Thursday, March 9, 2017

Europe

Europe - June 21-July 5, 2016


View from the London Eye

London
First thing we did when we landed.... well we actually hit a few bumps to get into the hotel room and shower, and get ready... but as soon as that little issue was resolved, we rushed to figure out the trains, got played for fools, then were helped by someone who was very kind, got our money back, then found the right train.  We got off and the first thing we see is Big Ben! I have to say, I don't think I have ever felt more excited to be on an adventure.  We rushed to walk over to the London Eye because we had RESERVATIONS! But of course, we were easily distracted by cars on the opposite side of the road, drivers on the opposite side of the car.  I mean come on!  This really did look super cool.  Now the London Eye, I don't know how to describe this other than a big ferris wheel, with views of an entire city, oh yeah... and I sipped champaign and had a photoshoot while doing so.  Classy AF!  Once we had that amazing experience, we were kindly escorted to a wonderful bar, The London Eye Lounge, where we had some delicious Belinis.  This was our first chance to actually take a breath and let the reality sink in that we were in LONDON, we were sipping champaign drinks, and we finally had begun our Europe trip. And with the helpful and sweet waiter's recommendation of Anchor Pub, we were on our way to walk along the water front and ended up at this awesome pub where we watched the  Euro cup game, Italy vs Republic of Ireland. (and by some miracle we actually were cheering for the right time) Ireland scores to win the game and everyone in the bar is loving it! Fish n chips, let me tell ya, I never thought I would like these and boy was I wrong!  I'm not sure if its pub food, or if it's the fact that those were actually awesome, but man those were good. And it helped that I had some bomb cider to go with it.


Big Ben
Everything is smaller in London. Bathroom with a shower that spills out pretty much upto where the toilet is. (Oh sorry, the loo, which by the way... no one ever called it that while we were there.)
I'm in love with this place. It's regal architecture. It's river walk. The people and their accents.
On the last day before we came home, we returned to this wonderful city.  To close the trip on the same note we started was the greatest way for it to end.  Not to mention I had the most phenomenal Pot PIE! and more great cider..... and walked to see Buckingham Palace! Beautiful place by the way.


Barcelona 
Staying in the Catalonia quarters of Barcelona was an absolute charm. With scattered buildings designed by Antonio Gaudi. The Bacílica de la Sagrada Família. Parc Guell. The wonderful accents of the Spanish people. But besides the spectacular views I encountered, the food was absolutely amazing. We arrived on the day they celebrated Sant Joan. There was a festival of sorts infront of the Bacílica and music and fire and fireworks everywhere. We were directed on day one to a wonderful local Tapas restaurant where just about everything was amazing. To the point that I was able to photograph the sangria and once food came I complete gave up on photos. And though the second day there was a holiday, we were lucky to find a corner restaurant that was still open and enjoyed a delicious breakfast. I had a Bikini (pronounce it B- kee- nee with a pause between each syllable) it's basically a ham and cheese sandwich which has been grilled. And paired that with cafe con leche. So satisfying in the most simple way. We headed out and figured out our way through the bus system and got to Parc Guell where unfortunately the Gaudi area of the park was sold out for admission (guess i'll have to go back for that one). But we wandered the remainder of the park and found absolutely stunning areas to photograph. We had a tour of the Bacílica which had an amazing and detailed story behind it. With every small detailing being thoroughly thought out and architected. The Bacílica dedicated to Jose Maria y Jesus. The pillar down the middle of the church represented the line of David all the way to Jesus. The entire church design revolved around the story of Jesus. The stain glass colors inside the church representing the birth in the blue and green and transitioning the the red representing the death of Jesus. After our tour, we visited Las ramblas, a walkway through the city that lead to the port. The final morning we enjoyed chocolate con churros and some crepes. I was not ready to leave this city, but it was time to doc the ship.

Sagrada Familia


Parc Guell




-THE CRUISE-



Cartagena, Spain
We had  our first stop in Cartagena.  We did not have much planned out but that allowed us to explore the town, do some shopping, take some pictures, and enjoy some good food.  This town had a sense of art and wonderful architecture which had the new incorporated into the old.  We saw a wonderful little church which was built in the beginning years of the town.  And I was finally able to have some Paella!



