Euroadventures Part 5? – An Italian Thanksgiving

Euroadventures Part 5? – An Italian Thanksgiving

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend! Thanksgiving is in fact just an American holiday, so it wasn’t necessarily a holiday weekend over here. Well I promised I’d try to get this post out while it was still fresh in my mind, so what a coincidence that my plane got delayed an hour  on the Tarmac and I had plenty of time to jot some things down.

Some of you may remember that my best friend Alaina is studying in Florence this semester, we met up at Oktoberfest in September but haven’t been able to coincide any trips since.  I figured there was no better way to spend my Thanksgiving than in Italy, at least I would still satisfy the over eating that comes with the holiday. Her family and our best friend Jenni flew in from MA for the week, so I couldn’t pass up the chance to spend time with my favorite people. And Thanksgiving is meant to be spent with people your thankful for ūüėĆ

So I arrived in Italy early Tuesday afternoon, and despite coming far too close to missing my train from Bologna, I got to Florence by about 2. Our afternoon was not spent in Florence, but instead touring wineries in the Chianti region of Tuscany. We visited two different wineries where we sampled cheese, salami, breads with truffle oil and aged balsamic paired with different red wines.  Funny enough, I have suddenly acquired a taste for red wine, but maybe that was just because Italy. I honestly couldn’t tell you what I enjoyed more, the wine or the company.

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Got to see a sunset on our first night together, how fitting!
On Wednesday we slept in and spent the afternoon exploring Florence. Alaina had class in the evening so Jenni and I took that time to have our first gelato experience, so that was exceptional in itself. After class, Jenni and I met Alaina at a bistro near her apartment for appertivo. Appertivo is what I would equate to Spanish tapas, I guess. It’s a buffet of small plates that you help yourself too. Like happy hour. Happy hour involves drinks, and in Italy they drink spritz. Still not exactly sure what’s in a spritz but I had one every day I was there, so I would say they get my stamp of approval.

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il Duomo, Firenze
My friend Sam is also studying in Florence.  I was lucky enough to cross paths with him in Amsterdam, but I got to see him again in his city.  His apartment literally looks out at the Duomo, a church in the heart of Firenze, so we met up with him on Wednesday night and drank some wine.  Good times with old friends in a beautiful new city.  What a life.

Thursday

Turkey Day, sans Turkey…We woke up early Thursday morning, almost missed our train but still managed to get to Venice by 11 AM.  Venice is literally a city plopped in the middle of the Mediterranean, it’s all these old Italian buildings and squares separated by canals that all dump out into the sea. There aren’t really streets in Venice, there are canals and alleys.

As soon as we got off the train at St. Lucia, we got on a water taxi to head to the island of Murano.  Murano is famous for its glass blowing.  We watched this man turn a burning blob into a beautifully intricate vase, of fierce oranges that would become blue by the time they cooled.  It was the coolest thing to watch, and crazy how simple they make it seem when it clearly is an art that needs to be mastered.  After watching a demonstration we got to walk through a gallery of chandeliers, china, statues, jewelry made of Murano glass.  It was only a matter of 5 minutes before we all got anxious that we were going to break something and have to foot the very high bill.  Think Chandeliers at like 18,000 euro.  Also no pics were allowed.

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Venetian Island of Murano 
After leaving the glass blowing factory, we found a little restaurant to get a Thanksgiving day lunch.  We figured it was good, cuz it had 4 stars on Trip Advisor.  If there is one thing I have taken away from my travels, it is that Trip Advisor is everything to small businesses in the EU.  We enjoyed yummy salads and pizza and soups with mimosas made with fresh squeezed OJ.   It may not have been turkey and mashed potatoes but cha girl is not complaining.

After lunch we headed back to the center of Venice, to Piazza San Marco (or Saint Mark’s Square).  We spent the afternoon shopping around the little shops. I spent a lot of time desperately searching for a specific style  bracelet made of Murano glass that I wanted.  I had received it as a gift about three years ago, and I wore it everyday until it broke this past summer.  Unfortunately they don’t seem to exist anymore.  I looked literally all afternoon and was SOL.  Instead I found some earrings, and I like them just as well ūüôā

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St. Mark’s Square, Venice

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Bridge of Sighs
Venice is a beautiful city, a lot of the streets look so similar that it is extremely easy to get lost in.  Which is exactly what happened to us as we tried to make our way from Piazza San Marco back towards St. Lucia train station.  We spent an hour getting lost in alley ways, but the best way to see a city is on foot and I do feel as if I did a good amount of exploring in Venice.  I’ve told myself a lot throughout the last three months that it’s all about the experience, but its more than that, its about what you make of the experience.  You’ve got to just be positive and it will be positive.  Like making a wrong turn, ending up in a market, and stopping for some mulled wine, made getting lost a positive experience ūüôā

We found a restaurant to get some drinks and apps to pick at before heading back to Firenze.  Thanksgiving came and went so quickly that it didn’t really even feel like it ever happened.  But it did, and I’ll never forget the Thanksgiving I took a Gondola ride through Venice with my best friends while we sang “That’s Amore.”

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Girlies!
Friday

Roma.  Florence, Venice, and Rome were the three cities I had wanted to see while in Italy.  I thought about going to Rome on the front end of my trip, but in light of everything that’s been going on recently and all of the solo traveling I have been doing  I decided it was best to just spend my time with my friends while I could.  I’m young, I can go back to Italy.  We decided on Thursday, however, that Friday would be the perfect day to visit Rome.  We would leave early in the morning, hit a few major stops, and get back to Florence by evening.  I was so happy I was checking the last place off my list.

So we got to Rome around 10 AM on Friday morning and headed right to our first stop, the Colosseum.  Then we headed back in the direction we came, to find an Internet Cafe to print our tickets cuz an email just wasn’t enough.  Always read the fine print my friends!

Minor delays are no biggie, and we entered the Colosseum soon enough.  I was singing “This is What Dreams are Made Of” in my head the entire time.  If you go to the Colosseum and don’t think about The Lizzie McGuire   Movie…well then you probably weren’t born in the 90’s! (In the light of writing this I decided I really want to watch that movie now…so I just added that to my list on Netflix…and now you know what I’ll be doing tonight.)

 

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On the outside looking in…
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Anyway, the Colosseum was very large and, in my opinion, very beautiful.  The coolest thing I found about Rome, was that there are all these ancient structures plopped down right in the middle of a modern and lively city.  People visit Rome to experience its very famous history, that’s what I liked about it.  It is currently influential because of what occurred there thousands of years ago…#swag. And speaking of thousands of years ago, after leaving the Colosseum we went to the Roman Forum.  Same spiel as previously stated: old but cool.

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Our last destination in Rome was the Trevi Fountain.  Many of you may not know this, but the Trevi Fountain was under construction this fall.  I was really sad when I thought I wasn’t going to get to see it in all its glory, but it reopened last month, so yay! We got to go and we all made a wish, because WHEN IN ROME.  I’m not going to tell you what my wish was, otherwise it won’t come true, but I promise I’ll let you know if it does.

 

 

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After leaving the Trevi Fountain we headed back to the train station to go back to Firenze.  Our trip to Rome was short and simple, but we got in and saw almost everything we wanted too, and got out without getting pick pocketed.  I have been hearing a lot of mixed things (a lot of them more negative than positive) about Rome recently, but I was pleasantly surprised with it.  I thought the city was beautiful, there is so much held within it.  I’m so happy I got the chance to visit such a famous city.  The only thing I didn’t get to do was go to the Vatican, which I really would have loved.  I missed Papa Francesco in my city and then didn’t get the chance to see him in his.  I’ll be back to the Vatican some day.  Seeing the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is something that needs to be checked off my bucket list.  I love checking things off lists.

Well we had some shopping to do when we got back to Firenze and it had totally slipped our mind that it was Black Friday.  Thanksgiving may not be a thing outside of the US but due to consumerism, Black Friday (and Cyber Monday) are pretty universal concepts. Jenni had to come home with Italy with some Christmas presents for herself and I was more than happy to tag along for the experience.  Black Friday in Florence. Something to say you’ve done, right?

