Tag Archives: europe

Study Abroad Bucket List (Revisited)

23 May

Study Abroad Bucket List

#1 Make a guard at Buckingham palace laugh (CHECK)


#2 Enjoy a “treat” in an Amsterdam coffee shop (CHECK)

#3 St. Patty’s Day in Dublin

#4 Go to an AC Milan soccer game (Did go to an Italian soccer game though!)

#5 Walk the red light district (CHECK)

#6 Spend Easter in Vatican City (CHECK)


#7 Cliff dive off the Amalfi Coast (CHECK)


#8 See Fun. in Rome

#9 Recreate the Beatles’ Abbey Road cover

#10 Meet a millionaire at Monte Carlo Casino

#11 Go to Carnevale in Venice

#12 Ride a hot air balloon/sky dive

#13 Make lifelong friendships (CHECK)




#14 Take a picture of any city from a high rooftop (CHECK)


#15 Revisit wineries I interned at in Tuscany and Piedmont (CHECK)


#16 Meet relatives in Rome (CHECK)

The family

The family

#17 Take a doubledecker bus tour of London

#18 Leave a note in Juliet’s wall in Verona

#19 Pregame my flight home (CHECK.. I don’t recommend this)

#20 See Jersey Boys or Les Mis in London

#21 See Platform 9 3/4

#22 Tour of BBC Television Centre before it closes

#23 Guiness or Jameson distillery tour (Heineken-CHECK)


#24 Ride the London Eye (CHECK)


#25 Ride a vespa..without crashing (very common)

#26 Ride a camel in Morocco

#27 Hike Cinque Terre (CHECK)


#28 Go to a Fashion Week event in Paris, London, or Milan

#29 Watch the sunset from the Duomo (CHECK)

#30 Make my mark on the Lennon Wall in Prague (CHECK)

Looks like there are still a couple things I can add to my “Before I die” Bucket List!

I left my heart in Rome.. because that’s where it belongs.

23 May

Leaving what had become my home and my adventure for the past 4 months, I clearly needed to be sedated. I can’t really tell you much about the hours leading up to my departure mostly because I tried to black them out (theoretically and literally), but also because I find them too depressing to put into words. Saying “goodbye” to the people who had become my makeshift family, using my last bit of Italian before it would be no longer accepted, and soaking in the last bit of being the minority that was either praised or hated by the natives, it all meant that my time in Rome was quickly coming to an end. Sooner than I would have hoped for.

Now, I’ve been home for almost a month now and I have experienced a wide variety of emotions since returning. Those emotions include nostalgia, mild-depression, satisfaction, and bliss. There are many things one must prepare themselves for when coming home to America:

  • It’s fugly
  • Your clothes won’t fit
  • Food doesn’t taste half as great
  • You will actually feel safe crossing the road
  • You will feel a hell of a lot lazier due to the lack of walking EVERYWHERE
  • English isn’t THAT great
  • Friendships may/may not be the same as when you left
  • People don’t care as much about your experience as they say they do/you had hoped they would
  • NO ONE understands, unless they’ve also studied abroad
  • You WILL binge eat and most likely gain more weight than you did abroad

I found this excerpt about returning Home and I couldn’t have explained it any better:

“Home is a funny thing. All we wanderers, and expats, and wanderlusters, and adrenaline junkies, and road-trippers – we can’t help but come back broken hearted. We find ourselves back in the old places, passing time in old jobs bartending or selling cars, with one foot out the door and half an eye on the next adventure. Our hearts hurt. We get stuck in the past and can’t seem to reconcile where we’ve been with where we are. Faces and memories fly by – and you can’t get over the fact that you’ll probably never see most of them again.

But we forget to count our chips. We forget that – for better or worse – it’s all part of the deal. The adventure. The heartache. They don’t mix too well, but they sure ain’t sold separately. The true travelers venture out for experience and much more. We wear our hearts on our sleeves and open our eyes as wide as we can and stand it for as long as we can stand it, because – that’s living. Heartbreak is the nature of our business, the necessary flip side to falling in love in Paris, drinking a Stiegl at the top of a mountain in Austria, trying to get yourself up on a surfboard off the coast of Beirut, passing time getting to know people and smoking hookah on a seaside dock in Saudi Arabia.

It’s hard to leave pieces of your heart lying on the ground of city streets 3000 miles away. But it’s beautiful. We weren’t meant to come back with a fluffy conscience and a clear head. My heart aches for old memories. I miss old friends. And I always will. There’s no getting over it. But that’s what happens when you live with heart open and palms up. My heart didn’t get taken. I went with it open. It hurt then because I knew it wasn’t forever – and it hurts now because the times are behind me. But in the emptiness there is love. Parts of myself are gone. They belong to people and places far away, and that’s where they’ll stay. And if you want to have adventures, you have to be OK with that. You have to know from the start that the thing is going to change you – and then you have to let it.”


