Picasso and Dalí

Art museums aren’t my thing. There, I said it. Both early and contemporary art make me feel unintelligent: historical art reminds me that I should know these biblical stories, and modern art seems to wave its abstract hand in front of my face and say “nananananana, you can’t get me!” European tourism is all about churches and art,…

Sagrada Familia

Barcelona’s most well-known church is the Sagrada Familia, designed by world-famous architect Antoni Gaudí. It’s still unfinished, but that doesn’t prevent it from being enormous or impressive. The facade is extraordinarily intricate; it depicts religious scenes on both the front and the back of the building with detailed carvings that fill in the space on all sides. With…

I Just Want Vegetables

If you know me, you know I’m into vegetables. I’ll often fill an entire plate with veggies at the dining hall–for me, choosing between carrots and broccoli is like choosing a favorite child. I just can’t. Because of this, eating in Spain has been immensely frustrating. Spaniards hardly eat vegetables; their occasional vegetable consumption consists of…

Split-Second Alhambra

History is all about stories: successes and failures, heroes and villains, happiness and tragedy. Traveling is the best way to see how history affects present-day stories. These photos are from La Alhambra in Granada, Spain. It is considered one of the most significant examples of Islamic architecture in Spain and has inspired various works of music and literature. Yet instead…

First Pizza Delivery

Ordering takeout or delivery has never been a habit in my house. If we’re feeling uninspired or lazy in the face of cooking dinner, we’ll have a sit-down meal at a restaurant. Usually we’re driven by a change in cuisine; we frequently go out for Japanese or Thai, sometimes Indian, and occasionally Lebanese, Greek, or Italian. Pizza is usually reserved…

The U.S. Doesn’t Have These

What does Europe have that the United States doesn’t? Bidets, Magnum ice cream bars, and towns like Óbidos, Portugal. I’m not sure whether there’s less tourism to the U.S. or whether it’s just different tourism. Our big cities are much more spread out, plus our shorter history yields fewer noteworthy sites for tourists to visit. In Europe, small towns thrive…

I Am A Tourist

Tourist. Usually the word comes from our mouths in a nasty tone, more spat than spoken. We look down on the people who aren’t assimilated into our own cultures, who represent elsewheres instead of heres. Yet being a tourist isn’t a bad thing. It means you are willing to admit your lack of knowledge about…

Convent of Christ

Tomar, Portugal We left Évora (which, by the way, is lovely) and drove north about 2 1/2 hours to Tomar for a day trip to see the Convent of Christ. The monastery was built in the 12th century by the Knights Templar. Its enticing architecture is, like many sites in Portugal, a combination of styles: Gothic, Renaissance, Roman,…

Monasteries and Castles and Palaces, Oh My!

My family arrived at the monastery in Belém on Sunday morning. It was the first thing we did after arriving in Lisbon besides dropping our bags at our hotel. We were exhausted, definitely, but we were also thrilled to be in a new place with nothing to do but experience its culture. The monastery in Belém…

Portugal Problems

I’ve been in Lisbon, Portugal for less than 48 hours and I’m already frustrated. The problem is the language. I speak Spanish, which is extraordinarily similar to written Portuguese, but my Spanish background doesn’t actually help me communicate with anyone here. The pronunciation is so different: s sounds like sh, h sounds like y, and…