Molly in Morocco: Arriving

I MADE IT TO MOROCCO SAFE, SOUND, AND WET.

I’m just too excited about Morocco right now to even think about blogging about London. And it’s dark and rainy in Marrakesh so walking around the city is not ideal and it’s only 7pm.

This has already been one of the best weekends of my life. Nothing huge has happened, but the sheer fact that I’m in MOROCCO, AFRICA does it all. Since I didn’t leave until today (Friday), I had Thursday night to hang out in Madrid. We took advantage of the free night and went to Kapital!!!! We were all super excited since we’ve been denied the last 2 times we tried to go. (When I say we I mean me, Jess, her friend who was visiting, Rachael, Hannah, Sam, Marshall, Syd, Jenny, and Angela). Jenny knew someone who got us in without the line. It was fabulous. Since we were there pretty early we found a couch and lounged a bit before making our way to one of the 7 dance floors. We met some Spanish friends and made conversation when it started to get crowded and we moved to the main dance floor. It was crazy! There were go-go dancers on the stage, a saxophone player, and even some random people who just jumped up there to dance. I had a blast dancing all night. The craziest part was whenever it started getting too warm; they shot cool air from a cannon at the crowd. We danced till almost 3am before everyone was all out of energy. I was glad to end the night a little early so that I could get some sleep before leaving for Morocco. 

I was a bundle of emotions today. I woke up and finished packing. The entire time I was in the airport I was a melting pot of emotions. Excited, nervous, terrified, ready, and everything in between. I started getting nervous at the gate because I didn’t hear a single person speaking English. I had been banking on meeting someone on the plane. Everyone was either in a large group or a couple. So I boarded the plane hoping someone friendly would sit next to me. A Spanish woman took the seat adjacent to mine and had no hesitation in starting a conversation. She was familiar with Morocco and visited numerous times. She assured me that it wasn’t dangerous and that everyone was actually very friendly. We spent the next half hour talking about Morocco. In Spanish may I add. I felt like I was on top of the world; traveling to Morocco solo and having a real life conversation in Spanish.

Our plane landed and I was beside myself. I had just landed in AFRICA. WHAT. I was nothing but smiles as I walked into the airport. My smile slightly faded when they didn’t even stamp my passport. I was looking forward to adding to my skimpy collection. My smile was quickly restored when I walked out of baggage claim to a man holding my name on a sign. Cross that off the bucket list. I knew he was from the tour group, but I was still a little on edge, I mean I was on a different continent. We started driving and he played cliché Moroccan music. My driver was all over the place. I don’t think he knew where my hostel was. So our first stop was the tour office where I paid for my trip tomorrow and was provided with a map of Morocco. I was a little shocked when they showed me where they dropped me off compared to where my hostel was. I was under the impression that they were going to take me straight to the hostel. Turns out that the street it’s on is too narrow for cars. Before I could pay for my tour, I had to find an ATM. My driver literally just pointed to a building and sent me to go get cash while he said he’d wait right there. I frantically ran across the street, still fearful of the rumors of Morocco’s safety, and collected my dirhams, which I love because 1 euro is almost 12 dirhams. When I got back to the corner where the driver was supposed to be, I wasn’t the least bit shocked when he was no longer standing there. A nearby tour company decided that the lost look on my face was their opportunity to ring me in. For a second I thought it was the same company and was a little confused. A Moroccan man was leaning on the wall behind me, seeing my struggle, and told the other tour company to back off. I was astounded; that was not what I expected to happen at all. When I still couldn’t find the driver I walked the half block back to the tour office and found him waiting inside. Crisis averted.

Now it was back to the car so that he could drop me off near the hostel. The streets are mayhem. People on scooties dodge cars left and right, immediately followed by honking. As we approached the narrow street, it became obvious that cars would not fit. It was maybe 10 feet wide lined with stores as far as the eye can see. It was everything I pictured it to be. But he dropped me off at this super narrow street and told me to just go straight for 5 min to the hostel. Not even 2 minutes into my walk a man asked me where I was going and said that he could take me there. I read in my travel tips that people who do this expect you to pay them afterwards, so I told him I didn’t have money to give him and walked away. 30 seconds later he came back telling me that he would take me there for free. I was hesitant, but I also didn’t want to risk getting lost when it was raining and getting dark, so I followed him. He took me off that path that I was supposed to just go straight on and I got a little nervous. I started lagging behind him more and more. He definitely noticed my hesitation and when we arrived at the door he pointed to the correct address and the “hostelbooker.com” sign before ringing the doorbell and letting me in. Another crisis averted.

