Senior Year Madness

This post is more therapeutic for me than anything else. Disclaimer: For those of you who don’t want to read a whole few paragraphs of me venting about my life, stop and exit now…

Going in to senior year, I knew I would be dealing with a lot of things on my plate. Usually, I’m not one to crack under pressure or really give in to stress. In fact, being busy is something I need in my life for motivation. But the past few weeks have been really hard on me. For those of you who want a refresher, here’s my list of involvements:

–          Student Ambassadors – Secretary

–          Club Basketball

–          Alpha Gamma Delta sorority

–          DIS (Directed Individual Study): Co-Coordinator for Rock for a Cure, Breast Cancer Benefit Concert (the biggest commitment of them all for now)

Not to mention, I have a full load of some tough classes:

–          Public Relations II

–          Media Law & Ethics

–          Broadcast Journalism

–          Communication Theory

–          Lifespan & Human Development (a basic study psychology requirement)

OH and I also have two jobs:

–          Sales Associate at American Eagle

–          Hostess at Fox & Hound

SO, with that being said, some days I’m on campus from 10am to 10pm… Mondays are the worst. I’m trying really hard to balance school with involvements and hanging out with friends, but honestly it feels like I barely have a social life because of my hectic schedule. Interacting with friends only happens if I see them on campus or at a meeting. It really sucks.

Being overwhelmed is not a fun feeling. I’ve been losing sleep, having anxiety, and worrying a LOT recently. I’m really working on cutting down some of these commitments to actually get some free time. I just spoke with the Fox & Hound managers and they were understanding of me taking a break from working there. As much as I’d like to make money, my mental sanity is a bit more important at the moment.

I don’t really have much more to write besides the fact that I’m trying to take each day at a time. I’m slowly realizing that I’m only human and I can’t change the number of hours in a day. On Sunday I took a power walk around the Wrightsville Beach loop which really helped clear my mind. I need to start taking advantage of the fact that I’m literally less than 50 yards from the ocean and have a beautiful bay/marsh area that’s a 5 minute walk to get to. Also, I’ve been resorting to music for comfort. The song “Be OK” by Ingrid Michaelson popped up on my itunes the other day and I thought it was actually perfectly fitting for my life right now.

Seriously though, I don’t want to worry people about me being down. I’m trying to stay positive and tackle each day as it comes. Luckily, I have some really awesome friends here who I can vent to about this stuff (shoutouts to Raleigh, Esme, Taylor, Molly, & Julia). As the fall weather approaches, I’m going to try my best and enjoy my beach house while the sun is out and it’s warm outside. Did I mention I got a hammock for my balcony? I’m really excited about that.

Whoever actually read this post, thanks for putting up with my venting and complaining. I promise I won’t do this often, but sometimes it feels good to let out some frustration. I may actually have a free Saturday night this weekend to go out. Things are looking up (I think). If anyone has suggestions on how to get rid of some stress and anxiety, I’m all ears! That’s all for now. Back to my night of sending emails, doing homework, and making to-do lists out the wazoo!

London Nostalgia: 1 Year Anniversary

As I’m writing this blog post, I’m sitting on campus outside on this beautiful day, sipping on my Dunkin Donuts caramel iced coffee and eating a breakfast sandwich. Life really isn’t bad. However, I can’t shake the nostalgic feeling I have to head back to London. While sitting in the sunshine with a Dunkin treat is probably one of my favorite things to do, I’d happily sacrifice all of it for a plane ticket back across the pond.

Today marks exactly one year since I landed at the London Heathrow airport to begin the most exciting three month journey of my life. As many of you know, this blog used to be dedicated to my study abroad experience and sharing my travel stories with family and friends. I’ve found myself occasionally clicking back and reminiscing on all the cool things I did last fall. I’ve recently had the strongest urge to just escape from my insanely busy life, ditch my commitments, and go travel the world. Today is definitely one of those days. I never really made a reflection post about how my study abroad experience has changed my life, so I’m using this as a mini-reflection piece.

While I had my ideas about what London would be like, I never expected to experience all the amazing things I ended up doing overseas. I joined the Roehampton basketball team, made a few best friends, travelled to Scotland, Ireland, Spain, France and Italy (twice), and learned a whole lot of stuff about myself.

I know that if I went back to Roehampton today, things wouldn’t be the same. Some of my basketball friends have graduated, my flatmates would be gone, and the Newman 4 crew won’t be living in Newman anymore. Can someone get me a time machine please?

My semester abroad really introduced me to the idea of true independence. While I’m used to being relatively far away from home, three months in another country takes being “away from home” to another level. All I have to say is thank goodness for Skype. The experience of travelling on my own has also helped me grow. I can now take on foreign cities/places with determination and confidence. My sense of direction is so much stronger, and my “street smarts,” as my dad would call it, has improved too. I feel more cultured and drawn to foreign people since returning back to America. Travelling and seeing all the things I did is truly the opportunity of a lifetime (not to sound cliché).

I can’t wait until the day that I visit London again. I need a job that travels. A lot. Since all of this reminiscing is starting to make me sad, and because I have to get to class, this post will now come to an end. Maybe I’ll Skype some of the Newman 4 crew soon to put me in a better mood!

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AGD Recruitment

I’m finally sitting down to write this post after the craziest past few days ever. Since before classes started up, I have been attending sorority practices in preparation for recruitment here at UNCW. And when I say “practice” I’m basically referring to a full time job, because that’s how much time I felt like we spent preparing. Don’t get me wrong, we definitely needed practice. It has just been a long few weeks…

In a nutshell, recruitment is three rounds (Philanthropy, Sisterhood, and Preference) and one heck of a long week. There is a LOT that goes in to this whole process: what to say, what not to say, practicing chants, grabbing girls at the door, what to wear, how to vote, etc… the list goes on.

To be honest, I was somewhat dreading this whole recruitment process going in to it. I have never had to experience fall recruitment (since I rushed in the spring of my sophomore year and went abroad fall of my junior year), and I was hoping I could magically get out of this whole process. However, that was not going to happen, so I put on a happy face and participated. Surprisingly, I learned a whole lot about recruitment that I never knew before.

New recruitment lingo I’ve learned:

PNM – Potential New Member. Any girl who’s not Greek already.

Rush Crush – A girl you fall in love with during recruitment and NEED to have her in your sorority. Seriously, you’d give your left arm to give this girl a bid.

Bump Group – The group of girls in your sorority that you will “bump” into while they are casually having a conversation with a PNM. A way to transition into conversations with girls who have no idea that your bump process is completely planned and you have a set girl to speak to next. (This process sounds complicated unless you’ve been through recruitment before…)

Bid Day – The end of recruitment when the new girls get a bid to join your sorority and run to your group on a big lawn where everyone is freaking out hugging each other and taking pictures throwing up their “gang” sign with their hands.