After some pretty successful purchases we headed to what I was most excited for in Florence: Gusto Pizza.  They’ve been on @foodintheair, so you know it’s real.  They make their pizza’s shaped like hearts, and they’re BOMB.  On our way to Gusto, we had to cross the river and in the process I encountered the Ponte Vecchio for the first time.  I had seen pictures of this bridge, on like Google Images and Dell Desktop Backgrounds, but was totally taken a back to look to my left and see it in real life.  It is so nonchalant to travel throughout Europe, sometimes you don’t realize how cool it is to be where you are.  I had one of those moments when I saw the Ponte Vecchio, I was like wow I’m actually in Italy right now.

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Ponte Vecchio 

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Gusto Pizza, Florence
 

After Gusto Pizza, (which I hearted, get it?) we decided it was time for some gelato.  Wow I would be fat if I lived in Italy, the gelato was just so damn good and I never felt guilty about it.

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Caffe and Cheesecake. NOM
We just chilled Friday night, there was packing to do.  I was just happy to have girl time, that’s one of the things I’ve missed most since being abroad.  I have such amazing friends that I left behind for the last four months, and I have been aware of how much I missed them, but not of what I was missing.  I literally talked so much this weekend, cuz I just forgot what it was like to have someone there all the time to talk to if you want too.  Thanks Jen for just letting me talk and getting that I needed to :’) Glad we had to share a twin bed on your last night in Italy.

Saturday
The first thing I did on Saturday was burn my hand really bad on coffee.  I’m sitting here typing this and it looks like I have a some sort of rash/infection on my right hand.  The burn came with the sad realization that I may know how to do a lot of things in a kitchen, but I have no idea how to work a coffee pot. #KeurigGeneration

After my incident, Laine, Jenni ,and I headed to Mama’s Bakery for famous bagels and American coffee. #Blessed. Then it was time to say bye to the O’Malleys and Jenni before they headed to the airport. The week FLEW by, and I was only there for half the time they were.  It was v sad to say bye to them, but crazy to think we’ll be home in just a few short weeks anyway. Thanks Paul and Kelly for taking me in as your fourth daughter this weekend ūüôā

After we sent them off, Alaina and I figured we might as well check the Duomo off our list of things to do. If your my friend on snapchat you know that I climbed  A LOT of stairs in Florence, but I think the Duomo takes the cake. So many stairs and they were so steep. Well, at least I started my day with a workout, and the view was great.  I guess I can’t really complain…and it allowed me to justify my calorie intake.

 

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The dome of the Duomo

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Florence is a climb, but the view is great
After leaving the Duomo and getting ready for the day, we headed out for the main event of the day: shopping. Surprising enough, in all my travels shopping is one thing I really have not done at all. But if you’re gonna find the time to shop, it should be in Italy.  After a lot of searching, I found a few perfect Christmas presents and a new purse that was exactly what I had been looking for.  I also came back to London with a list of all the things I decided I need to buy here before coming home. And on that note…if anyone is looking to employ someone for the holidays, I’m your girl.

After we spent our day shopping, we went up to the Piazzale Michaelangelo to watch the sunset. This area of Florence is always busy with people because of the beautiful views of the city that it offers. I watched the sunset in over Firezne with my best friend while we shared a bottle of red and a famous Pino’s panini, it was an ideal afternoon to say the least.

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Piazzale Michelangelo 
We made reservations at ZaZa Trattoria on Saturday evening, as it had been highly recommended to Alaina by a lot of people. Little did we know that we would be in for one of the best culinary experience of our lives. We showed up a half hour late for our 7 PM reservation and they still managed to have a table for us, so I guess that was a good omen. We drank spritz and went halfsies on the truffle oil raviolis and gnocchi in tomato sauce with basil.  It was literally unreal, definitely my best meal all week and I kid you not probably the best Italian food I’ve ever had. Well I was in Italy so that makes sense I guess lol.  I am happy to say that I didn’t have one bad meal all week #NoRagrets

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Truffle Oil Raviolis (aka Ravioli’s in Crack Sauce)
I still needed something sweet on my last night, even though I was so full from dinner. We tried and failed to find some good cannoli’s, so instead we went to Venchi and splurged on chocolate crepes. I’m not sure if I was still on a high from how good my dinner was, but I followed one of the best meals of my life with one of the best crepes of my life. And I’ve had a lot of crepes since arriving on this side of the pond. I’ll probably spend years to come thinking about this meal.

Exhausted from a busy week, Alaina and I went home in the state of a food coma on Saturday night, and both ended up falling asleep without setting alarms resulting in me missing my train to the airport Sunday morning. I guess I was bound to miss at least one train last week. Luckily they run every 15 minutes on Sundays.

It all worked out fine, I made it back to the UK in pants that are far tighter than they were 5 days ago with the bittersweet feeling of realizing that the next time I’m on a plane, it will be Boston bound. I also got back to my dorm last night and did what I’ve been waiting six months to do.  Every place on my European Bucket list has been checked off. ūüôā ūüôā ūüôā

Thanks to my best friend for a great week, even if you wanted to kill me at least once a day. Firenze did make my top three, but I think that was all thanks to you! I feel like I ate, drank, shopped, and saw everything the right way, I think you’re officially a local Laine. Can’t wait to cuddle w you in Cmass soon :’)

It’s weird to think that this past week was Thanksgiving.  It didn’t feel like Thanksgiving in a lot of ways, but in others it did.  I came back to school feeling like I over ate all week, it was just gelato instead of pumpkin pie and truffle oil instead of gravy.  No leftovers survived though ūüė¶ I also came back to school with the same feeling I do every year, with the reality that Christmas is in a month and yet another semester is almost over.  The weirdest thing about this time is, that when I go home for Christmas I won’t be coming back to London.

I was grateful for all of the train rides this weekend.  It’s been about a month since I’ve done some traveling and I realized that I’ve done some of my best thinking when I’m in transit from one place to another.  No data or wifi, just music and my mind to keep me occupied and reflect on where I’ve been and what it meant to me. I even brain stormed some future posts for ya ūüėČ

So all of that being said I have 20 days to check quite a few things off my list. I will do my best to post as much as possible in that time frame so bear with me. Regardless there’s still lots more to come, it’s crunch time. My adventure is not over yet so stay tuned. Cheers ūüôā

The 411 – Part 7

I know I’ve been slacking a bit on my posts. ¬†I had such an itch for writing when I got back from Fall Break and ever since I stopped traveling I’ve gotten lazy keeping all my fellow readers up to date. ¬†My apologies! ¬†Let me try to catch you up on what I’ve been up too…

So since my parents visit, I’ve had two full weeks in London. ¬†No travel, no visitors, just simply embracing the city I’m lucky enough to live in at the moment. The city I’m lucky enough to study in as well…so a lot of my time has been spent doing just that. ¬†I’ve had some paper or project or presentation every week since fall break and since I have forgotten how to be productive, it’s been quite the struggle to get all of that done. But done it is, and I feel rather good about all the work I’ve had to turn in recently, so there’s that. ¬†But when I haven’t been in the library procrastinating ¬†I’ve been trying to check as many things as possible off of my London Bucket List.

Now a lot of these places on my list involve food…but do you expect anything less? Last week I finally went to¬†two restaurants that I had been wanting to try for a while. The things you accomplish when your not in a different country every weekend!

The first restaurant I went to, isn’t a restaurant really, it’s a stall. I don’t eat red meat often, but when I do it’s going to be a big ol’ bacon cheeseburger. ¬†After stalking lots of London food Instagram’s I had come across Bleecker St. Burger’s quite a few times. ¬†The pictures literally made my mouth water. ¬†Every. Damn. Time. ¬†So I knew I had to try it. Last Thursday night Carly and I headed to Old Spitafield’s Market to find the famous burger.

