I am so grateful my dad was able to join me on my last trip in Europe this semester! Here's a glimpse at what we saw and what we did:
Exploring the city:
Last week from 12-9-14 to 12-13-14 I was fortunate enough to visit beautiful Venezia, Italia with my dad. We couldn't have asked for better weather throughout our entire stay; although chilly, the skies were clear and bright blue with the sun beaming down on us each day!
We were able to visit so many beautiful sites and even took the water taxi system one day to visit Murano and Burano, two islands of Venice.
I am so grateful my dad was able to join me on my last trip in Europe this semester! Here's a glimpse at what we saw and what we did:
Exploring the city:
Murano - an island known for glass and the art of glass blowing:
Burano - an island known for its lace and coloured houses:
Piazza San Marco/Saint Mark's Basilica at night and during the day:
Bridge of Sighs:
And last but not least...We rode in a Gondola with Antonio (our gondolier) through the Grand Canal of Venice!
WARNING: If you are a huge Harry Potter Fan and have any intention of going to London and buying tickets to attend The Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour you may not want to scroll through this blog post! I was fortunate enough to go and take hundreds of pictures, many of which will be included in this post. I would hate to ruin the experience for you so please beware: THIS BLOG CONTAINS PHOTOS FROM THE MAKING OF HARRY POTTER WARNER BROS. STUDIO TOUR IN LONDON!!!
The moment we stepped off our high-speed train from Paris to London we knew we were in England. Everyone was speaking English with their lovely accents and we felt more comfortable in this city than any other we have traveled to due to not having to try and speak a foreign language.
From 12-6-14 to 12-8-14, The Fantastic Four adventured around London with the highlights of the trip being none other than ice skating at an outdoor rink at The Natural History Museum at night and The Making of Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour in London.
London is another country that I will be visiting in the (hopefully) near future! Our weekend trip gave me a taste of how much the city has to offer and I want to spend about a week or two the next time I come to visit!
Before I share a handful of photos from the tour, I took hundreds of photos, here's a look at what we were able to do and see during the remainder of our trip:
Camden Christmas Markets:
A night ice skating at an outdoor rink at The Natural History Museum:
Big Ben, London Eye and Westminster Abbey at Night:
The typical London Phone Booth tourist picture:
To be honest a big reason why we didn't have enough time to tour more of London is because of the amazing Harry Potter Studio Tour. This is another activity that I would do again in a heartbeat but I would spend an entire day at the studio from the time it opens to the time it closes, rather than five hours like we did last weekend. Trust me when I say there's so much to see and we saw all of it during our five hour stay but not everyone got to participate in the interactive activities like flying on a broomstick, etc.
For any Harry Potter Fans this is a must-see tour and worthwhile experience! I learned so much more about the production and a lot about what happened behind-the-scenes to create such an iconic series of movies for J.K. Rowling's novels.
If you love Harry Potter this tour will blow your mind! (A piece of advice: make sure to bring an extra memory card; I didn't need to use one but I got pretty close. There is so much to photograph inside!)
And I'll end this blog post with Hogwarts in the Snow...just sayin' IT'S STUNNING!
Last weekend I was fortunate enough to travel with "The Fantastic Four" (Christine, Jen, Risa and I) to two countries on my bucket list. First stop...France!
With so many sites to see and so little time (we stayed in Paris from 12-4-14 to 12-5-14), I'd still say we made the most of the days we spent roaming around Paris.
Before the actual sightseeing of famous tourist destinations began we wandered the streets of Paris...
We then visited:
Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris
Shakespeare and Company - where I wanted to buy more books than I would ever be able to fit in my suitcase.
The Love Lock Bridge - so happy they didn't cut it down (at least for now!)
...and took a lunch break where I finally got to try ESCARGOT! Snails are delicious! Well, the ones we tried anyway. I also ate some delicious salmon.
Of course no trip to Paris would be complete without seeing the Eiffel Tower up close; it was stunning! Especially, when it glittered at night.
The Louvre and Mona Lisa were a must and like the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam I would like to come back and spend a whole day exploring the different exhibits. Two or three hours just isn't enough time to see and appreciate everything.
Last but certainly not least, I got to visit the Moulin Rouge in person! "Moulin Rouge" is one of my favorite movies and to visit the real site in Paris was fantastic.
There's still so much I would like to see and do in Paris such as see the Eiffel Tower during the day, the Moulin Rouge at night and meet my mom's best friend from college (who we tried to meet up with while there but our schedules didn't match up) so this was definitely only a see you later Paris. I hope someday I can make it back to France!
