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We’re funny (usually), controversial (sometimes) and insightful (always!). Our travel experts share their experiences below in hopes of hearing back from YOU. So read, comment and enjoy!

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Walking Cities Part 2: Barcelona

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If you’ve missed the introduction to this series, click here.

Sagrada Familia, Gaudi - jurvetson

Sagrada Familia, Gaudi - jurvetson

There is plenty to explore in Barcelona, a city notorious for its relaxed pace of life. Things work on a slower timetable here, great for a walk about! Take your time, you have all day! (Literally, dinner often doesn’t start here until 10 or 11pm, and nightclubs usually don’t begin filling up until around 2am). There’s plenty to do and see, and in recent years, Barcelona has become quite the multicultural hotbed. The area is home to a high population of immigrants, which means not only interesting people, but amazing international food, and a rich collection of books, art, and shopping. Cafés (yum, churros and chocolate!), galleries and parks (with lots of famous street art) galore!

As the home of nine UNESCO World Heritage sites (seven of which were designed by the famous Antoni Gaudí) there are plenty destinations for you to check out on that slow ramble around the city. continue reading

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Yes, I Know How to Walk.

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If there’s one thing I’ve learned in London (well, hopefully there’s been more than one) it’s how to walk…Yes, I know what you’re thinking, “she seriously doesn’t know how to walk?!”

Stop worrying.

I’m not talking about one foot in front of the other, step by step, here to there walking. No, I’m talking about some serious perambulation (aka touristy walking around as much of a city as you can get your hands on). Hey, we’re tourists, and we don’t want to sit in the back of a taxicab, we want to explore!

Ready to take a ramble? - borkur.net

Ready to take a ramble? - borkur.net

In Davis we bike or bus, and usually it’s just to get from destination to destination. If we really want to walk, we take a hike, and if we really need to get somewhere, we take a car. But here in London, we literally walk everywhere. We walk to the store, we walk to class, we walk to work, we walk to think, we walk to explore, and we get lost and we walk. The first few weeks we here, most of our conversations ended with, “ugh, my feet are tiiiiiiired”, (and this was especially true when we couldn’t seem to figure out the night bus schedule). continue reading

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Marrakech, Morocco: (Hi)stories and Adventure!

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Known as the “Red City”, Marrakech, Morocco is often known simply for its expansive open-air markets, snake-charmers, and tiny, winding streets. But, situated at the foot of the Atlas Mountains, this French and Arabic speaking city also holds a rich cultural history, plenty of outdoor adventures, and gorgeous architecture and “red” desert scenery.

Marrakech Medina - Joao Maximo

Marrakech Medina - Joao Maximo

Marrakech is a wonderful example of unspoiled, untainted culture. A combination of traditional Arabic, Berber, and French has been woven together into the city’s distinctive dialogue. And though Islam is still quite strong, Marrakech is a less conservative city than many other Moroccan cities. Hazy, pink buildings are a dime a dozen. Shops are mostly tiny, locally-run operations. Coffee is thick and delicious (no instant stuff there!). And the sun, I hear, is always shining (see! It’s not just Californians who say this). continue reading

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Weird Foods: More Than Just A Photo Op.

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I can’t say it enough, (and I do, often) food is one of the best and most informative ways to experience a new culture. However, after hearing about a friend’s recent (strange/gross/wild) cultural eating experience in Peru (exactly what that was, we’ll come back to in a moment) I’m starting to think that it’s not just the variety of authentic cuisines that helps to define a new place, but often the experience of stepping completely outside of your (culinary and otherwise) comfort-zone in the process.

Deep, I know. But think about it for a minute, if someone offered you fish eyeballs, pig hoofs or alligator at your local diner, would you even think twice about saying no? Probably not.

So what is it that gets us crazy travellers to embark on weird and wild culinary adventures? Perhaps it’s the desire to become a part of a new place, a new culture, a new experience. Because, as any traveller knows, food isn’t just about filling your belly with calories it’s about embarking on a cultural experience.

Here comes dinner? - Shazari

Here comes dinner? - Shazari

Take my friend’s trip to Peru for example. She’s southern California born and bred, vegetarian, and an organic food junkie. What could have possibly made a girl who diligently washes each grape before digging into the bunch try (gulp) guinea pig at the local Peruvian market? continue reading

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Swine Flu: Not you (Hopefully)!

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, you’ve heard the swine flu alerts. Every day there’s been a new article, a new email (usually from my concerned mother) , a new tweet about the swine flu. I’m starting to think that maybe missing that spring break trip to Cancun wasn’t so disastrous after all. With 159 reported deaths so far, what’s most important is that the outbreak is receiving the serious attention it deserves. This doesn’t mean that everyone needs to avoid Mexican food and run to their nearest GP, however, as cases have begun cropping up everywhere from California to Spain, it does mean that it’s important to be aware and informed about current travel precautions. Though it seems like something new crops up every year, a mad-cow epidemic here, a tomato or peanut butter recall there, avian flu, and now swine flu, even the most adventurous traveller should exercise caution. (And, hey, if excitement is what you’re looking for, why not try something like river rafting instead?) continue reading

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Going to San Francisco: Flowers in Your Hair Not Necessary!

