So like, heyyy to the fact I have not posted in FIVE months. Hellllooooo! Have you missed me? I have certainly missed writing as my own personal, unedited self. The end of junior year came and went like I blinked once, and suddenly, I was back home in Boston for summer. Summer, as in, living at home and interning full-time in Boston, with an added 2 and a half to 3 hours a day of commuting time. In an effort to provide myself with some sort of balance while adjusting to working full time at a professional job and commuting over an hour each way, I limited my screen time outside of the office - my personal blog was pushed to the back burner and neglected from April until now, mid-September.
A year ago, I think I would have beaten myself up for taking such a long hiatus from something I am so passionate about and dedicated to. After this summer, though, I am the opposite of disappointed in myself for letting a few things drift to the backburner. An essential part of balance: priorities.
I am sure many of my readers remember my post about being self-full at the end of last summer when I was ashamed of how easy it was for me to kick all my healthy habits and mindfulness to the curb. My priorities were with the right intention - to survive working a full time job and still enjoy a college summer with friends while doing it. Crazy, out-of-whack intention? Definitely not. However, my execution of meeting my priorities failed. I allowed myself to be lazy and forego things that made me feel good about myself because my "other" priorities were too important.
This summer was different - you didn't see me writing here. But this time, it was because I made it a priority to stay off my computer screen (Netflix included, peeps) when I wasn't working. Staring deep into a computer screen for 8 hours a day can become draining quickly, and I wanted to save my digital creative energy for work. I was still able to write and express myself through my company's blog, Hacks & Flacks, where I published four (!!) articles during my internship focusing on my very personal journey to interning at March, my take on what companies actually look for in an intern, some advice on writing social media content, and finally, how you can make professional gains from a personal blog (weird, right?). One of the coolest parts: two out of the four got picked up by a daily PR brief, In The Know.
Another thing about priorities: they're not something you can half-ass.
Well, I mean, you could - but then they're not priorities at all. They're just one more thing you "should" be doing. I learn that lesson over and over when I make priorities for my mental and physical health, and then sometimes, don't measure up for myself. It can take a long time to build mental discipline - it's a conscious decision, again and again.
I learn the importance of keeping my priorities straight the hard way, more often than not. I've nearly thrown up in yoga class because I ate poorly hours before. I've shown up to work or class hungover and spent the entire day being unproductive and regretting every second of the night before. I've said something out of anger to someone I care about - and immediately wished I was more intentional with my words.
Despite these mistakes and lessons learned (some more than once), the most important thing about priorities: they never expire. Ever. They never stop working or forgiving if you're willing to work and forgive, too.
At the end of many of my yoga classes, our teacher often reminds us that now is the time to begin again. To start over, and to leave anything we're not proud of and everything that isn't serving us in the past. I think that's the most important thing this summer taught me. I can begin again every single day. Heck, I can begin again every hour, if I need to. Every minute, every conversation, every action, every single time I struggle or succeed, is another chance to prioritize what's important to me. And if that's not comforting, if that's not reassuring, if that isn't enough to make you want to reevaluate your priorities and try again tomorrow, then I don't know what is.
I am a judger.
I am one to judge people - I always have been. Mostly in my own thoughts, silently in my head, but oftentimes out loud to my friends, too. I judge everything: people's choices, their relationships, their morals, the way they present themselves on social media, and even shallower things like what they are wearing or how they do their makeup.
I am going to preface the rest of this post by saying none of this is easy for me to share. We all have parts of ourselves we are not proud of - this is one of mine. But it has become so important to me that I am willing to write about my own internal struggle with it, because I know many if not all of you can relate.
I have lived my entire life being a "judger." With my friends, my parents, to myself. The worst part is, I grew up thinking it was okay. Everyone talks about everyone. As long as you are kind to someone's face, what you say or think behind their back isn't harmful. I was a "nice girl" through and through - that's what I thought, and that's what I wanted everyone else to think, too.
This past March, for spring break, I had the opportunity to travel to Montego Bay, Jamaica for the second time. I would once again get to live and work in a Mustard Seed orphanage for the mentally and physically disabled for the week. If you have read some of my other posts, especially this one, you know that my spring break mission trip to Jamaica last year changed my life. This year, I went into the experience with a completely open mind, knowing the effect it had on me last year, yet unsure what to expect for myself this year.
At the beginning of the trip, one of my good friends in our group was reading a book called Love Does. It is about a man and his inspirational life story all centered around the message that love, above all else, truly does have the power to move mountains. For some reason, the singular phrase "Love does" really stuck with me going into our week. I made a commitment to myself to approach all the upcoming interactions, rewarding and frustrating alike, with a mindset of love.
Surrounded by the residents at Mustard Seed, it was so easy. So easy to see love in all of them. So easy to show them love. So easy to show the orphanage staff who dedicated their lives to caring for the disabled my love, too. So easy to feel the love around me every night when my friends and I would gather in our mission house to sing, play a guitar we found with only five strings, and share memorable stories from the day or from our lives back at Elon.
However, a few days into the trip I started thinking. In general, our society judges and ostracizes those who are "less" than us: the poor, the ugly, the different, the wrong, the disabled, the whatever that makes them different from us. Myself, as a judger, included. Why was it so easy for me to show love to the residents, who embody absolutely everything we usually judge in our society? Why did I decide now was the time I wanted to show love, but back home I did not show any love or compassion to those who were "different" than me?