With all sarcasm aside, there is a point to posting about the end of recruitment. I’ve never considered myself a “sorority girl.” Ever. But I can sincerely say that this recruitment process has opened my eyes to a deeper understanding of what it means to be in a sisterhood. I had my reservations before joining a sorority, and a few more even after getting in. As much as I was not looking forward to recruitment training and rush week, this entire process has helped me understand how strong and supportive these girls are. Alpha Gamma Delta is more than just girls going to parties and hanging out. I’ve learned quickly that some of these girls will jump in front of a moving car for me. They can tell when something’s wrong and I haven’t spoken a word to them yet. They are there to share my happiness, but also support me during harder times.

I don’t want this post to sound cliché, but AGD recruitment has changed my outlook on sorority sisterhood. It has reminded me why I’m choosing to stick with the chapter through my senior year. The last round, Preference, is a truly special ceremony when our select final groups of PNMs come in one last time before making a decision. We make this round serious, and have the opportunity to connect on a deeper level with a PNM we have invited back. After this heartfelt conversation, usually involving tears, the girls in our chapter have a special ceremony where we play “You Make It Real” by James Morrison, and pass around a candle. I’m not one to really get emotional about this stuff, but there was an energy in the room that I couldn’t help but embrace. Looking around at all my sisters with tears in their eyes, I found myself tearing up too with my heart about to burst out of my chest. The love, passion and sincerity that everyone feels for this sisterhood is something that is hard to describe with words. Finally I can say that I felt that same deeper connection to Alpha Gamma Delta that I was trying hard to find.

Bid day is now over and a group of 32 new “babies” has joined our chapter. I’m really looking forward to getting to know each one. Everyone is raving about the new pledge class already! I will say that the bid day event was a bit anticlimactic in my opinion, but it was great to see how happy the new girls were to join our sisterhood. While I was upset that my “rush crush” ran to another sorority, I learned that everything happens for a reason and girls end up with the chapter that will be best for them. I’m still a little bitter about the computer/voting system works, but we can’t change much now.

I’m really looking forward to this semester with our new “baby squirrels” to see how our chapter can help them grow and also see how our chapter can grow from them.

That’s all for now. More updates about our new girls to come soon. Now it’s time to go friend 32 new girls on Facebook and welcome them to Alpha Gamma Delta!

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Ready, set, go. Senior year.

And so begins another new semester of school. It all seems like second nature to me at this point. Buying notebooks and school supplies, organizing my backpack, ordering books… the list goes on for class preparation. But the feeling of going in to senior is different than anything I’ve felt before. I have the urge to start over again from freshman year, while simultaneously wanting to start applying for big girl jobs in new cities. I want to relive the newness of being in a different, foreign place having to make all the new friends I can. Yet I want to stay here in Wilmington forever and hold on to its beauty and freeze the happiness I feel on campus with friends and make it never go away. Wilmington has been my home away from home for the past three years.

As I find myself flooring the gas petal into my senior year, I hope this blog will help me tap on the breaks to capture the moments I really want to remember and share with you. It’s the beginning of the end starting right now. After just one week’s worth of classes, I’ve already had some “lasts” here at UNCW: Beach Blast, Rock the Rec, the involvement carnival, Student Ambassador fall retreat… just to name a few. While I’ve caught myself spending too much time thinking about these “lasts,” I realize there are some “firsts” that senior year brings as well: living off campus at the beach, sorority recruitment, knowing someone in all of my classes, having my brother at school with me… these are the new and exciting aspects that I’m realizing will make my senior year one of the most memorable years of my life.

My goal is to post at least once a week in this blog. I want to use this space as my own little journal for senior year memories and take you along for the ride. Follow me here to read about my triumphs, struggles, involvements, friendships, and everything else that senior year will bring. Ready, set, go. Round four, it’s senior year.

 

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Roehampton Basketball

I’m dedicating this post to the amazing friends I’ve made since I joined the Roehampton Women’s Basketball team! I know you guys are fans of this blog… so here’s your shout out (ANGELIKA cough cough).

Thinking back to my first few practices with the team, I can easily say that we have made so much progress throughout the season. There are a few moments that I will always remember about playing Roehampton basketball, the first being our first win of the season. It was Roehampton’s first win in a LONG time (according to some of the returning players) and we played St. George’s, a school near Tooting in southwest London, winning 95-26. Obviously, the other team didn’t have much talent at all, but I was still really proud of our girls for doing their best and playing seriously the whole time. Coach Kenny pushed us to win by as much as we could because there aren’t too many opportunities like that in the league we play in, and in the past apparently other teams have won games by an even bigger margin (ouch). While I felt a bit uncomfortable taking that much of a lead, we did the best we could on practicing aspects of the game we needed to work on (spreading the court, cutting on offense, help defense) and didn’t think too much about the score. The win was very refreshing, especially for the girls who have been playing for a few years, and we rode the bus home with good spirits.

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The other memorable moment was the very last game of the semester… when I got to experience something in a basketball game that I’ve never done before. I believe we were playing Surrey University and we had the lead the entire game (up by maybe 12 to 15 points at parts). However, the away team started making a comeback in the last quarter and made it a tight game. With about 10 seconds left, the other team made a cross-court pass to a girl going long for a layup, putting them up by 2 points. As the clock ticked down, we inbounded the ball and a few passes were made until I ended up with the ball in my hands at half court as everyone started counting “3… 2… 1” I dribbled a few times and threw the ball up towards the basket right over half court while two defenders ran at me. The ball sunk right into the hoop and the girls knocked me down on the floor. That was the last I saw for about 3 minutes as my entire team, and the boys team who were watching, piled on top of me screaming and shaking me. I was curled up in a ball on the court with my eyes closed and all these people freaking out about the shot. After a few minutes, the referees got everyone off the court because I had to shoot a foul shot (which I completely forgot about), and ended up missing because I was so shaken up (literally). I can easily say that was one of the highlights of my entire basketball career and my experience abroad. We won by a point. I felt like crying from excitement right after that. It was an incredible feeling. If I took that shot another thirty times, I don’t know if I’d make even one of them again. But the fact that the ball went in that time was just completely awesome. I really felt like a superstar for a second there.

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Not only was my involvement in basketball an excellent way to work out for me, but I never realized how much of a social aspect it has in my life. I’ve been playing basketball since maybe second grade (around 7 years old) and over the years I have gained lifetime friends from the sport. I am beyond thankful to my parents for getting me involved in a sport that I could play for many years in my life, and it is truly something I enjoy doing. I know that I made the decision to not play basketball in a possible D3 college, which I definitely do not regret, but I still have my club basketball team back at UNCW, and my teammates at Roehampton for those three months. So thank you dad (he will love this shout out). You’ve pushed me throughout the years to be the best player that I could be, and you were and always will be my number one fan (and number one critic), but I love you for it.

