I think it’s only fitting that before I write about my recent trip that I take a stroll down memory lane back to my first trip in Europe last 2008 – simply because if I don’t do it now I know I won’t write about it anymore. I don’t want this to be too detailed since this took place a while back so this will mostly be about the highlights of that trip.
After we got married in July 2007, I told my husband that we had to go to Europe before I got pregnant – that was my ‘condition’. Getting married and being married to the love of your life is the greatest thing but I knew then that having a baby would completely change our lives. So in December of that year my very kind father-in-law got us tickets to Europe (luckily they were seriously excited to have a grandchild) — only to find out a week later that I was a couple of weeks pregnant. In March of 2008 I was 4 months pregnant, got on a plane and went to Europe for the first time.
This was one of our last stops but I wanted to write about it first since the “let’s go to Europe condition” had a “but we also have to go to Keukenhof “clause. My husband used to tell me stories about this place and I ended up dreaming of the day that I would see the world’s most beautiful tulips. So in 2008, this is where I spent my birthday. We took a bus from the Den Haag (The Hague) bus station to Lisse where the Koukenhof gardens were. From March to May of every year, the gardens are in bloom and open to the public. This was the main reason why we specifically wanted to go to Europe during these months. So if you end up around the Netherlands area during these months, this is definitely a must see – no other garden can compare.
I often heard about Amsterdam’s red light district and wondered if those rumors about it being great just came from guys. It was pretty outrageous and funny despite being pregnant (I hated the smell of weed though. I think I was just paranoid but it seemed like everyone was smoking something). I had a lot of fun walking around and seeing what Amsterdam was really all about. Unfortunately we weren’t able to take photos of the club windows where we saw women of all shapes, sizes and ages. But Amsterdam was pretty great!
Portugal, which is located in southwestern Europe, is a beautiful country. This was the starting point of our trip. I arrived in Lisbon carrying different expectations for the trip such as Lisbon wasn’t something special , Paris was overrated and Milan was beautiful yet realized in the end that I figured wrong.
We loved walking around Lisbon and seeing the Lisbon Cathedral, Castelo de San Jorge and the Belem area. But my favorite part of Portugal was our tour around Fatima, Nazare and Obidos. Along the way we stopped by the magnificent Batalha Monastery (Mosteiro Santa Maria da Vitória). Up to this day, this still remains my favorite church/chapel/religious structure.
I am an alumna of Poveda Learning Center (now known as St.Pedro Poveda College). All my life I have been studying St.Pedro Poveda’s life and one cannot help but want to visit his home country and attempt to put 13 years of Spanish into good use.
Spain, the land of paella’s and football, is a unique and lovely country. In all honesty, I didn’t know what to expect and was happy with what we found. Barcelona was enchanting, as well as Antoni Gaudi’s works. I really have a thing for Olympic Parks so we actually went out of our way to visit the Barcelona Olympic Park which was used in 1992. I fell in love with Montserrat (day trip to Catalonia) where the Santa Maria de Montserrat (abbey) can be found. Madrid on the other hand was more urban. Still beautiful but not my cup of tea.
When I think about Italy, all that comes to mind is “I wish we just went to Florence”. Our whole trip was centered around Milan. I was so excited to visit Milan (I had plans to take a short course in Milan with one of my best friends that year but since I got pregnant this trip became my only chance to see it). When we got there, I was utterly disappointed. I know a lot of people enjoy Milan, but I don’t like shopping that much so maybe that’s why I wasn’t so impressed. It was a bit too crowded, too metropolitan and a bit too dirty for me (no offense). Venice too wasn’t all that I expected it to be. I suppose it was cute because of the small streets, bridges and canals but I just had this picture in my head about how beautiful it was going to be. For this trip, Italy’s saving grace was Rome. Rome was spectacular. We stayed with family friends who lived outside of Rome and they took us around. Sure, the tourist destinations in Rome were really wonderful but the most memorable for me was the Roman Catholic Basilica “Santa Croce in Gerusalemme”. Outside it was nothing great but inside we found Passion Relics (thorns from Jesus’ crown, part of the nail that was used when he was crucified, small parts of the cross and the Titulus Crucis). I know some people question their authenticity but it was a very surreal experience and I will never forget it. I got chills when we went inside the chapel. And of course we were thrilled that we were able to attend the apostolic blessing in St. Peter’s Basilica.