Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I'm back!

So I know it's been a while, and some of you are probably thinking that I have forgotten about this. But on the plus side I'M BACK and it's officially SUMMER TIME!

So I think the last time I wrote was right before spring break, so we'll start there. So Spring Break at a glance: 2 guys, 17 straight days of traveling, 3 countries.

We (Bobby and I) flew into Manchester, UK excited to be out and about in another European country. Our first night we met some Aussie girls at our hostel. Made it out on the town with them for a little while until Bobby and I were distracted with the Barcelona versus Madrid game. The next two days we walked and traversed what felt like the whole of the town. Areas of interest include the Cathedral, John Ryland Library, river walk, and a list of other buildings that that Manchester is known for. We were happy to enjoy an amazing Thai food meal while we were there and got some spices back in our life!

 Entrance into China Town... more like China Block though
 River Walk
 Honest Abe makes an appearance
 Outside the town hall
 Space Invaders... Apparently they are all over Europe

 John Ryland Library
 Inside the cathedral
 Manchester Cathedral
 Manchester Cathedral
 My first fish and chips experience
 Pull top beer... weird


Our next stop Leeds / York. Well we were originally supposed to stay in Leeds but thanks to Hostel World, we were out in the middle of nowhere. Ended up not being so bad since this was our only time at an actual hotel during our stay. We traveled our day in this area to York. Small / quiet town. The main attraction here is the York Minister. A ginormous cathedral that sits in the old quarter of town with some great sites around it. Unfortunately there was a service going on when I walked up to the cathedral, so Bobby and I had to result to taking in some of the local scene by visiting the Last Drop Inn, on of the many local pubs.  Here I was overly excited to see my favorite SIERRA NEVADA PALE ALE sitting in the refrigerator and I may have indulged in some of Chico's best. From there we continued to walk around for a bit. Saw some old palace ruins in a park (See picture below). Where we eventually made it to every college kids paradis... The York Brewery. Did a tour, learned how to make the good stuff. Delicious! Now don't think you'll find this in the states. It has a pump cask and less of a shelf life than normal kegs. (Highly recommend if you visit UK though)

 York Minister

 Castle in York

The next part of the trip (Newcastle upon Tyne and Edinburgh) to come next motivational time I have in the next few days! 

Monday, April 11, 2011

A long time coming

So after a visit to Sevilla/Morocco, 3 tests, 1 giant paper, and a fellow Chicoian visiting me in Alicante; I finally have the time to sit down and write out the happenings of my life abroad... To catch ya'll up to speed, school is slowly starting to slow down some (FINALLY) and Spring Break is just around the corner (FINALLY)!

Morocco… Well the trip started with a flight to Sevilla (Seville for those who can’t understand Spanish or come from U.K.), from there we met up with the group that was taking us and checked into a hostel for the night. After aimlessly searching for some tapas (Andalusia is known for their tapas) I finally had to settle on getting some McDonalds for dinner. Know that I was so freaking hungry or I would NEVER have gone there for anything but ice cream. (YES I KNOW I’M A FAT KID!) Tasted horrible, but that’s to be expected I think.  We met our group at 4:15 am, ya’ll know how much I love mornings… so that was fun. Took a 4 hour bus ride down to the Straight of Gibraltar, and were finally on our way to Africa! We ended up taking a ferry across the Mediterranean. We played some cards, watched Europe slip into the horizon and eventually ran to the front of the boat (Stern? Help me boat people) to get our first glimpse of Africa.
Everything that I thought Morocco was, mostly desert, palm trees, oasis, and camels could not have been farther from the truth in the northern part of this country.  It was green, mountainous, and everything was in Arabic! I think that was the farthest from home I have felt thus far on my travels.
We hoped on our bus again and took a drive to Tetouan for our first tour of the country. We took a walking tour of the city and eventually ended up at a nice hotel for an authentic Moroccan lunch of couscous and chicken marsala. It was delicious to say the least.  There were street vendors crowding the streets selling, no joke, anything and everything. Need a 1995 cell phone charger? This is the place to find one. Such a different way of life than we have as Americans. Even from the European way of life. I felt like there was less order, more poverty yet I had a curiosity to see more. I only wonder what it looked like in the part of town where they didn’t take the Americans?! What we did see everywhere we went was the local people staring at us
From the city we headed back towards the ocean, this time to the Atlantic side of Morocco. We eventually made our way to the Caves of Hercules. We got there just as the sun was setting and could not have asked for a more picturesque sight. Pretty incredible. The touring ended with us doing the most African thing possible for tourists… camel ride at sunset along the beach! Ali Babba and his three wives were an entertaining way to end the day. The camel owner was constantly yelling at us in I think is the only English he knew. PUT YOUR ARMS UP! CHEESE! And random Arabic words. Good times. We stayed at a 4-star resort that night where we had dinner and most importantly slept! I was too tired to even go to the bar and order a beer. I mean lemonade!
The next day was full of driving, touring, and eating! We left our hotel after an amazing continental breakfast and headed to the mountain city of Chefchouan. An ancient city that the government has recently taken into rebuilding with. We learned that this place was once forgotten by the King and government, but now have started to reconnect with the rest of Morocco. We did another walking tour of this place. All the buildings were either white or blue, and are painted every year. This felt like a very safe place for “Westerners” because I remember seeing a lot of tourists there. After a great jaunt through the place we ended with an amazing lunch with some free time after. We were able to put our bargaining skills to use where we hit the open air market. While I’m not sure I got the best price possible, I at least got everything I wanted for half of the original price. (“Silly American” is probably what they said in Arabic as I walked away!) So hope the sisters like their gifts and I’ll enjoy my hippie poncho, Erik you will for sure be a fan of it. Haha.
From there it was time to slowly make our way back to the motherland… well Spain at least. We did the long bus ride back to the port, ferried it over back to Cadiz and eventually got back to Sevilla just in time to take in some local nightlife. Our tour guides were nice enough to show us around the city, and it was a good thing to have that there. Sevilla is a lot bigger the Alicante.
I am so incredibly thankful to be given the opportunity to go on this trip. While it might not have been the safest place for me to go, it is definitely something that I look at with excitement and look forward to the next trip to Africa... Although I don’t see it happening again in my near future unfortunately. (Come on Egypt; get stabilized again so I can go see Giza and the Sphinx!!) BUT on the plus side, I got 4 more stamps in my passport from this journey.
So now enjoy the pictures of my Moroccan journey, I know I did! (10 pts to whoever can name that quote)
Missing you all more and more each day, but I think it’ll just make the trip back that much more special. OR better yet come here this summer (Preferable July) and we can have some adventures of our own! Ohhh and shout out to Nessie who is officially visiting this May and Erik who will be here in August to celebrate my birthday with me. Until then, Skype date anyone?

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! So I know I’ve been neglecting this for 3 weeks, thanks Corrin for the constant reminders to not be a slacker. In my defense I am learning another language which makes an afternoon siesta a necessity almost daily! But there are some of the randomness that has been happening that hasn’t been a big trip. Tony Benuzzi, fraternity brother and future roomie came for a visit to get away from the cold of Brighton.  The extended weekend was filled with food, beach, food, drinking, and bars. Things that fraternity brothers always do. I’m not sure if my liver has fully recovered yet, but it was so good to see a familiar face here in Alicante. We hiked the castle, did stupid stuff, and as a whole talked about our travels abroad. So many stories! Most that will never be told though ; )

Here are some pics of other shenanigans happening around Alicante