Finally reunited with Mom & Claire to begin our European travels together! Both were exhausted from their hours of traveling from California, but I made sure we hit the ground running (literally).
This is quite a lengthy blog post, as it covers all of Semana Santa (Spring Break)… but if you’re interested in hearing about our travel successes, mishaps, and memories, keep reading!
Our first night in Barcelona we walked through Vila de Gràcia, down Passeig de Gràcia, and over to my school in Eixample. We then headed over to Rambla Catalunya to grab some dinner at a local favorite, Cerveceria Catalana, where we had the best tapas (IMO) in Barcelona.
We spent the rest of the night exploring Barcelona’s nightlife on the ever-so famous La Rambla, and grabbed some gelato to satisfy our sweet tooth. The rest of Monday night was spent talking for hours, catching up on the past few months and enjoying each others company after being apart for so long.
Following our late girls night together, we woke up early to chase the sun all day, site seeing and being touristas in my favorite European city. Little did Mom and Claire know that they would be clocking in 15+ miles by the end of the day. But everyone knows, the best way to fall in love with a city is by foot.
Thankfully, we had beautiful weather and the streets were alive with locals and tourists from all around the world. We had the best sunset I’ve yet to see in Barcelona, and enjoyed each and every moment of the day. Including (accidentally) leaving Mom at a metro stop!
Long story short, I told her to run and as Claire and I jumped in, the doors shut and off we were, leaving Mom in the dust. Everyone was laughing, and poor Shannon was on her own, day 2 in Barcelona.
Believe it or not, we saw more than I expected the past couple of days and were able to dedicate our morning to Parc Güell. After soaking up some sun rays at Gaudi’s park, we headed home for a quick lunch and some last minute packing before jetting off to Italy for the rest of our week.
We arrived in Venice just as the sun was setting, and watched the sunset from our water taxi taking us to the island. It was dark by the time we arrived, so we checked in to our AirBnB which was beautiful with Venetian decor and right on a canal.
We wandered out into the streets where a full moon was peeking through, reflecting off the canal waters. It was truly beautiful, and I couldn’t resist obnoxiously singing “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, thats amore!”
Our night was topped off with a warm dinner in a cosy Italian restaurant, where we had an abundance of pizza, pasta, and tiramisu. Before we knew it, midnight was quickly approaching and we had to rest up for the day ahead.
Ahhh, beautiful, sunny Venice! Our apartment was a few streets away from the Grand Canal and St. Mark area which is filled with good restaurants, incredible architecture, and historical sights around every corner. One of our first stops was a tower with a lookout over the island, definitely worth the wait and money!
After exploring all morning, we searched for a little fresh pasta to-go bar for lunch, grabbed a baguette, and filled up on more Italian carbs. We ate our lunch on some steps overlooking a canal, and this was one of the simple moments where I fell in love with my life just a little bit more.
Our afternoon was filled with shopping, exploring the winding streets, and my favorite – a gondola ride! Absolutely over-priced, but totally worth every penny, or shall I say euro. We were serenaded and enjoyed every minute, capturing beautiful photos and videos, and soaking up our last few hours in Venice.
Time to head off to the West Coast of Italy, anxiously awaiting what was soon to come. But what would a family trip be without some traveling mishaps, chaos, and stress? Not going to drop names, but someone I love very dearly accidentally deleted our train tickets email, happy travels!
So we booked the next train, and found ourselves in the Milan train station after a few hours of viewing the Italian country side. Our next stop was Genoa (or Genova), and from the pictures and articles Dad and I had read, it was bound to be beautiful, a “hidden gem” of Italy, some might say.
Claire wasn’t feeling well, so after checking in to our hotel, Mom and I went out to see some of the city. About 20 minutes into our walk, we both simultaneously expressed our disbelief in how filthy, dirty, and uncomfortable we were.
Our walk consisted of African and Italian slurs of words I am thankful for not knowing, streets covered in filth, and a lovely man throwing a handful of euro coins at us and shouting something which I can only imagine was far from polite.
We hurried back to the hotel, asked the front desk girls about the area we were walking through, and were given a great answer! The locals tend to avoid the narrow streets and stick to three main streets in the entire city for safety reasons. We could have figured this out ourselves, based off of the bullet holes in store windows and offensive graffiti covering the walls of churches and buildings.
Time to break the news to Claire, who definitely missed out on this adventure! I even debated blogging about it, as this city was truly a shame. But I figured I would save the rest from making the same mistake we did. Steer clear of Genoa / Genova / whatever it is!
We promised ourselves to stay out of that place until we absolutely had to go back to our hotel to sleep. So we booked a train ticket to Santa Margherita Ligure to start off our day and crossed our fingers for better luck!
Thankfully, Santa Margherita was beautiful, and offered boat rides to the surrounding towns and villages. And after a few hours in Santa Margherita, we decided to boat over to Portofino, followed by San Frutuosso.
Both towns were charming and provided perfect photo opps!
Not to mention, our boat ride took us along the coast of Italy which was spectacular.
The deep blue waters, sunshine, and mesmerizing coastal views were well worth the adventure.
Our morning and most of our afternoon were spent along this portion of the Italian coast, but we weren’t ready to head back to awful Genoa yet, so we booked a train to the famous Cinque Terre area.
Little did we know, the Cinque Terre consists of five villages that are most commonly explored by hiking through the Cinque Terre National Park mountains.
The first half of our day was incredible, smooth sailing (literally), and beautiful sights to see.
But as the day went on, the stresses from our travels were beginning to weigh down on us, we were exhausted, frustrated, and ready to go back to Barcelona in hopes to finish off strong!
Nevertheless, this was still one of my favorite adventures in Italy.
How could it not be – crystal clear waters, blue skies, charming villages, the Italian coast line, boat rides, and a beautiful, peaceful sunset in the Cinque Terre.
Trying to spend the least amount of time possible in Genoa, we hopped on a train early in the morning to head to Milan for our flight.
Surprise, surprise! The lovely woman who we purchased our train tickets from failed to mention Milan has more than one airport, and took it upon herself to book our train to whatever airport she wanted to send us to! Ahhh… the luck is never ending.
We arrived in Milan, had to take an hour bus through the (not so impressive) city to the airport, and arrived to flight delays. After our much needed comfort food – McDonald’s for lunch – we finally were able to board our flight and head home!
Landing in Barcelona has never felt so good – We jumped in a taxi, and eagerly headed back to my apartment to finally introduce Mom and Claire to my Spanish family for a typical Catalan dinner and night filled with good conversations and laughter.
Sadly, our last day together in Barcelona until I return home in June! We started off the morning with my personal favorite, a guided tour of La Sagrada Família, followed by a sunny afternoon at the Arc de Triomf and Parc de La Ciutadella.
Our lunch was an additional success – delicious, organic eats at Brunch & Cake, and of course a stop at Starbucks so we could get our iced tea fix in.
Although I’m sad our trip has come to an end, it was filled with many memories and I am so thankful I was able to share this experience with my two favorite women in the world.
Thank you Dad for lending Mom to me and holding down the fort at home for the week!
This was an adventure I will forever remember – although I may try to erase Genoa from my memory 😉
Until next time!
Madeline Alice Johnson
Side Note: This blog post is originally from March 21, 2016 – March 29, 2016