Croatia, the Seanic Route

Croatia is a pretty fascinating country. Not only is it beautiful and offers incredible sites to see, but it also offers a rich history and culture, of which I was unaware before visiting. I had booked a spot on a sailboat through Croatia, on the recommendation of many a friend who said it would be one of the best experiences of your life. The idea of being able to stay in the one room while visiting multiple regions of Croatia was appealing, and the opportunity to meet more people even more so!

I landed in Split, and while the airport was potentially one of the WORST airports I have been to (and was reinforced on the journey out of Split), the trip into the centre of town was cruisey. I got lost in the centre of town, a). because Google Maps doesn’t work and b). because Google Maps is actually wrong and doesn’t include streets that exist in the old centre. But there are no cars permitted and the worst you have to deal with is the bustle of like-minded tourists also attempting to navigate. As I was sure that the next week in Croatia was going to be crazy, I took the opportunity for some quiet alone time to write, recharge, enjoy coffee and explore. (Warning people, while they may hike up the prices over summer, Croatia isn’t nearly as cheap as I thought it would be!)

 

The walking tour of Split was an excellent way to explore and learn about Croatian history and culture. We started in the Diocletian’s Palace, which was essentially an open palace built as the retirement home of the Roman Emperor Diocletian way back in the 4th Century AD. Today, it forms the “Old City” of Split, with people living within its walls today. The Palace was originally constructed with 4 main entrances; the Gold Gate, Silver Gate, Bronze Gate and Iron Gate, with each entrance assigned to different classes of visitor (Of course the Emperor entering via the Golden Gate). The Bronze Gate originally backed onto the Sea, but today, there lies the Promenade filled with restaurants and the harbour filled with a huge array of boats, ships and luxury yachts. The Palace itself was incredibly easy to get lost in, but also easy to find yourself; being not so large and once you hit an outer wall, you knew where you were again. It was filled with speciality shops, bakeries, restaurants, the Cathedral and main square, clothes shops and Game of Thrones memorabilia. The Diocletian’s Palace was a filming site for the 4th season of GoT!

The History of Croatia was absolutely fascinating, with so many different changes of hands, from the settlement by the Illyrians, take over by the Roman Empire, the Venetians, the Ottoman Empire, then even Austria took control for a while after a brief period of French rule. It then entered into a union to create Yugoslavia by the merger of  State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, which remained this was until World War II, and in 1941 was occupied by Germany and Italy. It was only in 1991 that Croatia declared independence with Dubrovnik joining in 1992. No wonder the Croatians speak so many different languages! Our tour guide’s own grandmother was born in Northern Croatia when the Venetian Empire was in control of the region, and to this day declares herself Italian, and refuses to speak any language other than Italian. Each tour guide I met spoke at least three or four different languages fluently and seemed to slip between them with absolute ease.

 

On my only full day, I decided to go on an excursion to Krka National Park, as I had heard that the walks and waterfalls were absolutely incredible. I found the little museum of the water mills and old farming town interesting, and the walks along the boardwalk were enjoyable, but absolutely packed with people (and I apparently went on a quieter day!). I was so grateful to have downloaded my special app where I could delete people- just check out the difference!

 

On my final solo night in Split, I treated myself to an early dinner and hiked up the Marjan Park Hill to enjoy the sunset. I had been warned that the promenade of Split would be busy due to a memorial service of one of the country’s National heroes and singers, Oliver Dragojevic, but I was not prepared for HOW busy it was going to be. It was almost impossible to move against the crowds, but once I was away from it all, it was a pretty impressive sight to look back on. Navy ships led a procession out of the harbour with thousands of people singing and bidding farewell to what must have been an incredible man. The views of the sunset were spectacular and definitely worth the hike.

 

The next day marked the start of seven nights on a boat. The boat was by no means luxury, and I was not expecting this at all. Small, hot rooms, showers over the toilets, limited space. But my oh my, what a fun week. Upon meeting our fellow passengers and having our first meal together on board, we were off to the island of Hvar.