Love does do many things, but love absolutely does not discriminate.
My initial feelings were confirmed in my mind when I heard a passage from the Bible in a reflection on our trip. It is still completely relevant even if you are not religious. Matthew 7:2-3 says, "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"
For days and weeks afterward, I could not shake the weight of those words. Did I want the way I was judging others to be the way by which I'm judged? Why was I focusing so much on the faults, or simple differences, of others when I could put that energy into working on myself? I felt like I had been punched in the face. Why had I spent so long just accepting the judgements, often harsh and uncalled for, that I was making?
Here's why: because it so easy to. So easy to accept the narrative that is constantly, silently going through your head judging the people around you. So easy that, often, we don't even realize how negative our internal narrative is being and how much of a disservice it is doing to us.
I challenge you to really listen to your internal narrative when you find yourself in an uncomfortable or frustrating situation. Judgements are often small but come in multiples, over and over before they are so common in our thoughts they are like white noise. When I tuned into mine, it was easier for me to identify what thoughts I wanted to exile and what thoughts just needed to be tweaked a little.
It does not happen overnight, and it's a long road ahead for me to rid myself of the judgement I put on both myself and others. But, I am confident that, like I said, love does. Love does forgive and move on, and love is more powerful than any judgement you could impose on yourself or anyone else.
I wrote the piece below for a class I am currently taking. Our assignment was to write a letter to our younger self in the style of the "Letter to My Younger Self" column on The Player's Tribune. I wrote mine with style and syntax inspiration from my favorite post, which was written by Deion Sanders. Our only goals for this assignment were to be as transparent and honest as possible.
Letter To My Younger Self: Lucky
You’re lucky. A 10-year-old who almost always gets what she wants. Like from your mom and dad – whether it is material things, like a plethora of every toy that was on your list for Christmas, or more important things, like constant love and attention. You get it all.
It’s the same everywhere else you go. In your small town, you feel known and appreciated: you have been at the same local dance school for five years now and are one of the best in your class, your teachers rave about you every year (and always mention to your parents you’re one of their favorites at parent-teacher conferences) – even the woman at the local deli always recognizes you with your mother on Sunday’s and offers you a free cookie.
You don’t know any different.
It’s always been this way.
You can remember as early as first grade. You loved having friends and having good teachers, but you loved writing more. Writing. From the minute you could hold a pencil, you were putting words on paper. At first, you would scribble lines on a piece of construction paper in your den at home, even though you knew no one could read it. You called it “Rachel Writing.” Then, first grade rolled around and you could print legibly enough that people could read what you had to say. And you had a lot to say. Throughout elementary school, your writing was always picked as some of the best: your “news” story you wrote every morning on that half sheet of paper and got to share at morning meeting, or your hamburger paragraph organizer (you know the one – the buns are the introduction and the conclusion, the burger and toppings are all the good stuff), or your poem that got published in a book of children’s poetry in fourth grade.
In the years that follow, you start bringing papers and stories home. Like everything else you do, your parents love them. You start mailing things you write to your grandparents in Connecticut. Your grandpa raves over every single one. He says he shows them to his friends at church. You keep mailing them. You keep writing.
By the time you start high school, you know you want to go to college to write. You’re in the highest intensity, college-level English and writing classes, and you still get A’s in them. You still get almost everything you want.
At the end of your freshman year, you attend the high school graduation and hear the Senior Student Speaker – a senior who is chosen on behalf of the rest of the graduating class to deliver a speech during the ceremony. Within minutes, you know you want that to be you senior year. You go to graduation to hear the Student Speaker again the following two years. Senior year, you craft one of your best pieces of writing yet, and audition for the role. Of course, you get it. You almost always get what you want.
June of 2016, you deliver a speech full of heart, laughs, and a few tears to over 1,000 people. Your whole family is there. Your grandparents drive three hours from Connecticut to watch your five-minute delivery. You make sure to speak extra clearly so your grandpa can hear you from the other side of the gymnasium.
That fall, you head to college – for writing. You pick Elon University in North Carolina – partly because it’s beautiful, but mostly because it has one of the best communications programs in the country. You eventually pick your major, Strategic Communications – it’s writing heavy, and you get to pursue strategy and marketing, too.
The next year, you decide you are ready to enter the real world and apply for internships. After extensive research and phone calls, you find your dream internship in Boston. You get through the whole interview process with what feels almost like flying colors.
Then, you don’t get the job.
Or any internship you applied for that year.
You spend the summer back home in your small town, working at the summer school your mom works at. You realize life is a lot more than almost always getting what you want.
Then, fall of your junior year rolls around, and you head to Ireland to study abroad. You get back on your feet a bit and start applying for spring internships.
Then, your grandpa dies.
While you’re 3,000 miles away. In Ireland.
You don’t go home. You want to, but it’s too far with too little time.
You don’t always get what you want.
Five days later, you are offered a spring internship at your first-choice agency in High Point, North Carolina – a 45-minute commute from Elon. Two weeks later, you land that dream internship for the coming summer in Boston– the one you didn’t get last year. The one that made you realize life is a lot more than always getting what you want.
You write a speech to be delivered on your behalf at your grandpa’s funeral. You know he heard it – more clearly this time – and maybe he showed his friends.
At the ripe age of nearly 21, you haven’t gotten what you wanted many times now – and you know you aren’t going to get what you want again.