To say I had an amazing time in Prague would be an understatement. Visiting the Czech Republic had been on my bucket list of countries to visit way before studying abroad and I was not disappointed one bit! Clare, Cora, Kody, Kesley and I left Thursday morning to travel to Praha and one thing is certain, "Prague changes people." (as Clare would say!)
The architecture looks like castles, the food is delicious, the night life is ridiculously fun and there are so many beautiful sites to see! The entire weekend I felt as if I was in a fairy tale or a really good dream never wanting to wake up!
The five of us definitely made the most of our (way too short) weekend in Prague. As John Lennon once said, "Time you enjoy wasting was not wasted." Here's a look at how we spent our weekend in Prague:
Charles Bridge: We visited the Charles Bridge multiple times because it connected our hostel to the Old Town Square. Commissioned by King Charles IV in 1357, Prague's most stunning bridge spans 16 arches and is lined with 30 Baroque statues of religious figures. We walked across it several times including the first night we arrived and early in the morning (6:30 a.m. to be exact) in order to watch the sunrise from the bridge.
Old Town Square and Astronomical Clock: We spent many days and evenings roaming the Old Town Square taking pictures or eating. We normally ate dinner at one of the outdoor restaurants before going out. During our first night, there was a young man playing guitar and singing "The Scientist" and some original songs. He was very good and I donated some money and picked up one of his cds he laid out by his guitar case. Another popular site, which is conveniently located in the Old Town Square is the Astronomical Clock. The structure is fantastic and I never got tired of looking at it. Every hour figures on the sides of the clock become animated and two windows open up to reveal 12 apostles greeting the city.
Petrin Hill and Mirror Maze: We caught the funicular railway to reach the top of the 1,000-ft. (300m) Petrin Hill which is one of Prague's greenest spaces. Fall was well alive in this part of Prague with all the trees glowing of fall colors and leaves falling everywhere. We caught a pretty neat site of all of Prague from above but one of the funniest things we did was the mirror maze. Kody also etched our initials (K squared N C squared) into one building full of love quotes.
John Lennon Wall: I was so unbelievably happy that we found the John Lennon Wall. For some time this wall has been on my bucket list and up close it was amazing. The colors, the messages it contains, everything about it was exactly how I pictured it would be.
Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral: Another breathtaking view of Prague from above and the stunning architecture of a gothic cathedral was found at the Prague Castle.
One Republic Native Tour: My first international concert took place Friday night (11-14-14) at the O2 Arena with one of my favorite bands One Republic! Ryan Tedder has the voice of an angel and this was the best live concert I've ever seen. They played a bunch of my favorite songs and Tedder sang some amazing covers including, "Stay with Me" and "What a Wonderful World." We had great seats and Tedder even ran through the crowd to sing right in front of our section; it's a night I will never forget! Tedder said they're working on their third album. I hope they go on tour again soon!
Ice Pub: Another bucket list item I got to check off my list was the Ice Pub! You got to spend 20 minutes in a bar entirely made of ice and got a free drink for 150 czech. Before entering, everyone put on Heineken winter ponchos and gloves. Our drinks came in glasses made of ice and they had some cool ice sculptures that everyone took pictures with!
The Food: We definitely enjoyed the food we ate while exploring Prague. I tried a Czech Republic favorite - Goulash Soup! It was delicious and afterwards we got it about three more times. It was best when eaten in a bread bowl. Other places we ate included: The Hard Rock Cafe: Prague, a crepe restaurant and a bagel shop. I never realized how much I missed bagels until I had my first one in almost four months! Also, the drinks were especially well done everywhere we went. The only downfall in my opinion was the terrible service from the waiters. They always seemed in a rush and weren't very friendly. We got lucky though because most places let us do separate checks AND certain restaurants served American Breakfast!
This definitely wasn't goodbye but rather a See you Later Prague!
I can't wait to return because I know there is so much I still have yet to explore! I fell in love with Prague over the weekend and wouldn't mind someday in my life calling it home. The Czech Republic is my favorite country I have visited so far while studying abroad and I am thankful I was able to travel there with some of my best friends from the program. Cora, Clare, Kesley, Kody and I will return someday; we're already planning our Reunion Trip!
Yesterday, 11-8-14, my friend Jen turned 22 and invited me to join her for wine tasting in Southern Tuscany in a medieval town named Montepulciano!
I've only been wine tasting once, which was last summer in Napa with my cousin, but nothing can quite compare to wine tasting in the country known for its VINO!
