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!
October 12 marked one month since I arrived in Dublin! The time has flown by and I know it is just going to keep going that way right up until December 19. My weeks are fairly busy with even busier weekends so keeping up with blog posts has been challenging - but now, with over a month under my belt, I have so much to share!
I spent my entire first month in Ireland, which was very beneficial because while I am huge on traveling and taking advantage of my close proximity to so many other countries, I remind myself I chose to study in Ireland and this island has so much to offer! Below are some highlights of my first month in the country.
Dublin: howth, Guinness factory, causey farm, & food
My study abroad program took us on a day trip to Howth our first weekend here. Howth is a small fishing town on the easternmost coast of Ireland. It is a pretty big tourist destination, and one of the wealthiest areas of Ireland. I was expecting to enjoy this trip, but I could not have anticipated just how beautiful this little village would be. We hiked the Howth Cliff Walk, which is about a four to six mile hike depending which route you take. Luckily, most of the hike is pretty easy, flat ground. The entire six miles is absolutely stunning with a front-row view of the ocean.
I could not fathom how blue the water was. I have been on beaches in Barbados, Puerto Rico, Ghana and Mexico and this water beat them all. I absolutely love hiking as it is, but the views on this were some of the best I have ever seen. At this point, we had only been in Ireland for four days, but it was so nice to escape the hustle and bustle of Dublin and have some time out on the coast. On our walk back down the cliffs, we saw some absolutely stunning houses - I completely understand why people flock to live here and how it became a wealthy area.
After the hike, we stopped for some fish and chips (fries) at Leo Burdock, an Irish fish chain restaurant. The meal was by far the best fish and chips I have ever eaten and it was an absolutely huge portion for the 9 euro I paid. I recently discovered there is a Leo Burdock half a mile from my apartment in Dublin, and sometime soon I am going to cave and get fish and chips again for dinner!
Classes at Dublin Business School did not start for a week after we arrived, so my friends and I had some free time to do a bit more sightseeing before classes began. Of course, one of our first destinations was the Guinness Factory. The factory is directly across from our apartment building, which sounds cool, but we unfortunately get the fumes from the beer factory, and it smells awful. I am a little more used to it now, but at first, if the factory was running, I literally would gag when I went outside. Sometimes, the fumes waft in through my bedroom window, and it is never pleasant.
However, the factory tour itself was so fun. Guinness really works to make this an experience, even if you do not like the beer. It has seven floors in total, and you learn about the entire process, from start to finish. This includes learning about the water, hops, and barley in the beer, as well as the heating process. My absolute favorite part was the floor on the advertisement and public relations of Guinness (communications major nerd status). I took over twenty minutes to look through Guinness ads from decades back and read about different marketing strategies the company had utilized over the years.
The tour ends with the amazing views from the Gravity Bar on the top floor of the factory. The bar boasts possibly the best views of Dublin in the entire city, and is a round room completely made of glass windows. You get a free pint of Guinness with your tour. I knew I had to at least try it, but was pretty sure I was not going to like it because I have never tried a beer I did like (haha). As expected, I was not a fan. I used my free pint to take an obligatory picture, and then handed it over to a friend. :)
The second weekend in Ireland, my study abroad program took us on another day trip to Causey Farm which is about an hour outside of Dublin. It was, once again, such a wonderful escape from the busy atmosphere of Dublin and I had such a great day. We got to try a plethora of different activities on the farm, including baking brown bread from scratch, milking a cow and playing with baby pigs, and learning traditional Irish dancing.
After all these activities came the highlight of the day: bog jumping. Of the thirty five people in my class, only about ten jumped in the bog, and I was one of those fateful souls. I knew from the minute I saw the farm itinerary I had to do it. When would I ever have a chance to go diving into a mud bog again in my life? I will admit it was much more physically exhausting than I was expecting. You cannot tell from outside the bog or from the picture, but the mud is actually upwards of ten feet deep. The twenty minutes I spent emerged in the bog were pretty tiring but so fun. Although it was a pretty cold day, the mud itself was really warm and comfortable when you were just sitting on it and not trying to pull your body out of it. Let's just say those clothes did not make it back to Dublin that day and I was ever-thankful I packed a change of clothing.
