To be continued…

No matter how hard I try to tell the story of the past few months via words, blog posts, and pictures, it doesn’t do justice to the lessons learned and experiences I’ve had. I had the opportunity to see some of the most amazing artwork, architectural structures, and beautiful landscapes.  I was able to hang glide through the Swiss alps, run with the bulls in Pamplona, and experience European Football firsthand.

Yet at the end of the day these experiences don’t compare to the amazing people I met and all the cultures I was able to wrap myself in.

Anthony Bourdain said it perfectly when he stated:

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you — it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you… Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”

It was this journey that made me realize there is still good in this world. People are still willing to give of themselves with Christlike love. I have come to realize more fully that ones ethnicity, race, gender, religion, social status, or education doesn’t matter. We are all children of God and he loves us all the same.  My heart has grown and I am so thankful for all the wonderful people I was able to meet and those that were willing to lend a helping hand when needed. I have been able to reevaluate myself and how I treat and think about others.

The amazing thing is that we all have the capability to love a little more; and it doesn’t take a trip halfway around to world to learn this.

Things I’ve Learned: Part 5

Germany

  1. I should have been a track star and ran hurdles. I learned of this talent when we had only 5 minutes to catch our train after getting in late to the station. People become obstacles when sprinting at full speed!
  2. Don’t order Thai food in Germany. Ordered still water and got beer. Said no to beer and got gas water. And apparently fried rice = white rice. Communication barrier??? YES!
  3. You get money for recycling bottles. Did I remove some from the trash to earn an extra buck? Maybe…

London

  1. When booking a hostel, make sure it’s not full of 50 year old businessmen.
  2. Driving on the wrong side of the road was more dangerous than running with the Bulls. 
  3. If I closed my eyes everyone sounded drop dead gorgeous. But then I would look up 😦

Scotland

  1. Gingerbread ice cream… Asked how it tasted, and received the response: “a bit like winter!” I was sold!
  2. The national animal is a unicorn.

Ireland

  1. There is a Hore called Abbey. And it’s not me 😉
  2. Not only did I get to second base with the Blarney Stone, but so did thousands of other people. 
  3. It’s a rule to say sorry even if it’s not your fault. This is why the Irish are so nice. 
  4. Leprechauns don’t have red hair and don’t wear green… Yeah right Ireland. This ain’t my first rodeo… I know exactly what a box of Lucky Charms looks like. 
  5. It rains…. A lot!!!

Marrakech

  1. It’s hot, dirty, smelly, and there were more stray cats than I’d ever seen in my life.

Spain

  1. English is not their second language. 
  2. Thank goodness Christopher Colombia didn’t fall down the steps…

Barcelona

The last and final stop of this journey took me to Barcelona. This city is huge, yet there was still a small Paris-like charm to it. Oh…. It lies right on the ocean, so no matter what I knew I would love this place. 

The city was full of rich Spanish culture. Cathedrals, flamenco dancers, and the architecture of the great Gaudí. Did I mention it is right on the ocean? 

   

   
   

Surely the coolest cathedral I saw in all of Europe was the Sagrada Família. This cathedral began being built in 1882!!! It’s still being built 133 years later and is scheduled to be done 2026. After seeing it I now know why. The interior is finished however the exterior still had a long ways to go. But the attention to detail on everything is astonishing!!! 

    
  
    

 
Another set of works by Gaudí was seen in Park Güell.  

    
    

 

We went to Olympic Village where Barcelona hosted the 1992 Olympics. Here there was the Magic Fountain of Montjuic… Barcelona’s version of the Belogio Fountain mixed with Disneys World of Colors!  

    
 
Out of all the countries I visited, Spain seemed to have the least amount of English speakers. But I came to find out they didn’t really care… It was obvious we weren’t wanted there.  

 
I ended my last few days of this journey relaxing on the beach, playing volleyball with the locals, and strolling through random parks.  Disclaimer: sorry if you catch some boob shots in the beach pic. Tops were optional and locals opted to not wear them. 