After taking a water taxi to the island itself, we made the trek up to the magnificent look out of the fortress. From such a high vantage point it was easy to see why the spot was chosen for its defensive viewpoint. The views back over the city were simply incredible. Our first group dinner and we had the choice of “normal food” or “Asian”, and while I was keen to try some Croatian delicacies, I wasn’t disappointed. After a few drinks we were off to a bar for more drinks and a boogie and my lordy was it hot and sweaty in there. There is absolutely no point wearing any makeup when going out in Croatia because it will end up by your knees in the first fifteen minutes of dancing. We then took another boat to another smaller island to enjoy more dancing and more drinks, only to return to the main island for late night bakery delights before bed.

 

A change in schedule meant that we were in for a long day of sailing to Dubrovnik, home of King’s Landing in Game of Thrones. We were to stay for two nights, and I was super excited for the Game of Thrones walking tour! The first day, as we were on the boat for most of the day, involved a quiet, subdued dinner after everyone had gotten day-drunk at happy hour. The following day was for exploring Dubrovnik properly! The sites were spectacular and easy to picture what scenes they were a part of (if you were imaginative enough to take out the hoards of people!). Dubrovnik and the old city was amazing. The uniform white stone of the streets and the buildings instantly took you back in time and it felt so large, so much bigger than I had imagined. Oh! And it rained! For the first time in MONTHS, I felt RAIN! I wasn’t even upset, it was refreshing and brought a little bit of relief from the unrelenting heat. Again, a night out on the town and far too much alcohol for all. We partied in a castle, which had a stupid system of requiring you to scan your entry ticket to leave- who keeps those things? The scary event occurred on a bus, where myself and one other girl from my boat noticed that another VERY drunk girl was wearing the same bracelet as us, meaning she was on another boat from the same company. She tried to get off early and we told her that she could get off with us and we would help find her boat. When it came time for our stop, we tried to get her to come off with us, but she refused and sat down again. The doors closed before we could get her off and she rode off. We informed one of the staff members when we got back to our boat, but it was something that definitely played on my mind for the next couple of days, but also questioned how someone could get so drunk in a strange place. I guess in these environments it’s easy to think you are safe and have friends that would look out for you, but at the same time, anything can happen!

 

Next morning, after a very hot and unrestful night, we were off to Mlijet. It must be that they have to include this in the itinerary to give everyone a quiet night, as there is no nightclub and a curfew of 11pm. I definitely wasn’t complaining, nor were many others. The island included a National Park with a few lakes which were beautiful to walk around, and I took the opportunity to get in some exercise and walk around the larger one (unfortunately we didn’t get there early enough to get the full way around), so I stopped for a swim stop and returned to the boat. The National park was absolutely beautiful, and you could kayak, rent bikes, swim. It was amazing.

 

Next day we were off to Korcula, which was my favourite island and spot in Croatia. We explored a beautiful little sea-side promenade filled with restaurants and a little market, beautiful quaint stone streets and buildings filled with shops, houses and restaurants. It was a quieter and smaller area to town, but still had a bit of a bustling nightlife. There were a few other boats at Korcula that evening, and we all ended up at the one bar where the best music (classic 90s hits) and when the club closed at 2am to the Looney Tunes theme “That’s all Folks”, we wandered to the local pizza shop and back to the boat. It was my kind of night out for sure.

 

The following morning we were all looking a little worse for wear, but when we were reminded we all had either Ziplining or Canyoning in the afternoon, we perked up. I had been Canyoning in New Zealand, which was amazing, but decided Ziplining was the activity for me that afternoon. The scenery was mindblowing. Ziplining over 700m, 150m in the air was exactly what was needed to kick the hangover. That evening, in Makarska, we had our “Pirate Party” where we went out to the club in a cave, aka Cave Rave. The music was a little average, but with the right group of people, it was still a blast. That evening was potentially the best nights sleep I had, as I slept on the roof of the boat. It was only when the hot sun came out at 8am that I felt too hot and had to get some shade.

 

That day, we sailed back into Split after a brief pitstop at the beach, where we partook in a beach water aerobics class, half in English, Half in Croatian, conducted by a lovely and very fit man in a bright red speedo, and the afternoon activity of rafting. I can’t say that the rafting was overly difficult or adrenaline pumping, more so a gentle cruise down the river and one moderate drop, with the boat uneven due to one side of the boat significantly slacker than the other. (I, of course, was on the strong side. LEFT SIDE. STRONG SIDE.) The last night, we were all convinced to head out for one last drink all together as a group. A great way to finish with a great group of people.

