When in Prague!

Prague, Czech Republic was one of those cities that you don’t expect it to be as charming as it is. Not many people think of going to the Czech Republic and be completely blown away by it’s beauty and charm.  I was one of those people.

It was one of the most beautiful towns I have seen. There was a grayness that floated over the city. It was one of my favorite parts actually.  All the architecture, the streets, even the food took me by surprise.

This small city was absolutely breathtaking.

The first day we arrived in Prague, to our luck, there was an Easter festival going on. Vendors lined the Old Town Square (Main part of Prague) and sold things such as food, Easter gifts, other novelties, and of course, Czech beer.

Our first thing we tried was a Trdlo (pronounced exactly how it looks) and it was a mistake because it was one of the best things that I have tried.

It was a sweet bread roasted with almonds and sugar.  I not only had one, but I had three.

Traveling to all these different cities, I find all these nice gifts for people, but what I wish I could bring home is the food.

I know my whole family would enjoy all the food that I am trying, but unfortunately they will have to let my well thought out gifts suffice.

After eating so much I could explode, we explored the city. We walked everywhere!

We saw the Jewish Quarter, the Old Town Square, St. Charles Bridge, the Prague Castle.  We learned about the history of Prague (which is old and new).

After all the walking, we went and found our hostel.  This being one of out last trips, you would think I would do enough research on a town to know where to get a hostel at, but I guess not.

The hostel that we were staying in was close to the Prague castle and up one of the biggest hills in Prague. Go Olivia for choosing this one.

We had walked around the whole city with our backpacks on all day and now we had to finish it by dragging ourselves up this giant hill.

We made it though.

After resting for a bit, we decided it was time to indulge in some of the Czech night life.

Our first stop was a pub called “The Pub” and it was one of the most unique bars I have been too.

At your table you had your own beer tap.  It was a beer lovers heaven.

After we had a few beers, we went to a lounge called “Bed Lounge” (Not even kidding about these names).

In the lounge they just had beds and your bartender brought you the drinks.  It was one of my favorite places I have been! Such a fun experience.

The next day, our last day sadly, we explored the Prague Castle. The views from the top are indescribable. You can see the whole city surrounding you.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the Easter market. Trying all the food and drinks we could before we had to leave. It was a short trip, but the memories and experiences were nothing less than great.

It was especially sad to leave Prague because it was Sophia’s, Emily’s and mine’s last trip together. It is hard to comprehend leaving Europe.  It really is the definition of bittersweet.

The Land of Brits and Royals

Ever since I was little, I have had this infatuation with London. Maybe it is the charming british accents or my mild obsession with the royal family, but there is just something about London that I have always loved. And I finally made my dreams come true and spent the weekend in London.

First planning the trip I was not near as excited as I was when I got there. I was actually surprised with my reaction. I was like a little girl on Christmas morning and I had just opened the present I had been wanting. As I walked the streets of London, I realized in that moment that my dreams of one day going to London have come true.

Although the trip did not start out as smooth as I would have liked, it was still the most amazing place I have visited thus far.

The hectic day of traveling started out very calm actually (You think we would have realized that something had to go wrong). We had to catch our bus in another town at 8:15pm, so we had planned to leave at 7pm and be there ahead of schedule.

It was around 5pm when we were doing last minute packing and planning when Sophia decided to look at her bus ticket. From the moment she asked if the date was March 21 when the date was really the 20th, I knew anything that came after that would not be good.

We quickly realized that Sophia’s ticket said she was leaving on the 21st and I was leaving that day the 20th. You can imagine the sense of panic I had. In that moment, while Sophia was freaking out, I just calmly came to terms that we were leaving on different days.

Instead of panicking, we decided that we would just go to the bus station early and try to change her ticket. It was around 5:30 now and we were running out of time.

Not having a dutch phone plan, we could not call the emergency number, so we just had to hope once we got to the bus station we could sort things out.

We quickly left out apartment (Hoping we didn’t forget anything) and went to the train station to buy tickets to get to the bus stop. As soon as we got our tickets, we saw an info desk and thought that it wouldn’t hurt to ask if they could help us.

The lady was one of the nicest people I have come encounter with in my experiences with public transportation. We explained o her our situation and how we were running out of time. She then picked up her cell phone and called the emergency number for us. Thank goodness someone answered.