You started a blog and you wrote about it. A year later, you’ve gotten over 10,000 views.
You’re lucky you don’t always get what you want.
As I sat in my new house in Elon, North Carolina contemplating how I wanted to share what has been on my mind lately, I realized that the last time I wrote about something besides travelling was in August. August! That was five months ago. My blog was my first outlet where I felt like I could write and listen to what I had to say, and maybe other people would want to listen too. That's a weird concept, you know? How often do you listen to what you have to say? Today, so many people and things are shouting at us - believe this, read this, look at this, do this - especially in my generation. I think we often forget who is really in charge of what we are doing, thinking and believing - we are in charge of what we believe and do.
but, don't be afraid to tell yourself to shut up.
While I was living in Dublin and travelling, it was often the little things that made me the most anxious. Many of these things were out of my control. I started to learn how to better cope with the anxiety I felt over such small problems. In turn, I began to focus my energy and the time I spent worrying into being productive. Suddenly, I was pushing myself to do things I would not have thought possible before travelling to Dublin. I decided to apply for a spring-semester internship. "Yeah, maybe you could handle a full-time class schedule and an internship. Why not?" Then, I decided to apply to be the Vice President of Recruitment of the Panhellenic Association at Elon. That is, direct all of sorority recruitment. I almost talked myself out of that one - "There is definitely someone more qualified than you. Why not a smaller position in Panhellenic?" Then, I convinced myself to reach out to the company I dreamed of interning with last year and experienced my first awfully hard disappointment when I did not get the internship. As I wrote the email, I thought, "They already know you - you interviewed last year and they didn't want you. Why not try a new company?" But I forced myself to hit "send" anyway. Then, I convinced myself not to apply to be the Student Leader of Elon's Catholic Ministry trip to Jamaica that I went on and raved about last year after it changed my life. "You are a good leader, sure, but you're not super religious. There are so many people who are good leaders and more religious - leave it to them." But, after some hesitation and some self-encouragement, I poured my heart into my application and applied.
Then, I waited. "Maybe, you will get one of the four things. Maybe, you were right, and your newfound confidence will pay off a little." Maybe.
tell others what you're thinking, and maybe you'll hear it too.
Without even realizing it, the first way I learned to do that was by writing. I clarify things in my brain by reading what I am writing. Then, it began happening that way with spoken words, too. If I am upset, or excited, or nervous, it does not feel real until I say it out loud to someone. I started to realize that if I talked out my doubts or my hopes, it often helped me to understand what was going on in my head and make sense of whatever I was going through.
With that realization, I started a second journal. Thanks to a recommendation from a friend and mentor, I started The Five Minute Journal, a journal that prompts you to reflect on the same principles every single day: what you are thankful for, what would make today great, and positive affirmations ("I am..."). Then, every night, you are prompted on what made today amazing, and what could have made today better. Same five prompts, every single morning and night. In one month, it has begun to transform how I see self-talk. I am telling myself everything I need to hear without even realizing it until later. I took this picture in bed tonight before I sat down to write this post, and if I just convinced you of its power, you can buy it here.
Talk about yourself.
Last April, I wrote this blog post about having faith in yourself and your decisions and not chalking everything that happens to you up to fate. Accountability, if you will. I wrote about the disappointment I experienced when I did not get the internship I wanted most last summer. But most importantly, I said that I knew better things were coming. Rachel, holla girl, because damn right they were coming.
Within a two week span, my world turned upside down in the best way. I received an offer to intern with Trone Brand Energy, an advertising agency in High Point, NC this spring. Then, I was slated to be the next Vice President of Recruitment for the Panhellenic Association. Just days later, I accepted the position of Student Leader of Elon's 2019 trip to Jamaica. A few weeks later, I got an interview with the same company that had turned me down the year before after I reached out again. Last week, I accepted a full time summer internship with that company - March Communications, a tech PR agency in Boston.
And since then, I have been talking about it. I told everyone that asked me how I was. At first, I hesitated - I value being humble and I wasn't really sure if anyone besides me cared. But, the more I explained my next endeavors to my friends and family, the more I started to value them and really understand just how lucky I am to be here now.
Listen to yourself.
I am proud. I am proud of myself and my faith in myself. "Talking" to myself and listening to what I had to say changed my entire perspective on what I am capable of, and it changed my future. I wanted to share my accomplishments with my readers and I did not want to sound like I was bragging - so I hope this is an effective of way of doing both things.
I think it can be hard, especially in college but all throughout your adult life, to find your voice and not lose it. I think people, especially women, often doubt anyone wants to hear what they think. To every single person reading this: people do care, and people will listen. But first, take the time to listen to yourself.
Remember when I said I would get my post about my final trip up before I went back home to the U.S? Haha, well, life happened and here I am almost a month later finally finishing my rave about Amsterdam! I apologize for the delay, but that does not make my last trip in Europe any less amazing. Get ready!
For my final trip abroad, my entire friend group and I went to Amsterdam! When I was planning cities I wanted to see while abroad, Amsterdam was close to the top of the list. I always loved everything I saw about Amsterdam and was so happy when it was featured in John Green's The Fault In Our Stars and then in the film adaption. We only had about two days in Amsterdam, and it was absolutely filled with fun experiences.
