dear vienna

Happy Friday! I’ve learned that writing blog posts on the train between countries is the fastest way to pass the time, especially because it doesn’t require Wifi, just a Word Doc. As I’m writing this (and on my way to Brussels!), I’m listening to Ben Howard on Spotify and listening to a relationship between two strangers bloom a row behind me. Let’s continue on with my travel recap!

After Prague, my family and I took a train to Vienna, Austria. My parents had already been to Vienna a few months before and said it was their absolute favorite, so I was pretty excited. When we got off the train, we realized it was really hot, like a dry wind kind of hot. We checked in at the Stars Inn hotel near the train station (they opened in July 2017 so it’s really new!). My sister and I had our own room to ourselves.

My sister and I were pretty hungry after traveling, so we went to Akakiko, an Asian-fusion restaurant right around the corner of our hotel. We were craving ramen so I ordered the duck ramen and she ordered the seafood ramen. It truly satisfied our cravings – I would recommend this restaurant if you want some Asian food!

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Our first stop for the day was the Schloss Belvedere, which is a baroque castle that was built as a summer residence for a prince back in the day. It was really beautiful: there’s a huge lawn and then a large fountain in front of the actual castle, which were all very well-kept. When you walk around to the back of the castle, there’s another garden-type thing. Talk about a backyard! My sister and I walked to the back where there were more trees and sat down on a bench and just talked about deep life topics that I won’t disclose here 😉

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After the Schloss Belvedere, we ate dinner at an authentic Austrian restaurant (omg I don’t remember the name, I’m so sorry!), but it wasn’t memorable anyway and we didn’t have the best experience because it was probably 90 degrees outside and the restaurant didn’t turn on the air conditioning so we were all sweating while eating our meal.

The next morning, we grabbed a delicious coffee & pastry kind of breakfast at our closest Felber. Our main stop today was the Schonbrunn Palace. On the way there, we took the train and it was a struggle because we lost my mom in the process and had to backtrack to get her. With a few bumps here and there, we finally got there! The Schonbrunn is a huge palace, with a museum inside and horses with carriages towing people from one area of the grounds to the next. There’s a lavish garden/maze that was free to walk through, and we walked uphill to the top and took in the view.

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We had an early dinner and ate at Ribs of Vienna, which is a really cool, centuries-old restaurant in a cellar-type setting. It’s super dim in there just because there’s no natural lighting, but I didn’t mind much. I’m not much of a ribs gal, but they were actually the best ribs I’ve ever had. And the customer service was great! They stayed past closing time to serve us. After our meal, we walked around the outside of Hofburg Wein for a few hours, which was pretty but not particularly memorable for me.

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My favorite part of Vienna? Going to Café Central for dessert! The interior was gorgeous and there was even a pianist playing inside. The dessert was so delicious – I already want to go back! After that, we walked around some more but didn’t have anything else on our to-see list, so we headed back to the hotel for an early night in.

All in all, we didn’t spend too much time in Vienna because my parents had already been, but I don’t think I needed more than 24 hours in Vienna. It’s a pretty city, but definitely a lot quieter than the ones I’ve been to, like Paris and Barcelona. I don’t think I would go back (maybe for the ribs though!). I wish I had gone to Salzburg or Halstatt, really, but I have some fond memories with my family in Vienna for sure.

Ta ta for now!

Jen

dear prague

Hello again! I can’t believe I’ve actually managed to post every day for a week straight. I’ve forgotten it’s tiring, but so, so fun.

Next up? Prague! I flew to Prague on my own, hassle-free, and arrived an hour before my parents and my twin showed up! I hadn’t seen my sister in nearly 6 months, the longest we’d been apart. It was just like old times, catching up with her. We hopped in a taxi and drove to our apartment we rented out for the next few days in Prague 1, Old Town. Driving through the city, I was struck with the beauty of Prague! It kind of reminded me of Paris, but slightly different. The buildings are beautifully adorned and detailed, but there are less awnings and coffee shops for sure. For dinner that night, my parents were craving Asian food (as always), so we randomly picked one to eat at, which was just alright.

The next morning, we went to Home Kitchen, a super cute coffee shop that actually has an extensive menu and ended up being super delicious. I ordered a cappuccino, scrambled eggs, and a fruit + yogurt bowl, and was stuffed. After, our first stop was the Astronomical Clock. When we got to the square, it was filled with people, tourists, and entertainers. However, the clock was under construction, it was so sad! We could barely even see it, let alone go up it.