WATCH ME- Study Abroad 2013 Compilation

Thanks to all my blog followers for sharing my experiences with me and commenting! This blog wouldn’t have been as satisfying and enjoyable without all of you! I hope you get to experience everything that I have been so blessed to experience.

I want to dedicate “C’era Una Volta” to everyone I met (new friends, my Italian family, bar owners, family friends, and old friends) in Europe who turned my “Once upon a time” experience into the unbeatable and unforgettable time of my life.

Until another time,


My “Eat, Pray, Love” Getaway

17 May

DSCN2846 As I’ve said over and over in my blog, this semester has taught me a lot. Many of those things I had to learn the hard way. Including, one should never indulge in extra curricular activities the night before an early travel departure (royally screwed that up 3 times). This was one of those times I screwed up. Big time. The night before, I remember that I set a 5:45 am alarm for my 8:10 train ride to Cinque Terre.

7:23 am: Wake up startled, panicked, and flustered. I had planned to meet my travel partner, Anna, at the bus stop at 6:50 and I woke to a FaceBook message, “So.. Did you oversleep?” In full makeup from the night before, an empty stomach, and some nappy hair, I grabbed my backpack and ran out the door.

7:45: After running through Trastevere, heart beating out of my chest, I approached the empty bus stop. Not aware that it was an Italian holiday and the “H” bus (created by the Devil himself) probably wouldn’t show, I hopped in a cab with a nice American woman just hoping that Anna would have had the same idea as me and would be waiting at the station.

8:09: Throw myself onto the train heading towards Genoa with 1 minute to spare. God, I hope she’s somewhere on this train.

10:30: Get a call from Allison, “Anna didn’t make it on the train.” Stomach sinks.

12pm: Arrive in La Spezia like a lost child in the movies, where the whole world feels like it’s spinning around me. There’s no surprise that I waste an hour in the station dealing with debit/credit/ATM problems when trying to buy the train tickets to the coast. Money issues have defined my semester abroad. and many others’.

Riomaggiore  DSCN2726 Besides the colorful cliffside picture of Manarola that you see over and over when you search ‘Cinque Terre’, I really didn’t know what to expect of each of the 5 towns. The train popped out of a cave on the side of the cliff and rolled into the coastal station. DSCN2750 Each of the towns has its own signature tunnel connecting the station to the town and Rio’s is my favorite – floor to ceiling mosaic sea creature art. DSCN2739 Over in town, one narrow street holds in the smell of grilled seafood and pizza fresh out of the oven. I went to find my hostel, Affittacamere Patrizia, to explain that I’m alone to try to get the money back, but because it was less than 24 hours notice they couldn’t refund me. Instead, they felt bad for my pathetically lonesome self and upgraded me to a private suite – queen size bed, bathroom, and fridge. Ah! The silver lining! DSCN2710 Giovanni walked me back through town, up a set of steps, through an alley, and up to my room. It probably wasn’t the safest thing that he knew where I was staying.. alone.. and no one else did.. but I’m alive today to tell about it (don’t freak out Nani)! As you walk dance down the steps from where I stayed you hear the amplified voices of ABBA thanks to “Mamma Mia”, the snack shop selling fried seafood in paper cones. DSCN2716 Being starved and parched from the hectic morning, I went to Bar Centrale, which is pretty much the only recommended spot for a fun morning and night environment and free WIFI (like cocaine.. you crave it). I love the tight-knit communities of these tiny towns. As I stood at the bar with my cappuccino and the BEST chocolate cornetto I had ALL semester (and the size of my ass is proof that I had a lot), friendly family and friends of the baristas came in and out (some just to say “Buon Giorno”). As I rapidly slapped out an “I’m ALIVE!” email to my parents, the barista had me sit at a table with her cute little son and for one time only, her and I made fun (in Italian) of all the dumb Americans who came in. amore When reopened after WWII, the Via dell’Amore, or Lover’s pathway between Riomaggiore and Manarola, became a lover’s meeting point for young boys and girls from each town. Unfortunately, the path is closed more than it’s open due to landslides and was closed the weekend I was there… but I really have no business being on a LOVER’S PATH anyway. DSCN2759 DSCN2764_2 As I started Day 1 of my hiking adventure, I came across a single church above the town and I can’t really explain what happened next. I walked into the dimly lit and empty church and as I approached the alter I smelled something that couldn’t be easier to identify: Nonna. If you haven’t read my “Dear Nonna” post, it’s almost been a year since my Nonna passed and as it slowly creeps up on me, more and more things remind me of her. I couldn’t stop the tears running down my face. I was alone, until I smelled her.

