Home Again

Hello Dear Readers!

It’s been an awfully long few months, and much to everyone’s relief, I haven’t died, fallen off a cliff, or otherwise injured myself. I’ve simply been very busy.

When last we spoke I was still in school (technically), funemployed, and traveling. Well, as all of you may have guessed, I am still traveling. In fact, I’m on a plane to Georgia (the country) right now. However, I have also officially graduated from the University of Edinburgh.

With honors!

And gotten myself a job. You’ll all be pleased to know that it’s fully remote, so yours truly can continue to wander around the world, doing whatever I please.

Ok, that last part wasn’t quite true. I’d like to introduce you all to Brit, my service dog.

She and I were paired just about a month ago, and she’s going to be my best companion from now on. You see, sometimes some bad things happen. And some bad things happened to me while I was in the Air Force. But sometimes there are some people who care, truly care, about you, and want to see you well. And for that I am eternally grateful.

Brit and I will see you all soon.

-Carissa “This Able Veteran Is The Best” Rawson

Phenomenal Flamenco

Hello!

I realize my last post was pretty serious. I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback, and I think you guys will be glad to know that I’ve decided to report the man to AirBnB. Cultural differences aside, if you’re going to be inviting people into your home, you should never force yourself on them or act so inappropriately.

So! That being said, I want to talk today about my most recent shenanigans with Sarah. She keeps cropping up, doesn’t she? That’s because we’re both so much fun!

You guys know all those really heartwarming videos of soldiers coming home and being reunited with their dogs? Well, Nala and I had a similar moment, which I will illustrate in the photo below:

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Isn’t she adorable? I got a full face tongue bath, which is really gross but also I love her so it’s ok. Since Sarah and I didn’t have much time together, we decided to go full out. We checked into our hotel, dropped off Nala and headed out to make the most of our time in Madrid.

Now, you guys know the last time I was in Spain I subsided almost solely on churros with dipping chocolate and champagne. I’m here to tell you that nothing has changed. I swiftly introduced Sarah to these vices, and within the space of twenty minutes we had consumed chocolate, churros, a pile of Iberian ham, and were each clutching a glass of Cava. We’re efficient, you know.

I had made reservations as a surprise to dinner and a Flamenco show, so we headed over there to have an awesome three course meal, which we complemented with a bottle of more champagne. I mean, why not?

Have you guys ever been to a Flamenco show? I know I’ve heard so much about the passion of the dancers (and Spanish people as a whole), but it all seemed a little blown out of proportion. Well, let me tell you…it’s not.

We had front row seats to the show, and at first, the place seemed kind of small and crowded. However, when the music started…just wow.

There were two singers, a violinist, and two guitarists. They began playing, slowly at first, to warm up the crowd, before breaking into amazing, fast-paced music. These people have got some serious skills. Shortly thereafter, the two dancers, a man and a woman, came out.

Words fail me here, but I’m going to try to describe it.

The music pulsed through the room as the crowd murmured, some leaning back in their seats, others sipping glasses of wine as everyone sat, waiting. A low tension hummed in the air, and slowly, subtly, the beat of the music sped up.

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Abruptly, the curtain at the back of the stage was turned aside, and a woman strode out. She was passion, personified. Her long dress trailed behind her as she took center stage, her face regal, her back straight.

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One breath, two, and she began to stomp, her shoes tapping a staccato on the wooden floor as she moved with the music.

The floor, scarred with the marks of a thousand dances, echoed with every step, and she twirled, her dress fanning out, her arms weaving, framing her face, her neck, her hips, as she poured her soul into the movement.

Suddenly, the curtain twitched again, and her partner came out, his clothes tailored tightly to his body, his eyes dark, and he, too, began to dance.

Together, they stepped across the stage, first moving together, then apart, each one competing to outdo the other. Faster, faster, they moved, the strain of the violin drifting past their frantic feet, until the room was full with the sound of their song.

