Tag Archives: explore

30 Little Things I Miss About Rome

28 May

Some of these are sarcastic, some are not. You decide.

  1. Nuns
  2. Discovering my 2 euro wine turned to vinegar over night
  3. Walking down to The Spot for a 1 euro shot at 8 pm just because I can
  4. How nothing ever goes right, because hey.. its italy
  5. The H bus/Terravision
  6. Getting compliments everywhere I go
  7. Being called “Bella” by charming Italian men
  8. Having an excuse to make every day a special occasion
  9. Peroni
  10. Being a minority
  11. The people who automatically think “mafia” when they hear I’m from Chicago
  12. My apartment complex’s adorable security guards
  13. 2 euro slices from “The Brothers”
  14. Trekking through town with pounds of groceries in ripping bags and duffels
  15. Penis shaped pasta
  16. People observing life out their windows
  17. Twisting my ankle, everyday, on the cobblestones
  18. Burning my throat on grappa after every meal
  19. Having to wear my purse under my jacket, along with multiple secret money pouches
  20. Being on first name, facebook, cheek kissing basis with the local bar owners
  21. Having to hang my laundry to dry, but not being able to hang it out the window.. What’s the fun in that?!
  22. Planning to be hungover for an excuse to indulge in Chinese buffet with no shame
  23. The low life club promoters
  24. Clapping when a Ryan Air plane lands
  25. Eating a whole pizza by yourself is normal and expected, and you’re looked down on if you don’t!
  26. Trying a new gelato flavor or Italian pastry every day because you need to try them all before your trip is over
  27. Re-wearing outfits over and over.. and over until the next Zara shopping spree
  28. When the Tiber smells like the sewage
  29. Popping bottles at every major monument
  30. Using the excuse, “When in Rome,” for every irrational decision

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

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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.

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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.”

Ciao!

No Wonder They Siesta: Barcelona

2 Apr

“Strut like you mean it, free your mind, it’s not enough just to dream it. Come on, Come on!” – Cheetah Girls

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Our Spring Break trip began just as any usually does: in pure chaos! and European chaos is much different than American chaos – communication barriers, unpredictable transportation, and lots of smelly and greasy people crammed into tight spaces. Allison, Madison, her friend Nikki, and I decided to do a Spain Spring Break – so you could pretty much just call us the Cheetah Girls! We started in Barcelona, then went to the island of Ibiza, then Madrid, and back to Rome for Easter. Our two goofball friends Brad and Luke were in Barca and Madrid with us (to get an idea of the type of guys they are check out my Prague post, total crackups).

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Allison & I on our balcony

Madison

Madison

Unlike American flights, RyanAir doesn’t expect you to be at the airport until right before your flight, so we timed it to be there just an hour before. Just our luck, not only did we take the bus during rush hour, but there was a car accident causing us to arrive 20 minutes before our plane took off. You never think you’ll to be that group of people sprinting through the airport and tripping over each other, but when you are it’s not as funny as it looks. Madison’s duffel permanently broke open after security and then I almost had to pay 50 Euro for my oversized carryon. That was a nightmare and a half to “shrink”. I almost started layering on all my clothes #RyanAirProbz

The flight was a breeze, just a quick hour and a half. To get to our hostel we had to take a train and then the metro. On the train there was a man walking up and down the cars playing amazing Spanish music. On board entertainment? I’ll take it! When we came out from underground and were surrounded by a big industrial city it felt like we were home in America! Barcelona’s a pretty genius city because to get to the metro they paint arrows and a “yellow brick road” on the streets and sidewalks because they know that people will be too belligerent to find it otherwise. Right outside the metro stop and the first real piece of Barca that we see is Antoni Gaudi’s colorfully aquatic themed Casa Batllo.

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Once again (thanks to our flawless trip planning skills) our hostel’s location couldn’t have been more perfect! We walked up from the metro and were smack dab at the tip of Las Ramblas, the most famous and lively strip in Barca. I couldn’t believe the amount of gorgeous Spanish men we had already seen and we hadn’t even been in the city for more than 20 minutes.. Jaw Droppers, 95% of them! Why didn’t I study here and pick up a spicy guapo Spanish man?