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We made our way to the Charles Bridge and took our sweet time crossing it. It’s a huge bridge with plenty of artists and performers set up to entertain people who are walking across it, I loved it! The musicians were particularly amazing. Right before you cross it, there’s Prague’s version of the love locks. The view on the bridge is stunning, y’all. You can see the Prague Castle and it’s many teal and burnt-orange rooftops!

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We walked up toward the Prague Castle in the hot afternoon sun, but it was so worth it! We didn’t actually go inside the halls of the castle, but walking on the premise itself was enough. After having been to so many European churches/cathedrals, I’ve noticed that they’ve all started to blur together, so I’m pretty much done looking at those.

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We stopped by the Franz Kafka Museum gift shop because why not?? I read Kafka’s The Metamorphosis in high school and didn’t love it, but respected it enough that I wanted to see the museum. For dinner, we went to Nostalgie Restaurant! It had pretty good reviews online, so I ordered a beef/cranberry meal, and it turned out to be really good. The waiter was low-key creepy though and kept hitting on me and my sister.

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After dinner, we wanted to see the sun set over the Vlatva River on the Charles Bridge, but it was too cloudy. My mom and I grabbed gelatos at Amorino since we were already in the area (yes, the same rose gelato place from Barcelona!) and I was #blessed and redeemed with a perfectly shaped rose gelato. Then it started thundering and pouring down rain! We practically ran across the Charles Bridge to go home. The city looked so creepy with the stones and multiple lightning strikes – it looked straight out of a movie!

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The next morning, we went to Café Louvre for breakfast (can’t seem to escape Paris, eh?). Y’all, I was shook by how beautiful this breakfast place was. I ordered a cappuccino and the pancakes with raspberry sauce and it was so delicious! The way everything was presented was great; although, I do have to say that the waiters in Prague seem to be a lot nicer and patient than the waitresses.

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We made our way to see the Dancing House, which was actually quite underwhelming – I wouldn’t recommend it. We pretty much finished our to-see list at that point, so we just wandered around the same area and relaxed at parks. For dinner, my sister and I went to a food court that had two eateries I had heard were great: Sisters and Nase Maso. Sisters has great open-faced sandwiches. I had heard RAVE reviews about Nase Maso (it’s a butcher shop), but I had no idea how to read the menu, so I ordered something random and got…wait for it… pork sausage links. They were really salty and really not that great (and I’m a pretty big fan of meat, so that’s saying something).

My family and I made it back out to the Charles Bridge to see the sunset again and it was definitely prettier the second night! The golden light shines over the river and it’s quite breathtaking.

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We checked out of our apartment pretty early the next day and took the train to Vienna! I had wanted to visit Prague for awhile and it wasn’t too much or too less, really. There aren’t a lot of things to do, but it’s a pleasant city and really beautiful. I can’t say I want to go back already, but maybe someday (in a few decades, maybe??). Thanks Praha!

dear paris

Happy Wednesday!

How is everyone’s week going? I’ve been having a wonderful timing traveling with my family, and squeezing in time at night in the hotel to finish some last assignments for my study abroad programs ,and blogging. Today’s travel recap, as noted in the title, is of my time spent in Paris! Brace yourself for a long one – I was in Paris for nearly a week. If you know me, ever since I read and loved Anna and the French Kiss, I’ve been dying to visit Paris. I had my fingers and toes crossed, in hopes that I would love this city – and love it I did.

This Paris leg of the trip was just me, Cannon, and Jordan. Right when we arrived to the ORY airport in Paris, we used a taxi to get to our hostel. Driving through the streets was already so amazing and beautiful. The buildings looked a bit like Rome and we all got a little nostalgic for Italy. We booked our hostel with St. Christopher’s in Gare Du Nord. When we arrived in the area, we were immediately sketched out. The area itself is pretty run-down and let me tell you, we practically ran to our hostel because we were low-key freaked out. The hostel inside was fine, it was pretty cozy and chill actually; I just wouldn’t recommend this hostel in the Gare Du Nord location.

We chose an all-female dorm and unpacked our things. The beds had curtains so I could tell I was going to be sleeping well! When we finally settled down, it was way past lunch time, and we weren’t sure where to go, especially in Sketchville (our dubbed name for Gare Du Nord), so we ate a lunch/dinner downstairs. St. Christopher’s is attached to a restaurant, Belushi’s, where hostel residents get a 25% discount. I got a croquet madame and it was just what I needed. The restaurant itself definitely screamed “hostel”: socializing with beer pong and a bar in the center of the restaurant.