Gibralter, Great Britain
Gibralter was an interesting concept to grasp.  On the southern tip of Spain, belonged to the English, however the people wanted to belong to Spain. This place is most known for its Monkeys which are freely hanging around the Rock of Gibraltar.  We unfortunately did not make the trip up there. Which really just lead to more shopping and we ended up heading back to the ship early enough for a cappuccino before realizing we were having our Captain's dinner that day instead of the following day like we expected.

Marseille, France
I ate french fries in France.  I ate a crepe in France.  I saw beautiful men in France.  I bought soaps in France. And I perused a museum with a Pablo Picasso exhibit in France.  Marseille is a beautiful place which we got to walk around and explore a bit.  There was definitely more to see than we got the chance to.  This city seems to have so much to offer.  Definitely will have to return.


Milan/Genoa, Italy
I felt like Julia Roberts in eat pray love. Unbuttoning my pants to allow for more room for food. If any place could ever satisfy a fat girl's dreams it was definately this place!  The first meal I had was in beautiful Milan... and it was PIZZA! Italian's know what's up with the food!  Milan was not only satisfying my love for food, but visually, I had never seen a city so beautiful.  It had this sense of sparkle to it. The city's buildings were so intricately designed.  We took a tour through the city. Saw so much of what Milan has to offer.  We stopped at the Chiesa Di Santa Maria Delle Grazie where I was blessed to see the original Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci himself.  It was so interesting because they are so strict about what is allowed in this room where the painting has survived all these years.  The Church has such an interesting history and the painting itself has been kept in amazing condition.  We were not allowed to talk much, the room is temperature controlled and only a number of people are allowed in to the room through chambers that help keep the temperature controlled.  And dear Lord people, DO NOT USE FLASH! You will be shunned... yelled at! In Italian! After this we were taken to Galeria Vittorio Emanuele II.  So many designer shops and such a beautiful structure.  This is where the infamous Bull tile is at.  Of course, I took a spin (on his balls, poor little guy), for good luck!  Right outside of the Galeria, Duomo (the Milan Cathedral), which I was not allowed inside of because although I had a sweater to put over my dress, it was just above my knees and that was not an appropriate dress length (WOW! rolls eyes as she remembers).  However, from the outside, this is an amazing Cathedral, absolutely beautiful sight, just breathtaking!

The Last Supper
Duomo (Milan Cathedral)
Galeria Vittorio - The Bull


Pisa/Florence, Italy
Our ship doced in the Tuscan area of Italy and we had a lovely scenic drive to Pisa.  We drove through a city by the Sea.  Hillside estates.  Greenery everywhere.  I am seriously at home in the Tuscan Region.  We got to Pisa just early enough to beat the crowds and get decent pictures, which by the way is not easy... how do people get it so exact??? We had to do some major angling and were pretty much close to sprawling out on the floor just to get the angle and the whole building in there just right!  But it was just so cool to see this beautiful leaning tower.  Originally built as a bell tower for the church across the way, however, do to the ground structure, began to lean a bit each year and still continues to do so.
Pisa

We board the bus again and head out to Florence.  This is such a beautiful town.  The streets reminded me so much of the Mexican towns I've seen.  We visited the David by Michelangelo, which is a huge sculpture and made so perfectly detailed (and yes, R rated.... but lets appreciate the art people).  I so wish we would have had time to see more in the museum, it was just filled with so much art and we hardly got to see any of it.  Florence is a beautiful city separated by a river, one side is filled with rock paved streets and buildings connected and so close to the others, the other side, homes separated by fences and greenery and it was just a sight to see that I so wished to explore.  I cannot wait to go back and explore it some more. I have a feeling it will be a city that can steel my heart.
Florence
The David