Being the foodie I am, I tried a ton of amazing food within my first month in Dublin. The first weekend, my friends and I went to dinner at a restaurant that had been recommended to us called the Woollen Mills. It has some traditional Irish food as well as burgers and mac and cheese. I am one who gravitates toward what I know, so as soon as I saw the menu I wanted to order mac and cheese. However, my friend informed me that this restaurant was known for having the best Coddle in all of Ireland and she encouraged me to get it. I agreed, and I am so glad I did. Coddle is a potato broth-based soup filled with chicken, sausage, potato and onions and is served with a thick piece of brown bread. It was one of the best meals I have ever had. I am so glad I went outside my comfort zone a little and tried the dish - I ate the entire bowl and have been wanting to go back to the Woollen Mills ever since.
Our study abroad program took us to a dinner at the Market Bar in Dublin during the first week as well. The Market Bar is an Irish-American tapas bar where people typically order multiple small dishes for the table to split. I am a huge fan of tapas because it is an easy way to try so many different foods at one meal. The tapas just kept coming: we tried chorizo chicken skewers, meatballs, potatoes bravas, beetroot hummus, fried shrimp, nachos, and my absolute favorite, goat cheese crostinis. I have always been a fan of goat cheese, but this is next-level amazing. I took my cousin to the Market Bar when she visited and she was just as impressed as I was. I will definitely be heading back again before I leave Dublin.
These are just a few of many highlights so far in my Ireland journey! If any of my readers have any suggestions for other must-do's in Ireland, I would love to hear them. You can comment directly on this post or contact me here.
More to come again soon xx
The last time you heard from me, I posted about how I would be leaving for Dublin in three short weeks. Now, six weeks later, I have been here for three weeks already! I was planning to post a lot sooner than three weeks in, but Dublin has been breaking my expectations - to say the least.
I should know myself well enough by now to know it takes me a while to adjust to a culture shock. Three weeks later, I am still adjusting to my new routine here in Dublin and am definitely still reeling from homesickness. Every time I travel I remind myself to not create expectations, and every time, I subconsciously still do. Sometimes, this can help me - my anxiety will lessen if a subconscious expectation is met. But usually, it will hurt me - my anxiety automatically heightens if it isn't.
For some reason, I was not expecting to feel homesick this time around leaving home, because this is my third year living far away from home and I am extremely used to living at Elon and being away from my parents. So, I guess the excitement of living in another country blinded me from the thought I may have to deal with being homesick all over again. However, culture shock, the time difference and a brand new city hit me quickly and I suddenly wanted nothing more than to be back at home with my mom and dad.
On top of this, I began dealing with some stomach problems that got pretty severe at times - severe enough that I was missing class a week into school. This landed me in the doctor's office this past Monday. I was hoping not to see a doctor at all while I was abroad, never mind twenty days in. However, I am glad I mustered up the courage to go - alone in a different country - to the doctor because the treatment he prescribed me already has me feeling much better.
This post is absolutely not to complain, though. I am a huge believer and follower of the saying "grow through what you go through." Every day, I am reminded that feeling grounded definitely comes from within, and everyone adjusts to new environments differently. This does not just apply to traveling - this applies to life. Starting at a new college, working a new job, beginning a new relationship. Trust your instincts and what you are feeling despite what the person next to you says.
In the past, when I have gone abroad, whether it was to Europe, Ghana or Mexico, I have had a habit of looking for things that remind me of home as soon as I get there. In Europe, it was desperately searching for an iced coffee at a Starbucks. In Ghana, it was American snacks (Pringles for the win) in Ghanaian supermarkets. In Mexico, it was getting an omelet at breakfast instead of anything out of the ordinary.
This trip, I promised myself I would not try to fill my experience with things from home. That defeats my efforts to immerse myself in Irish life and culture. With that being said, coffee? Local coffee shops only. And lucky for me, there are a ton of cute ones to try. I have gotten Starbucks once, when I just needed a quick taste of home (and I was super thirsty after some serious shopping on Grafton Street). Out to eat? I had the choice between mac and cheese or Coddle - an Irish potato-based soup with sausage, chicken, potatoes and onions. With a bit of self-encouragement, I went for the Coddle - and it was amazing.