Lit a candle for Nonna

A candle for Nonna

To ensure that I didn’t look like too big of a loser eating every meal alone at restaurants, I went to the deli across from my hostel to up lunch and breakfast food. For lunch, I walked up Il Castello di Riomaggiore and opened up my greasy focaccia, prosciutto, and salami sandwich. A little piece of me died inside when I came across the husband reading a story to his wife as they looked out at the sea. DSCN2779 DSCN2772 More Riomaggiore : DSCN2754 DSCN2719 DSCN2732 Manarola DSCN2831 This is the town that normally pops up when you search “Cinque Terre”.  It’s breathtaking. My favorite of the 5 towns! When I arrived, I went straight up to the tippy top of the cliff. I climbed through bushes, up makeshift steps, and brushed past what could have easily been poison ivy (luckily it wasn’t). DSCN2793 DSCN2797 DSCN2800 Somewhere over the rainbow… of houses is the most colorful cemetery I’ve ever seen. Apparently this is a temporary cemetery which is emptied after a generation or so into some sort of “bone yard”. From outside the cemetery is the picturesque view of Manarola. DSCN2829   As it started getting later and the sun began to set, I went out to the marina and (once again) thankfully my high school bouldering skills came to use as I climbed along the row of boulders that jutted out into the marina. I laid out a towel under the sun and looked up at Manarola. Women were hanging clothes out their windows, couples dangled their legs off the marina ledge, families sat out on their balconies for a little aperitivo, and 1 lone boat anchored in the water next to me. DSCN2876 DSCN2851 What I would do to sail out to sea for a while..

On my way back up to the train, I had many nostalgic moments. First I sat in the town square and watched three young boys kick around a soccer ball as their family watched from balconies overhead.

DSCN2874 DSCN2871   Second, I passed by a window in which a husband, wife, children, and nonna were sitting down for dinner. Brought back amazing memories of Sunday dinners in Nonna’s kitchen.. and more tears. Nothing could have made me more excited to go eat dinner alone.. Ha! lalamp Back in Riomaggiore, I took a quick shower and got dressed (don’t know who I was getting all pretty for), that was until I walked into the restaurant with 2 of the sexiest waiters. La Lampara was the cutest little restaurant with outdoor seating in what looks like a boat. The night kept getting better as a GORGEOUS couple was seated at the table next to me, we became friends.. if that’s what you call sharing olive oil and pepperoncini. Picture 18 I felt like Julia Roberts as I ordered my glass of wine with Linguine with breadcrumbs and swordfish and observed the fellow gavones (look it up) who were all observing the lonely girl in the corner.

The following morning at Bar Centrale, my handsome waiter from La Lampara came in, we said “buon giorno” and exchanged a seductive smile. I could definitely get used to mornings like that.

Corniglia DSCN2916 If you don’t have much time in Cinque Terre, this town can be missed. It’s the only town built above sea level and is quite the hike to reach. Too bad I didn’t have anyone to piggy back me up the cliff. DSCN2897 DSCN2904   From the top of the town you could hear music playing all the way down the steep cliff at the train tracks. When I reached the bottom to get back on the train, I passed the little man, posted up, playing the accordion. He smiled at me, I dropped a few coins in front of him, and snapped this pic. DSCN2920_2 Monterosso al Mare DSCN2925 This is the most northern town of Cinque Terre and known as the beach town. There was a really cool center and tons of restaurant options. I walked in a wine shop and was offered a full glass of Cinque Terre wine. By the end of the glass I was feeling loopy, and had to get out before I knocked over any displays. DSCN2941 It was supposed to thunderstorm today, but Italy didn’t fail me this time! The weather was perfect for laying on the beach all day. Little naked kids ran through the water and I was shooting death stares at the couple in front of me as they rolled around in the sand. Thank you, for reminding me what I’m missing. DSCN2944   Vernazza  DSCN2959 This is the one town I wish I had more time in. I was cutting it close for my train home to Rome, but needed to make a pit stop in what I heard was a couple peoples’ favorite town. Right off the train, Italian flags drapped all across the town. DSCN2952_2


This was the only town where the train came directly through town. I practically ran through town to get a glimpse from the water. I remember hearing about the view from the castle and wanted to quickly find it. I ran up narrow steps following “Castel Doria” signs until I reached a little hut with a woman charging 1.50 Euro for the castle climb. Now I normally don’t pay for views, but it was cheap, I was in a hurry, and knew I wouldn’t be able to find a free view from this high. After I climbed the skinny stairwell to the top, I was yelled at in Italian for standing on the edge of the tower (working my pro photo skills). I nervously laughed and then was joined with the men who “yelled”. Looks like they were just joking, but it didn’t come through with the language barrier.

DSCN2968 DSCN2972

Leave it to me to board the train, during rush hour, cutting it as close as I could to make my train back to Rome. With my train to Rome departing at 6:11, it was 6:10 and I was rolling into the La Spezia station, crammed into the corner. I’ve also learned, nothing will get done unless you open your mouth. Under my breath I muttered, “Well I hope I make my train.” Luckily for me, I was surrounded by a group of nice Americans who heard and helped me push my way off the train. I sped up and down tracks to find the Rome departure; jumped on and off trains “Vai a Roma?” I finally found the right train, plopped down in 1st class, and with 10 seconds to spare I was on my way home.