Rome, Italy/ Vatican City
Roma, how I loved you.  We stayed so close to so many things.  Vatican City not but a few blocks from our hotel,  walking distance to pizza restaurants, gelato shops, and really not too far from all the history that is held by this beautiful city.  The few days that we spent here could not have been enough.  We explored the first night, ate some pizza, and Saint Peter's Square (the Vatican's plaza), walked a bit, had some amazing cappuccinos (coffee is something else here people... its just amazing and now I'm a coffee drinker because of it), saw the end to a game of Italy vs Germany.  This was such a cool experience listening to the locals chant as well as some German tourist as we all watched the game in the streets outside of a small restaurant.  Of course I felt horrible when Italy lost in PKs.... the emotion in these people's faces, man you have to love futbol.
The first night was definitely one to set the mood for the rest of the stay.  We were so curious to it all. The next day I had the experience of a life time, I witnessed Pope Francis come out onto a window and say a blessing, and although it was all in Italian, I could feel the love he urged of his people.  I felt as though his presence was a true blessing, one that could last me a life time.  The emotion I felt being there as we all filled Saint Peter's square, said a prayer for peace and unity, and received his blessing is something I could never describe.
We continued the day with more exploration, more churches, more Piazzas, more pizza, and of course more GELATO!! (again, no shame)
The following day was filled with an 8 hour walking tour of Rome. The Colosseum is an amazing structure that still stands today and I cannot tell you why or how, but it still looks like new with just a few missing pieces on the outside.  We walked through some old ruins through out the day, walked to the Trevi Fountain, which was being cleaned for a fashion show.  So I didn't get my Lizzy McGuire moment.  (so sad) We had a quick visit to the Pantheon.  A building lit only by natural light through a hole on the ceiling.  The whole idea of this place was pretty neat, very beautiful inside and out.  And we ended the day back in the Vatican.  Now let me tell you, I have never seen something so beautiful.  We were able to see the Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted by Michelangelo himself, in the Vatican.  I wish this was something we were allowed to take pictures of because the ceiling is magnificent.  Again, many rules, had to have our shoulders covered, had to be silent, and no pictures what so ever.  There were many more rooms filled with art. The Church itself was such a magnificent building to see.  The marble floors had me in awe.  I hated having to leave Rome.  I felt like I just was not done looking at it all. So much to see and so little time.
Saint Peter's Square
Pope Francis Blessing
Piazza Navona
The Colosseum
The Colosseum
The Pantheon
Trevi Fountain

I came back home freckled faced and somewhat golden from being under the Tuscan sun.  It was like my very own book of Eat. Pray. Sleep.  The only love I encountered was that for the countries I visited.  The people I encountered.  The accents I heard.  And the food I ate.  This was quite a journey, a journey through my dreams.

-Andrea


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

13.1


Disneyland, California Adventure, Anaheim,CA 11.13.16

An early chilled morning.  I slipped into my She Hulk tshirt, the rest of my running gear, and said a prayer as I took a puff of my inhaler.  We walked to the start up corrals. We joked and ate our caffeine goo.  We sang and talked about playlist.  3.5 miles of running together through Disney California Adventure and Disneyland Parks (I never thought I'd keep up with them, but I did). An aching hip as we reached Tomorrowland (these hips don't lie... they ached like hell the next day). A few miles of me jogging and then walking to catch my breath.  I almost gave in to another puff of my inhaler and all of a sudden I make it over the overpass, and there it was, Angel's stadium.  I was that close to mile 8 and had actually ran farther than I had ever even trained for!  Angel's Stadium with the 50's inspired military and dance themed cheering crew was amazing.  I was smiling the whole way through, had texted my family to let them know I was about an hour away (it didn't take me an hour to get back btw), and I felt like I could finish, 9 miles in, 4 more to go.  So I jogged, walked, grabbed some poweraide, some water, and continued on my way.  I hear someone say the "balloon ladies are coming" and I decided, 'I will NOT get picked up by the cart!", so I decided to run.  Well, my body said "nah girl, you ain't running anymore!" so I said "fine, i'll jog.".... well that was ambitious, cramps from my toes all the way up my calves, no thank you.  I walked, well power walked, like how they show people on tv... ya I was that girl.  (come to find out, no balloon ladies... I was stressed for no reason) It took centuries to get to mile 12...But, coming in at mile 13 and seeing the fam was the best feeling!  I smiled and waved and ran to the finish line!



