The Sharif Residence

We had the luxury of seeing family on our excursion. We planned to see them for a couple days so we wouldn't impose. It turned out to be a full 6 days. I mean, they are family after all. They have to keep us. 

hey fed us 3-5 times a day with either delicious home cooked meals or the best take out you could find. My aunt has always been a foodie. And my uncle is Pakistan and he knows how to make delicious authentic Asian food. Why would we want to leave!!!

A family that reads together... Has better vocabulary together? Is that a thing?

A family that reads together... Has better vocabulary together? Is that a thing?

Also had the pleasure of hanging out with my cousins, Ali and Zara, ages 15 and 13. I hadn't seen Ali since he was 6 so it was nice to catch up and see him as a man! Zara will rule the world some day and is by far the prettiest girl cousin in the family. She looks more like my mother than I do. I digress...

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I use to visit my aunt when she lived in Seattle by herself. My brother and I would visit at the end of every summer. It was fun seeing some of the same decorations she had then in their new place now. A little bit of nostalgia and comfort. 

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Needless to say it was a great way to end the trip. I know family doesn't really ring a bell when you think of a honeymoon but I think it's safe to say a week of comfort and English was pretty nice.

Everyone should have a series of gold mirrors.

Everyone should have a series of gold mirrors.

Deadra is going to hate that I posted this picture but I think she will forgive me for how cute her son Ali looks. Especially reppin' a like shew sweatshirt! 

Deadra is going to hate that I posted this picture but I think she will forgive me for how cute her son Ali looks. Especially reppin' a like shew sweatshirt! 

Nice, France

Beer and New Friends

The southern coast of France!

The southern coast of France!

I'm going to start this post with a story about some two rude american backpackers we came across (from California, go figure). Bros, if you will. We started up conversation since we were sitting right next to each other and both were leaving Barcelona. We had to take the regional trains due to weather flooding a bridge that our high speed train would have taken us through. He asked where we were headed to and we responded with Nice (neese like geese) and he followed with "I hate to correct your pronunciation but its nice (n-ice like the english word) laughed uncomfortably and we never spoke again. He was wrong.

Why not take a dip, oh I know why, I'm a terrible swimmer.

Why not take a dip, oh I know why, I'm a terrible swimmer.

A few minutes after a lady b-lined it to me speaking Spanish, I used the few words I did know to try and tell her I don't speak Spanish, but I think I told her "Yo no hablas espanol" which is wrong and she probably thought I told her "I dont you speak spanish" or something so she kept going. I finally just said "yo no se" and she walked away. At the end of the trip the train stopped as the Police boarded to check our passports. Rude boy number 1 began spitting out Spanish like it was his second language. I never would have guess. Thats what I get for assuming. I guess I'm wondering how he didn't know how to say Nice and yet is all cultured with his Spanish. And he didn't help the lady spitting out Spanish to me when he clearly spoke it well. We thought it would be fun to speak english with some fellow backpackers but turns out they are still Americans. You can interpret that however you like. They made me mad. MOVING FORWARD

Just a couple making out with a view of the beach, I'm a creep.

Just a couple making out with a view of the beach, I'm a creep.

We had another extremely long travel day and yet again arrived late in Nice. We really don't like that doing that, but we haven't quite found our groove. The food in France that we could afford or at least know what it is was typically bread on bread with some bread on the side. Don't get me wrong, I love me some bread, but not for all three meals. The second we found our hostel, Hostel Smith, located in old town Nice. We quickly ran back to this Indian restaurant that caught my nose. It was so nice to eat food with flavor! I can't express that enough. Luckily old town had just about every culture of food readily available. We were pretty tired so we only walked around for a little bit wondering the tiny alley ways, observing a mass of what looked like twenty sixteen year olds all with alcohol headed in the same direction. Walking with purpose, We were too busy eating to jump up and follow just out of curiosity. We never did find were they went.

Scooters are the Honda Accord of America here!

Scooters are the Honda Accord of America here!

The next day we woke up early like (still) and nothing is open (still) we did find a bakery (more bread) and I managed to order a vegetarian sandwich, which was and accident, and a chocolate croissant, (even more bread) I know you are suppose to embrace the lifestyle and the whole 'when in rome...' thing but I'm gluten intolerant, and lactose intolerant, and for those who don't believe in the gluten thing tell that to my intestines and my inflamed organs. 

the South of France is the beach to be at. Literally, everyone was tan. 

the South of France is the beach to be at. Literally, everyone was tan. 

Quick note, when two people wear only like shew gear the entire time people don't stop starring. I tried looking up what shew may mean in other languages because of the looks we get. Or its the Sanuk shoes, the French must think we are dirt poor. I guess thats a good thing. But at least they could stop starring in my soul and judging. 