THE HOSTEL. IT’S FABULOUS. Everything is so Moroccan. For starters, the door is so cute and little that I have to duck to get in. You immediately walk into this open room with colorful couches and pillows everywhere. The second I walked in I was told to have a seat on the couch and was offered the traditional Moroccan tea. I already don’t want to leave.

The walls are brightly colored pictures of camels, trees, and other Moroccan things. It’s perfect. And everyone hangs out in the huge, open common area sipping on the 24/7 free tea. You literally can’t be sitting here for more than 10 minutes without being asked if you’d like some tea.

The staff are some of the friendliest people I’ve met. They pointed out places to visit on the map and it only made me wish I could stay here longer. As I’m sitting on the couch typing this, one of the workers came over and put a pillow behind my back so that I was more comfortable. I don’t even get treated like this in the US. This is fabulous. People have been flowing in and out of the common room all night, mostly people who speak English. I’m realizing that I live in a bubble. Everyone in the hostel is so chill, hanging out playing cards, and talking about how they’ve been visiting all over Marrakesh. Why does everyone think it’s a war zone? My impression is that it’s nowhere near the danger level people think it is. I’ve been chatting with this guy here on and off. Not too long ago he turned to ask me if I was hungry. I was super worried about eating here. I actually planned on just snacking on the muffins I brought from home. Because I didn’t know where to even go to get food and wasn’t about to venture outside in the dark/rain by myself, I was filling myself up with tea. Another guy in the hostel had come back with this delicious looking sandwich, so we asked him where he got it. I ended up going with the man I had been chatting with to this food stand less than 2 minutes from our hostel. It’s invigorating walking down the street. This is a whole new and incredibly different culture that I can’t even grasp. I ordered my sandwich that ended up costing less than 2 euros and devoured it. I couldn’t even tell you 100% what I was eating and I was perfectly ok with that. All I know is that it was delicious.

I can’t even fathom everything that has happened in the past 12 hours. Although I wish that I had friends here to share the experience with, I couldn’t be happier that I took this opportunity. This is going to be one of the best things that will ever happen to me. I’m the luckiest girl in the world. 

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I LOVE MADRID

(London blog still to come)

Today was perfect. It made me realize just how much I really truly love Madrid. Like, I’m moving here. It might have something to do with the fact that I call this place home, but of all the cities I’ve seen, I think Madrid is still my favorite. 

My day started off like every other Wednesday. Since I don’t have class until 2:30, a bunch of our friends usually get together for lunch at Tierra Burrito. But since I love churros and have eaten at Tierra the past 2 Wednesdays, I wanted to switch it up and go to the famous San Gines chocolatería in Sol. I asked our group if any one wanted to join me, but as soon as someone else mentioned Tierra everyone was set on burritos. I’ve been waiting to get churros for a while now, so I decided to just go off on my own. I also had to do some shopping in the Sol area too so I figured now was the perfect time. Last night I looked up directions to San Gines and set my alarm for my morning churros. 

I pulled a classic Molly move this morning and left my iPod at home with the directions. I knew what metro stop/exit to take but that was all. I figured that I would at least recognize the street exit if I saw it. Unfortunately, the exit I was looking for wasn’t there. So I took a shot in the dark and just chose one. I’d never gotten off at this stop before, so I really had no idea where I was going. Shocker. I knew the place was near Sol though, so when I saw a bus going to Sol turn down the street I immediately followed it. Moments later I ran into a street name that I remembered writing down the night before. I took yet another shot in the dark and quickly turned left, not knowing if I should’ve gone right. I walked down the block to see the name of the street that San Gines was on. Just seconds later I was standing in front of the famous chocolatería. I knew from the hustle and bustle around it that it was going to be fabulous. I couldn’t believe that I had actually made it there. I was so excited!! I walked in and ordered my churros, not really sure what to expect. The waiter was super friendly and in less than 10 minutes he brought out my plate of 6 churros and a cup of chocolate. It was heaven on a plate. I was more than enjoying my churros in the cafe when J. Biebs’s “Beauty and a Beat” came on over the stereo. At that moment I thought to myself, life is perfect. I downed my churros con chocolate in no time and then headed to El Corte Inglés to look at cameras. 