Then, we took the metro to the center of the city. The underground subway was pretty confusing at first, but thanks to Cannon’s experience with the NYC subway, we were able to find our way. Unbelievably, after our first time using the subway, the ticket officer checked us! We were startled at first but realized what he was asking for. We were a little shook since we hadn’t been in the city for more than 24 hours.

Our first stop in the city? The Arc de Triomphe! There was a ton of people but we managed to squeeze in some pictures in the middle of the street. Then we walked down the famous shopping street, Champs-Elysse! It was glorious; I think that was the moment I realized that I was in love with Paris. We stumbled upon the Laduree flagship store and of course I had to go in and by some! With no shame, I purchased a box of six macarons in a pretty little pink box – it cost 17.50 euros, #RIPmywallet! But they were so good. We ate our macarons outside the shop/restaurant (I had no idea they served actual food) and had a mini photoshoot with them. That concluded our first half-day in Paris!IMG_9741Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetProcessed with VSCO with hb1 presetProcessed with VSCO with hb1 presetProcessed with VSCO with hb1 preset

The next morning, we grabbed breakfast downstairs as part of the hostel deal inside Belushi’s. I ate a simple yogurt with muesli, and ham + cheese on baguette bread (plus coffee, of course). We headed back into the city (and got checked for our tickets AGAIN.) and made our way to the Eiffel Tower! It was actually unbelievable; I’m still shook that I’ve been to the Eiffel Tower. Jordan and Cannon wanted to go up the tower, but I didn’t want to, so while they went up the tower, I made my way along the Seine River. It was the loveliest stroll and having that alone time gave me time to rejuvenate and just think. I walked quite a ways and stumbled upon Petite Palais, which ended up being a free admission museum! I definitely recommend it, since it actually has a lot of things to look at (I love free things – that bang for buck). Afterward, I made my way across Ponte Alexander III bridge, with all of its gold foiling glory.

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I started walking back toward the tower and just wandered the streets. It’s so darling everywhere you look, and eventually I decided to enter a coffeeshop for a croissant and a latte. I finally met back up with Cannon and Jordan, and we snapped some pictures in front of the tower. I don’t remember the exact place we went for lunch, but our waiter was quite rude.

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We walked around some more after that and saw The American Library in Paris! I had to stop inside. Right when we walked in though, there was a gate that said we had to be library patrons in order to go inside the library – I was disheartened. Luckily, the librarian saw and let me in! He said I could have five minutes inside, bless booklovers, honestly. It was so wonderful seeing American books again.

Then we took the train up to Montmarte, more specifically, to see Sacre Couer. It’s a pretty steep incline, and on the street up to see the basilica, there were a ton of fun shops and restaurants! So many cookie and chocolate shops, I was a little overwhelmed. When we finally made it up to the top, the view was so amazing! Unfortunately, we couldn’t see the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe because the cliffside’s trees blocked it, but it’s definitely worth the climb. We went inside the basilica (free entry), and while it was pretty, it’s not the prettiest I’ve seen. We stayed inside for a bit before deciding we wanted to explore the rest of Montmarte.

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Montmarte is extremely cute – the winding paths and adorned buildings really got to me! I realized that the Moulin Rouge was also in the area, so we stopped by the red windmill and huge sign. It was around dinner time and I was way more hungry than Jordan and Cannon (a common theme!), so I grabbed dinner by myself at a restaurant near the basilica and then took the train back with Jordan and Cannon to the Arc de Triomphe.

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Tonight was the night that I wanted to climb to the top of the arc and see the city during sunset! This was the reason why I didn’t want to go up the Eiffel Tower to see the view of the city, because the Arc does a great job of actually seeing the city with the tower in it, and it was cheaper. However, I couldn’t figure out for the life of me how to get to the Arc! The Arc is sort of an island in the midst of all the cars, and I circled around the entire outside of the Arc before realizing that you had to go underground to get underneath the Arc. I knew it couldn’t be that I had to risk my life by dodging all the cars in order to get to the Arc!

