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And……America!!! After traveling so much, it’s so comforting to be back in our country, around people who understand us and whom we understand.

We got up early again, our trip down to the airport felt nostalgic since we had made it before on our journey from Ireland to France. Time seemed to go fast. And before we knew it, it was time to board our plane to Toronto! We were just as excited to go home as had been to leave.

Much to our surprise, our long flight to Toronto didn’t feel as long and dreary as we had anticipated. We kept ourselves occupied by reading, listening to music, and enjoying the food that Air Canada had to offer.

Once we arrived in Toronto, we breezed through customs and prepared for the last stretch taking us to Montreal.

At last! We arrived in Montreal and were very warmly greeted by Kathleen’s mom and her friend Kim. They were thrilled to hear our many adventurous stories and had a bunch of snacks for us to enjoy. From Montreal, we drove down to Vermont.

We can truly say that this trip has had a huge impact on us and on the way we see the world. There were many very difficult moments where we questioned why we were doing this in the first place, followed by many intensely exciting moments where we felt so privileged.

The trip was different that what we had expected it to be, there wasn’t exactly one moment or experience that completely changed us or transformed us; yet, our experience as a whole helped give us a more realistic outlook on life and taught us appreciation for different cultures as well as our own.

Thanks so much for sharing this journey with us! We wish you all the best in your own adventures in life.

Good Bye,

<3i&k

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What is in a name? What is in anything that makes it to be what it is? What is in a restaurant that makes it cute? Maybe a large chalk board behind the counter detailing the contents of its menu, or some artsy low sitting chairs that people are expected to eat like normal people at, or a wall of old and new books all in Spanish. If this is the case, then the place that we went to for lunch yesterday is definitely a cute restaurant.

We passed this place several times as we wandered the city the past few days, but we never actually made it inside. We thought that today being Sunday, it would be a good day to eat out. We chose this place mostly because of its looks, but were equally impressed by the atmosphere and the food.

Ivana ordered toast with an olive spread and tomato and cheese melted on top. Kathleen got a curry chicken sandwich. We both got bubbly water, which we were delighted to find came in a glass bottle which we held on to when the waitress came to clear our places.
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Today, we are up early. On our way to Ireland, we needed to be at the airport by 8am. We ate our yogurt standing up in the hostel’s kitchen, then walked across the street to the metro.

As our time in Europe is coming to an end it is a very interesting sensation. We are sad to be leaving for sure but eagerly await our arrival in America. After seeing so many new things over the past almost 6 weeks we are aching for something familiar. We are however also very excited to have the opportunity to bring back many new things that we have learned to the United States, especially many of the new foods that we have tried!

iAdios!

❤ i&k

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Have you ever had a Churro in Spain? Churros in America, especially the ones at Costco are very large and smothered in cinnamon sugar. In Spain this is not the case. They are served plain and it is up to the person eating the churro to sprinkle white sugar only, over the top of the churro.  Yesterday we went to a restaurant that did something completely different with their churros. They served them with luscious, thick, hot chocolate, no sugar.

This hot chocolate was like a melted chocolate bar in a glass, and with the fresh warm crispy churro was a wonderful snack on a chillier than normal afternoon. Together, it was called Churros con chocolate. Yum!

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Today, we went to the medieval city of Avila.  With churches and buildings that date back to the medieval times, as well as a large wall that stretches around almost the entire city, Avila reminded us much of Assisi.

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Here we were able to walk the footsteps of St. Theresa of Avila, a doctor of the church, who along with St. John of the Cross reformed the Carmelite Order, which had become very social and worldly at the time. This was an especially important day trip for Ivana, whose mom is a third order Carmelite.

We went to the convent where St. Theresa had lived, Ivana was excited to be able to go inside and see many of the relics that St. Theresa had touched and used during her great life. Unfortunately, we had to hurry out to catch our train back to Madrid, but we were able to watch the Spanish country side roll by as the sun was setting; it was very beautiful.