When I visited Poland in high school, I had the honor of touring two concentration camps, Auschwitz and Birkenau (Auschwitz II). It was one of the most moving and memorable experiences of my entire life. It was during that trip that I realized there is so much you can learn in school and through textbooks, but to really understand the world, you have to go out and see it - and feel it. It was also through that trip I became especially interested in Holocaust history and since then, I have visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C (highly recommend!) and the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, and I had always wanted to visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. As soon as we booked our tickets to Amsterdam, I researched the Anne Frank House and made sure I bought my all-inclusive pass two months in advance. It was absolutely the best highlight of Amsterdam and one of my favorite parts of my semester. You are not allowed to take pictures in the house, but my friend took this one at the very beginning. I cannot explain how surreal it was to be in the actual annex the Frank family and friends hid in for over two years. I have the utmost respect for them and their long, absolutely unjustifiable journey through being Jewish in the Netherlands.
There is a chain of pancake houses in Amsterdam called simply, Pancakes! and I knew I needed to visit one. For those of you who do not know, pancakes are my absolute favorite food of all time. I am obsessed with them; I had my dad's pancakes in the ten days I was home upwards of six times. My friends and I went to the Pancakes! location right next to the Anne Frank house. I got two huge buttermilk pancakes with a fried egg, bacon, and maple syrup. It was the FIRST time I had pancakes in Europe (they are really hard to find), and they were delicious.
After breakfast, we headed to the museum square, which is the home of many popular museums as well as a market. The first museum we went to was the Van Gogh Museum. It was absolutely incredible. I got to see one of my favorite paintings, Sunflowers, and many other classic Van Goghs. My favorite exhibit was called "Dreams," and it actually did not feature any paintings. It was more of an interactive exhibit that depicted each stage of Van Gogh's life as an artist with amazing walk-through rooms, lighting, and sound effects. We actually went through twice because it was so cool.
The next day, we returned to the museum square to see the MOCO Museum, home to Banksy paintings. It was also featuring an Icy and Sot exhibit at the time. I absolutely love Banksy's work - I find it so compelling and I absolutely love all the prominent issues his work seeks to protest, including police brutality issues in the United States. Many of his paintings are so clever I could not help but smirk or laugh out loud once I understood what he was conveying.
Below is one of my absolute favorite Banksy works that was featured in the MOCO. It is a statue of a priest with his face "blurred" out with squares. This is meant to denounce the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic church. This work really, really spoke to me as someone who is Catholic and has closely followed the scandal. You can read more about the piece and its relation to the scandal here.
Prior to visiting the MOCO, I did not know of Icy and Sot. However, I was extremely impressed with their work and their story. Icy and Sot are two brothers who grew up in Iran and started creating artwork to protest different world issues including discrimination against Muslims, war, and gun violence. They ended up fleeing Iran when their safety was in jeopardy because of their controversial artwork, and they now reside in the U.S and continue to create moving, detailed pieces. The work below is a sculpture of a pencil with the trigger of a gun attached to it - meant to, of course, denounce the influx of senseless school shootings in America. I wish I could post more of their work - but I definitely encourage you to look them up and see some of their work yourself. This is their Instagram.
Another thing I was really looking forward to trying in Amsterdam was a Stroopwafel. They are a thin, crunchy waffle with caramel in between, sometimes covered with toppings such as Nutella or chocolate, among others. They are amazing. Like, so damn (haha) good. The first Stroopwafel I got was at a market we went to - pictured below. The man made them fresh right in front of us and it was SO good. We also got more the next day at little hole-in-the-wall Stroop cafe.
When most people think of Amsterdam, they think of the classic canal-with-the-bikes Instagram post. I cannot say I was not looking forward to this too, and let me tell you - they were everywhere. According to one of my tour guides in Amsterdam, there are over 880,000 bikes in the city - over four times the amount of cars. They are everywhere, and they definitely add to the aesthetic.
My trip to Amsterdam was a great way to end my journey around Europe. I spent one last week in Dublin before heading home for the holidays.
I absolutely cannot say enough about my time abroad. I am so grateful and forever indebted to Elon University and my parents for making this semester possible. But, I am even more indebted to myself for getting out of my comfort zone and taking life for what it is. It is one hell of a ride when you let it begin. To my loyal readers, thank you for allowing me to share my crazy adventures with you! One year after beginning my little blog, I am over 10,000 views strong and can only dream bigger.
Here's to 2019 and all that is to come. xx
This Thanksgiving, I had my own holiday celebration in London! It was definitely hard being away from home at one of my favorite holidays - all my friends got together one night while everyone was home from college and that was the first time I had felt homesick in months. But, London definitely made up for it - it was my favorite city in Europe so far (which is a big statement because I am infamously bad at picking favorites). I was lucky enough to be able to stay with one of my friends from Elon, whose family lives in London and she was home for the holiday. My experience was that much better being able to see the city with a local and stay in an actual home. We packed a lot into three days and had so much fun, so it was especially hard for me to pick my highlights!
Our first day in London was packed with sightseeing and good food. We saw the Tower Bridge, walked around the city center, and tried to spend a good amount of time inside shops because it was freezing out.