We then were informed that we could change the ticket, but we had to go to their head quarters which is outside of Amsterdam. At this point it is 6:30 and we have to decide quickly what we are going to do.

We then change our tickets and decide to go tot eh head quarters in order for her to be able to leave tonight.

The thing was is that the head quarters closed in an hour and it took just around an hour to get there. We had no time to spare, so we just ran. (After we thanked the kind lady who helped us a million and one times).

You can imagine the anxiety I was having on the 30 min train ride. I said so many Our Fathers and just hoped that someone how we could make this work.

We FINALLY made it to the bus station and for some reason God was looking over and there was one extra seat on the bus and that was now Sophia’s.

I can’t even explain the sigh of relief I had when we both were on this bus, ready to endure a 12 hour bus ride together.

It is safe to say that when we made it to London, I was just happy that we both were there in one piece.

After all the mess of trying to get there, the excitement finally kicked in that I was finally in London.

This trip was especially special because Sophia’s friend from home was meeting us in London. They had not seen each other since Christmas and it was nice because even though I have only been with her three times, it was the closest feeling to home I have felt in a long time. AND she brought us mac and cheese to savor for our last two months in Europe. It’s pretty sad when artificial cheese makes you feel like you’re at home.

During our first day there, we saw everything we possibly could. We did a free walking tour and ended at a tradition English Pub.

On our walking tour we saw Trafalger Square, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, The Houses of Parliament, the bunker of Winston Churchill during WWII, We are Clearance House, King Henry VIII Palace, the Prime Minster’s house. We basically saw everything in 2 and 1/2 hours.

We then indulged in some classic fish and chips. Which was a great way to semi end our first day there.

After fish and chips, we made it to the top of the London Eye to watch the sunset against the background of London. It was the most picturesque end to a perfect day in London.

The next day, we started out by going and seeing the changing of the guards. This does not sound that interesting, but it was one of the most intriguing things I have seen. The guards make their way to Buckingham Palace.

Changing of the Guards

Unfortunately, the queen was not on her throne at Buckingham Palace, so there was no royal meet and greet.

After that we went and adventured around Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. Both incredible parks to walk through and just gaze at. The whole entire time I was there I was just looking for Kate Middleton and Price William, but sadly not spotting of the royal family.

We then made our to the most touristy spot in all of London, platform 9 and 3/4. As a Harry Potter lover there was no shame in standing in line for 30 mins just to get my picture taken with the trolley. I chose Griffindor of course.

After that we had plans to do a pub crawl that night and experience the London night life. I won’t give too many details, but the night life in London definitely did not disappoint. We danced the night and into Sunday morning away!

On Sunday, we had a Sunday Roast (British version of brunch) and had a relaxing trek to see the London Bridge and Tower Bridge. It was so cool to see and the whole time I was just imagining the olympic rings being there and that was enough for me!

We then went to Piccadilly Circus and Covent Garden to do some shopping. And yes, it is hard to believe with my past being a shopaholic, but this was the first time that I have bought anything for myself besides food and I loved it. Even though the prices in London killed me, it was still worth it.

We ended the night with just relaxing. It is something that I have to keep reminding myself to do on trips because I feel I never see enough so I exhaust myself. But it was nice to finally be relaxing.

During our last day in London, we did some pretty touristy stuff. We took a bus to see Abbey Road and Abbey Road Studios. It’s actually pretty comical to go there and to see how many people actually just go there to get there picture walking across the street (which is actually a really busy street).

After Abbey Road, we walked our way towards Regent’s Park and on the way we stopped at the Sherlock Holmes museum. Which was pretty awesome, I must admit.

After walking in the park, we decided that we had to end our time in London at the same place that we started it. We went back to the pub where we ate the first day and had a nice farewell to London lunch.

You can’t even imagine the sadness I felt leaving this city. During my time here I have seen so many different cities and so many different things and I have to say that London has been my most favorite city I have ever visited. There is just something about it that makes my heart skip a beat. It might be the quintessential atmosphere or the fact that I could have ran into Harry Styles (Yes, One Direction) at any moment, but I just fell in love with it.

And as much as my mom and dad will hate to hear this, it was the first city I have seen that I can picture myself living in.