The line to get tickets was pretty long, so I’d advise you to go early. I made my way up right before the sun started setting, and was able to see the city before the sun set, during the sunset, and when it got dark. It was extremely windy up there, and getting colder as the night went on. It was so, so beautiful though, a sight I’ll never forget. Jordan and Cannon joined me right as it got dark. At every hour after the sun sets, the Eiffel Tower has a light show! We saw it at 10pm and it goes off for 5 minutes. It’s so funny because right when the lights start, the crowd gasps in awe. Honestly, this was probably my favorite night!

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The next morning, we grabbed a croissant and cappuccino breakfast (cappuccinos are SO expensive in Paris, y’all!). Then we headed to Notre Dame! This one was pretty spectacular inside. What’s cool about Notre Dame is that it is Paris’ kilometer zero: the official centre of the city! Next, we visited Shakespeare and Company, an American bookstore. I had this one on my list and being able to visit it made me so, so happy. It was so cozy inside, with tight corners and cool rooms with armchairs and typewriters. I bit the bullet and bought a non-postcard souvenir, a Shakespeare and Co. canvas tote (it was only 10 euro, okay).

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We walked around the area some more and went to the Pantheon. While it wasn’t as grand as the one in Rome, it was still super cool to see Paris’s version of it! Then we walked over to the Luxembourg Garden, a favorite of mine for sure. The garden is huge and so beautiful. It’s really well-kept with the statues, fountains, and flowers.

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On our walk to the Louvre, we stopped by the famous love-locks bridge, the Ponte des Arts, only to see that the locks had been removed (they removed it in 2015)! They replaced the bridge’s lining with glass so that people can’t lock locks on the bridge anymore.

We finally made it to the Louvre, and in the Palais du Louvre before you enter the museum, there was a man shooing away – gypsies?? I had been warned of sly gypsy women who would steal your stuff or pretend to be deaf, etc., but didn’t think I’d actually encounter any. Watch out, people!

I wanted to stop by a famous Instagram/blogger spot, Les Deux Plateaux in Le Palais Royal. It was so cute! There was also a fountain there that was nice to relax in before we braced ourselves for the Louvre museum.

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Once we got to the Louvre around 5pm, we took abundant pictures (the tippy point pictures) and then entered the museum! At first, we wanted to stay together, but then realized that we wanted to see different things. So we split up! The Louvre was great; I saw multiple paintings by Monet and Van Gogh, but one negative thing I have to say about the Louvre? The map is literally the worst and useless thing ever. It didn’t make sense at all at any point. Around 7:45pm, I made my way to the Mona Lisa, and of course, there was a ton of people. No line, just a mob.

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Excuse me for a quick rant: I was almost to the front to see the painting, when a little girl (maybe around age 12ish?) suddenly came up behind me. She said, “excuse me” expecting me to move aside for her. Okay, one: I had been waiting longer than she had. Two: if she was shorter than me, I would have let her go in front of me to see it, but she was actually taller. So, three: no, I’m not going to move! She eventually still shoved her way in front of me by maneuvering around people but I just cannot believe people sometimes. End rant!

Jordan, Cannon, and I left the Louvre at around 8pm and went to dinner. Since it was Jordan’s last night, we decided to have a fancy dinner (and by fancy, I mean fancy). I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, but it was so boujee. Each person’s meal ended up being 36 euros each – I was a little horrified to be spending so much money on a meal, but the meal was actually really delicious and worth every euro. After dinner, we went to go see the Eiffel Tower’s light show from the ground. So beautiful and magnificent!!

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The next day was just me and Cannon, and while we really wanted to go to the Versaille Gardens, we didn’t go because we heard it was going to be incredibly crowded and a long wait to just get inside. So we grabbed a quick breakfast downstairs again at Belushi’s and then headed back to Champs-Elysse to the Longchamp store! Cannon wanted to buy the original Longchamp bag from Paris. Then we really took our time strolling down Champs-Elysse, discovering the magnificent-looking Abercrombie & Fitch. Y’all, it had gold-foiled gates and fancy hedges – plus, it was three floors. The clothes inside were actually different and nicer than the ones in the states!

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Afterward, we took the metro to Le Marais, which is a super elegant and cute area. Wandering around, I’m pretty sure it’s the arts/LGBTQ+ neighborhood. There was a ton of cute Etsy-like “concept” stores. It took us awhile to figure out what we wanted to eat, but we settled with Creperie Beauborg, which had reasonably-priced savory (and sweet) crepes that were pretty tasty. Then we walked to the library inside The Center Pompidou, and watched the square below with some dance performances. We took the escalators up the Pompidou and were able to get in free because it was during the middle of the day.

