Europe

The Alhambra

City: Granada, Spain
Weather: 63°, sunny
Site: Alhambra, Generalife, and Nasrid Palace
Activity: 4 hour tour
 

We learned about the Alhambra in Architectural History and we’ve been really looking forward to getting over there since then. Problem was, I didn’t realize how many other people felt the same way. It was probably the most crowded architectural site I’ve ever been to. (more than the Taj Mahal, the Colosseum, Statue of Liberty…) So actually touring the site wasn’t as enjoyable as I hoped, but it was beautiful. And HUGE. It’s a walled city on a hill with multiple palaces and gardens. 

Alhambra Nasrid Palace
Alhambra Nasrid Palace
Alhambra Nasrid Palace
Alhambra Nasrid Palace
Alhambra Nasrid Palace
Alhambra Nasrid Palace
Alhambra Nasrid Palace
Alhambra Summer Palace
Alhambra
Alhambra Nasrid Palace Ceiling
Alhambra
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Around Barcelona

City: Barcelona, Spain
Weather: 68°, sunny
Site: beach, Barcelona Pavillon, Contemporary Art Museum
Activity: lots of cab rides

We did so much in our short 36 hours in Barcelona, mostly by hopping in and out of cabs which were really easy and cheap. Probably the best part of the day was Paella on the beach. I don’t take photos of food but I’m kind of regretting that decision this time. Our big plate of rice, muscles, scallops, shrimp, rabbit, and sausage… perfectly yellow with saffron. And a glass of white wine to wash it down with. 

Beach in Barcelona
Barcelona Contemporary Art Museum
Barcelona Contemporary Art Museum
Barcelona Pavillon
Barcelona Pavilion
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Hospital de la Santa Creu

City: Barcelona, Spain
Weather: 68°, sunny
Site: Hospital de la Santa Creu
Activity: colors

This hospital was not designed by Gaudi, but it shares its whimsy and time period with many of Gaudi’s work. Also, Gaudi died here after getting hit by a tram. The Hospital de la Santa Creu is another example of Catalan civil-Gothic architecture

Hospital de la Santa Creu
Hospital de la Santa Creu
Hospital de la Santa Creu
Hospital de la Santa Creu
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Casa Battlo

City: Barcelona, Spain
Weather: 68°, sunny
Site: Casa Batllo
Activity: Dodging high school tour groups

So many amazing details to comment on. See below. Every tiny bit of this home is thought out. 

Casa Batllo Staircase
Casa Batllo
Casa Batllo
Casa Batllo Ceiling
Casa Batllo
Casa Batllo
Casa Batllo
Casa Batllo
Casa Batllo
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Sagrada Familia

City: Barcelona, Spain
Weather: 68°, sunny
Site: Sagrada Familia
Activity: Looking Up

More of a collage, hodge podge, Disney castle than I expected but still had some really beautiful moments. Like those colors inside! Expected completion… 2028. Almost 150 years after it was started. 

Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia Stained Glass
Sagrada Familia Ceiling
Sagrada Familia Stained Glass
Sagrada Familia
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Casa Mila

City: Barcelona, Spain
Weather: 68°, sunny
Site: Casa Mila
Activity: Roof climbing 

Casa Mila was designed by Gaudi in 1906 and was full of textures, colors, curves. Loved it. Just wish we could live in an apartment where someone cared to design everything down to the window hardware. 

 
Casa Mila Looking Up
Casa Mila Exterior
Casa Mila Rooftop
Casa Mila Rooftop
Casa Mila
Casa Mila Roof Sculptures
Casa Mila Entry
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Park Guell

City: Barcelona, Spain
Weather: 68°, sunny
Site: Park Guell
Activity: climbing stairs, sitting on park benches

 

When you go to Barcelona, even if you’re not looking for him, you will find Antonio Gaudi. Alex and I were very much in search of Gaudi’s famous works so we started the day early with his Park Guell.

Park Guell Mosaic Bench
Park Guell Entry Building

 

 
Park Guell Columns
Park Guell Arches
Park Guell Columns
Park Guell Entry
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Walking Around Istanbul

City: Istanbul, Turkey
Weather: 85°, sunny
Site: Galata, Taksim Square
Activity: walking in the crowds

I could gush about Istanbul for hours. It’s possibly my favorite city I’ve ever been to… truly vibrant and layered. And of course the old cliche “where east meets west” could not be more correct. My one regret was shortening our trip because of the fear of terrorism and political unrest. We felt safe and comfortable on our short whirlwind tour of the city. Take notice of the number and size of Turkish flags. I’m curious the appearance of the city before the coup attempt.

