Let me start by apologizing for the delay in bloggage, but in my defense, ya girl was on vacation and it was quite a crazy one at that! I am back though and ready to tell you all about my first independent travel week while abroad! The DIS Scandinavia program is really awesome when it comes to opportunities for traveling. Not only do you get to do so at least twice with your class, but they also allot good amounts of breaks and free time to explore and travel all around Europe on your own! I had the first travel week free and while it was one of the best and most beautiful trips I have ever taken, it definitely was NOT the most conventional one…and I will tell you more about why.
My girlfriends and I started planning this trip about a month in advance and our first destination was to Barcelona, Spain. I have been waiting to go here just so I could fulfill my lifelong dream of being a Cheetah Girl! Though I did not get serenaded by a Spanish guitarist and sing through the streets of Gothic Quarter, this still made for an amazing trip! For starters, our Airbnb was a sailing yacht! Yes, we stayed on a boat in Spain, and yes it was as fun as it sounds. However, though a great experience, it was definitely a wet one and the lack of shower space and wi-fi had me begging to live on dry land again! I will admit that the boat did make for some great pictures, beautiful scenery and it was within walking distance from the beach. Our first full day in Barcelona had a lot compacted in it. Apart from walking around and eating tapas and paella, we also visited the Big Fun Museum where we got to put ourselves in so many different crazy rooms! It was quite wild seeing Guinness World Records come to life, riding candy unicorns, doing donut pull-ups and reading books upside down! Our final event of the day was my favorite. We hiked up Bunkers Del Carmel, where you can oversee all of Barcelona in all of its glory. We soaked every bit of it in until sundown.
As you can see from these photos, I was a very happy girl on day two of our Barcelona adventures. One of the main reasons for my joy was because it was so warm! We chose places that would be a break from cold and gloomy Copenhagen weather and the Texas in me was very pleased! We started off the day with brunch on the beach and it was a go from there. We walked to the historical Arc De Triomphe and got there just in time to see multiple street performers display all of their difficult talents! Our next stop was to the infamous La Sagrada Familia cathedral. I cannot even describe the magnificence of this place, it was absolutely awestriking. I do not even know how long I stood there gazing at it just trying to catch every intimate piece of detail. The Sagrada Familia was definitely a work of art and you can even attend mass inside on Sundays! Our final trek of the day was to Park Güell, which is also the most beautiful sight and quite similar to Bunker Del Carmel. There is a part of the park you can pay for to see all of the beautiful mosaics, but the free trail option was just as perfect to me. We once again sat atop of Barcelona and overlooked the most incredible view. I just sat for as long as I could singing in awe of creation from this perspective. Of course, we could not leave Spain without getting some authentic tacos and churros, so we went on a hunt for the best taqueria and street desserts in Spain and that made for the conclusion to our Barcelona travels. There was a lot of walking and hiking on this trip that I definitely was not prepared for (as you can see by my outfits) but nevertheless, it was a trip I will never forget!
The next stop was to Florence, Italy and this is where things started getting a little frantic…but I dare not start with that. We landed in Italy at around eight in the morning where we were checked for fever as soon as we got off the plane. We did not think anything of it and we were just so excited to be there. We hopped in the taxi and headed to the greatest Airbnb I have ever stayed in. It was in the perfect location, had great accommodations for the four of us, and a REAL shower! We did not necessarily have an agenda for the day other than to eat, sleep, and recover from our long days and early flight in Barcelona. We explored the local shops like Apple, Zara, Sephora, etc. until it was time to eat. Italian is my favorite category of food so I was very much so in heaven getting to eat nothing but ravioli, pasta, pizza, lasagna, tiramisu, etc. We concluded our day just by chilling and binge-watching Netflix shows for the rest of the night!
This was definitely one of my favorite days of the entire trip. We just spent the day eating and walking around beautiful Florence which then led us to the top of Tuscany. We walked to Ponte Vecchio and it was one of the most beautiful sights. I definitely want to come back there with my hubby someday and just have breakfast on the balcony along the Arno river. We did not think we would be there beyond 30 minutes, and it turns out we were there for at LEAST an hour just in awe! Then we went and hiked up Piazzale Michelangelo and it was a workout but soooo worth it. It was like being on top of Barcelona except it was the Italian version. It was quite interesting to see the differences in architecture, history, layout, and view between the two. We stayed there past sundown and I once again just sat singing and hardly believing what I was looking at. We ended the day with a great dinner where all of my Italian cuisine needs were once again fulfilled!
You will notice that the pictures are starting to decrease and that is because this is the day that heaped up the turmoil. We noticed that there was an abnormal amount of masks being worn around the city and the number of people walking the streets had gone down. We were getting worried text and calls from our peers and parents telling us to please stay safe, stay inside, and get out of Italy as soon as we can. We kept getting news updates and emails from DIS telling us about how bad the Coronavirus was getting. The number of people dying and contacting the virus in Italy was growing rapidly as we were there. We still had a flight and three more days planned in Rome! We did not know what to do and frankly, we could not really enjoy ourselves because we were more trying to be cautious of our every move. We decided that it would be best if we go so we started looking for flights. Apparently, everyone else was doing the same thing because flights were selling out, prices were rising, and layover times were increasing by the second! We got the cheapest flight we could for the next day and decided to come to terms with the fact that our Italian adventure was heading towards a close.
Our final day in Italy was rough. The sky was gloomy, the streets were deserted, fear and panic were in the air. Pharmacies were sold out of masks, tourist attractions started to shut down, and train travel was being stopped. I have never felt so stressed out in my life! Italy has been number one of my dream places to go since I was seven years old, so I could have never imagined I would be saying “PLEASE GET ME OUT OF ITALY!” We still wanted to enjoy our last day here since we were no longer going to Rome, so we switched things up and ate Subway instead of Italian food for lunch which gave us a little taste of home, and to make EVERYTHING right, we treated ourselves to authentic gelato and cannoli’s before heading to the airport. We found a flight that could take us to Germany with a layover and then back to Denmark. The airport was a mess! The frenzy was at an all-time high and people were not joking around. Because one of the girls in my group had become sick, we decided to get masks because we were in close proximity to her a lot. On my flight, I sat next to students who were studying abroad in Italy that had just been told their program was being shut down and they had forty-eight hours to go home. I felt so bad for them, but I realized how grateful I was to be getting out on time and my situation could have definitely been worse.
THAT is the story of how my travel week turned into turmoil. Even though my ten-day trip was cut to seven, I would still put it in my top traveling experiences. I ate TONS of great food, pastries, candy, etc. I viewed some of the most gorgeous sights I have ever seen. I became close with five new girls. I met and engaged with new people from different cultures. I also learned a lot about myself over the course of that week. I learned that I could handle stress and difficult situations like that on my own. I learned that you have to take life as it comes. I learned to live in, enjoy and appreciate the moments that are right in front of me. I learned that I can hike over 500ft mountain in a dress and some air maxes. I learned not to be stuck in fear. But, one of the biggest and most heartfelt things that I learned, was that Denmark has officially become “home” for me. I kept thinking about the relief I would have when I touchdown in Copenhagen and it was just that, a sigh of relief and a sense of comfort. My host mom was more than ready to bring me home safely and had been texting me all week to check up on my current status. She was the first car in line at the airport. I was telling her all about my crazy week as we were riding home and we were just laughing and conversing. We got home and I was greeted by my host dog, and given a big “I’m glad you’re safe” hug from my host brother and dinner was soon to be ready. It felt like I had never left. No matter how much traveling I do, this will now always be a place I get to call home.