Well I think it’s safe to say that it’s been longer than “a little while” since my last post, but I’ve finally found something I’m excited to write about… TRAVEL (surprise, surprise)! Ever since I returned from Spain in 2013, I’ve struggled to find a good niche to write about. I’ve stated from the beginning that this blog is more of a creative outlet for me, but I’ve started several posts about my life during dental school, and they’ve all fizzled out because I lost interest. While I enjoy learning about and practicing dentistry, I haven’t found a topic that I’m particularly interested in writing about (the good thing is that I still have time because there are plenty more days of dentistry ahead). However, I recently took a trip to Spain (surprise, surprise again!) and as I’ve been reflecting, I’ve thought of a few things I’d like to share. Now those of you who actually know me know that I’ve had a more recent international trip than the one I’m writing about today. Trust me, I will write about my 2017 summer experience, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my trip to Spain earlier this year. I’ve had several ideas for this post floating around in my head ever since I returned, so I would be disappointed if I didn’t at least share the highlights from this experience. I love the life I live in the midwestern United States, but I love the way in which travel expands my viewpoints, pushes me out of my comfort zone, and strengthens my faith in God and humanity. So here’s the first post in what I hope will be a great future of creative juices flowing: Madrileños para una semana.
First of all, a madrileño is a native or local of Madrid, and though my family and I aren’t actual madrileños, I think it is a fun, catchy play on words. During the first week in March, I had the opportunity to travel with mis padres to Spain. If you’ve read my blog before, you know how much I love the Spanish culture, so naturally I’m always looking for a chance to go back. I’ve also had the intention to take my parents with me some day in order to show them a place that means so much to me. We initially planned to take this trip after I graduated from dental school, but a discounted flight offer presented itself last summer and it was just too good to turn down. I wrestled with buying tickets for a while, and exhibited a fair amount of buyer’s remorse after we bought them since we kind of bought them on a whim. However, then I realized that nothing in the future is certain, and we may not find discounted tickets like this in the future. And with that, we were off!
While in Spain, my parents and I made Madrid our home base (hence the madrileños reference). We took two day trips to Segovia and Toledo, but spent the rest of the time wandering the streets of Madrid. To say that Madrid is the city that never sleeps is… a very true statement! Madrid is a beautiful, vibrant city with people everywhere and lots of adventure to be had! I could detail each day of our trip, but I think I might doze off during the process of writing (and you will most certainly doze off while reading). Instead, I want to share my big picture takeaways from the trip.
My experience at El Rastro
Before this year, I had only ever heard of El Rastro. El Rastro is an outdoor market that is held in Madrid every Sunday, and it just so happened that we arrived in Madrid on a Sunday! Even more coincidental? El Rastro was in the same neighborhood as our hotel! So we decided to drop off our luggage and take our jet-lagged bodies down to El Rastro. It was a chilly March afternoon, but that didn’t stop people from going to El Rastro. There were many vendors set up selling everything from sunglasses, to books, to antiques, and there were even more people perusing what El Rastro had to offer. So if you’re ever in Madrid on a Sunday and want to live like a Madrileño, be sure to stop by El Rastro.
Menu del día
The menu del día may be one of my favorite things in Spain. Basically, most restaurants have a daily special called the menu del día. The menu del día typically includes two courses (a dessert often makes it three), along with your choice of bottled water, soda, beer, wine, or coffee. The best part is that you know the cost for your entire meal upfront and that all of this usually costs less than 15 Euros. What a deal! Now of course you can go to a really, really nice restaurant and pay more, but the general idea is the same. The menu del día definitely makes dining in Spain a fun experience!