 

By coincidence, I had booked the exact same hotel with two girls from the boat; New Zealanders living in London. We headed over to the hotel, handed over all of our washing, and wandered back into town for lunch. I treated myself to a massage while the gals napped, and then we all went out for one final evening meal together, at a great little restaurant called “Kod sfinge vaneuropske zviri”. It was a little family-run restaurant that served delicious fresh seafood and Croatian specialities. YUM.

 

A funny little side note- one of the New Zealand gals had seriously swollen feet. I guess a side effect of plane travel, too much alcohol, not too much activity and salty food. Not only did we stop in to get some compression socks, but the Pharmacist also suggested some natural diuretics, which apparently worked a treat. She was not the only one on the boat to experience the swollen feet side effects! Be careful people!

 

The Best of Berlin

Another quick pitstop in Madrid and Barcelona to see an old Uni friend was JUST what I needed after the very emotional farewell from Toledo. It’s amazing just how much better you can feel seeing some familiar faces and hearing some familiar accents. I, of course, took Grant and Jess to my fav fav fav pintxo bar in Barcelona, and a delicious seafood dinner in Barceloneta, after drinks on the beach and stumbling across the Barcelona Swing Dancing Association. It was amazing. NEXT STOP. BERLIN.

BERLIN! More Australians! Birthday! What a week. I had been to Berlin many moons ago with my sister, and as such, I wasn’t overly fussed with doing TOO many touristy activities. I had for many weeks been explaining the complexity of Laura and my relationship- as non-godsisters, because I have adopted her parents as my godparents (as they are in fact only officially my sister’s godparents), but also how my parents were made redundant as her godparents when her parents decided to baptise her. Very confusing. But not all THAT important. My first morning in Berlin, and I was spoilt rotten to a sleep in, a skype date with family back home and the most delicious breakfast and coffee I have had in a long time! It was at the cafe, upon a trip to the bathroom that I stumbled across a little museum in the basement about the history of the area through the Second World War and the Soviet Occupation. Crazy. This is what I love about Berlin; history EVERYWHERE. Then headed out to the Lakes, where I was only told AFTER swimming deep in its waters, that there is rumoured to be a Nessy-style monster lurking in the depths of the Lake. Apparently it’s just a giant catfish, but STILL, it hospitalised someone! I then had my first Berlin Birthday Beer at Laura’s local craft beer tavern and whisked away to dinner at ChiCha (a Peruvian gastronomical delight), and drinks by the canal. How very Berlin.

Day two in Berlin and I was off to explore. I was recommended the Otto Weitd Museum, or Blindenwerkstatt, which commemorated the factory owner who employed, supported and saved the lives of numerous Jewish people living through the Holocaust. He employed largely blind and deaf Jews and protected and even hid Jews in the windowless room at the back and the cupboard under the stairs. Factory owners like Otto Weidt were apparently few and far between, and while there were, of course, successful and unsuccessful stories told, it was refreshing to see that not everyone submitted to the Nazi regime.

I wandered the city, and stumbled across Hakeschermarkt, fully equipped with a craft and food market, wandered along the river, Museum Island, Raigstach, Checkpoint Charlie, and Tiergarten. I ended up with meeting Laura and Laney in the beer garden Cafe Am Neuen See for beers and pretzels! YES! Pretzels! So German. It was such a pleasant evening watching both tourists and Germans alike submit to wearing oversized fluro life jackets and paddle the rowboats backwards, that we stayed for dinner, actually stayed for almost five hours. Was such a pleasant summer evening in Berlin!