Who would have thought this girl could finish a half marathon, let alone sign up for one!?  I definitely did not think I could. Especially with all the physical obstacles I've faced with past/current injuries. Half way through my training I had knee problems, IT band was killing me, then... the vertigo, I could barely sit straight without getting dizzy. When I finally begantraining again I made it through a 6.2 mile run (where I had to walk about 1/3 of it).  I had decided that no matter what it came to, I just had to make it in 3.5 hours and I would feel accomplished.  During the run I was on the verge of emotional breakdowns about 5 times, physical and mental exhaustion. But I made it through 13.1 miles (actually it came out to be about 13.5). That's right this girl made it through her first half marathon. It's truly amazing what your body can do when you push it. The power prayer has to mentally keep you stable. And what a little bit of pixie dust does for the soul as well. Thank you God, thank you my family, and thank you Disney for getting me to accomplish what I never thought could even be a goal! Thank you for the journey through.

-Andrea

Friday, March 25, 2016

Planning my Summer

 It's been a whirlwind of the past few months planning out my summer. We've been planning a Euro trip/cruise for about a year now. And packed in so much detail of that planning into the last few months. Why did we plan it out so much you ask... Well because wedding season is a-coming!! And with that... I will be in a wedding that happens to take place on the beautiful white beaches of cancun!!!!

I must admit with all this last minute getting everything packed away and planned out, I can't help but enjoy the rush of emotion and excitement. To function in normal life routines right now is almost impossible. I'm always thinking and planning and moving about my day getting ready to go. 

So what are my plans for the summer... Well in just a couple days I will board the plane and head out to Europe. Can you say Bucket List.... Check!

I don't want to get too detailed now because I will definitely be writing about every place I visit once I'm back and show you all through photos. But I'm excited to visit some of the places in Europe I always dreamed I'd see. And my dreams are finally becoming reality!

And the coolest part about it is that not only do I head to Europe this summer, I'm witnessing two people I care dearly for get married on a beach in beautiful Cancun only a few weeks after I get back. I haven't been to the beautiful beaches of Cancun in years. I mean YEARS PEOPLE. Like since I was 3. Talk about first memories. I'm pretty sure that's why I have such a love for travel and the ocean! 

I've learned a lot in this process of planning. One, how to budget. Because these are not small trips by any means. And two, I really really really enjoy the excitement that comes with planning a memory with people you love. Because it's something you want to enjoy and make sure everyone gets the same pleasure as you do, it really does entail for so much detail. The planning really helps you get into that excitement as well. Like all you want in life is to live constantly in that thrill. Sometimes I think I should plan things for people. Travel, weddings, parties, etc. I mean really people, if you need it, I'm your girl! Haha

But on a more serious note. As I plan this summer of amazing trips and experiences, I realize that summer's have become this amazing journey for me. From Hawaii to Brazil. To Alaska. And now Europe and Cancun. I never want to stop. What a blessing to be on this journey. What a thrill to be so blessed. Journey through with me... On this adventure of summer 2016!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Identity Crisis

Now that I've begun my 26th year.... I am doing a lot of evaluating lately.  It's almost as if I've reached that point where I'm thinking "It's now or never" for a lot of things in life.  If I want to do something, now is the time to decide.  Now is the time to start thinking about it and doing something about getting closer to that end goal.  It is time for me to... (Horror toon...DUN DUN DUN) GROW UP!



But there is a problem with feeling like it's that time.  The time to finally start living the rest of your life.  You have to accept that it is time to let go of somethings and grasp on to the idea and opportunity for others. We have a hard time letting go of those little pieces of ourself that didn't make the cut and start filling them with this "new you".  But are we ever really ready for that kind of thing? NO! It's human nature to not adapt to change well.  It's normal to go through an Identity Crisis and think to yourself "I'm totally crazy, who am I? I don't even know myself? Why was I ever even like this? Who do I want to be?"

