Introducing… Drum Roll Please!

16 Sep

Hello000 out there!

I want to let anyone still out there who liked my blog, Hannah’s in Europe, to come check out my NEW blog!

Hannah’s In Vintage !

I hope you like it 🙂

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London, Revisited

28 Jul

Ok, ok, ok… So I know I deserve a slap on the wrist for not actually finishing my blog in time with my trip. But if anyone is still out there, you must understand that I have been a busy bee, and finishing the blog also meant that my trip really was over.

London, the second time, still felt unconquerable. The city is huge. We spent from the 17th to the 21st there, and hardly made a dent. We visited the Tower of London and the Globe theatre (both still amazing the second time). We shopped Oxford Street and experienced Harrods – a museum in itself. We had high tea with our friend Laura, and ate many many fabulous meals.
Also, we spent an afternoon at Westminster Abby; a few highlights being Queen Elizabeth I’s grave, along with poets corner.
We even went to see the final Harry Potter movie! It was excellent, right up until (spoiler alert) the caption reads “19 years later…” Now we couldn’t remember that part from the book. Hollywood cheese at it’s worst.

Although the weather didn’t hold up for us (it rained every day), we still made the best of it. And, for the grand finally, we saw “Billy Elliot.” What a show! The dancing was incredible and had a great story to match.

As the Brit’s would say: Brilliant!

Fast Track

21 Jul

Okay, I have been so busy these past few days I’ve literally not had a chance to update. So in order to just get the out I am going to give you the fast version.
Sevilla, Day One:
Arrived via 3 hour train. Checked into hotel. Ate some snacks from a grocery store. Siesta. Had wonderful dinner. Very hot. Had a drink on top of our hotels rooftop patio. Still very hot at 11pm. Slept.
Sevilla, Day Two:
Woke up. Had a crummy “breakfast” (it’s impossible to find a decent breakfast in Spain, FYI). Again, extremely hot weather. Walked around the town. Visited the Real Alkazar (amazing palace, similar to the Alhambra). Shopped and walked. Siesta. Enjoyed a delicious Italian meal (needed to change it up). Hot hot hot! Slept.
Sevilla, Day Three:
Hung out pool side (on the hotel roof). Siesta. Went for sangria, followed by our best tapas meal yet. Slept.
Sevilla, Day Four.
Wandered around and killed time before our flight. Went back to same restaurant as the night before (again, absolutely amazing). Taxi to airport. Flight at 9pm. Arrived in London 11pm. Stuck in massive traffic jam. Arrived in hotel at nearly 3am. Ordered a late night pizza. Mowed it down. Slept.
Adios Spain!

