I have just graduated from Sonoma State University with a BA in Sociology. I have absolutely loved my time in wine country- it really doesn't get more beautiful than vineyards and endless green, but I am ready for the next adventure!

I am from the Bay Area and as much as I want to travel, I want to end up here later in life. I love that someone can go out for a different kind of ethnic food everyday of the week and still have endless options!

In July/August, I will be visiting one of my great friends in England where we will tour multiple castles, London, Paris, Paris Disneyland (we did meet at the Disney College Program anyway), and will be attending the 2012 LONDON OLYMPICS!

Click here for the official website for Edelweiss Lodge and Resort

In September, I will be working as a civilian employee for an American military base in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. I will be in the hotel indusutry working for Edelweiss Lodge and Resort. They say my backyard will be the Alps. I have my hiking boots packed already.

Click here for the official website for the Disney College Program and Professional Internships

About two years ago I participated in the Disney College Program, working and living at Walt Disney World, Florida. It really started my love for traveling and throwing myself outside of my comfort zone. I highly recommend it to anyone who respects the Disney Company and wants to get their foot in the door or just wants a break from life- it was definitely both for me.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Mario Kart, Raki, and Snot- Greece

Ten months ago my family went to my grandparent's beach house for a final weekend together before I went off on my adventure. My father and I were looking up places to visit, he suggested a few things, and finally said, "Talk to the people around you. They will have better ideas than what we can possibly come up with." I smiled but secretly made a list of my own... where is that list now? I have no idea. What was on that list? Doesn't matter.  I have been to places I would never dreamed of (or embarrassingly knew of) visiting because we have such a great group of eclectic travelers here on the Edelweiss Program. Greece was never on my list, but when a friend asks if you want to go, the beach is involved, and it just happens to be on your birthday the correct and only answer is yes yes yes!

In ten years or so from now I may have the money to wine taste luxuriously through Italy or where ever, but for now I am on the budget friendly tour of Europe. So flying from Munich to Crete, Greece via Ryanair is where its at. Good ol' Ryanair. Like I said a strict budget.  So to Crete we went!

If you go to Greece I recommend Santorini, Mykanos, Athens, all those places, but this was my first time going to a beach in 10 months so Crete was just fine in my eyes. Really, this blog is going to be real short. Why? Because we were on the beach ALL THE TIME.. and I was perfectly okay with that. The first day we decided to take a quick boat ride to Gramvousa and Balos- which really turned into an hour bus ride, 30 euros, and an all day adventure. Not complaining just unexpected. This was great to grab a beer (vacation, it doesn't matter if you start drinking before 10am), talk, and just look out at the b-e-a-utiful water. In Garmisch, I have never seen so many different shades of green. In California, its beautiful, but hot and dry heat aka not much green. So Garmisch there is green everywhere, but in Greece it is teal and blues for the water. Its a lot like Hawaii, there is a different shade of blue every 10 feet of water. I will attempt to show you a picture, obviously it wont do justice... free crappy picture or just buy a ticket to Greece.. this shouldn't be a question! Gramvousa is this small island that has castle ruins at the top, so of course when you send a bunch of tourists on this tiny island with a time limit it is like a pilgrimage to the top. Or its like Mariokart- people passing each other, all in a sprint to the finish line, I wouldnt be surprised if I saw some banana peels thrown to trip us up! Anyways, it gives you a great view of the blues, but we remember why I was in Greece right? Well I'm pretty sure I sprinted to the top, threw myself off the top to the bottom, just to get to the beach part five minutes earlier than the others.

Moving on, Balos is this beautiful island, lagoon if you will with some pink sand, small waves (a mavericks surf competition will be held there any day now I'm sure), and in our case cloudy sky. Laying out was not so much fun, but still the beach! Like I said in Morocco it is not until you live in the mountains that you realize you were born for the beach. I'd like that quoted on pinterest now please. 

For a little bit of history we went to the Venetian Old Port at City
Center in Chania, Crete. A 45 min walk from our hotel along the
beaches. Hard life. You walk to the lighthouse, tour the touristy
 shops, and now lets get down to business... on a beach vacation you are going to do two major things the entire time... no not that. Lay out in the sun and eat. Lets be honest my traveling revolved around food.. and food only. Let's just say if I ever get lost from my group they can find me at the nearest cafe, restaurant, whatever. To me its experiencing the culture to others its stuffing your face.  Your choice. The seafood is absolutely amazing in Greece. Again Garmisch is inland when a goldfish is about as much seafood as you will ever see, so it was time to stock up! I highly recommend sharing with a friend the seafood platter. All the restaurants have this option. Squid, octopus, little fish, calamari, and more all with a slice of lemon. You have to do this! If anything you take a picture with the octopus tentacle. Profile picture for life. And if your at all like me and you like to play with your food this is great fun. I'm pretty sure that lunch lasted 2 hours too long.