Galata felt similar to Williamsburg, complete with a Shake Shack. I couldn’t believe it. Specialty boutiques and sidewalk cafes lined windy cobblestone streets. Women in full burkas next to hipsters in tiny cut-off shorts.

Not pictured: going to a traditional Turkish Hammam (Cagaloglu Hammam) and awkwardly bathing ourselves alone in a massive stone hall with natural light streaming in from the dome above.

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Istanbul: To Market
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Istanbul: Market
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Istanbul
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Istanbul
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Istanbul
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Istanbul Skyline
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Istanbul: SALT Galata
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Istanbul: SALT Galata
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Istanbul: Galata Tower
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Istanbul: Taksim Square
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Topkapi Palace

City: Istanbul, Turkey
Weather: 85°, sunny
Site: Topkapi Palace and Harem
Activity: enjoying the elaborate decor

Next site seeing stop was Topkapi Palace, located with a view of the Bosphorus and the skyline of Istanbul. The ornament was varied but always vibrant and elaborate. Hand painted tiles and gold everywhere. We especially loved wandering the Harem where the royals immediate family and servants lived.

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Istanbul: Topkapi Palace
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Istanbul: Topkapi Palace
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Istanbul: Topkapi Palace
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Istanbul: Topkapi Palace Harem
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Istanbul: Topkapi Palace Tile
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Istanbul: Topkapi Palace Tile
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Hagia Sophia

City: Istanbul, Turkey
Weather: 85°, sunny
Site: Hagia Sophia
Activity: looking in awe

Hagia Sophia, the building I most looked forward to seeing on this entire trip. It did not disappoint in its incomprehensible scale. Unfortunately there is quite a bit of scaffolding inside and out that skews your perception. It also felt very collage-y. A mish-mash of colors and stone. Christian and Islamic iconography. Old and new.

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Istanbul: Hagia Sophia
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Istanbul: Hagia Sophia
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Istanbul: Hagia Sophia Interiors
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Istanbul: Hagia Sophia
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Istanbul: Hagia Sophia Interiors
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The Blue Mosque

City: Istanbul, Turkey
Weather: 85°, sunny
Site: Blue Mosque
Activity: looking in awe

Day 8: The Blue Mosque or Sultan Ahmed Mosque, was our first stop on our whirlwind tour of Istanbul. It was modeled closely to the older, more famous, Hagia Sophia that it sits directly across from but began and continues to be a functioning Mosque where as Hagia Sophia began as a Greek Orthodox Church, morphed to a mosque, and is now a museum.

Those columns are hugeeeee. They are called “elephants feet”.

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Istanbul: Blue Mosque
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Istanbul: Blue Mosque
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Istanbul: Blue Mosque
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Istanbul: Blue Mosque
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Istanbul: Blue Mosque
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Istanbul: Blue Mosque
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Ancient Agora and Psyrri

City: Athens, Greece
Weather: 95°, sunny
Site: Ancient Agora, Psyrri Neighborhood
Activity: sketching, antique shopping

Day 7: Started fresh with even more ruins, this time the Ancient Agora. The large Middle Stoa has been re-built with a roof. I actually like this because I could finally experience a space similar to how it would have been.

We spent the last bit of time before our flight walking around the Psyrri neighborhood. It’s known for graffiti, large murals, and antiques.

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Athens: Ancient Agora
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Athens: Ancient Agora
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Athens: Ancient Agora
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Athens: Psyrri
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Athens: Psyrri Graffiti
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Athens: Antiques
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Kitties

Highlight of the trip: finding these kittens on our balcony. Maybe I should just stay home and volunteer in a shelter rather than going on these extravagant vacations…

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Kittens!
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The Acropolis (Ruins, Ruins, Ruins…)

City: Athens, Greece
Weather: 95°, sunny
Site: Ancient Acropolis, Temple of Zeus
Activity: sketching and dodging tourists

Day 6: We seriously knocked out the Athens tourist route in 6 hours. Of course by getting an early start and because… well… I don’t like ruins much. Not my thing. They were very overwhelming and inspiring to see in their scale, but I can’t spend a ton of time just looking at them.

The Ancient Acropolis is where the majority of recognizable temples, monuments, stadiums are located. My favorite ruin was actually the Temple of Zeus with its more intricate corinthian columns and the Acropolis looming in the background (last photo). It helps put the height of the Acropolis in perspective.

