Santorini – The island of blue roofs, white wash houses & cats

Have you ever had a dream? Maybe to sky dive or see the Eiffel Tower? My dream, since I have seen pictures of Greece, was to go to Santorini.

Well, I accomplished this dream. To finally cross that dream off my bucket list seems unreal.

The surreal feeling I was overcome with is euphoric. To actually be there, seeing the blue roofs, white wash houses and even the donkeys was mind blowing.

My first hour in Santorini was everything I expected. We had transportation from the airport to our hostel, and as soon as we got in the car greek music was playing and the sun was rising in the distance. It was picture perfect to say the least. Even though I was exhausted, having slept (or not slept) in an airport, was all taken away by the beauty that surrounded me.

We drove the winding roads, listening to greek music, with a greek driver singing along, and my first impression of Santorini was simply breathtaking.

It was a bit cold, but that did not keep me down. I was in Santorini, what more could I want?.

The moment I realized I was really in Greece was when I saw the donkeys. Sounds pretty funny, and you think it only happens in movies, but donkeys are forms of transportation in Greece. The best part is they are led by a little Grecian man!

Sophie and I finally got to our hostel and it was the best surprise to step out of the car and see the sunrise. It’s like everything you ever hope it to be. The sun is bigger than you will ever see and the colors radiate off the majestic Aegean sea.

We could not check into our hostel until 9 and it was only 6:30. I was freaking out because we had our bags and no place to go, but in the end it was a blessing. We had a few hours to sit on the beach (which was 100ft from our hostel) and we just napped on the beach while enjoying the sunrise.

The hostel we stayed at was on Perissa Beach (Black Sand Beach). It was this nice villa, and Sophia and I had our own little room, terrace included.

The first day was kind of chilly and windy, but we still laid on the beach. We napped and ate our first authentic Greek gyro (which is better than I thought it would be).

After a much needed nap, we went and found the most glorious place on earth, Dorian’s Pub. Dorian’s pub was one of the highlights of the trip. Every hour of every day was happy hour. We had cocktails for 3 euro every night during our stay.

The next day, we rented an ATV and went exploring the island of Thira. We traveled to the red sand beach (Akrotiri). The fact there is a red sand beach, a black sand beach and a white sand beach on one island is unreal to me. There is just beauty all around.

After exploring the red beach, we went to see the light house at the southwest end of the island. It was just one of the many breathtaking sights we saw. You can see the whole island from the top, as well as the sea off in the distance.

You can see the reflection of the sun glowing off the blue water. I just sat in awe and couldn’t really comprehend how all this beauty could be surrounding me. Every direction I looked, I was amazed by something else.

After we sat at the lighthouse for 3 hours, we decided it was time to go. Even though we wanted to go home, our ATV did not want us too.

The ATV did not start. So Sophia and I are by this lighthouse, maybe 40 mins away from our hostel, and we have no phone, no idea what to do. So we start pushing this ATV down the road. There has to be hotel or someone who can help us, right?

I am pretty sure it was a guardian angel sent to us from God, but someone how a lady heard us trying to start our ATV and came running to our help, AND she had a phone.

We called the ATV company and they sent someone to come fix it. I have to say though, our ATV died in a beautiful place, so we didn’t complain too much.

When he fixed it, I wanted nothing more than to just go get a drink and sit on the beach. So that’s what we did. That’s basically what we did every night.

Everyday I woke up to the sound of birds chirping, the Grecian sun on my face and cats, lots and lots of cats.

On our third day there, the sun was shining and it was nice and warm. A perfect day to lay by the beach and get some sun. Something I have been deprived of in Holland.

We sat on the beach under our umbrella, in front of the Aegean Sea, and I felt as if I was in a dream. The only word that could describe that moment was blissful paradise.

Later that night we went to the capital, Fira, and then to the famous sunset town, Oia. Every thing, every view, every where you looked you were encircled by beauty. No matter which direction you turned in, your mind was completely shattered by the amount of gorgeous things surrounding you.

We walked around Fira for a little bit, shopping and just watching the sun slowly go down. We then we went to Oia to watch the sunset.

Waiting on top of the ledge, anticipating the worlds most famous sunset, my mind just wandered. I couldn’t actually believe that I was here. I was in Santorini, watching a sunset I thought I would only see in pictures. I was just taken away by this.

When they tell you it is the most beautiful sunset you will ever see, they (whoever they are) are 100% right.

The sky just captivates you. It turns colors I never thought the sky could be. It almost look like it was on fire, but in the most beautiful way.

We waited around two hours for the sunset and in a matter of 5 minutes it was gone. I have to say it was one of the best “waiting” moments of my life.

I don’t think I will ever witness anything more beautiful in my life and I feel so grateful I can say I have seen the world’s most famous sunset AND sunrise.

On our last day there, we just sat on the beach, walked around the little town of Perissa and just relaxed.

Knowing that I was coming back to Leiden one last time, and I had to say goodbye to the home I have made these past four months was a little bittersweet.