Risa, Cora, Jen, Eugenio, Leo and I traveled by train and bus to reach Montepulciano. Upon arriving to Piazza Grande, what looked like the main square of the town, we explored the tiny outdoor market before eating lunch.
I tried Wild Boar meat for the first time! I wanted to be spontaneous and step out of my comfort zone; I was originally debating ordering the lasagna. My pasta was delicious and the wild boar had a really unique flavor. I was happy though because my meal kept me satisfied throughout the entire day of wine tasting. We all ordered the 11 euro meal which included: bruschetta, table red wine, a pasta dish and an espresso. I never order straight espresso at the cafes so that was a new experience for me! It was okay; I personally think I will stick to my usual latte macchiato or cappuccino.
Afterwards, THE TASTING BEGAN!
We started off visiting an Enoteca in Piazza Grande where we tasted "Vino Nobile di Montepulciano" - the wine that is very famous for the region we were in. I tried the 2008 red wine and it was delicious.
To save money, we all decided that it would be a good idea to buy a bottle of wine at the Enoteca and grab some plastic cups to drink outside rather than continue to pay for tastings. I saved a lot more money than I expected and it allowed us to try a lot of various wines of our choosing. Our first bottle we purchased was seven euros which we split between the six of us. And let me tell you, even the cheapest wine in Italy is delicious!
The view this town had to offer of Tuscany was amazing! We lucked out with the weather because back where we live in Viterbo it has been raining a lot but it was a semi-sunny day in Tuscany with no rain!
Next, we hit a winery that Jen had researched a few nights before and it was her number one winery to visit. It was called "De Ricci." Before we even hit the tasting room, we took a self-guided tour of the many wine barrels that they had dispersed around the winery. They were HUGE! At the actual tasting we tried three various red wines. One of the owners asked where we were from and when I said, "Sono Americana di California," he asked where in California because his friend from Napa sent him a bottle of wine! It was great to see this tie of home to Italy!
I couldn't have asked for a better way to spend my Saturday afternoon with some of my best friends in beautiful Tuscany wine tasting. One of the best parts about the entire tasting experience was that every wine we sampled was RED - My wine of choice always!
No words can describe how delicious every single sample of chocolate I tasted today was at the Perugia Chocolate Festival - whether in candy bar form, hot chocolate form or liquor form. I've never consumed so much chocolate in one day but it was well worth the food coma I received during our guided tour of the Perugina Chocolate Factory! One would probably say I'm a Chocoholic!
Calcio is a big deal here in Europe and I got to witness and experience European soccer in its entirety yesterday at the AS ROMA vs. Chievo Verona game in Rome.
One of the perks of living in Viterbo is that I am located approximately an hour and 45 min. away from Rome making day trips an absolute possibility.
Risa, Jen and I bought Birg passes because we knew we’d be in Rome all-day! A Birg pass cost 12 Euro and allows you to access the train, metro, tram and bus all day without having to purchase multiple passes for each form of transportation. We thought this was the smartest option because we knew we would be taking a variety of transportation to get to each of our destinations in Rome.
Upon arriving in Rome, the first thing we did was head to one of multiple AS ROMA stores to purchase our tickets. We had a lot of trouble purchasing the tickets online so I recommend to anyone who plans on seeing an AS ROMA game – just buy your tickets at the AS ROMA stores. It’s a good thing we got in line when we did too because several people had the same idea as us in terms of purchasing tickets the day of the game.
After reserving our seats we grabbed a quick bite for lunch and then headed to Stadio Olimpico for the game!
We went to the official AS ROMA tent to buy gear, visited the fan village where we got hearts painted on our faces and then it was game time!
AS ROMA has great fans! Very enthusiastic and we were upset we didn’t know the cheers because we wanted to join in! The amount of fans waving their flags was crazy and even colored smoke bombs would go off! These AS ROMA fans definitely have team spirit!
AS ROMA won 3-0 defeating Chievo Verona and I had an absolute blast at my first professional soccer game!
The last country Risa, Christine and I traveled to was The Netherlands.
My friend Stephen is studying abroad in Amsterdam for a year and I was very excited to hangout with him while on Fall Break. He met us at the Starbucks in Schipol airport when we landed.
Stephen showed me the heart of Amsterdam as well as the Red Light District before we headed to various bars to catch up on life and how studying abroad has treated us thus far.