I first heard of Retiro Park when I was in Spain in 2013. I spent a few weekends in Madrid, but just never took the time to go check out Retiro park. I heard that the park is not only beautiful, but that there’s a crystal palace. Who doesn’t love palaces? And one made of crystal?! This I must see. But first, a little history. The name retiro translates to “retreat” – fitting for a park. This park once belonged to the Spanish Monarchy, but is now a public park very close to the Madrid city center. My parents and I decided to take a break from all of our indoor sightseeing to go check out the park one afternoon. We walked along it’s beautifully manicured lawns, enjoyed the large public lake filled with pedal boats, and found what we (well, really I) wanted to see… the crystal palace!
The Palacio de Cristal is on of the most popular features of the park. The palace was built in 1887 to be used for international exhibitions. The palace is now used as an art gallery. When my parents and I were there, the palace was part of an exhibition sound piece for the Reina Sofia Art Museum. Sounds are first played over a speaker, the sounds then reflect off of the palace walls to create a truly unique work of art. If you are interested in learning more about this work of art, check out this web page for The ship is going under, the ice is breaking through by Lothar Baumgarten.
Home away from home
So there you have it! A few of my takeaway moments from this trip to Spain! Leaving was especially difficult for me this time because I was only in the country for one week and I know that there’s so much more we could have seen. Nevertheless, I had a wonderful time sharing this experience with my parents. I learn more each time I visit this incredible country, and yet I always leave wanting to go back and learn even more. There are so many incredible places I want to visit in this big, wide world, and yet I know that when given the opportunity, Spain will always be at the top of my list.
“The ideal is to feel at home anywhere, everywhere”
Photos by Megan Coffroth
This latest travel post comes to you from the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania! Filled with state parks featuring rafting, hiking, and camping, Western Pennsylvania is the perfect spot for outdoor adventures! And if camping isn’t really your thing, there are tons of small towns scattered throughout the highlands for those who enjoy the classic B&B or relaxing the day away in a charming cafe. No matter what your itinerary is though, I highly recommend making Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater a stop on your trip!
First things first, lets point out the most interesting if not the most identifying feature of Fallingwater: It is a house built over a waterfall. A WATERFALL! The house is truly part of the landscape. Located in Mill Run, Pennsylvania, this extraordinary house was designed by famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright and built between 1936 and 1939. The house was designed for the Kaufmann family, owners of the Kaufmann Department Store in Pittsburgh.
Before visitng Fallingwater, I knew very little about the house, the architect who designed it, nor the family that occupied it. Why was the house built, let alone built over the waterfall? Well, I found out that the Kaufmann’s usually vacationed in the area and that their son had an interest in Wright’s ideas right around the time the family was looking to build a vacation home. Like the Kaufmann’s, Frank Lloyd Wright loved nature so they asked him to design their new home. Wright designed the house using a series of cantilevers so that the house could rest on top of a waterfall. While the Kaufmann’s initially thought that their house would have a view of the waterfall from downstream, Wright instead designed the house so that it would be one with the waterfall and vice versa.
Fallingwater was occupied by the Kaufmann family until 1963 when Edgar Kaufmann Jr. entrusted it to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Today, the house is enjoyed by many visitors each day and still remains as breathtaking as it was when it was first constructed. As I toured the house, it was amazing to be able to hear the constant rhythm of the water getting ready to crash over the edge of the rocks. Can you imagine what it was like to hear that 24/7? The house still maintains its original furniture and artwork, so it gave me the chance to really envision what it would have been like to live there. Be sure to check out Fallingwater during your next trip out East!
“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” John Muir
Photos by Megan Coffroth
Since my blog has been on WordPress for over a year, I thought it would be fun to share my most viewed posts as a way to wrap up 2014. Actually, all of my top blog posts are from when I was living in Spain in 2013. WordPress even said, “Consider writing about those topics again” since they were popular posts. Oh, if only I could write about Spain right now! Oh well, someday. Anyway, I always love reading about old adventures, and I hope you do to! So here you have it, my top blog posts of ALL TIME (the past year and a half!):
1. Things We Can Still Learn from Dr. Seuss – This one is my most popular post by far, and actually has nothing to do with travel.