For mine and Sophia’s last trip, Santorini was last, but definitely not least. Fulfilling this dream met every expectation I had seen in pictures and read online.

There are no words to describe how this trip affected me. It may sound weird thinking that a place can change you, but once you experience it, you believe in it and I strongly believe in it.

For those of you who have those places on your bucket list, but can’t find the time, money or a way to do it, know that it is possible. I did it.

I urge you to do the same. The feeling you get when you see something you have only dreamed of is better than anything you can ever imagine.

Yes, you may have to save money, but what I have learned my past few months here and from visiting Santorini is that traveling is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer.

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Last Month in Leiden

Today I have officially been here four months, and in a short 9 days I leave. Time is dwindling down and I find myself experiencing the lasts of many things.

Coming here I never would have thought my life would change as much as it did. It is hard to comprehend all the life changing things I have experienced. And lucky for me, I still have one more trip.

The past month I have done so much and time continues to go by so fast. It amazes me how fast time travels.

The past month has been crazy, and I have done so much in such a short amount of time.

I went to a dutch Easter service, I saw the tulips at Keukenhof Tulip Gardens, and I experienced my first Kings Day (an experience I will never forget).

King’s Day was the longest day ever. The weekend felt like a blur, and that wasn’t from the alcohol, I promise.

We went to Amsterdam on King’s Night. We did the Heineken Experience and walked the streets of Amsterdam being a tourist one last time.

That night we experienced Leiden during King’s weekend. They had live music on the canal and people everywhere.

The next day was even more amazing. We started pretty early. We had the whole day to go crazy, so we wanted to take advantage of every hour.  We walked around Leiden for a while listening to all the music and seeing a sea of orange all around.

We then had a BBQ. It felt so much like home! Kind of similar to celebrating Fourth of July. We grilled food and enjoyed the company of good friends. Probably ate and drank way too much, but that was the fun of it.

After a nice nap, we had to continue the fun. It was safe to say I was a zombie. Laying in my bed at the end of the night, or beginning of the morning, had never felt so good.

The days leading up to now we have just been enjoying Leiden. Eating our favorite foods, going to our favorite places, and just spending time with the family I have created here. I justify eating so much food with the fact I am leaving.

I never thought I would come here and meet the amazing people I have. I have made friends that I know will be in my life forever.

The fact I have to say goodbye to this place soon breaks my heart. This place is home now and everything has become so familiar. I think the biggest fear I have from leaving is wondering whether or not I’ll ever experience something so wonderful again.

It will be weird going back to St. Louis and having to become familiar with everything again. Coming here, everything was so unfamiliar and now I feel at home.

I still have 9 more days left in Europe and everyday I am going to cherish and hold onto for as long as I can.

Mi Corazon esta en Barcelona (My Heart is in Barcelona)

Words can’t describe the feeling I have for Spain. Barcelona or Madrid. Spain will always hold a piece of my heart.  This trip especially.

From the beginning, I told myself I cannot fall in love with Barcelona.  My sister would kill me because it is not Madrid. But I cannot deny the fact that Barcelona has completely blindsighted me and stole my whole heart.

From the moment the trip started to the time I was back in my small room in Leiden. It was just perfection.  I mean, I can’t complain because I was with all my friends in a country I love.  What more could I ask for?

The trip started early Friday morning. Two thirty in the morning to be exact.  I had no sleep and was running off of coffee and fumes.  The plane ride was an experience. It was early in the morning and I had the pleasure of watching the sun rise while I was on my way to Spain.

We finally landed in Spain and found our way to our hostel.  From seeing the first sights of Barcelona, I knew that it would be hard not to fall in love.  The feeling I had being back in Spain was such a comfortable feeling.

When I had gone there two years ago, my spanish was not at all sufficient.  Coming back after two years, I really felt accomplished.  I was communicating and understanding it all.  I was asking directions, ordering food, having conversations with locals.  It felt so incredible to be able to speak another language.  And being in Spain felt even more incredible. It just felt like I fit.

We began our day with lunch.  All I dreamed of since booking my ticket to Barcelona was ordering my first jamon y queso y cafe con leche (ham and cheese and coffee and milk). The first day that we were there we did a walking tour of the city.  It is an incredible way to see some of the best sights of Barcelona.  We saw La Cathedral de Barcelona (Barcelona’s cathedral), the Born (Shopping district), the Gothic Quarter, and so much more. We walked the steps where Christopher Columbus decided he was going to trek to the great Americas.  We saw the ruins of Barcelona, along with the palace of the old monarchy.  We ended the tour at the Arco del Triunfo (Arc of Triumph). Yes, there is one very similar in the famous Paris. This one is kind of like a twin.  We walked up and down the streets, in various parks, simply marveling at everything.

It was so surreal to be in Spain! Everyday felt like a dream and it just kept getting better.