    
  

Bulls-eye

Pamplona, Spain… The city that sleeps until July 6-14 when thousands of idiotic people flock to run with the  bulls. We were a part of that group! This was definitely a bucket list item and we weren’t going to miss the chance to check it off. I tried to play it sane initialy, but after 27 seconds of peer pressure I caved like a child being offered candy. The run was on!

There is a special feel about this place. Everyone in town is dressed in the traditional red and white running clothing, and the night before the run the party never stops. We did get a chance to scope out our competition… The bulls, and of course all the drunks who we’d be running with.  

  

 

Because of the small town and limited accommodations we were forced to sleep in the car. Not such an easy task when you have 4 people, 2 of them being two guys over 6 feet tall. And this isn’t any car, but a European car; meaning I played with cars this size growing up; they were called micro machines. Let’s just say after 10 minutes of actual sleep we were up and ready for the run.  

*side note… People who weren’t sleeping in their cars tended to sleep in the park… And once again I use the term sleep loosely. People have no shame when 4 people walk past and they are doing the dirty. They just kept on keeping on…. 

   

The Run

Imagine 800 yards of narrow, cobble stone streets, filled with thousands of people. This was our course. Now add 10 angry bulls to the picture and you have the event. I was definitely nervous but excited as well. The surge of adrenaline once I heard the cannon go off and knew the bulls had been released was unreal. I wanted to run down the street frantically screaming with my arms flailing like a little girl. But the other part of me wanted to stare these animals in the eye. We didn’t start running right away as some did. Our cue was when we saw others running with the look of death staring them in the eye, all the while feeling the ground rumble beneath us. The bulls were about 50 yards away at this point, so we took off for dead man’s corner! That’s right. We risked seeing these things at the most dangerous part of the course. Luckily we were smart enough to run the 20 yards to the side wall and hug that like we had just met Santa! After about 2 seconds of being on that wall the bulls had already rounded the corner!!! Fast suckers! 

We followed the first set of bulls into the arena and shortly after, the second set joined. It was here we learned that the run isn’t the most dangerous part of the whole event, but it is in the arena where they let the bulls loose, and the true idiots get what they deserve. This was such an amazing experience and one of the funniest parts of the trip!

    
  

Alhambra, ala, ala, hambra

We had a short stop in Madrid before starting our 5 hr bus journey down to Granada. This is what 4 travelers do with a bit extra time: 

    
 

I loved Granada. It was a cute city; small compared to a lot of the places I have been. We went to Alhambra. Such a beautiful castle overlooking the city.  

    
    
 

The streets of this town were all made of tile, which made for plenty opportunities to run and slide like one would on a wood floor. I promise we are mature adults. Also there were water spouts throughout the city of fresh mountain water… Much needed when it is 106 degrees. Speaking of the heat, it is quite miserable sleeping when there is no AC and you tend to revert to this: the coldest spot in the hostel… Tile floor!

 

From Granada we headed to Malaga for a day on the beach… A little R&R if you know what I mean. In Spain clothing is optional. And trust me… There were more boobies on this beach than I have ever seen in one spot! The boys were in heaven!!!  

 

Waka Waka… Africa!

Initially when planning this trip I was opposed to going to Marrakech. A) I didn’t feel like it was safe for a little white girl from Utah, 2) I’ve lived in Arizona for 6 years, why would I want to go back to the desert, and D) it’s hot!!! Like really, REALLY hot!!! 

Marrakech was voted the #1 place to visit in the world last year. The first thing I noticed as we pulled up to the airport that looked more like a small market was that there is not belief in air conditioning here. It’s like snow and ice and Santa don’t even exist. I had thought that I had seen crazy driving before, but here was reality Frogger!!! 

The town is made up of small alley-ways lined with markets all selling the same trinkets. And there is one rule one must learn in Marrakech… Once you’re a customer, you are “always” a customer (more on this later).  Cats roam the streets looking like oversized rats scourering for food, while men on mopeds weave in and out of the walking crowds. 