We did some more sightseeing Thursday afternoon, and then headed to Covent Garden for dinner. It was my favorite area of London. In the garden, we had Flesh & Buns for dinner, a Japanese restaurant where you get steamed buns and pick your "flesh" filling - chicken, fish, steak, etc. I got steak, with sides of corn on the cob, edamame, and broccoli. It was one of my favorite meals I have had while abroad. The steak was amazing and every side was seasoned and roasted to perfection. It was not turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes - it was even better. After dinner, we saw the absolutely massive Christmas tree in the center of Covent Garden. It was so big and beautiful I wondered how they even got it there. In almost every city I have been to since October, they have been celebrating Christmas in their own unique way. It has been so fun to see such a variety of different decorations and feel the holiday spirit so far away from home.
If you know me personally, you probably know I am obsessed with cereal. It is one of my favorite foods and I like to believe it's the best meal at any time of day - breakfast, a snack, dinner, 2am, etc. So when I heard about the Cereal Killer Cafe in London, I had to make a trip. The cafe has bowls of every kind of cereal you can imagine, plus other foods made with cereal, including milkshakes and mozzarella sticks. I got cornflake-crusted chicken tenders, mac and cheese with a cornflake breading, and a bowl of one of the signature Cereal Killer cereals. My friend got bran flake fries which I had some of too. My cereal affinity was accounted for and it was such a cool experience. Dream = fulfilled.
Friday morning, we headed out into the city again and continued our exploring. We went to Buckingham Palace and I regret to say I did not witness a ~royal sighting.~ But, we did witness the changing of the guards, which was really neat. It was not as fancy as Versailles, but still beautiful and a must-see in London.
Later that afternoon, we went to afternoon tea. I feel like you cannot go to England and skip tea, but this tea party was like none I have ever been to before. First, I could not believe how fancy it was just to drink damn tea. But, the tea salon was absolutely beautiful (and decorated for Christmas!) and there was a man playing the piano, which was great. The tea itself was the best I have ever had and I regret not buying some to take home. I had two whole pots of a black strawberry tea to myself. Along with our copious amounts of tea, we each got a platter of finger sandwiches, scones and dessert pastries. We also each got a piece of cake at the end, but I was almost too full to enjoy mine, which was unfortunate because it was delicious. I had so much fun being so fancy and enjoying my tea, however, I could not believe how expensive it was. Luckily, I had a gracious "donor," so I did not pay for most of my meals in London, because I would not have been able to go to tea otherwise. I am including two pictures because this experience was just so wonderful.
Saturday (two days late), we had a full Thanksgiving feast with my friend's family. The food was absolutely amazing and I got my much-needed fill of home-cooked food. We even watched an American football game after! (Not the Patriots, but it was good enough.) My four days in London were so fun and I think if I had to move out of the U.S permanently, I would move there. I will definitely try to go back one day.
This week will be a double post so I can squeeze in my FINAL highlights reel from Amsterdam before I head HOME on Wednesday! Be on the lookout for that! xx
In November, I flew solo over to Prague (Praha in Czech, for those who don't get my title) and met up with my roommate and her two abroad roommates for the weekend! Although my flight got in late on Friday and I had to pretty much get up and leave for the airport Sunday morning, we made the best of the time we had in Prague and it was one of my favorite cities yet. The first city I ever fell in love with in Europe was Krakow, Poland, and the Prague vibes were definitely similar to Krakow.
Friday night, when we got into Prague, we quite literally threw our stuff in our Airbnb and went out. Upon multiple recommendations, we went to Lucerna, a club that has 80's/90's themed nights every Friday. Our friends recommended we get tickets in advance, and I am so glad we did - the line to get in was more like a mob and I cannot imagine all those people got in, nevermind in a reasonable amount of time.
Once we got into Lucerna, it was one of my absolute favorite clubs I have ever been to. I'm not a huuuge club girl (note that I have never written about a club before - that's because usually they are not worth talking about), but the music at Lucerna and the energy of the crowd was so fun. The main room had a stage with a huge screen where the music videos were played, and the classic songs just kept coming. I will admit I did freak out a little when the Friends theme song came on.
Saturday, we started our day off at Bakeshop, a cute little breakfast place/bakery. It had the best selection of quiches I have ever come across. If you know me, you know I love my quiche. I got a classic Lorraine, and ate the entire thing. It was amazing. I wish I could have gone back for another. My picture of the quiche display is not great, but it's worth sharing so you get the full effect.
Next, we hit all the main sights of Prague - Old Town Square, the Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, and the John Lennon wall. I don't know why, but I have always been a huge sucker for a good ole town square. They are just so cute and fun. Prague's was amazing, coming in second behind Krakow's. The sun was shining and it was starting to become busy as we arrived.
The Charles Bridge was quite a sight to see. The statues on the pillars throughout the bridge were incredible, and the whole bridge was bustling with vendors and live music. We took our time strolling across.
Once we were across, we headed to the John Lennon wall. This outdoor wall is a little tribute to John Lennon and is absolutely covered with art. Anyone can add to the wall, but the main, more professional paintings on the wall are definitely the focal points and many include Beatles lyrics or references to Lennon's life. The wall was much smaller than I was expecting, but nonetheless breathtaking. There was a man playing music, which just added to the magic of the wall. Out of all the tributes you can create for someone - a statue, a bench, a building, a street, a gravestone even - I think a wall filled with paintings, an open canvas for anyone to add to, is the most beautiful tribute.
