Days 31-42: Genoa, Venice, Florence and Rome

It’s been a little while, but I’m back! My Uncle Wayne died suddenly last weekend, and as much as my heart is hurting and I want to be home, I know he’d want nothing more than for me to finish my trip and do it big! ❤️
Since Marseille, we’ve stopped in Genoa, Venice, Florence and now Rome. We spent two nights in Genoa at a beautiful new hostel with really great people. During our short time there we just did a lot of wandering and exploring. 

Venice was unique and beautiful. We spent our time there in a hostel on an island named Giudecca. Not many places have standard hours, and it was hard to find restaurants that were consistently open. We found one cafe that was a few bridges away that served reasonably prices coffee, pizza and the best tiramisu I’ve had yet. We bought a multi day pass to the ferry, which is the only way to see the other islands, and did a “poor girls gondola ride” one night and rode the ferry as far as it would take us.

Trying out her new eye mask while also shielding her eyes from the freezing wind.
Sunset during our “poor girls gondola ride”.
Double fisting gelato and hot wine.

Señor Grumpy Orange. One of many cats we met on Giudecca.

 
After chatting with Natalie on the phone in Venice, she convinced us we needed to visit Florence. If you don’t know Natalie, she is my beautiful friend I met in high school during her exchange program to the US, and we’ll be visiting her in her home country of Romania soon. We stayed at an AirBNB in Florence that was some kind of mix between a hotel and a hostel. It was four bedrooms that shared a kitchen and two bathrooms. It was in a great central area with lots to explore. On our first day, we visited Galleria dell’Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David. On day two, I got to meet my cousin’s cousin Claire who is studying in Florence, and finally got some great Mexican food. On our last day, we visited the Ai Weiwei exhibit at Palazzo Strozzi. It was pretty amazing and although I had never heard of Weiwei before, I can’t wait to learn more. We also got to enjoy an incredible sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo, and the best gelato we’ve had yet at a place Nat recommended. 

Mannequin challenge.
The booty.
The man, himself (we think).
Does no one else think this piece is prophesying Trump? Tell me that baby isn’t wearing a toupee.
Piazzale Michelangelo brings quite the crowd!
View from Piazzale Michelangelo.
This guy played American folk songs on the banjo while the sun set 😍
Lavender and her mommy. She paid attention to us just long enough to realize she wouldn’t be getting any of our gelato.
Nat’s favorite gelato. So good!

Ai Weiwei
Ai Weiwei
Ai Weiwei
Ai Weiwei

Now, we’re in Rome. We’re definitely not staying in the nice part, but we don’t care. So far, we’ve visited the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Vatican and the Basilica. We have quite a few roommates, two of which are from Portugal, and I’m sure they’re quite sick of hearing me talk about how much I love their country. I never thought I’d say it, but I am so sick of pizza and pasta and cannot wait to head to Greece for some new (AND DELICIOUS) cuisine on Friday. 

We were too excited and walked to the Colosseum our first night here.
Coliseum in daylight!
The Roman Forum.
McDonald’s here has veggie burgers!
That’s a lot of breasts you have there.


While at the Vatican, we made our way to the Sistine Chapel. Photos were allowed in every part of the museum except for this part with very little (and not easily seen) warning. Before getting yelled at, I snapped this one!:



That’s all for now. It feels good to catch-up and I promise I’ll try to update more often.

 
Ciao ciao!

You were a loon. But, a loon who loved me more than I could understand until I was an Aunt, myself. Thank you for being you. This world won’t be near as fun or bright without you in it. 



I love you. And, even though you won’t be there to hear my stories when I get home, I know you’re sharing them with me. 

Days 26 – 30: Marseille

(For context: wrote this yesterday but our Airbnb had terrible internet so I’m posting it now from Starbucks!)

We’ve spent three and half days in Marseille, and are so sad to leave tomorrow. We’re staying in an Airbnb that’s a studio apartment. We’ve cooked all our own meals, only eating out for snacks and desserts. We’re a short trail of stairs away from Notre Dame de la Garde, which is incredibly beautiful. And, the trail up has the most amazing views of the city and ocean. 

Tomorrow we’ll leave our Airbnb, kill a few hours, then take a 7hr bus to Genoa (which I’m having a really hard time not referring to as Genovia!). We’ll spend two nights there and then take another bus to Venice! Lots of fun stops coming up and I can’t wait!
Here’s a dump of photos, all from our three days in Marseilles:


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Days 20 – 25: Barcelona

We love Barcelona, and have adopted the Spanish lifestyle of daily siestas. We have also eaten much more here than we have in other countries. Gelato is demanded at least twice daily.
We’ve spent our time wandering the city, finding awesome restaurants, and yesterday we visited Park Güell and Sagrada Familia.

Over our time here, we’ve:

Visited a Dali museum that we realized halfway through was mostly prints and replicas…


Kenzie fell in love with meat cones from the local street market…


We’ve met awesome/terrifying street performers…

 

 

Instant regret.

 


Had a “fancy” dinner and I tried gnochii for the first time. So good! And Kenz finally had paella!…


Stumbled upon a cool workspace/gallery where we met Ash (IG is @wansnap). Here’s a cool piece of his. Calligraffiti is by street artist Mugraff…



And just enjoyed the beautiful city, it’s architecture and the gorgeous water…


Yesterday marked the first family event I’ve missed due to travel. My favorite niece turned one and although it was weird not being there in person, I loved getting to FaceTime my family.

Happy birthday, tiny princess! 😘

Today we slept in, and are about to head out to grab my new favorite lunch, Falafel. Tomorrow, we’ll take a bus to Marseille and stay there for three nights in an Airbnb.