Identity crises seem to be the norm for me lately.  It's this odd limbo in life, that I've noticed from my peers, a lot of people my age go through.  We were all students for so long and then had to learn to live the working life which gives us so much free time to actually think about more than "what homework do I have due this week? How am I ever going to find enough research for this paper? OMG did I buy a scantron and blue book for the exam I'm about to take in like .5 seconds?" (even though we may have all this in our hands or written on a calendar... we are still freaking out because the brain is too exhausted... ok, rant about college memories/horrors over).  But even as we fall into that nice routine of a 9-5 and free evenings and weekends, that free time to think almost stresses us out more.  So we make plans to see our friends, who happen to be going through the same issues, and we discuss them further.

So what happens, I'll tell you what happens, we get into this "student mode" and make a list of what we want to do or need to do in life.  And here is mine.

I want a job that makes me feel like I'm not working. One where I wake up each morning and feel excited to start my day. One where my job and my actions not only mean something to me but to a cause, to the people that I'm working for or with.
I love to travel. But I can't constantly be traveling. 
I love to write. But I didn't study literature or writing. Could I even do something with that passion?
I love this blog. But I don't see it at this point being something I can make money out of. And I don't know if I want to. Or where to even start if I were to decide to go through with it. 
I love planning and organizing things. But can I create a business out of it?
I love fashion and shopping. But I need a job to keep this up!
I want to be healthy and fit.  But I hate putting in all that effort (every woman's dream: chocolate cake that makes you actually lose weight... maybe I should try looking into inventing this)
I love to learn.  But am I ready to go back to school?
I want a family... when will I get to that with all these other lists I have going on.
I want to own a house/condo/some place to live in.  But I'm spending and saving for other things as well... so when will I ever move out!?

Honestly, this list can go on for so long.  But the truth is, I'm realizing, that I can do all these things.  I just need to work at it. And there is no right or wrong time to pursue any of it.  I just have to decide to begin the process. I honestly think that once you put things in motion, life just falls into place. Like a destiny of sorts, a plan for your life, you make a choice and the things you need from it fall into place.  I'm not saying that these choices don't come with obstacles.  I know that they do. But if  we want something bad enough, once we've decided on it, no obstacle is too big.

Life is a journey... and I've got to admit, I'm pretty excited to see where it leads me, the places I'll get to see, the people I'll get to meet.  Enjoy your journey, I'll be enjoying mine.

-Andrea

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Chicago, It's Bean Real!

Chicago, Illinois
September 25-28, 2015

If you are reading this then you already know me by now. I'm crazy about traveling and I take the chance to explore with anyone who offers it. So when I was asked to go to Chicago I was like "I've never been there. I might be cutting it close on the vacation time and finds. But hell why not!?!" So yup I booked my flight. 

Let me tell you this Windy City is... well not so windy (at least not that week in October). But it's beautiful. The sky line is marvelous and the weather is better than I expected. Though it does get pretty chilly at night. 

On day 1 we ventured out and just headed on an adventure to find the BEAN! (we thought we had a plan this whole trip... but really we just has a list of things we wanted to do and hadn't figured out when, what time, and how) Haha that was not easy regardless of the fact it's like 2 blocks, a flight of stairs, another 2 blocks, and a walk through Millennium Park away from our hotel to get to that BEAN. (Don't ever depend on your iPhone maps people. They are not all that accurate.). But we did find this super cool bridge that went over a... Freeway or street haha. No water under that bridge. But the bridge was still so cool. And is set in a beautiful background of the sky line and an outdoor concert hall that had an awesome design.





While in Chicago there is no living if you don't have a deep dish pizza... which is actually called a stuffed pizza at Giordano's. Of course we ordered the Chicago classic. And it was AMAZING cheesy goodness with a beautiful deep dished crust made of the most amazing dough. I mean it was pizza heaven! (sorry, pizza did not make it for a selfie... haha)


Magnificent Mile shopping is an everyday must. With just about every shop you can think of at a walking distance. It was a shopaholics kryptonite. Didn't help that it was two blocks from my hotel!

