Now that I'm finally settling in from a whirlwind August, I'm excited to return to you - vast blogging world!
It didn't take long to notice that while I was away, other people were settling into Ann Arbor. I refer to them as the "kids," although I take full responsibility that that isn't polite. That word would make my teenage self cringe.  Now, I sit in traffic in a college town, waiting for the Uhaul trucks to move out of the way so us adults can get home to our dogs and be in bed before 11 pm. I see parents walking their children around campus, each having an obvious nervousness but for different reasons, and somehow that feeling resonates so well that I return to that day of moving in.

You see, I was 100% the wide-eyed, bushy tailed young adult who couldn't wait to escape a small town and discover the big world: COLLEGE!
The memory of waving goodbye to my parents on the front steps of my college dorm is etched so vividly into my mind. My every thought mimicked a teenage girl who simply couldn't wait to be an adult (you know, the kind of adult that lives in gross college dorms, eats pizza, and pulls all-nights for exams)

I read an article the other day that talked about what the author would tell "kids" scurrying off to college this Fall. Then, serendipitously, I might add, Brad Paisley blew through my speakers with "Letter to Me," while I waited in a line of traffic as curious souls trampled through the intersections like they already own this joint.
I was left thinking, "What would I tell them?"


It would go something like this:



Dear College Student, 

This may sting a bit at first, but I promise it will get better.

Here's the truth: People will lie to you. 

That's what I want you to hear loud and clear. Because sometime over the next few years, the lines will begin to blur and you'll be left wondering if there is more to life. Good news- there is!

You see, our culture has this sick and twisted way of telling you that you don't experience college unless you drink a ridiculous amount, define yourself by your sexual partners and have multiple  facebook pictures of yourself dancing on top of a table while attempting to bong a beer, a night you're sure to remember. (FYI, pictures don't delete well from the internet. Fair warning.)
And guess what? If you don't have sex, get plastered or pay for a spring break where pictures are your only memories, you certainly haven't experienced college. At least that is what you're told.
But before you go trotting off to the next frat party and believing that's all there is, read on.

Because there is more, SO MUCH MORE to this little bubble you have the privilege of being in. This life experience is sold to you by horribly scripted movies that lessen it to short-lived moments of 'satisfaction,' for lack of a better word. Complete with what are sure to be numerous regrettable moments. Trust me on this, life is so much more than that, so much BETTER than that.

But, again and again you will be told by peers, our culture or Ms.Cyrus herself that this is what life is about.
That this is what is important.
It's a lie.

Here's the truth:
College is ridiculously fun. It's freeing and challenging. You'll make mistakes and learn to pick yourself back up. You'll discover all of these new interests and be able to explore every one. You will learn to be a better friend, work hard, contribute to the world, and make an impact on people's lives. The people who impact you will be far greater, and for that your life will be enriched. I would bet you will have moments of panic, then come to realize that your problems are actually not real problems at all, and life is quite wonderful despite a getting a B. (This happens, just ask my parents!). You get to pursue multiple passions and live in this safe haven called COLLEGE.
All of this stuff, it's important. Your decisions, your imprint, your passions and pursuits, the way you treat people, the friendships you form, the lessons you learn = important.

You see, you have the world at your fingertips. Truly.

So, sweet college student, don't cheapen this privilege you have before you. It's far too good to be wasted (no pun intended.)


With love,

Adult.


P.S. Just because you hit the crosswalk button doesn't mean you can walk immediately. No one wants to run you over, especially not this adult.








We said goodbye to Venice at 4 am, standing at the end of a desolate street waiting for our water taxi to pick us up. Nothing like waving good bye to Italy as you speed off in a boat. 4 am was worth the wake-up call, Spain was calling our names!

In one word, Barcelona is unparalleled. It's everything in one: a coastal oasis, haven of architectural treasures, a historical refuge surrounded by mountains, and a shopping mecca. It has both the bustling districts and the calm neighborhood feel, all of which is kept meticulously clean. I've never seen a cleaner city! 99% of the buildings look like you are walking down 5th avenue, with exquisite detail, colorful flowers, large windows and beautifully sculpted terraces. 
Not to mention the tapas! Love me some tapas!



We spent 4 days here, soaking up as much of the city as possible. We walked around to the point of exhaustion, sometimes realizing that things were much further than we anticipated. We had walked so much on this trip, that we shamelessly ended up using more taxis in Barcelona than anywhere else.

Since Barcelona feels like two different cities from the beach to the city streets, it's appropriate to give them both the attention they deserve. In other words, this is a long post :)

Let's start with the streets:



What's so fun about this city is there are gems on every corner.
Specifically, the 'gems' of Antonio Gaudi, the famous architect who can be credited with giving us the word "gaudi." If you could picture the craziest, out-of-this-world designs, than you have just skimmed the surface of his style.
For example, Casa Batllo, which sits between fancier buildings in a shopping district, resembles fish scales with terraces shaped as masks and an entrance that appears to be the mouth of a large fish. Confused? Understandable.




Or Casa Mila, which sits a few streets up from Casa Batlla, has gothic appeal with curved walls and chimneys shaped as abstract people.




Park Guell, also designed by Gaudi, was an uphill battle of a walk, we made it! It somewhat resembles Alice in Wonderland with the colorful mosaic tiles that cover every inch of the buildings and walkways. 
Despite the somewhat confusing designs, it's hard to escape Barcelona without a deep appreciation for Gaudi's work.