The Jewel In Spain’s Crown

17 Jul

A long time ago, in the wild planning stages of my trip, someone told me that Granada was “the jewel in Spain’s crown.” Man, am I glad I listened!
Especially after the touristy whirlwind that is Barcelona, Granada is very laid back.
The city has some of the most beautiful and intricate cobble stone streets I have come across yet, is also accompanied by mountainous views, palm trees, cactuses, citrus trees of all variety, and, the cities most prominent vegetation: pomegranate trees.
Granada actually means “pomegranate” in Spanish, and while the trees are everywhere, there are also pomegranate shaped road markers, and it covers all the terra cotta pottery and mosaics that they are famous for. Once you are on the lookout for this symbol, you realize you can’t escape it.
So, although weary after our three hour flight delay, and the rapid incline of temperature (around 35 degrees, thankfully very little humidity) we made a venture to the local hot spot restaurant street. We settled at the first place we came to, having no energy for a proper scout out, and were greatly rewarded. We both ordered oxtail with vegetables, and it was exactly the comfort food we needed after such a frustrating day of travel.
Our hotel, Las Almenas, was somewhat like a small palace itself, featuring beautiful marble floors, high ceilings, and even a full size tub, something missing from our prior accommodations.
Needless to say we had a great night sleep, and awoke refreshed for our first day in the new city. I say city, but Granada has a much more small town feel, a small ancient town that is. While the shopping is modernized, the buildings that house the shops still retain their 11th-15th century feel.
We walked up part of the hill that leads to the Alhambra, and caught great views of the ancient ruins below. We also shopped all through the winding streets and had a nice glass of sangria on a patio.
The heat really is exhausting; so, another siesta was in order. Later, we headed out for a great tapas in a crowded plaza, and enjoyed the night air.
The next morning our tourist hats were back on! We were picked up at our hotel for an “Olive Oil Tour.” We were driven to an olive tree groves, where a very informative guide explained about growing and harvesting olives. She said “plant a grapevine for your children, and an olive tree for your grandchildren.” Most of the trees we saw were over 300 years old. Better olives come from older roots.
We also saw orange, lime, lemon and almond and pomegranate trees.
Next we were scooted off to the 11th century olive oil mill, that was in use until the 19th century. It takes a lots of work to get the oil, but even today, the only ingredients are olives, and a titch of water…
We next got to sample five different oils and learn about the different between virgin/extra virgin olive oil, and also taste special salts and sherry vinegar. We got a bottle of extra virgin to take home and enjoy! But the tour wasn’t over quite yet, we were again taken away, this time to a restaurant in the village that must also be ancient. The food was delicious! Mom had salmon and I had calamari, and they were both fresh from the sea.
We were taken one more time to a ridge to view a grove of citrus trees and look at some cool stone work, reminiscent of Gaudi, on a much smaller scale.
Having had a full day, we took our siesta, and later, went out for another fabulous tapa, and called it an early night.
Again we rose for another early morning, this time our destination being the Alhambra. A royal city on top of the mountain, featuring over four different palaces. I am not even going to try and describe the beauty or intricacy or history of this place, it is too vast and my fingers are already too numb. My photos will have to do the explanations another day…
After spending almost three weeks here, I am no expert on Spain, but i think i have a fairly good understanding of the culture, especially the food culture… And, I would highly recommend visiting Granada if you get the chance. I really enjoyed this city… And never had a bad meal. Full of life, but not crazy and touristic. A glimpse of the “true” Spanish lifestyle and it’s rich history can be gained here.
I was sad to leave the next day, but onward we went to Sevilla!