My camera has been having issues and won’t upload pictures to my computer or let me view all of them on the camera. I tried numerous things to fix it, but nothing seemed to work. There was no way I was going to leave for Morocco tomorrow without a functioning camera. When I saw a camera in the window similar to mine, I thought to ask if they sold just the USB cord to see if that was the problem before I bought a whole new camera. They didn’t sell the exact cord, but the cashier gave me a universal port to put my sim card in that could hook up to my computer instead. I was so proud of myself. I had walked in a talked with the man in Spanish about my camera and thought my problem was solved. It was such a great feeling. Now that my camera problem was temporarily solved, I was in need of leggings for our Latin Rhythms performance. I found this store while I was walking around, talked to the saleswoman and bought some leggings. I was on a roll today, chatting up a storm. From there, I just kind of walked around hoping to run into this store that Jess raved about. At this point I had walked 2 or 3 metro stops from Sol to the Gran Vía area. I was loving every second of it. I was just by myself enjoying Madrid more than anything. It was just awesome. I LOVE EUROPE AND THIS CITY. I still had time to kill before I needed to go to class, so I just kept walking and window shopping. As I kept walking I couldn’t believe what I had stumbled upon. THE TACO BELL OF MADRID. So obviously I had to stop and have lunch because my churros weren’t enough. It wasn’t quite up to US’s standards, but I was glad to have it. Fun fact: the phrases on the sauce packets are still written in English. 

Now that I was full with tacos and churros, it was finally time to head to school. I went to class, came home, did homework, tried to figure out my camera (which still isn’t right), and lounged around the rest of the night. Today was such a great day. It makes me sad to think that I only have 24 days left here. It’s gonna be a rough goodbye. 

What a day. 

*I took some pics today while I was out but can’t get them on my computer right now. I’ll upload them when I figure out what’s wrong with my camera*

T-MINUS 1.5 DAYS TILL MOROCCO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Passport to Paris

Here’s the way overdue Paris blog. With the semester starting to wrap up things are getting busy. 

Because of our lack of planning skills, our flight to Paris left at 3:15 when I’m not usually done with classes until 4:30. So I was forced skip the majority of my history class and Latin Rhythms. Given that we only had 4 more classes until the performance at the time, I was a little panicked. I couldn’t allow myself to complain too much because it was our fault and we were going to PARIS.  We landed in Paris around 8pm leaving us enough time to grab dinner and plan out our weekend before crashing for the night. 

First on our must-do list was the Eiffel Tower. Before I go into too much detail about our first tourist hot-spot, let’s talk about how we got there. A bunch of people at school had already been to Paris and were giving us advice when they told us that the metro system was so relaxed. To suggested that we buy the 10-pass and conserve it all weekend, squeezing 2 or 3 people in on one ticket. It was a struggle, but we fit Jess, Rachael, and me in the turnstile on one ticket. We were exiting at the Eiffel Tower stop when we metro security demanded to see our tickets prior to leaving. I was holding the one validated ticket, so I got off ok, but Jess and Rachael were each slapped with a 45 euro fine. Obviously I didn’t let them take all the blame, and we split the 90 euro debt between the 3 of us. What a welcome to Paris!! Not only did this put a damper on our day, but so did the cloudy/foggy weather Paris was having. After that obstacle, we continued on our way to the Eiffel Tower. My first view of it was super anti-climactic. It was so foggy/cloudy that we couldn’t see half of it! Needless to say, we were a little bummed with the events of the day so far. 

Near the tower there were these lines of bear statues representing and decorated by every country. We had a good time guessing which bear belonged to which country before we realized they were in alphabetical order; that kind of ruined the fun. Of course, we had to strike a pose with the USA bear when we stumbled upon it. After marveling at all the countries’ creativity, we were off to the Arc de Triomphe. We’ve seen one in almost every other country, but they’re all modeled after this arc of arcs. It’s like all the others were merely preparing us for the astonishing Arc de Triomphe. We snapped our pics before taking over the rest of Paris. Next on our list was the Sainte-Chapelle. It was small but mighty; one of the prettiest churches I’ve seen in my 3 months here. And that’s saying something taking into account I saw 10 churches in Rome alone. First of all, there’s a statue of St. Louis on the first floor. The upstairs was almost all stain glass depicting the entirety of the Bible. Starting with Genesis, each panel of stain glass represented a book of the Bible and encircled the chapel. At the back of the church was a special representation of Revelation, the Rose of the Apocalypse. 

Being the 90s kids that we are, we couldn’t leave Paris without seeing Notre Dame. As we were walking there, we laughed to ourselves about how we probably wouldn’t know as much about it if it hadn’t been for Disney. So Walt, we thank you. Notre Dame was fabulous, gargoyles and everything. There were even a plethora of pigeons outside where 2 ladies fed them. They flocked around all the tourists searching for food. I almost got to hold one! 