It was pure perfection and that weekend I lived a dream, but like every dream I had to wake up and go back to reality.

The land of Wurst and Bretzals in Berlin, Germany

After leaving Italy, it was hard to believe we still and a another city to see, Berlin.  I know what you must be thinking. What two polar opposite places to see in one trip, but I will tell you the trip was the greatest history lesson I have ever had.

Even though Berlin, Germany is not full of ancient history like Rome, it is filled with recent history and history that has shaped my generation.

Berlin has been through war and destroyed and it still is a beautiful city.  The Germans take pride in their city and do not let their pastdefined how the city is now.  

During our first few hours in the city, it was definitely shocking to say the least. When we were going to our hostel to sleep for the night, we walked out of the metro station to find lovely ladies “standing” on the corner of our street. You can imagine the first impression of Berlin I received.

We come to realize that the hostel that we had booked was right in the middle of the Red Light District of Berlin (Yay for us).  At first I was a little weary about this, but I basically live in Amsterdam, so it was nothing I have not seen before.

My favorite thing about Berlin was that Michael was joining us on our trip! It had been us girls the whole trip and it was nice to have our other travel partner back with us (And he brought us flowers, so we couldn’t complain having him there).

That day we did a walking tour of Berlin.  We saw all the major sights of the city.  We started at the Brandenburg gate and from there we saw first, the hotel that Michael Jackson held his baby off a balcony (Great first thing to see, I know), then we saw the memorial to the murdered Jews, Hitler’s bunker in World War II, the remains of the Berlin wall, Checkpoint Charlie and ended in the museum quarter of Berlin.

By the end of the day, I was exhausted. Traveling is one the most fun and exhilarating things to do, but it is also one of the most exhausting things and I had been traveling for a week and I was pretty exhausted.

That night we went and had dinner, curry wurst and pretzels and went to bed early.  The next morning, we went and visited the concentration camp, Sachsenhausen.

This was one of the most eye opening experiences I have ever had.  Sachsenhausen was the first concentration camp of World War II and many people do not know iteven exist.  When you think of the Holocaust and the concentration camps, your mind ultimately goes to Auschwitz.  

This camp was not as near as brutal in killing people, but it was famous for torturing them.  The most curious thing about this camp though was that it was in the middle of a neighbor hood.

At the beginning of the tour, our guide said that it was up to our imaginations to decide whether or not the people living in the neighbor hood had any idea of what was happening right in their back yard. For me, it was hard to even wrap my head around this thought.

Being in the camp, it was one of the most uncanny experiences I have had.  They told us that we were allowed to take pictures, but for me at least, I felt this place didn’t deserve to be photographed. So many people were killed and tortured at the very place that I was standing, I couldn’t even think about taking pictures.

Although much of the camp is rebuilt because they had to burn all the remnants of the camp due to the spread of disease, there were still many original parts.

We were in the camp for over 2 hours and by then end I don’t think I could handle any more emotionally.

I have grown up learning about the Holocaust and World War II my whole life in school and to actually be there first hand, seeing the places in my text book and on movies I have watched, it was a whirlwind of emotions.

It is one of those things where you can learn all about it, but actually being there, you get a whole different perspective.  A very eye opening and heart aching perspective.

Even though it was one of the more tragic things I have seen,it was still a worthy thing to see.  

Our last day in Berlin was a realizing one.  By this time we had been traveling 9 days and I thought I was exhausted before, but I was even more beat then.

Spending Spring Break in both Italy and Germany was extraordinary, but I was ready to go home.

The feeling of being away from your home for a while and returning is indescribable.

This was the trip of a lifetime and I will never forget all the things this trip taught me. It was one of the most marveling, wonderful, fulfilling trip I have been on.

Rome, Italy The Eternal City

Italy was a combination of many different things.  A good combination. It’s the country of food, romance, history, wine, and so much more and we indulged in all of it. It was a trip that was so relaxing, but so fulfilling all at the same time and I couldn’t have asked for anything better. And it was also strange because we had been planning this trip for months and the fact that it was already here and we were finally going was so exciting and crazy to comprehend!

Arriving to Rome was one of the more glamorous arrivals we have had. We arranged for a driver to pick us up from the airport and take us to our hostel. It was quite the adventurous car ride.  The driver probably drove way over the speed limit, he got entirely way too close to the cars in front of us, and he slammed on the brakes a few too many times for comfort. But in the end we arrived safely, so it wasn’t that bad after all.

