asheville

cue curvy, mountain road jams.

We [ Becca + Chelcie + Becca + Jenn ] went on a little roadtrip to Asheville, North Carolina to meet our dear friend Cassidy Anne Lewis who has been living in Charlotte since August when she started working with the Fellows.

It was such a refreshing time to laugh and talk and just be with my people. I needed this.

We ate lunch at Early Girl. Grilled pimento cheese–yum in my tum.

We soaked up the fall colors. The yellow trees are my favorite.

We ate even more at The Chocolate Lounge. The name of the place was a dead give away that we’d be close buds.

We were goobers walking around Asheville.

We kept talking about what a babe Chelc is with short hair.

But really…how cute is she?!

I got some good face time with my friend.

She’s real. She’s honest. She’s hilarious. She encourages me. She gets me. She points me to truth.

She’s my friend.
We laughed our butts off at Tupelo Honey. Gahlee. My belly has never been so full.

I’m so thankful for these people who are walking through weird life transitions at the same time as me.

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recent history = oxymoron

last stop:

berlin, germany

My favorite part of Berlin was the history (and recent history, at that) throughout the city. I’m kind of a history nerd so I was in heaven.

Here’s some of the historical shtuff that made me go oooooh ahhhh.

There were plaques on the sidewalk marking where Jewish families lived that were taken to concentration camps. In some parts of the city, the plaques were in front of almost every door. They told the names of each person in the family as well as what camp they were deported to and whether they survived. 

The Berlin Wall. It was surreal to see in real life. Something so recent in history that seemed like it should have been hundreds of years ago. It was crazy to think that people still walking around the city today were affected by it.

Hitler’s bunker. It’s just a parking lot now, but underneath the ground used to house one of Hitler’s main bunkers. Super weird to stand there and think about what kind of stuff went on beneath my feet. Also these apartment buildings lined the border of the wall–they were the outer layer of East Berlin that was supposed to give off the idea that they were all put together.

Checkpoint Charlie. This was the only segment of the Berlin wall where authorized people could change sectors. The sign is still standing that welcomed people into the American sector. As you can tell, it has become super touristy…you can now get your picture taken with fake Charlie…for a small fee. Don’t try to beat the system and take a picture on the sidewalk with him in the background…they will call you out.
One of the greatest parts about our stay in Berlin were the people that hosted us, Gracie, Caroline, and Kevin, who were living there at the time. Being able to follow someone else and not figure everything out on our own was a breath of fresh air. It was the perfect way to end the trip. Side-note: spending July 4th away from America was interesting. We had bratwurst in place of hotdogs. I kept my American flag bandana in my pocket so as not to be obnoxious.

 

There you have it people. I’m actually finished blogging about my backpacking adventure. Now onto more interesting things…like working…and school…and going to bed early.

all that and a bag-uette

paris, france

The Eiffel Tower.

You’ve seen pictures of it ever since you can remember, so you think it will fall short of your expectations. But it literally took my breath away. I think expected the area around it to be super touristy and Leaning-Tower-of-Pisa-ish where everyone is just standing around taking pictures–but in all actuality it was such a cozy little place and it ended up being our favorite place to just sit and enjoy being together. But wait, there’s more! Seeing it at night was an entirely different experience in and of itself. First off, there were ridiculous amounts of people being ridiculous. Secondly, it is absolutely beautiful seeing the city get gradually darker as the tower grows brighter and brighter then finally begins to twinkle with thousands of little blinking lights that everyone cheers for. Moral of the story: The Eiffel Tower is all that and a bag-o-baguettes.

Crepes.

Complete with strawberry, banana, and nutella. We found a little hole in the wall place called Crepes King owned by a guy originally from Pakistan. I definitely want to learn how to make Crepes–they won’t be the same at Shazaad’s, but they’ll have to do. Pretty much all I ate in Paris were crepes and baguettes. It was awesome.

 

Oh and I saw the real life Mona Lisa in the Louvre. The painting is really small. And Mona’s hands are very large. Oooo-weee-whats-up-with-that, Leonardo? 

Versailles.

Meg and Kyle had to leave a couple days before us, so the Becca’s and I ventured to Versailles for the day! It was nice to have a low key day. Lots of train rides, but very worth it. The Chateau is incredible.Paris was definitely one of my favorite cities! I would love to go again one day. I need to brush up on my french for next time though…

 

you so gawdy…err gaudi.

barcelona

It was quite a fiasco for us to get to Barcelona…but I think everyone agrees that it was beyond worth it. I would not have cut it out of our trip for anything. Plus, we rode in first-class style on a night train. (not by choice…they were the only seats left). Expensive. Classy. Hey, it’s the price you pay to roll with the big shots (or the other dweebs that couldn’t book a seat in steerage).

