions to buy myself a matching ring. I wanted to cry and laugh at the same time. My day was infinitely better from then on.
Highlights of my last couple weeks include eating gnocchi, eating pasta, eating pizza, eating gelato, and eating a cookie the size of my head, all in Rome. Minor setbacks include gaining ten pounds in Rome. One major, MAJOR setback was being flashed in Rome. Yes, flashed. By a man. A man flashed me in Rome. TWICE. I am still having nightmares.
Needless to say, I loved having Peach here. In three weeks from tomorrow, I will be seeing her again. I cannot even believe that I will be moving out of here in three weeks. We have 21 days left here…and we are going to make them count.