   At the end of the meal sometimes they will give you a free dessert or even "better" a bottle of their Raki. To those who are Greek or Turkish I would say its a great cultural experience to those who are not my own opinion is that the stuff is vile. However, when one must take shots at 12pm one must simply rise to the occasion. However, when two of your friends tap out after one shot, the cultural experience gets tougher! Hard vacation. Get the one with honey that is much much much much much much much much much much much much  better. Everyone I met in the restaurant business where nothing short of the sweetest people ever. I'm sure it helped that we tipped, but everyone was so nice I cannot recommend Greece enough because of the people.  

Now my FAVORITE part of the trip. If you are in Chania, Crete you must go on Captain Nick's Aphrodite Glass Bottom Boat tour (look on tripadvisor- over a hundred ratings and all five star!). Captain Nick was so nice, funny, personable, and sincere. And a great way to kick up your feet, grab a beer (one is free on the 2 hour tour- reason enough right there to go!), and look at the scenery aka all the blue.. and then you will casually snorkel. He will snorkel with you looking for starfish and other sea creatures. So he calls us all over to this one area and he is holding something that just looks like a huge thing of brown snot. But suddenly the big bowl of snot has tentacles and starts moving around. Why yes he was just casually holding an octopus... well what does clever Debra say? Can I hold it? When your mom brings you up telling you to think before you speak I must have been napping during this one.. suddenly he is swimming toward me with a big bunch of snot! I stick my arm out and he latches the octopus onto my arm. I don't think the best writer in the world can describe this feeling. The octopus was gooey and slowly moving its tentacles up my arm onto my shoulder.
This is the part when I start squirming and screaming. Its like a gooey spider wrapping it's legs around you and just moving up. My reaction is like Ron's in the second Harry Potter. Nope nope not okay! Anyways you would think he would just grab the octopus off right? Well let me just say those tentacles with suction cups work! I think the octopus had a crush on me cause he WOULD NOT let go, Captain Nick had to peel all the tentacles off one by one. I'm sure I didn't help because I was trying to swim away while screaming the entire time. Welcome to the world little guy sorry for the rough awakening. Like I said those suction cups work, I had lines of hickeys all over my arm. Trying explaining that to the waiter at dinner afterward.

A great way to bring in one more year of my life- eat, lay out, and have an octopus climb up my arm. Where do you go with life after that? You can tell you should diagnose yourself with a case of wanderlust if you are writing a blog on a past adventure while taking short breaks and looking up flights for the next adventure. I will never be done! I cannot recommend Greece enough- so beautiful, the people are great, the food is delightful... just beware of that Raki it will sneak up on you!

You can always make more money, but you can't buy more time

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Lucky 13

Visiting my  lucky 13th country on my 13 month adventure... lets just take a stab at how my trip to Budapest, Hungary started shall we? Put together a 2 1/2 hour late bur which pushed us back from a 10pm journey to starting at 12:30am, a person in front of me who thought it was all right to put their seat all the way back to my lap, and the police questioning me why I was still in Europe after 10 months of travel...yikes. Anyways after a disgusting amount of traveling we were in Budapest!

Let's count down the "lucky" 13 things you should do (and really just what I did) while visiting Budapest. These can all be done on a 33 hour limit.. there is some hustlin involved, but all good for the sake of traveling on a time limit. The last five are my favorite, but all are necessary. Lets start the count down!

15. Central Market Hall- What girl doesn't like where all the souvenirs are in one spot and what guy doesn't like where lots of food can be had in one place? This is a fun place to go and to get out of the heat for a little while. A place for postcards, mystery meat, and fresh squeezed orange juice!

14. Funicular- I have to admit that this was not such a big deal for me, but it is for most people. It is a cable car (hence why its not such a big deal for the girl from San Francisco) that will take you up to the Castle District. However, it saves many steps and gives you a beautiful view of the city. A beatiful view without the sweat and you can use the excuse that you're experiencing Budapest's history. Done deal.

13. Chain Bridge- Now because you are using the cable car to get up the hill you have to get your exercise somewhere right? The Chain Bridge connects both parts of Budapest....Buda and Pest. Didn't see that coming did you? Anyways, it is an easy 10 minute walk that provides great views of both sides of the cities.. the Parliament Building, the Royal Palace, and more all along the Danube River.

12. Go inside the Opera House- We just happened to go inside so we didn't see a performance, but the inside and outside is beautiful. When I have money later on I'm coming back to this world famous opera house to see a performance! You can take a tour... I would recommend it if you have more time than 33 hours.

11. Nighttime in Budapest- I was told to take a river cruise at night when all the lights are lit up on all the buildings throughout Buda and Pest. Well, we couldn't find the boats, so we just walked around Castle District at nighttime. I highly recommend doing one or the other at night to see all the lights and a different view of Budapest. Pictures don't do it justice.

10. Hosptial in the Rock- Confession I didn't actually do this one, but everyone was telling me I should have. Woops. it was a secret hospital that was built underneath the Buda Castle. Thank you visitbudapest.travel! If you go, take pics and tell me how it is!