By the evening, I had been up for over 36 hours and I was fading fast. We went back to our hostel, had a quick nap and then we went to see a light show.  The light show was basically a huge fountain that they put a water and light show on for the public.  It was such a magical feeling sitting on the stairs, watching this light show, and seeing the city of Barcelona in front of you.

After the light show, we headed to the port of Barcelona to indulge in some traditional Spanish food and drinks. We ate paella de mariscos (A traditional spanish dish with seafood), patatas bravas (fried potatoes with a spicy sauce), and of course sangria. I ate everything on my plate and it was the best feeling in the whole world to be eating paella and drinking sangria right next to the sea.

The next day, we woke up early, got some breakfast and headed to La Sagrada Familia. La Sagrada Familia is a church in Barcelona.  It was created by the famous artist Gaudi.  Gaudi’s artwork can be seen all throughout Barcelona.  He was known for his creative architecture that is incredibly different from the other gothic features in Barcelona.

After we ate a small snack, we found our way to Gaudi’s park, Park Güell.  This is the park that Gaudi designed and it is in the highest spot of Barcelona.  We hiked our way up, which felt like hours upon hours.  It was as if we were walking parallel to the mountain, but we eventually made it.

We spent a few hours in the park, just soaking up as much as it as we could.  We hiked to the tallest peak we could find and just sat and looked out at Barcelona below.  We could see everything.  The sea, the Cathedral de Barcelona, La Sagrada Familia.  All the sights we had seen the day before, we were looking at from above the city.

Every moment of the trip had just been breathtaking and looking out over Barcelona was even more breathtaking.

After the park, we ate some lunch and made of our way back to our hostel to rest before we went out at night.  That night we went to a bar called Le Cyrano.  It was honestly the most unique bar I have been too. You payed three euros for a drink.  The bartender then gave you the bottle of alcohol with a glass and you were free to fill it up as much as you liked. Another cool thing about the bar was how they gave you free popcorn with the drinks.  Your table got a large bag of popcorn and you got to enjoy your highly alcoholic drink.  It was absolutely genius.  Safe to say, it was a great night, with great company, at an even greater place.

The next day, we decided, would be our beach day.  Before we walked to the beach, eating some churros con chocolate was a necessary thing.  Every morning, my goal was to get cafe con leche and eat something new.  And I accomplished that goal.

On our way to the beach, we stopped at a supermercado (supermarket) and bought jamon (ham), queso (cheese), pan (bread) and of course, sangria.  As soon as we got to the beach, my heart was full of joy.  I honestly cannot describe the feeling I had seeing the Mediterranean.  Just seeing the water, the waves, and the sunset in the distance made me feel so infinite.

We sat on the beach for hours, enjoying each others company, eating our food, and drinking our sangria.

I’m not going to lie, my eyes did swell up with tears first seeing the beach.  It was just an enchanting day and I didn’t want it to be over.

After the beach, we went to a small tapas restaurant (traditional spanish appetizers) and I had finally got to eat tortilla espanola (spanish omelet). Which I had been dreaming about since I knew I was traveling to Spain.  It was a wonderful way to end one of the best days in Barcelona.

On our last day in Barcelona, we spent it eating and shopping. We then made our way to Las Ramblas (a famous shopping district). We found ourselves at the entrance of an open-air market. (It was like El Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid). I wish we would have found this place earlier because it was miraculous.  It had so much fresh fruit, fish, bread, anything you could have imagined. I bought myself ice cream and some fresh frutilla (strawberries).

We walked along Las Ramblas and then decided to have one last spanish meal before we boarded the bus back to the airport.  I had my last spanish sangria and it was the best so far.

Boarding the plane, I couldn’t help but feel bittersweet.  Being in Spain made me feel so fortunate.  As the plane took off, I could’t help but start crying (yes, I was one of those people).  I had just experienced one of the best weekends of my life. And as much as I didn’t want it to happen and I tried to stop it from happening, Barcelona completely and incandescently stole my heart.  Every street, sign, person, food, the language. It all just captivated me and I fell in love.

If I had not felt fortunate before that moment, I did at that time.  It was something I will ever forget. I was in a plane, leaving Barcelona, after one of the most incredible weekends of my life.

My heart was full. Although it felt so nice to be back in my bed in Leiden, I already missed the sun. I missed the beach, the warm weather (I didn’t wear a coat the whole time! I had 60 degree weather!), the food, speaking spanish. I missed everything and I had not even be gone 4 hours.

All I could feel after that weekend was just happiness. My heart was so full in that moment and it still is! Spain, for some reason, felt like home.  I left a piece of my heart in Barcelona, and I know some time in the future I will go back and it will captivate me even more. I don’t know why or how, but it has made both me and my sister fall in love.  And when I go back, which I know I will, it will be even more magical and feel even more like home to me.

Mi corazón se quede en Barcelona.  Dejé todo mi corazón en España y voy a volver a recibirlo.  Este país es lo mas mágico. España y el idioma siempre estarán en mi vida.  No puedo esperar por la día que vuelvo.  Hasta luego España.  Te extrañare! Mando muchos besos.