5 breathtaking towns, numerous stuffy train rides, 1 deliciously lonely dinner, and (hopefully) hundreds of less calories later, I was leaving Cinque Terre with the hope of one day returning: alone or not. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect trip to close my semester. The alone time gave me the opportunity to stop and really process everything that happened this semester, the good and the bad. I really recommend a solo trip at the end of your semester abroad. Make it the final goal on your Study Abroad Bucket List!

“We travel, initially to lose ourselves; And we travel, next, to find ourselves.”


Buda Buda Buda Buda Rockin’ Everywhere!

3 Mar

After a very stressful weekend, a sad loss of my iPhone, and not much inspiration, one Skype convo with my mommy and I’m back on the blogging train!


A week ago, Allison, Kurt, Kyle, and I took a trip to the wild city of BUDA! Never thought I would make it there, but after many Europeans raved about Prague and Budapest I am now able to cross those 2 magical lands off my list! Not knowing too much about Budapest, except for caving and thermal bathes, we booked our trip through Andy Steve’s, son of travel guru Rick Steves, program called WSA (Weekend Student Adventures). I 100%  recommend Andy’s trips to any college students traveling around Europe! Him, his girlfriend/work partner Jenna, and our Hungarian tour guide Bogi, were SO much fun and made what would have been a completely chaotic trip, if we did it on our own, into an unforgettable adventure!!

Coming from 50 degree and sunny weather in Rome, the dinky RyanAir plane landed on the snow covered runway and the whole cabin started clapping. Apparently it’s quite the achievement for a RyanAir plane to successfully land.. well good thing majority of my future flights are RyanAir.. that’s reassuring.

545338_10151289622643465_1017268218_nOf course, no journey is complete without some sort of problem. Not even 5 minutes in Budapest and Kyle’s card is eaten by the ATM in the airport. The group’s stress quickly passed as we were welcomed into the Hungarian city with a nice piece of Hungarian ass and a babushka.

datassTransportation from the airport to the hostel was very seedy. I felt like I was riding my way into the movie, Hostel. It was late at night and we had to transfer buses on this dark, sketchy, empty street in the middle of no where. We finally made it to our hostel around 2 AM and the party was just getting started.

Let me explain our hostel. It was called RETOX Party Hostel. If that doesn’t say enough, I don’t know what will. The reception desk is pretty much a high top bar table surrounded by sloshed staff probably on their 20th beer of the night. There’s a courtyard bar that’s clearly covered in the winter. Retox is run by a group of people who took a trip to Budapest much like I did, and loved it SO MUCH that they decided to stay and make others fall in love with the city just as much. These people are the definitions of functioning alcoholics!! They party till 6am, get up at 7am, and the place is impeccable when everyone wakes up. They make Charlie Sheen look like a lightweight and Project X look like a church group. They’re smart people! Knowing what condition their hostels guests would be in during their stay, the room keys are attached to bracelets so you could never lose them. I’m surprised I returned to Rome, but I’m even more surprised that I returned without an ass tatt or nipple piercings (Just a couple of the services Retox provides). I would return to this place without a doubt!!



Beer pong off tabletops

Beer pong off tabletops


The bar looking spotless in the morning

The bar looking spotless in the morning

The greatest example of the effect Retox has on its guests was waking up the morning after to one of our bunkmate’s rolling over and mumbling in the most confused tone, “Where am I…?” We laughed about that for days. A backpacker’s worst nightmare, traveling so much that they don’t know what country they’ve woken up in. We bonded with Chip, a Georgian who tried but failed to get us drunk everyday starting at 1pm.

Friday morning we met Andy, Jenna, Bogi, and the 12 other traveling students. It was the perfect sized group and I felt like over the course of the weekend I got to know a lot of them really well! It snowed that morning and the city looked like a Winter Wonderland. We had a walking tour before our afternoon of caving, so I strapped on the “gymies”.. can’t remember the last time I wore an outfit like this.. sad.

St. Stephen's Cathedral

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

Inside the gorgeous cathedral is St. Stephen’s actual fist, the patron saint and first king of Hungary. One great thing about the WSA trip is that they take care of all the bus/metro/tram transportation and hold onto all of our tickets and we took a TON of public transportation over the weekend that I would not have been able to master on my own. And probably would have gotten a few fines along the way. We made our way up to Buda Castle Hill where we saw St. Matthias church and Fisherman’s Bastion which are the best lookout points of the city!

st matthias


Up next was our big caving adventure!!!! The minute we got off the bus the snowball fights began. I think I got a chuck of ice straight to the head, but I was so on my game and my aim was at its prime! We hopped in our jumpsuits and hard hats and followed our caving guides through the snow.

Nothing like those saggy crotches!

Nothing like those saggy crotches!


