Archive | Traveling Europe RSS for this section

I arrived in Italy over a year ago and it’s not an over exaggeration in the least when I say I miss it every single day. Every. Single. Day. I have a few friends studying in Florence right now and I can’t help but feel pangs of nostalgia and jealousy as they post pictures of the Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio and all the places they’re visiting- because I was visiting all those places a year ago.

I’m on a travel website right now, looking at round trip flights to different places in Europe and hoping that I find a cheap flight that I can hop onto. But even the cheapest flight is going to be out of my reach for the next few years. But I’m going to save up so it happens sooner than later.

I am SO lucky I got to experience all that I did. But I don’t want to stop. I want to keep on seeing new places and different cultures. I just want to wander and explore.

IMG_1436

Advertisements

More Healthkicker posts!

Hello everyone!

I just ended my internship with Healthkicker.com, but there were a couple of articles that I wrote that some of you may be interested in.  I did a few world highlight pieces where I searched online for cool places around the world with interesting hiking/running trails.  It was a way to combine two of my favorite things: traveling and running!

The places I checked out were Lake Tahoe and Santorini!

My Life at Home (a.k.a. I’m not in Europe anymore and I’m feeling nostalgic)

So I’ve been back in America for about three months right now, and, honestly, I’m still not over it. By “it,” I mean not being abroad. I miss hearing Italian all around me; my friend asked me to translate a phrase for him today in Italian and I was BEAMING over it. I miss walking around Florence, the cobblestone unstable under my feet. And I miss traveling being my number one priority.

I have a bunch of friends studying abroad this semester and I can barely look at their Facebooks because I get jealous that it’s no longer me there.

I spent three and a half months abroad and visited 10 countries. I’ve been back in America for around that time and I haven’t even left the state.

I have a different set of priorities here, which definitely resembles “real life” more than it did in the past. It’s part of growing up, which is inevitable and something that I should try to be excited about. But I don’t know if I can be excited about it if it doesn’t involve traveling in the future.

Back in America

Let’s just say, leaving Italy was one of the most difficult things I have had to do.  I threatened to chain myself to the Duomo numerous times so I wouldn’t have to leaved.  But I’ve been back in the United States for about three weeks now.  I had to go back to reality and back to the rush of being a native New Yorker.  As much as I love living in the land of the brave, who wouldn’t miss Italy and all the travel opportunities I had while abroad? (10 countries in three months- just saying).

So here is a list of things that I miss from studying abroad:

  • The architecture- I made the Duomo my cell phone background because I miss walking past it every everyday, it’s not the same.
  • Browsing the street vendors-maybe I want to treat myself to a one euro bracelet that day.
  • The language- it’s a known fact that the Italian language is the most beautiful of them all.
  • Field trips during my classes- field trips aren’t as common at my home college.
  • The mini cappuccino machines by my classes- 50 cent cappuccino con cioccolata, yum!
  • Traveling during the weekends with my friends- Prague, Istanbul, Crete, London, etc.
  • The slow pace of life- okay, maybe I struggled with this while there (see above- Native New Yorker), but it’s definitely something I appreciate.  We should enjoy life and all aspects of it, not rush through it.
  • Italian pizza
  • Pasta with amazing sauces
  • Gelato
  • Panino shops
  • Just Italian food in general.
  • Walking places and exploring the town- can’t do that in my hometown, which is unfortunate since I came home to a broken car.
  • Fashion
  • The store fronts- they’re so carefully crafted, they lure me in every time!
  • People calling me bella- okay, sometimes it’s creepy, but other times it’s nice and acts as a good ego boost!
  • Being mistaken as a native Italian.
  • Having traveling and soaking in your surroundings as your biggest responsibilities in life.

I want to thank my parents, family and friends as well as Marist College and Lorenzo de’ Medici for the best four months of my life.

I will continue to write posts about looking back at my experiences as well as offering advice to those considering to go abroad.

A presto!

il Dumo, Firenze- who wouldn't miss this?

il Duomo, Firenze- who wouldn’t miss this?

Czeching Out Prague

For my last weekend trip, my friend and I went to Prague with Bus2Alps and stayed at the CzechInn.