We’d hit up a good majority of our touristy hot spots and spent the rest of the day roaming the streets of Paris, stopping to get crepes along the way. Jess was in search of a winter coat for our upcoming Germany trip. Our friend told us about this thrifty, trendy area so strolled the streets scoping out some good sales. With our bad sense of direction and unusual misfortunes, we weren’t able to locate the cheap shopping district. Instead, we settled with dinner and crepes for dessert. I love crepes!!!! Nothing beats nutella and banana. With our stomachs full, it was time to call it quits.

Saturday we took a train to Versailles. Yes, the Palace of Versailles!! I don’t think I’ll ever get used to seeing all of the things I learn about in my history classes. Throughout this whole semester my history class has been talking about King Louis and the French Revolution. It is 876534x more interesting to learn about these things when I have the historical visuals right in front of my eyes. Because our visas are good for a 6-month stay, we’re considered members of the European Union and were able to get into the Palace for free! We even got free audio guides, compared to other museums and such it was a steal! It took us almost the entire day to walk through the Palace and we didn’t even get to see everything. The property was bigger than I could’ve ever imagined. How one family felt the need to take up that much space is unfathomable to me. Rooms on rooms on gardens on fountains. It was overwhelming. The gardens themselves were probably larger than the entirety of SLU’s campus. Since it was another dreary day in France, none of the fountains were turned on and a little bit of beauty escaped the Palace. It was a long day of walking; by the end we were dead. We left the property and recuperated at a crepe shop. On our way back to the train station we came across an outdoor market which we just couldn’t pass up. I swear if I lived in Europe for the rest of my life I would have way too many clothes. Everything is just so cute!! I was the proud owner of a brand new sweater before we left Versailles. 

By the time we got back to Paris, it was dark enough outside so that we could get our much anticipated look of the lit-up Eiffel Tower. We stared in awe. Our first anticlimactic view made the lit up version 0987654x better. Just when I didn’t think it could be more awesome, it started twinkling, every hour. It was magical. Unable to resist, we just had to go to the top that night. We rode the elevator all the way to the top and got the best view of Paris night life. We hung out up there for a while, realizing how lucky we were to be living out this dream. 

Sunday we spent our day admiring the works of art in the Louvre. We asked the receptionists at our hostel how much time we should set aside for the museum and he jokingly suggested 3 years. So, there was no way we were going to be able to see all of it in the 4 hours we had planned. We did our best to see the main attractions including the Mona Lisa and armless Aphrodite statue. Of course, we had to imitate all the art; I perfected Mona’s smile. 

We needed an energy boost after our 4 hour hike through the Louvre so we stopped for some crepes before seeing the Love Lock Bridge. It wasn’t a long walk from the Louvre, but we got lost and made it one before we finally found the famous bridge. Every chain link on that bridge has at least one lock strapped to it with the a couple’s initials scripted on the side. The idea is to put the lock on the fence and throw the key into the river, how romantic. As we were wandering across the bridge, awe struck at the amount of locks, we witnessed a man propose to his girl friend. It was so cute!! They even asked us to take some pictures for us. It was so adorable listening to them on the phone calling all of their relatives to spread the good news. Lovestruck, we headed back to the hostel to pick up our bags before hopping on a bus to the airport. We got back late Sunday night so it was nice to be able to sleep in our beds before running to class in the morning. 

Paris was fabulous. I’d have to say that I enjoyed getting crepes after every meal more than gelato. I just loved them! This whole going to a new country every weekend is so much to take in. Sometimes I have to remind myself where I am and which language to speak. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bumped into someone in another country and said “lo siento” (I’m sorry). Or when we return to Madrid and madre serves us dinner and I say “merci”. It’s getting so confusing! Such an abroad problem. I don’t think it’s hit me yet; all of the things I’ve been doing. It’s unreal. I feel like I’m going to get home and be like, “Did those 4 months really just happen?” I’m not looking forward to that day. But it’s not over yet! After Paris came London. 

What a weekend. 

Molly Who?

I promise that I will blog about Paris, but I have a lot of things to write about in this moment. 