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Sweat beaded on his brow as he spun, whirling around her, his feet a blur as he tapped, tapped, tapped, to the beat of the music. Together, they told a story- of love, of heat, of flame and fury and passion, until the music built to a crescendo and came, crashing, to a halt.

As one, they turned to us, arms outflung, chests heaving, and bowed.

The room exploded with applause.

To say it was phenomenal would be an understatement. If there’s one thing you do in Spain, go see a Flamenco show.

After the show we headed out to a rooftop bar, where we enjoyed a “few” drinks before heading back to the hotel at around 2am. Overall the night was a great success, and definitely a foreshadowing for the excellent day to come.
-Carissa “I wanna dance like that” Rawson

Amor in Roma

Well hello! Long time no talk! That’s because I’ve been busy making memories. And guys, do I have some stories to tell you. But! First things first. I’ve spent the last 9 days in Rome, where I’ve made new friends, spent time with old ones, and got to show an Italy noob around. (As if I’m not one)

Let’s begin from the beginning, shall we?

I previously told you guys that I was staying in an ancient farmhouse in Tuscany, with no wifi and lots of animals. Well, my day to leave came around and I packed everything up, dragged my suitcase to the car, and let the farmer’s son drive me the half hour to the train station. I was waiting on the platform with Nala, barely five minutes before leaving, when I realized that I had forgotten my wallet. You will recognize this as something that I absolutely cannot lose. Luckily, the farmer’s son had gone to the market and hadn’t left the village yet. I caught him as he got to his car, and he escorted me back to the farm, where my wallet sat waiting. D’oh. Unfortunately, this also meant I missed my train, and my connecting one, which put me in Rome at 4pm rather than 12pm. This sucks all by itself, but my friend Sarah (hi Sarah!) had come down from Germany for the weekend and landed at 9am. She was forced to wander alone while I languished in the Tuscan countryside. Such is life.

Pause here for a moment while I tell you guys about this game that my mom got me. It’s called Anywhere, and can be found on Amazon.

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Sarah working hard during the game

I hadn’t played it before, since I didn’t want to be a lonely loser, but Sarah and I spent the entire weekend playing and had an absolute blast. It features such cards as “make up a silly walk,” and “pick someone to follow around. Follow them for as long as possible.” You better believe we followed a man wearing incredibly tight pants all throughout the city.

Our second night in the city was amazing and ridiculous and just…well let me tell you. We made the bus ride to the Coliseum, during which an incredibly drunk man sat thirteen inches away from us and made awkward, unending, eye contact for half an hour. He was undoubtedly fascinated by us, to the point where he attempted to read our cards and even check out the pictures I was showing Sarah on my phone. After an understandably creepy amount of time had passed, we finally managed to hop off the bus and make a run for it before he realized we were gone. Upon reaching the Coliseum, however, we found out it was closed. Staring at it, and the various people milling around inside, Sarah turned to me and said, “I think I need a drink.”

And thus began our adventures.

 

We started first at a hipster bar, where the bartender did his best to impress Sarah and accidentally threw an entire bottle of liquor on the floor. Then they gave us free shots because they forgot to give us our bruschetta.

Suitably tipsy, we made our way to a highly recommended pizza shop, where we told the wait would be a half hour and finally got a table two hours later. In the meantime, we wandered the streets and even managed a few words with a Syrian shopkeeper, who was very impressed by us.

Finally sitting down, we ordered an entire liter of red wine and devoured a whole pizza each. We closed the shop down at midnight, after the exasperated waitress asked us for the third time whether we wanted to order any more food.

Then, because I had told Sarah I’d always wanted to go to an Ice Bar, she looked one up and we made our way over there. We arrived at 12:30, and the guy at the entrance paused, my credit card in his hand, before telling me to look up at the live feed inside the bar. It. Was. Empty. I mean literally not a single person was inside. Having saved us 30 Euros (for a cover fee), we thanked him profusely and asked for bar recommendations. He directed us to the Nag’s Head, a Scottish pub which he promised would have people in it.