Once we did this I was not worried at all. I was so relaxed at the fact I did not have to navigate at all and someone else was doing it for us, but the relaxation did not last long.  When we arrived to our hostel, we arrived to a place with no signs, actually they had nothing.  So during our first hour in Rome we almost die from driving there and now our hostel does not exist. After searching for 20 minutes on every floor and no one too be seen, someone finally walks through the door. The man barely knew any English, so communicating was not easy, but we found the hostel, so that’s all that mattered.

When we finished checking in, the manager at the desk tells us that our bathroom in our room does not work so one of his friends from another hostel is coming to pick us up and we are staying there.  You can imagine the look on my face and the fear that was racing through my mind.  I have been in Rome now for an hour and a half and too much has already happened that made my anxiety level rise.

But as before, it ended up working out for us.  The manager’s “friend” came and walked us too our new hostel.  We ended having a magical view of a plaza, a room to ourselves and a nice room for that matter.  So all the times that I had freaked out during our first view hours there were unnecessary.

After all the worry at the beginning meant nothing after we explored Rome a little.  When we finished getting settled in we walked to the Colosseum. It was such a peculiar feeling being in a city, seeing the sights that I learned so much about in school.

I see these famous sights in movies and in books, but none of it does justice to actually being there.  The feeling of eating my first Italian gelato on the stairs of the Colosseum, watching the sunset was magical. The many magical moments of the trip.

We then had our first Italian dinner of many and it did not disappoint at all. For my first meal I had seafood risotto. It was inevitable that my whole entire trip in Italy would be about the amount of carbohydrates I can consume. I definitely ate way more pizza and gelato than I should have.

The next day we made our way through out the sights of Rome. We saw the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Stairs, the most expensive shopping street in the world, and so much more.  The Trevi Fountain was by far my most favorite place that I have been since being in Europe. The sight of it was incredible.  Of course, I had to make a wish and throw a coin in. Stupid me though through the coin in without making a wish, so I had to do it twice.

Wishing at the Trevi Fountain

The best part about being at the Trevi fountain was just sitting there, in the sun, and watching all the people.  It’s a warm feeling to witness so many people seeing this great monument for the first time and marveling in all of it charm.

Our first day in Rome was indescribable. We saw so much and we walked SO MUCH. I thought my feet would have fallen off if I walked any more. And we ended it with our first Italian pizza and of course, another gelato.

One thing that is a flaw of Rome is the rude people, but you kind of just grow to love it because the Italian people are the type of people that you can’t help but love.

The next morning we set off early on our tour of Naples, Pompeii, Sorrento and the Isles of Capri and Anacapri.

Our first stop was Naples. It was the greatest place, but it was definitely good to see. We were there for around 30 mins and that was probably enough for me. The city is dirty and the people are on a whole different level than the people in Rome.

After Naples, we headed to Pompeii. Pompeii was the ancient city that was destroyed and covered in ash from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD. It is such an eerie feeling to walk through these sights that are excavated and see all the ruins.

You see the houses of the people. The streets that they walked on and the town that they lived in.  They even have excavated people from the ruins that were covered in ash and mud. Being in the ruins was one of the craziest things I have seen.  I was standing the a sight that was covered in volcanic ash, learning all about the history, and looking Mount Vesuvius in the background.

When we left Pompeii, we went headed to our hotel on the island of Sorrento to stay for the night. As we were driving to Sorrento, we had some of the most beautiful views.  The sunset was painted with blues and purples and we arrived just in time to watch the sunset from a balcony over looking Naples Bay with Mount Vesuvius in the foreground.  It was one of the most beautiful sunsets I have seen.

Views of the coast of Italy

That night, we had a complementary four course meal for dinner. One of the best dinners I have ate in a long time and was worth it too.  During our two day tour, we had more three and four course meals that I have ever ate in my life and I loved every minute of it.

The next morning, we went to the Isles of Capri and Anacapri. During this whole vacation I had one thing that I wanted to do.  All I wanted to do was see the Blue Grotto.  The Blue Grotto is a natural cave that was discovered by the Romans, but became a popular destination in the 1830’s. The cave is popular for its natural light phenomenon. When in the cave, the light from the sun reflects on the white sand and it makes the water have a neon blue effect.  The downside is that the way you get in the cave is all determined on by the tide.  The day before our tour guide was saying the tours were not allowed in the grotto because the weather would not permit it.