Here are some of my favorite things about our Spanish adventure…

La Boqueria. It’s an open air market along La Rambla, a main street in Barcelona. It was super close to where we were staying–Kyle’s mom put us up in a hotel for the night. It was actually amazing. I loved using a real towel and a hair dryer. I even put some eye shadow on to go out to dinner. Anyhoo…La Boqueria was stocked with lots of fresh fruits and meats. Oh, and a random calzone stand that we found; they were made right in front of your eyes and we nommed on them for lunch one day. However, here is the best part about La Boqueria: Everywhere you turn are the tastiest fruit juices I’ve ever tasted! For one euro each. I repeat: ONE EURO. I tried mango-coconut, rasperberry-coconut, and pineapple-coconut…not sure why I was on such a coconut kick. They were delicious.

Dinner on La Rambla. One thing I loved about European cities was that you could almost always count on dining on the street. Rarely ever did we eat inside. I particularly loved this night because we enjoyed a glass of Sangria and traditional Spanish tapas (aka small plates). Meg really loved her baby burger stuffed with baby brie cheese. I had baby kebabs with a baby spinach/goat cheese salad. The atmosphere was wonderful–It actually wasn’t too hot and it gradually grew darker outside as we lingered at our table in signature European fashion…and majorly fumbled with adding up our Euros for the bill–typical Americans.

Parque Guell. One of the most amazing things I have ever seen. Antoni Gaudi, architect and designer extraordinaire, brought a park to life in Barcelona. My absolute favorite part of Parque Guell was the mosaics. Each and every one of them were amazingly unique. It’s crazy to think that he designed these and put everything together at the beginning of the 1900s when everything looks so “modern”. If I lived in Barcelona, I would park it in a quiet place in Parque Guell–free of the crazy tourists–and take a load off. It was so beautiful!
La Sagrada Familia. This was one of the cooler buildings I’ve seen with my eyes. It kind of resembled those “drip” castles you make at the beach…you know what I’m sayin’? Not only is it structurally intricate and creative, but there is a statue collage, if you will, of Jesus’ life above the main doors. You could Jesus in the Garden, you could see the men gambling for Jesus’ clothes, you could see Jesus on the cross, and you could see Mary weeping over his body. It was unlike any church I have ever seen. Also, it was pretty neat that they are actually still working on La Sagrada Familia. It’s crazy to think that this work in progress could get any more awesome!

Note: Contrary to popular belief (aka the belief of Becca, Becca, Kyle, Megan, and me) Gaudi is not currently alive and kickin’.

Hasta luego!

swiss cake rolls

Lucerne

The train ride through Switzerland was incredible! It was like a fairy tale. Everything was so green, the mountains were so tall, we passed a couple of water falls, and every house was the cutest little thing ever. Then we met up with our friend Evan! He had been in Luzern for a couple of days so he was practically a local. He showed us around, thus bringing me to my favorite things about the town…

One of the oldest wooden bridges in Europe. It crossed over the little river that rushed into Lake Luzern and had beautiful flowers lining the edges of it. What happened to things being built this intricately?
The walking path beside Lake Luzern. It was kind of Cherokee Boulevard esc with beautiful trees and flowers. There were swans everywhere!

The fact that Luzern is beautiful even when it’s cloudy. It was kind of a bummer that we couldn’t see all of the mountains surrounding the town, but it was still lovely.

Ps everything in Switzerland is oober expensive. So be sure and pack pb&js if you ever visit. The Swiss Franks kick you in the butt.

Interlaken

Adventures in the rain. We didn’t let a little weather hold us back during our first day in Interlaken. We decided that we wanted to stroll along beside the water. We accidentally hiked on the interstate and we found a castle.
Meg and I decided to hike instead of skydive. It was just what I needed/wanted–to explore and relax and take it all in. We took several gondolas up to one of the highest peaks and ate lunch at a restaurant up there. We were totally above the clouds, and mountains were all we could see every where we turned. It was unreal!