Also, I just need to tell you guys what we looked like at this point. Sarah was dressed all in black, from head to toe, and I was wearing sky blue leggings with a hot pink workout shirt that read “After this…pizza.” Oh, and my red Gryffindor sweater. So basically we were hot babes and everyone knew it.

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Goddesses of the Night

In contrast, the pub was full of middle-aged women in club attire, with full face makeup. Seeing we were completely out-dressed, we hurriedly redid our hair from ‘ponytail’ to ‘inside-out ponytail.’ Very effective.

We then continued to play Anywhere, enjoying glasses of Guinness and dancing around awkwardly at our very own table. At one point, Sarah walked into the kitchen (on purpose) before hurriedly being shoved out by a very distressed waiter and waved in the direction of the bathrooms.

It was at this point, after having been alone for approximately 30 seconds, that an Indian man named Tareq came over and made himself comfortable at our table. Now, it was very loud in the bar, and I had a really hard time hearing him. So every time he spoke, I would turn to Sarah (who had come back from the bathroom) and ask her what he said.

It was because of this that I thought he was a writer. For the Vatican. After asking a million questions about what he wrote, he exasperatedly told us that he was a waiter and that he served people food for a living. Oops.

I mean seriously, this guy would not leave our table. So in desperation, I stood up, eyed the bar, and beckoned a different table full of men over in order to get him to leave. And, I mean, it worked. He did leave. But then we were stuck with this other table full of men. So…it was better?

We ended up spending the rest of the night hanging out with these guys, before they tried really hard to get us to go home with them. I mean, come on guys, we’re not fourteen. We know what you’re trying here.

So it was with great enjoyment that I watched Sarah break down into full hysterics over her lost necklace, fabricating a hilarious and semi-realistic excuse to leave. And let me tell you- she didn’t half-ass it here. She went all out, sobbing, tearing at her hair, looking all over the floor, etc. etc. I even made up a nice backstory, telling the guys with us that it was from her dead mother and literally irreplaceable.

Since she was just *so* upset, we had to make a quick break for it. Running off down the road, I called an Uber, which was just minutes away when the guys from the bar caught up to us. I’m fairly certain they saw us chit-chatting, with Sarah perfectly fine, before she broke down again, RAN TO THE NEAREST CAB, and climbed in, screaming for me to join her. I, being the good friend that I was, couldn’t just leave her, and shrugged woefully at the poor bar guys before joining her in the cab.

And thus we made our escape.

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-Carissa “Tight Pants” Rawson

Florence, Dog Pee, and a Vacation from a Vacation

Hello All,

I’m writing to you from my hotel in Florence, where I am taking a vacation from my vacation. God, how spoiled do I sound? The truth is, it’s pretty tiring getting up and getting out all day, every day. Combined with the care of a tiny needy dog who sometimes pees on things like your bed, it can be downright exhausting!

So! Like I mentioned previously, I’m completing a status challenge in order to get Hilton Diamond status for the next few years. That meant canceling a few of my Airbnbs and switching to hotels.

And boy, is it worth it. I took off yesterday from Nice, where it had kindly decided to start storming exactly as I ran for the train station. Soggy and freezing, Nala and I climbed onto the train, where we sat, delayed, for two hours. Like, I mean, we hadn’t even left the station yet.

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But look at that tongue.

Anyway, I had a connection in Milan, which I ended up missing. Knowing this, I went down to customer service, where I waited for an hour for help and ended up missing another train. Oh! And someone tried to pickpocket me! Never underestimate the excitement of travel, guys.

Long story short, I ended up in Florence 4 hours late and tired of hauling all my (Nala’s) stuff through train stations. Luckily, upon arrival at the Hilton, (almost) everything got immediately better. Seeing as how I’m currently a top-tier elite, my room was upgraded, and, of course, I got executive lounge access, which means free food and drinks all day long. The point I’m making here is: get status! It makes everything 1000% nicer.

