Friday, June 25, 2010

Madrid: Day 3

Well, technically we weren't in Madrid for most of the day, but still. We left this morning at around 9:30 for Toledo. Actually, we had breakfast first and then caught the metro to the train station where we would then go to Toledo. We thought we had planned plenty of time for all that, but apparently we were mistaken and ended up running through the train station frantically trying to find the right platform. We got on the train exactly 2 minutes before it left. Very close call.

So, once we got to Toledo we wandered around the city for a while trying to find our way around. In the center of the city is the cathedral, so we decided to start there. It took three centuries to build it and it was amazing. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, but this is what the outside looks like:

Also inside the cathedral was basically a mini museum with a bunch of paintings by El Greco (who lived there for a good portion of time), Van Dyck, Titian, etc. It was great to look at them in such an intimate setting. They also had some robes of the past cardinals of Toledo on display. Some of them were as old as the 1400s.

After our tour through the cathedral, we got lunch at a nearby cafe. Greg decided to try a dish we keep seeing everywhere...I'm not sure what it's called, but here's a picture:

The fact that it had rabbit meat in it kind of scared me off, but the rice was delicious, especially with the lemon juice. After lunch, we wandered around all the awesome narrow streets of the city with some delicious ice cream. At about this point in the day, almost everything shut down. I've heard of this happening in Spain and Italy, but we hadn't seen it in Madrid, so we didn't really think much of it. But seriously, everything was pretty much dead. It was crazy, but very cool to walk through the empty streets.

Unfortunately, this meant that most of the museums and such were closed as well. But we had a great time walking around. It's one of our favorite things to do in new cities anyways. Oh, and notice the blue sky peeping out there? Well apparently there was a 70% chance of rain at about that time. We came prepared. But there was hardly a cloud in the sky. Psh. Stupid weather channel.

Eventually we made it up to the top of the city and here is a picture of the amazing view:

After walking around for a few hours we went to relax in a park for a bit before heading out to catch the train. It was so hot all day that we were very tired by the time we finally left. See?

Oh, and for those of you who are dying to know (probably just me), while there was a decent chance I would get my LSAT score today, it hasn't happened so far. Oh well, more waiting for me. At least I get to tour Europe to keep my mind off of it. :)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Madrid: Day 2

Today did not go exactly as planned. You see, the plan was to wake up, go to the temple, come back and read and write, then go to a nice restaurant we've heard lots about for dinner. I think one of those things ended up happening. Oh well, such is life.

We did wake up, so I guess two of those things happened.

After that, we got ready, took the metro to the stop that's supposed to be near the temple, wandered around for a while trying to figure out where the temple actually is, found two newbie missionaries (one of them said it was his very first day there), and eventually got to the temple, only to find out that it is closed until Tuesday for cleaning. We leave on Sunday. Dang. We were really disappointed. But we still got this picture:

So, we went back to the hotel and checked online to make sure none of our other temple trips were going to have the same fate. Luckily neither of them should, though we might not be able to do a full session in The Hague. I was glad to see that the last two temples should be okay because those are two temples no one in my extended family has been to and I think we're trying to get to them all. 

After that, we grabbed some sandwiches for lunch and headed over to eat them on the steps of the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (we really like eating on the steps of museums). 

Then we went inside the museum to look at some modern art. A lot of the stuff on the first floor looked like this: 

I am not a big fan of that kind of art. Luckily, the second floor was much better. There was a lot of Picasso and Miro. The main attraction was Picasso's Guernica, which you're actually not allowed to take pictures of. Good thing Greg is sneaky with his camera. 

Part of it is cut off, but I thought it was a pretty good picture considering the circumstances. 

After the museum, we went to the train station to book tickets for Toledo, which we will tell you all about after we go there tomorrow. It should be fun. Then we went to the hotel and tried to make dinner reservations at the restaurant. Unfortunately, they were booked until 11:00 and we really didn't feel like eating then. Apparently in Spain, everyone eats really late. Most restaurants don't even open for dinner until 8:00. So, we decided we'll have lunch there on Saturday instead. We grabbed a quick dinner by our hotel and have been writing/watching the World Cup ever since. All in all, it's been a good day, even if it didn't go quite according to plan. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Madrid: Day 1

So we are now in Madrid. Greg keeps reminding me that this is the city where I will find out my LSAT score. I don't know how I feel about that, but so far Madrid has been great.

Our flight was supposed to leave at 6:45 this morning, but it didn't really end up leaving till about an hour later. Of course, that meant we woke up around 4:30 to get there on time. Luckily, we were both able to get some sleep on the flight and our hotel let us check in right when we arrived, so we got a nap too.

This hotel is probably the best one we've stayed in yet. Not only is there a shower, a toilet, and one bed instead of two, but we are seriously right next to the train station. We don't really even have to go outside between the two because there's a parking garage. It's great.