We stayed at St. Christopher’s Inn, the same company as my hostel in London, with the same Aussie packed Belushi’s bar and discounts. And if you’re really looking for some convincing.. it’s a block off Las Ramblas and right next to Starbucks and TopShop. Gameover. To get the night going we posted up at the bar for massive nachos and a bucket of Heinies.

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belushi

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We had a gorgeous bartender named Mo and let me tell you.. God definitely spent Mo time on that lucky man. Epitome of tall, dark, and handsome (with an accent, muscles, and tattoos).

Brad and Luke took the metro from there place to meet us at Belushi’s and when they got there they were unbelievably squirrelly! But that’s standard when you put the group of us together. Barca nightlife is unlike any I’ve ever experienced before. At around 1 I led the group to a club everyone had raved about. It was quite a hike and when we asked a couple Spaniards if we were heading in the right direction they told us we’d need to hop in a cab because it was too far. Those people must not understand how accustomed we have become to walking in Europe because we walked the 15 or so blocks and made it without a lousy cab ride! Lazy Americans my ass!

The club was called Sutton and we lucked out with free cover from a Facebook group I found. Sutton was outrageous, I felt like I was in Vegas. Everyone was dressed to the nines, “Vegas” show girls marched around, and bottles on bottles of Chandon were carried out on platters lit with sparklers. WE MISSED JBIEBS BY 1 WEEKEND!!

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The 6 of us danced on top of a platform in the middle of the dance floor all night long and left after we heard a few too many corny pick up lines.

Our 2nd day in Barcelona was spent wandering the city. A couple blocks down Las Ramblas we stumbled upon El Mercat de la Boqueria, the massive food market full of fresh fruits, tapas bars, and the freshest and largest fish market that I’ve ever seen, smack dab in the middle.

Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas

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I was on a hunt for grilled octopus, but instead I popped some scrumptious cod fritters in my mouth.

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Cod Fritters

Cod Fritters

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We aimlessly strolled through the winding streets surrounding Las Ramblas and came across the Barcelona Cathedral. After one lap inside we sat on the steps outside to take in the Barcelona street life: scattered groups of chatty hot Spaniards and musicians hanging out near trash cans.

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Next on the agenda: Bike ride through Barcelona. Along the way to the bike garage we dipped into Playa Real for a peek. It’s a gorgeous square surrounded by palm trees and patio seating and if I had more time (& money) I’d definitely grab dinner somewhere around it! Before our 2 hour ride, we grabbed lunch at Walk to Wok (recommended stir fry chain). The cooks were smokin’ hot Spaniards that were fun to chat with over some udon noodles, “Barcelona isn’t Spain,” one of them admitted.

DSCN1493_2 DSCN1494 All around the city are bike garages under the company, Budget Bikes. It was hands down the best way to see every part of the city. From the long stretch of beach…

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Only I would take on a bike in wedges..

Only I would take on a bike in wedges..

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Cruisin down the boardwalk

Cruisin down the boardwalk

to dodging people and cars through the chaotic city center, and past beautifully artistic monuments…

La Sagrada Familia by Gaudi

La Sagrada Familia by Gaudi

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Barcelona's Arc de Triomf

Barcelona’s Arc de Triomf

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Everywhere we wanted to stop were major pickpocket traps, so we clutched onto our bikes for a swift getaway. The brakes were a little faulty and because we were riding in the middle of the road with all the crazy European drivers, I almost crashed into the back of half a dozen cars. We met hot Alejandro back at the bike drop off (I’ll never get sick of the European cheek kisses), rewarded ourselves with a Dunkin Doughnut, and SIESTA-ED!!

That night we went down to the beach clubs – True Barca! We had to take the metro, which is a lifesaver in Spain, and it was packed with party people headed to the beach! Catwalk, Shoko, and Opium are the major hotspots that sit right on the beach. One of the club promoters pulled us past the line into Shoko where, once again, we danced on top of a huge platform in the middle of the dance floor until creepy men started sneaking up behind us.

shoko shokoo

By the end of the night I was salsa dancing with a black man and Allison pulled me away from dancing with a Cannibal. Alright not really, but he was bleeding from the neck all over his white deep V. I don’t know how people party until the sun rises on the beach every day! Let’s just say Allison and I missed hostel breakfast the next morning.