The whole adventure felt like I was reliving my childhood: snowball fights and crawling and climbing for 2 1/2 hours. We split up into 2 groups depending on difficulty levels and I couldn’t be happier that Allison convinced me to go easier because even “easy” was a struggle. Our guide was Frodo, “cause I’m tiny and hairy!” He was a blast and in his broken English said, “Having a group of girls.. It feels like Christmas morning!” I’m sure he had no problem literally pushing our butts through the caves. He seemed to be very impressed with my caving abilities and I have Mr. Patton and my high school rock climbing/bouldering class to thank for that (nostalgic moment)!



At a few points we all turned off our lights, sat in silence, and all you could hear was your heart beating and you couldn’t even see your hand waving in front of your face. It was pure meditation. That is until we heard the other group catching up to us and decided we’d sit there in the dark and scare the crap out of whoever crawled up first. Hide-n-Seek.. literally my childhood. Frodo showed us this hole in the ceiling that he was small enough to basically dive through, so I thought I’d give it a try.. these Hips Don’t Lie. Made it halfway and couldn’t pull myself out, as mom would say to me, “You look like a stuffed sausage!”

Frodo was liking the view from behind.

Frodo was liking the view from behind.

When we finally came out, it was night time and we were covered in clay. Nothing like another snowball fight to clean off a little. I can’t believe people explore these caves for a living, it was an amazing experience I’ll never forget! We were on our own for dinner but a few of us took Andy’s recommendation for dinner at a place called, Most. We bonded with a couple girls studying in Paris, and stuffed our faces with delicious pad thai and beer.


Hostel tip: Be the first one to hop in the shower, or be prepared for an ice cold one. Everyone was soooo pissed at me for using up all the hot water, but you know what I say to that, “You snooze, you lose!” Friday night our hostel organized a Booze Cruise on the Danube river (included in WSA). Before we left, Andy bought a bottle of the Hungarian liquor, Palinka, so we all squeezed up into our bunk room for some Hungarian Welcome shots! Our entire hostel, plus a couple hostels nearby, all headed down to the river where as we waited to get on, another snowball fight broke out. While getting pelted with hard snowballs, the hostel owner screamed, “BOAT. TOP DECK. CHAMPAGNE. EXPLOSION. FACES.” Everyone raced onto the boat and grabbed their bottle of champagne. Allison and I had a lot to celebrate that night, so poppin bottles on the Danube couldn’t have been a better celebration!

You got it, Retox!

You got it, Retox!

Standard public transportation in Budapest..

Standard public transportation in Budapest..




As Hungarian legend has it, everyone is supposed to kiss someone under each of the 7 bridges we go through, but me and Allison decided it would be best to not go back to Rome with herpes of the mouth. Cause you know, what happens in BUDA stays in BUDA, except Herpes.. that shit will come back with ya.

Andy filmed the Harlem Shake Budapest edition in his underwear and a dinosaur head (keep in mind it was less than 20 degrees). Try to find me.. I’m the girl swaying back in forth because I had no idea what was going on!


After breakin it down on the dance floor all night long, the boat docked and we found ourselves hittin up the famous $1 pizza shop for some late night gourmet slices. The pizza is made down the street and then a guy runs it down to this tiny shop (very cost effective thinking!) Here’s a look during the day because obviously this was not a one stop kind of place..



Saturday morning everyone struggled to get out of bed at 9, Kurt practically punched me in the face as I tapped him to wake up, and apparently my bunkmates weren’t too happy with me snoozing my alarm every couple minutes. What’s not to love about Demi Lovato and Benny Benassi at 8 am?! We grabbed breakfast and walked around the Central Market Hall, the biggest market in Budapest. It’s right on the river because boats used to drop off all their produce and other food to that location, so they built a gorgeous market hall. Another nostalgic moment, it definitely reminded me of Milwaukee’s Public Market! Many people got the Langos which is traditional fried dough with sweet or savory toppings. Looked DELISH and if I wasn’t already dreading to put on a bikini for the first time this year I would have indulged in one as well!


We took the underground metro to our 2nd huge Budapest adventure which the city is most famous for: Thermal Baths. We went to the Szechenyi Baths which is the largest medicinal and one of the largest public baths in Europe. It’s been open for over 10o years with pools inside and out ranging from 110 degrees to ice baths. It was so cool to be in the hot baths outside as the snow fell down on us. Little old men played chess in the water, majority of them in speedos with their big bellies hanging out.. yum.

We jumped from the super hot baths to the ice cold ones to the burning saunas to the lukewarm pools. In one sauna there were 3 young kids hovered against the wall covering their eyes and mouths with towels.. I felt like I was in a gas chamber – not to be diabolical or anything. On the bright side my nasal passages were cleared right up! It was an unbelievably relaxing experience – definitely romantic!



That night Andy took us out for a Hungarian dinner and it felt like the first time we were all together telling stories and picking Andy, Jenna, and Bogi’s brains about traveling. Many people tried goulash for their first time, but Kyle and I split Hungarian style pizza and the delicious duck breast with cabbage pasta and cinnamon apples! We definitely left room for the night’s main event!