Day Three and I wandered to the Underground Berlin tours, and experienced the Dark Worlds, World War II tour, into the makeshift bunker in the space above the U8 train line. It was interesting to note that the bunker would not have actually survived a direct hit but was one of the most popular public bunkers as the war progressed. They believe this to be due to the presence of the Flak Tower across the road, which was equipped with guns ready for the Luftwaffe to take down the Allied bombers and prevented them from flying too close. Funny fact about these Towers. They were built for defence as said but also housed thousands of civilians in the 364 bombing attacks on the city throughout the duration of the Second World War. The walls and roofs were thick, the structure sound and solid. When the war was over, the Allied Powers decided that they needed to demilitarise the city. As such, the towers needed to come down. But. In typical “Made in Germany” Style, they were stubborn. Each responsible for the Towers in their own designated section of the city, the Americans shipped in thousands of kilograms of dynamite, and after the dust settled, excited to see the pile of rubble they had created, they were disappointed to see the Towers still standing strong. Inside the bunker in the train station, there was this special paint that lit the room when the electricity went out, they had earth toilets, they had systems to determine how much oxygen was left in the room and when they had to go from floor to chairs to standing to standing on chairs, simply to stay alive. One of the exciting discoveries made by the Underground Berlin team was an address card cupboard for employees. There were many German companies who were later taken to court for improper treatment of ’employees’ during the time of the Second World War. The big problem was the Soviet prisoners, who, upon return to their own country, were tried for treason and assisting the Germans by working for them and sentenced to further enslavement and punishment. If they survived the death of Stalin, they were likely pardoned, after many years of torture, however. Those who were clever had destroyed all evidence of their employment/association/enslavement with any German companies, and often never spoke about it again. However, this meant that they gave up their claim on any compensation money later, as they had no proof of involvement. This discovery of the address locker changed that for many Soviet ’employees’. Members of the team personally were able to take proof and compensation money to these people and sat and listened to their stories told for the first time. It almost brought me to tears. There was so much more to see as a part of this tour, such as the Industrial Beer Boom (when beer was brewed because it was safer to drink than water), and the pressure-powered communication and transport system, often still used in some establishments (banks and hospitals etc) today. But you’ll just have to go and see it for yourself!

TURKISH MARKETS. Ever since my sister and I trekked through a snowstorm to find the Turkish Wraps, only to be disappointed that they were in fact closed because of the SNOWSTORM, I have been dreaming of the Turkish Markets again. They did not disappoint at all. It was absolutely delicious and I even treated myself to some Turkish Delight. Yes, I love Turkish Delight. No, I’m not an Irish Grandmother. Deal with it. One of my favourite things that happened here, was the sight of this HUGE black labrador stopping at the front of a sausage stall, sitting and demanding a tasty treat. Yes, he received one and it was brilliant.

Later in the evening, it was time for a picnic on the river, to watch the Blood Moon. A few interesting sights other than the moon this evening; a woman walking naked through the park being filmed and photographed (weird as anything), German “Gangsters” with their amp blasting music and taking our requests for PRINCE seriously, a man running over and trying to steal a glass of wine (UM no.), a man standing über still and paying homage to the blood moon werewolf style. It certainly was an eclectic mix of people down by the river! So we had wine at this picnic. But someone accidentally bought corked wine bottles and no corkscrew. So, I won MVP of the picnic by taking a fork and managing to push the cork into the bottle without spilling too much wine and without splitting the cork. Adding that to my resume.

Saturday in Berlin and we were slow to get going. We made our way out for lunch, picked up some treats for our HP Marathon on Sunday (apparently supermarkets still don’t open on a Sunday in Berlin), and off to a new Lake. After another couple of naps at the Lake, we were on our way back to GLITTERFY for a Saturday night glitter party. I felt like a Spice Girl Mermaid.

Sunday was perfect- the 20 year anniversary of the release of the first Harry Potter book is the 31st of July, 2018. If you didn’t celebrate it, shame on you. In showing our respect to the religion that is HP, we had a MOVIE MARATHON. I poorly made some butterbeer fudge that wouldn’t set properly, but the crepes, M&Ms and ice cream definitely got the blood sugars jumping about like a kid dosed up on red cordial on a trampoline. It was the perfect end to the weekend and perfect end to my time in Berlin with Loz and Laney. Again, I know where to turn when I need an Aussie fix, and that’s not just because of the amount of vegemite they have in their cupboards.IMG_5619

Next stop. CROATIA.

A grateful farewell

Toledo wasn’t just an opportunity to improve my Spanish through the course, but it was also an opportunity to make connections with people from all over the world. I was so lucky to have met some incredible people during my time in Toledo, and I was surprised by the strength of the connections made.