Tall narrow alley ways filled with shutters and laundry! Just adore this city.

Tall narrow alley ways filled with shutters and laundry! Just adore this city.

Once Nice, finally woke up we ran into an Australian bunk mate who recommended we go see the painted windows in the square (i don't remember the name) and he was right, they were awesome. They had painted on shadows so at night it actually looked like real windows. We had read that Nice is full of antique stores and art so went out looking for precisely that. We ended up finding a pub along the port had drank what we call exploring juice (beer). Some pubs, you ask for beer and they just bring beer with out you even choosing. Others you have two or three options. I found that interesting. Unfortunately, Heineken is everywhere. I'm spoiled with craft brews I suppose.

I LOVE WINDOWS WITH SHUTTERS! 

I LOVE WINDOWS WITH SHUTTERS! 

After our exploring juice we went on a walk down to the coast to see the beach and the view. From far away you could literally see that everyone was tan, not a white body on that. The south of France is serious about their tans. We got a little lost but found our way to another little cafe. We wanted some more juice and decided to try a platter or appetizers. We ate octopus, and liked it, it wasn't chewy from how I remember. It was their Mediterranean plate and it was delicious. I wish I could remember what we ate. You will find out later why my memory is so foggy.   

Because white buildings are f***ing boring!

Because white buildings are f***ing boring!

After some grazing we went on a hunt to antique stores. Finding some pretty amazing stuff, some I can't say because they are gifts for the family, but I did find a gem for me! A 1930's Longchamp briefcase for 50€. Such a score! It's beautiful and I'm obsessed with it. I have a bag problem. Coats and totes as my dad always says. Another thing about bags, everyone has an Eastpak backpack or any variation of a Longchamp bag. I can't express how often I've seen them. Now I want and Eastpak backpack... I'll find one. 

It's so nice to just be around history... And colorful scenery!

It's so nice to just be around history... And colorful scenery!

Next, we dropped our stuff off at the hostel and decided to go get dinner, we had passed this seafood restaurant and figured we had to try seafood so close to the ocean and in Europe. We got a platter that had oysters, snails both large and small, really tiny shrimp maybe it was krill, clams, octopus and maybe a couple other things. I had tried everything except snails and since I had a pretty good buzz going and well when in Rome or I'm this case Nice, I had to try it. A friendly German, named Olof helped us eat the snails. They looked disgusting but tasted so very normal. They were about 3/4 inch long with the shell and came out all twisted. It was slow food as he called it. We ended up conversing for the remainder of our dinner. He was on business and discusses other countries cultures, asked what we did for a living, shared his knowledge. We took a picture together actually like 4, that was his doing, and exchanged e-mails and phone numbers, and went on our way. 

This seafood shop was right next to the restaurant where we met our new German friend Olof, who gave us tips on not going to Istanbul... Ever

This seafood shop was right next to the restaurant where we met our new German friend Olof, who gave us tips on not going to Istanbul... Ever

I lost count of my beer intake but the night gets fuzzier from here. We stopped at the Irish pub right by our hostel and sat outside with a fellow at a table. It was right in the heart of Old Town so lots to see while drinking. Kelli, being Kelli, she made conversation with our second friend, Hovnatan. He is a theater actor currently living in Nice, but flys to Paris when he needs to. He said the acting is more Shakespeare with heart and passion and less action and comedy. He told us Ethan Hawke saw him perform and said this is what I want he wanted to do. He is Romanian but is born in France. We spoke of politics and Obama like most foreigners want to discuss. We chatted for quite some time before he left, also exchanged emails and phone number. By then I should have gone to bed. Instead, we see some Australians and for some unknown reason flag them down and they pop a squat and by us a round of beers, Luke and let's say Brian. We shared a mutual feeling for the French people and our lack of understanding them. We shared some laughs and drunken slurs...

Fun & Roll, a bike, skate, rollerblade, and any other type of wheel transportation shop. They inspired me to eventually build my own bike. Oh and rollerblading is still very cool here. Kelli was stoked on that. 

Fun & Roll, a bike, skate, rollerblade, and any other type of wheel transportation shop. They inspired me to eventually build my own bike. Oh and rollerblading is still very cool here. Kelli was stoked on that. 

Then I woke up with a headache and swore off alcohol the rest of the trip. We will see if that holds up. Nice was a lot of fun, and I would definitely go back, so many different types of neighborhoods and so much to offer. Two days wasn't enough but I'm happy to be out of France. Off to Switzerland!