Then we wandered over to the Place des Vosges park, the oldest planned square in Paris! It was super relaxing and Cannon and I just napped a bit. To commemorate Cannon’s last night in Paris, we decided we would grab a baguette and wine to eat for dinner and watch the sun go down at Montmarte. We bought salami, a baguette, some garlic cheese, macarons, and wine and brought it to the top of the Sacre Couer again, and sat there for a good 2-3 hours. Cannon left at 4am the next morning, and I was left alone.

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Not going to lie, when I woke up the next morning, I felt super lonely. I never mind being alone since I’m pretty introverted, but it was my first time being in a foreign country alone. I had planned out my day alone the night before (thanks to Carly from The College Prepster’s recent trip to Paris). I woke up early and set out to Holybelly, a really cute breakfast place. Their branding is on fleek, I highly appreciated it. I got the iced London Fog and the chia yogurt. A little on the pricier side, but so delicious.

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Then, I decided to stop by the Musee de l’Orangerie, since Monet’s Water Lilies are there. Tickets for students outside the EU were around 6 euro I believe! There were two rooms featuring Monet’s work, and it was so gorgeous. I found a stranger to take a photo for me (downside of traveling alone!), because I had to have a picture. I stopped by the giftshop afterward and bought some Monet souvenirs.

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I left the museum at around noon (it’s amazing what you can accomplish so early in the day when you’re by yourself!) and went to Shakespeare and Company Coffee. I ordered a bagel sandwich and a cappuccino, picked a bar seat by the window inside, and camped out with my Kindle. I had a great view of the Notre Dame and it was just so pleasant people-watching, sipping on my coffee, and reading. I left at around 3pm and walked toward the Luxembourg Gardens once again. On the way, I stumbled upon The Abbey Bookshop, which I highly recommend for booklovers! It’s a super (like, super) cozy and tight bookshop with American books. I was so in love with all the crammed bookshelves and overall space!

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Once I got to the garden, I picked a chair, propped up my feet, leaned back, relaxed, and continued to read my book. I finished my read and then headed over to Le Bouillon Chartier for a really early dinner.

When I got there, I was awkwardly seated with a couple, since the restaurant has no two-person tables. I felt really uncomfortable at first since I was literally third-wheeling their date, but they were really nice and recommended their favorite meal to eat that was the best representation of French cuisine (I had no idea what to order). I ended up ordering a veal/potato combination that ended up being pretty good but full of fatty meat. The prices are really good for a nice Paris restaurant though, so I highly recommend it!

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I headed home at around 6:30pm that night since I didn’t want to walk through Gare Du Nord alone by myself at night. I packed and did a lot of blogging before going to bed really early. I headed to the airport really early even though my flight wasn’t until the afternoon.

I spent a really long time in Paris, and I do have to say it’s up there with my favorite cities in Europe. It’s just so me and what with so many coffee shops and bookstores around every corner, I was so comfortable just walking around, knowing I would find something I’d like. And just being able to see the Eiffel Tower was amazing. Ugh, I love Paris so much. I’ll definitely be coming back someday. I knew there was a reason why I named my blog name after the French language! J’adore, Paris, au revoir!

dear barcelona

No more Italy posts from me! After Italy, my friends Cannon, Jordan, and Mani and I were off to Barcelona! We flew Ryanair because it was really cheap, and we honestly expected to have a horrible experience based on the online reviews, but it was just fine, just like any other airline. They didn’t overcharge us for anything so that was nice!

We checked into the Casa Gracia hostel, which we had booked on hostelworld.com a few months earlier. I’d say our stay overall was great there! The reception people were super friendly and we didn’t have any issues with the hostel. Although I’d say it isn’t as boujee as it looks on the website. We stayed in a mixed dorm and met a guy from South Africa who was super chill. The best part? A Starbucks was only a few blocks down! It was sort of comical how relieved and homesick we were to see a Starbucks (there weren’t any that we saw in Italy).

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That night, we decided to go to La Cava, which is right around the corner from our hostel. Tapas are really popular in Barcelona, so we knew we wanted to eat as many as we could during our trip. Tapas are basically appetizers. Right when we entered La Cava, we were met with super cool, chill bar vibes, with dim lighting and graffiti on the walls. We were seated in the back at a roundtable for the four of us. We ordered a jar of sangria and four appetizers to share – it was so, so delicious! A little on the pricier side, but a wonderful start to Barcelona.