I ordered a bacon cheese burger, mixed fry (yes sweet potato and regular¬†– literally the best of both worlds) and a coffee shake, because if you’re going to do it, you gotta do it right. ¬†Well this burger put Shake Shack to shame. ¬†So did the fries and the shake for that matter. ¬†It made traveling an hour into the city at rush hour and getting lost for 20 minutes walking in circles in the cold TOTALLY worth it. ¬†Seriously anyone in London who loves a good burger should try this place. BC hangover food.

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Carly is enjoying her fries too :’)

The second place I had been dying to try was Foxcroft and Ginger.  I have this app, 3 Kinds of Ice, that explores cool places like restaurants and exhibits in London and posts their recommendations with pictures and videos.  Foxcroft and Ginger got two different recommendations, so I figured it was worth the trip and last Sunday I headed to Soho and met my friend Becca there for brunch!

The first reason I wanted to try¬†Foxcroft and Ginger was for their cruffin. ¬†What is a cruffin, you ask? ¬†It is a hybrid between a muffin and a croissant and it is just as good as it sounds. ¬†Becca and I split a chocolate cruffin. ¬†Well we think it was a chocolate cruffin…the service was a bit iffy due to what I think was a language barrier.

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Every Sunday should start with a large cappuccino and a cruffin! 

Foxcroft and Ginger’s second claim to fame is that they have perfected the poached egg. ¬†So after indulging in the cruffin, I decided on poached eggs on avocado toast for brunch. ¬†It was definitely the most satisfying start to my day I’ve had in a while. ¬†I’m so over cafeteria food.

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Poached to perfection

After brunch we headed towards Chinatown, which is a part of the city I had yet to explore. ¬†It’s such a small part¬†of the city, and if you weren’t looking you would totally miss it. ¬†Much unlike Chinatown in DC, which is in the very heart of the city. ¬†Also unlike Chinatown in DC, this part of the city is strictly Asian. ¬†Food, language, goods, etc. are all exactly what you would think when you think of Chinatown. ¬†Unfortunately I was too full from brunch to eat anything in Chinatown, so I may just have to make a trip back there before I leave.

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I wasn’t too full, however, for Yolkin. ¬†This was another place I had found during my extensive research on London’s best food through Instagram. ¬†Yolkin is a pop-up shop in Soho on the weekends, serving ice cream sandwich macaron’s. ¬†I love ice cream. ¬†I love macarons. ¬†And yes I loved them put together. ¬†I guess I was having a treat yo’self Sunday. ¬†That’s starting to be a trend with me…

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ūüėõ

Before parting ways Becca and I ended up in Covenant Garden.  It is Christmas Time in London town.  Covent Garden already has their massive tree up and the West End was busy with people looking for gifts at the crowded markets.  It made me officially stressed out about all the presents I still have to get for people.

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I was lucky I had such a an eventful day last Sunday, because I had to spend the majority of this week writing a paper for one of my classes. ¬†It was due Thursday at noon. ¬†I, however, had big plans for Wednesday night so I made sure to submit that by Wednesday evening so I could go and see Mockingjay Part 2 and give my entire focus to the final installment of the Hunger Games. ¬†It was interesting to attend a premier of a major blockbuster in another country…and I give the film an 8.5/10.

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Thursday was a struggle of going to both my classes and fighting the exhaustion as a result of Wednesday night. ¬†But I’m all about those midnight premiers, so it was so worth it. ¬†I went to bed early and rested up in order to take advantage of a full weekend in London without any papers or projects getting in the way.

This past Friday I went to 3 museums, 2 markets, and a cathedral. ¬†Caroline and I started our day at the Welcome Collection in Euston. ¬†They currently have an exhibit called yellowpinkblue, which consists of a mist filled room of different colors that prevent you from seeing two feet in front of you. It’s about embracing the consciousness aspect of it. Well, I only spent about ten minutes in there and in that time I walked into two walls and spent the majority of the time finding and losing Caroline in the colored mist. ¬†It was a cool exhibit and luckily we got there early enough that we didn’t have to queue. ¬†I know people that have waited up to two hours to go into this exhibit, so go us for getting up early and getting after it lol.

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Now you see me, now you don’t¬†

After leaving the Welcome Collection, we walked down the road to the British Library.  This year marks the 150 year anniversary of the story, Alice and Wonderland.  The British Library has an exhibit on the story in honor of the anniversary, that opened on Friday.  It was really interesting, to see the way this story has been so influential and has been interpreted in so many different ways since it was originally written by Lewis Carroll a century and a half ago.

 

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We headed to the British Museum after leaving the British Library, because why not squeeze as much as physically possible into one morning! ¬†Caroline and I had both been there before, but neither of us realized it until we got there lol. ¬†I can’t say we were the most receptive visitors, as we had started to get restless from all the museums we had visited already¬†and were particularly starving at this point in the day, but the museum still has a lot of cool exhibits, and is home to the Rosetta Stone, so we spent about an hour there before heading to our next stop of the day.

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In some dire need of food after a morning of taking in quite a lot of art, we headed to Borough Market in Southwark. ¬†Borough Market is one of London’s most well known markets and sells only one thing – food. ¬†It not only has a lot of food stalls, but sells a lot of local goods like fresh bread, fish, meat, fruits, vegetables, and of course sweets. ¬†Before we could become overwhelmed by all of our lunch options, we stopped at Bread Ahead Bakery stall for some of their famous donuts to nibble on while we browsed. ¬†I didn’t realize until I was writing this post that I didn’t take any pictures of the donuts…there was a small 2 minute window in between when I paid for it¬†and the entire thing was in my stomach and apparently there just wasn’t any time for pictures in between…oops! We decided on some chicken pad thai for lunch (almost, but not as good, as Yama’s) which was satisfying and restored all of the energy I had lost browsing museums¬†on Friday morning. ¬†I also didn’t make it out with any pictures of the pad thai either…a girl’s gotta eat. ¬†We decided we were¬†definitely going to have to make it back to Borough Market, since we didn’t even scratch the surface.

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After leaving Borough Market, we made the short walk to the South Bank and despite the 20 MPH winds made it across the Millennium Bridge (also known as the wibbly wobbly bridge, so that was low key scary with those large gusts of wind) to St. Paul’s Cathedral. ¬†It cost 17 pounds to get into St. Pauls, even as a student, so we just enjoyed the beautiful building from the outside before heading to our last stop of the day.

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St. Paul’s Selfie (barely captured St. Paul’s)

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We left St. Paul’s, went two¬†stops eastbound on the Central Line to Liverpool Street and headed to Old Spitafield’s Market. ¬†I had tried to go their with my parents a few weeks ago, and ended up¬†there when I got burgers the week before, but had yet to see the market in full swing. ¬†Caroline and I ventured there in an attempt to buy gifts for people, and both ended up just doing damage to our wallets on goodies for ourselves. ¬†I also didn’t manage to get any pictures of Old Spitafield’s Market, I think at that point I was so exhausted and had done so much I forgot I even had my GoPro on me and should be documenting everything I do in this wonderful city. ¬†I have my memories, and the scarf that I bought, so that’s enough I suppose.

I spent the rest of this weekend spending time with my friends, catching up on sleep and Netflix, and having a few pints at the pub on Saturday night. ¬†So that concludes everything that I’ve been up too for the last two weeks! ¬†The wonderful thing about this city is that there is always always always something to do. ¬†A park to visit, a market to shop in, a food stall to eat at: the possibilities are endless! ¬†Crazy to think that in less than a month this well no longer be my reality ūüė¶

Time has really gotten by me. ¬†Since Thanksgiving is an American holiday and they don’t celebrate it here, it really¬†of snuck up on me. ¬†I’m off to Florence, Italy tomorrow to spend my holiday with my best friends, because even if I’m in another country I’m still celebrating this holiday that is meant to be spent with family. ¬†We may be substituting turkey for pasta and pumpkin pie for gelato but that is quite alright with me! I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving, look out for my post on my holiday in Italia next week. ¬†Cheers!

