When in Rome (pun intended) we wanted to explore a bit more of Italy. 

An hour train ride and 30 euro later, we arrived in Florence. Firenze to the locals. The city had more of a hometown feel to it, and while it was a rainy overcast day, it was still beautiful.
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Santa Maria delle Fiori
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Beautiful museums
The city, in general, was a lot more elegant than anywhere I have visited.

The true feel of Tuscany was apparent in the Renaissance architecture and tiny side streets with expensive buildings and shops.
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Ponte Vecchio bridge
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Festival in the city center

The piazzas and palazzos are so historic and beautiful that you can't help but stop to take a picture of everything the city is lined with. 

And while some photos aren't permitted...
I was able to sneak a photo of Florence's most famous resident.
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David
 
 
Florence, Italy was a beautiful city that made me feel less like a tourist and more like an Italiana.

On the particular day trip we made into the city, it also made me feel like a chocoholic. 
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Liquor flavored chocolate drops
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Chocolate tools and knick-knacks
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Dark, white, or classic hot chocolate? Um...can I have all three?
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Oh, fudge.
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Fruit kabob dipped in chocolate. I think that covers all the basic food groups.
Spain, take a few notes, because while churros con chocolate are one of my favorite foods, the cioccolato festival in Florence's main square blew all of your tiny churreria's out of the water. 

I think I'd go back only for the chocolate!
 
 
Only 80 km from Madrid and 7km from the city of Segovia, one of my favorite day trips this year has been to La Granja, Spain.
The most famous attraction, the 18th century palace, is the former summer residence of Spanish royalty.

This city has been called the Versailles of Spain because of its beautiful Baroque architecture and its sculptured fountains. Each of the 26 fountains that are located around the palace are different, representing themes of Greek mythology. 

Unfortunately, the fountains were off on the day we had visited, but they were still equally as stunning. 
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[Source]
The gardens surrounding the palace are of French architecture, and equally as beautiful as everything else surrounding the palace. They are made to gaze at, as we did for the entire overcast afternoon. 

We also opted for a hike through the woods and terrain surrounding the palace on our day trip. Many Spanish kings have used the over 1,500 acres of land for hunting.
 
 
I have been home for almost a week. And in that week, I have been indulging in many of the American things I have missed the last four months living in Europe. 

One of them, Starbucks Peppermint Mochas.
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Is there anything that says Christmas as much as a peppermint-flavored, over-priced coffee in a holiday-red cup?
While at Starbucks, I placed my order, and gave them my name, per usual. 

It was what happened next that shocked me.

As I went to use the one-person bathroom inside while waiting for my coffee to be made, I shut the door behind me, and waved my hands in the air to turn on the light. After a few seconds of this, I realized something.

I am in the United States now. The lights don't react to a censor, like in Europe. There is an actual light switch! And there I was, waving my arms around like an idiot, wondering what was wrong with this bathroom.

You have seen the Reasons Why I am 25 percent Spanish. Almost exactly 3 months from that blog post, being back in the States has shown me just how Spanish I am becoming.

How Spain is Changing Me:
-I'm never hungry here until actual lunch time. That is, 2:30pm.

-I told my little brothers they needed to put on socks while walking around on the tile floor.

-I can't help but sit and enjoy my coffee instead of walking around with it.

-I no longer pull out my cell phone during family dinners.

-I speak in Spaniard-English to everyone.
Examples: "It's the same." "Tell me." "And you?" and "As you want."

-I ate a piece of fruit last week with a knife and fork.

-Spicy stuff is seriously spicy for me. I even found myself thinking "¡pica!" when I bit into dinner last night. 

-I knew right away that the man on the phone in the store yesterday was from Argentina because of his Spanish accent.

-I want to sit and eat in a restaurant for hours and hours, not get up when we are finished.

-Staying true to my blog title, I still want to take a siesta everyday.

What do you think....am I 40 percent Spanish by now?
 
 
During my 9 hour flight over the Atlantic I was not in the best mood.

I was happy to be coming home, claro, but I was a little fed up of the improper traveling etiquette I saw all around me. 
10 tips for the Non-Experienced Traveler: 
(Yes, I'm talking to you, people from flight 741 that made my day a little bit longer...)

1. At security, your shoes come off. And your belt. Is it necessary to step through the scanner three times before you realize you are wearing a metal belt with bottle caps all over it? 

2. Coats and jackets go on top of luggage. It's like Tetris, people. Only so much space for so many things. Make it happen.

3. Incessant talking is not something anyone can handle for 9 hours straight. I love talking about Spain, and I'm sure your night in Salamanca was very crazy, but enough is enough. This isn't a tea party.