Little pushes like these have helped to remind me I am indeed living in a new country and it was never supposed to be easy. I am growing through what I go through - and I damn well am not done yet.
More to come soon from Dublin. xx
3 weeks from today, I will be heading to Dublin, Ireland for my fall semester! I will living in downtown Dublin and studying at the Dublin Business School. When I left Elon for the summer in May, my fall semester abroad felt like a lifetime away. But now, with only 21 days until my departure, it is suddenly starting to feel real. By that, I mean I am starting to become filled with excitement, anticipation and lots of nerves.
If you know me or you have kept up with my past posts, you know I am definitely a go-getter. I usually know what I want and am willing to work to get it.
In April of 2016, I travelled to Europe for the first time and spent 10 days exploring Germany, Austria, and Poland. At the end of my trip, I reflected on how absolutely magical Europe had been for me and promised myself I would return in the semi-near future. Two and a half years later, my time has come once again and I am absolutely ecstatic to see what this trip to Europe has in store for me - and for much longer than 10 days!
I would love to hear any recommendations for must-do’s around Ireland, and for neighboring countries I may be visiting. Any and all recommendations are absolutely welcome! Feel free to leave me a note down below or contact me directly here.
Be sure to check back here often for updates throughout my 4 months abroad!
And step into someone else's.
Last week, I returned from my mission trip in Montego Bay, Jamaica at an orphanage for children with mental and physical disabilities. I returned to Elon, North Carolina, where I have spent the majority of my time for the past two years. Four days later, I returned home to Whitman, Massachusetts, where I have spent my entire life up until college.
But I felt like I didn't know these places anymore because I suddenly didn't know myself. I silently wrestled with this internal struggle because I didn't even know how to articulate what I was feeling.
After a few days, I got back in touch with myself a bit and began to ask myself: what made my trip to Jamaica so different from anything else I had ever done? Why was it so hard for me to readjust back into my regular life?
Simply put, this "mission trip" I had done - the children in this orphanage way up in the mountains outside of Montego Bay - they are not the missionaries. They are not the ones that need "help." They are not the ones that need "saving."
It is us, the Americans who travel to these countries thinking we can help these "poor" people, who need saving. The children who live at the orphanage may lack what we consider wealth: money or an abundance of material belongings such as clothing. But their lives are so full of happiness, spirit and love that they are damn wealthier than we could dream of being.
Upon returning from Jamaica, some of the questions I got included, "Aren't the children so sad?" "Did seeing their lives make you feel so lucky?" and "Don't you think they wish they had families?"
No, to all three questions. Out of the 34 residents, about 24 were in a wheelchair, and about five of them were verbal, with only one being able to form complete sentences. But they do not know anything else but a life up in the beautiful, lush mountains of Jamaica surrounded by the orphanage staff, other residents, and "mission workers" who give them so much love and care.
The reason I felt like I didn't recognize my old surroundings and places I called "home" was not because they were different - it was because I was. My priorities had changed, and that's ok. Since then, I have allowed that strange sense of "not belonging" I felt to motivate me to share my feelings with others and share just how important true "wealth" is, and to continue searching for it for myself.
I was apprehensive to do a mission trip because of the "voluntourism" complex - the idea that white people think they can enter other countries and help poor people, that people only go on mission trips to "take a picture with a black baby" (someone on my trip actually had someone say that to them), and the fact that people are paying $1,000+ to "help" people that really need their money much more than they need their presence.
With that being said, I highly, highly recommend the "mission trip" experience as long as you are fully aware and OK with the realization that you are the missionary. You are the one that will be significantly changed from the trip, and while you probably did some good for the place you visited, your world has changed much more than their's.
It took me a while to accept that. But when you are working with people who find peace within chaos, laugh at the smallest joys, and love unconditionally, your heart is bound to change. So let it.
A huge, special thank you to Elon University and Elon CCM for making the trip to Jamaica possible for me. I am so, so blessed.
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.
LET'S TALK ABOUT...