Visiting the Western Wall In Jerusalem, Israel

Although it may seem as though we had been traveling for weeks, we only spent three days and two nights in Barcelona, since our final destination was Israel. The most memorable part of our trip to Israel (besides seeing family members and loved ones) was our excursion to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. There is so much history and an overwhelming sense of spirituality as you walk around.

It is absolutely beautiful to be able to go to a place and pray to a higher power (or whatever one may believe in) and know that a countless amount of individuals travel here to do the same. We were lucky enough to come on a day where members of a certain sector of the Israeli army had completed their training, and were officially becoming members of the Israeli Defense Force. And as we walked around, the view of the surrounding area was breathtaking.

We had such a great time touring Lisbon Portugal, exploring Barcelona, Spain, and visiting various cities in Israel, especially Jerusalem. We were sad to return home and get back to the “real world,” but we have since been left with a lingering and exciting feeling of knowing we’ll be back on a plane traveling again soon—although for now, the destination is unknown!

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The Western Wall In Jerusalem, Israel

End of the Year Appreciation

With today being December 31st, it is no secret that people nationwide are making last minute attempts at creating New Years Resolutions and fine-tuning their goals for the upcoming year. What I find interesting (even though I’m guilty of it as well) is that so many of us wait until January 1st to begin to follow through with ways we believe will better us. If our resolutions don’t work, or if we simply cannot stick to the plan we set out for ourselves, well, there’s always next January 1st for us to try again.

If we could move past the concept of New Year’s Resolutions, we could work on continuously trying to better ourselves. Moreover, we’ll have an entire year to hold ourselves accountable for our actions, rather than just waiting for a “re-do” twelve months from now. What is important for us to remember during these upcoming weeks of “resolutioning” (a new verb that’s quite fitting for this time of year) is that one minor setback is not a failure; we must not allow ourselves to get discouraged if things do not go according to plan. There is always tomorrow to wake up refreshed and begin from where we last left off. If we can view New Year’s Resolutions as the Year’s Resolutions, maybe we won’t be so harsh on ourselves. And maybe we’ll realize that our goals can be fought for at any given moment of any given day—not just for the first few days in January.

With that being said, one goal that I set for myself this past year was to continue blogging, since I had taken an extended break before the year began. Just this year alone, individuals from all around the world stopped by my site to read what I had to say. To me, there would be nothing more rewarding than knowing that one person (not including my mother) occasionally glances through my site. However, to find out that more than 2,000 visitors from sixty-nine different countries read my thoughts, experiences, and stories throughout the year is beyond overwhelming.

Just this year alone, my blog has had more visitors than the last three years combined. To my fellow bloggers, readers, and friends from 2015, I extend my sincerest appreciation and gratitude for your support. (In the tag section of this post, I’ve included the country of each visitor throughout this past year as a special way of saying thank you since it’s much easier than hand-written notes).

May 2016 be a year to remember, and may all of our resolutions come to fruition, regardless of any potential setbacks we may experience along the way. Happy New Year to all of you, and thank you, once again.

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Barcelona, Spain: Night 1

After a long, but exciting day in Lisbon, Portugal, my sister and I hopped on another plane, and made our way to Barcelona, Spain. Although I studied abroad in Alcalá de Henares (near Madrid) for a summer semester during college, I didn’t have as much time to explore Barcelona as I would have liked. Ever since, I have always wanted to return to this beautiful city, and finally had the opportunity to do so.

Upon checking in to the hotel and dropping our things off in the room, my sister and I walked through the city to find a restaurant recommended to us by a local. On our way, we passed the immaculate Casa Battló, which will most definitely be discussed in an upcoming post.

When we finally found the restaurant, we didn’t waste any time! We ordered Spain’s famous patatas bravas (potatoes drizzled with a delicious aioli sauce), as well as fried calamari, sangria, and of course, seafood paella. The food was just what we needed after a long day of traveling, and it was the perfect way to start our adventures in Barcelona.

Enjoying Lisbon, Portugal: Part 4

Once we finished touring Castelo São Jorge, my sister and I had to make our way back to the city center, where we first began our excursion. From there, we would catch a local bus, which would take us back to the airport. As we walked through the Alfama once again, we came across another olden-day cathedral, but our best (and most delicious) find happened to be in the city center. We spotted Confeitaria Nacional—Lisbon’s oldest confectionery, dating back to 1829.

As my sister and I walked into Confeitaria Nacional, we were in awe of the assortment of pastries available on display. We had a difficult time making the decision of what to order, but one of the locals recommend that we try a Pastel de Nata—an egg tart pastry common in Portugal. It exceeded our expectations, and was the perfect treat to conclude our brief trip to Lisbon. As we savored every last crumb, the city bus arrived, and it was time for us to return to the airport and continue on our trip to Barcelona, Spain.

Enjoying Lisbon, Portugal: Part 3

After spotting the Igreja Santa Luzia, my sister and I continued walking through the Alfama district, until we came across the final destination of our walking tour—Castelo São Jorge.

“This castle was built by the Moors in the mid-11th century as a last defensive stronghold for the elite who resided on the citadel: the Moorish governor whose palace was nearby and the elite city administrators” (http://castelodesaojorge.pt). The castle was modified in the 13th century, and housed the first king of Portugal as well as many other members of the royal class.

In the late 1500’s, the castle served a military purpose, but renovation work had to commence after Lisbon experienced an earthquake in 1755 (http://castelodesaojorge.pt). As you can see in some of the pictures below, the castle offers beautiful panoramic views of both Lisbon and the Tagus River.

Enjoying Lisbon, Portugal: Part 2

After we left the Sé de Lisboa, we continued our journey until we reached the Miradouro de Santa Luzia. This lookout point is said to be the nicest in the Alfama area. From here, you can see traditional styled houses, the Tagus River, and the Igreja Santa Luzia. The views were truly breathtaking, and wherever you looked, there was something incredible to see.

Regarding the Igreja Santa Luzia, “The origins of this Church date back to the first years of Portuguese nationality, built in the 12th century, during the reign of the first Portuguese king, D. Afonso Henriques, by the knights of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, and dedicated to São Brás, with defensive features as it was situated next to the town walls, on the eastern side of the town.

The present building, built over the previous temple, dates from the 18th century, with many alterations after the big destruction caused by the big 1755 earthquake and tsunami that destroyed a huge part of Lisboa.

The temple is characterized by its Latin cross plan and one-only nave, distributed by the main chapel, the transept and the nave, ten sepulchres in shape of gravestone and funerary monuments, classified as National Monument.

Also quite interesting are the two glazed tile panels signed in the historical Viúva Lamego ceramics factory, representing Lisboa with scenes of the conquest from the Moors in 1147and another one illustrating the Comércio Square before the big 1755 earthquake that forever changed the face of Lisboa” (www.getportugal.com).