Saturday, November 27, 2010


Ok...I arrived in Vienna around 3:30pm on Sunday via the best bus I've ever taken. It was like being on a plane, only without tha hassle of check throughs and my ears popping. There were leather seats, it was warm, I actually had to wear a seat belt, there were free warm beverages and even had movies to watch! The 5 hour ride went smoothly and quickly. It was a drizzly overcast day, so the view wasn't top-notch unfortunately. Found my hostel with the help of a very nice Austrian who spoke perfect English and settled in for the night. Finished uploading photos and then ran into 2 others at the hostel, an american and an aussie. Nice guys. Had an "Austrian" dinner of sausage dumplings. Was good but the proportions were huge! Should have went for the one ball...;). Then had a couple drinks in the really nice downstairs bar before an early night. I was exhausted!

Started around 10am on Monday due to the drizzly weather and travel fatigue. Walked all over. Basically did Vienna in a day. Started out at the Schonbrunn Palace. Loved it. There was a Christmas market out front playing Christmas music and beautiful gardens to explore. Spent 2 hours easy there. Then ran around trying to see everything else before it got dark at 5pm, a bit better than Prague in that area. Colder though! Returned to the hostel with Subway for dinner and met up with a few people before heading out to the Christmas markets with the Aussie. Was fun. You can get mulled wine as well as blueberry cider, apple cider, raspberry cider, and a few others. And for 2 euro you can even keep the mug! There are 11 markets in Vienna and each one has their own unique Christmas mug design.

Tuesday I woke up early to get everything out of my room and went to watch the Lippizaner horses do theire morning workout set to music. It was really nice. I really wanted to ride one of these amazing creatures. Watched the horses play for about an hour then went to the Belvedere Palace. It was ok. I much preferred the Shunbrunn Palace and even went back so I could take the tour of the inside. The rooms were amazing. After which I met up with my Austrian friend. I hadn't seen her in about 3 years, a long time. She drove me out of the city a little so I could see Vienna at night from the foot of the Alps. Was so cold! Had dinner of yummy pastries from an Austrian bakery before meeting up with a few people for a night exploring more wonderful Christmas markets. Overall a great night. Decided to keep my mug from the Nashmarkt. A beautiful blue cup wit Christmas symbols on it. Had the most delicious hot chocolate with Baileys, :). Went to a club for a little bit but none of us wanted to pay the cover.

Then I stayed up until 2am, took an hour nap, and then a taxi at 3am to the airport! Had an early flight at 6:30am and Vienna public transport to the airport stops at 11pm. Checked in with no problems and made my Barcelona flight just fine. Fell asleep before we even took off. I was so tired! Slept most of the flight, landed and got my bag just fine. The smoothest flight yet of this trip. Got on a metro and found my way to the apartments we rented these past 3 nights, all very easy.

Well, very tired now and lots to pack for the cruise tomorrow! I'll post a blog on my Barcelona adventures soon!

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Oh, and I forgot to mention my French SIM card is no longer functional, learned this while in Paris when I bought t recharge and tried charging it. I could turn on the phone but the card was no longer able to connect to a signal. And of course the recharge was non refundable…but I must have looked very sad because the guy made an exception for me, :).

My time in Prague was much too short. Arrived a day late due to flight changes so I only had 3 days instead of 4 and you really need a week to really appreciate the city. I arrived to the hostel around 6pm on Wednesday and enjoyed a piece of delicious lasagna con Bolognese and had my first Czech beer, a Pilsner Urquell. It was a bit too bitter for my taste but good. The hostel was amazing, such a cozy warm place and many good people. The basement bar was perfect with the brickwork and comfy chairs. Later that night I made my way to a local club with several others staying at the hostel through the cold drizzle. The first was a modern style “hip” bar where the drinks were pricey so we went to another cheaper place where they played reggae. Was a late night not going to bed until 3am. Took a perfect shower. There was a hot towel rack to place your towel on as well as assisting in heating the shower area, the water was deliciously hot with the perfect pressure. It was heaven.