So when we were done napping today, we went to Puerta del Sol, which is kind of like the city center. It's a really nice area.

We eventually made our way to Plaza Mayor which is a square where some of the Spanish Inquisition took place. Now, it just has nice cafes and little shops all around.

We had a light dinner at a little cafe and then headed back to the hotel to catch up on email and of course blogging. So there you go, we're all caught up! :)

Paris: Days 1-7

Okay, so as many of you probably know, I was VERY excited to go to Paris because I've wanted to go since I was 12. Edinburgh was a very tough act to follow, but we still had a great time spending a week in Paris. I was pretty nervous the first couple of days just because we were kind of on the edge of town (but very close to the metro, so it wasn't really a big deal) and also because of the language. I've taken French for a while, but it's different actually being in France and having to get around. As time went on though, things got easier, and we made it through just great.

Here's a quick rundown of things we did: 

Day 1: This was mostly a travel day. We took the train from Edinburgh to London and then from London to Paris, so by the time we actually got in, it was late and we basically just had dinner at a cafe near our hotel and went to bed. (Our hotel is in the Montmartre area of Paris). 

Day 2: We slept in, then found a patisserie for breakfast where we split a baguette (which we then did every morning after. It's a tasty breakfast. I love bread). After breakfast, we went to Sainte Chapelle, and were a little big disappointed by the fact that the main part of the chapel was being restored and therefore blocked off. It was still very beautiful though. 

After that, we went to Notre Dame, but decided not to climb all the way to the top because of the extremely long lines. 

We had lunch near a fountain somewhere and after a short nap, went to Sacre Coeur. 

Greg thinks his hair looks bad in this picture. He wants everyone to know that. We were really excited about this because one of our favorite movies, Amelie, has a great scene here. We even looked through the same telescope-ish thing as they did in the movie. I'll spare you the picture for that one. Then, to continue the Amelie theme, we found the restaurant where she works. We got lost a few times on the way, but it was well worth it.

Day 3: We started the day at the Louvre, which was great. We ended up seeing the Mona Lisa and the Venus sculpture despite big crowds. It was crazy to see them in person, but you couldn't really get a good look because of all the tourists thronging around. Oh well. Here are some of our other favorites: 

After the Louvre, we had some delicious quiche for lunch and ate ice cream in the Tuilleries gardens, which was lovely. Then, we walked down the Champs Elysees and to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. 

It was a very full day. We decided we didn't really want to go to a restaurant for dinner, so we bought some cereal and milk and ate it out of plastic cups at our hotel. It was very satisfying. 

Day 4: This was another museum day. We spent the morning at the Musee d'Orsay looking at impressionist and post-impressionist art (definitely my favorite style). Unfortunately, cameras were not allowed, so I have no pictures to share. You will just have to go yourself. Afterwords, we got lunch at a boulangerie and ate on the steps of the museum. Our favorite part was this incredible dessert: 

My mouth is watering just looking at it. It was SO good. After lunch, we went back to the hotel to do some reading and writing and maybe a little bit of napping too. Then, for dinner, we went to a restaurant suggested by Katherine, called La Gare. It was delicious (though not as delicious as Kennedy's cooking) and the atmosphere was very cool because it's in an old train station. 

Day 5: We spent the whole day at Versailles, which was amazingly extravagant. I don't think I could live in a place so huge and richly decorated. It was definitely interesting though, and the grounds and fountains were beautiful. We also saw Marie Antoinette's palace, which was also amazing. 

When we got home, we decided to gorge on Dominos pizza. So not French. But so tasty. 

Day 6: We spent most of the morning in Pere Lachaise Cemetary, which may sound odd, but you'd be amazed by how many famous people are buried there. It's also huge, so it took us a quite a while to scope out all the graves we wanted to find. We ended up looking at Seurat, Bizet, Delacroix, Balzac, Proust, Edith Piaf, Moliere, Bellini, Rossini, Poulenc, Jim Morrison (oddly enough), and, our favorites: Oscar Wilde...

and Chopin...

We had lunch outside the Pompidou Centre, which was cool to look at, though kind of ugly really. Then we walked around St. Germain de Pres, a really cute area that reminded us of Manhattan. We walked inside a very old church there and had a delicious crepe with nutella and bananas. 

For dinner, we randomly decided to go to a restaurant we read about in our guide book that was in Montmartre. But when we got there, there were people everywhere grilling hot dogs and kebabs. We found a flier saying that it was the Fete de la Musique. So we bagged the restaurant, bought some kebabs, and walked around listening to various bands performing along the street. Our favorite was a group consisting of a guitar, accordian, cello, tuba, a clarinet, and a singer. They were awesome. 

Day 7: The first part of the day we spent looking around at the Galleries Lafayette shopping center. If I had an unlimited amount of money, that's where I would have been buying clothes. Every designer I can think of had a store there. It was quite overwhelming. 