4. Arm rest space is 50/50. Can't you take the hint with the gentle nudge I'm giving you with my forearm? 

5. Don't even get me started on raising the armrest. Don't you know it is there to set boundaries? I just met you, I'm not that kind of girl.

6. I think you're great. But, also, I don't want to straddle you while going to the bathroom. This isn't a movie theater. You're not blocking anyones view. Stand up and let me out. The leg swing is just, not cool.

7. Hey David Guetta, turn down your Ipod, DJ. I can hear you from 2 rows back OVER my in-flight movie.

8. I can't lie, rubbernecking me and looking out my window gives me a little bit of a creepy vibe. 

9. Window shade: open or close. Choose one and stick to it.

10. And finally, an apology, because I'm sorry person behind me, but I feel entitled to the right to recline. There is only so much space.

Am I a cynical traveler? Not at all. Do I love flying? Yes.

Traveling is one of my favorite things to do, and all of the bad etiquette aside, I love the experience of traveling no matter how long the flight. 

For those who don't know proper airline etiquette...if nothing else, you make things interesting! Now that you've read my blog, hopefully you know what not to do.
For those of us who are experienced travelers, no matter how long the flight or how bad the day, we know there is no feeling quite like arriving at your destination. For me on this particular trip, nothing could put me in a better mood than coming home, finally.
 
 
One of my favorite Spanish songs is Lady Madrid by Pereza. Both for the ease of the lyrical translation (I can rock out to it even in Spanish) and the memory of my friends singing it aloud in the car when I first arrived in Spain last year.
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This fin de semana in Madrid made me feel like, well, Lady Madrid.

Madrid is Spain's capital and largest city in the country. And it's a city with a lot to offer. The Plaza Mayor, Puerta de Sol, Gran Vía, the Prado museum, the Sunday flea markets, and the nightlife are only a glimpse of the things that will entertain you in Madrid. 

My favorite part about the weekend was hanging out in Parque del Retiro, conviently close to the city center and our hotel. 
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Spaniards exercise on paths, picnic between the trees, and take siestas on the grass while tourists enjoy the monuments and statues placed throughout the park.

Everyone basques in the beauty of the elegant landscapes this park has to offer.
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I did a little steering....
Enjoying (and captaining) a boat ride around the lake in the park was the perfect way to enjoy the Spanish sunshine. 
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....and a little relaxing.
I wanted to spend the whole day in the park, but the excitement of the capital took me away to other destinations.
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Beautiful buildings everywhere.
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La Plaza Mayor
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Churches around every corner.
I heard at least 10 different languages being spoken around me during my walk around the city. I saw sushi restaurants! (But didn't have time to eat at one, que pena.) And I made some new friends from all over the world. 

I also got a piece of home this weekend hanging out with the Americans at my conference and taking in a little American comida

Ahem...and, no, of course I didn't eat at McDonalds and have a Starbucks coffee this weekend. 

A city with so much to offer, I knew that I only took in a glimpse of the city in my past trips to Madrid. This weekend was no exception. So, don't worry Madrid, you're lady will be back soon!
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Lady Madrid?
 
 
All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go.
(I feel a song coming on...)

Today is the day I've been staring at on my calendar for a long time now.

If there is one thing I can say about the packing/leaving process, it is that traveling to Europe is not as glamourous, or simple, as it sounds.

I have changed my 'live out of one bag' aspirations the past few weeks into being an absolute hoarder. I've been collecting items that I know I won't find in Spain. Anti-persperant deodorants, specific toothpastes, mixes for cooking, vitamins, and things that are just generally cheaper in the US to save myself some money.
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Switched that Colgate for Crest last week after a trip to the dentist...number 1 recommended!
In addition to that, I can't bear to part with any of my wardrobe. Forget looking like a European! Sometimes I am going to want my college hoodie and my sweatpants. (Go knights!)

I also worked up quite a sweat last night packing, stepping on suitcases and laying on them to zip them shut. I think I will need some sort of spanish crow bar to open up one of them, it is zipped so tightly, clothes and items ready to explode out of it.
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I don't even remember what I packed in these giants.
And I can guarantee after the 12 hour travel time, in Madrid, I will need do some freshening up before I greet that new Spanish air. Madrid Barajas bathroom teeth brushing is going to get me some weird looks, but it's going to happen people.

There is going to be a non-glam lifestyle in a lot of what is to come this year for me. 
Ups and downs, messes, sadness and tears. I'll miss this room I'm sitting in now, with the familiar all around me. I'll miss being able to hug my family and sit in the living room with them whenever I want to. I'll miss home, there is no doubt in my mind.

But there will be happiness in so much more of what is to come. Whatever happens from this day, September 1st, forward, I will enjoy with an open heart, a huge smile, and satisfaction that I worked so hard to get where I want to be.