Saturday night’s event was the ruin pub crawl. Many years after Budapest’s Jewish Quarter was destroyed in World War II, some of the broken down abandoned buildings were transformed into these hip ruin pubs.


We went to the third best bar in the world, according to Lonely Planet, called Szimpla Kert. At night this pub is bumpin, with old eclectic furniture (some hanging from the ceiling), a huge outdoor movie projector, an old stripped down communist car you can chill in, and several rooms including an outdoor courtyard. Drinks are cheap, people are friendly, music is awesome, there’s a hookah bar, and the environment is trippy.


Sidenote: During the day Szimpla turns into a food market (taste testers up the wazoo) where vendors sell honey, chili, baked goods, produce, and my favorite, BudaPesto 😀


Another famous ruin pub we went to was called Fogas Haz (meaning “Teeth”) where there was an awesome DJ in the main room, tons of smaller rooms upstairs, and a huge courtyard and tent area in the back. It felt like these bars just went on for miles.


After stopping for some $1 pizza, a few of us stayed up really late hashing out high school and college stories, making fun of Kyle who passed out next to us and snored like a bear, and bonded in the best way any college students can: playing Never Have I Ever. Paxton, the clown of the group who’s studying in Prague, literally made me laugh till the break of dawn. At some point slap happiness came over me, but he was definitely my main source of entertainment that weekend, I think everyone else would agree.

Since it was so late when we went to bed and we didn’t want to wake anyone up by turning on the bathroom light, Paxton and I brushed our teeth with his flashlight headband. Trying to go to the bathroom in the pitch black stall was a hassle and I heard him outside whispering, “Need me to shed some light on the situation.” He could do a perfect Charlie Day impression, and he had no idea who Charlie Day even was, and he was our Jaimie from Eurotrip – camera and all! HYSTERICAL!

After saying goodbye to the majority of the WSA group Sunday afternoon (tear tear), a few of us wandered the streets until we found this tea house called Sirius Teahaz. It feels like you’re in Alice and Wonderland. There are all these little doors that you need to crawl through to fit in, mouse sized private rooms, and ramps to sit up in little alcoves. We took off our shoes when we walked in and sat on pillows on the ground, sipping our tea. If my cousins (or other family members are reading this) you guessed right, I obviously got Camomile. Very cool place!!




Our last stop before heading to the airport, Kyle and Kurt took Allison and I to the Candy Shop.. 😉 But really.. it’s called Sugar! and it’s any woman’s fantasy land. Cupcakes, macaroons, gummies, oh my! I got my cupcake fix and Al went straight to the gummy section! Best quote from Allison that weekend, “This trip has given me a new appreciation for gummy bears… and Jews!”


It was really sad to say goodbye to Budapest, our new friends, and even more, Retox. As much as I love my clean, warm, bed bug free bed here in Rome, I really miss Retox.. and our bunkmates.

tel aviv

Until next time,

Ciao! ❤

Where beer is cheaper than water – Prague, Czech Republic

26 Feb

Sorry that I’ve been MIA for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been too busy CZECHIN out the world! (& the cheesy puns begin).



Two weekends ago I went to Prague with a group of 7 and let me tell you.. we had the most amazing time ever. I fell in love with the city, the life, and the beer! It’s literally Disney World ON CRACK!

Old Town Square

Old Town Square

DSCN0762I was named group navigator from the minute we left campus. Over the weekend I had good and bad moments as navigator.. And they started when we landed in Prague. We took Czech Airlines and it rocked!! We got free unlimited drank, my first alcoholic drink on a plane.. yeah I felt pretty cool. Anyway, we landed and I led the crew to the bus stop where we got on and took it to the end of the line. Convo on the bus consisted entirely of drunken ass tatt plans (Which we never went through with). At this point I was feeling really confident with my nav guide skills.. spoke too soon. From the bus we got on the metro. Everyone in the station was just walking straight on and I saw no one getting tickets so I just assumed we could do the same thing.. Whoops.. 30 seconds after getting on, 2 big burly ticket checkers bust us. Well there goes 500/1500 Czech Crown I took out ($30). Getting off the metro we walk straight out to this..

Wenceslas Square

Wenceslas Square

Our hostel was located right off Wenceslas Square which meant we had to play “Old King Wenceslas” every morning when we woke up.. The location couldn’t have been more ideal!!! It was cheap, clean, perfectly located, and we got unlimited oranges.. which by the way are 100x better in Europe than America! By the time we got settled it was 10PM, so duh we went out! First we got dinner at Bageterie Boulevard, a little sub place but OMG GO HERE! We ate here twice because it’s just so so delish! I can taste the roasted chicken, onion, and blue cheese right now.. ughhhh.