Basketball at Roehampton has helped me gain so many more friends (from both the girls and guys teams) and it was a way to get my mind off of school and other worries and just go play on the court. I loved that I could look forward to practices throughout the week, and games on Wednesday afternoons. I could work on improving more of the fundamentals during the girls’ practices, and loved running and keeping in shape when playing with the guys (who treat me like one of them, and don’t go easy on me when I’m playing)! I had told some of the girls that we needed to have another social or get-together for some team bonding… I even suggested a “psych party” like my team did in high school where everyone brings something to contribute to a team dinner (like an appetizer, drinks, or desserts) the night before a big game. So at the very end of the season, we had a goodbye get together for me and Aina (another international student from Catalonia). Both the girls and guys teams went roller-skating at a campus social and after that we went back to the girls’ flat for pizza and games. I am so grateful for all the teammates who came to our going away party and appreciate the gifts you guys got me and Aina. I appreciate you guys more than you know. You all helped me grow not only as a basketball player, but as a person. I learned so much from you and I am so thankful to have met each and every one of you Roehampton basketball players. We had our ups and downs during the season, but I wouldn’t change anything! I’ll really miss you all. Please keep me updated on the next term and I wish you all the best of luck! Cheers!

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3 Days in the City of Love: PARIS

So I’m extremely behind on all my blog posts, but now that I’ve made it safely back to America I have some downtime to catch up on everything I haven’t written about towards the end of the term. I’ll start with my amazing weekend in PARIS, FRANCE.

I went for a three day weekend to Paris with my friend Raleigh, Nov. 30-Dec. 2, and looking back now I want to say it may have been my favorite place I visited. We started the weekend with another insanely early morning by getting to the bus stop at 4:30 AM to start our travels to the airport. After another bus, a plane, and two trains, Raleigh and I made it to our hostel and checked in around 12:30 PM. The hostel (Young and Happy Hostel) had a great location, Rue Mouffetard, but it wasn’t the best hostel I’ve stayed in through my travelling experience. Our first day there wasn’t the most perfect day for weather… we had dreary skies and it was pretty cold, but I’m glad we didn’t have to trudge through the rain or snow on the first day. For lunch, I stopped at a crepe vendor on our street and got my very first authentic French crepe with ham, cheese, and lettuce. It was delicious!

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We speed-walked our way through the city to the meeting point of a free walking tour of Paris. Our guide, Onno, took us through the main parts of the city and told us tons of interesting facts about main tourist attractions, as well as tips for what to do and when. The walking tours are always great to do on the first day because it gave us a good idea of what to go see (major landmarks like the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, and Notre Dame) and we got our bearings of the city. I also was very lucky because Raleigh had visited Paris over the summer and knew a lot about how their metro works and where everything is. The tour ended right around 4:00 and dropped us off right by one of the most popular shopping/touristy streets called Champs de Elysee. Before we went on our way, our tour guide offered us tickets to go up the Eiffel Tower and cut the lines for that night, so we bought them and made the plan to go later. Raleigh and I then explored the main shopping street, which was filled with tons of Christmas booths at the beginning and reminded me a lot of Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park with the holiday items they sold. We looked around for just a bit, but then had to hop on the metro to make our way to the Eiffel Tour at 5:30 to go up!

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Let me tell you, the Eiffel Tower at night is one of the prettiest things I’ve ever seen. It has a golden glow to it and the first time I saw it up close I was in awe. It was definitely a lot bigger than I had imagined it. We used our tickets to cut the line and made our way up in an elevator (placed in one of the legs of the tower) that took us half way up, but not completely at the top yet. Raleigh and I took in the view; from just the mid-way point of the tower we could still see so much. By this time, the sky was dark but the city was shining in beautiful lights. We took a few pictures, and then got back on another elevator to go to the very top. I can’t really describe the view from the top of the tower without using the word incredible. We could see for miles out in the distance, and the entire city was just lit up from the darkness. It was really beautiful. There were obviously tons of other tourists up there taking pictures, but one young teenage couple decided that making out for a half hour was a better way to spend the time. Ew, too much.

One other interesting thing about my experience on the Eiffel Tower has to do with the pickpocket signs that are posted everywhere in there. Inside the tower, they warn you to be mindful of people who pickpocket. I saw the signs and didn’t think much of it because it just seemed like everyone there were just normal tourists like Raleigh and I who wanted to take in the view from the top. However, the view is not all that some people wanted to take. Raleigh and I were in line to take the elevator back down the tour when she noticed a large family standing together in a little circle kind of discreetly pointing at people and mumbling things in French (I think). These people are known as gypsies and they were literally pointing out places for the group to move to so that one of them could slip their hands into a woman’s purse. I quickly held on to my bag tighter (after being pickpocketed in Israel this summer, I’m pretty careful). Raleigh turned around to the line and told everyone to watch their bags, basically calling out the group of people being super shady. They immediately walked away from the line to another part of the tower. So we actually saw a group of pickpocketers in action! So crazy. It was kind of sad though, because their group consisted of a few little kids too which unfortunately have to learn from their parents how to properly steal from people. Hopefully the Eiffel Tour workers really look out for them, because I didn’t believe it until I really saw it.

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Raleigh and I had dinner at a really snazzy place she’s been dying to go back to since her trip in the summer. It was called the Burning Bush and was pretty expensive but we wanted to treat ourselves on the first night in the city. The restaurant was pretty full so they gave us a table where we had to sit next to each other in a booth area. Pretty funny/awkward, but the food was so delicious and we were starving so we didn’t care! Haha. We ordered a big pot of beef stew with veggies and devoured the entire thing. After dinner, both of us pretty much sleepwalked back to the hostel and passed out in bed.

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Day 2Since we got a good night’s sleep, Raleigh and I woke up around 8:30 and had the complimentary breakfast at our hostel, which consisted of croissants, tea/coffee, and cereal… along with nutella, jam, and butter of course. We made a day plan to spend the first half in Versailles and took the train there, which was only maybe 30 minutes outside of the city. We ended up buying a two day museum pass that would let us tour pretty much all the museums in Paris, so that really came in handy for the next two days. Versailles was the enormous mansion inhabited by Louis XIV and his wife Marie Antoinette during the French revolution. We walked around inside the castle and got to see tons of rooms decorated by Marie herself. There were so many entertainment halls with gorgeous paintings all over the walls and ceilings. We also got to walk through the king and queen’s separate bedrooms, which were pretty incredible to see since a lot of the things are still the originals from the 1680s (such as bedding and wallpaper). My favorite part of the chateau was the Hall of Mirrors. It is one of the most famous parts of the estate and is the biggest room in the palace. The hall has 17 big mirrors that face opposite large windows overlooking the amazing gardens outside. It is actually known as one of the most famous rooms in the world because of its elegance and decoration. It was a really big deal at the time that Louis XIV lived there because mirrors were one of the most expensive items to possess at the time. I walked up and down the hall a few times, taking in all the detail of the room. It really was incredible to see how elegant they made it, and the view out the windows was amazing.