When we got back, we made a pit stop at the grocery store and picked up some pasta, canned tomatoes, ham, some vegetables and cream cheese. With this bounty, we made a creamy tomato sauce that neither of us could get enough of. We also made sure to cook our pasta to al dente, being careful so that it wouldn’t get mushy. It’s so nice to be able to cook again, we missed it a lot after only eating sandwiches for the past few weeks!

Today was a great day! 🙂

❤ i&k

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In case we didn’t mention it before, Madrid is a party city, and our hostel does a very good job at reflecting that attitude in it’s various events that it offers. Although we tend to stay away from the crazy ‘wee hours of the night’ party sphere, we did decide to take advantage of the walking tour graciously offered by our hostel.

The walking tour was a great way to get to know the city a bit and learn some of Madrid’s history, including it’s not so exciting city symbol of a bear eating some fermented fruit from a tree. I, (Ivana), thought it was a cute bear actually, but our tour guide didn’t seem too enthused.

When the tour was over, our guide gave a couple of suggestions of where to get some good Spanish lunch. She mentioned a place that she was heading to and a big part of the group actually ended up going there. It was a little pricey and we already had picked out a place the night before (which we had diligently found on trip advisor), but seeing that we had a personal recommendation from a local right before us and she would lead us there, we decided to join them. Much to our surprise and immense pleasure, when we arrived at the restaurant, we realized it was the same one we had picked the night before! The restaurant was called Rosi La Loca. The menu del dia was 11.50 euros and consisted of a smaller appetizer sort of dish, a main dish, a small glass of sangria, a drink of your choice, and coffee or dessert. The Spanish enjoy lunch as their bigger meal, followed by a siesta in the afternoon. We both ordered Paella as our smaller portion of the meal and chicken with lemon sauce and French fries. For dessert, Ivana had arroz con leche and Kathleen had some flan. It was a very good meal!!
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We sat with three people from our walking tour group. We met Blaine and Caitlyn from Utah and Kathy from Vancouver, who is currently a teacher for primary school in London. We all hit it off almost immediately! It was so great to talk to fellow Americans and a Canadian. 🙂 We all shared our travel stories and experiences with each other. We hit it off so well with them that we ended up spending the rest of the day exploring the streets of Madrid with our newly found friends!

As for the restaurant, it was a very nice atmosphere and the service was great, not to mention the delicious food we enjoyed! Our waiter was a very sweet young man from Peru who made a very notable effort to communicate in English with us all and Ivana tried her best to translate here and there. Being our second day in Madrid, we really appreciated his welcoming kindness!

After lunch, as mentioned earlier, we walked around with Blaine, Caitlyn, and Kathy. We first went to visit the Palacio Real because we had been told they had free visiting hours between 4 & 6 p.m. However, because of some event or something, it was not open for visitors after all.

Next, we walked for a good while until we reached El Parque del Retiro, a beautiful park with a glass building called Chrystal Palace. After our lengthy walk, we decided to head back to our hostel to get some dinner and then some rest. We stopped off at the grocery store and bought a tortilla de patata con cebolla, which was like a potato patty the size of a plate, with onions in it. We then put a whole avocado on it, enjoyed with some cheese, and of course, a pear. 🙂 When we got back to our hostel to eat our dinner, we were happily surprised to find Kathy, Blaine, and Caitlyn there and so we enjoyed our dinner with them.
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iAdiós!
❤ i&k

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Madrid!

Going to a new country is always so much fun, it’s amazing how different each country and city feels from the others. It’s like stepping into a whole new world.

We arrived here very late last night, and went straight to bed. Our hostel is right next door to the metro stop so we didn’t get lost even for a second trying to find it, quite a feat for us. 🙂

Our first day in Madrid was Ash Wednesday. Because we would be fasting, we didn’t plan anything too vigorous for the day. First, we went to mass at the Catedral de la Almudena.