Next stop: CZECH BEER! We went to two awesome places. CZECH IT: Beer everywhere in Prague is $1 for .5L! The first was Tlusta Koala where we were entertained by a table of sloshed older European men singing all night. The second was the Prague Beer Museum which was packed with Europeans our age in a giant mass of smoke. I tried cherry and blueberry beer, phenom!

Could we get more lesbo?

Could we get more lesbo?



First night with the fam!

First night with the fam!


That night was the start of a few very amusing nights in Hostel Orange. Not only did the boys have major gas issues and were not ashamed at all, but we were kept up all night by Luke’s incredibly loud and unpleasant teeth grinding! Every couple minutes we’d hear “click click click click click”.. it was always the same amount and came in intervals of about 5 minutes.. all night.. Made for some pretty entertaining conversations in the morning though. Every morning started with Allison laying in bed “Reed.. would you hand me a cookie?” and then we were off! (Our 8 other roommates weren’t too fond of us)

Day 1: We walked to Old Town Square which was alive with street musicians, patio restaurants, food cart vendors, and massive bubble blowers (Bubbles the size of small children). Huge groups surrounded the Astronomical Clock at any time of the day, especially when the clock strikes each hour and little puppets pop out of the windows!





Our first breakfast stop was for these awesome Czech desserts called Trdelnik, “Turtleneck”, which are fried dough with crushed almonds and sugar!



Next stop: Bohemian Bagel. GOD do I miss my Marquette Brew bagels (As if I need more carbs in my Italian diet). Go if you miss American breakfast!! Standing in line I randomly found my best friend Emma’s cousin, Anna!!!! We immediately adopted her into the Fam and she spent the rest of the weekend with us!!!


Probably one of the coolest places we went was the Lennon Wall. John Lennon that is, not to be mistaken for Vladimir Lenin. It started when Lennon was murdered in 1980 and he became a pacifist hero to the Czech youth who started writing down his lyrics of freedom which was something they lacked. We looked like monkeys, everyone was crawling over each other trying to read the wall and make their mark.




From left to right: Anna, Me, Reed, Madison, Luke, Allison, Brad, Victoria

From left to right: Anna, Me, Reed, Madison, Luke, Allison, Brad, Victoria

The next adventure was the most hilarious thing I’ve ever witnessed!! We walked up Petrin Hill to get a real cool view of the city. We really didn’t think it through because the entire path and stairs were snowed over and icy.. prime conditions for the ultimate WIPEOUT! It took us forever to skate up the hill, holding onto the railing for dear life. At one point I needed to go down on all fours and grip the ground in front of me to pull myself up. Everyone was sliding backwards and SOMEHOW I didn’t pee my pants from laughter.

View from the top

View from halfway up

The way down was EVEN WORSE! Everyone except Anna and I somehow frolicked down the icy road with ease.. we were a mess. We pretty much sled down the hill on our butts because there was zero traction. The more we laughed the more we fell and the longer it took us to get down 😀


We had lunch up at the Monastery on the hill. It looked like an old mead hall inside and it was here that I got my first taste of goulash.. I was not disappointed!




That night we wanted to try out this well known bar, Beer Factory, but the wait for a table was so long that people were actually camping outside with pillows and blankets. Alcoholics much? Instead we found this awesome little bar called Apetit with the same self-serve beer tap at every table! We guzzled down 20 Liters of beer.. and for proof that beer is cheaper than water I took a pic of the menu. .25 L of water was 30 crowns while .25 L of beer was 18 crowns. Lets just say by the end of the trip I couldn’t remember the last time I drank water.. whoops.





The night was still young. Anna and I hit up Lucerna right next door which is a huge 80s and 90s night club! As we walked in Michael Jackson was playing, we grabbed a shot of absinthe (when in Prague?), and took it to the dance floor for some Lionel and Madonna.


The night ended with the best late night food Czech has to offer: Fried Cheese. NOM NOM NOM!

fried cheese

After another entertaining night of teeth grinding, we were craving American breakfast. Right past Old Town Square is a James Dean Diner where the waitresses are all dressed up in little diner outfits and the milkshakes are heavenly (the boys were kept quite entertained with our waitress). Coolest bathrooms evaaaaaa, didn’t help that I’m IN LOVE with James Dean.





Our huge Saturday plan was to take a 2-3 hour long FREE walking tour to hit every sight we could, but after waiting around for the tour guide we got impatient (typical) and decided to guide ourselves! “In Marlo we trust!” It wasn’t a bad hike up to the Prague Castle – Thank God for iPhone maps. We explored the inside of the castle walls, shot bow and arrows (Luke failed epically and completely missed the target all 3 times), and rubbed the golden penis for good luck.. a very awkward task.



View of Prague from the top

View of Prague from the top



After walking for so long, all one needs is some $1 beer. Am I right? Up the hill towards the Monastery there’s a Beer Cellar with probably the cheapest beer in town. We stayed for a while because it took so long to defrost.. and the beer was ughhh so good. There was a fireplace and we sat at a picnic table with fur seat cushions, I could have stayed all night until I got hungry.