Barcelona, Spain

Selma and her Hostel

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We experienced our first hiccup, and it was mother natures fault. When we took a high speed train from Paris headed towards Barcelona. Ms. Nature decided to flood a bridge so all passengers had to get off at Perpignan, France. We then all waited outside the train station as they sent 5 charter buses. Thinking they were going to take us to the next train station they actually drove us the rest of the way. 2 1/2 hours later we arrived in Barcelona. 

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We have this habit of not having a planned place to sleep, and since we ditched our camping gear we are relying on cafes with wifi to try and find a place to stay. But first, we tried the walk in approach and everyone turned us away. We gave up that route and decided to find the good ole wifi. Which was a lot harder here than Ireland, and France. Right when I wanted to give up, I turned around and found a glorious wifi logo on the window of the cafe. Life sometimes just works out. Thats pretty much been the moral of our trip so far, no time to worry it will all work out.

the yellow door we were told to look for our hostel. A lady asked if we needed help and we said no this is our hostel, and she gave a look like "that's never been a hostel you're gonna die" and strolled away with her kids.

the yellow door we were told to look for our hostel. A lady asked if we needed help and we said no this is our hostel, and she gave a look like "that's never been a hostel you're gonna die" and strolled away with her kids.

We ate some weird pizza thing called a Coque, it was gross. Drank Estrella, also gross. We used hostelworld.com to search a place and saw that there are a ton. Even the ones that turned us away said they have availability. We found a lot that would have been a normal run of the mill hostel but we chose the cheapest option and the location as absolutely perfect. We received an e-mail with instructions on how to find it and their house rules. They don't have a sign above their bright yellow door with graffiti all over it so it seemed a little sketchy. But we went with it. We were told to call when outside of the hostel at the door, or use their wifi to email them. Instead I knocked on the door for a long time. Finally someone opens the door and we meet Selma. Selma is from India and her whole family lives in the hostel as well.

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That's when we realized the name of the hostel, My Home In Barcelona, was literal. They had 4 rooms available  as well as their living space. They have only been open for a couple months but the experience was irreplaceable. She gave us two keys, one for the front door, and one for our room, The rooms were colorful and the furnishings looked brand new. She offered us the larger room for one night because it had a jacuzzi tub. Yes we used it. The room also had a balcony so we could feel like a local and hang outside and watch people. They let us use their laundry machine (for 5€) and we hung our clothes in our room to dry and truly felt the Barcelona experience. After we realized we totally scored on this hostel find we decided to mosey around. 

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We grabbed some cervesa at a nearby cafe with seating outside and watched the nightlife begin. We stayed in a much quieter neighborhood than downtown Barcelona, so the activity was light but not scary. Did some shopping and I finally found my digital watch that I had been searching for. Its a casio, its gold, and its perfect! Why digital? Because I don't have time to read analog and military time is just easier when digital. Also it has an alarm, a stop watch, and that feature that beeps every hour. I love that last feature. 

I found my watch at an Asian run store full of all sorts of great goods. We left with two pairs of sunglasses as well. They even sold Roy Bons sunglasses.... 

I found my watch at an Asian run store full of all sorts of great goods. We left with two pairs of sunglasses as well. They even sold Roy Bons sunglasses.... 

I got to use my Spanish skills which was fun and I now want to pursue that language much more. I helped an old lady find the bathroom and I even gave her .50 cents to use the bathroom (yes, the charge you at the train station) I was so stoked that I was able to communicate with her. 

My new favorite brew. Brutus, we think it's German. It has Spanish on the front English on the back and then manufactured in Germany on back really small.

My new favorite brew. Brutus, we think it's German. It has Spanish on the front English on the back and then manufactured in Germany on back really small.

I love the color of all the buildings with people Landry or shades, it gives the city character

I love the color of all the buildings with people Landry or shades, it gives the city character

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The next day we had planned on taking the city bus tour, I know thats so lame of us to do but we had one day to see Barcelona and this place is massive so it only made sense. From here on out we do plan on skipping the major cities and finding the small towns near them. Cities smell, they are crowded and thats the exact opposite of what we want to see and do. The bus was fun, we had hop on and off privileges and got see the city from a birds eye view. Massive, doesn't even begin to describe how big it is. Once we  finished our tour we decided to bar hop back to our hostel. We ran into Selma, our hostel owner, and chatted for a bit while the cafe brought out beers. He also brought out snacks every time we ordered. It was awesome. The beer got cheaper and cheaper the more we were in smaller neighborhoods. All in all Barcelona is rich with history and culture but far too big for me. We are off to Nice, France. 

Where the family we stayed with dried their clothes and did their laundry. I really liked this room.