 

*Just British Things* with my parents

*Just British Things* with my parents

So I’m a bit behind on my posts. ¬†As I had mentioned previously I had some visitors two weekends ago: my parents! But you see I’ve had like¬†two papers to do and I then there was¬†a presentation last week (which I got an A on thx u v much) and between that and emotionally coping with finishing The Office, I’ve just had a lot on my plate! So I’m sorry for the delay Mom and Dad, I know you’ve¬†been very excited about this.

Thursday

Thursday afternoon my parents finally made their way to St. Mary’s. ¬†Crazy to think I’ve been living at a school for two and a half months that they’d never seen before. ¬†I gave them a brief tour (it’s a small campus), showed them my dorm, and enjoyed a pint at the SU before making our way back into central London!

The first thing on our agenda for this busy weekend was the London Eye. ¬†My family and I visited London and Paris about 4 years ago, so we had already done a lot of the typical touristy things, including the London Eye. I, however, hadn’t done it yet since I’ve been over here this fall and really wanted to do it at night since the last time I experienced it the sun was out (well kind of the suns never truly out here). ¬†So we headed from Kensington to Westminster and boarded the London Eye. ¬†This city never fails to amaze me with how stunning it is, and its just as beautiful lit up at night as it is during the day.

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You can see Ben over yonder!

There was also an added bonus to doing the London Eye last Thursday evening, it was Bonfire Night. ¬†A while back (like over a hundred years ago), some man by the name of Guy Hawkes tried to blow up Parliament by loading it up with gunpowder. ¬†Well they caught him and he was unsuccessful, and now every year on November the 5th people all over London have bonfires and set off fireworks to celebrate his failed attempt. ¬†There’s some history for ya! So we got to see fireworks going off all over the city¬†on our trip around the London Eye, which just added to the experience.

After the Eye, we headed off to find something to eat. ¬†Since I am an avid planner, I had tried to make dinner reservations for Thursday night, but the restaurant I had wanted to go to was full. ¬†So we decided to just look around and pick somewhere that looked good. ¬†Well there’s a reason I’m such an avid planner, especially when it comes to food, I literally can’t make up my mind. ¬†¬†Unless I have a specific place/ and or meal in mind, finding food is a painful process. ¬†Finally after about 5 failed attempts, we settled on an what we thought was an upscale pub, but turned out to just be a really nice restaurant. ¬†Can I just say how enjoyable it was to pick an item off the menu without a piece of my heart breaking because I know how damn expensive it is when you factor in the conversion rate. That was a nice change of pace. We had an amazing dinner and after stopping for dessert (because why not), we made our way back to our hotel, my parents jet lagged and me¬†anxious to sleep in a king sized bed all to myself :’)

Friday

The best thing about having parents visit abroad is that you can do the things that your too cheap to do on your own, with them! One of the things we did not do the last time we were in London was do a tour of the famous Westminster Abbey, so that was our first stop on Friday morning. ¬†Unfortunately they don’t allow any pictures inside the Abbey, which makes sense since it is essentially a massive Mausoleum. ¬†Much of the deceased royals of the UK Monarch are buried there, along with a lot of famous writers like Geoffrey Chaucer and Charles Dickens, which was cool. ¬†There’s a lot of history in that church that’s for sure, and I’m hoping I’ll have time¬†to attend a mass there before I head home.

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After we left the Abbey we headed to Greenwich, to see the Prime¬†Meridian. ¬†The Prime Meridian, for those of you who don’t know, is the meridian line of 0¬į¬†longitude. ¬†There’s a whole museum up there, that gives you a lot of history about clocks and time and stuff like that. ¬†As you can see, it didn’t really grab a lot of my attention, but when in Rome. ¬†Its also cool to say that you’ve stood on the Meridian Point, so ya checking that off the bucket list.

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Observing the Meridian Point with GRD

We took a River Tube back to Central London from Greenwich. ¬†I hadn’t actually been on the Thames yet this time around, and it was nice to see the city from the River. ¬†It’s always good to see things from new perspectives, right?

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Me, mum, & the Tower Bridge

 

Well we made our way back to our hotel after visiting Greenwich on Friday afternoon, as we had exciting plans for the evening! London, for those of you who aren’t aware, is pretty big on theatre. ¬†Shakespeare ring a bell? Well my favorite play ever is Wicked, and¬†I’m so lucky that my parents got AMAZING seats for Friday night! We were 8 rows back from center stage. ¬†The last time I saw it I was 11 and the actors looked like ants, so this completely exceeded my expectations. ¬†If you’re in London, you have to see a show, and I’m so happy I got to see my favorite one with two of my favorite people!

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One short d(pl)ay in the Emerald Apollo Victoria (Emerald City)

Saturday

Well I had been holding out on going to Stonehenge, so I could go with my parents. ¬†I’m not going to get into the process of getting ourselves there on Saturday, but lets just say that after 3 attempts at booking a tour (and 2 credit card refunds, and a minor meltdown on my part) we were up early on Saturday morning and¬†made our way out to the English countryside to see one of the oldest phenomenons of the world.

We weren’t the only ones who decided to show up at Stonehenge on Saturday morning. ¬†So did Abigail. ¬†Who is Abigail you ask? Well she would be the first named storm in the¬†Britain. ¬†Let that be an indicator of the helatious¬†wind and rain that we endured while looking at these massive, weird, rock formation that is Stonehenge. ¬†But we were there, (and I got an insta ūüôā ) so thats all that mattered!

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IG

After Stonehenge we headed to Bath. ¬†Bath is famous for a few things, Roman Baths that are thousands of years old, being the home of Jane Austen, and unique buns (the kind you eat with tea, if your head was in the gutter)! The sun also managed to make its way out upon our arrival. ¬†But back to the Roman Baths, can you guess why the city is named what it is? Thousands of years ago these were a place of worship, health and fitness, bathing, and social excursions among many other things. ¬†Parts of the original structure¬†just so happen to still be around today. ¬†The water in these baths is rain water that is thousands of years old, and is just now making its way to the surface. ¬†V old. ¬†V pretty. V interesting. ¬†Not V clean (the water that is). ¬†You can try some of it at the end of the tour, and legend has it the water has healing powers. ¬†If you’re there you gotta give in to the mojo. ¬†It tasted better than I expected, that’s for sure. (But still not great).

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Roman Baths
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Bath Selfie

After exploring the baths we stopped in to a local pub for some lunch. ¬†Anne and Glenn were all about the pubs over here. ¬†It was also a plus that I didn’t have to use a fake ID in order to be able to drink a pint with them. ¬†After our lunch it was time to make the two hour journey back to London.

Upon our arrival, my parents and I decided to make a stop at one of our favorite spots in London, Harrod’s! Harrod’s is the one of the largest and most upscale department stores in the world. ¬†I can’t even think of a word to describe it, but there are over 300 departments around 7 different floors. ¬†Unreal, that would be the word. ¬†You could spend an entire day in that store and not even come close to seeing it all. ¬†Well, Glenn isn’t a¬†shopper so that wasn’t really an option. ¬†But Harrod’s does Christmas displays every year, fillings each window with intricate and lavish displays of things the majority of the world can’t afford, so it’s nice that they put these out for everyone to admire. ¬†It takes window shopping to a new level.

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Yes those are legos, and yes he has a thing for posing with statues.

After we got lost in¬†Harrod’s for about an hour, and found some souvenirs, we made our way down to the food hall. ¬†After two months I was reunited with one of my great loves, sushi. ¬†It was stupid expensive but man did I miss raw fish.

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God bless

We made our way back to our hotel after leaving Harrod’s on Saturday night, so I could relish one last night in that king sized bed.

Sunday

I wanted to show my parents what a market was like, since London has literally hundreds of different markets throughout the city. ¬†I had wanted to go to Borough Market (known for its food), but come to find out its closed on Sunday’s. ¬†So I decided we would go to Old Spitafield’s Market. ¬†Well atleast that’s where I thought we went until I ended up in Old Spitafield’s Market a few days ago, and it was not the same place. ¬†So we actually went to Brick Lane Market, but still enjoyed ourselves nonetheless and none of us knew the difference!