I have seen a lot of castles in my time abroad. Almost every city has a famous castle or similar landmark, including Dublin. However, the Prague Castle is truly astonishing. It is so damn big. As we walked around it, I felt like the building just kept going. The Cathedral within the Castle, St. Vitus Cathedral, was beautiful. Like I have said before, I love a good church and this one did not disappoint. Except I could not properly light my usual candle because the candles they had for visitors to light were FAKE! They were the little battery-operated ones, which I have never seen in a cathedral. I was a bit disappointed but lit one regardless because the meaning is still there.
After our sightseeing, it was time for a snack break, and this was no ordinary snack. We got the famous Prague Trdelniks, which is basically a donut cone with ice cream in it. We got them at a cute little place that roasted the donut cones right there in front of you, then you pick what you want inside. Common choices are ice cream, fruit and whipped cream, chocolate, or more savory options like mac and cheese. If I had been able to get two, I definitely would have tried the mac and cheese cone. However, my traditional ice cream cone was more than enough. It was amazing, obviously.
Later that day, we visited the Gallery of Art in the Old Town Square, which features an Andy Warhol exhibit. I am a big Andy Warhol fan and this exhibit was so fun. It featured the story of how and why Andy changed his last name from Warhola to Warhol, which I did not know about.
That night, we went to dinner at a Mexican restaurant, Las Adelitas. Totally unrelated to Prague, I know, but who doesn't love Mexican food - plus, we heard this place was amazing. And, seriously, it was. It was some of the best Mexican food I have had in awhile - we got guac and margaritas, and I got enchiladas for my meal. The margaritas were my favorite. I don't usually pick tequila for a drink, but this might have changed my mind! They were so fresh and so yummy. Who would have thought some of the best Mexican food I have had would be in Prague?
Two weeks from today, I will already be back HOME in Boston! It's a bit hard to believe, but this semester has flown by. But first, tomorrow I am heading to Amsterdam for the weekend! Stay tuned for deets about my trips to London and Amsterdam coming soon xx
You know what Danny and Sandy said - Grease is the word. For me, Greece was the word for a week in October when I travelled there with nine of my friends for our week off from school! Within ten days, we got to see Athens, Santorini, and Corfu. This was my only trip that I took through a tour company - and I am so glad I did! It was a much-needed break from planning all my travel myself, from transportation to sightseeing. Our amazing tour company, Bus2Alps, planned the entire trip for us and I could not have been happier with the outcome. I completely recommend them for anyone abroad looking for a tour company. (P.S If you do book a tour with them, use the code LIBBY for a discount on any trip!) Here are all my trip highlights.
We flew into Athens and spent the first three days of our trip in the absolutely amazing city. I found Athens to be the absolute perfect balance of historical sites and some more fun, modern sights too. It was one of my favorite cities I have ever been to.
The Acropolis was definitely the most beautiful historical landmark I have ever visited. Situated high up on a hill, the climb to the top, where the Parthenon is located, is quite the hike and if you visit at peak times, can be quite the wait in line. But the views from the top are incredible, and I was truly mesmerized that the Parthenon was still standing (and in such great condition) so many centuries later. Pictured above, the Acropolis Theatre, known formally as the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, is still used today for concerts. And seriously, how freakin' cool would it be to see a concert here. I found this picture on the Internet of a concert at the Acropolis:
Ok. Seriously. HOW COOL would it be to go to a concert like this? A girl can dream.
Besides the Acropolis and Parthenon, we went to some awesome rooftop bars in Athens with incredible sunset views, did some shopping at Athens' many markets and lively streets, and ate some absolutely amazing Greek food. Growing up, every year my family would go to a Greek festival at a nearby Greek Orthodox church, and I have been obsessed with Greek food since. Moussaka, Spanakopita, Baklava, Greek salads, I. Love. It. All. The food in Greece, of course, did not disappoint and I still was not tired of it on the tenth day. It was a bit hard to bid goodbye to the city after such a short amount of time, but I was filled with anticipation for the days ahead.
Let me preface this by saying: never in my entire life did I think I would get the chance to go to Santorini. It has always been a huge dream of mine, but the island is pretty much in the middle of the ocean and not easy to access by any means, neither plane nor boat. However, our tour was able to take an eight hour ferry from Athens to Santorini and voila!
I was infatuated with Santorini from the minute we step foot on the island. It is just 30 square miles in area. For reference, that is about 1/40th the size of Rhode Island. Yet, in those 30 square miles, I swear the beauty, peace and magic could cover the entire rest of the planet. I was completely taken aback with Santorini's pure natural beauty. We visited Red Rock beach and Black Sand beach (which, for the record, does not have black sand - it's black rocks), which were both so stunning. I took the plunge at Black Sand beach and went for a swim in the ocean - although a bit cold, the water and view was unbelievable and I remember feeling such bliss with the sun shining down on me in that moment.
As a bonus, the sunsets in Santorini were the most vibrant I have ever had the honor of witnessing. The first night we were there, we were walking to dinner and I swear this sunset crept up on us. We just turned the corner and there it was, in all its glory. Sunrises and sunsets are one of those things that I think I will always have a special place in my heart for. When I'm anxious or nervous, the sun always reminds me that if nothing else, it is dependable. The sun will always rise and set at the end of every single day, and for some reason, that gives me peace and restores my faith.
Finally, my favorite part of Santorini was visiting the picturesque, postcard village of Oia. The deep blue roofs and bright white buildings you picture when you picture Santorini; that is Oia. When we arrived and started to walk through the little village, I felt such a wave of content and a kind of satisfaction wash over me. I had been dreaming my whole life of visiting Oia, and at only twenty years old, here I was. And I will proudly have you know I waited in line for half an hour to take my postcard-esque shot of Santorini.