I think my favorite part if the day was walking back to Lauterbrunnen where we caught a train back to Interlaken. It was absolutely breathtaking. We came across over five waterfalls and, all the while, walked along side a rushing stream with the Swiss Alps all around us. Flippin’ sweet as a Swiss Cake Roll if you ask me.

…speaking of sweet. Meg and I got some Nutella and bananas for a post-hike snack. It was incredible. That is all.

g(no)cchi

firenze, italia

So i discovered that florence is not my favorite place on planet earth. That’s fine. I’m thinking we missed something. Maybe I’ll go back one day and find out what’s so great about it. I will tell you some fave (or just memorable) moments of our stay there…

Our day trip to Siena. Not only did we run into one of my young life girls’ mom and sis, but I purchased the largest sandwich of my entire life, we got to roam around cute little shops, and we got to see where they have their horse races in the square. Florence and Siena are both part of Tuscany, so we just got to experience more of it.
Having the worst restaurant experience of my life (minus the immense laughter). We all got gnocchi. It tasted like play dough with cheese sauce. Literally almost started crying from laughing so hard about it. Then we got charged a 20% gratuity charge. We voted eating at Mama Mia’s to be the single worst decision of the trip. #unashameddramaqueens

Eating a Micky D’s chee-burger after our gno-good gnocchi. Never been more proud to be American. The land of the free and home of the fast food.

“five lands”

…that’s what “Cinque Terra” means…

cinque terre, italia

things to remember:

Memorable (but not fave) moment: Spending the night in a train station in La Spezia (one island of Cinque Terre) because of a stupid train strike. Cinque Terre means “five lands” so La Spezia is one of them and Vernazza is where we were trying to get. We couldn’t take a taxi because there are apparently no roads in between? So we made our home in the La Spezia train station for the night. Lots of creepers. But we were guarded by two nice police men who let us park it outside their office and one angel of a Moroccan man who sat with us and tried to make conversation in spite of his broken English. We are convinced he was our protector!

The hike to Monarossa from Vernazza. It was super intense! We literally scaled a mountain. I loved this hike because of the views, the flowers, the fruits trees with lemons and peaches, and the fact that there awaited us gelato and beaches on the other side.
The beach. Apart from the abundance of speedos, the beach was beautiful! Huge waves crashed into rocks that lined the coast and the water was so clear and blue. We swam out to some rocks and sat there for a while looking at the sailboats and huge mountains around us.
Meeting Amy and Chris from Vermont. We met them while we were sitting out near the water after dinner and didn’t stop hanging out with them til late that night! They got married last year and this trip around Europe is kind of a late honeymoon for them. They were the cutest. He was hilarious and she was such a chatty Cathy. We loved them! We got gelato, sat around a table outside, and I somehow got wrangled into playing soccer in the middle of the square with Meg and Kyle and a bunch of local boys. I didn’t last very long, but it was super funny. We all agreed it was one of our favorite nights!

santorini

Keeping up with my “favorite-things-about-such-and-such-city” format…here are some of the greatest things about Oia on the island of Santorini in Greece.

Our first morning. Our flight landed super early so we were able to explore the little town of Oia before anything was open and anyone else was out and about. Every time we made a turn our jaws dropped; the view kept getting better and better the farther we walked. We then made our way to what we found out was the Castle. The view was beautiful all the way around. We perched there for a bit and enjoyed being able to just sit.

Breakfast. We ate at a cute little restaurant with a covered porch over looking the town and the water. It was just lovely. I loved just sitting with my people. It was refreshing. Plus we met a Knoxvillian couple who was on a cruise! Crazy small world.

Absolutely everywhere you turned you were met with a beautiful view. It was just like the pictures–except it didn’t end with a 4 x 6 rectangle.

Atlantis book store. On our flight to Cinque Terra, we read in a magazine about this book store that made it into the Top 20 Best Bookstores in the world. Wowzer. Meg’s and my eyes literally lit up I’m pretty sure #englishmajors. Cool thing was, it was only a couple of minutes from our hostel! Meg and I walked in and were greeted by a young guy (who we found out was the guy who started/owns the place). Small world again–he is from Memphis and went to MUS. He said he came to Santorini for a college spring break trip with a buddy and they ended up moving there shortly after. When we asked why they started the shop he said, “We ran out of books.” The store is absolutely a work of art in  itself. It seriously is one big pinterest project. Hand made signs to locate genres and authors as well as quotes written all over the walls.