The HENS Party for Marion, combined with the birthday party for Madison went off like a bang! However, I was to realise that people couldn’t handle their alcohol as I had planned and hoped. The three-bar, two-club crawl turned into two-bar and taco takeaway joint jaunt. Maccas closed seven minutes early much to EVERYONE’S disappointment! It was, however, a brilliant night, yes the penis straws and lollies came out. But as there were also BOYS coming to the event, I cleverly found some CHICK straws to go with the penis-themed ones, which were literally baby chicken straws. I thought I was hilarious. Others not so much.

The weekend following the wedding, along with three other students, I was off to Pamplona to witness the Festival of San Fermín, aka Running with the Bulls. While I have so many mixed feelings about the festival itself, a friend- some would call him brave, others simply insane, wanted to participate. So off we were to watch and support. It was an incredible vibe in the city. I was SO surprised by just how many people were wearing the traditional ‘outfit’ for the festival- essentially white clothing with a little red necktie and belt. Literally, EVERYONE in the streets, shops, restaurants- EVERYONE EVERYWHERE was wearing it. Upon our arrival in Pamplona, it rained for the first time in four weeks. It was insane, it simply pelted down, and the Spanish people just stopped everything, hid in doorways and waited for it to pass. If you were to do this in Sydney, London, Melbourne, surely anywhere else in the world- you’d be waiting for infinite time, surely people have things to do. Apparently, not in Spain.

An early morning and trek back to the city to get a good spot for the show, and we were still three people deep in the crowd. BUT Shane, glorious Shane, weaselled his way into the crowd and got a reasonable spot to capture some videos! Madison thankfully survived to tell the tale of touching a bull, and the horrors of being pushed and shoved by the hoards of runners while numerous bulls come running full pelt at you. Apparently, bulls are NOT slow runners. On the day we witnessed, there were 6 serious injuries requiring hospitalisation, including a broken skull and internal bleeding. However, there were also women in white jeans and WEDGES “running”, however, they were positioned at the very start of the run, closest to the stadium and most out of harm’s way. I guess its all about the position you take! While I enjoyed the running of the bulls festivities, I definitely disagree with the bullfighting that followed in the afternoon. As such, as a mini-stand, I booked train tickets out of the city before they started. Not that ANYONE noticed, but it made me feel a little bit better about partaking in the festival and contributing to the hype.

The final week in Toledo was largely occupied by a little bit of stress, a few exams, a lot of sunning and pretend studying by the pool, a lot of ‘lasts’ and a lot of sad farewells. Surprisingly, I managed to do pretty well in my final exams- both written and oral, so was happy with myself! That happiness was swiftly quashed when my fellow students voted me and another student “Seok” from South Korea to present the farewell speech on behalf of our class at the fiesta. Well, at least we think it was meant to be Seok- someone wrote his name on the ballot paper as ‘Soup’… BUT, originally it wasn’t even meant to be us, the majority of the class votes actually went to Madison (we all knew he would HATE us for it- all the more reason to put his name down), but it was only after the vote that our teacher informed us she wouldn’t count votes for him because he wasn’t in class- instead he was taking another exam in Madrid. SO RUDE. But it all went well.

Some special moments from some very special friends that I will remember for a long while to come; when Sam said “So, is flamenco Spanish for flamingo?“, when Marion serenaded strangers on the escalators with the song Despacito, when Madi said “imagine if the birds fly in the window of the classroom, we’d have to yell at it in Spanish to get it out“, when Sam (again with the great ones) said “It tasted like hot dog but without the hot dog taste“- this pretty much captures the calibre of meals at the residence, as does when Marion demonstrated the hardness of the bread by smashing it on her lunch tray, Salma yelling at a specific boy to “STOP staring” only to have very obvious photos taken of her at the natural pools, when the rest of the team abandoned us at the club after the final fiesta wrapped up and Marion and I had to be informed by our teacher that they cancelled the second bus and we met, had ice (not the drug, just actual ice from ice-trays) from the boot of Jesus’ car and secured a free ride home, when Madison skipped class on the 4th of July because of “Freedom“… Oh, there’s so many more that simply don’t translate well to the written word, so I won’t bore you.