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After touring the palace, we took a walk out by the enormous Versailles gardens. I can’t really begin to describe how massive that backyard was… and how beautiful it all looked. Raleigh said it was greener and even prettier in the summertime (which I can just imagine), but it still was so pretty to walk around that day because the sun was shining and it was nice outside. The gardens take up 1,976 acres… just to give you an idea of how massive the place actually is. There were fountains, lanes of trees, pretty trimmed bushes… everything all perfectly kept to look beautiful for the public. Raleigh and I stopped for lunch at a little restaurant back in the gardens. I ordered one of the most popular dishes served in Paris (from what I’ve seen on all the menus)… it was called croque-madame. This consists of warm ham in between two slices of bread, with melted cheese on the top of the bread, and a fried egg on top of the cheese (a croque-monsieur is all that without the egg). I loved it!

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After our morning in Versailles, Raleigh and I ventured back to central Paris to walk around more there. We went back to Champs de Elysee and looked around a bit more at the Christmas booth. I got a crepe with banana and nutella… YUM. That main street leads straight up to the Arc de Triomphe, where Raleigh and I used our museum pass to walk up. The Arc de Triomphe is one of Paris’s most famous monuments. It was built to honor those who fought and died for France during its revolution, and has the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its surface. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I. There is no elevator to the top of the arc, so we walked up a big spiral staircase of 284 steps! I can’t tell you what perfect timing we had when we got to the top. We got up right at sunset and had the most amazing view of the city. The pictures speak for themselves. The Eiffel Tour stood overlooking the city with a beautiful pink/orange sky, and we got to see the whole city light up as all the buildings and Christmas lights started turning on. The arc is located in the middle of the world’s largest intersection (and most hazardous I assume), with 12 streets all leading up to it. From the top, you could walk around and see each street leading up to the large circle which the arc was located in the middle of. It was just simply awesome. We took a bunch of pictures from the top, watched the sun go down, and made our way back down the arc, but not before buying a few things from the gift shop inside it!

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On our walk back to our hostel, I stopped to buy a delicious chocolate macaroon and ate that for a late dessert after dinner. I was told that the macaroons are the most delicious in Paris! For dinner, Raleigh and I ate at a restaurant on the street of our hostel and I got traditional French onion soup. It was the best I’ve ever had! Our street, Rue Mouffetard, was so pretty with the lights on at night! It also had a really cool, young scene to it which I really liked. After dinner we went back to the hostel, got some wifi, and went to bed.

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Day 3

On our last full day in Paris, Raleigh and I woke up pretty early again, ate breakfast at the hostel, then made our way to the Louvre! Again, I can’t even begin to describe how massive this museum was. It’s one of the world’s biggest museums. If you wanted to, you honestly could spend an entire week in there looking at everything in there. There are three wings to explore, with multiple floors for each wing. We weren’t too interested in spending the entire day there, but we obviously made our way to the biggest attractions… first up: the Mona Lisa!

Seeing the Mona Lisa in real life was pretty darn cool. I was surprised to see how little the painting actually is though. They have it hung on a little wall in the middle of a big room, encased in glass. But the funny thing is that opposite of the Mona Lisa was this MASSIVE painting on the other wall, which makes the Mona Lisa look even smaller. It was pretty funny how they set it up. It’s true that her eyes follow you no matter where you walk in the room. There were tons of people surrounding the painting taking their own tourist pictures of it.

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We also went to a few other main attractions in the Louvre, such as the sphinx, the Winged Victory statue, and the Venus de Milo statue. It really was a cool place, but a little overwhelming. Our next stop was to Musee d’Orsay with tons of other French paintings, mostly impressionist and post-impressionist works. We got to see paintings by Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, and Van Gogh! This museum didn’t let its visitors take pictures, but I snuck a few from my iPhone! It was cool to see the self-portrait by Van Gogh.

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After that, we walked over to the Notre Dame Cathedral. It had beautiful French Gothic architecture and was really big inside. There were tons of windows with gorgeous stained glass and we walked around inside and took some pictures. You have to be quiet inside and there was some kind of service going on in there when we walked in. The city is currently prepping for its 850 year anniversary by touching up some things on the inside and out of the cathedral. It looked really cool! We visited one last chapel with more beautiful stained glass windows, and started our walk back to the hostel to grab our stuff and head towards the airport.

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However, on our walk back there we ran into a spot I was looking for the whole time in Paris. We found ourselves in the front of the steps/street from the movie Midnight in Paris with Owen Wilson. The steps appear in the scene where he gets picked up by the magical carriage that takes him back in time. It was so cool to realize we were at that exact spot from the movie… which we completely stumbled upon. Obviously, I freaked out a little bit and took some pictures by the steps (which were actually steps up to a church). Pretty cool stuff.

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My last meal in Paris consisted of waffles and ice cream as one last treat in the city of love!

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Raleigh and I had such a great weekend in Paris, and I’m so glad we had pretty much three full days to explore and see the city. It was probably my favorite place I’ve visited because there was just SO much to do and see. We were on our feet the entire time, and the food there was just delicious. I’d LOVE the opportunity to go back there some day… especially with a boyfriend or husband! It really was a romantic place.

So that’s all about my Paris excursion. More to come soon about how the end of my semester ended in London!

 

 

 

Winter Wonderland, Camden Market, & Digby Xmas Dinner

So time is ticking. I have 13 more days here in London. WHAT. As I write this, I have a billion things that I need to get done: schoolwork, cleaning, visiting London attractions, saying bye (gosh I don’t want to think about it all)! I haven’t mentioned it in my blog yet, but my mom is coming to visit me here and fly back home to America with me. I am so so soooo glad to have her here at the end of the semester so I won’t be as stressed packing up everything and shoving it into my suitcases (luckily, she will bring a large suitcase that I can fit even more stuff into, woohoo)! My mom gets here early on Dec. 13 (A WEEK FROM TODAY, AH) and we leave for Venice Dec. 14-16, then back to the USA on Dec. 19. This is insane.

