When I first arrived in Chicago, I became enamored by all Chicago had to offer. O’hare airport is really nice. The passageway leading to the train station is adorned with neon lights that change colors as you walk. This was a trip meant for exploration. I didn’t want to take a cab into the city, I wanted to be like a local and take the train. It was 20-stops on the Blue line.
I got off the train at Jackson Street and took a bus to my Airbnb apartment. I would be staying with a man named Jack. He lived in a condo on the South Side of Chicago along Michigan Avenue. When it was time to get off the bus Jack was waiting at the bus stop to greet me. It was wonderful. Jack’s apartment is beautiful. It has white decor, with pictures of Chicago hanging along the hallway walls. The apartment is treated just like a hotel. He had slippers waiting for me and a welcoming name sign on the room door. The continental breakfast was a plus as well. He mentioned he kept a camera in the kitchen which made total sense, I always wondered about the safety of Airbnb hosts. The view from Jack’s apartment is also amazing.
One of the first things I wanted to do was to visit the Navy Pier. It was about 20-minutes away from the apartment. I got on a bus then took a cab. To be honest, I was quite underwhelmed by it. It was still under a lot of construction, but the views from the pier were magnificent. Lake Michigan is such a beauty.
From the Navy Pier, I went on to the Sky Deck Chicago in the Willis Tower. The Skydeck is about $19 and it’s an experience. There are two noteworthy rooms that you must go threw before you take the elevator to the 103rd floor. The first room is a sort of pop culture room, exhibiting everything that Chicago is known for including the Chicago Bulls, President Obama, and Oprah. There’s also a room where you can watch a video on the history of the Willis Tower and how it came to be. Finally, you are led along a hallway to elevators that take you to the 103rd floor. Once on the observation deck, you see the city like never before. There’s thousands of tourists there, all waiting to get a chance to stand on the sky deck.
Taking trains between countries was easier than I thought. In all honesty, it was a breeze. As a point of comparison, I would compare it to taking a bus from New York to Virginia, only the scenery is much more gratifying.
Eurostar from London to Paris was fast. It actually got us into Paris 20 minutes earlier than expected. I literally fell in and out of sleep and before I knew it, we were there. The train ride was about 2-hours long. The annoying part was finding a place to put my bags. I ended up putting it in a storage shelf in the back of the car which was risky because I couldn’t keep watch of my bag, but there was nothing else I could do.
Trenitalia’s14-hour train ride from Paris to Venice, was cheap and fun. We ate before we got on the train but I should’ve brought a snack with me because I got hungry along the way. The train cart we were in had 6 bunks and we shared it with an Italian couple from Milan. They were really kind people. They chose the top bunks and we chose the bottom four. We played games and snacked on cookies and wine. Shadesha and I stayed up and told scary ghost stories with our flashlights. We just made the best of the long ride. We passed through Switzerland and Milan but it was night time so we couldn’t see much. It was still exciting nonetheless. The train car was so cold. I was freezing. Trenitalia did provide blankets and pillows but I questioned how clean they were. Besides, the freezing temperatures I would totally take an overnight train like this again. It was so much fun.
Trenitalia from Venice to Rome was a 6-hour duration and it went by quite fast as well. Again the scenery in Europe is to die for, and I could not complain about the beauty of the Italian cities we passed through including Florence and Tuscany. The wineries, colorful houses, and mountainous regions were a beautiful sight to see.
I am all for trains when traveling through Europe. Not only do they tend to be cheaper than other intercontinental transportation options but it’s also fun. Train systems in Europe are way better than what we have in the States. I would recommend train routes for those who are traveling throughout Europe in a heartbeat.
- Get train tickets early!
- Unlike flexible prices of flights (Where Tuesday could be $503 and Wednesday could be $490), train ticket prices are not as flexible, which is a good thing. As the departure date gets closer the prices increase.
- Set up alerts for prospective train routes you are seeking. I did this for trains from Venice to Rome and we ended up paying 13 Euro for our train ticket. Amazing prices.
Baila Mi Cha-Cha-Abraxas Pool
Honestly, when we landed in Barcelona El Prat Airport the vibes were a bit off for me. I wasn’t excited. At this point, I was sleepy, cranky and had very little energy. My emotions were quite odd because every country we visited up until this point made me giddy like a little girl.
Now, the hard task of finding the hotel had begun. Once in Barcelona, we discovered that our hotel was located at the end of town in a neighborhood called Diagonal. Learning this made me even madder because this was my first mistake when choosing a hotel. I didn’t spend enough time researching the neighborhoods of Barcelona and figuring out which one would be best for us.
Ky Tip: If you are ever visiting Barcelona and want to be by the action you may want to find hotels in Barceloneta or La Rambla.
We took 3 trains and 1 bus to get to our hotel. On the last train, I felt a lady try to go in my purse. She unsnapped the lock and luckily I felt it and asked aggressively “What are you doing?” She turned away with shame on her face as if she didn’t understand and got off the next stop. I couldn’t believe I was almost pickpocketed. This experience made me paranoid for the rest of the time I was in Spain.
Ky Tip: Europe doesn’t have as much lethal crime as the U.S does but they do have pickpockets all over. BEWARE! You never know who you’re around and who is watching you. Don’t be the one who ends up with a missing passport or cell phone. Always be conscious of your belongings and wear bags that are harder to get into or that you will feel if someone is trying to get into.
Once we got outside of the train station it was pouring rain. We stopped at a bakery before making our way down to the hotel. At least it was close to the metro. Once we checked in, we realized there was not much for us to do. It was raining, the pool was closed and we had no idea what Barcelona was all about. Eventually, we faced our weather blues and explored our neighborhood. There was a mall next door to our hotel so we went shopping. We then tried to find a cute restaurant to eat at but came to the realization that we were in the middle of nowhere and there were no restaurants in the area (Hard to believe right? Well it’s true). We went back to the mall and ate Chinese food (Ridiculous..where’s the authentic food?). As blessed as we were to be in Spain, this part of the trip was turning into a disaster.
The rain got worst as the night went on. Fatigued to the max, we decided to spend our first night in Spain in the hotel and have a girls’ night in the beautiful and girly Desigual common area.