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sorry Mom but you had all the good pics!

Brick Lane has awesome vintage clothes, and we actually all lucked out in that department. ¬†My dad found a blazer that, “couldn’t have fit him any better, it was like it was made for him.” ¬†Well if he’s happy, I’m happy. ¬†And I was, because shopping. ¬†So spent a few hours weaving¬†through the stalls,¬†stopped¬†in some shops, got some street food, and then headed back to the hotel before I dropped them off at Heathrow on Sunday afternoon.

It’s crazy to think that we didn’t even have four full days together. ¬†This post is quite long, I’m just now realizing how much we actually fit into one weekend. ¬†Well, we had so much fun and I was so happy to see two of my favorite people after over two months! Crazy to think that in just a month I’ll be back with them at home. ¬†Bittersweet, but I really do miss my doge. ¬†She’s the only thing that would have made this weekend any better. Sorry Patrick!

I hope this post lived up to your expectations Mom & Dad. ¬†Thank you so much for an amazing weekend. Love you ūüôā

More on my London adventures to come. Stay tuned…Cheers!

The 411 – Part 6

I’m ten days out of what was quite possibly the ten most influential days of my life thus far.  I didn’t plan this post like that, I actually wrote this the day after I got back from my trip.  I knew that everything I was feeling was so important that I had to get it down then and there, before I lost the newness of it.

I felt it was necessary to do another post, an epilogue of sorts, as this trip was something that I will remember and talk about for the rest of my life.  Except I promise I won’t come home and be one of those girls who can only talk about being abroad for the rest of their existence.  I hope none of you expect that of me, quite frankly that would be a low blow.

I do, however, want to say how extremely proud of myself I am.  I didn’t actually realize it until the end of the trip, but what I did was extremely immense.  And sorry to all the people whom I love the most, but I can’t think of a single one of my close friends who could do what I did. Those that I’ve talked to about it have admitted that to me.

I had a goal, I guess you could even call it a dream.  I had so many places I wanted to see, and so many things I wanted to do, and I came to realize that the only way I was going to accomplish everything I had set my sights on was to take matters completely into my own hands.  I went after what I want and I got it.  I’m not a cocky person, I’m confident, so when I say this I mean it in the most genuine way, but I think what I did speaks so much to my character.

And that’s the biggest thing that I got out of this trip, myself.  Let me try to explain to all of you what I mean by that.  This was an experience that made me just have to enjoy the company of my own self.  It was selfish and beautiful at the same time.  I had a lot of time, the entire time really, to spend in my head.  I got to spend a lot of time thinking about what had gotten me to where I was, everything that had led up to this point, and then ultimately everywhere I want to go from here on out.  I now have a better idea of who I am, I am extremely comfortable with the person I have become and the idea of the person I want to continue to be.  For the first time in a long time, maybe even for the first time in my life, I got to experience a world where I got to have everything that I wanted and with only myself to thank for that (and some funding on the side from mum and dad ūüôā thx guys ily).

I’m not gonna lie though.  On the last night of my trip, I was in Amsterdam by myself and I was overcome by homesickness.  My friends were together in my house without me, I was spending Halloween alone in a foreign city, and I really thought at that point the whole trip was tainted because of this sadness I had started to feel.  Now I am definitely going to blame some of that on the sheer exhaustion that comes with traveling non-stop at the most inconvenient times for a week and a half, but still I just wanted to be home.  So I called my parents and broke down and my mom said to me, “I honestly am still surprised you did this.”  She didn’t mean it in a way that implied I wasn’t capable of doing this, but just that since I’ve been abroad its been a constant struggle with being so extremely happy with what I’m doing scattered with days of just sheer loneliness. Being abroad is a truly incredible experience, but that doesn’t come without days where all you want are the things you’ve left behind.  So when I told my parents a month ago that I had decided to travel the world without anyone else for ten days, they bit their tongues, kept their fears to themselves, and let me go after this because they knew it was what I wanted and a huge part of why I had come here in the first place.

I think I was so determined to do what I wanted to do, that I didn’t really realize how big of a thing this was for me to do by myself.  And that’s the thing, it was a big deal.  I’m not going to down play that at all. This trip was not only what I feel to be a very climactic point of my entire abroad experience, but also just a turning point in who I am going to be from here on out.  Being given the opportunity to study abroad, it was the start of my selfish chapter of my life.  I only had to do what I wanted, when I wanted, it was only up to me.  I haven’t had the opportunity to be young and selfish since I’d started college, and this was my chance, I wasn’t going to give that up.  I’m still going to be selfish, but for the time being I couldn’t really ask for more of the life I am living.  I am just going to continue to work towards what I want, I know I can literally do anything after I’ve done this.

The rest of my time abroad will be spent for the majority in London, the third city I’ve been lucky enough to call home.  I’m not going to be selfish like I was anymore, its not only going to be about what I want.  I’m going to spend time with the friends I’ve made at St. Mary’s.  I’m going to be a student (because yes that is why I’m here, I know) and write papers and get stressed out.  I’m going to check everything off my London Bucket List and embrace every single second of it because in six weeks I’ll be home.  Crazy isn’t it?

This is probably the most emotional post I’ve had since my very first one, found on my about page.  I know normally I’m so funny you forgot I have a soft side, right? This post is a declaration by the person I have become in the two months since I wrote that post.  I’m still the same person, but I just so many more experiences and confidence in my self under that same skin.

I think after everything that had gotten me to this point, I really needed to be really proud of myself for something. Just to make it all worth it.  Coming abroad has been wonderful and making it happen is still something I worked for. But it was this trip, by myself, that I am most proud of, as it is the most vivid experience I have to hold on to of who I am at this stage in my life.

And yes, there were still things I missed out on.  Because I was alone I didn’t go out and get drunk and have these crazy nights that I probably wouldn’t have remembered.  That would have been fun, but you can’t always have your cake and eat it too (but you can, in fact, have your Belgium waffles and your frites in the same sitting without anyone judging you).  I got to visit every single place on my European Bucket List.  I got home Sunday night and got to highlight/ check off every place on that list except for Italy, which I will visit in two weeks time.  So it was worth being alone and not going out, sacrificing wild nights.  I am twenty years old I have plenty of time to have those nights, and hopefully some of them will be in Berlin and Budapest and Prague and Amsterdam with people I love.  Hopefully life has a lot more traveling in store for me.  I may have made this happen, but I think maybe fate had a role in it too, don’t you? Who knows, fate is just such a funny thing.

Ain't she a beaut, all colorful like that?
Ain’t she a beaut, all colorful like that?
This experience was so special to me, and because I know that the people who are most special to me have been taking the time to read my blog, that’s why I wanted to share it with you.  It was my chance to share this trip with the people I love.  I imagine I will have just one more, very reflective, self-indulgent post, in about two months time when I am back in the states.  But if you wanna get that out of me, you’ll just have to keep up with me and my adventures until then! So bear with me, keep reading, and stay tuned on all my London adventures to come:) Cheers!

Fall Break – Part 6 – Brussels

Fall Break – Part 6 – Brussels

Can you believe we made it! The last stop, the sixth and final country of my trip: Brussels, Belgium.

Well, what’s the final day without some anxiety!¬† I woke up at 5 AM on Sunday morning to make it in plenty of time to my bus leaving at 6:30. ¬†There was a bus stop a 5 minute walk from my hostel that would take me there in 10 minutes time. ¬†I even walked there the day before to double check the times so I could make sure I wouldn’t miss it. ¬†Well, at five of 6 on Sunday morning I found out why people in Amsterdam bike: the public trans system is unreliable. ¬†The bus never showed. ¬†Luckily there were 5 people at the bus stop by my hostel and on their way to catch the same bus to Brussels. ¬†Their english was rough at best,¬†but we all ended up splitting two cabs to the bus stop and made it there on time. Travel tip:¬†expect at least one thing to go wrong every day. If it doesn’t, you’ll feel accomplished and if it does you won’t be phased.¬† Looking back on it now it’s probably best I did all this myself, so I didn’t have anyone to freak out on when anything went wrong.