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

So anyway, in my attempts to do everything I want to do in/around London, I have been taking little day trips to places recently. A little less than two weeks ago (11/23), Raleigh, Sinead and I went to Hyde Park for the opening night of Winter Wonderland. I expected it to be like Rockefeller Center’s Christmas decorations, because we heard there is a big ice rink and winter decorations, but it was a lot bigger than I had expected! It was more like a winter/Christmas theme park/carnival! There were tons of rides that you could buy tickets for, mainly carnival rides like fun houses, rollercoasters, bumper cars, dropping rides, spinning rides, swinging rides… everything! Before reaching all the rides, there was a long path of vendors/booths that sold Christmas themed things, like ornaments, decorations, lights, candles, and much more. They also advertised “mulled wine” which is very popular around the holidays. We took a look at a lot of the fun Christmas items and then ventured into the ride area. Mixed in with the rides were TONS of food vendors everywhere, selling ALL types of carnival foods you can imagine. The one thing I noticed that England doesn’t have (I had Sinead confirm): funnel cake! I thought that they must have that token carnival snack, but apparently people in England don’t know what funnel cake is. So sad. Anyway, we ate our way through Winter Wonderland, first getting Galaxy hot chocolate. I then proceeded to get a crepe with banana and nutella. We then ran into a large part of the park that was German themed (I don’t really know why, but there were tons of booths selling sausages and beer). The bratwurst looked too tempting to pass up, so I ended up getting one of those too. Yeah, it was a bad eating night… but so yummy! Sinead, Raleigh, and I wanted to buy tickets for the biggest fun house we could find, but right when we got there they were closing the rides. Oh well! We spent another 20 minutes watching people pay money to try and win some carnival games… particularly the impossible basketball one with insanely bouncy balls, hard rims, and a stern backboard. Not too many people won prizes, but it was fun cheering people on.

So that wraps up my night in Winter Wonderland. I may bring my mom back to check it out! Here’s the website for it if you want to check it out a little more: http://www.hydeparkwinterwonderland.com/

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Camden Market

Raleigh and I ventured off campus the other day (12/4) because we still have places we want to explore and I am officially done with classes as of TODAY (Yay more free time.) I have friends who have been to Camden Town before, which is just a little north of Central London, and they said it’s definitely a place to check out. The Camden Markets is the fourth most popular visitor attraction in London, and is divided into a few different sections (Lock Market, Stables Market, Lock Village). It is also known to have an alternative/punk vibe to it. There were lots of tattoo parlors and piercing places… it was definitely the most edgy place I’ve seen here! The main street has plenty of shops that sell ALL types of souvenirs possible with a London theme… mugs, magnets, key chains, postcards, shot glasses, posters, etc. I ended up buying a bunch of things to bring back for friends, and a few things for myself too! There was a section that had so many different food vendors of all kinds: kebab, Chinese, Mediterranean, American, and more. Raleigh and I stopped for lunch at a place called Woody’s Grill and had kebab, which is basically meat carved off a rotating cylinder of chicken or lamb and put in a pita wrap with lettuce, sauces, and some other toppings if you so desire. It was really good, and something Raleigh had been craving for a while so I’m glad we went. Other parts of Camden Markets sold lots of clothing, particularly tank tops with cute designs on them, and some other typical touristy t-shirts too. There was so much to look at in each section of the market… I could have been looking at things there all day!

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We had our fill of the markets once we decided we spent almost all our money for the day, and then took the tube into Covent Garden (closer to central London) to get afternoon hot chocolate and a snack. After walking around in the cold, the warm café was just what we needed. I hadn’t been to Covent Garden in a little while, and once we got there it was so pretty to see all the Christmas lights they put up. London does a fantastic job of decorating for the holidays. They are super obsessed with lights, pretty trees, and other winter décor for the streets! I love it!

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Digby Stuart Christmas Dinner

We got back to campus that evening, and I had an hour of downtime until getting ready for the Digby Stuart Christmas Dinner. All students a part of the Digby campus were invited to a nice dinner hosted by the university, and for ten pounds we got a three course meal and some wine. It got crowded really fast, so I sat with Raleigh and my flatmate Sami who happened to be there too, but got split up from Liza and Sinead. The food was a lot like what they gave us for the free thanksgiving dinner for American students. We had parsnip soup and break as an appetizer, and the main course was turkey, stuffing, gravy, brussel sprouts, potatoes, parsnips, and “pigs in a blanket,” which were actually sausages wrapped in bacon (delicious). For dessert they gave us a weird “pudding” which wasn’t really pudding but a cake with a strange consistency and covered in white sauce. I didn’t like it… and it takes a lot for me to not eat the dessert! They played some Christmas music throughout the dinner and had a singing group come in and sing a few carols as well. Overall the night was okay, but I can’t complain about the unlimited wine! I also really liked that we got to dress up for the event too!

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More to come soon about some last minute adventures before I leave to go home!

Reading Week Part 3: Dublin, Ireland!

I landed in Dublin, Ireland at night (11/7) and easily met up with Raleigh at baggage claim since our flights arrived at the same time (perfect planning!). We took a bus to the center of Dublin where our hostel was only a few blocks away. We stayed at the Ashfield House hostel, which was probably my favorite of the three I stayed in over the reading week trip. It had a large common area on the ground floor and offered a free breakfast every morning (toast, jam, hard boiled eggs, cereal, coffee, tea…) which we took advantage of for the first morning. So when Raleigh and I checked in, we didn’t realize how late it really was (a little past midnight) and the guy at the desk gave us our room key telling us we were the last ones to check in for the night and to look for the two open free beds in the 18 person co-ed room… we didn’t realize that he was basically saying “good luck with that,” but when we opened the door to the room we got the hint. The room was pitch black and filled with people sleeping in the bunk beds. Raleigh and I didn’t want to turn on the light, knowing that we’d have 16 angry sleepers hating us for waking them up, so I pulled out my iPhone to use the flashlight (really handy in this situation)! All of a sudden we heard a whispering voice saying our names, and realized it was Eliza who had a bed in the corner of the room! She helped us settle in and make our beds (which happened to be an empty bunk bed right next to hers, I got the top). Let me just say this: if you’re going to check into a hostel, try to plan on arriving during a time in the afternoon where you can actually make noise and have light to put your stuff somewhere. It was a nightmare trying to not only do all of this in the dark, but we had to be silent in fear of getting shushed by those angry sleepers.

Day 8 (11/8)

We woke up the next morning and ate the free breakfast at the hostel, which was actually really good! After that, Raleigh, Eliza, and I ventured out to into the city to roam around a little and see the main streets of Dublin. We walked down a main street, called O’Connell Street and did a little browsing in shops before grabbing lunch at a really good restaurant called Salamanca (thinking of my roommate Taylor who is studying abroad there in Spain!). We had to rush through lunch, which was delicious, to make it on time to a free walking tour of the city. We learned about the Dublin castle, history of how the city had developed through the years, walked through the Temple Bar area (which was my favorite), Trinity College, saw the street where U2 got started and where Bono owns a hotel (Clarence Hotel), and ended the tour at St. Stephen’s Green park. Our guide also told us some amusing stories of Irish mistakes in war and monument construction. For example: they built a large pointy monument in the middle of the street on O’Connell which looks absolutely out of place in the city, which some like to call “the erection at the intersection,” but it’s actually called the millennium statue. Our tour group was really amused by that. The only good thing that the big pointy structure is good for is finding a central spot of the city when you’re lost (most helpful when you’re drunk, says our guide). Too funny!