Backtrack to Barca

15 Jul

It was over a week ago that mom and I landed in Barcelona. I am, again, sorry for the delay, but amidst the bustle and sheer heat if Spain, writing has been left behind.
So, from where I last left you, I will begin:
We did take the tapas tour in Madrid. It was excellent. The tour guide was good, and our group included an interesting and fun Australian family that made the experience extra special. Visiting four different and well established tapas bars, the best tapa we sampled was an award winning dish of oxtail and squash purée – tastes like Sunday dinner at it’s finest. The tour lasted over three hours, as we remainder with our new Aussie friends sipping sangria and beers long after our real tour ended.
It was an early start the next morning to get back to the airport. But with no problems and a lot of sweat, we made it to our next hotel.
Feeling hungry and tired, we settled for a nice Italian restaurant in a beautiful plaza, and each ordered our own pizza. Delish!
We explored a little of the city by walking up and down Las Ramblas, which our hotel was right around the corner from. This city is crazy, and, the street sellers drove me crazy by selling stupid bird squeakers and continually squeaking them, until all I wanted to do was take a baseball bat to one of the thousand idiots trying to make an easy buck…
Anyway, the following day we explored more of the city, moving far away from the irritating bums. Or doing our best to avoid them, but in Barca, this is a near impossible feat. The amount of tourists present is insane, and the crowds are never ending. But we still managed to enjoy ourselves.
After deciding that driving through Spain is not such a good idea (the traffic in Barcalona being the main cause) we spent a few hours changing our plans. Basically including a new flight, a train ride, and a slightly longer stay in London. So we dealt with the hard work of travel, and it is work, traveling is not an easy business; however, the pay off is priceless.
Our next move was to Gaudi’s Casa Mila. This building looks almost like a cartoon, and the interior apartment made me wish I was rich and could have lived in this 1920’s work of art. The man was genius.
Later than night we went to a tapas restaurant, now being more educated in the cuisine, and enjoyed a fabulous meal. This was made all the more fab by one euro cups of red wine and the tasty veal in lemon butter sauce. The place is a hidden gem called Sausalito, not far off Ramblas.
The next day I appeased my mother by putting on my happy tourist hat and enjoying a day on the double decker hop-on-hop-off city tour. We donned our disposable headphones and made our way to the top deck. Although iconically “touristy”, the bus was well worth it. It took us all through the extensive harbor, up to the top of the mountains where we saw the Olympic stadium, beautiful gardens and trees, ancient buildings, and incredible views of the entire city. Back down the mountain, we saw the vast beaches, passed by Gaudi’s Sagrada de Familia (although it was under construction so we didn’t get to really see it’s grandure). We eventually got off the bus at Gaudi’s Park Guel. This place was crawling with people, but truly a site to be seen. His work reminds me of a dr suess neighbourhood, full of colour, intricate tile mosaics, and full of living plants and water. It is an unreal landscape.
Back onto the bus we went, and headed back for siesta. (Proper siesta occurs between 3-5pm where lots of businesses close due to heat and for a rest. We also partake in this tradition during the afternoon because the heat does take a lot out of you, and nobody ever goes out for dinner before 9:30pm… We often look unfashionable showing up before then, but try our best to wait as long as 10pm to arrive with everyone else).
This night we had dinner at a modern bar called 7 Sins. We each enjoyed a juicy beef burger, possibly one of the best I’ve ever had. Simple and satisfying.
The next morning we head out to the beach at Barceloneta. It was the same as my last visits – busy, and full of people trying to sell you worthless junk. The sun was gorgeous, and the breeze was refreshing, so in that regard, I cannot complain.
This evening we planned to meet special guests from home. The Buchanan’s were set to take a cruise, beginning in Barcelona, so mom and her good friend Leanne planned for a dinner to meet up the night before they left, while together in Spain you know, why not!
So we met them at their hotel and had some wine in the bar before heading out to La Flouta. The menu was entirely in Spanish, and unsure of exactly what to order, we left it up to the waiting to bring us samplings of the best. This worked out better than we could have imagined: Iberian ham, summer salad, mini beef sliders, duck foie gras skewers, and beef loin and vegetable skewers. Possibly one of our best meals yet. Although that’s nearly impossible to decide…
That was how we spent our last evening in Barca. The next morning, we headed for the airport, which was becoming rather tedious to me.
Here, we hit our first major problem: our flight to Granada was delayed three hours. So if you include the two hours we arrived before our scheduled flight, we spent a total of five hours in the airport, for a 90 minute flight.
Well, I have now caught you up a bit, and I promise to share Granada with you later today or tomorrow.
Until then, audios amigos!

“M” is for Madrid

5 Jul

Moms flight came in a half hour late, so again I found myself waiting around in an airport for far too long. Ah well, it was well worth the wait.
Both tired, we headed to our hotel located in the centre of the city easily. After resting for a while we wandered around the beautiful city and checked it out. We eventually found a place to eat before heading in for an early night.
The next day we went to a cool indoor market for breakfast/lunch. Its full or gourmet treats, and we sampled various stuffed olives, sangria, smoked salmon, tomato and mozzarella skewers, and smoked ham. Everything was delicious.
We had planned to then take a free walking tour, but the guide never showed up. Instead, we took our own “shopping tour” down the Gran Via and streets in between. After we took another afternoon rest, much needed due to the sweltering heat of Madrid.
Later, we walked to the royal palace and took in the ancient views. We got lucky and their happened to be an outdoor concert going on featuring a very talented string quartet. After taking in the music and ambience if the city, we had a nice dinner featuring an excellent bottle of Spanish wine.
This morning, we ventured to the royal botanical gardens. Lots of plants, obviously, and very very old trees.
We are now back having a short rest before going out again to take a Tapas Tour. Hopefully this time the tour guide shows up…
Tomorrow, we fly to Barcelona!