   

  

In the middle of town square was some of the best orange juice I have ever tasted with some great customer service. Later that day we wanted some more. Imagine 20 stands all selling orange juice. Now try to pick out the guy who sold it to you when they are changing stands throughout the day. Needless to say… We failed to go back to the same seller, and oh did I hear about it. As the old seller realized we had just bought kegs of OJ to quench our thirst from someone else, he ran us down, looked me straight in the eye as if I was satan himself, and yelled “Fudge you! Fudge you! This is poop!” (Mind you this is a G rated blog; some italicized words may have been mormonized in the writing of this post). Regardless of the harassment that may have made me laugh, I never regretted my decision for some fresh squeeze!

We also experienced some amazing customer service with the local snake charmers. Now when I get pictures with animals or street performers I expect to pay a few bucks. After all it is how these people make a living. However these guys were good. They would take your phone and get some amazing shots with the Cobras, and then they had the audacity to tell you you owed them €30 euro, your firstborn, and a coupon for a free Wendy’s frosty for their work! I mean…. Come on! Are you really going to be greedy enough to ask for the only thing preventing me from developing heatstroke…. A frosty! It’s just criminal! The argument over such “payment options” did get a bit heated until Jeremy threatened these men with the classic saying, “we’re just going to get the tourist police and let them settle this!” Are there tourist police??? We don’t know. But these men let us pay them what we wanted at that point. 

Camel riding was definitely a must in Africa. With the tradition clothing on, we mounted these camels while singing “Prince Ali, fabulous he, Ali ababwha!” Our guide didn’t seem to get our singing, and instead spent the whole hour singing Shakira’s “Waka Waka” song from the Africa World Cup. The only words he knew from the song…. You’re seeing them in the title.  

     

A few other pictures from Marrakech.  

          
    

Give Me Some Mo’

After my run in with the sheep, we had some of the best Irish food and music of our whole trip. Bangers and Mash!  

   

Day 3: We started off the morning by visiting a few places in Killarney National Park since the sun was shining (as I mentioned, a very rare occurrence). 

Torc Waterfall 

     

Muckross House      

Note* no Leprachaun was injured during exploration of this rainbow. No gold was found either 😢. 

This is the day the sun was supposed to be shining almost the whole time. Because of this we decided to drive around Dingle Peninsula; one of the prettiest parts of Ireland. Haha. Mother Nature’s a bitch!  Our view the ENTIRE time!

“Luckily” the rain and fog lightened up a bit when we first arrived to the Cliffs of Moher. This allowed for some semi-decent photo-ops. By the time we left the rain and fog had set in again. Notice the before and after.  

    
   

Day 4: Our final day was spent driving through Burren National Park and visiting Ashford Castle.  This nations park was so different from what we had been seeing in Ireland. It’s literally like a giant came and dropped rocks all over the place. 
       

Overall Ireland got an “A” in my book. There is such a fun culture here and the people are wonderful. I suppose I’ll just have to come back and visit when there is a bit more sunshine ☀️ 

Baaaaad Weather

I’ve been told by many that the true way to see and experience Ireland is by driving through its many windy roads as you experience the scenery, weather, and of course the local pubs. So this is exactly what we did… Road trip!!!

I was the “lucky one” who was going to be driving this maze of a country. As odd as it was driving on the right side of the car, it was even more odd shifting with my left hand. A right hand turn is really a left and a left hand turn is a right. And the roads….. OH THE ROADS! There is a reason the smart car was invented… That reason is Ireland!  

These are the conditions I was driving in. You try passing a bus that takes up both lanes of the road. The picture top right: I had about 2 inches of free space as I passed that car… Oh… There was a huge cliff to my left mind you. The fog!!! And then there was skinny but beautiful roads!

Day 1: Our only day of pretty decent weather. We covered some major ground because of this, and I even got free hair styling from Mother Nature herself.   

  

  

    
    
  

 

Day 2: Our morning started out nice. We saw the Rock of Cashel and also the Hore of Abbey (slut!). 

    
 

  
After that we made our way Blarney Castle. It took some charming, but I’m pretty sure I made it to second base with the Blarney Stone 💋.    

    
The castle was pretty cool. Grounds were beautiful and there were even some underground caves.   

 
 

There were two strange things however. 1) a lookout tower that was only about 10 feet tall. Not sure was it was “looking out” for. And 2) a garden that I know would NEVER be allowed in the U.S.   And that spider web structure, you know the one that looks exactly like the ones we grew up playing on… Yeah… It housed the most poisonous of them all. 