Last day in Barcelona! The group split up, so Al and I headed North on the metro to Gaudi’s famous Park Guell. It’s in a less appealing part of the city with the longest escalator I’ve ever seen taking you from the main road all the way to the top of the hill.

DSCN1567The terrace of Park Guell is lined with a multicolored mosaic bench that serpentines all the way around with palm trees at its back and it overlooks all of Barcelona with the sea in the distance and La Sagrada Familia poking out in the middle.

DSCN1580_2DSCN1575DSCN1599 DSCN1597 DSCN1589Underneath the terrace were acrobatic and magic acts, jewelry vendors, and just some plain old circus freaks. Even in early Spring there were tons of people around the Park. I can’t imagine the hype in the heat of the summer.

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I just think it’s so cool that I learned all about Gaudi and his incredibly unique work in the 6 years that I took Spanish classes and I never sat in those classes imagining that one day I’d be standing in front of it.

After a quick stop into a bakery for a white chocolate covered elephant ear, we took the metro straight to the beach.

Spanish musicians on Public Transportation

Spanish musicians on Public Transportation

We took a walk to the end of the pier down at the marina and that’s when we noticed.. A MALL!! HALLELUJAH! I wanted to fall down and kiss the ground!

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I can’t remember the last time I saw a multistoried indoor mall. Barcelona has such glamorous, fresh, and vibrant fashion and the Maremagnum Mall definitely showcased that. I could have gotten a lot more credit card happy, but it was a test of my wise budgeting skills.. and I passed!

Back at the hostel we had our first taste of Sangria in Espana! Definitely adding that to our list of summer concoctions!

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Now here’s where our genius dumbest idea ever comes into play. We had to be at the airport at 5 AM the next morning to catch our flight to Ibiza, so Allison and I thought it’d make sense to pull an all nighter and have some fun with our fellow hostel guests!

We were off to a great start! We made friends with a huge group of semi-socially awkward French men in the lounge area, then went out to buy 50 cent doughnuts while being followed into the store by 2 scary black men, and then we made it back to the hostel bar where we befriended a German guy that looked like Calvin Harris and a hilarious Irish guy.

Calvin Harris?!

Calvin Harris?!

When I asked the Irish guy if he knew the love of my life, Colin Farrell (cause how could he not..) his response was, “Well futbol isn’t fun anymore cause we have 4 on 5 now that Colin Farrell left to make a 2 hour long video about a man stuck in a phonebooth.. WHO WANTS TO WATCH A PHONEBOOTH FOR 120 MINUTES!”

When the bar closed at 3, we went up to our spaceship bunk beds (coolest and comfiest beds on Earth) to take a “power nap”. Thank the Lord that Madison was sane enough to go to bed at a reasonable time because without her to wake us up at 4 AM we would have missed our flight. To make things better.. when she woke me up I was passed out upright in bed with my computer on my lap (probably typing this god awful post to all of you). I miraculously managed to not forget anything at the hostel (found my lock in the pocket of my leather jacket 3 days later) and passed out in a McDonald’s booth in the airport until I was scolded, “No dormir, no dormir!!!”

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Next stop: IBIZA!

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).

PRAGUE HERE I COME!

PRAGUE HERE I COME!

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?

Staropramen

Staropramen

First night with the fam!

First night with the fam!

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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!

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

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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!!!

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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.

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lennonn

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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 😀

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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!

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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.

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Bonaqua=Water

Bonaqua=Water

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.

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

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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.

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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.

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View of Prague from the top

View of Prague from the top

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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.

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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.”

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BOBBY!

BOBBY!

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.

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Budapest post coming once I make it through midterms!

Ciao!

Who the hell gets hit on in a church!

18 Jan

Something like that would only happen to me..

The great thing about having a 4 day weekend, besides the obvious, is being able to explore the city and see everything. On this exploration we headed up to Vatican City and Saint Peter’s Basilica. On the walk there (25 min away) we stepped into this little cafe/bar and had espresso & croissants. Although people look at you strange if you ask for coffee “to go” (which I would never do) I love standing up at the counter, quickly throwin down the shot of espresso, and moving on with my day.

Allison's cappuccino & nutella croissant. YUM!

Allison’s cappuccino & nutella croissant. YUM!