The Twilight Zone

5 Jul

The next chapter of my solo journey: I was nervous about finding my next hostel, aware that its location is about 20 minutes outside the city center, I did arrive at the final metro stop with no problems. However, stepping off the train I look around and find myself surrounded by tree covered mountains. I also was aware that my hostel was a “69 meter walk” from the station… What I didn’t know was this walk was up a steep winding hill. It was horrendously hot and an unpleasant experience.
At the front desk, the lady working took her sweet time checking me in, leaving me sweating and panting standing there waiting, waiting, waiting, for her to finish whatever it was she was doing behind the computer. After a solid ten minutes, she told me my room number, and pointed me in an uphill direction towards another building where my room was located. Only about five minutes, but still…
The room was nice enough for a ten bedroom dorm. Nicer set up than my previous hostel at least. Slightly more private, but there was no air-conditioning and the fans didn’t work.
Of course, the pool was also closed for cleaning this day. Super!
So I had lunch in the on site restaurant. I believe that the camp is a non profit organization who employs people with special needs as their staff. This is great except nobody can speak English very well, or not at all. Nowhere at this hostel was any sign of any English so it was difficult to get anything. There is also no ATM at this hostel, so to take out money or purchase your own food it’s a walk down the hill and a 20 minute train ride. Super duper!
Luckily, I was here to “hide out”, and hang by the pool.
This first day I also ran into to guys who I previously met on Ios in Greece! Small world… But I was also lucky because they had a Mac book and planned to watch movies all night due to an early flight the next morning, so I tagged along and watched with them.
I don’t even want to talk about the complimentary breakfast. I can’t recall it without feeling sick. So that’s all I will say about that…
The next three days the pool was back open, and I used it all day everyday.
On the second day I met two girls from Manchester, Esther and Kate, and after we had one of the most horrible “lasagnas” from the hostel restaurant, consisting of three slices of pasta, filled with very odd processed cheese, the entire plate resembling a soup like substance, we all vowed to never eat there again and to go for proper tapas the next night.
This was a great decision. we had a very late dinner at Sol Solar which is located in a square in the city centre. It was Friday night and it was full of young people sitting in different circles with friends, drinking the same kind of beer being sold for one euro each by shady looking characters with backpacks full of six packs. The meal was excellent and we didn’t return until the wee hours of the morning, walking up the hill as the sun rose.
I had to leave the next morning to my final solo stop. A hotel with an airport shuttle. I caught my flight the next morning to Madrid, and finally met up with my Mom. We are here safe and sound and ready to explore Spain!