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After the tour we walked around a bit more to revisit some places on the tour, then headed back to the hostel to get ready for a pub crawl that night. We bought a pub crawl ticket for 10 euro each and it included a free pint of beer/cider at the first bar and then lots of discounts/offers for drinks at the other four bars, then free entrance to the club as the last stop of the night. The pub crawl is hosted by the same company who does the free walking tours of the city, and our guide had told us that over 200 people were signed up for that night. We were so excited because it was Raleigh’s 20th birthday at midnight that night and we wanted to go a little crazy to celebrate! We met a guy named Mike on our tour (also studying in London and visiting Dublin for the weekend) and another two girls from Canada (Molly and Mika, doing a big Europe trip this semester) who all agreed to do the pub crawl as well.

Eliza, Raleigh and I got to the first bar where we got our free pint of Bulmers (alcoholic cider, really popular in Ireland) and hung out until our new tour friends got there. We then learned that the 200 people who “signed up” were doing their own separate pub crawl so it was a lot smaller than they had told us. Nevertheless, we still had a decent sized group of maybe 30 people, mostly adults in their later 20s, but it was still so much fun. I won’t go into every single detail about each bar we visited, but it was one of my favorite nights going out through this entire abroad experience. I ended up spending a decent amount of money on drinks but it was definitely worth it. Because it was Raleigh’s birthday, she got a free ticket for the pub crawl all together. However, the leader of our pub crawl made Raleigh get 20 birthday kisses and document each with a picture (which ended up being mainly my job!) by the end of the night, or else she had to buy the pub crawl leader a drink. Throughout the night we were shoving random guys to kiss her on the cheek which was so funny. She was a little hesitant about it at first but the guys were harmless and it was too funny to watch. At the third pub of the night, my personal favorite, we got on a microphone there and made everyone sing happy birthday to her. That pub happened to be a traditional Irish pub and they had a band playing Irish jig music and we learned some drinking/cheering songs from the staff. It was awesome. The night ended at a night club with music and dancing once we hit all five bars. We ended up staying at the club for maybe a half hour until we decided it was time to call it a night. By the way, Raleigh really did get all 20 kisses! I wish I could go back and relive that night again… it was insanely fun!

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Eliza, Raleigh and I had a little creepy encounter after leaving the pub crawl that night when we went to get some food before going back to our hostel. We were sitting in a SuperMac’s (pretty much a knockoff McDonald’s) and were eating some food when an older homeless guy came in and stopped at our table grunting and pointing at our food (he didn’t really speak words, it was weird). Raleigh tried to wave him off but he kept standing there with a scowl on his face and then reached for some of our food! Raleigh and I deflected his hands, saying “no” repeatedly and asking for him to go away. Finally I stood up and got the attention of the cashier guy working, who finally kicked the old (probably drunk) homeless guy outside. It was definitely a moment I will remember from Dublin.

Day 9 (11/9)

The next day, we definitely needed to sleep in a little from a crazy night out. We woke up around 10:30 and decided to go to a pub for lunch to get Irish beef and Guinness stew, something Eliza and Raleigh were really craving since we saw it being served the day before. I also ordered the traditional Irish dish, and it was really good!

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After lunch we walked around some more, saw the Molly Malone statue (one of the most famous in Dublin), and went back to the hostel. Raleigh had to register for next semester at UNCW that day, so she got wifi in the hostel and signed up for classes. Eliza had a flight out later that afternoon so she ended up leaving just a little after that. The rest of the afternoon Raleigh and I walked around and revisited Trinity College and St. Stephen’s park. Trinity College is just an absolutely beautiful little campus in the middle of Dublin. It is very prestigious, modeled after Cambridge and Oxford in England, and is the oldest university in Ireland. There was something about being on campus that just seemed really proper and high class (I guess kind of like Harvard, Princeton or Yale in comparison). I loved people-watching on campus. We even saw a graduation going on in the main square of campus.

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That evening Raleigh and I went to see a movie, For A Good Time Call, which ended up not being the best but we definitely needed a relaxing night. We then had dinner at a really good burger place that served massive sized burgers and sandwiches. We went back to the hostel after dinner to have a chill night before waking up really early the next morning for another tour…

Day 10 (11/10)

We had to wake up at 6:00 AM the next morning to be at the start of a bus tour through other parts of Ireland. The main attraction of the tour was the Cliffs of Moher, but we also stopped and visited some other cool sites in the Irish countryside. Although a large portion of our day consisted of sitting on a bus, the views from the window were incredible, and the bus driver was really entertaining to listen to. They played some Irish music as we journeyed into the countryside, which was funny too. Our first stop was at Dunguaire Castle, which overlooked a beautiful bay area. We also travelled to a Burren geosite, Poulbrone portal tomb, with some old limestone. We stopped for lunch at another Irish pub where I got a caesar salad and an Irish coffee (which is another Ireland staple beverage). Irish coffee is basically hot coffee, but with Irish whiskey, sugar, and topped with thick cream! It was strong, but still pretty good.

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We made our way up to the Cliffs of Moher (the main attraction of the tour) after lunch and a two more hours of driving. The Irish countryside really was breathtaking as we got higher up the mountains. It was so green and bright, and the animals on the fields were cool to look at (we saw alpacas, cows, and tons of sheep… so cute)!

The Cliffs of Moher were absolutely incredible. They are located on the middle of the west coast of the country and are presently Ireland’s most visited tourist attraction. A few popular movies were also filmed at the cliffs: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Runaway Bride, and Leap Year all had scenes there! It was amazing to stand right on the edge of the cliffs and look down into the ocean. It was insanely windy up there and I really felt like I almost got blown away! At one point Raleigh and I had to hide behind the big castle at the top (O’Brien’s Tower) to shield our bodies from the wind. However, we did get some beautiful pictures and it was worth enduring the freezing cold wind for a little to see it all!

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We had a nice long bus ride back to Dublin, arriving at around 9:00 PM in the city center. Needless to say, Raleigh and I were exhausted when we got back to the hostel, so we went to sleep at a decent hour once again. We had to wake up super early once again to catch a flight back to London the next morning so a little sleep was much needed!

So that’s what I did during my 3(ish) days in Dublin!