I did not know what to expect with Prague, but throughout the semester I had heard from various students that it was their favorite city.  I now understand why.

After a 13 hour bus ride from Florence, the first thing we did when we arrived at the hostel was bundle up in scarves, sweaters and gloves. It was a good 20 degrees colder in Prague than in Florence.

We then went on the tram and metro to meet our guide for our walking tour.  He took us around the city, including Old Town Square and the Old New Synagogue.  We had such a large crowd that it was difficult to understand what he was saying to us, but we were able to take in many beautiful sights and its history.

govt building

govt building

Throughout the years, Prague has been subject to many foreign invasions and political unrest.  In the city, we were able to see the German and Russian influence from the second World War.  There are many government buildings that were built when they became the Czech Republic in order to reaffirm their position.

One of my favorite results of the political unrest within the city is the Lennon Wall.  The Wall was built as a dedication for the famous Beatle, John Lennon.  In 1988, the wall was a source of irritation for the communist regime of Gustáv Husák. It acted as a civil protest by the students in Prague, calling their movement Lennonism.  Students would write on the wall ideas of peace, quoting Lennon and his ideals.  The government would return everyday, painting over the graffiti, and the students would continue to come back.

IMG_3533

This piece of art continues to live on today.  People still come by and paint over the wall (as tradition), which encourages people to continue to contribute to the wall. The ideals on the wall are still characteristic of young people; ideas of love, peace, and togetherness.  My friend and I wrote on the wall some of our favorite quotes, in English and Italian (ti voglio bene), and Beatles lyrics.  It was nice contributing to this living history; we’re part of the peace, we are a part of a layer of this history.  There must have been thousands of people that wrote on it before use, and there will be thousands after us, but we all have the same ideals. We all shine on.

IMG_3542 IMG_3546 IMG_3561 IMG_3562

Hi Marist!

Hi Marist!

The wall is located off of Charles Bridge, the oldest bridge in Prague (and at one time, the only).  Its construction started in 1357 under  King Charles IV, and finished in the beginning of the 15th century.  It’s a wide bridge that, during the day, is filled with vendors selling jewelry and artwork; there are beautiful pictures of the Wall and paintings of the bridge.  The bridge is packed with tourists, but it is definitely a must-see.  There are religious pieces along the edge of the bridges, probably a result from the Renaissance.

Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge

The Christmas market in Old Town Square had just opened the weekend we were there.  There were lines of shops selling Prague souvenirs, as well as Christmas ornaments and decorations.  There were also food vendors, where they were selling this cinnamon fried dough.  It looked like a hollow cylinder.  Mine had Nutella in it. Of course it was amazing.  We also got potatoes melted with cheese and ham.  I also ordered a chicken skewer on a baguette.  Now picture it, and try to appreciate how I attempted to eat it, because it was very difficult and impractical.

IMG_3474 IMG_3629

There was also a huge Christmas tree and stage, decorated with the lights.  The entire square was lit up by the white Christmas lights.

Prague was one of those unexpected beauties.  The buildings and squares all had a unique feel to them; although I was in a big city, I felt like I was in a small town.

As Bus2Alps says, “Prague has shed it’s not-so-distant oppressive past to re-emerge as a culturally rich wonder and a mainstay of every traveler’s bucket list.”

That it has.

Oh. And fun fact- Prague is where most of Eurotrip was filmed.

Paris & London

Last weekend, my friends and I thought it was a good idea to squeeze Paris and London into one weekend. Yes, we got to hit all the main sites, but we didn’t get to wander and because of travel issues (of course) our time in London was cut short.

We began our trip when we arrived in Paris late Thursday night.  Since everything was closed at that point, and we were vehemently opposed to eating McDonald’s, we settled for some good ole kebabs.  I know it’s not French, but the kebabs stands are more popular in Europe than in America, so that made us feel a little better.

I woke everyone up in my hostel early Friday morning by continuously singing/shouting that we were in Paris and that it was time to get up. No one was too happy with me, but it got them moving.  We left the hostel and got lost in the rain, of course, looking for the metro station.  We finally reached the metro and while we were at the information desk, my friend’s iPhone got stolen.  Between that and the rain, everyone’s spirits were dampened (look at that pun!), but I was determined to keep moving so we could see everything.