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The next morning, we had breakfast downstairs in the hostel. It cost 7-8 euros, and it was pretty good but not amazing. The outdoor seating area was beautiful though! Very #aesthetic if you’re into that. We decided to sign up for the Barcelona walking tour that was provided by the hostel. Our tour guide was super funny and told long stories – I mean long. They were great but we spent so long at each location that the tour went on a lot longer than we were expecting it to. We decided to ditch the tour halfway and go explore ourselves since it would be way more efficient that way. We made our way to the port and really just walked around to La Rambla, the shopping strip. We grabbed lunch, and I ordered a chicken paella; paellas is a fried rice dish served in Spain that’s quite popular. I can’t say it’s the best food I’ve ever had, but it’s still good.

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After lunch, we went to Amorino, a gelateria! It was hot enough in Barcelona that we still needed to cool down after walking around so much. What’s so unique about Amorino is that if you order your gelato in a cone, they scoop it into a rose shape! My scooper did a shoddy job though, it wasn’t even cute enough for a photo, boo. Then we headed to the Picasso Museum since tickets were pretty cheap. We grabbed some coffee afterward because we were all getting sleepy.

We took a nice little stroll in the Parc de la Ciutadella, and walked toward the Arc de Triomf. There’s a long strip toward the Arc where there are performers, people blowing bubbles, etc. It was so cool! Unfortunately, there was a concert set-up right in front of the Arc, so we couldn’t get any decent pictures.

Then we made our way to Tarantos to see a flamenco show! I knew going into Barcelona that I absolutely needed to see a flamenco show. We booked our 15 euro tickets online and got to sit down at the venue. It was a pretty small venue, and a surprisingly small stage. There was live music and the three dancers were absolutely amazing. They were so athletic, synchronized, and fierce! #goals.

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Then we grabbed dinner – more tapas – at Taller de Tapas. This restaurant has multiple locations; we opted to sit outside and this one was even pricier than La Cava. But oh my lord, y’all, the sangria was the most amazing thing I’d ever tasted. The portions were quite small though, but still really good.

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The next morning, we got up early and trained to the Cathedral of Barcelona. At this point, cathedrals all look the same to me, so the interior of the Cathedral really didn’t stand out too much. We ate crepes for brunch and then I hopped on a bus to meet up with some friends! A few girls in my sorority were studying in Barcelona so I met up with them at Satan’s Coffee Co. We had a wonderful time catching up!

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After, I met back up with my three friends and we went out to rent bikes to ride around the city. Y’all, I keep forgetting how much I love riding bikes! We biked to the coast and rode alongside the entire beach. It felt like LA, what with the palm trees and all. The beach was packed with people – I imagine that it’s similar to Miami! Then we rode back to the Parc de la Ciutadella and the Arc de Triomf and snapped some more pictures. We had ridden the bikes for four hours, and once we got back into the main part of the city, we returned them and went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner. That night, I went out with the girls to experience some Barcelona nightlife. We highly recommend Summum and the Dow Jones Bar (go business majors!)

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The next morning, we slept in and it felt glorious – I felt like a whole new person risen from the dead after waking up. Jordan had gotten up way earlier so she wasn’t with us for a few hours, but I went to Park Guell with Cannon and Mani (we purchased our tickets in advance online!). It was pretty cool seeing all of the mosaics and structures within the park. After lunch, we met back with Jordan and headed over to La Sagrada Familia (we also purchased online tickets in advance)! The inside is unlike any other church or basilica I’ve ever seen, and the stained glass was so gorgeous.

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When we finally left the church, the thunder clouds started rolling in and we got super ominous vibes, since the exterior of the church was looming over us and creepy-looking. Seconds later, it started pouring rain! It was completely unexpected and we were all in 80-degree attire. Needless to say, we were soaked to the bone by this floodstorm. We stopped by a café where Cannon bought a hot chocolate (it was literally a bowl of melted chocolate… lol), and then headed back to Taller de Tapas for dinner. This time, we sat inside but still ordered the amazing sangria. The restaurant itself is pretty classy and we felt like wet dogs, but eh, when in Barcelona, right?

