First thing’s first: I’M HOME! Back in the US, back in Illinois, and (I’m cringing while I type this) back to Normal. Life is insane right now and there’s so much to catch up on, but I like my chronology, so I’ll start from where I left off in my last post.
And that, my friends, is when the great Kenley Kaisershot flew halfway across the world just to accompany his daughter on a Euro Adventure.
I’ll tell ya what, the feeling of sheer happiness I felt when I saw my dad walk through those doors in the airport was astounding. I was so excited to see him, and of course he rolled his eyes at the fact that I was filming his grand entrance, but hey, what are ya gonna do? We spent that first day in Madrid trying to ward off dad’s jet lag. First up was the Mercado San Miguel where we got some muchies to tide us over for the walking tour we then went on. I know what you’re thinking: Kasey, you’ve been in Madrid for a year. Why did you go on a walking tour?! Well, that’s an excellent question, and I’ll tell you why: you can live in a place for a year and still know nothing about! Okay, so I knew some things, but it was actually really fun. Plus I learned that the whole obsession with ham originated during the Spanish Inquisition because only Catholics could eat ham, unlike the other religions. Pretty interesting. Dad even got called out for taking a siesta during the tour. Hey, he got the hang of being a Spaniard pretty fast if you ask me! In the evening I took him to my favorite mercado, the Mercado de San Ildefonso, and then it was off to bed for our early day the next day.
Monday: Brussels and All the Food
Early mornings suck, but not as much when you’re traveling to a new destination with your padre! First stop was Brussels, and of course the first thing we did when we got there was eat! Our taxi driver recommended the area of St. Catherine’s Square for local food, so we got some lunch there. The day continued with a walking tour, in which we saw the beautiful Grand Place and the Manneken-Pis statue. Supposedly in the top 3 most disappointing tourist landmarks because it’s so small, but you can’t help but enjoy a fountain of a little boy peeing. A stop for chocolate at Neuhaus was necessary after that (hello, Belgian chocolate?!), and then another Belgian specialty: frites! We went to this little fry shop called Tabora and got huge cones of fries topped with curry ketchup and giant sauce. They even chopped the potatoes and fried them right in front of us. It was amazing. That night, we went to a bar called Delirium, which is known for its hundreds and hundreds of selections of beers. I tried a cherry beer (gross) and then a lambic beer which is common in Brussels and was also gross. Oh well!
Tuesday: Ghent and the Torture Room
After a short train ride, we found ourselves in Ghent ready to explore what else Belgium had to offer. And it offered us a nice tour through an old Medieval castle. It was really neat to walk through the different rooms and go up the towers to look out over the city. Oh yeah, and there was a torture room filled with all kinds of devices for Medieval torture. And I thought people nowadays are sadistic…
We followed up the castle tour with lunch near the river. On the menu: waterzooi, which is a typical stew dish in Belgium. It basically reminded me of chicken noodle soup but with potatoes instead of noodles. It was pretty tasty! With our stomachs full, we took a boat tour up and down the river and admired the architecture of the beautiful town. When we returned to Brussels in the evening, we got dinner and then saw Grand Place all lit up with beautiful lights. It was a great end to the day.
Wednesday: Brussels and Of Course We Ate a Waffle!
First up on Wednesday’s agenda was a visit to the Atomium, a giant sculpture/building shaped like an iron atom. It was originally built for the 1958 world fair and is now a museum. We had to ride in these escalators between the different rooms in the balls, so it was pretty neat. But of course, I felt like I was going to throw up the entire morning because I had a Skype interview that afternoon for a teaching position.
So, when we got back to the hotel, I was running around the hotel room trying to set everything up (Phone on the desk? No, too low, prop it up on the suitcase. The lighting!!! Can you even see me? Crap, make the beds so I don’t look like a slob!). Then my dad gave me some privacy and I sat there for 10 minutes waiting. 2:00 came around and no call. I started panicking; we had to check out of our hotel at 3:00 pm! Got an email that they would have to call me later, around my 3:00! So I called my dad, tried not to start crying, and we packed up and checked out. Luckily, the woman at the front desk said I could use the first floor lounge area as a quiet space, so I had to reset everything. Before long , the interview was over, and by the next day they had emailed me to say they wanted to see me do a demo lesson!
A treat was in order after that fiasco, so we went to Maison Dandoy for a Belgian waffle! Dad got brown sugar on his and I got strawberries and chocolate sauce on mine. SO. GOOD. We walked some more and then made our way to the airport.
Except we got there and realized it was the wrong airport.
And the airport we needed was a 40 minute drive away.
Cue panicky Kasey part 2. After a quick analysis, we determined there was a chance we could still make it if we got a cab. So we wandered around the whole airport area with no cabs to be seen (wtf, it’s an airport?!). Finally we spotted some, and a speeding driver and 200 euros later, we had made it to the correct airport. Thankfully there was no line at security and we made the flight!