I’m now freshly showered, fed, and watered, and spent a lovely morning in a whirlpool spa area doing absolutely nothing. It was glorious.

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From the rooftop terrace at the executive lounge.

Now, a final story to send you guys off before I spend some more time relaxing and chilling out.

So, last night, like I mentioned, I was pretty tired. Nala too, since she had been traveling with me all day. Well, she had already pooped in the train terminal, but luckily the Italians love dogs so everyone just chuckled and shook their heads.

After arriving to the hotel, I spent a few minutes in my room before heading to the club lounge to grab a few drinks and snacks. When I came back, Nala was waiting for me at the door, frantically greeting me and jumping around. Well…I soon found out why, when I encountered my plush, amazing, king-size bed covered in pee. This means my dog, who I had just left, (and who was just outside!) found herself alone, jumped up onto the bed (because the floor wasn’t good enough?) and decided to relieve herself. All. Over. It.

I mean come on! Shamefully, I called down to the front desk and asked them for a new bedspread, because my dog has no manners. They were very kind and sent up housekeeping with a new one, who remade my bed while I awkwardly watched and tried to ignore the wet pile of dog pee bedding right next to us.

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I am a shameful pee dog.

Good times.

Ciao!

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Selfie Queens

-Carissa “Under the Tuscan Sun” Rawson

The Incredible Côte D’Azur

Ok!

I promised a happy post and here it is. Guys, Nice is beautiful. There is a reason that the rich and famous come to play here, and that’s because this city is basically paradise. I’m sat here, on the beach, just watching the waves roll in and wondering how I got to be so lucky. In short, you need to visit. Spend some points (there’s a Hyatt here!) or get an Airbnb and just let yourself rejuvenate in this fresh French air.

Plus, a bottle of wine is only 2 bucks! I mean, that makes this place at least 1000% better.

Ok pause right now. My waiter just came over and was starstruck to learn that I write a travel blog, and that I was in fact writing about Nice at this very moment. Does that make me famous? Anyway, since he was so kind, I’ll go ahead and plug his restaurant. Everyone, go to the Neptune Plage on the beach because the wine is cheap and the view is gorgeous (and I don’t just mean the waiters).

So, what about Nice is nice? Apart from the water, there’s a lot to do. My first day here, I wandered the fresh market, picking up some of the plushest produce I’ve ever seen and enjoying it while sipping a cappuccino on an outside terrace.

Today, I gave in to my baser instincts and headed to Blast: An American Bar, where I stereotypically ate French Toast and loved every minute of it. The service was some of the bet I’ve ever gotten, so I left a 2 Euro tip (See? See how tipping is done?)

Nala and I have wandered the streets, eyeing the luxury shopping (Chanel? Gucci? Please.) and every so often visited something historic. That’s the beauty of Europe, you see. Everything is old, and oftentimes, beautifully preserved. We can find things here that predate the US by hundreds of years, still in use, and still gorgeous.

I’ve gone on a tour to see the rich and famous in Monaco. Along the way, I stopped in the medical village of Eze, which houses 40 people and a huge cactus garden because…France?

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I even went to the Le Casino Monte Carlo, where I paid 10 Euro for entry and got stared at because perhaps my leggings weren’t quite in the dress code.

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Le Casino Monte Carlo

In short, the French Riviera is everything you’ve heard it is and more. It is elegant, grand and rich, welcoming, humble and affordable.

Come visit.

-Carissa

¡Que Guapa! Beautiful Barcelona

Hey! Another picture gallery post for you guys, because I spent some amazing days walking around Barcelona and I think you all need to see how beautiful it is. (But also me. I’m beautiful too. And Nala. Very pretty.)

-Carissa

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

A Girl and Her Dog: The Beginning of A European Adventure

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Hey guys!

Just wanted to let you know I’m not dead. In fact, today is my first day of a multi-month trip throughout Europe!

I’m sitting at a cafe’ in Madrid at the moment, dreaming up things to do and places to go. I’ll write more when I get home later.

Adios!

Carissa La Rubia