The next morning we woke up early and met Risa and Christine at The Anne Frank House. This museum blew my mind. You aren’t allowed to take photos or videos inside and I really appreciated this aspect of the museum. I was absolutely touched by her house and it’s something I recommend everyone go see if you are ever in Amsterdam. The experience made me want to reread her diary.
Afterwards, we ate at Sara’s Pancake House where I consumed the largest pancake I’ve ever seen in my life.
Then we headed to the Rijksmuseum, something Stephen had mentioned he wanted to check out. This museum is gigantic and the amount of artwork is massive. I definitely wish we had longer to see every exhibit. You definitely need one full day to cover every inch of the museum.
We were lucky because on the back side of the Rijksmuseum was the I AMSTERDAM sign. Another site I wanted to cross of my bucket list. It’s pretty much impossible to get a picture of the entire sign without a bunch of other tourists in your shot but eventually you learn to embrace the chaos and try to get a few good shots. Also, thanks to the iPhone’s panoramic feature on its camera I was able to get some pretty good shots of the full sign.
We went back to the sign the next morning, on the day we were leaving to head back home, in hopes that there would be less tourists…we got a little lucky!
Amsterdam is beautiful and I was really happy to spend time with my friend who I met freshman year at Chico State (Sutter South third floor) in his study abroad host country.
Our Fall Break was a crazy 10 day adventure filled with getting lost, buying way too many metro tickets, eating some of the best food we’ve ever tasted and so much more but overall it was about just enjoying every moment we have studying abroad and exploring this beautiful world we live in.
On this trip, I was able to cross off much more on my bucket list than I anticipated and I can definitely say I cured quite a bit of my wanderlust over those 10 days of travel.
Next stop in Espana = Madrid!
After checking into our hostel on Tuesday evening, we decided it was time for some TAPAS:
We started with a platter of eight tapas and ordered a few celebratory cocktails for navigating our travels so well. I ordered one of my favorite drinks - a pina colada! (The tapas were so delicious we had to order one more platter of three!)
On Wednesday we dedicated the entire day to exploring the city! We visited...
Palacio Real de Madrid:
The line was very long and with only one full day to see Madrid we decided to take pictures outside of the gates to save time.
We then ran into a beautiful church located very close to Palacio Real called "Catedral Santa Maria La Real de La Almudena." The architecture in this building was absolutely breathtaking and I loved the vibrant colors used throughout the church - especially on the ceiling.
While strolling through the streets we heard a band playing...
We ended up getting lost trying to find Plaza Mayor, but it was meant to be because we found Mercado de San Miguel. This is one place my friend Yvette, who studied abroad in Madrid for a year, said was a must-see. I Fell in Love with a Supermarket that day. (I also finally got my Churros con chocolate and lemme say I was not disappointed!)
Then it was time for lunch. Yvette also recommended that we try 100 Montaditos and we were in luck because every Wednesday everything is ONE EURO.
We ran across this beautiful garden...
And we couldn't leave Spain without seeing a Flamenco show! Not only was it the best sangria I've ever tasted, but the dancing was well executed. Flamenco is definitely a dance I would love to learn at some point in my life. So much power and strength goes into the dance and the quick footwork is out of this world!
To wrap up our adventures in Madrid/Spain we danced all night in a discoteca for FREE because a group of 18-year-olds couldn't get into the club due to their age. They ended up giving us the passes they received which got us in for free and included free sangria! - They are in the first picture with Risa, Christine and I!
Spain showed us a good time and there's only one more country we visited while on Fall Break...cue Charli XCX's "Boom Clap."
Last Monday marked the first official day of Fall Break and our first destination was Barcelona, Spain.
Since we were traveling to two different countries over break we only spent a day & a half in Barcelona with Tuesday afternoon being another travel day to Madrid.
Our first tourist activity included taking the metro to Park Guell. This gigantic park had a lot to offer including a pretty awesome view of Barcelona in the Monumental Zone. You had to buy a ticket to enter the Monumental Zone but in my opinion it was worth every penny. The architecture was stunning and I loved the designs and colors displayed. Gaudi's work is beautiful.
Next, we headed to Sagrada Familia and I was very sad to see that its currently under construction. One day when I return to Spain I hope to view the architecture of this church in its entirety.
Lastly, after enjoying delicious seafood paella, we decided to relax before our flight to Madrid by soaking up the waves and sunshine on the beach. This beach was located only 7 - 8 minutes away from our hostel!
Barcelona is definitely a city I want to return to someday. I'd love to see more of the beaches, eat more delicious paella and explore more of its famous sites!