We can’t wait to get away from hostel life for a few days!

Days 16-20: Lisbon 

We’re about to board our flight to Barcelona, so here’s a quick update on our last four days!
On Friday we spent most of the day at the beach! On our walk from the metro to the beach, we met a group of french guys. They helped me surf/boogie board, and hung out with us for the day.

Our French friends


Next, we headed back to the hostel to make dinner and get ready for a night out. We decided to check out the bar that’s a converted brothel that we’ve heard so much about. We headed over with our friend Cal from our hostel, and met up with the French guys from earlier. The bar was very cool, but packed. We hung out for a bit, drank some overpriced drinks, then headed home since I was still a little under the weather.

A glimpse of the brothel

Saturday, we slept in. I ventured out once to grab some postcards, but overall it was just a lazy day at the hostel.
On Sunday, we headed back to the beach with Cal and our new friend Jackie. We had lunch and lots of drinks there. I got quite a bit of sun, and am loving it! We stayed to watch the sunset, and hunkered down in the sand with a pitcher of sangria. We ventured back to the hostel, where Cal made us a Mexican feast! We drank lots of wine and created a hybrid drinking game of Uno and Kings Cup that led to too much laughing and dancing on tables.

Monday was another lazy day. We laid low at the hostel and did some journaling and wrote post cards. One of our favorite girls at the hostel planned a Halloween party, so we did some last minute makeup and joined our friends for some sangria in the hostel bar. We ended the night with an incredible view of the city from our hostel rooftop. And, made a pact to all meet back in Lisbon in the summer of 2018.

This morning we woke up early, made a big breakfast with our friend Cal, packed up, and headed out for a final coffee and tosta (grilled sandwich).

Some final photos of the amazing Lisbon buildings:

The view from our bedroom window

Now, we’re waiting to board our flight to Barcelona, and are excited for a little more sunshine before we head back to colder climates. We’ll be staying at a St. Christopher, which is a brand of hostels we also stayed at in Berlin.
Portugal was definitely my favorite stop so far, but I’m sure I’ll have many more favorites.
Ciao!

Days 14 & 15: Lisbon

Yesterday I woke up with basically no voice. What’s been frustrating is that I feel pretty good other than that, just kind of tired and achey. We had a new roommate come in, and she offered me some oregano oil. She explained that it would burn, and that I may feel like I couldn’t breathe for Five to ten minutes. So, of course, Kenzie and I tried it. She put two drops on a spoon with warm water, and told us to gargle it as long as we could before swallowing. We took it, and it definitely wasn’t pleasant, but you could feel it working. Immediately, my face and ears started to decongest, and we felt the effects all day. 
Next, we headed towards the metro to go to the aquarium.


 Oceanaria de Lisboa was beautiful, and we explored the area around it as well. It sits on the river, and there’s a boardwalk, restaurants, a large mall, and a few monuments dedicated to their fight for natural resource conservation. Oceanaria had a large focus on conservation, and aimed to get children excited about maintaining and supporting our resources. 


Each area of Oceanaria represented a different ocean or area of the world. I was most excited for the Pacific, because that’s where the otters live. Kenzie humored me and let me watch the otters for much longer than necessary. We ended up arriving at feeding time, so we got to watch the handlers give them mussels, then the otters would take them to the rocks and crack them. I couldn’t hang, and was obsessed and laughed maniacally as they’d smash their dinner against the rocks and then carefully carry it on their little bellies. These otters also seemed much larger than the ones we have at the zoo in Portland, so I’ll have to research that a bit. 


All the exhibits were beautiful and very well done. We finished our visit at the temporary exhibit, which featured Florestas Submersas (Forests Underwater) by Takashi Amano. It combined art and nature beautifully and was very unique. Amano passed away shortly into the production of the exhibit, leading this exhibit to feel like a bit of a commemoration to him and his efforts in conservation. 
More aquarium pics:





After the aquarium, we wandered the mall for a little while. All of our clothes are for cold weather, so I wanted to buy a dress I could enjoy the sunshine in. It amazed me that although the weather here is very warm, most of the stores are still carrying the typical fall fashions. But, I found a dress I love and it was on sale!

Next, we headed back to the hostel, made dinner and went to bed earlier than we have been. 
This morning, we woke up early and extended our stay at our hostel, as we had originally planned to leave today. Due to my sickness, as well as our love of our hostel and Lisbon, we extended our stay to this Monday and will then be traveling to Barcelona! 
Today was uneventful for me. After visiting the pharmacy, I stayed in bed all day long trying to beat this bug! Kenzie visited Sintra, which sits at the base of the Sintra Mountains. She went on a hike with some friends she made, and enjoyed some beautiful views. When she got back, we ran to the store, then came back and made dinner. There’s a group of about 15 French children who arrived yesterday on some sort of field trip. They are very kind and polite, but tend to take over the kitchen for hours in the evening. So, we’ve learned to time our dinner prep appropriately! 
Sintra:


Tomorrow, we will head to the beach to lay out and relax! I figure if I have to rest, it might as well be in the sun!

Rewind to day 12: Puppies!

How could I forget?!

People in Europe find it rude if you pet their dogs, and of course I’ve had a really hard time with that! We’ve been stopping into pet stores looking for animals to cuddle, to no avail. But, while wandering on our first day in Lisbon, we came across three dogs and a cart full of puppies. Their owners were happy to let us say hi, and I was in heaven!


Looking back, I probably shouldn’t have let a strange dog get up in my face. But, he wanted hugs and “yolo”, right? 😂

The puppy gods answered my prayers! 🐶