The Time I Pretended to Study Abroad

Two weeks ago, my parents gave me the most amazing early 21st birthday present: a week and a half long trip to Lisbon, Madrid, and Barcelona to travel with my best friends from home who are currently studying abroad in Europe this semester. Rather than chronicle my adventures in an extremely long essay style that probably won’t get read, I decided to make superlatives to highlight some of my favorite memories. If you want to talk to me more about a particular item on the list, definitely post in the comments and I’d love to chat! Enjoy!

So now, in no particular order…

Prettiest View Park Güell, Barcelona

Park Güell, Barcelona

Best Restaurant/Meal Restaurante Pinquio, Lisbon

Massada de Mariscos (Seafood Stew) at Pinoquio, Lisbon. Definitely worth the splurge

Massada de Mariscos (Seafood Stew) and olives. Definitely worth the splurge in price and calories.

Best Drink White Sangria, Restaurante Pinquio, Lisbon

Sangria at Pinoquio, Lisbon

Sangria at Pinoquio, Lisbon

Best Soup Seafood Soup, Casa de India, Lisbon

Seafood Soup at Casa de India, Lisbon. Oddly enough, it wasn't an India restaurant but I never figured out why that was the restaurant name

Most Exotic Food I Ate Gulas (baby eels), Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid

Best Paella (I was in Spain after all) Pollo Rico


This restaurant served huge family style pans of various paellas for super cheap. The only downside was that the heads were on the shrimp and it took a while (and a few glasses of sangria) to get used to having eyes staring back at you on your plate.

Freshest Food La Boquería, Barcelona 

This is definitely not Chipotle's guacamole...This market also had the world's biggest grapes and sweetest mangoes.

This is definitely not Chipotle’s guacamole…This market also had the world’s biggest grapes and sweetest mangoes.

Close runner up - look at that fruit! Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid.

Close runner up – look at that fruit! Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid.

Favorite Fact Learned in a Walking Tour Tapas Story, Madrid

On the walking tour in Madrid, we learned the history of tapas. Apparently, poor workers couldn't afford to buy both beer and food on their lunch breaks, so they naturally chose beer and ended up being super unproductive for the rest of the day. Therefore, the king mandated that all alcoholic beverages be served with a small portion of food, which later became known as tapas because they were served on top of the drink to prevent sand/dirt from getting into the drink. Above is another one of my favorite tapas, Spanish Tortilla.

On the walking tour in Madrid, we learned the history of tapas. Apparently, poor workers couldn’t afford to buy both beer and food on their lunch breaks, so they naturally chose beer and ended up being super unproductive for the rest of the day. Therefore, the king mandated that all alcoholic beverages be served with a small portion of food, which later became known as tapas because they were served on top of the drink to prevent sand/dirt from getting into the drink. Above is another one of my favorite tapas, Spanish Tortilla.

Best Bar La Chapandaz (The Cave), Madrid

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Super unique venue, drinks came from ceiling!

Super unique venue, drinks came from ceiling!

Best Club Opium, Barcelona 

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Cliché, I know, but a club with great music and an outdoor patio leading to the beach - what more could I want?!

Cliché, I know, but a club with great music and an outdoor patio leading to the beach – what more could I want?!

Best Hostel Stay Inn Hostel, Lisbon

They had friendly, helpful staff and the place was impeccably clean. I felt compelled to provide this incredible view of Lisbon as well :)

They had friendly, helpful staff and the place was impeccably clean. I felt compelled to provide this incredible view of Lisbon as well 🙂

Best Tapa Burrata with Blueberry Jam and Nuts, Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid

Fun fact this is the only cheese I really like. The combination sounds gross, but it was actually unique and delicious. I also HIGHLY recommend visiting this market if you are ever in Madrid. It has tons of stations with a wide array of prepared tapas, so it was an easy way to sample many different foods.

Fun fact this is the only cheese I really like. The combination sounds gross, but it was actually unique and delicious. I also HIGHLY recommend visiting this market if you are ever in Madrid. It has tons of stations with a wide array of prepared tapas, so it was an easy way to sample many different foods.