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“So, do you…see celebrities everywhere then?” It’s the first question anyone thinks to ask when I tell them I’m from, gasp, California. Along with, “So it’s sunny all of the time then?” and, I kid you not, “Do you surf to class?” …Well, er, no, actually, I don’t. In fact, I’m from Northern California, more famous for its Golden Gate Bridge and the Napa Valley wine region than it is for glamorous and paparazzi-filled nights on the town. The only stars I see out at night are the ones in the sky, and, frankly, I’d like to keep it that way.

Golden Gate Bridge - Dan Cuellar

Golden Gate Bridge - Dan Cuellar

So, in honor of that Northern-Californian (or Nor-Cal, as we say) pride, I’d like to present a series of “amazing, beautiful, and entirely devoid of any surfboards or celebrity sightings” things to do in California. continue reading

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There Might Even Be Funnel Cakes: Checking Out the UK’s Seaside Scene

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It’s raining outside, and we’re missing the California beaches! Spurred by a long discussion about deep-fried snickers and hot dogs at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, I’ve decided to investigate the UK’s beach scene (hey, we’re surrounded by miles and miles of coastline here too!). And, luckily, the UK turns out to have quite the selection of coastal spots for us sun-hungry Californians to choose from as the weather heats up this summer.

Blackpool's Pleasure Beach - Jon's Pics

Blackpool's Pleasure Beach - Jon's Pics

It may not be Coney Island or the Boardwalk, but it looks pretty close! The Pleasure Beach Amusement Park in Blackpool, England features over 125 rides and attractions with some beautiful coastline views. And for you thrill seekers, twelve roller coasters, (woohoo!) including the one of the last “Wild Mouse” rides in operation, a neck-bending series of bunny hops and flat turns. Accessible via the Blackpool Hop-On-Hop-Off Tour, I can’t wait for an afternoon of sun and fun here (I just hope they have funnel cakes!) continue reading

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Camden Town: Food, Friends, and (Great!) Finds

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Well, I may not have been able to check out all of the cuisines I listed in my last article about food (yet!), but I did make it to the cobblestone streets of Camden Market’s food vendor area yesterday…close enough, right? Davis, California might have the most adorable Saturday morning farmer’s market, but I’m starting to see why shopping in London is so famous, it’s pretty impossible to compete with the size and variety of London’s famous sites.

Food in Camden Market - Yandle

Food in Camden Market - Yandle

The Camden Market’s stalls were tiny, the streets were narrow, and the food was AMAZING! (Suck on that, American food courts). I swear this tiny corner of Camden houses any and everything you could possibly want to eat. Cuban? Check. Spanish? Italian? Thai? Moroccan? Chinese? Indian? Mexican? Check, check, check, check, check, check, check! Everything looked and smelled so delicious that I worked up an appetite just trying to decide which one to choose. And, one of the best things about strolling around Camden is the mix of locals and tourists, sure, there are a ton of souvenirs and knick-knacks lining the streets, but do and a little digging and the market is actually packed with great (and often cheap!) clothing, crafts, and music as well. From CDs to corsets, there’s something for everyone in Camden, just make sure you’ve got plenty of time to spend exploring!

I can’t wait to check out some of the city’s other famous markets and foods soon…Maybe all of this exploring will help burn off the huge helping of paella I wolfed down last night! continue reading

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Slow Down London!

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This month, the city of London will host the ten-day Slow Down London a “Living Life in Real Time” festival for busy city dwellers. Running April 24th through May 4th, the festival focuses on taking a break from the pressures of city living (something we college students already excel at) and relaxing. The program encourages Londoners to “explore slow music and arts, to try meditation and yoga, to sample slow food and crafts, to discover ‘slow travel’ in our own city, to debate ideas about time and pace, and to find our own ways to challenge the cult of speed and to appreciate the world around us.” And with ranging from “Wine and Words,” a poetry and vino session at Foyles to free guided tours at the National Portrait Gallery, or discounted yoga and meditation sessions, just about everyone can find a reason to relax next week.

Richard Whitaker

Richard Whitaker

Even if you’re not into the events, there is no better way to tour the city then to walk around by foot, get inspired by Slow Down London and take some time out of your busy day and EXPLORE! Take your sandwich to the park, or find a new restaurant in your neighbourhood. Now that the weather outside is no longer frightful, no more excuses! continue reading

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A Walk on the “Wilde” Side Indeed: Hotspots of Literary History

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Oscar Wilde - janetmck and mukund76

Oscar Wilde - janetmck and mukund76

All of this travelling has given us all a little wanderlust (aka the desire to travel our already small savings away). Europe is packed with history than we’ll ever be able to see in just three short months, but with some great tour guides and a little organization, we’re hoping to cram as much of it in as possible! Since we’re here to study literature and culture, and Dublin was just the first stop on the journey, I can’t wait to check out these other top writing-geek destinations soon:

London: Well, this one’s a bit obvious I suppose, I am living in Kensington and heading to the theatre every week to see a play for class, but for those of you not already enrolled in a literary adventure, London’s blue circle plaques make it easy. Placed outside the doors of London sites, the plaques serve as a guide to the more famous happenings within many an ordinary-looking building). London has been home to many of the most famous authors of all time: Charles Dickens, H.G. Wells, Virginia Woolf, Geoffrey Chaucer, John Keats, J.M. Barrie, and of course Shakespeare are just a few of the city’s most recognizable names. I can’t wait to search out the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens, check out Oscar Wilde’s house in Chelsea, and see Romeo and Juliet at the Globe Theatre…luckily the blue-badge guided Literary London Tour will make it even easier! continue reading

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