Toledo was a time full of learning, laughter and memories. I had an absolute ball and it will be a month that I will hope to remember for a long time coming. It’s so hard to put in words just how much fun I had meeting such special people, and it’s something that I truly believe has changed my perceptions of the world and people from different countries. Never before had I met anyone from Jordan, never before had I had a conversation in Japanese-Spanish-English, never before had I gotten drunk on the 4th of July with Americans, never before had I taken Flamenco classes, never before had I made great friends with our bartender and invited her to join our birthday/hens party, never before had I thrown a hens party (great practice for Nicola’s!), never before had I had such a multicultural experience, and I am so happy that I was able to share it with some amazing people I hope to call my friends for years and years to come. Now I simply have to travel the world and visit them all again, because I will miss them immensely!

But for now, the next chapter, off on a mini jaunt around Europe visiting friends and family!

xx

La segunda boda!

Another reason that Europe is so incredible- you can jump on a plane and fly for the same amount of time as a flight between Sydney and Brisbane and be in a completely different country. I was privileged enough to witness such a beautiful couple profess their unconditional love in front of their nearest and dearest! I have been to a handful of weddings, but a wedding on a boat on the River Thames, with the London Eye in the background was certainly one to remember.

The commute to London airport was great, super smooth sailing. The queue for immigration was not so much. The UK citizens and those with EU passports sail right through, no hassle, no queues. The rest of us are stuck in the holding pen for what feels like hours with the only concession being free wifi. Luckily I had my sister messaging me the menu for the cafe at which we were to meet, so plotting my first SUPER DELICIOUS coffee in a while and something scrumptious for brunch had my brain occupied. But really, Heathrow needs another line at immigration for those of us who can claim ‘Hey, OUR QUEEN IS YOUR QUEEN. Let us in.’ The guy at immigration was lovely, but inquisitive, wanting to know why an Australian had a Spanish visa but was coming to London for only three days. Can’t a gal want to see the world?

Reunion with my big sister and a good cuppa joe, and I was absolutely ECSTATIC. Even more thrilled that, upon return to her apartment, she bestowed upon me a whole TUBE OF VEGEMITE. God, I was in heaven. We met up with her fiance and his parents and went for a stroll along the Thames- how very British. The weather was, however, very un-British. A warm 32ºC but rather humid and the British were DYING. I was warm, but stupidly in jeans. So, how else to cool down but to treat yourself to an ice-cream cone on your stroll. My sister happened to lick her ice-cream ball clean off the cone, but luckily, with cat-like reflexes, caught the ball in her hand, swiftly popped it back on the cone, and continued on her merry way. Hilarious.

Nicola and I decided to get some tickets to see ‘The Play that Goes Wrong’, so headed to Leicester Square and scored the last two tickets for the evening. So lucky. We then had a job to do. **Warning, if anyone is super conservative- stop reading the rest of this paragraph. One of the students back in Toledo was getting married upon her return back to the states. As such, we decided to throw her a ‘Hens Party’ (an apparently hilarious name for a Bachelorette Party that Americans are unaware of). A simple joke that I was going to track down penis straws, turned into a mission, and Nicola and I were on the case. We found them, a short way away from the theatre, and also thought some penis shaped jellies would be a fabulous way to make the bride-to-be blush… I was thrilled with the successful mission, and we went for dinner, got a few things for the wedding prep, and walked to the theatre. Upon showing our tickets, we were also informed that there would be bag checks. To which I immediately blushed and good old Nicola made a run for it inside. Never before has a bag been checked so thoroughly or so slowly. It only had three items in it- a packet of penis straws, a box of penis jellies and a wedding card for the following day. The lovely security man scrutinised the contents of my bag, smiled a cheesy smile and told me to ‘have a lovely evening, enjoy the show. Thanks so much for that.’ I almost lost it right there.

Ok. Back on the straight and narrow now, no more penis-themed-items related jokes, I promise. The show itself was hilarious, Nicola and I spent the two hours of the show in stitches. Highly recommend the show for all!

As David was staying with his brother, performing best man duties, I jumped at the offer to forgo my bunk bed in a very hot hostel room for a sleepover with Nicola, and spent the evening painting nails, wearing face masks and having a good nights sleep. Wedding ready.