The first monument that we saw was the Arc de Triumphe, which is actually a monument for fallen soldiers.  In the center of the Arc is a large French flag, which blows majestically in the wind.  I imagine the monument to be very patriotic and moving for the French.

Arc de Triumphe

We then walked down the Champs-Elysees, one of Paris’ most famous streets for shoppers.  We found a French cafe along the way where we got lunch.  The street was decorated for the holidays, with sparkling white lights on the buildings and trees, white wire globes with shiny blue balls, and fake snow.  It was a winter wonderland.

We then crossed the bridge to the Eiffel Tower.  We decided to be ambitious and climb up it, as opposed to taking the lift up.  We deemed it “the workout to last us the rest of the semester.”  Along the way up, the stairs were numbered and there were signs that explained its architecture and gave background to its purpose.  They displayed the other possible designs the creators were considering for the 1889 World Fair. On what they call the first level (or the first breathing stop), there is a restaurant and souvenir shop.  Sitting in the restaurant was a groom and his bride.  I wish I asked them their story, I wonder if they got married on the tower or just in the city of Paris.

There’s a bar at the top of the tower.  When we finally reached it, we each got a celebratory flute of champagne.  Being able to say that you had champagne in Paris is impressive enough for me, but adding at the top of the Eiffel Tower as well, makes it even cooler.

View from the top

By the time we got down from the Eiffel Tower it was already getting dark.  At a certain time each night, the Eiffel Tower lights up.  The Eiffel Tower was literally glistening.  I think it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

We made our way to Notre Dame.  It was pitch black when we saw it, I would have thought that there would have been lights illuminating it.  But the darkness gave the cathedral a very gothic look.  The architecture was amazing.  I was really interested in the gargoyles though, mainly because of Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame.  We wandered the streets around there which were full of pubs and shops.  It had a nice nightlife going.  We stopped at one place and got crepes,  mine had Nutella and bananas.

We then took the metro to the Louvre.  Although we did not go into it, just seeing the outside was beautiful.  The pyramid in the courtyard is stunning, especially at night- it glows.  I think Paris in general is amazing at night.

As a result of a last minute decision, Saturday morning we went to Disneyland, Paris.  The happiest place on Earth, but in Europe.  I don’t think it can get any happier than that.  The park was decorated for the holidays as well, which put us in great spirits.  I felt like a little kid again when the Christmas parade went by and we were dancing along and taking pictures of our favorite characters on floats.  We were only able to get on three rides, but they were all very different than their American counterparts.  I guess safety standards are a tad different in Europe.

Disney Christmas

We then had to rush to the airport to hop on our plane to London.  We spent the night in Piccadilly Circus, London’s Time Square.  Off the main circle are streets filled with clothing and souvenir stores.  There were big, bright signs advertising various products.  I saw one sign with the Union Jack and the Beatles saying “Let it Be.” I don’t even know if it was advertising anything, but it was so British!

London was decorated for Christmas as well.  On one of the main streets off of Piccadilly there were arches, each with a day of Christmas, from the song “The 12 Days of Christmas.”

That night we went to a steak house.  I had mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and bbq chicken.  It was the most American thing I’ve had in a while.  And it was great being to ask for things in English, and then getting a responses in English as well.

The next day, we planned on doing a hop on, hop off bus tour.  We started with it, got off in one place to switch to a different bus, and then it didn’t come. We wound up wasting two hours.  We were able to rush along though.  We saw Parliament, Big Ben, London Tower, and the Tower Bridge, all the main buildings we wanted to see.  The only thing that I didn’t get to do was take a picture at Abbey Road. And shop.  Oh well, I guess that just means I need to go back there.

Big Ben, Parliament

Tower Bridge

London was such a beautiful city, maybe because it reminds me the most of Manhattan.  But the buildings are prettier and some much older.  I was sad to find out that most of Old London, where the Tower is, was destroyed during World War II.  In Italy, I get to see so many ruins and old buildings, that I forget that with how much has been preserved there is even more that have actually been destroyed in war.

Although the trip was a tad rushed, I am so happy that I got to see both of these cities, two of the most famous in the world.   I understand why now, both have a unique feel that links them back to their history as well as the modern era.

