Nice is Nice!

Hello Dear Readers!

Today I am in Nice! I left Barcelona early on Saturday and ended up here at around 8pm. It was a long, long, day, and Nala wasn’t the biggest fan, but we made it safe and sound. My apartment here is pretty nice, though it’s only got a futon for a bed, which is less than ideal. But! It’s about a two minute walk to the beach so can I really complain?

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Can you believe this view?

Yesterday was my first full day in Nice, and to get myself started, I signed up for a walking food tour throughout the city. Let me tell you guys, the French really know their stuff. So fresh!

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We even did an olive oil tasting

I actually happened to meet a few other Americans on the tour, so they adopted me into our group and we even spent the rest of the day together! Guys, people think I’m interesting. They even want to spend time with me! How cool is that?

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I’m popular!

Anyway, the French Riviera is so far way cooler than Paris (sorry Eiffel Tower), and I can see why everyone comes to live here. I certainly would. It’s stunning, and I’ll be spending the next week here taking as many poorly-lit and amateurish photos as possible so you all can see.

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Until then, au revoir!

-Carissa “I can’t stop speaking in Spanish” Rawson

A Girl and Her Dog: One is the Loneliest Number

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As I sit here on La Rambla, one of the most famous streets in Barcelona, a litre of sangria in front of me and a dog on my lap, a few thoughts come to mind:

First, traveling alone is hard. No one ever told me how hard this was going to be. Not only do I have to carry all my stuff, I have to carry Nala’s as well. Hauling bags up and down the steps of the metro is miserable.

Second, traveling alone with a dog is doubly hard. Seriously, if you thought dragging your significant other along was difficult, imagine you had to feed and water them and pick up all their poop.

So. Much. Poop.

Still, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I love my doggie dearly and she keeps me from getting too lonely out here.

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Such support.

Anyway, the last few days have been…difficult, to say the least. We made our way into Madrid at the crack of dawn on Thursday, stayed two nights, then hopped over here to Barcelona. I’m here for a week before we take the train over to Nice.

I know I’ve plugged Airbnb before, but let me tell you guys, this is the most affordable way to travel. Is it the most glamorous? Not always, but I’m staying in a room in an apartment for eleven bucks a night. Eleven. I even have some awesome flat mates, a gay Argentinian couple with a tiny dog named Fiona and an evil looking Himalayan cat. Their English isn’t the best, but, hey, when in Rome, right? (I mean, when in Rome, attempt to speak dismal Spanish at them. Works out great.)

I spent my first two days here just wandering around. Barcelona is a vibrant, busy, city, with tons to do. Of course, I did no research (I know, unlike me ), so I had no idea what I was doing. However, I did manage to find the beaches, La Rambla, Park Güell, and some awesome local spots.

 

How did I find the local spots? I’m glad you asked! I downloaded an app, called Spotted By Locals, which has over 65 different cities available around Europe. It’s a couple bucks to download each city map, but they’re full of restaurants, sights to see, and things to do that aren’t totally packed with tourists (me).

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I live to fulfill stereotypes
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Basic in every country

I also bought myself a five day Barcelona tourist card, which cost 60 Euros (it’s cheaper online) and includes free transport and admission to all the city’s best museums. Worth it if you’re into art and culture and stuff. It also has discounted admission to The Erotic Museum so obviously I was going to buy it.

Now, the other day I went ahead and booked myself a couple of group tours, because I was feeling especially lonely. I mean, there are like 10,000 tapas places here and every single one of them is full of groups of people. I just wanted to fit in, ok guys?

Today I had my first tour, a stroll around Barcelona tasting chocolates and wine. I showed up, bright eyed and bushy tailed, and there was my guide, a nice young woman who informed me that I was the only person to sign up. There went my plan.
It was ok though, because my guide was fantastic. I signed up for the tour via Viator, and she and I walked throughout Barcelona eating all kinds of different chocolates. I tried churros and dipping chocolate, a specialty here in Barcelona, chocolate filled with rum and whiskey, and even spicy chocolate, which I totally did not gag on embarrassingly. The girl ended up being from Ecuador, a Master’s student who had fallen in love in Spain and ended up making her home here. She’s currently attempting to get her Phd.