Thursday I woke up around 10am and had a late start leaving the hostel by 11am. Took a tram down to Charles Bridge and made my way to Old Town Square. I haven’t taken trams since Old Threasers in Iowa, loved it. They have both styles in Prague: trolley style and tram style. I will miss such easy public transportation. I must say that Prague’s is the best I have seen in my travels, so easy. I wandered around Old Town Square through the drizzle for a bit before having an amazing and filling lunch. It was a chilly, rainy day and overcast. The restaurant I chose had these great heaters with a strong flame which was nice and toasty. There was Minestrone soup with fresh vegetables that the restaurant produced themselves, Czech goulash with bread, and Apple Streudal for dessert and a Mad Apple cider to drink, the alcoholic kind, :). Of course it was a Czech cider, they really know their stuff when it comes to beer and cider. Goulash is a thick and hearty beef stew type dish with only meat. After lunch I walked over to the other side of Charles Bridge and up to the castle but didn’t explore it that day. I wandered through the souvenir shops a bit and then returned to the hostel where I had another dinner of the same delicious lasagna. Had an early night at 1am and got some good sleep. I was in a room of 6 beds but only one other person which was nice.

Friday I was ready to go by 10am and took a day trip to Kutna Hora with 3 others, an Austrian who lives in Australia, an Aussie and a Turk. Prague has this great process where if you buy a return train ticket it is discounted, but even more when you purchase a group return ticket. We each paid 109 crown for a return ticket to Kutna Hora as a group rather than the 97 crown it would have cost each way had we booked separate tickets. Quite the deal! Kutna Hora is known for it’s church decorated with human bones. Yes, human bones. It was taken over by new power 600 years ago and the guy decided to take the piles of bones, clean and separate them, and create decorations with them. There is a chandelier as well as several other artistic creations. We arrived during the hour they were closed so we walked to the center where we had very large pizzas in this cute local restaurant. The whole village was just so picturesque. We then made out way back to where the church was locate so we could explore these bone wonders ourselves. A very interesting creation. Part of the reason behind the bone creations was to show the transience of life. It was also a very exhausting day. Arrived back at the hostel and had a delicious hot chocolate with peppermint liquor to warm up. Was perfect in the cozy den that is also the hostel bar. Ate another slice of lasagna with a Kozel this time. A little more bitter than the Urquell. After eating my fill I decided to finally try this Bechrovka liquor. It tasted like Christmas. It’s a local Czech liquor that has hints of cinnamon in it. Very nice on the rocks. Then a bunch of decided it would be fun to go to the city center to a bar called The Pub. Well…we made our way downtown to where we thought this place was but then we couldn’t find it. And of course everyone we asked had never heard of The Pub. So we ended up walking around for about an hour in the cold before just stopping at another hostel’s pub. Was fun and good music. We had dwindled in numbers and by the end of the night we were 6, so we decided to take a taxi back to the hostel, all of us in 1. It was just like Morocco, 2 people in the passenger seat and 4 in the back. Again, I took a wonderfully hot shower. It was a good night, lots of fun people. Went to bed around 4am.

Then woke up early at 9:30am so I could take in the sites on my final full day in Prague. I ate a decent breakfast and then followed a guided tour down to Old Town Square to view Prague. It was Prague’s Free Walking Tour and amazing! The guide was funny and informative and I was able to really see the center of Prague and the Jewish quarter. It lasted 3 hours and was a nice day, the sun actually game out. The history was interesting and the buildings gorgeous. Being able to visit a city such as Prague is a priceless opportunity. I finished my day by having a BLT on a bagel from a place called Bohemian Bagel and a smooth peace of Baileys flavored cheesecake. I then found my final souvenirs, a few post cards and a lovely peace of bohemian crystal, a blue tinted shot glass with Prague frosted onto it. Then had goulash for dinner at the hostel and a cookie. Was still warm from the oven with raisons, chocolate chunks and oatmeal. Had a dark Kostel, very nice. Less bitter than a Kostel light. Enjoyed a few mixed drinks and good conversation before an evening out. We tried to go to a new club…first we couldn’t figure out how to get in…then we were denied because it was a private party. Se went to a previous club. It was very unique, like being in a metro, very Matrix. Lots of odd pieces of electronics and wheels. Had a very late night of until 5am this time. A great way to end my short stint in Prague.