2. My Spain Top 5 – I wrote this before I went to Spain and detailed my top 5 must-see attractions! I can also now say that I’ve seen everything on my top 5 list. Time for a new one!
3. Packing for 3 months?! Help! – As I prepared to go to Spain, I was trying to figure out the most efficient way to pack. I was surprised because there really weren’t many suggestions out there. Luckily, I found a fellow blogger’s site to help me out.
4. Castilla-La Mancha Highlights – I wrote this post once I figured out where I would be living. It is similar in style to My Spain Top 5 post, but more specific to the Castilla-La Mancha region. The only things I didn’t see there were Belmonte and the famous windmills. Another trip then!
5. My Visit to Alarcón – This post really doesn’t have much text, and I think it was initially popular because it was one of my first posts from Spain. However, it has some staying power and remains my fifth most-viewed post. Maybe it’s because of the awesome pictures of this medieval town. Be sure to check it out!
“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” Martin Buber
Photos by Megan Coffroth
Hello WordPress readers! It’s been quite a while since I last wrote. I know, I know, I’m starting quite the trend of sporadic blog posts. My excuse is school – it’s kept me quite busy these past few months. I have so much I want (and plan) to tell about my first semester of dental school, but that’s a post for another day. In an attempt to keep my blog focused on the travels of a dental student, I will share some highlights from my latest venture, Omaha, Nebraska!
I had a lot of fun exploring Omaha’s Old Market area this past fall. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Old Market is a popular weekend destination for locals and tourists alike. The Old Market consists of several streets lined with restaurants, shops and bars. I had the opportunity to dine at two sushi restaurants in the Old Market this past fall (boy, were they delicious!), but what I really enjoyed about the Old Market was the Omaha Farmers Market held on Saturday mornings. The Omaha Farmers Market is from 8 am to 12:30 pm on Saturday mornings and runs May through October. The market features over 100 different vendors, giving market-goers the chance to find anything from farm fresh produce, to clothing, to baklava, to pottery to enchiladas! The possibilities are endless! I had the opportunity to visit the Omaha Farmers Market twice this past fall, and though I didn’t get many pictures of the here are a few photos to set the scene found in the Old Market.
Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park & Wildlife Safari
In October, I had the chance to visit a wildlife safari on the outskirts of Omaha. Located in Ashland, Nebraska, the Lee G. Simmons Conservation and Wildlife Safari is a drive-through safari featuring elk, deer, wolves, bears, and bison. This park is so cool! You can drive through the park in your car and still see all the animals! The pictures of the elk below were taken while I rode in the car. The elk past right in front of our vehicle! The park also has a hiking trail at the halfway point so that you can get out of your car, stretch your legs, walk around, and view the wolves and bears in their enclosures. I really enjoyed this park because it was different than the typical zoo experience. I highly recommend making the drive out past western Omaha to see this unique attraction!
Well, there you have it! A glimpse into my Omaha adventures thus far. Any suggestions for future outings? Let me know!
Photos by Megan Coffroth
Winter is rapidly becoming my least favorite season. After the holidays, snow begins to lose it’s wonder, and let’s face it, I’ve never been a fan of the cold. I never fully understood the term “cabin fever” until this past year. Snowstorm after snowstorm combined with a lack of Vitamin D has adversely affected my mood. Some days I’m almost certain that I’m actually cold blooded due to my state of lethargy during the winter months… but then I quickly snap back to reality and remember that’s impossible. Or so says science.
Yes, it’s definitely been a long winter for us here in the Midwest. However as of late we’ve been enjoying some 60 degree weather, and I could not be more thankful. Until I can realize my dreams of moving South, I’ll have to take what I can get. As my excitement for spring increases, so does my longing to spend more time outside. I’m excited to smell the rain, see the flowers bloom, and hear the birds chirp (FYI – a former professor of mine taught me how to distinguish between different bird species based on their chirps. Needless to say, I’m pretty stoked to try it out this spring!).