From there we walked right up to Saint Peter’s Basilica. There were so many people walking around the square, lots of asians throwing up the peace signs for pictures, and SO many puppies!! Honestly.. if I see another puppy in a rain jacket (with hood) or a cashmere sweater, I’ll die. I MISS MY CAMI!!!!

Many people might not know this, but during the winter months here it rains almost every day! Thankfully we made it just minutes before the torrential downpour..

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Take note of my appearance for reference later on in the story..

Once the rain stopped we headed in, taking advantage of there being no lines because come April this place will be mobbed. We quietly moseyed our way around the church.

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We didn’t realize that they were starting to get ready for mass, so the security guards started moving everyone back behind barricades. The security guard that shooed us back started making conversation. Fortunately I can understand Italian really well and can get by with speaking the basics, they really appreciate the effort. He was being a little flirty, but come on, when are Italian men NOT being flirty? We finally walked away and headed to the door when all of a sudden someone tapped my back, it was him again! He chased me to the door and asked for my “numero di telefono italiano”. Thank GOD I never got an Italian phone because I’m a terrible liar. Great part was that he is like 40 years old, but 40’s the new 20, right?. THE BEST PART WAS THAT HIS NAME’S LUIGI!!!!! MY LIFE! Mario and Luigi, we’ll probably just run off, get married, and have children: Yoshi, Wario, and Peach. Keep in mind, I looked like butt. Rockin the wet fro hair!

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No matter how annoying, creepy, or just uncomfortable the Italian men make me feel, I’m definitely eating it all up because I know when I go home and go back to Victor’s (bar up at school) and no one tries to hit on me, I’m gonna miss it.

We spent the rest of the night shopping and walking around. I know Big Rich would get a huge kick out of this, but there are men at every busy street corner in Rome roasting chestnuts. Unfortunately, I think they’re disgusting and can’t stand the texture, but how cool!

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On a more serious note.. I SAW MY BEST FRIEND EMMA THE OTHER NIGHT!!!!! DAAAAAHHHHH!!! We freaked out. FREAKED OUT. It was karaoke night at Scholar’s and we signed up for Super Bass – Nicki Minaj. Classic. Sadly, I left before everyone could witness my bomb rapping skills, but Emma did her thannng..

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I also ran into other Palatine people: Gianna Abruzzo, Kaitlyn Fanning, and Chris Vainisi!! And I met the sister of the Alpha Phi who preffed me, Claire Vasiljevich. It’s crazy the people you run into when you’ve traveled miles across an ocean. It’s also crazy that I’ve made so many new Marquette friends since I’ve been here and it’s kinda sad that it’s taken the trip across the Atlantic to meet these amazing people!

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Oh last night we went out with Kurt (my good friend from Marquette), his roomies, and my roomies. He almost walked out of the apartment wearing his Marquette sweatshirt, but don’t worry Giuliana I forced him to change because I was not going to be seen out with him wearing that.

Later in the night we all ventured out to Campo de’ Fiori where we met up with a ton of Marquette students. The bartender got up on the bar and was pouring shots in everyones mouths, so I thought, why not?! Bad idea. I was way to0 far from him, so when he poured it went all down my shirt and in my eye. Alcohol in the eyeball.. SO PAINFUL!! He felt terrible and came around the bar to apologize. I thought it was hilarious, but he was sweet and compensated for the mess.

The excitement continues…

Until next time, Ciao!!

You can call me Christopher Colombus up in here!

18 Jan

The things I just happen to discover (aka stumble upon) are just… breathtaking.

I only have school Mon-Wed (Weekend Wednesday, WADDUP!), with one class on tuesday being photojournalism. I’m really excited about this class because photography has always been one of my biggest passion, no matter how amateur I may be. I’m trying to capture moments that truly portray Italian life, but I’m finding it awkward to snap candids of randoms.

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There was this little old man playing the accordion on the bridge and everytime I went to sneak a pic he’d see me creepin.

Rome sweet Rome

Rome sweet Rome

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My teacher told us that with fashion week events coming up, she’s going to get some students to go, get good seats, and take awesome high fashion pictures!! IM ALL IN FOR THAT OFFER! But honestly, the Roman teachers (like many Romans) think they rule the world and that their shit don’t stink, so they treat us Americans realllllly poorly.