I napped the whole way to Brussels, I now have the ability to¬†fall asleep on just about any mode of transportation, that’s another skill I’ve acquired throughout this whole experience. ¬†If you know me, you know how big of a step that is. By 9:15 AM I was in Brussels! I found a locker in the bus station to leave my back pack (which at this point in the trip I had come to really resent, as I was convinced my spine was permanently displaced), and went out to explore.

Two words: Belgium Waffles. ¬†Ok so I’m a planner, I do my research, and obviously I looked into where the best waffles in Brussels were. ¬†Google told me: La Funambule. So I made my way there, stopping to take in what ever looked like a relevant site to see on the way. I got it with all the works, chocolate, whip cream, and strawberries. ¬†Nom Nom. ¬†This place is a little hole in the wall, no seats or tables, not even forks(they just give you like this useless pick that does nothing when you order the works). ¬†So I found a wall to sit on and devoured this thing, making a complete mess and totally¬†unphased by any looks I was getting in the process. ¬†I was sleep deprived and starving and had been living out of a backpack for 10 days so by¬†this point, 0 f*cks were given.

mouth currently watering
mouth currently watering

One of Belgium’s claim to fames is this fountain of a little boy peeing. ¬†It gets so much hype. ¬†So after finishing my waffle, I decided I would try to find it. ¬†I walked into a souvenir store to ask a man for directions. ¬†He told me to walk out of the store, take a left and it would come up shortly. ¬†So I walk out of the store, make a left, walk back to the waffle shop and low and behold the crowd of people that I thought had been for the waffles was really for this little pissing baby, 20 feet yonder. Literally, it is named “Manneken Pis.” You would never know it was there, except for¬†the sea of tourists with selfie sticks before it. ¬†At least it was amusing.

yes, this is it.
yes, this is it.
Chocolate and a pissing boy! Welcome to Belgium!
Chocolate and a pissing boy! Welcome to Brussels!

After I took my pictures and videos of the fountain, I made my way into the heart of Brussels. ¬†The town hall is a beautiful building. ¬†To be honest, though, there isn’t much to see in the city besides the buildings in the center of the city and the fountain. ¬†(I don’t say this meaning to offend anyone who loves this city!) At this point it was coming up on 11 AM and¬†I had really wanted to go see Atomium and mini Europe. ¬†Those are, however, a half hour outside of the city. ¬†I probably could have made it there and back just in time for my bus at 2. ¬†I figured I had cut it close enough on almost every bus I had to make, and didn’t feel like stressing myself out. ¬†I was at a¬†point of sleep deprivation I had never come too before, and I didn’t want to emotionally distress myself anymore. ¬†After ten days, everything I had accomplished was not only ending, but finally catching up to me and I just didn’t need to do anything to get myself worked up. ¬†Not even a free walking tour lol.

Brussels Town Hall. V Pretty
Brussels Town Hall. V Pretty
~panoramic views~
~panoramic views~

So what did I do instead, you ask? I ate!

Belgium is known not only for its waffles, but also its frites and chocolate which happen to be my two favorite things.  So about an hour after finishing my decadent waffle I indulged in some frites.  I had begun to feel a bit nauseous at this point, but why stop there! Belgium Chocolate! There were so many chocolate shops to choose from, but I finally decided upon some goodies for my bus ride home.  I was having myself a day.

frites
frites

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I wandered around for the next couple hours, picked up a postcard like I did in every other city, and leisurely made my way back to my bus and got there in plenty of time to be the first one to board.

Fast forward 7 hours (accounting 1 for the time difference) and I was back in London. Finally home! ¬†What I really needed, I decided on Sunday night at 8 PM, was a taste of home. ¬†So I went an hour out of my way on Sunday night and found the nearest Chipotle to Victoria Coach Station. ¬†I didn’t feel guilty for one thing I ate last Sunday, and reflecting on it now, I definitely should have. ¬†I felt accomplished dammit, and I deserved too.

10 exhausting, exhilarating, eye-opening days. 6 beautiful, historic, unique countries.  Finally returning to the 1 I call home.  I saw so much, did so much, learned so much.  So very much in fact that I think it needs its own post.  The 411 РPart 6 will be coming at you soon so stay tuned.  Cheers!

Fall Break – Part 5 – Amsterdam

Fall Break – Part 5 – Amsterdam

Sorry it’s been a few days since my last post! I had some visitors this weekend and we were so busy doing fun things that I simply didn’t have any time to write! You’ll have to keep your eyes peeled on a post in the future for who those guests were and what we did!

So, I woke up Friday morning to the sound of my bus driver announcing our arrival in Amsterdam! We made it there before the sun was even up. ¬†I was staying at a hostel a ways outside of the city, and¬†had a¬†really hard time figuring out how to buy a public trans ticket as I was still half asleep but I asked for some help, figured it out, and made it to my hostel by 7:30 AM. ¬†Since I couldn’t get into my room until that afternoon, I took over the public restroom and got myself ready for the day. ¬†That wasn’t the first time I’ve had to do that…

Amsterdam is a city of bikes, canals, coffee shops (pot), and prostitutes. ¬†Quite literally those are its claims to fame. ¬†Well I can’t say that it isn’t an extremely beautiful city, with its endless canals and bike filled roads. ¬†Ya, so bikes…I decided to really embrace the culture of Amsterdam and rent a bike for my first day there. ¬†Let me just say, it is extremely difficult to try to follow¬†navigation on a¬†phone, whilst riding a bike in a city where bikers are a lot more aggressive than drivers. ¬† But after a patchy start, I biked the two and a half miles, give or take, to my first stop of the day in Amsterdam: The Anne Frank House.

Anne Frank Statue
Anne Frank Statue

The Anne Frank House is one of Amsterdam’s most famous memorials, clearly as I got there at 10 AM on a Saturday and waited in line for an hour and a half to just get to the front door! A tip for anyone who is planning a trip to Amsterdam, if you want to visit the Anne Frank house book tickets as soon as you book your trip, it will save you a lot of time! Given, I went on the Saturday of Halloween weekend and the city was extremely busy, but that wait time is nothing out of the ordinary. ¬†Well it was well worth the wait, in my personal opinion.

“I’ll make my voice heard,
I’ll go out into the world and work for mankind!”
April 11, 1944

Everyone knows Anne Frank’s story. ¬†She was a remarkable little Jewish girl who spent the last years of her life, before entering into a concentration camp, hidden in the back end of what used to be her father’s store. ¬†They don’t allow for photography in the house (thought I did manage to sneak a picture of one of the extremely steep staircases, infamous from “The Fault in Our Stars” and (no that book is not the reason I made a visit)). ¬†All of the furniture has been removed from the house but what every room would have looked like back then is depicted by pictures in each room. ¬†I’m not going to go into who Anne Frank was, or what she did, you all know that. ¬†It’s truly a gift that the house is there as a memorial to her and her dreams. ¬†She had a light that shone after she passed, after the war, until this very day.

Snuck a pic on the inside
Almost tripped while trying to sneak this picture…karma.

After I spent some time at the Anne Frank house I¬†biked on over¬†to the Van Gogh museum, one of the other popular spots to visit in Amsterdam. ¬†(There was a v long line there as well.) ¬†I’m not a huge art person, I can’t say I’ve spent a lot of time in art museums since I’ve been in Europe. But I decided that since I have¬†at least¬†heard of Van Gogh, his museum would probably be one of the best ones for me to visit.

He was an odd dude. ¬†Extremely talented and an avid artist but he had some weird stuff going on in his head. ¬†At least he used his works as an affective output. ¬†I can’t say that his art was different that any other art in my opinion, that I was particularly interested in it as opposed to other art. ¬†I did, however, enjoy learning about his life, how he became famous, and about how his struggles have made him relatable to other artists and fans all over the world. ¬†We also weren’t allowed to take pictures in there either, so use your imagination…or google images.

