Travel: India

So, I apologize for disappearing this past year. Unfortunately, certain responsibilities come with being an adult. This includes things such as acquiring a job, paying my own bills, and being thrust out of my mother’s nest into the real world.,

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I’ve gone from growing up in New Jersey, to attending Graduate School in California, and finally settling in Texas. And yet, I feel discontent. During school, hard work paid off by manifesting itself in the form of grades, but a career, and subsequently long hours, is only gratifying in the form of wealth.

 

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Its fact that wealth doesn’t buy happiness, but savoring the little moments, and cherishing time spent with family and friends does. I can’t deny that I am grateful for the niche I have built in Houston. I do enjoy what I do, and there’s a certain thrill I feel whenever I drive past a building I worked on, or when I finished modeling a complex building. Yet, I feel incomplete. There’s a certain yen I have to explore and discover all the beauty and history that our planet has to offer, and it’s not something I can do with my career while chained to a desk.

imageAnd so, with some strategic planning and the benefit of not having to use my vacation days to visit family, I have managed to scrounge up a sufficient amount of days for my next big travel venture. This year, it is India.

imageDespite a 36-hour total travel time to New Delhi, and an overwhelming sense of unspoken questions that I have left behind in Houston, I’m excited to explore this diverse nation with one of my best friends from high school.Because, for me, travel allows me to keep things in perspective.

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I think that as Americans we can become blinded within the bubble that is patriotic egoism. Exploring different cultures and countries allows one to understand what simple freedoms we enjoy and to really appreciate our place in life.

 

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Travel: Longest Travel day EVER (III)

Finally emerging from Bari Castle, I was absolutely starving! I dragged my bedraggled and tired body back on route to the port hoping to grab some food on the way. Unfortunately, being a smaller coastal town, there weren’t a lot of options. I didn’t really have time for a sit-down, and the one food truck I passed didn’t have anything available! (Or simply didn’t understand my pointing or limited and slaughtering of the Italian language).

As a result, I finally make it to the port! (and consequently purchase my sustenance on board)

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The important thing to note is that the journey from Bari to Patras lasts for a minimum of 18 hours. The basic ferry ticket does not include a bed or an official seat. There’s some assigned seating in the form of small auditorium, but the rest is a lounge or public space. As a poor, traveling, recently graduate student, I opted for the base charge that went with my EuroRail pass. Therefore, I ended up sleeping on one of the booth seats that you often see in diners. Not exactly the most comfortable way to pass the night, especially if you are carrying all your earthly possessions in a backpack.

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Fortunately, I passed the time with some avid reading of my Kindle, some book-keeping for my expenses in my beloved Moleskine, and the uploading of all my media onto my Macbook Air. When it came time to pass out, I used my carabiners to strap the loops of my backpack to my belt-loops (This way I didn’t have to sleep on top of a lumpy bag, or cuddle it on my stomach. (Carabiners are my best friend).

18 crawling hours later, we dock in Patras Greece, exiting the ferry doors to the smell of the sea and fresh sunshine. Finding the bus-stop required to take me to town, I met up with some backpackers, a few traveling solo, and a few with friends.  1 hour later, we arrived at the main bus terminal. From there, it was either a 30 min walk to the train station (with questionable service) or tickets on a bus for about $25 Euro. We just went for it. (At this point we were waaaay too exhausted to even consider the alternative option).

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Starving, we used the time we had to venture up the street for food. And I got my first official taste of grecian food in the country of Greece at a placed called Snoopy’s!

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Granted it was a Gyro, which is actually pronounce yero, but for about $3 Euro, I got two Gyro’s and they were absolutely fantastic!

A 4-hour bus ride later, we reached the outskirts of Athens. (We meandered about confused for awhile until an english-species grecian helped us out).

The ride into the city center took us about 45 mins. Getting off, we had to take a bus in the opposite direction because the bus driver failed to notify us of our stop.

So let’s sum up my estimated travel time from Rome to Greece.

  • 3-4 hours train
  • 18 hour ferry
  • 1 hour bus
  • 4 hours bus
  • 45 min bus

Equals, it took me MORE than a FULL day to successfully physically relocate my body from the peninsula of Italy to the Peninsula of Greece. Whew!

 

Travel: Au Revoir Portugal!

I was finally fortunate enough to stay at my first hostel ever! (Since I was staying with my friend’s family while visiting her in Portugal). Unfortunately (or fortunately) it was the off-season, so I had a quiet relaxing day, and enjoyed the room to myself at night. This was probably for the better considering that I woke up a 3:00 AM this morning so I had time to walk the 15 minutes to the OPO Airport in time to catch a 6:30 AM flight.

So, Guess where I am? : P . . . MADRID!