I’ve had so many experiences abroad that I can’t even try to sum up how much I’ve changed, for the good. I knew that I was going to leave my comfort zone the second I hopped on the plane to Madrid, but I had no idea that I would make it this far away. I’m not even sure if it exists anymore. Let’s start with my  love of the language barrier. It doesn’t make any sense, but I tend to be more outgoing with people when they don’t speak my language. Aside from my newfound outgoing personality, my food horizons have expanded beyond anything I imagined before coming here. Tonight’s dinner is a prime example. Madre made us the traditional Spanish paella which has shrimp in it. 3 months ago I wouldn’t have even touched American shrimp with a 10 foot pole, but tonight I had no choice. Staring back at me on my plate was a full on shrimp, Spanish style, AKA eyes, skin, and everything else. And it wasn’t just one little shrimpy giving me those beady eyes, there were about 6 on my plate. Madre has cooked us paella before, and I was able to avoid eating the shrimp. There was no escaping it the second time because as I was eating around the shrimp, Jessica and Rachael were asking madre how to go about eating them the correct way. She demonstrates first by ripping the head off, sucking it’s brains out, pulling off the legs, and lastly peeling the skin. I couldn’t have been more grossed out. Having to desire to rip my shrimp’s head off or eat it for that matter, I left them on my plate. Madre didn’t let this go unnoticed and started preparing my shrimp for me. I had no choice but to eat them now. Rachael and Jessica got quite the show as I stuffed them in my mouth. There wasn’t enough bread in the world to disguise the taste of shrimp in my mouth. But dinner continued and I finished my plate. It was such a feat. At the end of dinner I was waiting for someone to present me with a “Good Eater Award”. 

You’re starting to wonder, who is this girl eating shrimp? The Molly I know would never do that! I have no idea what happened to that Molly. Europe has changed me. Not only have my food horizons expanded, but also my sense of adventure. Before coming to Madrid, Morocco was one of the trips that I knew I wanted to take. I couldn’t wait to ride a camel through the African desert. But as the semester went on, problems arose and it didn’t look like it was going to happen. The safety level of Morocco was questionable and there were plenty of other trips to fill the void. While everyone was moving on and accepting the fact that it just wasn’t in the cards, a part of me held on. After a lot of planning, tension between friends, and a few skype dates to the US, I decided to travel to Morocco by myself. I booked a 2 day-1 night desert tour. The tour group arranges transportation from the airport to my hostel and from my hostel to the tour so I won’t actually be traveling alone; I just won’t know anyone. I can’t believe that I’m doing this. This is going to be so far out of my comfort zone I’m not sure I’ll be able to find my way back. I literally booked the tour/hostel/flight about an hour ago and I’ve already experienced so many emotions. 

I’m excited because this is what I wanted to do and I found the guts to go ahead and do it. I’m nervous because this is obviously something I’ve never done and I’m going to be in an environment unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I’m scared of the unknown. I mean, it’s MOROCCO. I have no idea what to expect. And I’m crying because of this clashing of emotions. This is so unlike the Molly that left the US almost 3 months ago. If you would’ve asked me before I left if I’d ever hop on a plane to Morocco by myself, I would laugh in your face; no way in hell. But somehow it’s going to happen. I can’t believe my life. Who gets an opportunity like this?! Could I be any luckier? I’d like to thank Sheila for allowing me to do this. If she hadn’t given me the “go” this wouldn’t be happening. 

I think this is all going to hit me when I get home. Right now, there isn’t much time to let everything that has happened so far this semester soak in. Like, I just got back from Paris on Sunday night, am leaving for London Friday morning and coming home Monday afternoon, leaving the next Friday for Morocco and coming home Monday afternoon just in time for the dress rehearsal for our Latin Rhythms performance, doing the actual performance on Tuesday night, then leaving for Germany Wednesday afternoon until the following Monday which then leaves me with less than 2 weeks of classes/finals in Madrid. This semester is going to be gone in a blink of an eye. 

I just have so much to look forward to and have so many emotions. Being abroad has opened up a whole new side to me that I didn’t know existed. I’m doing so much and I’m only 21. I couldn’t be more thankful and happy. I will definitely have a mouthful of thanks to give at the Thanksgiving dinner SLU is hosting on Thursday. 

What a rollercoaster of emotions. 

Nature is Calling

We had traveled the past 3 weekends before Geneva, Switzerland. So I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a few regrets about booking this trip at the beginning of the week. Lots of SLU students were taking this weekend to hang back in Madrid including Jess. But Rachael and I impulsively booked this Geneva flight anyways.

Our impulsive flight booking had its problems. Not only were we slightly regretting it, but we booked a flight too early in the day and had to skip the last 30 minutes of our last class. For me, it was Latin Rhythms and since we’re getting closer to our performance, I was nervous about missing it. We weren’t going to hold ourselves back though. We were determined to make this one of our favorite trips and that’s exactly what we did.

 There was almost no time to wallow in our worries during our 1.5 hour flight. We arrived in Geneva around 8:30pm where we were greeted by our friend, Ben. Remember the guys I met in our Dublin hostel? They offered to host us in their dorm for the weekend so that we could save 200 euros on a hostel. They’re seriously lifesavers and way too nice! So Ben picked us up from the airport and we headed back to their Webster University dorm. We were exhausted from the school week and traveling so we just chilled in their dorm for the night.