Now I am on my way to Vienna via a Student Agency Bus. Very nice. Leather seats with seat belts, free hot cocoa, in flight entertainment and even free wireless! Though the wireless doesn’t really work so well… It’s like being on a plane. Another rainy dreary day in Eastern Europe, but that’s winter for you. So far I am quite enjoying my short vacation and meeting so many interesting people. Many take a year off to travel around the world…maybe once I am debt free. There are so many places I still want to visit.

Made it to my hostel in Vienna with no problems, but very tired. Had a fun time trying to figure out how to set up my bedding, haha. Apparently I had a duvet cover thing to put over the heavy blanket lining thing. 2 people later it was put together, yay! Wombats seems like a nice hostel, but I don’t know if any can really compare to the one I was at in Prague, Sir Tobey’s Hostel. Everything was just so perfect and cozy. Well, off to explore some Vienna, only here 2 days and might stay the night in the airport Wednesday night as my flight leaves so early. We’ll see!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Second Leg of the Journey

And here is the rest of the Casa-Paris story. The plane was kept in France due to mechanical issues so they flew a jet from London to Casablanca with English only speaking flight attendants. Was great for me to hear English, :). I was speaking to a few of them, it turns out they arrived in Casablanca around 2am and then had to fly out again at 2pm. Our flight took off an hour late because they had to stock the plane with food, not our wonderful staff’s problem. The plane did take off and I arrived in Paris a day later than planned, but in one piece and with all my luggage. Then after I landed in Paris I had to log onto the internet really quick so I could get my friend’s number in order to have a place to stay. She had responded, humdullah, and I had just enough credit on my phone to send a few messages but then I got out at the wrong metro exit not knowing there were 2. So a lovely Frenchman let me use his phone to call her and figure out how to meet and why we were in 2 different areas. I made my way over to the correct area and my friend. I hadn’t seen her in about 5 years so it was nice. We had both studied on the same study abroad program. She made me pork chops and cauliflower and broccoli for dinner, then we had coconut ice cream for dessert. Was an amazing meal after living in a country with very few pork products. Stayed up late chatting and then woke up early. She had class and I had to make my way to the airport. I decided to take the RER this round. I had taken the Roissey Bus on the way into Paris and it had worked really well but I was used to the RER. Well, there were issues with both the train and my credit card, so I backtracked and found the Roissey Bus station. This took an hour as I had to make several metro changes. The bus arrived within 10 minutes and I made it to the airport easily and hassle free. I have been won over by the Roissey Bus versus the RER B. Welcome to Paris. During my 9 months studying there I can't count how many train and metro issues occurred. At least there wasn't a strike!

I had a simple breakfast of cereal and grape juice with my friend before leaving for the airport then a wonderful lunch of Quiche Lorraine and a Banana Chocolate tart, 2 of my favorite foods from when I studied in Paris. They use dark chocolate in their pastries...delicious. Made it to the airport with plenty of time and check in was so easy. And the lounge was so nice...comfy plether seats and a great ambiance, much better than the Morocco airport where there were stray cats begging for food.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Just Kidding

So I went to the airport and everything went smoothly other than the policeman who tried to take my painting out of its tube and unroll it...I stopped him from ruining it. So I was waiting for my 7pm flight to never came. The plane literally never arrived. So...I got to go through the fun part of getting my checked luggage back and going to to the ticket counter for a hotel voucher. They rescheduled the flight for 2pm tomorrow, unfortunately my flight to Prague leaves at 2:45pm meaning I will miss my flight. Both were booked through EasyJet so I hope the guy was correct when he told me that they will change my flight for me when I arrive in Paris, though whether they will take care of my hotel is another question. Such a crazy start to my travel home! I was very upset of course, on the brink of tears. It had been a long day and I don't care much for airports. Much better now after a long, hot bubble bath, some texts ranting about the whole fiasco, and a coca cola. I don't even care it was 40dh. Now I will relax and get a good night's sleep and leave at 10am tomorrow and start this process all over again. I hope everything works out with my Prague flight and I do have a friend in Paris. I just don't have her number and she doesn't have mine...I don't even know my own number, haha. At least the hotel is very nice which helps make up for some of the hassle and I will actually be in Paris long enough now to have a nice dinner, inchallah with my friend. There is always a silver lining to every cloud, even the dark ones. And the French people on the flight were so nice! As were the Moroccan staff. It wasn't their fault the plane didn't show up.