Class ended at noon. Terrible time to be outside in Trastevere. Everyday at noon a cannon is shot from the top of Gianicolo Hill and everyday I’m not prepared. I honestly act like we’re under attack and do some duck-n-cover move. It’s loud, scary, and I feel like I live in some war zone.

Anyway, after class Allison and I decided to go explore. We were aiming for the Trevi Fountain but with her poor navigation skills (wait till you hear about later) we didn’t make it there. We were pretty much playing eenie meenie minie mo to choose which streets to take. We went down an alley and there was this one bakery, OMG. Even from outside it smelled like my Nonna’s kitchen when she used to bake. They had cannoli, pizzelle, zeppole, sfogliatelle, and so much more. ZOMG. The best part was the back room: tables and tables of absinthe.

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I’m waiting to try it in Amsterdam or Prague. I heard all it actually does is makes you have hallucinogenic dreams, but I have some pretty messed up dreams as it is so I don’t know how much more I can handle..

At the end of the road we hit this huge brick cylindrical structure, but of course thought nothing of it (idiots). Before going to the other side we went into La Basilica di Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Like every other church in Rome, it was so gorgeous and intricate.

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Now we leave and start walking around the huge cylindrical building that we passed behind and I literally say, “Holy Shit, it’s the Pantheon.”

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It was just the greatest accidental discovery ever. Not planning for it made the exploration that much better. The Pantheon was filled with those creepy men that dress up to take pictures. One asked me if I wanted a kiss. Yeah, no.. the only time men here call us “bella” is when they’re looking for money.

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Then I remembered that my friend at home, Caroline, told me that THE BEST gelato in Rome is right by the Pantheon. She even gave me a riddle to find it..

With my back to the Pantheon, I turn to the right (upper right alleyway).

Pass two crossroads, do not take a fright!

When you’ve gone through the alleyway and can’t go straight no more,

Look to the right and walk through Heaven’s door.

And there it was, good ol’ Giolitti’s!

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A gelato place is legit if the Banana flavor is white

A gelato place is legit if the Banana flavor is white

Fragola (strawberry) and Mango

Fragola (strawberry) and Mango

It was honestly one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. I don’t even want to waste my time at any other place. And it was cheap! BONUS! The chocolate chip was also amazing. Next time I need to go for the tiramisu and hazelnut!

Next I went to the grocery store and if you could tell in the previous picture I brought my duffle bag to bag everything. In Italy they make you pay for grocery bags so all the students bring duffle bags. Unfortunately, the store closest to me (still a 20 min walk) is closing this sunday and opening in a week under a new company aka THEY HAVE NOTHING IN THE FRIGGIN STORE! I got everything except mozzarella and garlic. I can’t even make a bowl of pasta or caprese salad without those ingredients. I call bullshit. Anyway, I spent $70 USD on not that much groceries and lugged it all in this duffle. Because of this I will forever have the worst back problems and be a chronically miserable human being.

To make matters worse, as I’m lugging my 80 pound duffle, 15 pound purse full of pasta, and 3 grocery bags through campus, the men standing outside the restaurants are STILL trying to hit on me. While I’m on the verge of my dying, friggin Giuseppe the host of some restaurant tries to make conversation and gives me my first real Italian cheek kiss of the semester. F you Giusepp, can’t you see I’m strugglin.

I passed out for 3 hours when I got home. Like actually collapsed. Although itt wasn’t until I put a load of laundry in which, oh wait have I told you, TAKES 3 HOURS TO WASH. And I don’t have a drier. LIFE IS AWESOME. I woke up at 7 and forget that I was supposed to meet a friend a half hour earlier to book our Prague trip, whoops. Met up with Navigator Allison and she was confidently in charge of directions. We crossed the river and walked a half hour north until I realized we hadn’t passed any streets on the directions. Then we crossed back over the Tiber, walked under one bridge and all of a sudden we see this..

St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica

For the second time in one day I was completely mind blown. When you’re not expecting to see anything but little cafes and gelatorias this is the best surprise in the world. This was the “Screw Reed, lets hang out here,” moment.