Fall Break, Part 2: Istanbul, Turkey

After Crete, the four of us flew to Istanbul. Fun fact- you have to buy a visa at the airport in order to enter the city, who knew?

Going to Istanbul was kind of a scary idea to me.  It’s in a Middle East country, has a different currency (Liras, not Euros), a language that I know nothing of, and is one of the largest cities in the world.  Although it is a more modern city, the culture is still very different from the United States and Italy.  Some differences that we notices are women are much more modestly dressed, there are a bunch of markets, selling objects on the street is a father and son business, cats are everywhere, and Istanbul’s kebabs are the equivalent to Manhattan’s hot dogs and burgers.

The first place we went to though when we arrived in Istanbul was the Dolmabahce Palace.  The Palace was created in the mid-1800’s.  The design includes various elements, such as  Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassical, as well as its classic Ottoman architecture.  Each room is ornately decorated with fine paintings, detailed tiles, rich colors, and grand, crystal chandeliers. Even the green gardens were beautiful with its fountains and arches looking out into the water. It was the home to six sultans. This is when I first realized how pretty of a city Istanbul is.

Palace

Palace grounds

I had a very pleasant and unique experience with a Turkish woman in a Water Closet (bathroom) near a market.  The public toilets were located down a flight of stairs and they were charging 1 lira for its use (this is common in Europe).  I didn’t need to use the restroom, I just needed a place to put leggings on under my dress in order to cover my knees for various religious locations.

As I was struggling on the staircase, trying to put on the leggings while trying not to fall or lift up my dress to the public, the older woman working the bathroom grabbed my arm and pulled me down the stairs.  She set in the bathroom doorway and waved me on to continue my outfit change. When my guy friend peeked down to make sure I was okay, she gave him a dirty look and blocked me from him. And she didn’t try to charge me.

It was such a simple yet nice gesture.  I think that she saw that I was trying to cover myself in order to be respectful and she appreciated that.  She just wanted to help me out.  It was nice being looked over.

The reason I put these leggings on was because the first place we went to, a sultan burial room, I had to put a long skirt over my dress that was supplied.  The place also supplied head scarfs for us to cover our head (just the women of course).  We had a lot of difficulties; one friend got it right while the other looked like a pirate and I looked like Snoop Dog.  The security guards were amused by our struggles.

The Grand Bazaar was unfortunately closed for holiday (Republic Day).  But we got our shopping done at a different market. There were rows of shops with spices, candies, and tea.  I bought apple tea because of a recommendation from a friend.  There were also shops with jewelry, scarves, and beautifully detailed  glass lamps.

Afterwards, we went to the Blue Mosque.  The Blue Mosque was large, but even taller than I imagined.  It was so beautiful, the detail was simply astounding with its rings of blue and gold.  As the large amount of tourists were walking around with their heads lifted towards the ceiling or looking through a camera, there were people in a roped off section, on their knees, praying.  Such a marvelous place to seek solace.

Blue Mosque

We then went to Hagia Sophia (or Ayasofya), which  is a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, and now a museum.  It is much darker than the Blue Mosque, which was light and full of spirit.  This reminded me of many of the cathedral I have seen.  It is very grand with its high ceilings and large chandeliers.  The light came only from the dozens of small windows circling the exterior.  Hagia Sophia is two stories; on the first floor are the religious ceremonial pieces and on the second floor were frescoes from its history.

Hagia Sophia

Before we left the next day, we stopped at a cafe chain type of place called Bambi’s.  We asked if they knew English, the waiter responded yes and it quickly became clear that was the extent of his English.  When we were having trouble deciphering the menu, the waiter ran up the hill to the piazza, where another Bambi’s was located, and ran back, handing us an English menu. It was very comical.  Although they got all of our meals wrong I will always appreciate the fact that he was willing to run and get us a menu.

Istanbul as a city is so unique; it is increasing becoming more modern, yet it has all of these grand places that mark it with its history and continue to connect them to their culture.  I keep on repeating myself, but everything was so beautiful.  Istanbul is also located on the water, which also helps with its aesthetics.  I really enjoyed getting a non-European experience and I would love to go back there.

Istanbul