Morocco really doesn't want to let me go! Hopefully it will let me leave tomorrow and I can get my Prague flight rescheduled...I did book the 2 together. Really regretting that no travel insurance now!

Travel Plans

Ok. For those actually reading and following this the following is my travel itinerary:

Tonight (Nov 15): Paris, France (layover)

Nov 16-21: Prague! (5 nights)

Nov 21-24: Vienna! (3 nights)

Nov 24-28: Barcelona! (4 nights)

Nov 28 - Dec 12: 2 week cruise across the Atlantic (limited internet)

Dec 12-13: Night in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Dec 13-14: Flights back to Iowa

December 14: Back home in Iowa!!!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Swearing Out Photo



Today was my last day as a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco! These past 3 weeks have been a whirlwind. After arriving back in site from a VSN committee meeting I took time to visit friends and volunteers in the region as well as create my costume for Halloween. I was a Greek wood nymph in the end. I hope to be able to post photos soon. Unfortunately I forgot to bring my camera.

After Halloween I had a week to get everything sorted out to leave my site. My replacement came for her site visit on October 31st and was in site until November 4th. It was 5 days of craziness, but good. I met with my landlord to have him sign off that I was good to go and to discuss the new volunteer taking over the house after I leave. I also introduced her to the cooperative. There were only a few women there but she was able to meet the president. Last Tuesday we spent the day touring Errachidia. Wednesday I mailed my large suitcase through the post office and tried to visit the delegate and Gendarmes but there was a strike that day concerning government officials. I showed my replacement where to pay her electric and water bills instead. That night there was a funeral feast as my host mother’s brother had passed away. Unfortunately I was unable to attend but visited everyone the next day and had lunch with everyone. Thursday I mailed my other smaller and lighter box, visited the delegate to let him know I was leaving, to introduce him to the new volunteer and have him sign a piece of paper for me. Then we visited the Gendarmes before going back to site. Friday she returned to her hub site. I spent the day in Errachidia visiting volunteers and shipping my bike to Peace Corps headquarters. It was a nice relaxing day. Saturday I visited my host family but no one else was around. Sunday I visited my friends and neighbors in site to say my final goodbyes. It was a long day. My neighbor agreed to pay my electric bill when it comes. My counterpart and friend gave me a simple wedding caftan and tirz d fasi item as gifts. It was really sweet of her. Then I took the rest of the night to wash my hair and finish packing everything up.

Monday I left early and tossed my keys in the door as I left. I took a 5 hour bus ride to Kalaa Mgouna to meet up with a friend of mine I wanted to visit before leaving the country. It was nice visiting her village. Made good ole fashioned mac and cheese for dinner and stayed up late talking. Tuesday I woke up early and met some friends in Kalaa and traveled with them to Marrakech for one final night on our way up to Rabat. It was nice and lots of fun. I bought a cute new shirt and gold Moroccan slippers that are very comfortable. Then had an amazing tajine of succulent chicken and amazing vegetables. We had a hard time getting our luggage stored for a day but we managed it all. Wednesday we woke up early and caught the 9am train making it into Rabat around 2pm. I ended up sharing a room with 2 other stage mates, it’s been fun. Wednesday I came to headquarters to get some things done and then had a Panini for dinner and sleeping early. Yesterday I spent a crazy morning getting my bank account closed, signatures, and everything handed in and completed. Had amazing sushi for lunch and German institute for supper. Gotta love pizza and salad, :). Hung out at the Marine House until 1am hanging out with friends and learning how to play darts. Today I slept in until 9am, showered and had a late breakfast before coming back to headquarters and finishing up last minute details.

Now I am officially done! And having an amazing supper at the French Institute to celebrate with friends, :). Took many photos and will enjoy many memories.