Next, we had lunch on the steps of the Paris Opera House. We wanted to go inside for a tour, but unfortunately there was a rehearsal going on, so we couldn't. Luckily for us, someone outside decided to give an impromptu solo of Andrew Lloyd Weber's Phantom. If only he had been on key...

That night, we went on a river boat tour on the Seine. It was really lovely. It was the best weather we had all week and we went right at sunset, so it was beautiful.

Then, we went to the Eiffel Tower. We got to it right when the lights came on, so our timing was pretty much perfect. We had to wait in a very long line, of course, but the city looked beautiful from the top. It was a great way to end our stay in Paris. 

Edinburgh: Day 3

First of all, we are in Madrid now and have internet! Yay! So you can all expect the blogging to be back to normal now (aka every couple of days). At least until we leave for Rome, where I'm not sure what the status will be. Oh well. Now, for the update on what we've been doing for the past week:

Our last day in Edinburgh was amazing! (I'm sure I'm using that word way too much, but it's true!) We had so much fun we just wanted to stay there forever and bag the rest of the Europe trip (almost). We spent the day with Greg's beautiful friend from his Juilliard days, Katherine, and her talented boyfriend Kennedy. They are wonderful and were sweet enough to show us around Scotland. Katherine picked us up in Edinburgh and we took a lovely little drive through the countryside to Balfron where they live. It's a pretty small town and everything there was so...perfect. We went on a walk by their house (Greg forgot to bring the camera) and passed by sheep grazing, a little stream with baby ducklings, and all around beautiful scenery. 

Then, we took a short drive to Balmaha to see Loch Lomond. Apparently, it was very surprising that I knew the words to the song about it (Oh, you take the high road and I'll take the low road...etc.) I thought that was a common knowledge thing...oh well. Again, the view was absolutely stunning and this time we have pictures to prove it. 

After taking a little walk there, we stopped by a grocery store to pick up some snacks and decided to try out a few candy bars that don't exist in the states. We picked out three...and I can only remember the name of one of them, which was Whispa. It was my favorite. Greg liked one with chocolate and honeycomb. They were all great. 

Then, we went back to Katherine and Kennedy's house and had an incredible dinner that the master chef Kennedy had made for us. It was seriously the best thing we've had on this whole trip. He's a gourmet chef and if he ever opens up a restaurant, you can bet we'll be moving in nearby so we can go all the time. 

After dinner, we went and had hot chocolate at a cute little restaurant right on the edge of the Lake of Menteith (the one actual lake in Scotland...the rest are lochs). 

It was basically the perfect day. Thank you SO much Katherine and Kennedy for making the day incredible! Please come visit Utah soon so we can return the favor. :) 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Quick Update

Sorry for the recent lack of posting. We are alive, we just don't have any internet access in our hotel.

Tomorrow we leave Paris and head to Madrid where there will be internet. Then we will update you on our amazing last day in Edinburgh (thanks to Katherine and Kennedy) and our week in Paris.

Thanks for your patience!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Edinburgh: Days 1 & 2

Edinburgh has been absolutely amazing so far. We like it even better than London. It just feels a lot more homey here for some reason. The first day here we didn't do too much because we were traveling for most of the day. The train from London took about 5 hours, but it was all through beautiful countryside so it wasn't actually so bad.

After we actually arrived, we checked into our hotel and were thrilled to discover that we have a toilet in our room (even if the shower is almost on top of it). Our hotel room is pretty close to the old university, so it's a really nice area as well. After checking into our hotel and having lunch at a cute little coffee shop, we met up with one of my good friends who happens to be interning for the Scottish Parliament. We climbed to the top of Calton Hill and got a good look at the amazing city.

It was absolutely beautiful. On one side, you see this old city, and then if you look a little ways either direction, there are these incredible green hills. I love it. This picture is Greg standing on the unfinished national monument on top of the hill. Apparently, they were going to build a replica of the Parthenon, but they ran out of money.

Later that night, since it was our one year anniversary, Greg surprised me with reservations at a very fancy restaurant on the top floor of the Scottish National Museum. The food was delicious (though we weren't really sure what exactly we were ordering) and our table had a great view of the castle.

The next day (today), we had breakfast at that same cute little cafe. It was our favorite breakfast yet in Europe. Scones and hot chocolate. Yum.

Needless to say, we will be going back tomorrow for more. After breakfast, we walked over to the castle and took a tour. It was great to learn about the history of such an old building.

After our tour, we had lunch at The Elephant House, which is where J.K. Rowling started writing Harry Potter. I guess there's a cemetery right outside the window with the grave of Tom Riddle (although I think it's actually spelled Riddel). Pretty cool though.