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Athens: The Parthenon
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Athens: Ancient Acropolis
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Athens: The Parthenon
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Athens: The Erechtheion
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Athens: The Parthenon
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Athens: Temple of Zeus
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Athens: Temple of Zeus
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Boating and Beaching Santorini

City: Santorini, Greece
Weather: 95°, sunny
Site: Around Santorini
Activity: booze cruising, lounging on the beach

Day 5: We went on a mediocre all-you-can drink boat cruise in hopes of seeing Santorini in a new way. It was relaxing but really just killed 6 hours floating around in a boat, staring at the coast just out of reach.

The black sand beach was a nice afternoon because it was our very first time ever using an umbrella at the beach. We will never go back to frying in the harsh, open sun now that we know the pure joy of man-made shade w/ a cold beer and a reclining chair.

Cheers to a genuine day of lounge vacation (not our normal travel itinerary)

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Santorini: Boating

 

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Santorini: Sea Swimming
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Santorini: Black Beach
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Santorini: You Are Here Map Tattoo
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Santorini: Cuddle Fish (it’s not fish fish…)
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Santorini: Black Beach
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Santorini: Sunset Boating
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More Santorini

City: Santorini, Greece
Weather: 91°, sunny
Site: Around Santorini
Activity: just looking

Miscellaneous photos from our time on the island. The sunsets really are some of the best I’ve ever seen. And they’re so consistently beautiful.

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Santorini: Sunset Posing in Fira
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Santorini: Oia Sunset
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Santorini: Oia Bells
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Santorini: Oia Windmill
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Santorini: FIra Still Life
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Santorini: Fira Sunset
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Santorini Wine Tasting

City: Santorini, Greece
Weather: 91°, sunny
Site: Amoudi Bay
Activity: wine sampling

We had some excellent wine in Santorini, and it’s of course cheap (because it’s Europe). There’s a few vineyards on the island. By far our favorite was Venetsanos Winery where we had 7 tastings with this amazing view of the water and cruise ships…

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Santorini: Wine Sampling
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Santorini: Wine at Sunset
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Santorini: View from Venetsanos Vineyard
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Amoudi Bay

City: Amoudi Bay, Santorini, Greece
Weather: 91°, sunny
Site: Amoudi Bay
Activity: eating octopus, petting donkeys, going for a swim

At the base of Oia is Amoudi Bay, where you can find super fresh (and expensive) seafood, boats of all sizes docked, and places to jump off volcanic rocks into the saltiest water I’ve ever experienced.

The best part was seeing octopus strung up to tenderize in the sun and then stopping at a sea-side restaurant to try some. It’s served thinly sliced with olive oil and herbs. Really tasty, I promise!

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Santorini: Amoudi Bay
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Santorini: Amoudi Bay octopus hanging to dry
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Santorini: Amoudi Bay swimming
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Oia: Amoudi Bay
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Santorini: Amoudi Bay donkey
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Oia By Day

City: Oia, Santorini, Greece
Weather: 91°, sunny
Site: Town of Oia
Activity: scootering around, souvenir shopping, counting cruise ships on the horizon

Day 4: We arrive by plane to Santorini, pick up our scooter and take a rest at our cute hotel outside the town of Oia (yellow building, 2nd photo). Santorini really lives up to its beauty. It’s just like the photos (but better) and along with all that, come literal boat-loads of other tourists. Somehow, it retains most of its charm…especially since we had our own means of transportation to explore the surprisingly large island.

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Santorini: Scooter party
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Santorini: Soulis Apartments, our hotel
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Santorini: Oia from below
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Santorini: Pastel colored church
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Santorini Still Life
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Santorini: Oia in the evening
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Meteora Monasteries

City: Meteora, Greece
Weather: 88°, sunny
Site: Meteora Monasteries
Activity: climbing stairs, learning how the monks and nuns live

Day 3 & 4: A 4 hour drive from Delphi through (sometimes snow covered) mountains, we arrived in Meteora, Greece. Here 9th century hermit monks settled on top of these massive stone outcroppings to escape distraction, and later, Turkish occupation. At its most populated, there were 24(?) active monasteries, each of which were reached by rock climbing or rickety ladders.

The sunset was epic, the rock formations were unlike anything I’ve ever seen. A very interesting place, but I must say, the town Kalambaka at the base was a terribly tourist packed town. Worth it to see these very strange monasteries.

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Meteora: Selfie
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Meteora: Monastery in the distance
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Meteora: Sexy Sunset
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Meteora: City at the Base, Kalambaka
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Meteora: Inside a Monastery
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Meteora: St. Stephen nunnary
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Meteora: Outside the Great Meteoron Monastery
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