Swimming in the Agean Sea is like swimming in mountain water with waves and salt. It was so wonderful (minus a couple of free birds who sunbathed topless. Hey sista, more power to ya). But really, it was incredible. We hiked down to the beach and swam for a bit, looked for rocks, and some of us…err me…may or may not have fallen asleep on a rock. Don’t ask me how it happened, it just did.

The sunset. Before we even set foot on the island we had heard raving reviews about Oia’s sunset. So we made sure to park it somewhere around 8 o’clock to watch the sun descend. It definitely lived up to all the hype! Watching sunsets is one of my favorite things anyway, but seeing the sun almost double in size plus lowering behind the mountains of other islands was especially neat. I loved that the colors lingered in the sky long after the sun set. Absolutely breath taking!

Take me back to Santorini!

Oh and we love Coca Cola Light…note the Greek.

ciao bella!

(People really say that, btdubs.) 

Fave things about roaming around Rome:

The ruins of Ancient Rome.It was crazy to see how the modern city really is built around what stood almost 2000 years ago. I mean, the Pantheon and the Colosseum were built around 70 AD…holy moly. On either side of a main street there might be huge sections of ancient ruins that you can peer into and be amazed that this was the city where Julius Caesar chilled and the city of the church where Paul sent his letter that is now God’s word to me.

The Pantheon.

The Colosseum.  Okay, so it’s really eery when ya think about it because lots and lots of people died here in gladiator fights. It’s crazy to think how long the thing has been standing! And a ton of it is in tact. Crazy stuff right there. Mind blown.

The Trevi Fountain. We all mades wishes and threw pennies over our shoulder into the water. It was fun to see something that you see so much in movies. Shut out to my girl Lizzie Maguire. We also got to see it at night all lit up which I loved!

Vatican City. St. Peter’s Basilica + Sistine Chapel. I have three words: a-maz-ing. St. Peter’s Basilica was incredible for a ton of reasons, but I will list three: a) the light rays that came through the gigantic windows. 2) the general hugeness and intricacy of everything in it. D) In the front of the church is where Peter’s tomb is. Which means that one of the grandest, oldest churches was truly built on Peter. Pretty cool, huh? Jesus called it. Plus, the Sistine Chapel was breathtaking. I mean, can we just talk about how Michelangelo painted this laying on his back? Who does that?!

St. Peter’s Basilica.

Sistine Chapel.

Gelato. Gah. I could eat it every hour on the hour. It’s so delicious and cheap compared to K-town’s Coolato Gelato. The first night I got coconut and blackberry and the second night I got nutella and banana. Yum to the max.I’ve been telling people that Rome was one of my faves. It was just plain sup-awes. (super awesome).

vienna sausages + hills that are alive

Next Stop: Austria

These are a few of my favorite things about Wien (Vienna) and Salzburg…

The fact that I ate Vienna sausages  in Vienna. When in Rome…err Vienna. They were really just two exquisitely huge hot-dogs with snazzy mustard.

The Naschmarkt. I bought a yummy grapefruit and juicy peach for an afternoon snack in the museum district. Then later we ate dinner at a little restaurant in the middle of the market. Safe to say Naschmarkt was our fave place in Vienna.

St. Stephan’s Cathedral and St. Charles’ church. Absolutely stunning. 

Then in Salzburg, one of my favorite things was the little blessing of being able to put our backpacks in lockers since we weren’t staying the night. That was a gift. Our backs would have been aching like whoa.

Now onto more pics…

The walking bridges with locks on the siding + the rushing, blue river.
Mirabell Gardens. I’m obsessed with flowers so I was absolutely in heaven. I literally couldn’t stop smelling the roses! The intricacy of flowers always amazes me, but with this many of them neatly lined in rows I was particularly stunned. Plus the archway of ivy was so fun to stroll/skip down…Vontrapp kiddo style, of course.
Leopoldskron Palace. For all you Sound of Music fans out there, it was used as the back of the Vontrapp’s house and it was the lake where Maria and the kids fell out of the boat!
Hellbrunn’s Palace. Not only is this THE Sound of Music house, it’s a huge estate that also houses the infamous gazebo where Leisel and Raulph shared their first kiss + discussion about how she is sixteen now and is about to turn seventeen.
The field in front of Frohnburg Palace. Sadly, my camera died at this point–but hopefully I’ll snag a picture from Meg or Becca soon! The field covered in little baby yellow flowers and the mountains in the distance topped with snow made the view absolutely incredible!

Austria was a hit.