Things I LOVED about Dublin:

The accent, nightlife (and cider), the busy city, Trinity College, variety of food options, & Irish pubs, and the pub crawl, of course.

Other things I noted about Dublin:

–          The stereotypical drunk Irish people really do exist… everywhere. I really felt like there were plenty of crazy drunk people walking around at all times of day/night in the city. We encountered a girl in her 20s in McDonald’s who sat near us and actually asked us to take a moment and do a cheers with our French fries. Hilarious.

–          While the city isn’t the most beautiful one I’ve visited, there were some really pretty monuments and buildings scattered around, such as City Hall, Dublin Castle, and a few pretty cathedrals

–          The night life was the best of all the cities I’ve visited… especially the Temple Bar area with tons of pubs all in a few blocks!

–          Overall, I’d say the Irish can be sometimes “blissfully oblivious” (a term Raleigh and I came up with after listening to some funny stories from our tour guide) because of the foolish way they go about things.

–          Guinness was the most popular drink (probably because the Guinness Factory is stationed in Dublin, which we didn’t get to) and people LOVE it. I tried it too, it wasn’t that bad actually!

–          Ireland has the best souvenir shops to buy gifts for people. They really play up the luck of the Irish things, with leprechauns, sheep, and beer items. I loved it! I also found my mom’s family crest on some things… Higgins is an Irish last name! I loved being part Irish in this city.

–          There really were more gingers in this city than anywhere else I’ve been! Haha.

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My Belated Thanksgiving Feast

Yesterday (11/25) I had the pleasure of hosting a belated Thanksgiving feast with some friends at my flat. I honestly was one of my favorite, most memorable nights here yet. Raleigh and I decided that we wanted to show some Brits (and an Australian, Eliza) how a real American Thanksgiving is done. Plus we just wanted some more Thanksgiving food too! So on Friday (11/23), Raleigh and I ventured to Asda and bought the makings of (almost) a FULL Thanksgiving feast. It was bit harder to find what we needed in an English grocery store, but we managed to get some alright version (or weird brand) of what we needed.

 

We planned to have people over here on Sunday night for dinner and spent almost the entire afternoon preparing (starting at 3 PM). I can’t take much credit for cooking the meal… Chef Raleigh did a fantastic job. I assigned myself the positions of chef’s assistant and DJ for the afternoon. We blasted Christmas music, jammed out, and prepared all the food for our friends to come over around 5:30.

My mom was so anxious to hear about our cooking experience in my kitchen, awaiting news of something going wrong with the meal . However, much to her dismay, Raleigh and I (mostly Raleigh) did a really good job and everything turned out to be DELICIOUS. Way better than the Roehampton mock-Thanksgiving dinner we went to the other night.

The meal consisted of:

A real roasted large turkey breast, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, and an appetizer of baguette bread with sliced apples and warm brie cheese.

Is your mouth watering yet? Well I haven’t even described dessert!

There were a total of seven of us who attempted to devour the huge meal: Me, Raleigh, Chelsea, Eliza, Sinead, Zack (Sinead’s boyfriend) and Mat (Chelsea’s boy). So overall, three Americans, two Brits, one Australian, and one Belgian. Quite the mix for a Thanksgiving feast, but at least we all came with big appetites! Note: there are SO many leftovers!

After seconds (and maybe thirds for some), we all reclined in our chairs feeling stuffed and happy. I made sure everyone was properly full because it’s not thanksgiving without feeling insanely stuffed yet still trying to shove food down your throat because it’s so good. We waited a little while, and obviously found some way to make room in our stomachs for dessert!

Eliza was kind enough to bring over two pies (an apple one, and a mixed berry one) with some vanilla ice cream, while Raleigh and I provided a nice big layered chocolate mousse cake (not as traditional, but Asda didn’t carry pumpkin pie in the store). Obviously I went for seconds on dessert because I’m a chocolate freak and couldn’t resist. After we all ate literally as much as we could, we decided to make the short walk to the Union (the campus bar) for a group trivia game that they hold on Sunday nights. Our group came in third and we won a redeemable free pizza and glass of wine at the pizzeria on campus! Pretty good prize I must say.

So that’s pretty much all about my belated Thanksgiving with friends. I will always look back on that night as one of my fondest memories here at Roehampton. The Christmas music, festive food, and colder weather really got me in the holiday spirit and I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited for Christmas. It’s just around the corner… less than a month as of yesterday! That’s all for now… can’t wait to get to basketball practice tonight to attempt to not feel obese anymore haha!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading Week Part 2: When in Rome…

Continuing my trip from when we flew out of the Barcelona airport at 5 AM…

Day 1 (11/4)

I think I may have slept for an hour on the plane, and we when touched down in Rome exhaustion was setting in for all three of us. We took a bus to the center of Rome, which dropped us off a few minutes away from our hostel apparently. But we ended up walking up and down the same two streets in the spitting rain for about an hour, asking guys who only spoke Italian where the Legends Hostel was. After receiving wrong directions about three times, we FINALLY finished our scavenger hunt to the hidden door of this mysterious hostel. It turned out not to be that bad inside, but the time it took to find the place was super frustrating. We dropped off our bags and worked up some energy at breakfast to explore some of the city.

 

 

Using a big map as our guide that we received from the hostel, we basically headed towards the areas with the prettiest looking buildings drawn out. We ended up wandering around a lot of the city so we covered some cool places that we didn’t even expect to walk to on the map. We planned a walking route to get to Trevi Fountain, walking past Plaza de Rebublica, the President’s House (which has something going on inside because there were people crowding around the front, we just couldn’t really understand what was happening). We made it to Trevi Fountain right in the middle of the day and it was definitely one of my favorite touristy places I’ve been to in Europe so far. The fountain really had a magical quality to it. The backdrop to the fountain had gorgeous architecture with statues of the gods creating a magnificent scene. The area was so packed with people, but we made our way down to the water at the fountain and threw in our coins over our shoulders after making a wish (I hope mine comes true)! Legend has it that if you throw in a coin at the Trevi Fountain you are guaranteed to return to Rome one day.

 

 

 

After we took our pictures at Trevi Fountain, we continued our walk around the city with the map as our guide. We wandered towards some ruins in the middle of the city (not the Roman Forum, but just some other land that they randomly blocked off by random roads and buildings. It’s crazy to me all the history that this city has. Every corner you turn there is another beautiful building towering over the street that leaves you wondering its significance and what it used to be. We went to a beautiful museum called the museum of Italian Reunification, paired with a monument called Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II (National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II, who was the first king of a unified Italy). The entire structure of the place was incredible!