I was holding out so much hope to see the grotto.  When we arrive to the Island, out tour guide went to check if the grotto was open. And for some reason, thank the lord, it was open. It was one of the most magical things I have ever seen in my whole life. It felt like for the short minutes that we were in the grotto, that it was all fake.  I could not fathom the thought that I was in Italy, in this tiny row boat, seeing the Blue Grotto, something one a handful of people get to see.  I felt like the luckiest person alive and still do.

Inside the Blue Grotto

As soon as we left the grotto, the weather started to get bad and in less than 30 minutes they closed the grotto. It was a sign from God I felt.  We were one of the first and last boats to go to the grotto and I could not have been happier.

During the rest of the day we explored the islands. We saw views from the very top of the island, to views from the bottom.  After the day was over, we headed back to Rome for the night.

The next day, after much needed rest, we went to The Vatican.  We went through the Vatican museum, where the Sistine Chapel is.  Although I was slightly shocked by the Sistine Chapel. I had this idea in my mind of how it would be and it was nothing like it. Even though it is breathtakingly beautiful and such an incredible sight to see, it is simply in a room, smaller than I though, and isn’t a chapel.

After the museum, we went to St. Peter’s Basilica.  This was an adventure.  Being broke college kids, we had two choices. We could either pay €7 and take an elevator to the top and only have to climb around 200 stairs to see the views or we could pay €5 and climb 551 stairs to the top. Our logical was if we climbed the stairs, we could save €2 and get a work out and be able to buy gelato or a bottle of wine.  You can see where our priorities lie.  But the climbing all those stairs was worth it when we reached the top. From the top you can see all of Rome. You can see all the beauty of the city from one place.

The thing that we did not think about was the fact that once we climbed up the stairs, we would then have to climb down them.  You can sense my enthusiasm. It was fine though, I just rewarded myself with gelato afterwards.

We then took a free walking tour of Rome and it was one of the most knowledgable and historical walking tours I have been on.  I learned more in the 2 hours that I was on the tour, than any class room I have been in.

The guide of our tour explained Rome like a cake.  There are different layers of Rome and every layer explains a time in history.  From the beginning of the 1 century BC to modernism, Rome has every history and time period wrapped up in one city.  We saw so many different sites.

We learned about the Spanish Steps, the creations of the Trevi Fountain (which produces almost €4 Billion each year. And all of the money is donated to charity), the Roman Forums, the Colosseum.  We saw everything it felt it.

After the tour was over, I was so intrigued and I felt so intelligent with all the history Rome has to offer. I felt as if I could teach a whole history class and not run out of things to talk about.

The next day, our last day in Rome, we did a tour of the Colosseum and then the Roman Forums.  Both of these places hold more accent history than I thought I could ever learn.

The Roman Forums has started to be excavated in the 15th century and continues to from there on.  In the Roman Forums, we saw Julius Caesars’s home, his square and even the sight of where he was cremated.  We also saw the prison where St. Paul and St. Peter were held before they were crucified.

During my time in the forums, I could not comprehend that I was standing on ancient soil.  The same ground that triumphant Julius Caesar walked on. I was basically living in the history textbook for a few hours and I loved it.

The Roman Forums explained how Rome is a city built on top of a hidden city.  The city cannot dig into the ground with out finding new ruins to be excavated.  It’s a thought that is crazy to wrap your mind around.

Our next and last stop before we left was the Colosseum. It’s cool to actually go into the Colosseum and see pictures of the original structure and how it looks now.  The original structure was made out of marble and when Rome was rebuilding itself many years ago builders took the prized marble of the Colosseum and used it elsewhere leaving the Colosseum as it is today.

My time in Rome, la cita eterna (the eternal city), and Italy itself, was nothing less than spectacular.  It was the most historically appetizing, full of alluring views and definitely most fulfilling trip I have been on and it wasn’t even over yet. After we left Rome, we headed to Berlin, Germany. Another city full of history and dazzling charm.