Day 2 was a bit slower for me. I got to savor in some R&R through the day and let me tell you, it was needed!!  Highlight of the day however is definitely the fact that I got to go to the John Hancock building.  As I walked in and had to wait in line for for an elevator ride I had no idea what to expect. I'm thinking "this is definitely exclusive and they are going to realize I don't belong here!"  But they let us in the elevator and took us up 96 floors. I'm thinking "ok this is interesting". I walk into the bathroom and BAM! a view of the city... Ya in the bathroom. Like seriously "don't mind if I take a selfie before I pee... But that view is amazing!!  (see video... ya that was in the bathroom) I was not prepared for that view at all. We finally were allowed in and were seated right at the bar. Ordered our Moscow mules of course, and sipped from our copper cups as we enjoyed the ambiance and stared out into the city. Experience of a life time. and perfect setting for when you just wanna feel like you are doing something grown up, classy, and different.  We enjoyed another drink, a bit more chattering, and decided shopping was A Great Idea.... (give a couple girls a couple drinks, a set of credit cards and a Magnificent Mile to shop in... and you will have two girls who forgot they didn't eat dinner) And as we are leaving the store and thinking "man we shoulda ate something". A frikin cupcake food truck is right there!! Answered prayers. I swear... Chicago just knows!




Day 3 led to an even more amazing experience. The weather got a bit colder so I only took a brisk walk around the block to see where I was. But later on we took an uber to Willis Tower. Where again an elevator took us high up... this time 103 stories high and we stood out on a clear platform over looking all of Chicago. Conquering my fear of heights as I looked directly below my feet and could barely make out cars, buildings, let alone people. I mean seriously, I was hyperventilating and literally took baby steps onto the platform.  It is not an easy thing to stomach people!! That is 103 stores up... above a city! But 3 minutes into a photoshoot and SnapChat sesh, and I was actually comfortable with the height!  If you have never experienced looking out into the world from high up above, please I beg you. Do it!!  It's amazing and put so much into perspective. It's a must. Plus a few failed selfies always make the experience even more fun! (Tip: bring a selfie stick!!)

Failed Selfies... not a good angle ha!



We ventured out into the rain and found a quaint Italian restaurant that was actually quite good and ended up finding a small donut shop called Firecakes!  It was so good. And perfect for the rainy weather. 

Random fact. President Obama was there in Chicago that day. And he attended a Bull's game... Why didn't we think of doing that?!

Well Chicago was amazing to say the least. The architecture was classic and modern and blended so well. Adding beauty to just about everywhere you looked.  This city could very well be one of the most beautiful places I've been, as far as an urban jungle goes... I can still admit the natural beauty you see in nature has no comparison.  But the city sure was pretty.  I've been lucky to journey with my travel buddy and can't wait for the adventures i have in store!  Stay toned... 2016 is looking quite promising.



Enjoy the journey through my eyes (and by my feet)... Chicago style!

-Andrea

Friday, January 1, 2016

Good bye 2015, Hello 2016

Because it's the new year, and I feel it necessary to write on the first day of my new book, I will make it short and sweet.  2015 brought a lot of thought, perspective, blessings, happiness, stress, anxiety, moments of solace, moments of pure glee, awe, adventure, and just so much more.  I can't even begin to express the feeling I have right now as 2016 is going to bring a lot to the table. 

This year leads to a moment of independence.  A wonderful moment of accomplishing a life time goal.  A moment to share love with people I truly care about. A moment of facing fears.  And of course a multitude of moments where I just get to be with the people I love.

I'm truly excited and embracing every possibility there is to come, though I'll admit I'm scared.. I'm really scared, but a good scared.  The kind of nervous anxiety that you get when you feel that adrenaline building up before you take a big leap.  And I take that as a good sign.

I have set a goal for this year. Or a mantra if you will.  I don't like to think of it as a resolution.  Because it really isn't one.  It's a series of steps to a bigger picture, to building a life style.  And at the same time enjoying it, having fun, growing from it, and just being happy in doing it. My mantra or my theme for the year...

This year I will be a better person. Build a better me. Inspire someone. Fall in love with anything and everything.



In 2016 set goals and live it out and up!  And journey through with me in this new year.

-Andrea