Never heard of Corfu? Me either, friends! Until I had the chance to explore this lesser-known Greek island. Corfu is directly off the coast of Albania but still part of the country of Greece.
During our time in Corfu, we stayed at the most amazing "hostel," which was really like a resort, called the Pink Palace. Pictures do not do this place justice. Every single building, sign, bus, and wall is bright pink. It is breathtakingly awesome. We got to explore Corfu by ATV, which was so cool, spend time relaxing on the beach that was steps from our room, and attend a pink toga party at the club in the resort. It was the perfect end to a busy, adventure-filled week. The Pink Palace will definitely always have a piece of my heart and I actually miss it just writing this.
Our bedroom had a little balcony off of it facing the ocean. On the last evening we were there, we were leaving for the mainland at about 8pm, so we had all day to relax and chill on the beach. At around 5:30, I took some time to just sit on our balcony and take in the views. I sat out there alone, in complete silence, while my phone was charging inside and just took a minute. I reflected on how absolutely, indescribably lucky I am to be able to be exploring the world. I would have never been able to guess I would be sitting on the Greek island of Corfu at the age of twenty. When I was finished having my moment, I grabbed my phone to take this shot. I had been watching this sunset for over 45 minutes and truly did not know if I would ever see a sunset like this again.
My 10 days in Greece were definitely some of the best memories I have ever made, and I am so lucky I had the opportunity to take this trip. Maybe, just maybe, if I am lucky enough, I will be back one day.
Stay tuned for my upcoming posts about PRAGUE and LONDON!!
Looking at the big picture, 48 hours is merely but a blink of an eye. However, when given 48 hours in Paris, I made sure this "blink of an eye" was going to be one to remember. In October, my friend and I jetted off to Paris for the weekend and saw as much as we could possibly see in the short amount of time. Lucky for us, our other friend is spending her semester in the city of lights, so we basically had our own personal tour guide (one who is fluent in French, might I add) for the weekend. Here are some of the highlights from our amazing 48-hour trip.
To save money, my friend and I stayed in an Airbnb in Saint-Denis, a city right outside Paris. We started our Saturday morning off with a hiccup at the train station - our train into the city center was cancelled, and since the train announcements were only in French, it took us a while to figure out what to do. However, once we successfully got into the city, we met our friend for brunch at an amazing brunch spot called HolyBelly. I got my fix of pancakes, which I had been craving since leaving the states. From there, we hit a lot of the sights in Paris, starting with the Notre-Dame Cathedral. I absolutely love visiting churches in other countries because the architecture is always incredible. Notre-Dame did not disappoint. Since entrance was free, we waited in the mile-long line to get in, and it was definitely worth it. Coming from a Catholic background, I love lighting a candle for my family in a church when I visit a city. It is a nice way to leave a bit of my spirit wherever I go. Paris was no exception, and I lit a beautiful blue candle inside the Cathedral.
Next, we took an obligatory trip to the Louvre Museum. It was much bigger than I had pictured, and because of our limited time and limited budget, we did not actually go into the Louv. However, the courtyards were absolutely beautiful and I checked seeing the pyramid off my bucket list! We spent some time by the fountains and the pyramid and enjoyed the views.
After some more sightseeing and a beautiful walk through the Tuileries Garden, we stopped at a famous tea house called Angelina's where I got the most delicious chocolate macaron and hot chocolate. The only way I can think of to describe this hot chocolate is to picture a coffee cup full of hot fudge. That is literally what it tasted like - it was so thick that I felt like I was drinking a melted chocolate bar. Although it was absolutely to die for, it was so heavy that I could only drink half my cup. Regardless, my macaron was equally as chocolatey and amazing - definitely the ideal pick-me-up.
Finally, of course, was the Eiffel Tower! I felt like the little girl inside me was screaming. Being up-close was even more magical than I had prepared for. Over the course of the weekend, we took three different trips to the Eiffel, and each was incredible. The night before we left, my friends and I had a picnic in the park in front of the tower, complete with an amazing variety of cheeses and wine. I have to say, it was pretty picture-perfect.
On Sunday, we took an essential trip out to Versailles and did a tour of the Gardens. I was amazed how absolutely massive the garden property was! We saw maybe half the gardens in total and walked about ten miles. Versailles is absolutely the most beautiful man-made place I have ever been. I was completely blown away. We were lucky enough to see the gardens before they turn the fountains off for the winter, because the fountains were the most amazing part. Each garden has a fountain structure of some kind, ranging from just a pond with water streams in it that put on a show, or big, elaborate fountains that are meant to represent something (four of the most famous fountains are the season fountains - there is a different fountain meant to represent spring, summer, winter and fall). The fountains are turned on with classical music as you walk through the garden. It is truly amazing, and so beautiful. I would love to go back to Versailles someday in the spring or summer.
My 48 hours in Paris definitely served me well. In addition to what is pictured, I can say I consumed a lot of croissants and picked up a bit of French (by a bit I mean a few more words). On se parle plus tarde!
Stay tuned to hear about my 10 days in Greece in the coming weeks! xx
Lucky for me, I didn't have to pretend - I actually got to dance in the streets of Barcelona! Thanks, Ed Sheeran. In October, I flew to Barcelona for three days and remembered what it was like to fall in love with a new city again.