9. Fisherman's Bastion- This is a terrace right by the Royal Palace/Buda Castle. To me, it looks like Gaudi came over to Budapest and made it himself. Or part of Candyland was built. Either one its a toss up. We went at night so it wasn't nearly as crowded, there is a restaurant, but I just recommend simply walking along and seeing the Parliament building right across. Great view!

8. City Park- You can walk through the park after seeing Heroe's Square (#6). There is a very cute castle, Vajdahunyad Castle. You can walk through and it's honestly like you've stepped into Fantasyland at Disney World, which you can all suspect that I loved. The park is very fun-you can rent paddle boats, get a beer, or just walk around. Perfect.

7. Walk through the Jewish Quarter- This is an important part of Budapest. There is the Great Synagogue that is the second biggest next to the one in New York. We didn't actually go in, but there is a touching memorial that you can see from outside of a willow tree out of what looks like barbed wire.  It has the names of all the Hungarian Jews killed in the Holocaust (thank you again visitbudapest.travel). This is also where the ruin pubs are (more about that later), so it is a mix of different types of architecture, abandoned buildings, and lots of culture.

6. Walk along Andrassy Street to get to Heroe's Square- This is on the way to the Szechenyi Baths and is talked to be like walking in Paris. There is much history I am sure, but can you tell that the walking tour didn't go there cause I don't have any facts for you all? It is a very beautiful walk with many trees, different types of buildings, and the City Park at the end. A simple, yet a must thing to do while in Budapest.

5. Free Walking Tour- Who can say no to learning about the facts, history, famous people, and more while getting a workout for free? Lets be honest- no one. Being on a budget has pushed me to look for the things that have "free" written next to them, but these people work hard for their tips! Great information like did you know the person who made the Rubik's cube was from Hungary? Or to save a statue built in the Stalinist time period they simply put a white sheet, cut two holes for eyes, kept it there for a few days, and called it a symbol of freedom? Facts upon facts people! It's a history lesson mixed with some physical activity that leaves your precious money in your pocket. It doesn't get much better than that.

4. St. Stephen's Basilica- This is embarrassing, but I've become a bit of a church architecture snob. I know terrible terrible, but it's the truth. Well we stayed about 100 meters (said the hostel's brochure) from this basilica (Art Boutique Hostel- if you are ever in Budapest this is a great value for money, perfect location, and very nice staff). Anyways, this Basilica will not disappoint! Covered in marble and gold from top to bottom. It is actually not too old, 1900's, but it looks like the person who built St. Peter's in Rome just came right over to Budapest and built the St. Stephen's Basilica. Look at that cross country reference would ya? Actually sounds like I know what I'm talking about. Very worth looking at... and there is the dead hand of St. Stephen in the back. Dead hand and gold? Worth one euro if you ask me.

3. Ruin Pubs- These famous pubs can be found in the downtown part of Budapest and are pubs that were created out of abandoned buildings. So really the owners lucked out- they found a building that looked demolished, didn't have to decorate it, but simply put some chairs and alcohol in the space and called it done. I am told that this trend started about 10 years ago and have become extremely popular throughout that time. Usually when you see an abandoned building you stray away from it, but this time we were walking to them.

2. Szechenyi Baths- Oh the things that they would never allow in the United States. This is
 one of the most famous baths in Budapest and actually the biggest thermal bath in Europe. As said by wikipedia (our best friend) it was opened in 1913 and there are 3 outdoor and 15 indoor pools. I am sure tha
t we looked like 5 year olds running around trying out all the pools! There was a sauna that got to 99 degrees Celsius (thats right 230 degrees Fahrenheit- don't you cook at that temperature?) and then an ice bath right next to it. I felt quite classy relaxing in a pool with a wealthy looking building behind me. The one thing I warn everyone before doing this is that you will be so relaxed and useless the rest of the day! Take a night cruise or something after that doesn't require walking.. or really moving for that matter.

1. Shoes on the Danube- My last year of college I took a History of the Holocaust and Other Genocides class. Needless to say I had a LOT of ice cream after the depressing class, but definitely one of the best classes I've ever taken. A wake up call indeed. Anyways there is a relatively new work of art (2005) as a memorial for the Holocaust in Budapest. In front of the Parliament there are bronze shoes all over the edge of the Danube. In Budapest 600,000 Jews were killed. Some were taken to the edge of the river and shot. They were forced to take off their shoes because that was what was considered valuable. I've been to Anne Franks, the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., and many memorials, so I was relatively together with this one until I saw a pair of baby bronze shoes. I cannot imagine anything worse than being a parent and knowing there is nothing you can do to save not only yourself, but your own child. This memorial is so simple, yet one of the most powerful things I've ever seen. I cannot recommend it enough.

As always I say walk around! Who knows whom you will meet, what you will see, or stumble upon. So get lost cause who knows you may find this:

Okay quote time: If you want to do something stop thinking and dreaming about it, just do it already! Life only goes by faster the older you get. Even if it doesn't work or isn't what you thought it's always better to say "oh well" instead of wondering "what if." No regrets.