It still amazes me, even after almost three months of being here that I am seeing so much of the world.  It still feels like I am living in a dream and one day (2 months to be exact) someone is going to pinch me and it will all be over.

Roommates Reunited in Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria felt like home.  Not just Vienna, but being back with Vicky and Vanessa (my St. Louis roommates who are studying in Vienna) felt like home.  It was so comforting to be with someone whom you associate home with. Which is something I think I needed after missing home.

Our first few hours in Vienna were a little crazy to say the least.  When we arrived to the airport, Vicky and Vanessa were “supposed” to meet us there. But of course in Vicky and Vanessa fashion, I figured they would be late. So we are waiting there for them at arrivals and I receive a call from Vanessa saying they missed the bus.

Surprisingly, I did not panic at all (Which is really not like me).  So in the end, that all worked out.  We found them. Hugged all over each other for minutes in the metro station.  We got weird looks, but it was so nice to see a familiar face in a strange city.

I had not seen Vicky nor Vanessa in months and I didn’t even care that they left us stranded at the airport (Eh, I cared a little).

After meeting them, we headed to get ready for the night ahead of us.  It was another friends who lives in Vienna’s birthday! That night we celebrated her birthday in Vienna fashion and the night lasted until morning  (I won’t give too many details about that. You all have imaginations).

The next morning we woke up and got ready to see the city.  Not much of it was seen the night before.

We headed towards the city center by bus and metro. While there, I had never been on so many metro train or buses in my life.  To get to your destination it is two bus transfers, three metro stops and then you have to walk to your destination.  Very effective methods, but such a long process.

Our first sight seeing stop was the Belvedere Palace.  It is the royal families winter home.  Yes, just the winter home.  Nevertheless, it was beautiful. Gold plated architecture, sculpted landscape.  It was like a painted picture brought to life. Not to mention, it was the warmest day Vienna has had in a long time, so we felt a little special.  We enjoyed the whole day.

We walked through the park that the Belvedere palace sits on.  We admired all the views of the palace and walk and caught up on the past view months with Vicky and Vanessa.

After the palace, we went to the Nasctmarkt (a market square). It was wonderful. Aromas of all different sorts of food filled the air. We tried so much food.  We ate pastries, cheese, vegetables and ended the market with a Vienna classic, the falafel kebab.  All which were absolutely incredible and I could not eat any more the whole day.

After the market, we made our way up into the mountains.  At the top, we went to a cafe, drank warm coffee and enjoyed the views of Vienna from above.  We watched the sunset and saw Vienna both during the day and at night.  And at night, it only became more beautiful.

Later that night, we went and indulged in some wine.  We drank wine, ate bread, and it was so wonderful to get spend time with Vicky and Vanessa. Before the wine though, we got lost.  We took the wrong bus, got out at the wrong bus stop. We had to run to get the other bus and so on. So finally after leaving at 9:30, we finally arrived to the restaurant at 11:45.  You could say we all needed a glass of wine by that point.

Our last day in Vienna we went to the famous Prater (A famous ferris wheel). We saw the whole city from up above.  We could even the mountain where we were the day before.

After the Prater, we went to downtown to try a kasekrainer (a Viennese sausage stuffed with cheese). It was a magical lunch and the most filling.  The sausage come in a whole baguette.

It is safe to safe I ate most of my weight in Vienna.

We then went back up to the mountain tops for desert (I had to make room for desert).  We had chocolate cake with ice cream on a top.

The next morning, it was so bittersweet to leave. It had felt like us four were back in our apartment in St. Louis.  The only good thing about leaving was the fact that both Vicky and Vanessa will be coming to Holland to visit us in April.

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun!

As much as it hurts for me to say this it has been 2 months since I left St. Louis, said goodbye to my family and friends back home, and the first time I walked off the place and into the Amsterdam airport.

I had no idea how this short time here would impact me.  I had no idea how much one simple thing could affect you.  Leiden has changed me in ways I can’t even explain.

Before coming here I had never been away from my mom for a month and now it’s been two months! It really is crazy to see how fast time goes by when you’re having fun.  I have been here for two months now and it doesn’t feel longer than a week.  It has gone by so fast. And yes, I am traveling a lot and seeing and experiencing so much, but it is so bittersweet to see it all come and go.