Where the family we stayed with dried their clothes and did their laundry. I really liked this room.

Europeans stare at me a lot. Can't be certain why. I also got asked for help by three different people. I have no idea what they said or wanted and that mystery will haunt me forever. 

A selfie In the lobby of our "hostel" notice the playboy and comic book curtains... We thought this was a two sided mirror and someone was spying on us. We still think that might be true...

A selfie In the lobby of our "hostel" notice the playboy and comic book curtains... We thought this was a two sided mirror and someone was spying on us. We still think that might be true...

Barcelona train station, about 7 minute walk from were we stay at with Selma and her family.

Barcelona train station, about 7 minute walk from were we stay at with Selma and her family.

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Paris, France

The Land of Bread and E-Cigs

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It was surprisingly nice to see a city that was somewhat familiar. I had been to Paris back on 2007. Being 17 I really didn't appreciate it as much as I would now. I still don't understand the French, both figuratively and literally, but it really is a magical city.

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As we arrived we had strict goals, find a wifi restaurant because we were both starving yet needed the Internet to find a hotel or hostel, and grab any and all information on trains departing from Paris to plan our next excursion. We walked for about 30 mins before we found an empty wifi Japanese restaurant that seemed like they had good food. I knew we were in the right place when I used my hands to show how big of a beer I wanted and the hostess did the same gesture. I proceeded to make a bigger gesture and she laughed and did the same. It was the most expensive Japanese restaurant in town I'm sure of that, but the stress of finding somewhere to sleep was more important. It was about 7:45PM while we sat and finally found a place on hotels.com. I think I ate pig vertebrae and some other weird food but since she couldn't explain it to me I didn't really care.

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It started to rain during dinner so we suited up with appropriate gear and headed to our hotel. This was tricky and confusing, tricky because we don't have cell service to look up directions to our hotel and confusing because we did and it worked the entire way there on airplane mode. I guess I don't u destined technology as much as I thought I did. It was by far the longest walk yet and our bags had never felt heavier and it's only day 4. Uh-oh!

Did I mention our one bedroom hotel room has two different bathrooms. What? Dope?

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The land of e-cigarette stores and scooters. We decided that staying two nights in a city is good amount of time. As I mentioned earlier how heavy our bags felt, we made the executive decision to ship half of our stuff home. We had spotted a FedEx so we knew where we could do that. Sad, but necessary. Most campsites didn't cater to the EuRail so we were limited on transportation to the campsites other than walking and let me tell you how sore I am. I knew this was going to happen but you don't really know until it happens. So we basically paid a million dollars to have them shipped to California. Thank the baby Jesus for FedEx accounts. Our packs are still heavy but my back and collar bone feel so much better. 

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After we took a two hour walk (we still don't know why it took that long) to ship our goods, we were finally able to explore. I recreated some photos I took back in 2007, we stopped at 3 different cafes to grab some beer, finally got my Croque Madame (for those who haven't heard, this is the best grilled cheese ever, simply because they put a fried egg on it, and ham inside) we walked to the Arc De Triumph, and mastered their metro system. Really wish we could have mastered it sooner to avoid the 3 hours and 9 miles we walked. It's in the past now.

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We sipped beer along the Seine with a view of the Eiffel Tower, watching people either run by or walk by dressed to impress. I love how well dressed everyone here is. I think Paris is the origin of Hipsters. But the right kind of hipsters, still entitled and trendy, but it seems as though it's more natural. No offense Portland, you are still hipster capital USA. Do people work in Paris? I see people going places but never going into places. Their bike system is awesome. We had intentions of using them but slightly intimidated on where to return them. And if people didn't rent bikes they owned a pretty dope one. Along with bikes everyone had a vape pen, or e-cigarette, and stores for them were about as popular as Starbucks in Seattle. I still can't believe how many people smoke in this city. Everyone must have cancer right? It made me want to smoke, they all looked so cool doing it. 

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That's about the nicest way for me to describe Paris. I wish I had more nice things to say, but to be honest Paris is just eh' to me. I can appreciate it from a distance. Won't be needing to come back. I prefer small towns in Ireland where the people acknowledge your existence and don't have a permanent RBF (resting bitch face). Sorry Paris but I'm out. Off to Barcelona! Where my Spanglish will help us get by. I actually really enjoyed saying Bojour and Merci and even Oiu Oiu but that was the extent of my French vocabulary. Let's hope taking 4 years of Spanish in high school pays off. And by 4 years I mean I took Spanish 1 three times (because of 3 different schools, and two states) and Spanish 2 once. 

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One last thing I still haven't found a digital watch. Must be a faux-paw in France. 

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