-Van Gogh
-Vincent Van Gogh
The only piece of art we were allowed to take a picture of in the museum...and its blown up on a wall.
The only piece of art we were allowed to take a picture of in the museum…and its blown up on a wall.

After I left the Van Gogh museum I biked to the other side of the city to meet up with an old friend. ¬†You didn’t think I’d go this long without finding someone I knew did you? Well one of my oldest and best friends, Sam, was in Amsterdam with a bunch of his friends for the weekend and so I finally was able to catch up with for a late lunch on Friday afternoon!¬†Well after we ate, we went found a coffee shop. ¬†It’s all about embracing the culture! ūüėČ

I just have to say how refreshing it was to be in a city where they literally just didn’t care. ¬†One of the biggest things I think I was exposed to throughout my travels, were the different norms that are accepted in different cities. ¬†It makes you wonder why so many people get so worked up about certain¬†things. ¬†I’ve come to accept that’s just the way the world¬†is.

After leaving the coffee shop, I decided it was time for me to finally return back to my hostel so I could check into my room and lay in a bed for like 10 minutes for the first time in 36 hours. ¬†This required me to bike home on a Friday evening at about 6:30. ¬†Let me just say that no traffic I’ve ever driven through in my life could have prepared me for biking home in Amsterdam rush hour, not even New York City at Christmas time. ¬†It was a completely different experience and one of the hardest workouts I’ve had in a very long time.

Almost got killed trying to take this but...do it for the snap!
Almost got killed trying to take this but…do it for the snap!

After freshening up in my hostel, and an odd encounter with some of the two Swedish men who were also bunking in my room (this will be relevant later…), I headed back out to meet up with some girls from St. Mary’s who were also in Amsterdam for the weekend! Yay, finally friends!

We spent the night exploring the Leidseplein area, which is where the famous Bulldog Coffeeshop is located. ¬†We actually didn’t go there, it’s what I would call a tourist trap. ¬†But encountered some quite amusing people when we walked in for a minute.

Well I made my way back (biked – was taking full advantage of that 24 hour rental), a little while after midnight. ¬†When I got back to my hostel, the two men I had met earlier were passed out. ¬†One of them was snoring SO loud. ¬†This is not an exaggeration, I don’t even know what I could compare this snoring too. ¬†I didn’t let myself get¬†that phased by it because I had headphones. ¬†Well about 15 minutes after I got home the other girls who were staying in my room arrived home and they were not amused. ¬†They tried to politely wake him up, or at least make him stir, as to reduce the noise. ¬†In the process one of them came to step in his puke. ¬†Well after we discovered this, they went down to talk to the people in the lobby because that was just gross (and I was already in my PJ’s). ¬†Finally the snoring beast woke up and refused to clean up his puke, which turned out to be his creepy friends on the top bunk. ¬†The 4 other girls in the room all had to be moved into new rooms at 1:30 in the morning. ¬†There is my atrocious hostel experience for you, I’m now welcoming any stories that compete with it!

Well I woke up Saturday morning and had to switch rooms again…I was not a happy camper. ¬†As luck would have it, I ended up in a room with all American girls. So it turned out for the best I supposed, but I still bitched to the guy at the front desk and he gave me two chips for two free drinks at the hotel bar to shut me up.

I also woke up feeling like I had endured an 8 hour spin class the day before, so no bike day 2 for me. ¬†I decided I would stick to public trans to make my life easier. ¬†My first stop of the day was the famous I Amsterdam monument, outside of the extremely popular Rijksmuseum, but I had seen enough art for my trip so that was one place I did not¬†visit. ¬†Well the I Amsterdam monument is a great place to take pictures, that was the general consensus of every single tourist in the city on Saturday afternoon as that’s where they all were. ¬†Trying to find your moment to take this picture was harder than finding a parking spot at an outlet mall on Black Friday…in other words, impossible.

Rijkmuseum
Rijkmuseum
photobombs on photobombs
photobombs on photobombs

My plan on Saturday was to do a free walking tour, since I love those so much. ¬†Well keep in mind that it was Halloween and I couldn’t get into it because it was all booked. ¬†So I spent the day wandering around Amsterdam, taking in the beauty of the canals and exploring coffee shops, doing legal things. I was enjoying the last day of my trip to myself and I couldn’t have¬†appreciated¬†it more.

Wander and you'll stumble upon cool things.
Wander and you’ll stumble upon cool things.
heppi halloween
heppi halloween

I got back to my hostel on Saturday¬†evening, hoping I was going to be able to meet up with friends that were also in Amsterdam for the weekend later on to celebrate Halloween. ¬†Well, things don’t always go as planned. ¬†I ended up just going to the hotel bar to redeem my free drinks and ended up running¬†in¬†to my roommates from the night before! We both pretended not to know each other and I took that as my cue to leave. ¬†I had an early night on Saturday, which wasn’t what I’d hoped for, especially because it was Halloween. ¬†But it was one night and one Halloween, a holiday I don’t particularly love and haven’t actually celebrated since I was a junior in high school. ¬†I still was a little let down but I came to realize that there was no reason to be upset after¬†everything I had spent the last week and a half doing.

So my trip to Amsterdam wasn’t necessarily what I expected. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. ¬†I had a lot of realizations while I was there, and found out some things while I was soul searching (more likely than not induced by the influence of legal things). ¬†I’ll be back there some day, with friends, because I still need¬†check going to the¬†red light district off my bucket list – but I was advised that was not something I should be doing alone as a 20 year old white girl in a foreign country (probably for good reason). ¬† I had one more country to hit before returning to London and I might as well have an early night so I could be well rested for my last day of my great adventure. ¬†I will be sure to post on that as soon as possible so stay tuned, cheers!

Fall Break – Part 4 – Berlin

Fall Break – Part 4 – Berlin

Some of you may recall, Germany was one of the first countries in Europe I visited this semester.  I went to Munich for the famous Oktoberfest.  Well, I really wanted to go to Berlin.  But Germany is quite a large place and it was just not feasible to do both of those cities in one weekend.  For a while I thought I most likely just wasn’t going to make it to Berlin this semester, but when I was planning out my break, I realized that it made sense to hit it on my way to Amsterdam.  Starting in Budapest, and hitting the places I did I basically just made my way through Europe back to the border that is closest to the UK.

So, Wednesday morning, I had yet another 5 AM wake up call.  I think this one was the hardest one yet, but I slept the whole train ride and was in Berlin by 11:30! The very first thing I did when I got off the train, was find a Dunkin Donuts (cuz that’s a thing there).  Reunited and it felt so damn good. It may not have been the same thing, but what’re ya gonna do. 

After enjoying my strawberry frosted donut (with sprinkles, obv) I made my way to my hostel by the metro.  Germany has a very efficient train system, that runs through all the major cities throughout the country and to a lot of neighboring countries (google, Bahn).  I got myself settled and made my way to the Brandenburg Gate in central Berlin, which was also the only remaining part of the Berlin Wall still used in the city, to start another free tour (they’re just awesome and informative and free!).

Brandenburg Gate, Day
Brandenburg Gate, Day
Brandenburg Gate, Night
Brandenburg Gate, Night
Also before I forget, the Brandenburg Gate is directly opposite the Hotel Adlon in Berlin.  The very same hotel, that Michael Jackson dangled his youngest son, Blanket, over the balcony Simba style announcing his birth.  There’s a laugh for ya.

I really lucked out with my tour guide in Berlin.  That was probably the most attentive I’ve been throughout any three hour tour, especially when you factor in the sleep deprivation I was most definitely suffering from at this point in my trip.  But I should also credit a lot of that attentiveness to the city.  Berlin was probably my favorite city I visited on my trip, part of that was just due to good experience, but it’s just a city that has such recent history.  Literally the Berlin Wall came down less than 30 years ago.  The city is still rebuilding, reinventing, and constantly evolving.

Berlin also, obviously, has a lot of history about WWII.  It’s where Hitler was centrally stationed and finally killed himself.  I actually stood, in what is now a parking lot, but was previously the land above Hitler’s bunker that was three stories underground.  Story has it that on the day he killed himself, he came up from the bunker, shot himself and made his men burn his remained…and this all happened in that very same parking lot.  Crazy, but super interesting.