Oh the views!!




My favorite of his work left me speechless, La Sagrada Familia. Truly, one of the most remarkable places I've ever seen. All of the preconceived notions I had about this building, La Sagrada far surpassed.
I'd go back to Barcelona just to see it in its completion (expected around 2040.) I'd encourage you to read about the church, it will blow you away. (I can feel the theology nerd rising up in me!)




There is something so unique about this building, and not only because of the daring architecture, but the thought that went into every single aspect of it when it started to be built in 1882. The gospel is proclaimed in sculptures on one side, the story of Jesus' life is sculpted on the other, the name of Jesus carved out in hundreds of different languages as you enter through the large doors, the top of towers carrying sculptures of different food to represent the last supper, the (to be built) 18 towers to represent 12 apostles, 4 evangelists, Jesus and Mary, the windows at different angels to shine light at specific times of day on the alter, and the list continues. La Sagrada Familia is a physical representation of the Bible. Even if you aren't a religious person, it's impossible to not be struck by this place.




We bought tickets in advance for the first tour of the day = best decision of the trip! We went up to one of the towers (not for the fearful!!) and did the audio tour. As dorky as it was to walk around with a headset, we would not have been able to appreciate all of the history and details behind every piece of the church.





Then comes the beach!
Everyone warns you about Barcelona being a hot bed of pickpocketing (especially at the beach), so we had to be extra-aware of our surroundings. Proud to report that although we were followed a few times, we never had an incident. Except one kid grabbing my hip in an attempt to swipe my ipod during a morning run on the boardwalk, but the ipod happened to be on my other hip, which made him run a lot faster and me scream a lot louder.




I celebrated my 28th birthday in Barcelona, which was definitely one for the record books! Kelly and I had this brilliant idea of booking a party sailboat for my big day. Let's just say we were totally naive as to what that entailed, but we survived and had a few good laughs along the way!



This is one of those "I feel as if I must post a birthday celebration picture," but somehow they all turned out uber awkard. Here's the least among the awkward scale.



The last leg of our trip certainly tested my fear of heights. First La Sagrada, then the cable cars. Both were a must, so I sucked it up and held on tight - all in the name of some gorgeous views and pictures that will hang our walls.




La Rambla!




It was bittersweet to pack up our bags of dirty laundry (I have one clean shirt left!) and call it quits in our girls vaca. Cheers to one heck of a trip!!



For more posts from recent travel adventures:

Venice
Our Irish Roadtrip
Dublin




From Ireland, we hopped on a plane in the early morning and headed to Italy. To say we were 'all over the map' on this trip would be an accurate statement; we made good use of the 10 days we had :)




Venice surprised me. To go from Ireland to Italy was a bit of a shock, but mostly due to temperature. Italy welcomed us with high 90's temperature and crowds of people (aka little breeze and some major BO). Each of us also got a bit sea sick on the water taxi from the airport to the hotel. Mix that with being tired and sweaty, and Venice didn't stand a good chance of love at first sight.

But I warmed up. Both literally and hypothetically. It's hard to walk down the streets and not have one million questions in your mind, this city has a way to spur your curiosity and imagination, for that, I loved it!




It's difficult to wrap your head around the reality of this city. There's no such thing as a vehicle or roadway. The serendipitous scene of a man standing at the back of a gondola is a typical view. The endless rows of tall buildings, each pained in different colors, doors open into hundreds of  waterways, no greenery or yards, the exposed original brick that gives you glimpses of the early centuries; all real life, and one that pictures can't accurately explain.

We stayed in Venice for two days, which was the perfect amount of time. We were able to enjoy the culture, cuisine, visit multiple landmarks and shop the countless stores. The weather forced us to give up any hope of looking somewhat presentable, so the pictures from Venice are a bit limited. I'm not convinced that anyone wants to see us in a pool of our own sweat. Thank me later.




My favorite memories are those of us eating meals on the waterfront while people watching. Call me an old person at heart, or a complete romantic, but it was just lovely. It felt like we were in a scene of a movie, sipping on morning coffee or a nice glass of vino, eating fresh fruit and watching the gondolas go by under the horizon  painted with buildings that spoke of times we only read about.




St.Mark's Basilica and Piazza San Marco were incredible to see. They welcome you as you step off of the water taxi and somehow we always seemed to land back there as our landmark. I had read in some blog searches that the best time to go was around sunset, since many people went back to their homes and hotels at that point. Thumbs up to that writer! (Although I must admit the birds did not flock during that time, so be aware that you're likely to be attacked by at least one)




And what would be a complete trip to Venice without a gondola ride?! I was probably too excited to go on one, and it didn't disappoint. We ended up going at night and the lights from the buildings reflected their life on each waterway as we floated through.  I'd be lying if I didn't admit that all I could think about was the Italian Job and wondering if a gold heist was going on right below us. I'm going to go ahead and say yes, yes there was.




There's nothing that compares to seeing this city in person.
Just eat more gelato than you thought possible, drink a lot of water and escape the crowds by wandering on the side streets. You'll find hidden gems in delicious restaurants, old churches and a laid back life that is a stark comparison to the bustling shopping areas that tourists flock to.

We wandered into the best areas while attempting to go for a run midday, and although I almost suffered a heat stroke (that may be a slight exaggeration), we found some amazing parts of the city. Obviously, gelato was the only cure for recovery.




Venice, you're one in a million.







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