We made it to Berlin safely and on time, grabbed some McDonald’s for dinner (hey, it was late, don’t judge us), checked in to our hotel, and passed the eff out.
Thursday: Berlin and Historical Stuff
A stressful day previously called for a delicious breakfast, so we went to an adorable hipster café called House of Small Wonders. I’m salivating just thinking about it. We got some bus tour tickets (the walking tours were taking a toll on us) and rode around to different parts of the city while learning a little bit of the background and history. We saw the Brandenburg Gate, the Berlin Wall memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, and the Holocaust memorial, all of which were really interesting to see. Plus, it’s great having a guy like my dad around to explain some of the historical aspects that I wasn’t alive for!
For dinner, dad got some Hungarian goulash while I got some sausages with a pretzel. We also got some apple strudel for dessert, which was super tasty. We ended the night with a stroll to the Alexanderplatz area and got some drinks by the river before heading to the hotel for the night.
Friday: Berlin and More Food Because We Can’t Stop and We Won’t Stop
The fact that we started the day at the Holocaust museum was very sobering. Thinking about the sheer number of people that were affected by this horrific event and everything they went through was mind-boggling. I don’t think I’ll ever understand it, but it doesn’t make my heart hurt any less.
We continued the day with a boat tour (we like all kinds of tours if you can’t tell) and ate Weiner schnitzel for dinner. We also split another apple strudel (you have to compare these things, you know), as well as this random pancake pastry thing with figs, called a kaiserschmarrn. Hey, it had part of our name in it, we had to. It started pouring down rain but we were treated with a double rainbow all the way across the sky, which was a great way to end the last full day in Berlin.
Saturday: Prague and Yet Another Tour and Even More Food
An early morning and a 5 hour bus ride later, we were in a new city in a new country: Prague. And what better way to start the day than with a walking tour!!! We walked through Old Town, the new section, and the Jewish quarter, as well as Wenceslas Square. We also saw the famous astrological clock and its “performance,” walked along the river, and ate the local delicacy of fried cheese and steak in cream sauce for dinner, lol.
Sunday: Prague and a Colorful Wall
Item number 1 on the agenda was to cross the Charles Bridge to check out the John Lennon wall, which is basically a wall covered in graffiti and John Lennon quotes and pictures. After that, we took the funicular railway up Petrin Hill to walk around the park and check out the views of the city. After our hike down, we stopped to enjoy another local delicacy: trdelník, which is a dough rolled into a cylindrical shape. Dad got some caramel in his while I got ice cream in mine. Deeeelish!
Monday: Madrid and Exploring
We made our way back to Madrid Monday afternoon and for some reason decided it would be a good idea to walk around a lot. I showed dad Retiro Park and the Crystal Palace, and basically we just wandered around a bunch. Luckily, the hotel we stayed at had a rooftop bar, so we spent our evening there having drinks and great conversation.
Tuesday: Madrid and the Final Goodbye
Before I knew it, it was my final day in Spain. I introduced dad to churros con chocolate at the famous San Ginés, and then we took a bus to Villanueva for the last time. I showed dad the building where I had lived (shoutout to Calle Jacinto Benavente, 27 Portal 1 Piso 1A!) and Calle Cristo where all the restaurants and bars are. We got a drink while we waited for Anahí to come back from Madrid so I could pick up the suitcases I had left at her house. After she joined us for a drink, she gave my dad a “tour” of the town in her car so he could see the school, and then we went back to her house to pick up the suitcases. Anahí and her husband generously offered to drive us to Madrid so we didn’t have to take the bus back, so we rode in the car and talked and chatted and trying to avoid the inevitable. But, alas, we arrived at the hotel before long and I had to say my goodbyes to Anahí.
It was terrible.
We were both crying in the hotel lobby, probably getting weird looks from strangers, but it was just so terrible! When you have such an amazing co-teacher and friend for the year and then have to say goodbye with no immediate plans of seeing each other again? It sucks!! When they finally left, I was just in a melancholy mood. I was so excited to go home, yet so sad to leave. But, all that being said, I am SO thankful my dad took the time off work to come travel with me. Despite drowning in all the dad jokes, it was so great spending time with him and exploring with him. Now that I’m an adult, it was so special getting to know him as a person rather than just as my dad, and I am so grateful to have had this opportunity with him. Love you dad!
Wednesday: USA and Home
A 2.5 hour flight to Dublin, a 3 turned to 5 hour layover, and an 8 hour flight to Chicago later and I was back on American soil. All I wanted to do was get home, but of course my car battery had died while sitting in the parking lot the last week and a half, so we had to wait on that to get jumped. But finally we were on the road and after 2 hours, I was back in my house, hugging my mom and cats.
Home. It’s the place where I feel the most comfortable and it’s the place with the people I love most. It felt incredible being back after 6 months. But I only got to enjoy it for 17 hours before I was back on another flight…
To Be Continued…