 Friday morning we got up bright and early, no different than any other weekend, and explored the city of Geneva with Carl (Ben’s roommate). They’d been living in Geneva for over 2 months now, so he really knew what he was talking about. It was crazy. There were mountains surrounding us on all sides. Such gorgeous views. At one point in our tour, Carl casually says, “Those mountains over there are France.” How cool is that?! It was such a quaint little town. Quaint as it is, it’s also very overpriced. It has something to do with the higher working wages they receive in Switzerland. The streets are lined with Louis Vuitton, Rolex, and Jimmy Choo stores; it’s very materialistic. Rachael had to register for classes mid-afternoon so Carl took us to their school to use the internet. After the stress of getting into classes was gone, we ate lunch at a place recommended by Carl and Ben and Rachael and I continued to discover a little bit of Geneva on our own. The boys told us it was impossible to get lost in Geneva because you can always follow the river home. Lies. We got very lost. The problem occurs when you lose site of the river and can’t get your way back. Whoops. Leave it to us to get lost in the city that you apparently can’t get lost in. We eventually ventured back home and crashed for the night. Ben and Carl were such great hosts. They didn’t let us sleep on the floor/couch. They always let their guests (they’ve hosted a lot of SLU people) sleep in the beds. So sweet.

No different from any other weekend, we woke up at the crack of dawn to take a train ride to Interlaken, Switzerland. Rachael and I wanted to do some hiking in the Alps so Ben and Carl suggested that we visit Interlaken. They educated us on which trails to climb and sent us on our way with their legit hiking backpack and maps. We caught up on sleep during the 3 hour train ride. As soon as we got to Interlaken we went to the grocery store to get lunch supplies. With a nutritious meal of bread, cheese, pretzels, and chocolate, we were off to hike the snow-capped Alps.

We climbed for an hour and a half not really sure what direction we were heading. Per usual, we struggled to find the correct signs/path and had no idea where we were. For a while, that was perfectly ok. We were just hiking and loving life and the view. It was obviously Autumn with leaves of varying shades of red surrounding us. I was having the first of many awestruck abroad moments of the trip. We hit a point where we knew we weren’t on the right trail; it was that moment when you lose the feeling of “wonderfully lost”. It took us longer than we would’ve liked, but after getting “wonderfully lost” we finally found the trail that Carl suggested we hike. Turned out we needed to take a second train just to get to it. So we hopped on that and were on our way once again. Once we got off the train we had the option to hike up the mountain or ride a gondola up. Since we were already behind schedule, we decided to ride the gondola. My ears popped the whole way up but it was so worth it. The view was phenomenal. And we had finally made it. After the gondola ride we continued hiking up the mountain. We didn’t have enough time to make it all the way to the top, but we still made it to the snow level at about 1600 meters above sea level.

 At that point, we needed to start the 2+ hour hike down the mountain to catch our train back to Geneva. I wish we could’ve spent more time at the top. It was one of the coolest things I’ve done since I’ve been abroad. The hike down was something else. You wouldn’t expect it to be that tiring. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that we’d been up since 5am and hiking all day. We climbed down at a decent pace and I only fell twice! I think I enjoyed it so much because it was just us. We rarely saw any other people on the trail, a nice switch from our busy lives. About halfway down the mountain my legs were telling me that it was time for a little break. So we found this open patch that had this stump placed right in the middle. We stopped and sat there on that stump for about a half hour just admiring what was in front of us. The stump overlooked the little town surrounded by the snow-capped mountains. At that moment in time, there was nothing more I could’ve asked for. I was one happy girl.  I couldn’t believe that this was my life: sitting on a log on the swiss mountains with a view like that. It was phenomenal. Words can’t describe how awesome it felt. It took a lot to get up and leave that spot. I was so content just sitting there staring at the mountains and the beauty of Switzerland. That 30 minutes made Switzerland a competitor for one of my favorite trips. We continued with our trek down the mountain and just as we reached the bottom it started getting dark. Perfect timing. I couldn’t have asked for a better day. We found some dinner before boarding our train back to Geneva.

 Our weekend couldn’t end without us almost missing some form of transportation. On our way home, we had to transfer trains twice. We only had 4 minutes for our first transfer and our first train was 2 minutes late. So if you can do math, that left us 2 minutes to run to the second train. And run we did. The only problem was that when we got to the platform, there was no second train. Classic. We panicked for a hot second before we made the decision to hop on the next train to Geneva despite the fact that we didn’t have the correct tickets for it. Just our luck, the train workers came around to check tickets. We told them our situation, begging them not to kick us off. They went on to tell us that our original train had a problem with the engine and actually never came. So, thankfully this time it wasn’t our fault and we made it home safely.