An afternoon wedding meant time for brunch in the morning with Mr Lodge, which was lovely! Again, delicious coffee and EGGS! Yay- actual protein for breakfast! Wedding preparation was thankfully conducted in Nicola’s apartment, I would hate to think how I would have looked if I had to get ready in the tiny bathroom on the third floor of a hostel without air conditioning. The other entertaining event of the day was the fact that it was the England vs. Sweden match in the World Cup, starting at the SAME time as the wedding ceremony. There were people queued up outside of pubs and event spaces from the early hours of the morning, and just as many people drinking in the street in the not so early hours of the morning. We happened to be next to a boat on the Thames that had a LOT of English Supporters, and there were a few roars and cheers during the ceremony, but it by no means diminished any of the beauty of the special day!!! Luckily England won.

The day was spectacular, the bride was beautiful (the groom handsome of course), the speeches entertaining, the food delicious (the wine as well) and the company simply spot-on. I felt so incredibly blessed to be considered family by these two amazing people and to be included in their special day! It was sad saying goodbye to Nicola and Dave returning to Australia, especially given that I have no idea if the next time I see them will be when I return to Australia for their wedding. I dearly hope not.

After a slightly hungover brunch with Nicola and family-friend Marcus, I started the LONG train-train-plane-train-train-train-taxi journey back to the residence in Toledo. And straight back into classes the following morning.

Adios!

xx G

El comienzo de la escuela

The first couple of weeks in Toledo were a little shock to the system but equally incredible. Yes, I hadn’t properly studied for a little while, and the constant barrage of information, old and most definitely new, was absolutely exhausting. Luckily for me, the class was actually only from 9am-1:30pm, but to be honest, in the heat, I don’t think it would be physically possible to do much more than that. On a normal day we would head back to the residence after class, have lunch, have a siesta, I would maybe do something stupid like think it cool enough to go for a run and almost die, go to the pool and relax, or take some time to explore the city. With dinner only starting at 8:30pm, the days seem to go forever, but it’s a great excuse to explore the town, do some homework, do some life admin and even sneak in a nanna nap. It’s incredible how much you can get into one day! The Spanish have it down pat. One pretty entertaining anecdote in class- we had to introduce ourselves, and explain a little about ourselves; why we are doing the course/when and why we started to learn Spanish, what else we enjoy doing etc. One young girl from China was explaining a little about herself, and our teacher was trying to explain that she wasn’t the typical Chinese young woman, as she had tattoos, in particular, one on her bicep. She was facing the class and reached behind to gesture to the tattoo on the girl’s arm, but was absolutely horrified when she turned and realised that in fact, she was actually reaching for the student’s ‘teta’- I think we can all guess what that word translates to in English…

We were treated (and by treated I mean that our course fees paid for part of this), to a trip around Toledo on the tourist train, a trip to the caves of Águila and the natural pools at Candelada. Unfortunately, I missed the following excursion due to MY SECOND EUROPEAN WEDDING for the year!! We were invited to attend Spanish dance classes, which were a lot of fun irrespective of my terrible dancing skills (of course helped by a few necessary drinks beforehand!).

In the first few weeks, I explored most of the monuments in Toledo, acting like a proper tourist, with my bright red wristband, pointing me out to all locals like having the word TOURIST printed in glitter across my forehead. I visited the Iglesia de los Jesuitas, Mezquita Cristo de la Luz, Iglesia del Salvador, Iglesia de Santo Tomé, the Sinagoga de Santa Maria la Blanca, and the Monasterio de San Juan de Los Reyes.

I have also met some pretty awesome people whilst studying, including a group of students from Tenessee, who invited me along to celebrate the 4th of July with them. Never before have I felt SO UNWELL in class as I did on the 5th of July, but I survived and it was a lot of fun! The following day also happened to be the class photo day, where we were given our flags, and posed for pictures as a group! I and the ONE other Australian were grossly outnumbered by the few groups of USA University Students, but it was pretty awesome to see the pure number of flags and countries represented by our course group.

For a mid-course break, I was off to London to experience another wedding and catch up with some family aka MY SISTER! Couldn’t suppress my excitement!!