Ona Barcelona

28 Jun

Gooooood morning, Barcelona!
My flight came through with out a hitch and I landed in the heat and sunshine. Quite a difference from the rainy grey days of Amsterdam.
I found my way to the first train into the city center, and then I had to change onto another line, and here there was a hitch… You see I went up an escalator that said exit, assuming the station was above. Well, I got up and there was no station in site. There were stairs leading down but they didn’t go where I came from, it lead to a very sketchy and empty tunnel that wouldn’t let me through with the ticket I had and no place to buy them. Unable to locate myself on the map I did the only thing I could think of, backpack and all, I ran down the previous “up” escalator. I proceeded to get yelled at by an officer of some kind as I frantically tried to explain what had happened. Eventually, he angrily waived me away and refused to help point me in the right direction. At least there was only one other direction to go, and I found my next train and then hostel shortly after.
So no harm done, but it has made me a little weary about the transit system. All the ticket machines are in Spanish only, and nobody wants to help. Fine.
My hostel, Ona Barcelona, is quite nice. I think it is fairy new because they are still renovating. It’s annoying, but the place is clean and has safe lockers. Again I am back on a top bunk with nine other girls in the room. Only two snore-ers, so I slept ok.
I spent my two full days on the beach. That’s it. It’s easy to get there with the metro, its cheap, and I can work on my tan. The only annoyance about the place is that it’s anything but quiet – people are constantly shouting and bugging you trying to sell shit. I meant shit in the nicest way. Men selling coconuts and mojitos and beach wraps, and Asian women by the multitude selling massages for 5 euro each. No thanks, ladies.
I just turned on my iPod and remained as anti social as possible. I am basically waiting for my mom to get here because we are coming back anyway in just a few days.
Today, I am sitting in the common room at Ona, mentally preparing myself for the train rides I have to take to get to my next hostel, where I will spend the next four days relaxing by it’s pool.
Not exciting, I know, but all I wanna do is soak up the Spanish sun!

This time for Amsterdam!

27 Jun

Well I am sorry again for the delay. I should have written sooner because we packed in SO much during the trip it’s all blending together.
The weather remained generally unkind, but still worked out. It rained every morning, but the did stop in the afternoon where occasionally the sun would peek out for us.
Where I left you, we were maybe going to the zoo, but the weather was very bad this particular morning so we instead went to NEMO, a science museum, which we soon found out was more intended for kids, but we still had a good time. We went to a place called soup kitchen for lunch that was also very good. It cleared up a bit and we spent the rest of the day cruising to various outdoor patios ad trying to enjoy the glimpse of good weather. Sadly, it did not hold up so we went to a grocery store, bought bread, cheese, meats and wine and enjoyed a night in our shabby hotel.
On Thursday we finally went to the Artis Zoo. It was a highlight for us both. We came in the right season because a lot of the animals had recently had babies. The lion cub was my favourite and I think johnnys was the baby elephant. We also watched a sea lion show abd had a great lunch in the restaurant. We spent over 4 hours there so the high entrance price did end up being worth it.
Later, we went to the Ice Bar. It is a pretty cheesy experience as you pack in a little room where it’s 10 degrees below with a coat they give you at the door. We got two drinks each in cups made out of ice and then sat down to watch a 3D movie about our adventure in the artic. Very touristy, but entertaining. My toes felt like they were going to fall off by the end of it!
By this point it was about ten or eleven and we found a nice restaurant in Rebrandtplein called Rain to have a late dinner at. All in all, probably our best day.
By Friday, we were both done with museums. We walked all around the city, visiting the flower market and other shops to get some last minute gifts.
Then we hit a glitch: walking back into the hotel, we notice all our luggage is down in reception! After some initial angry comments and debating, we realized there was a mistake with our booking, and we were meant to check out on friday by the hotels records. Of course they had nonother rooms available. But… It turned out for the best. We found a hotel that was a lot nicer and it wasn’t too far from where we were. It felt finally more like a holiday and we werent crammed in a tiny room and had lots of space to properly pack. We ended our trip by getting dressed up and going to eat at a nice tapas restaurant.
It was sad to leave Johnny the next morning, but I am so excited for Spain and it’s sunshine!!!

The Dam

22 Jun

We have so far had a very busy week here in Amsterdam, and it’s only Wednesday!
We began with walking around the city to get better oriented. By special recommendation, we went to CAU for dinner, an Argentinian grill, the steaks were amazing (thanks Amber!).
We also went to the Heineken brewery, van Gogh museum, took a canal water boat tour, shopped in over three outdoor markets, visited the vodka museum, did a pub crawl in the red light district, and went to the Anne frank house.
In between all of these things we have sat in many cafes and enjoyed drafts of heinekens and yummy food everywhere, even though the weather hasn’t always been cooperative.
Today I think we are going to the zoo and possibly this place called Ice Bar later tonight… You never know what this city will throw at you!