   

We made it to Hook Head right as the rain was setting in. After this proceeded 4 hours of rain, wind, and fog.  

 
We were pretty bummed because our entire drive was on the coast. With the fog we couldn’t see more than 20 feet in front of us. Imagine a stick in the gutter with a tornado, sprinkler, and worms all around it. Now put us on the stick. That’s what it felt like. We made it into town and our hostel owner convinced us to drive yet another windy road to the Gap of Dunloe. Well I definitely need to take him to second base after this suggestion.  

    
    
 
Before this trip I had a certain picture of Ireland in my head. Imagine dirt roads, rock walls, houses with straw roofs, and beards of sheep in the road. Pretty much I thought they still lived in the 1700’s. While I didn’t see the dirt roads, I did come across my fiercest competitor for road space.  

 

Top of the Mornin’ to yer!

I’ve always had a love for Ireland that I can’t explain. Accents = hot, leprechauns = best cereal, landscape = unbelievable, and let’s not forget this country knows how to breed musicians: U2, The Script, Sinéad O’Connor, Van Morrison, and Snow Patrol to name a few.  

A few photos of the streets…

     
We quickly realized the display of rainbows everywhere when we arrived in Dublin. Just a few weeks Ireland legalized by popular gay marriage (this is a subject I will no longer discuss). Because of this we arrived just in time for the gay pride parade. Just my luck… I come to Ireland to find myself a boyfriend and he’s already got one 😦 

   
 

We decided to take a HOHO bus (hop on, hop off) to get a good history and cover some ground.  

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

 

Guinness Factory 

 

Kilmainham Gaol (prison) 

    

Glasnevin Cemetery 

 

Croke Park 

Trinity College, the Book of Kells, Library 

     

Now as much fun as all of that seems, a trip to Ireland wouldn’t be complete without visiting the National Leprachaun Museum! Apparently leprechauns actually only wear brown, not green, and typical don’t have firey red hair! Thank you Walt Disney for commercializing this species! Without this my life would have been void of marshmallowy goodness.  

        

However fun this all may seem, I didn’t come to Ireland to see Dublin. I came to road trip some of the prettiest landscape in the world. I want to run with the sheep and roar with the tractor!!!

Up yer kilt!

I was never particularly a fan of men in skirts, especially after seeing White Chicks, which gives me nightmares. But when you mix a manly accent with a plaid kilt… Somehow this becomes attractive. 

Edinburgh was a beautiful city, actually built on the remains of volcanic rock! The sounds of bagpipes constantly filled the air as I walked these streets. There were more pubs than I could count and I even went to The Elephant House (the pub where JK Rowling wrote the first two Harry Potters). I was able to spit on the heart of the city as well (it’s tradition). Tribute was paid to the famous dog Bobby over a can of Iron Bru. Bobby was famously known for sitting by his owners grave for 14 years after he passed. Side note… I have decided I am getting a dog. There’s nothing better than paying for a best friend!  

 

The first day, Casie and I took a tour to Stirling Castle and Loch Lomond. Our tour guide, Jan, was incredible. Nessie was not seen, unfortunately, but that’s because we weren’t going to drive 5 hours to the lake she lives.  

Stirling Castle was quite the site sitting on the cliffside. And the views of the valley were just as spectacular. Next to the castle was an incredible cemetery with the oldest headstones dating back to the 1500’s. By now you should all know my fetish for cemetery’s. I swear it’s not a disease. 

  

 

Although Loch Lomond did not house Nessie, from what I’ve been told it’s much more beautiful. And heck… There is even a song written about it. That’s how you know it’s got to be good. Just like Smelly Cat‘s, Jessie’s Mom, and The Highway to Hell are good. Right??? 

    

Edinburgh Castle was also nicely situated up on a huge hill (or volcanic rock as I mentioned). I was able to get some exercise in and hike up Arthur’s Seat (or Arthur’s “chair”, as Jeremy referred to it, and was quickly corrected by an elderly Scottish lady). The views of the city were incredible from atop this mountain. Pictures once again just don’t do it justice.