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Jan's European Adventure
By: Jan Buscher
In April, I had the opportunity to travel to Spain and Italy to visit my daughter, Jaci, who had been studying abroad in Seville, Spain. After months of preparation and creating the perfect itinerary, I left on my first international flight at the end of March to meet Jaci in the Rome train station to begin our two week adventure!

First up, as you might guess, was Rome. We spent two days there exploring the Vatican Museum, Roman Colosseum and Forum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Pantheon, and even had time to leave the city for a morning to go visit the ruins at Pompeii. Not to diminish the beauty of Rome, but it actually turned out that our favorite place in Rome was Pompeii. We were amazed at how big the city of Pompeii actually was, how sophisticated the Romans were, and most importantly how well preserved the entire city was from the volcanic eruption. If you ever travel to Rome, I definitely recommend a visit to Pompeii!

Next on the itinerary was Florence, which ended up being our favorite city in Italy (at least that we visited). Our train got into Florence in the morning and in the afternoon we had scheduled a wine tour through the Chianti region of Tuscany. I had some of the best wine I had ever tasted on that and coincidentally Jaci and I ended up meeting two elementary school teachers from the Denver metro area who were on the same wine tour. It really is a small world after all! The next day we woke up early to see the David by Michelangelo, the Duomo, and visit Michelangelo's grave at the Santa Croce church. Even though the two of us will admit that we aren't really "art" people, we really enjoyed learning about the Renaissance period from right where it all began!

The final city we visited in Italy was, of course, Venice! We ended up only spending one day there and then heading over to Bologna to fly out the next morning, but we sure made the most of our time! Venice was everything we expected it to be down to the picturesque canals and ubiquitous gondolas. We took a break from exploring the many narrow streets and canals to take a water taxi ride over to the island of Murano where we saw a glass blower make a glass horse in less than 45 seconds and admired all the stunning glasswork in the many shops on the island.

Next up, Seville! Jaci was in charge of all the sightseeing here since she had already been there for two months and was excited to show me around to all of her favorite spots. We planned it out that we were in Seville during their amazing holy week festival, called "Semana Santa." During this festival, many different Sevillan brotherhoods honor their faith by parading around large floats which are carried by approximately thirty men throughout the city for hours on end. Jaci's Spanish host family was generous enough to guide us through the maze that is Semana Santa for a few hours and explain to us all the traditions that were going on. It was a great experience to learn about the tradition firsthand from her family and to meet the people who Jaci lived with for nearly five months. The rest of our time in Seville was spent relaxing by the river, drinking mojitos, and catching up on lost time!

We made the premature and incorrect assumption that Madrid wasn't going to be much to see after all we had seen in Italy, but once we got there we were happily surprised with how beautiful the city was. A couple of our favorite things to see there were the Temple of Debod, the Royal Palace of Madrid (more or less Spain's White House), and Parque del Retiro. The park somewhat reminded us of Central Park in New York City due to its huge size, hidden right in the middle of a giant city. We wouldn't have minded staying a little longer in Madrid, but after a couple days of relaxing it was time to move on to Barcelona!

Our first day in Barcelona was packed full with visits to Park Güell and La Sagrada Familia. Both of these sights were designed in a very unique fashion by Antoni Gaudí. It is a very iconic style, yet also very difficult to understand, so Jaci and I, even though we know basically nothing about art, enjoyed admiring his unique artistic style and discussing the hidden symbolism behind his artwork. We spent our last day together at Barceloneta, which is the primary beach in Barcelona, enjoying some beachy drinks, and wandering up La Rambla street where we watched a street artist for 45 minutes while he perfectly sketched the man who was sitting in front of him. We were quite impressed!

And with that, it was time for me to get back on my flight to America and for Jaci to board her flight back to Seville. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to travel to Italy and Spain, and to explore the two countries with my daughter, nonetheless. At this point, Jaci has returned home safely from Spain and I am very happy to have her back in an American time zone once again!
Top Row: Jan & Jaci in the Forum at Pompeii, Florence from the Bell Tower of the Duomo
Middle Row: Jan enjoying Venice Canals, Semana Santa procession, Jan in front of La Sagrada Familia
Bottom Row: Jan in Plaza de Espana in Seville