Most Surprising Find Sushiya, Barcelona

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Who would except to find amazing Japanese food in Barcelona? But since they are so close to water, their seafood is incredibly fresh. This was quite possibly the most delicious tuna tartare I ever had. I also had fantastic rolls and a great seaweed salad (because no sushi meal is complete without one).

Who would except to find amazing Japanese food in Barcelona? But since they are so close to water, their seafood is incredibly fresh. This was quite possibly the most delicious tuna tartare I ever had. I also had fantastic rolls and a great seaweed salad (because no sushi meal is complete without one).

Best Patatas Bravas Orixe, Barcelona

Best Brunch Bar Celoneta, Barcelona 

At the restaurant Bar Celoneta on the shore of Barceloneta Beach, Barcelona, they have an amazing weekend brunch special. For 19 euros, you get 2 cocktails, unlimited access to a vegetarian buffet with tapas, pastries, and fruits, and a custom made omelet with eggs or chickpea flour (I was adventurous and tried the chickpea one which tasted like a falafel pancake). The hummus and Rossini cocktail (strawberry puree and prosecco) were definitely the highlights for me!

At the restaurant Bar Celoneta on the shore of Barceloneta Beach, Barcelona, they have an amazing weekend brunch special. For 19 euros, you get 2 cocktails, unlimited access to a vegetarian buffet with tapas, pastries, and fruits, and a custom made omelet with eggs or chickpea flour (I was adventurous and tried the chickpea one which tasted like a falafel pancake). The hummus and Rossini cocktail (strawberry puree and prosecco) were definitely the highlights for me!

Coolest Tourist Sight Palace de Pena, Sintra (outside of Lisbon)

Sintra was a city about a 45 minute train ride outside of Lisbon. There were a bunch of other castles and other tourist attractions but due to the fog and rain we only went to the Palace de Pena. It housed the royal family of Portugal in the 1800s. Unfortunately the pictures do not even come close to doing it justice because of the uncooperative weather.

Sintra was a city about a 45 minute train ride outside of Lisbon. There were a bunch of other castles and other tourist attractions but due to the fog and rain we only went to the Palace de Pena. It housed the royal family of Portugal in the 1800s. Unfortunately the pictures do not even come close to doing it justice because of the uncooperative weather.

Most Impressive Architecture La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Fun fact - the church is still being worked on and won't be complete until 2030.

Fun fact – the church is still being worked on and won’t be complete until 2030.

Most Relaxing Place Barceloneta, Barcelona

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Y'all know how much I love the beach, so naturally it was perfect to spend the day lounging, taking pictures, and just enjoying the surroundings. P.S. does that last picture look familiar (hint: look at my about me page!)

Y’all know how much I love the beach, so naturally it was perfect to spend the day lounging, taking pictures, and just enjoying the surroundings. P.S. does that last picture look familiar (hint: look at my about me page!)

Favorite Park Park Güell, Barcelona

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Park Güell not only had the prettiest view of my entire trip, it also had such a variety sculptures, buildings, and greenery. Great place to explore for a few hours. Also, I think the building on the left looks like a gingerbread house personally.

Park Güell not only had the prettiest view of my entire trip, it also had such a variety sculptures, buildings, and greenery. Great place to explore for a few hours. Also, I think the building on the left looks like a gingerbread house personally.

Most American Thing I Did Hanging with US Marines 

When we were out during our first night in Lisbon we randomly met a bunch of US Marines who had been training with the Portuguese army for the past few days. They were so friendly, and we ended up hanging out with them at the bar for the rest of the night. It was incredibly humbling to meet boys who were our age or even younger who were overseas serving our country.

When we were out during our first night in Lisbon we randomly met a bunch of US Marines who had been training with the Portuguese army for the past few days. They were so friendly, and we ended up hanging out with them at the bar for the rest of the night. It was incredibly humbling to meet boys who were our age or even younger who were overseas serving our country.

Close runner up - drunk eating McDonald's, literally the only thing open 24 hours. Clearly the reason Europeans are so much thinner than us Americans is that they don't drunchie.

Close runner up – drunk eating McDonald’s, literally the only thing open 24 hours. Clearly the reason Europeans are so much thinner than us Americans is that they don’t drunchie.