So in honor of spring and the great outdoors, I want to share with you one of my favorite places to be outside: The Laurel Highlands. Nestled in the Allegheny Mountains, the Laurel Highlands are located about an hour south from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I usually visit once a year, and have a great time! Here are some pictures from this past summer at Laurel Hill State Park.
Ah! I just can’t wait for spring! What about you? Where are your favorite places to be outside?
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Photos by Megan Coffroth
I often identify with the saying, “I’ve left my heart in so many places.” The more I travel, the more I realized this to be true. I especially feel this sense of nostalgia every time I visit Manhattan, KS. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting friends and driving around my old college town this past weekend. I also took some time to visit one of my favorite Manhattan spots: the Konza Prairie.
There’s just something about it, isn’t there? Something that fills me with peace about how far I’ve come, but also reminds me of the continuing journey ahead. Press on.
“It’s from which you get your strength. The red earth of Tara.” – Gone with the Wind
Photos by Megan Coffroth
My time in Spain as a CIEE Language and Culture Teaching Assistant was spent in the autonomous community of Castilla-La Mancha, particularly the province of Cuenca. I lived in a small town about one hour from the capital of the province, which is, coincidentally, also named Cuenca. Many of my students often talked about taking weekend trips to Cuenca for shopping, family visits, etc., so I knew it was somewhere I would enjoy. One Sunday during October, my host family took me to visit this charming city. I was so lucky to be able to go on a beautiful fall day. The colors of the leaves on the trees were really quite stunning.
We began our morning on the outskirts of the historic part of the city. In case your unfamiliar with the setup of cities in Spain, most of them have a central historic area with the newer, urbanized area surrounding it. I know, I know, it makes perfect sense for a city to be organized this way. However, I would consider the U.S. equivalent (downtown) to be very different from a historic city center. In other words if you love history, be sure to go to the city centers.
We parked the car along the bottom of a gorge. The oldest part of the city is surrounded by several gorges formed by the Júcar and Huécar rivers. After a healthy 15 minute walk, we ascended into the historic center. It was a very calm Sunday morning, and not many people were out in the streets, but we could hear some noise coming from the Plaza Mayor. FYI, someone, somewhere was playing an acoustic guitar while we were walking (I love Spain).
Our first stop in the city center was the cathedral. The Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace and Saint Julian is in the center of the city, thus making it difficult to miss. Constructed from 1182 to 1270, the cathedral is the first Gothic style Cathedral in Spain. Certain features reminded me of Notre Dame in Paris. We decided to take a tour inside the cathedral. The mid-morning positioning of the sun allowed for some remarkable stained glass reflections. We also heard the haunting melodies of the monks singing somewhere in the cathedral. It was beautiful.
Our next stop was the Museum of Abstract Arts. The museum is housed in the Casas Colgadas (Hanging Houses). These buildings are what many people think of when they think of Cuenca. The houses were built in the 15th century right on the edge of the gorge. The houses now contain the museum, allowing tourists to not only enjoy the arts, but also the picturesque view across the gorge.
After enjoying the Casas Colgadas from the inside, we made our way to the Puente de San Pablo (Bridge of Saint Paul). This bridge was constructed from 1533 to 1589 over the gorge. The purpose of the bridge was to connect the city of Cuenca with the St. Paul Convent. The bridge allows a marvelous view of the Casas Colgadas.
After spending some time on the Puente de San Pablo, we headed back to the car. I was able to snap some pretty cool pictures along the way. There are lots of other things to do in Cuenca – these are just some of the highlights I want to share. So, if you ever find yourself in Castilla-La Mancha, make sure you visit Cuenca!
Have you ever been to Cuenca? If not, would you like to go? Which locations top your list? Also, if you’re interested in more of what Castilla-La Mancha has to offer, check out my post Castilla-La Mancha highlights.
“I am a passionate traveler, and from the time I was a child, travel formed me as much as my formal education.” – David Rockefeller
Photos by Megan Coffroth