I have traveled to 5 different countries in two months.  I’ve seen so much of the world that people dream of seeing. I have made friends from all over the world.  Ate some of the best food I have tried. I learned so much about other cultures.  And I have learned so much about myself.  I feel forever grateful and indebted to the things and people who made it possible for me to be here.

It brings tears to my eyes knowing that I only have 2 months left.  I know my bank account will be happy, and my parents will be happy knowing I am safe at home, but I just can’t bare the thought of leaving the place that has change my life significantly.

When hearing about my sisters study abroad experience, I only wished that I could have something remotely close to that, and now I do.  And this is only the beginning.

It will be hard for my parents to comprehend, but being here has struck the same bug that my sister got when she was here two years ago.  The longing to see the world and all the magnificent things in it.  There is nothing like the feeling of seeing the world. And there is nothing like experiencing it with people you have grown to love and have become your home away from home.

I still cannot fathom the thought of leaving Leiden and returning to back home.  Even though it is far away, I can already sense the reverse culture shock I will receive when I return.

In honor of my two months being here, some pictures and a list of my favorite things of the past two months.

- Eating ALL the food I can possibly fit in my mouth (Always #1)

- Seeing Spain again (Even if it was Barcelona, and made my sister so mad)

- Stroopwafels (Of course)

- Being here with my friends

- The coast of Ireland

- Belgian chocolate and beer (Sorry Mom and Dad)

- The people I have met

- The late classes (Still haven’t set an alarm to wake me up)

- Hearing all the different languages

- All the airplane rides

- Growing to love cooking (Mom will be happy about that)

Honestly, I couldn’t make a list of everything that I have enjoyed because I have enjoyed everything in these past two months. So I will stop there.

After this week, I go to Rome, the coast of Italy and Berlin, Germany.  I can’t believe how much time has gone by and how much is still left to come.  But until then, I think I will stay in Europe a little longer.

Luck of the Irish

Ireland was definitely a different experience in traveling thus far.  The traveling days are getting longer, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  Getting to your destination and just sulking in all the culture, history and beauty surrounding is worth all the jet lag and long airplane rides.

I was surprised by Ireland.  We first went to Dublin and it was not at all what I expected.  When I think of Ireland, I think of rolling green fields and small narrow winding roads, Dublin is the complete opposite.  There are drunk old Irish men on the street no matter what time of day it is.  And to me, Dublin was just another city.  It was exciting and I was so happy to be in Ireland, but I wanted to see the country side! I think the reason why I didn’t like Dublin at first was because navigating in Dublin was a challenge.

We took a bus from the airport to the city center of Northern Dublin. After traveling by train, bus, plane and walking, I was exhausted from the day.  We got to the city center around 10pm.  I was hungry and all I wanted to do was find the hostel.  And of course, we got lost.  I have realized that in Europe, they are not really keen on street signs, so it is very easy to get lost.  So after walking around for what felt like hours and me swearing that we were walking the right direction, we realized we had walked past our hostel 4 times. They forgot to turn the lights on. After an hour of walking and asking people for directions, we finally had made it.

We settled in and decided it was time for food and a good Irish Guinness.  Because it was Valentines Day, the hopeless romantic in me wanted to go to the pub in the movie P.S. I Love You.  It only felt necessary.  Michael, Sophie, Emily and I shared Guinness’s while listening to traditional Irish music.  After I had food and a drink, I was finally relaxed and happy to be there.

The next day we took a walking tour. We quickly realized that the city is separated by a river and they have conned the names South and North Dublin.  It is kind of segregated to the fact that the North side does not like the South side and vice versa.  So with bias and staying on the North side, we took a tour of it.  We learned a lot about the history and many iconic people that lived in Dublin.  Unfortunately, we were only in Dublin for a few short hours so we didn’t get to see as much as I would have liked, but it was still amazing.

After the tour we went and indulged in an Irish lunch at a pub (one our tour guide recommended).  It was worth it! The food was absolutely delicious.  I didn’t get the traditional bangers and mash, but I had the best beef curry! It was a cold day outside, so eating some warm food was exactly what I needed.

Our next stop was to take a train to the city of Galway, on the west coast. Galway depicted everything I thought Ireland was.  It was a small quaint town on the Galway Bay.  There was one main square and one main shopping area.