Berlin can’t really ignore its past, especially since it provided the backdrop for such instrumental moments in the history of this world.  Despite a lot of the bad things that happened there, I think they do an incredible job of paying tribute to the lives of those who were lost in the World War’s and then the post war communism era.  There are memorial’s all over the city, so as to acknowledge the role the city played at these moments in time and also as a constant reminder of the certain atrocities that occurred, so they never do again.  One of the major memorials in Berlin is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.  It is a massive memorial, developed by an American artist coincidentally enough.  I really appreciated how the city embraced their history and spun a positive light on it.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Bebelplatz Bookcase, which could have house all of the books by Jewish authors that were burnt in WWII
Bebelplatz Bookcase, which could have house all of the books by Jewish authors that were burnt in WWII
Old New Synagogue, the only Synagogue that survived WWII
Old New Synagogue, the only Synagogue that survived WWII
Most of the WWII history is covered in West Berlin, so after covering all of that we headed to East Berlin.  This was the Soviet territory after WWII and essentially the communist run area.  Only a small part of the Berlin Wall, which prevented people from East Berlin from entering West Berlin for almost 20 years, is actually still standing. Checkpoint Charlie is a famous spot in Berlin, (and now holds as a massive tourist trap) which was the border point to cross from one side into the other.  Crazy stuff man.

"Madness" Berlin Wall
“Madness” Berlin Wall
Checkpoint Charlie
Checkpoint Charlie

After my tour, the first thing I did was tip my tour guide.  Lol. Ya live and learn. Well she especially deserved one cuz after the tour she recommended me too a cheap restaurant with authentic German food.  But I had to make a pit stop on the way.  If you know me, you know that two of my all time favorite things are hot dogs and Birkenstocks.  Well Germany is home to both of those things. (So realistically, if I ever move to Europe that’s probably where I would be happiest).  I couldn’t go to Germany and pass up the opportunity to get cheap Birks.  So obviously I treated myself ūüôā

After my little shopping splurge, I headed to the restaurant I had been recommended too.  Berlin is famous for its Currywurst, so naturally being adventurous and cultured, that’s what I had.  Don’t let the name fool you.  Currywurst just sounds bad, but actually tastes great.  I enjoyed it with a German beer.  (I also tried to drink lots of native brews while I was traveling. Like I said, sooo cultured.)

Currywurst.  Tastes way better than it sounds.
Currywurst. Tastes way better than it sounds.
Wednesday night I went back to my hostel, FaceTimed my parents so they knew I was alive and well and just talked to some people in my hostel.  Met a kid from Brockton who had just graduated from UMASS, so that was cool.  It’s always nice to cross paths with another American, but I get especially excited when an American from Massachusetts or DC.  They know home :’)

Thursday morning I signed up for an alternative walking tour.  Berlin, as you may have guessed with its recent and rich history, is a pretty alternative city.  Street Art is a really big thing in Berlin.  Not only does Berlin home to a lot of local street artists, but other famous street artists from around the world have made (left?) their mark there as well.  I wouldn’t say that I’m into street art by any means, I really didn’t know anything about it prior to last week,  but it was really cool to see and learn about some of the famous street artists that have decorated Berlin.  The tour ended at the East Side Gallery, which is basically a giant wall that runs throughout a lot of East Berlin and is covered with all different kinds of graffiti, messages, and icons, offering so many different depictions of peoples interpretations of the way that freedom was inhibited in Berlin for so many years.

Tbh thought this was dedicated to T. Swift at first glance...
Tbh thought this was dedicated to T. Swift at first glance…
DCIM104GOPRO
“Many small people who in many small places do many small things that can alter the face of the world.”
DCIM104GOPRO
East Side Gallery Mural
East Side Gallery Mural
I took in as much of the East Side Gallery as I could, but I was kind of in a time crunch.  I had an appointment you see. The German Parliament building, also known as the Reichstag, has a giant open dome on top of it that offers panoramic views of the city.  Since I am such an anal planner about things, I did my research and found out that if you book ahead of time you can go up there, free of charge.  So I was lucky enough to get an appointment that coincided with my trip to Berlin, and had the chance to go up the Reichstag building.

Unfortunately, it was a pretty foggy day in Berlin and I got up to the dome just as the sun was setting behind all the clouds for the day, so I can’t say I had these spectacular views, but it was still a really cool thing to do and you get a free audio tour that tells you a lot of information about all the surrounding buildings that are visible from the top of the Reichstag.  I would say I had quite the educational experience in Berlin, but I honestly think that’s why I liked it so much.

that tiny dot in the top of the mirrors is me :')
that tiny dot in the top of the mirrors is me :’)
I left the the Reichstag around 415 PM on Thursday afternoon.  I had a bus to Amsterdam at 9:45 PM on Thursday night and I wanted to go back to my hostel for 7 so I had enough time to eat dinner and make it to my bus on time.

Some of my St. Mary’s friends who I met up with in Prague had been in Berlin before Prague, and they mentioned going to the Berlin Olympic Stadium.  I had made a mental note that it was something I would’ve loved to see.  I figured that I had just enough time to quickly see the Stadium and get to my hostel for 7 when I left the Reichstag so I headed out there by metro which took about 45 minutes.

Well the place was absolutely deserted on 530 on a Thursday evening.  It was almost eery, but I still decided to go in.  I was there, so why not.  All the lights were off, so I really didn’t get the experience that I could’ve, but at least I can say that I’ve been to the Berlin Olympic Stadium.  And I got to see where the torch was lit so that was pretty cool.  I basically had the whole stadium to myself.

Berlin Olympic Stadium
Berlin Olympic Stadium
DCIM104GOPRO
Torch pit, Berlin Olympic Stadium
Well I had officially seen all that I wanted to see, so I headed back to my hostel to get my stuff together and head to my second to last destination.  The hostel I stayed at does this thing, someone offers to cook dinner, they give you money, and if you make a meal you get a free bed for a night and a beer.  And the people who sign up for the meal get to eat for free.  Great deal, and coincidentally a girl who was staying in the same room as me from Melbourne had signed up to cook on Thursday night so I decided it was a good way to get a free home cooked meal before heading to Amsterdam.

Well the girl didn’t really had a plan and was way behind schedule.  So it ended up being all of us that signed up for the dinner, all cooked it together (basically we had to step in to prevent so the girl from Melbourne burning out dinner).  It was me, the girl from Melbourne, a girl from Brisbane Australia who works as an Au Pair in London, a kid from Wales, and another kid from New York/Thailand.  That night was one of my favorite nights of my trip.  I got to cook (which I love to do) and I got to do it with all these new people. We we’re all just helping each other out and actually ended up with a delicious and healthy meal.  Everyone else ended up doing more than the girl who had signed up to cook the meal, and she still ended up with the free bed and beer.  I didn’t mind though, the memory was reward enough for me.

I got so wound up in the dinner that I ended up running super late and made it to my bus to Amsterdam with five minutes to spare.  But I made it and woke up in Amsterdam Friday morning, but there will be more on that later.

People keep asking me what was my favorite place I visited on my trip. It was Berlin.  Maybe it was cuz of the soft pretzels and hot dogs and Birkenstocks.  Maybe it was all the cool and alternative art.  Maybe it was because of all the interesting history.  Maybe it was because it was one of the only places I had this awesome experience with other people.  I had never met any of them before, I don’t remember any of their names except for the girl who almost burnt all of our food, and I probably will never see any of them again.  But I doubt I’ll ever forget that night.  I’m hoping I’ll be back in Berlin one day, I’m just so glad I made it happen in the first place.  I could go back with friends, or alone, and I’d enjoy it.  And I doubt it would be the same city I visited last week.  “It’s still evolving, always changing, never present.” – the wise words of my tour guide (who I tipped).  Stay tuned for my posts on my last stops of the trip. Cheers