Now let me just pause here for a second. I just need you guys to know that I studied Spanish for 4 years and never, not once, did someone tell me that they don’t speak Spanish in Barcelona. That’s right. They speak Catalan here, which is its own language evolved from Latin and which I did not remotely prepare for. Whoops!

On the bright side, it’s not too different from Spanish and I can understand it almost as well. Which is to say, dismally.

So what are my plans for the future? Well, I’ve yet to visit a museum out here, and since they’re all free, I figure I should get on that. I also want to take Nala for some more walks on the beach, because she looked so adorably confused when I took her the first time. Seriously, she danced around then spilled all of the sand into my shoes. So endearing.

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What is sand?!?!

But for now, I think I’m going to sit here, watch the people pass by, and snuggle my dog. Because what else is life for?

-Carissa “La Catalunya” Rawson

Japan, Or: Dear God Help Me Where Am I?

Since I’ve been bombarding you guys the last few days with different travel tips, I thought I’d go back a bit and talk about our trip to Japan last May. This trip was unique in a lot of ways, not the least because it was David’s first time leaving the US (as an adult. He had been to Mexico when he was a kid).

That meant that everything we were doing was going to be new and different and weird for him. Plus, y’know, it was Japan. Everything there is uncomfortably foreign.

Since this way last May, I actually didn’t have a ton of travel tricks up my sleeve. However, I had signed us up for British Airways Visa cards the year before, since I knew I’d be wanting to travel around. That meant our flights to and from Tokyo were free, which is a huge savings in and of itself.

I’m going to pause here and tout the awesomeness of Airbnb. Japan was our first time using the platform, and it saved us hundreds of dollars. It also lets you live like a local, which is something that everyone values (unless you’re in, like, Liberia). Since then, I’ve stayed in 13 different Airbnbs, with reservations for 11 more this year. What I’m saying is, these places can be great deals.

Our trip to Japan went like this: Tokyo -> Hakone -> Tokyo -> Kanazawa -> Kyoto -> Osaka -> Kobe -> Tokyo

We spent a total of ten days in Japan and encountered some of the coolest, weirdest, stuff around, like Harajuku, where everything is violently pink and men with professional cameras take pictures of dozens of girls in school uniforms. Awkward.

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Just a normal day in Harajuku

Anyway, the first day we landed in Tokyo at about 5am, which meant that almost everything was closed, and we were exhausted from the flight over. Economy life sucks, guys. Our Airbnb host was really nice and let us head to our flat early, which meant we were able to shower and get ready before heading out for the day.

Since David is a giant nerd, our first flat was in Akihabara, home of all things geeky. We arrived super duper early, so we got a chance to walk through the city while everything was still asleep, which was really cool.

Our random walking took us over to the Tokyo Zoo, which we ended up wandering through for a few hours before heading over to the Gundam Cafe because we’re losers. It was awesome.

For our first night, we ended up eating at an Izakaya, with a dinner show from our host Mr. Yucky.

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The show was…very Japanese. I mean that in the best way possible. We had traditional Japanese food, which meant a lot of mushrooms and fish. So basically I starved.

But the show. Ok, so Mr. Yucky asked each group of people to pick a country from a list that he had. When it came to my turn, I picked France. He disappeared into his back room for a minute before returning with an easel, a beret, and a piece of charcoal. French music began to play while he swiftly and silently began drawing a picture of me on his easel.

Then, having finished his art piece, he sat back for a minute and admired it before making out with it. A few seconds later, he picked it up, and with a flourish, dropped it down to his pants and began humping it.

I’m not kidding.

Then he handed it to me!

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Japan.

More later.

-Carissa “Draw me like one of your French girls” Rawson