After lunch, we walked what's known as The Royal Mile, which is the street that goes from the castle to the palace where the queen lives when she comes to visit Scotland (which is really only about once a year). There were a lot of fun tourist shops along the way, but the palace was the best part. Again, there were a lot of great stories, especially about Mary Queen of Scots, who we think is actually an ancestor of Greg's.

It definitely makes me want to read more about her (Desi, I might have to get the name of that book you were talking about..)

It's been an incredible two days and we're so excited to spend tomorrow with one of Greg's good friends driving around the countryside. Scotland is amazing!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

London: Day 4

Today was our last day in London. We can't believe we're done with our first city already. We spent the day traveling, mostly. We started out bright and early and took a train from Victoria Station to Lingfield, which is where the temple is. It's about an hour and a half away from the city. It seemed like a pretty small little town and we had a little trouble finding a cab. After calling 3 different services, someone finally agreed to come pick us up, and we did a session. It was a beautiful temple and they actually have lodging for visitors right next to it.

We didn't take our cameras with us, so that's just a picture from Greg's phone. After the temple, we did some quick shopping at Zara, H&M, Topshop, etc. Unfortunately, I don't have tons of room in my bag and I was really only looking for a dress, and they were all too short, so I didn't come out with anything. So we went back to the hotel and watched the World Cup game. It was pretty crazy seeing all the people here decked out in their England shirts. The pubs were all full and we could here people yelling outside when they scored a goal. There will probably be a lot of drunk people here tonight. Oh well...on to Edinburgh!

Friday, June 11, 2010

London: Day 3

It's been another great day for us. After breakfast, we went to Hyde Park and walked around for a bit. We found the Serpentine Lake (pond? I don't know) and took pictures of all the birds.

After walking around a bit more, we went to Buckingham Palace. There wasn't really much to do there because we couldn't actually go inside. We did find out, however, that the queen had come in about 30 minutes before we got there. Bummer.

As you can see, Greg's beard is coming along slowly. He says it's itchy though, so it might not last too long.

After Buckingham Palace, we went to lunch at Cafe Rouge, a little French restaurant, where Greg ate gruyere cheese and didn't even throw up.  Then we headed over to the National Gallery where we saw paintings by Seurat, van Gogh, Monet, and Degas. The ballerinas by Degas were my favorite. Greg liked a winter landscape by Monet.

Next, we decided to go check out Covent Garden, which we actually thought was a garden. It's not. It's more like a little shopping center with a bunch of lame street performers. But we did enjoy some hot chocolate and had pizza for dinner.

The best part of the day, though, was after dinner when we went to Swan Lake at Royal Albert Hall. We were on the very last row in the very top balcony. But it was still incredible.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

London: Days 1 & 2

Well, we made it! We flew out June 7 at about 10:15 AM and after a brief stop in New York, we flew into London, landing at around 7:30 AM. Unfortunately, neither one of us had very much luck sleeping on the plane, (we watched Sherlock Holmes instead), so we were both exhausted by the time we got in. We went to our hotel, but couldn't check in, so we dropped off our heavy bags and went to find something to do. Of course, while dropping off our bags, we also dropped off our cameras (oops).

Anyway, we decided to take the tube over to Westminster Abby, which was beautiful. We toured around inside and walked around outside for a while. Basically, until I didn't think I could stand up anymore. Luckily, at that point it was after 1:00, so we headed back to the hotel to check in and get some much needed sleep.

We woke up around 5:30 and went out (this time with our cameras) to find some dinner.

We went to a pub in Leicester Square (which kind of looked like the Times Square of London) and ordered some fish and chips. I'm not actually a huge fan of fish, but this was pretty good. And huge. After dinner, we wandered around outside for a while and found the Somerset House. From there we saw the London Eye and decided that sunset would be a cool time to get a good look at the city.

After walking around a bit more, we went back to the hotel to sleep. Our room looks like this:

So we have a shower and a sink, but no toilet. The toilet is down two floors. Oh well, it could be worse.

Today, we started out late after catching up on some sleep, and had breakfast at a cafe down the street where we heard the sweetest british grandpa reading Thomas the Tank Engine to his grand daughter. It was adorable. After that, we took the tube to try and find the Tate Modern Museum. Instead, St. Paul's Cathedral caught our attention, so we stopped there. We ended up climbing around 500 steps to get an awesome view of the city.

Anyway, after the Cathedral, we bought sandwiches at a little store and ate them on the steps. Greg even fed some birds. (Isn't that where the "feed the birds" lady sits in Mary Poppins?) Next, we found the Tate Modern and walked across the Milennium Bridge to get there. I'm pretty sure that's the bridge that was destroyed by the death eaters in the last Harry Potter. The museum was great (and free) and we saw a bunch of Picasso, Andy Warhol, and "The Kiss" by Rodin.

That was most of our day today. We only have two days left here before we move on to Edinburgh!