 Sunday we allowed ourselves to sleep in a bit before bumming around Geneva for the afternoon. Unfortunately, almost everything was closed. So we just walked around enjoying ourselves.

Our flight left at 6:30 am Monday and trains didn’t run to the airport from Geneva that early, so we were forced to sleep in the airport Sunday night. Except I really didn’t get to sleep. You see, I also have to go to school here and I had a test Monday afternoon. I was up all night studying in the airport on Sunday. If that’s the price I have to pay to experience Europe, I’m willing to pay it. This is why I haven’t been able to blog until now. I didn’t sleep Sunday night, got home to Madrid at 9:30am Monday, came home and crashed till noon, got up, went to take my test, crashed again, did all of my homework for Tuesday, and finally got a few more hours of sleep. But my week wasn’t over yet because Thursday I had to give a History presentation and had a Spanish test. And immediately after giving my presentation in History, I skipped the rest of that class and Latin Rhythms to leave for Paris. We spent this weekend in Paris and got home around 1am Sunday morning. Needless to say I crashed as soon as we got home and caught up on my sleep for the week. That brings us to today. 

It’s been a crazy week and I don’t think it’s going to slow down until the end of the semester, which is approaching a lot faster than I’d like. We’re almost down to a month. Eeeeeek. I don’t like the sound of that. I can’t believe how fast time has gone by. I never want to leave!

What a week. 

All Roads Lead to Rome

The hardest decision I made all weekend was pizza or pasta? Rome has had my favorite food so far. We spoiled ourselves with pizza, pasta, wine, and gelato everyday. And for those 4 days, I ate like a queen. This was our first long weekend, so we departed from Madrid Wednesday night so that we could enjoy our extra day in Roma. 

After Dublin, my fear of missing a flight has escalated. Every time I’m sitting on a plane I can’t help but be thankful that I made it. This time around I had no problem since our flight ended up being delayed an hour. So we arrived in Ciampiano pretty late and still had to take an hour or so bus ride to Rome. By that time we were starving a walked into one of the first pizzerias we found open at 2am. After we stuffed our faces with our first Italian meal, it was off to the hostel to sneak in a few hours of sleep before we ventured around the city. 

Our motto is still: I’ll sleep next semester. Or in some cases: I’ll sleep when I’m dead. We woke up after a measly 5 hours of sleep and put on our walking shoes. The public transportation in Rome is awful. There’s only 2 metro lines and buses only come every 20 minutes or longer. Madrid spoils us with 10 metro lines coming every 3 minutes or so. When we were leaving the hostel, the map somehow ended up in my hands. Obviously I was obligated to be tour guide Molly. I hammed it up a bit and played tour guide the rest of the day. Everyone would be proud to know that I led us to our first site, Santa Maria della Vittoria church, successfully. From there we church hopped for the majority of the day stopping at different piazzas and fountains for necessary photo ops. Walking around the city was pretty fabulous. There’s an old, historic building on every corner. So much history in one city. 

 We were really free-wheeling it the first day because our friend Hannah’s flight didn’t get in until 5pm. We wandered from important building to fountains to piazzas snapping photos left and right until it was time to meet Hannah. Lunch and dinner were my favorite times of the day. I ate pizza and pasta at every meal. And it couldn’t have been better. Of course we had to top off every meal with gelato too. When in Rome.

 Again, we didn’t sleep much. Long days and short nights were necessary to see everything we wanted. First stop was the Pantheon. It was a pretty spectacular building that used to be a church. After a little while we continued with our tourist tendencies and headed to the Trevi Fountain. It was the Lizzie McGuire movie in real life. We pushed our way through the crowd to get the chance to toss our coins in and make a wish. When we’d worked up an appetite throwing coins and making wishes, we started scouting out a place for dinner. We met up with Jess and Alex’s friend Amy who is studying abroad in Rome and ordered ourselves a bottle of wine with our meal. The rest of the night was spent admiring Rome by night, catching a glimpse of the Colosseum all lit up.