 

 

We stopped for a late lunch at a really fun area called Campo de Fiori, which is an outdoor marketplace and square with some really good Italian restaurants. I got authentic Italian gnoocci with a cream sauce for lunch and it was delicious… and I was completely stuffed. Our feet were getting so tired from all the walking around that day, along with exhaustion setting in from barely a few hours of sleep, so we made it an early night and went back to the hostel to get some rest for a busy day two…

 

Day 2 (11/5)

We bought a metro pass for the day to travel around Rome a bit quicker (yet the train system in the city only has two lines… SO small compared to London). We woke up early and made it to the Vatican area to explore the famous site. A woman approached us about taking a Vatican tour which enabled us to skip the lines and also get some interesting information which we wouldn’t get on our own, so we signed up and toured with a group. The Vatican area was very unique and was nothing like I’ve seen before at a museum. We walked through a bunch of rooms with lots of crazy colorful paintings and sculptures, and other works of art. It was awesome to see the Sistine Chapel but they unfortunately wouldn’t let us take pictures of it… thanks Michelangelo (probably not your fault, but whatever)!

 

 

 

Our tour ended at St. Peter’s Basilica which was my favorite part of the Vatican tour. It was the most beautiful church I’ve ever seen and the inside was just enormous. The paintings, sculptures, and entire atmosphere of the place were incredible. It’s where the pope hangs out so I can see why it’s so nice! Overall, the Vatican in general was pretty cool to see, definitely a must-visit while in Rome, but I don’t see myself spending that money to go again anytime soon.

 

 

 

 

 

After this extensive tour, we stopped for lunch and I got some good ravioli. We then headed to St. Angelo’s castle which looked really cool on our map. It didn’t lie, this place was massive and one of my favorite castles I’ve seen so far in Europe!

 

 

 

 

My friend Calvin who studied in Rome last year told us that we needed to visit Piazza de Popolo and we got there right at the perfect time of the sunset, which made for some great pictures of the city. We walked around the area called Villa Borghese (which is like the Italian Central Park) but it was getting really dark so we couldn’t see much of the park.

 

Our last stop of the day was to the Spanish Steps, which were really crowded no matter what time of day you go to see them, and then for some evening gelato (YUM). After getting back to the hostel, Megan decided to stay in and Kelly and I went back our for a three course dinner at a ma and pop little Italian restaurant owned by the sweetest old couple who served us. The meal was delicious! I had salad, spaghetti carbonara, chicken, bread, wine, AND a tiramisu-like dessert! Kelly and I had such a good time just talking and relaxing at dinner… and we left really full and happy.

 

DAY 3 (11/6)

We dedicated this day to see and tour the COLOSSEUM and Roman Forum (the ruins)! A nice guy approached us and convinced us to spend a little extra money for another tour which enabled us to once again skip the lines and have a knowledgeable tour guide. I absolutely LOVED the tour of the Colosseum. Did you know that the main reason for its destructed outer part is from an earthquake!? I learned so much about how they entertained the people at the Colosseum (Flavian Amphitheater) during the Roman Empire with fights between gladiators and animals. There were tons of visible passageways where they used to transport and keep the fighting animals under the arena before fights. It was so cool! Seeing this iconic site was by far the highlight of Rome.

  

 

 

   

We also toured through the Roman Forum after the Colosseum and learned even more about the Roman Empire and how the ruins were not really destroyed by the earthquake, but by their own people who needed materials to build newer churches, homes, and communities elsewhere in Rome. It was so fascinating to see what the people decided to leave (things that weren’t important enough to take and recreate). It was such a beautiful day and Megan, Kelly and I really enjoyed walking around and exploring some ancient history.

 

 

   

For lunch we stopped at yet another Italian place (shocker) and we split a few things: Cheese tortellini and a four cheese pizza, then we got gelato yet again (duh, so good). During the nighttime we had planned on going out to a popular tourist bar called the Drunken Ship but it was a far walk from the hostel and we ended up just hanging out in our hostel’s kitchen area and talking to some other foreign travelers, mainly two guys from New Zealand and Canada. It was a good night to just hang out and meet some people.

Day 4 (11/7)

This was our last day in Rome, sadly. We woke up early and actually got two, yes two, breakfasts. The traditional Italian breakfast is just a small croissant and cup of cappuccino so we decided that we needed to try that before we leave. However, this breakfast is absolutely not filling enough for us Americans, so we found another nice place that offered bigger American-style breakfasts and the three of us ordered ham and cheese omlettes. They were so good and we were properly full after that. The waiter at that restaurant was really funny but creepily flirty with me… typical Italian behavior I think. After breakfast(s), it was time to part ways with Megan and Kelly because they had an earlier flight to Prague while my flight was later in the afternoon to Dublin. So I had a few hours to wander around Rome myself and visit some places we didn’t hit in the other days. I did enjoy walking around myself… I went back to the Spanish Steps, then Villa Borghese during the day and explored a lot more than we saw in the dark. It really was a beautiful central park-like area with green grass fields, fountains, and playgrounds. After that, I went back to Trevi Fountain and just people watched tourists taking pictures by the site as I devoured my last snack in Rome: a Nutella croissant. It was a perfect last moment to my Rome visit.

 

 

 

 

 

I made it to the airport late afternoon, and finally took off to my last destination: Dublin with Raleigh and Eliza!

Things I LOVED about Rome:

THE FOOD (both the meals and desserts), the historic atmosphere feel, beautiful architecture, sunny days, the Colosseum, listening to people speak Italian.

Other things I noticed about Rome:

-you can basically cross the street with your eyes closed as long as you’re at a crosswalk. Cars will stop for the pedestrians at any time! It was awesome.

-There were the most amount of smokers in a city that I have ever seen. Everywhere we walked on the streets, there were people basically blowing smoke in our faces left and right, it was hard to avoid sometimes. Super frustrating.

-The city itself was pretty clean, which was refreshing to walk around nice streets

-There were soooooo many annoying street vendor guys who tried to get us to buy their crappy tourist items ALL THE TIME. NO, I do not want to buy a cheap scarf, Colosseum figurine, or another magnet. Thanks, go away.

-I’ve never seen so many homeless people in a city. I felt like they were on every street corner, sitting with dogs, with other homeless people, always grumbling at people walking by asking for money in Italian. The worst thing I saw in Rome was a woman lying on the sidewalk in her own urine. That moment really stands out in my head, unfortunately.

-I feel like sirens of ambulances were constantly going of all the time. Ever seen James Bond? Yeah, the sound was like that.

-The majority of the toilets didn’t have seats on them… for women’s too.

-There were tons of vendors on the street selling roasted chestnuts for some reason… I thought that was really random, but Kelly and I split some after the Colosseum becuase we felt like we had to try them. Not bad!

-I can really understand the saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day” now. The buildings everywhere were too elaborate and beautiful to even be built in hundreds of years. It truly was something I’ve never seen before!