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The mass was beautiful and Ivana was able to understand the homily because she speaks Spanish like a rockstar. 😉 She filled Kathleen in after mass that the priest was saying that while it is important for us to seize every opportunity to grow in holiness during lent, e.g. make the little sacrifices that make us uncomfortable, take the time to pray more, focus on the season; it is also necessary to remember what we are preparing for, Easter, the moment of our redemption!

We walked around and sat in the sun in front of the Palacio Real (Royal Palace) which is right next door to the cathedral.
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We then went back to our hostel to make some lunch. Not a baguette, you will be pleased to hear! Because this hostel has a full kitchen, we were able to prepare ravioli with cheese sauce and crusty cheese bread and a pear for lunch. It was so delicious and definitely a welcomed change from our previous meal choices.

After lunch, we went back outside. We explored further past the cathedral and the palace into more of the heart of the city. We passed a very cute cafe/restaurant where we hope to go for lunch one of our days here.

For dinner we had a yogurt. Soon afterwards we headed to bed, we were tired from walking around all day, but are excited to see what tomorrow will bring!

iAdiós!

❤ i&k

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Siena, today! We took a day trip to Siena, the town affiliated with St. Catherine of Siena, a very special saint who dedicated her life to Christ and His Church as a nun and received the grace of the stigmata. As we mentioned in a previous post, her body is in Rome, but her head is kept in Siena.The Church where St. Catherine’s head is kept, Basilica Cateriniana San Domenico, is very old and beautiful.

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Siena itself reminded us a little of Assisi; it’s a very cute town with lots of shops, coffee bars, and gelato. We went to get some gelato at La Costarella. It was really good, Kathleen’s favorite, although Ivana still left her heart at Old Bridge.

After our lovely snack, we went over to another cathedral, Duomo di Siena. We had to get a ticket to enter, although they were free, which was nice. The beauty of the cathedral did not disappoint! One might think that we would have become accustomed by now to so much beautiful architecture out here in Europe, but it never really gets old, and each church has it’s own individuality majesty of offer.

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Because of the rain, our stay in Siena was rather short, but still memorable!
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Ciao,
❤ i&k

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Florence, what to say about Florence…first I will mention its name. Florence is actually the English term for this city, the locals call it Firenze. This is very helpful to know for booking train tickets as no Italian website even with the English translation recognizes the term Florence.

Before coming here we didn’t really know that much about Florence, we intended to mostly use it as a home base from which we would go and visit the towns of Siena and Padua. Upon our arrival there we found, however, that the train to Padua was much more expensive than we had anticipated – about 100 euros round trip verses 40 euros round trip. Needless to say, we didn’t have this expense in our budget and found ourselves with an extra day to spend exploring Florence.

Our first day we took as a rest day. After so much traveling and early mornings in Rome, we took a much needed break from sight seeing; we worked on talks for our retreat in a few weeks, as well as caught up on a little sleep.

Then to town we went! Florence is very picturesque. We enjoyed the lovely autumn-like weather there. It was so nice to be able to shed some of our many layers.
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As we were wondering the streets, we came across a large leather flee market. We greatly admired all of the handcrafted bags, belts, and other leather goods, all made locally and from local leather. We had to ward off an all to eager salesman; he offered to give us over fifty percent off the belts that we were looking at, but we were slightly wary of his ability to give us such a generous discount at the drop of the hat. We told him we would come back after looking around. On our way back, we tried to avoid him, but we saw him sitting in a cafe while on a break. We made eye contact. It was awkward.

We were also able to take a look inside the courtyard of the Church of San Lorenzo. There was an orange tree filled with yummy looking oranges.
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We then ate some bread, cheese, salami and a pear for dinner. This has been our go-to meal for practically our entire trip. It has been a nice inexpensive way to feed ourselves. However the baguettes here aren’t nearly as fresh as in Rome and we’re thinking we may have to come up with some new food ideas for when we’re in Spain.

Ciao!

❤ i&k