 The next morning we were up bright and early once again. We were hopped on the 2-line metro to see and visit the Colosseum in the daylight. We explored the ruins for about 2 hours before we had to go to the Vatican to make our tour time. The Vatican was phenomenal. I had to constantly remind myself throughout the trip that I was in ITALY. And in the VATICAN where the POPE lives. It’s all so crazy. I feel like it isn’t going to fully settle in until I’m back home in the states. We had bought tickets in advance for the Vatican Museum so we got to skip the 2+ hour line to get in. I was overwhelmed by the size of the Vatican. Monstrous. We were there for over 3 hours and didn’t get to fully appreciate everything. We followed the herd of people through the museum that ended at the Sistene (Sixteenth: S/O to J.Biebs) Chapel. I was almost too excited to see the chapel that I couldn’t focus on the art that was in front of me. It was nothing less than I expected. I managed to snipe some pics, but they just don’t do it justice. They were some of the most elaborate paintings I’ve seen and on a ceiling. Kudos to you, Michelangelo.

 Exhausted from all of our sightseeing, we jumped on the metro back to the hostel for a much needed nap before we met up with Amy and experienced Italian night life.

Before we went bar hopping, we stuffed our faces with more pizza and pasta. I couldn’t study abroad in Rome merely because I would get fat off all the carbs. Since transportation in Rome is horrible, we ended up walking a while to meet Amy in the bar area. I was wearing wedges. On cobblestone. I don’t even feel the need to say what a horrible combination that is. My trip tally was up to 10 by the end of the night. Our Italian night out began at the chocolate bar where we toasted to a fabulous trip in Rome with shot glasses made out of chocolate. From there we just kind of bar hopped following Amy’s Rome friends. Unlike Madrid, there weren’t any promoters handing out free drinks so after making 3 stops or so, we were done for the night. Due to the awful transportation, it took us 2.5 hours to get home.

Like I said before, we’ll sleep next semester. We had got home super late from the bars and had to get up early to travel back to the Vatican to see the pope. Ready for our blessing, we planted ourselves in St. Peter’s Square to get a good view of Benedict XVI, conservative clothes and all (we had to have shoulders to knees covered to get in). Around noon the crowd was getting restless and we knew the pope would be out soon. When he made his grand appearance through a window, he said some prayers before giving out blessings in 7 or 8 languages. With each blessing, sections of the crowd roared with excitement. It was another awe struck abroad experience seeing the pope in the Vatican. Right after the Pope’s blessing we rushed to get in line to view St. Peter’s Basilica. You know how we entertain people wherever we go; this was no different. The line for security just to get into the Basilica was tremendous, so Jess, Rachael, and I may or may not have hopped over a railing to catch up with the half of our group towards the front. Rachael and I managed to climb between the bars, but Jess wasn’t about to attempt that and decided to go over instead. Except she’s afraid of getting down. So she got stuck at the top of the railing for a little while before managing to find her way down. Everyone was staring and talking about us because Jess was about 8 feet high standing on the railing in the middle of the Vatican. I don’t think I ever laughed so hard in my life. We’re such a group. Despite that obstacle, we successfully made it into the holy grail of churches: St. Peter’s Basilica. It may have topped all the other 10 churches we visited. It was grand and extravagant and bigger than any church I’ve ever seen. We even got to stop for a moment in front of Pope John Paul II’s tomb.

On our way home from the Vatican we stopped for gelato before continuing our day with some more sightseeing. Unfortunately, the Forum closed before we could get there. We made up for it by visiting another church. The last, but not least tourist site on our list was the Spanish steps. We climbed to the top, sniped our photos, and found a restaurant for our last Italian meal. Oh, do I miss it already. It was still pretty early in the evening so we decided to get another glance at the Trevi Fountain by night. And we could all use a few more wishes. We hung out there for some time just sitting on the steps, soaking it all up. We had to peel ourselves from the steps to go back to the hostel and sleep. Our flight left at 6:30am and we were an hour bus ride from the airport. Sleep was almost nonexistent last weekend. It was rough getting out of bed at 3:00am to catch a bus to the airport. We got back in Madrid around 9am Monday morning and were home by 10:30am. This gave me only 2 hours to sleep before I had to go to class. I know, rough life abroad.

I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend. We had a great dynamic within our group. I laughed all weekend long. I loved exploring the city and just seeing everything. To think that this is going to be my life for the next 7 weeks is unreal. I’m so lucky to have this opportunity.

Today and Tuesday were spent doing homework and catching up on some sleep. Since I didn’t have class until late today, I dragged Rachael with me to find the Taco Bell here in Madrid. Per usual, I didn’t do my research well enough and led us to the ghettos of Madrid. Whoops. Unfortunately we didn’t find the Taco Bell before I had to go to class, but no one got shot so that’s a plus. It’s always an adventure with us even when we’re traveling around Madrid. 

Tomorrow I’m leaving for Switzerland. Going from gelato to chocolate. I can handle that. I’m pretty pumped. Seriously loving abroad life. Why doesn’t everyone do this?! 

What a trip. 

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