Best Attempt at European Lifestyle

Long days sightseeing and nights that lasted until dawn required something to fuel these adventures. I am not a coffee drinker and try my best to avoid caffeine in general (with the exception of my 5 hour energy drinks during finals week). However, like I said it was near impossible to keep up without an energy boost. European coffee is typically espresso which is like a shot of highly concentrated coffee. It is SOOO bitter - wow. Much to the enjoyment of my friend, I took them like shots and then chased them with juice. It probably was hilarious to watch/super embarrassing for me, but hey a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

Long days sightseeing and nights that lasted until dawn required something to fuel these adventures. I am not a coffee drinker and try my best to avoid caffeine in general (with the exception of my 5 hour energy drinks during finals week). However, like I said it was near impossible to keep up without an energy boost. European coffee is typically espresso which is like a shot of highly concentrated coffee. It is SOOO bitter – wow. Much to the enjoyment of my friend, I took them like shots and then chased them with juice. It probably was hilarious to watch/super embarrassing for me, but hey a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

Most Random Thing I Did

So as I mentioned earlier in the Palace de Pena caption, it wasn't exactly ideal weather in Lisbon for most of our trip. So one day my friends and I decided to go to the electricity museum because it was indoors and free so why not? We got to act like elementary school kids in science class for about 30 minutes and then braved the weather again.

So as I mentioned earlier in the Palace de Pena caption, it wasn’t exactly ideal weather in Lisbon for most of our trip. So one day my friends and I decided to go to the electricity museum because it was indoors and free so why not? We got to act like elementary school kids in science class for about 30 minutes and then braved the weather again.

Best Dessert Pastel de Nata at Pastéis de Belém, Lisbon

Custard filled tart - basically tasted like creme brûlée inside a pastry

Custard filled tart – basically tasted like creme brûlée inside a pastry

Cutest Perro

I saw a lot of dogs in Europe, and shockingly although most of them weren't on leashes, they still followed their owners dutifully (if I tried that with Lilly, it would NOT end well). Anyway, one day the cutest little jack russell puppy wandered over to me so I couldn't resist playing with it, and I even was able to have a Spanish conversation with his owner about how I have a jack russell terrier too. #typical.

I saw a lot of dogs in Europe, and shockingly although most of them weren’t on leashes, they still followed their owners dutifully (if I tried that with Lilly, it would NOT end well). Anyway, one day the cutest little jack russell puppy wandered over to me so I couldn’t resist playing with it, and I even was able to have a Spanish conversation with his owner about how I have a jack russell terrier too. #typical.

Best Local Shop Manuel Tavares

I stumbled into this store within my first couple of hours in Lisbon. It turns out that is one of the oldest wine shops in Lisbon! We befriended, Rick, a really nice man who worked there and he let us try a bunch of the port wines and dried fruit they sold. Seriously, he was one of the nicest people I encountered on this trip, if you ever travel to Lisbon please visit this store and show him this picture - I assure you that you will be well taken care of!

I stumbled into this store within my first couple of hours in Lisbon. It turns out that is one of the oldest wine shops in Lisbon! We befriended, Rick, a really nice man who worked there and he let us try a bunch of the port wines and dried fruit they sold. Seriously, he was one of the nicest people I encountered on this trip, if you ever travel to Lisbon please visit this store and show him this picture – I assure you that you will be well taken care of!

Favorite Souvenir

I found this beautiful sangria jug in the Born district of Barcelona which is well known for their shopping. I obviously was drawn to it for the overwhelming amount of purple ceramic - can't wait to put this to good use!

I found this beautiful sangria jug in the Born district of Barcelona which is well known for their shopping. I obviously was drawn to it for the overwhelming amount of purple ceramic – can’t wait to put this to good use!

Close runner up - I bought this sangria jug back in Portugal, however it broke in transit to Spain :( On the bright side, I like my new one much better!

Close runner up – I bought this sangria jug back in Portugal, however it broke in transit to Spain 😦 On the bright side, I like my new one much better!

Honestly my pretend study abroad week was one of the best experiences I’ve had. I know that is said time and time again, but now I truly understand how great of an impact traveling can have on a person. I hope to have the opportunity to continue exploring other countries throughout my lifetime.

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