After checking into our new hostel, we out for nothing other than Guinness and a cold glass of cider all while listening to some Irish folk music.  It was the perfect way to start our trip in Galway.

Staying in hostels, you being to appreciate the little things like having an outlet to charge your phone, knowing the people you are in the same room with, or even showers.  What we realized in Dublin was that food was very expensive.  Every meal began to add up, so we had to take advantage of the free breakfast our hostel had to offer.  We ate as much as we could, so we wouldn’t have to buy any other meals.  On a student budget, you begin to prioritize over what you really need.  By the second day in Ireland, we already fell to going to the grocery store, buying a loaf of bread and peanut butter and we just ate bread and peanut butter the rest of the trip.  Although, when in Ireland, you cannot not indulge in the great Irish beer and whiskey.

During our first day in Galway we did a tour.  Galway is quite small, so we saw pretty much the whole city in the span of an hour.  It was incredible though.  Everything that I pictured Ireland to be I found in Galway.

Galway is right on the west coast, boarding the Galway Bay.  After the tour of Galway we went to the beach.  It is not like your typical beach at all.  It was freezing cold and so windy, but worth every minute!

The view was breath taking.  The water backed up to the mountains which set for an amazing view.

The next day we took a tour towards the Cliffs of Moher.  It was the best €20 I have ever spent in my life.

We got a bus early Monday morning and begin our trek.  The bus ride towards the cliffs was exactly how I pictured Ireland to be. Along the way we stopped at castles and overviews of the Irish landscape.  The mountains we drove through were lined with limestone and wild flowers.  Taking the flowers or the limestone is actually illegal for conserving purposes. So I couldn’t grab a souvenir.

When we made it to the Cliffs of Moher, it was unlike anything I have ever seen in my life.  Honestly, the most breathtaking view.  I felt so lucky because during our bus ride, the guide was telling us how the past few weeks the weather had been really bad and there had been flooding.  So he was un sure if we could even make it to the cliffs.  But we were so lucky.  The day we went the sun was shining and not a rain cloud in the sky.

Standing on the cliffs, looking out at the Atlantic Ocean, I was stunned.  I didn’t think something so beautiful could exist.  The green cliffs in the middle of the ocean with the sun shining in the background was enchanting.  I could have stayed there all day and just look out.

While I was there, trying to capture ever moment on my camera, I realized something.  All the places that I go, I try and take so many pictures to remember it by, but while I am there I don’t just sit back and enjoy for myself.

I am always so worried about taking pictures and capturing the perfect moment to show all of you, that I forget that I should just be enjoying this.

It was kind of a revaluation you could say, but it was just shocking to me.  I am seeing all these different places in the world and capturing it all on camera, but am I truly enjoying the moment of being there?  I am seeing the world through the lens of a camera instead of enjoying with my own eyes.

So while I was there, I just enjoyed the moment.  I took it all in and just reveled in the beauty surrounding me.  And I did take some pictures, but pictures cannot even begin to display the real beauty of the Cliffs of Moher.

After we left the cliffs, our tour guide was nice enough to let us watch the sunset by the water.  He pulled over the bus and said that it would be a good tour if he didn’t end at his favorite spot in all of Ireland.

I thought nothing could get more beautiful than seeing the Cliffs of Moher, but watching the sunset, standing next to my best friends, by the ocean, was something I couldn’t have even imagined.

At that point I had fallen in love with Ireland. All the expectations were met and exceeded.  The sad part was having to leave Galway and go back to Dublin for our last night.

We took a train back to Dublin. During our last night in Ireland, we went to an Irish pub, listened to some folk music and enjoyed some Irish coffee.  Another great trip gone and passed.

Our hostel experience for our last night was different to say the least.  Phoebe, you have been right about everything about traveling out of a backpack and staying in hostels.  Emily, Sophia and I stayed in a 12 person room and we were the only girls.  It was quite the experience I must admit, but I feel it wouldn’t be a successful semester abroad if I didn’t have one hostel experience like that.  You would be surprised at how long you can live out of a backpack and stay in rooms with people you don’t know.  It makes traveling much more authentic.

Even though I loved Ireland, it was so nice to be on our way home, back to Leiden.  That moment when I no longer have to share a room with 12 strangers or eat peanut butter and I can sleep in my own bed was what I wanted more than anything.

Cliffs of Moher