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At this point we were astonished and proud of our accidental accomplishment so we had no expectations of actually finding our friends. We headed back to campus: walked… and walked.. and walked… through interstate bridges, along the river, and through absolute ghettos (straight chainsaw massacre business) until we realized we had been walking the complete opposite direction towards our friend’s place. 3 hours after we said we’d be there, we show up and don’t even book our trip.

Long story short, we’ve booked our Prague trip for Valentine’s Day weekend and I could not be happier! We have the best crew and now I’m addicted to trip planning! Florence, Dublin, and Budapest are now in the works.

Finally, Big Rich calls me to see wassup and once I tell him I’m hanging at my friends apartment, I receive this..

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Miss him so much. But then again, I miss everyone! Love you all!!

Ciao!!! (PS. Really funny post on its way!)

Being all touristy

14 Jan

You can’t get more touristy than a large group of Americans with dorky headphone radios and giant cameras hanging from their necks jumping on and off transportation around the city with a Roman tour guide. We had John Cabot’s Navigation 101 where we were supposed to learn how to use the bus, tram, and train systems of Rome. That will take a lot of practice because my tour guide said something about validating tickets (have no clue what she’s talking about) or else you could get an outrageous fine.

We walked from campus to the Colosseum. It’s about a 25 minute walk although it was longer because we had to stop to take pictures of every damn church and monument.

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And let me tell you, there are a lot of churches and monuments in Rome.

It’s so sad to pass by all of the people laying on the street asking for money. We passed a woman without a nose, legit it was just 2 holes in her face. They’re all over. I remember when I was in line at the Vatican years ago, there was an old woman on the ground holding a baby and the woman’s scalp was cut off. Also, the street vendors are pains in the butt! And those people who dress up to take pictures with tourists.

Picture stolen from roommate, Alex

Picture stolen from roommate, Alex

Of course they don’t tell you that a picture costs money, but thank god I’m smarter and saved a couple people from that trap.

I have been to the Colosseum before, but never entered from this side. It was gorgeous to see be able to see it from all the way down the street and then walk all the way up to it. Allison ditched her group and snuck into mine, so thankfully I had someone to take touristy pics with!

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Picture 14

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From there it was planes, trains, and automobiles.. well trains, buses, and trams. We went to Termini station which is the HUGE train station in Rome, built in the late 1800s! We walked through other piazzas with very high end shopping and hotels and stood next to smelly Italians on the bus.. very normal.

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Later in the day I got my first gelato of the semester down the street from my apartment!!! Got pistachio and it was the BOMB! I think that’s my dad’s favorite, Big Rich knows best.

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It was our friend Sari’s 21st birthday, she pregamed dinner with a bottle of Lemoncello. We tried finding this pizza place, Dar Poeta, but got lost. I asked people for directions and it seemed like they loved being able to help, but it didn’t help. I’m so thankful I didn’t bring any heels because I would be wiping out all over these cobblestones. I saw a couple girls in pumps and they looked so dumb. We ended up at this adorable restaurant full of locals called La Casetta di Trastevere. It looked like the restaurant in Love Actually when Colin Firth proposes. There was clothes hanging on lines from the ceiling and 3 levels of seating.

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I got Cacio e Pepe which is the classic Roman version on Mac n Cheese, and holy crap.. IT WAS INCREDIBLE!! Everyone was nibbling off my plate, it was just THAT good.

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We went back to Scholars Lounge for the rest of the night. It’s honestly so cool. The entire staff is from Ireland and the place is packed with locals and students from John Cabot and other schools. Allison and I are the best wing women for each other. Like my mom told me, not having my phone definitely allows me to meet so many more people. Met this Roman who looks like what Andrew Lincoln (Walking Dead)+Bradley Cooper+Jude Law’s child would look like.

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If Jude Law, Bradley Cooper, and Andrew Lincoln had a child..

If Jude Law, Bradley Cooper, and Andrew Lincoln had a child..

As if crossing the ocean wasn’t enough to get away from the cheese heads, the Packers game was on the projector screen, and there were tons of peoples in jerseys. Terrible. We closed the bar at 4 and I had the best Sunday ever because of it. Woke up at 5pm and never got out of bed. It’s thunderstormed all night and I START CLASS TODAY! WOOOHOOO…

Taking a trip to the grocery store first thing this morning.. this should be good.

Until next time, Ciao!!