I rendezvoused with my dear mother. While this may not sound optimal, considering the classic vision of a no-holds barred and party hard Euro Trip with close friends, I am both sad that I don’t have that opportunity, but grateful to be spending what could be my last quality moments with her. You see, since my school was on a completely different track than typical universities, Quarters versus Semesters respectively, I don’t have any friends that have the same availability as I do. Furthermore, as I was pursuing a graduate degree, those of my friends who streamlined into the working world have exactly that, work, with limited options or freedom to drop everything and disappear.

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I had planned to complete this trip on my own, and yet, it is nice to have some company. There would have been moments of loneliness and doubt, followed by meeting people from different countries and spontaneously finding bonds of friendship. Don’t you worry though! My mother leaves in 2.5 weeks, and my trip will revert to solo travel as I continue through my next few European nations.

Despite us both being incredibly tired, her because of the 6 hours time-difference, and me because I have the incapacity to sleep early, we managed to pack in our day!

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Palacio Real

Our first stop was the Palacio Real. After the 9th century Alcazar was destroyed in a fire in 1734, Felipe V, who was raised in Versailles, decided to replace it with a much grandeur structure. He never lived to see his vision however, since it was not completed or habitable until 1764. The palace’s exterior is not ostentatious, but is compensated for by the extravagance of the interior rooms.

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Unfortunately, I have limited pictures since most palaces and sites in Madrid do not allow you to take pictures. 😦

After completing the Palacio Real, we meandered back to the Plaza de Oriente to savor some coffee and a snack, and enjoy the fresh open air of the square. We were able to admire the central fountain, which includes a bronze equestrian statue of Felipe IV; it dates from 1640 and is reputedly the first ever bronze depiction of a rearing horse. It is said that Galileo assisted with the calculations to allow it to balance on the horse’s hind legs.

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Almudena Cathedral

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Plaza de Oriente

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We then admired the Cathedral de La Almudena, and the splattering of gothic chapels encased within its neoclassical shell. This cathedral was in fact planned centuries ago, but suffered from a lack of funds and a Civil War bombing, so it did not actually open until 1993. The best part was the crypt, which features neo-Romanesque architecture, and more than 400 columns! Each bears its own unique capital.

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This is also the sight of the image of “Our Lady of Flor de Lis” It is one of the oldest images in Madrid having been commission by King Alfonso VI in 1083 AD.

The day was wrapped up by a relaxing stroll the Jardines de Sabatini, and quiet contemplation when gasping at awe at the ancient hieroglyphics that still lay carved on the interior walls of the Temple of Debod. (Unfortunately due to a lack of better preservation techniques, these images are gradually fading from existence).

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Sabatini Gardens

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Temple of Debod

 

Travel: Arriving in Portugal

Since I flew from California to bide a mere 4 days in New Jersey, and then flew from there to Lisbon, Portugal, my jet-lag is at an all-time high. I averaged a bedtime ove about 2 AM in NJ (Carry over from the 3-hour difference), and as a result, even though my plane landed at 8 AM, because it is 5 hours ahead of home, I successfully acquired a mere 3-hours of sleep. Needless to say, I am pretty exhausted. Clearly, I overestimated how energetic I would be, and assumed I’d be able to site-see immediately after I got off the plane. YAWN.

I took the metro (clean and efficient) to hop on a Redo Expresso bus bound for Fatima. When my parents and sister visited Portugal over a year ago, they met a young lady, who participated in an exchange program in Philadelphia, and was brave enough to accept my mother’s invitation to spend the weekend with us in our home. We became friends within this time, and she invited me to visit her back in her home country. I am now spending time with her and her family in their home. Hopefully, I will learn some Portuguese within this time, and paired with my Spanish, I can communicate more effectively.  😀

Portugal Cove, NL, 1908

I have a deep admiration for the rich culture and heritage that european countries are founded upon.

Portugal has diverse origins. It is the oldest european nation-state, and was the impetus behind pioneering the age of discovery. Famed explorers such as Prince Henry the Navigator, Christopher Columbus, Vasco de Gama, and Pedro Álvares Cabral trace their bloodlines from here. Treaties such as the Treaty of Tordesillas and the Treaty of Zaragoza helped establish Portugal’s seat as an economic, military, and political power from the 15th to early 16th centuries.

Yet, it has been in decline in the 21st century in the aftermath of Napoleon’s Occupation. Although many products, such as Calvin Klein, Guess, and the Leica Cameras, are produced here, there is still a negative stigma associated with it. Leica Camera’s still carry the “Made in Germany” title, because when production was shifted to Portugal, statistics demonstrated that “Made in Portugal” resulted in a 30% loss in sales.