First, after some debate, I decided to include this not-so-great part of my trip because I think it speaks to how much goes into travelling and I am hoping it can serve as a lesson to others who are hoping to travel in the future. When planning our trip to Barcelona, my friends and I booked an Airbnb without doing too much research on it. As our trip neared closer, we began to realize our host was not responding to our messages, and that the place we booked had no reviews on Airbnb. This was a huge red flag to me, but there was not too much we could do at the time because our host had not technically done anything wrong.
Friday night, we arrived at our Airbnb and all the alarms immediately went off in my head. As I wrote in my post about Barbados, I am a huge believer in safety first when travelling and everything else second. There was just something about the place, and the fact we were sharing the apartment with our host, that made me uneasy. Looking back, I am pretty sure everything would have been fine - but I knew I would not have been able to enjoy my weekend with the anxiety I was having about the place. We had an unrestful sleep there Friday night, and ended up booking a last-minute apartment for the next two nights after. We did not get our money back, and spent money on a new place, but it was completely worth it to me so I could actually enjoy the trip and not worry about my safety at night.
As a rather inexperienced traveller, I learned a lesson the hard way: do a lot of research on a place, particularly properties rented by others like Airbnb's and Homeaway's before booking. The last thing you want to worry about while exploring a new country is the security of your accomodation at night. I definitely learned my lesson and have been much more careful when travelling since.
Thankfully, though, the apartment we ended up in was absolutely gorgeous. It was located right in the center of the Gothic Quarter, arguably the most beautiful, bustling part of Barcelona. In three days, we hopped all around the city and got to see so many amazing things.
Exploring the city
One of the first things we saw in Barcelona was the Arc De Triomf. It is a huge, beautiful arch at the top of a long stretch of trees and a walkway down the middle which is full of street performers and vendors. There is a picture of me at the Arc on my About page. I was fascinated with the architecture and aged, yet modern feel of all of Barcelona and the Arc was a perfect example of this unique combination.
Next, we made an essential stop at Park Güell, one of Barcelona's most famous attractions. It is home to the famous Iguana and other absolutely beautiful picturesque icons of Barcelona. The park gains elevation quickly as you walk up the spiralling pathways, and as we reached the top, it began to feel more like a hike than, dare I say, a walk in the park. However, the view from the top is beyond stunning. When we finally reached the top, panting from the climb and sweating in the 75 degree heat, I could not believe my eyes. You can truly see the entire city and coast.
We also had so much fun just exploring the Gothic Quarter and visiting all the different markets, fountains and the coast and ocean boardwalk in the quarter. I can confidently say the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona is officially on my list of favorite places in the world.
On Sunday, we took a tour to Montserrat, a mountain outside of Barcelona in Catalonia which boasts a beautiful monastery as well as a fun farmer's market at the top, along with stunning views. Our tour was so fun and we had time to see the monastery and the famous Black Madonna inside. She is a statue that is known to give people good luck, and people pay and wait in line for literal hours just to touch her. After we explored the monastery, we had time to visit the farmer's market, which is known for its amazing variety of cheeses. We had the chance to try a "cheese cone," a cone filled with eight different cheeses, as well Mató, a traditional Spanish cheese dessert topped with honey.
Oller Del Mas Vineyard
After spending the morning atop Montserrat, our tour took us to the Oller Del Mas Vineyard in the valley of Montserrat. There, we took a tour of the winery, and then had an amazing tapas lunch with a wine tasting, where we got to try three different wines made at the vineyard. The vineyard was so beautiful and has been passed down through generations of a Catalonian family for decades. On top of that, the tapas and wine were amazing. The white wine sample was absolutely the best white wine I have ever had.
The food in Barcelona was some of the best I have ever had. Saturday and Sunday night, we went to the tapas bars La Luna and Sensi Bistro. In this type of restaurant, you get a list of tapas, which are small plates of food, and order about 6-8 depending on how big your group is, and everyone gets a little of each. I absolutely love tapas because it is a great way to try a little of so many different kinds of food. Both bars we went to served absolutely amazing food. Unfortunately, I did not get a picture at either because the bars are pretty dark and using flash for a picture inside is frowned upon. But, I can attest each dish was amazing, with the cod croquettes and the ravioli as my favorites.
We also checked out a candy store called Happy Pills. The store is set up to be like a "drug store," and you fill a "pill bottle" with whatever colorful, sugar gummy candy you want from each color-coded section. Not only is the candy so yummy, it is such a fun and unique experience. I ate my entire pill bottle of candy in 24 hours and now proudly display a cute "Don't worry, be happy" Happy Pills sticker on my Mac.
Overall, my three days in Barcelona were beyond amazing. I'm awful at picking "favorite cities" but it is definitely somewhere in the top of my list. I am hoping I can go back for longer (and stay in the Gothic Quarter again) someday in my future. But until then, I am back to pretending I am dancing in the streets.
Stay tuned for my highlights post of Paris next week! xxx
P.S My amazing friend and travel buddy, Veronica, is a film major and makes amazing videos documenting each of our trips. Watch her video from Barcelona below for more awesome views from our trip!
Just living, learning + loving and writing some of it down along the way. Senior + Director of Panhellenic Recruitment at Elon University in North Carolina. Currently interning + curating social for some badass clients at SFW in Greensboro, NC. Yogi, sightseer, shopaholic, foodie, writer.
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