Now we were all craving goulash in a bread bowl, wadddddup Panera! We searched high and low (literally up and down the hill) until we found a place that had it! We got our own private room along with the coolest waiter ever. One of the guys thought it’d be a great idea to sneak in a bottle of vodka and pour himself glasses under the table after we all warned him not to. Bobby, the waiter, finally saw, picked up the glass, and downed it! As if it was water! From then on he was our best friend. He brought us brandy chocolates and tried to remember all of our names. I was “Marlon” for a while, but anything beats “Mario.”





As for our last night in Prague.. we had to go out with a bang! A Prague native took us out to a local bar deep into an alley where we hung out for a while, but as people started getting sleepy Anna and I were not having it! “This is our last night in Prague, we’re not going to bed we need to do something crazy!” So we did (well 4 out of the 10). We went to a strip club right off Wenceslas Square called Carocia. $5 for entrance, a beer and quite the experience. I paid for a lapdance. Just kidding. But I DID get up on stage so everyone could CZECH me out.. “PRAHAhaha”

Okay I’m done. Phew. Overall it was a trip I will never forget!

Also, if you ever make it out there, don’t forget to try mulled wine, hit up a cabaret, and go for a thai pedicure – wish I went, but they’re all over the place and hundreds of little minnows eat the dead skin off your feet. Great keepsake idea: Collect a coaster from every bar you go to in Europe, I picked up a ton of cool ones from Prague!

I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard and I owe it all to the group. If you get the chance, CZECH out Prague and I promise you won’t be disappointed.


Budapest post coming once I make it through midterms!


One week till departure!

4 Jan

It still hasn’t hit me that in exactly one week I will be traveling across the Atlantic Ocean from Chicago and arriving in the beautiful Eternal City, Rome. Unfortunately, my mom wants to kill me because I haven’t packed a single thing. Instead, I ‘ll be staying up late to watch 4 of my favorite movies set in Rome to amp myself up!!


#1 When in Rome. With the Olsen twins! No brainer. The cheesier the better!


#2 The Lizzie Mcguire Movie. A blast from the past! Not only is Paolo gorgeous, but the song, “What Dreams are Made of,” may just be the theme song to my entire semester.


#3 Roman Holiday. A classic Audrey Hepburn flick (I’m really hoping her exquisite fashion sense inspires me to start packing..)


#4 Eurotrip. Which will undoubtedly psychme up for Europe’s crazy nightlife, travel adventures, and nude beaches.

Don’t worry, I’ll start packing… probably the day before I leave!


2013 Study Abroad Bucket List

4 Jan

Fortunately, I have been very lucky in my 19 years of living to have traveled to many places around the world. (Thanks to Mom and Dad who sacrificed a lot to make it all possible). Having already climbed to the top of the Eiffel Tower, taken a cheesy tourist picture in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, made a wish in the Trevi Fountain, ridden a donkey up Greek islands, sled down the Swiss Alps, seen the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, ridden a gondola in Venice, and much more, my bucket list for this Spring looks a bit different than many first time travelers’ lists! So without further adieu, the top 30 things I want to accomplish before this experience is over..

#1 Meet a millionaire at Monte Carlo Casino

#2 Enjoy a “treat” in an Amsterdam coffee shop

#3 St. Patty’s Day in Dublin

#4 Go to an AC Milan soccer game

#5 Walk the red light district

#6 Spend Easter in Vatican City

#7 Cliff dive off the Amalfi Coast

#8 See Fun. perform in Rome

#9 Recreate the Beatles’ Abbey Road cover

#10 Make a guard at Buckingham palace laugh

#11 Go to Carnevale in Venice

#12 Ride a hot air balloon

#13 Make lifelong friendships

#14 Take a picture of any city from a high rooftop

#15 Revisit wineries I interned at in Tuscany and Piedmont

#16 Meet relatives in Rome

#17 Take a doubledecker bus tour of London

#18 Leave a note in Juliet’s wall in Verona

#19 Pregame my flight home (In the airport)

#20 See Jersey Boys or Les Mis in London

#21 See Platform 9 3/4 from Harry Potter

#22 Tour of BBC Television Centre before it closes

#23 A Guinness, or Jameson distillery tour

#24 Ride the London Eye

#25 Ride a vespa..without crashing (very common)

#26 Ride a camel in Morocco

#27 Hike Cinque Terre

#28 Go to a Fashion Week event in Paris, London, or Milan

#29 Watch the sunset from the Duomo

#30 Make my mark on the Lennon Wall in Prague

As you may have noticed, “Meeting a millionaire” in Monaco is #1 to ensure I can afford the following 29 goals. That is my first piece of advice. Kidding! But if it works for you, “Good on ya!” I hope you enjoy my journey towards completing this list and use my study abroad guide when it’s your turn to explore the world!