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On the morning of our flight, we embarrassingly (but also #noshame) grabbed breakfast at Starbucks and then said goodbye to Mani. It was just me, Cannon, and Jordan off to Paris!

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Barcelona honestly exceeded my expectations. I wasn’t really expecting to like it much at all, but it felt so safe and the city was really beautiful. I wish I had more time to explore Spain more in general, since I’ve heard that Madrid is just as wonderful as Barcelona. Adios, Barcelona!

dear rome | farewell

Hello everyone! We’re onto my last Rome post – this has to be one of my favorite weeks in the program, just because I feel that internally, I truly savored every last bit of Italy I could. I spent a lot of this last week finding the balance to enjoy the last week and working through my Rome bucket list, but also finding time to study for my two classes’ final exams. Julia and I got really nostalgic and decided to watch the Lizzie McGuire movie late one night, and it was so fun seeing all the places we had seen in the past few weeks on screen! While watching the movie, we were inspired to go to the Tivoli gardens that Paolo takes Lizzie to. We began planning that night in order to go after our final exams ended.

The next day, our program had our last company visit to Alfa Romeo, a car company. We had to wear these bulky little rubber shoe covers in order to protect our feet in the factory and bright neon vests. I felt pretty clunky, but it was definitely worth it; it was incredibly fascinating to see the automated machines doing most of the car manufacturing. It was freaky how in-sync the machines were! They were so efficient and high-tech. They showed us newly-made cars and all the guys (and some girls) on the program hardcore fangirled, it was so funny. Not going to lie, I was never a car kind of gal but after that, I definitely saw the appeal! After the company visit, we got lunch at a very fancy outdoor restaurant that had an amazing view. One thing I’ll definitely miss? The program paying for the expensive lunches 😉

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I woke up really early the next day to go to the Trevi fountain with Julia. It was our second to last day and we needed to get good photos and throw our coin when there was less people. It was so peaceful and beautiful walking around Rome at 7:30 in the morning! When we got to the Trevi, there were already people there but very few. We could clearly see the turquoise-mint water and the rising sun’s rays shining on the sculpted angles of the statues – simply glorious. I threw in a euro-penny (what’s the name??) in and made my wish: #thisiswhatdreamsaremadeof.

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Since class wasn’t until 8:30am, we stopped by Caffe Tazza D’Oro, which came highly recommended by our professors. Julia and I both ordered croissants and cappuccinos, both of which were delicious; we highly recommend it as well! After class that day, we pretty much just studied in our apartment all day, and then I went to go eat at the Osteria near our school with my roommate, Cannon. While at dinner, we met a ton of people from New Zealand! I always forget how fun it is to meet people from all over the world.

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We went to Giolitti after, the most popular gelato place in Rome. I hadn’t gone until then, and I definitely had high expectations. However, I was a little disappointed! My favorite gelato place is still Frigidarium for sure. We saw our professor at the gelato place, alongside her husband.

Then it was our last day of classes! I took my final in my Management class (which turned out to be fine), and then my Operations Management class (which literally roasted me, I still have no idea how well I did. Ignorance is bliss, am I right?). Immediately after class, Julia and I hopped on a train from the Roma Termini station to the Roma Tiburtini. There, we had another hour before we had to catch the next train to Tivoli. We grabbed a mini-lunch and shopped around the area. Come time to leave though, we couldn’t find where we were supposed to get on the train; turns out, we were supposed to be getting on a bus, which aren’t at the usual train platforms. We ran all over trying to look for it, and failed to find our bus in time. We hurriedly went back to the train station and bought the next train ticket, this time assuring that it was at a platform we knew we could identify. We had a minute to spare and sprinted to the train platform and got on right on time. Julia and I definitely experienced déjà vu: this is what, our 5th time sprinting to catch a bus/train this summer?

When we arrived to Tivoli an hour later, it was right around siesta, so the town was actually quite deserted. We had to ask around to see how to get exactly to the Tivoli Gardens, which is really called Villa D’Este since it’s an estate. We finally found it and had to pay to enter (I think it was around 8 euros for non-EU students!). We didn’t have time to tour around the mansion because we mostly wanted to see the gardens and we only had 45 minutes. We fast-walked through the mansion and entered the garden, and were met by the beautiful fountains, sculptures, and view! We were able to see a lot of the garden in just 45 minutes, including the wall where Paolo takes Lizzie. We rushed home and sprinted yet again to meet everyone for dinner, only to find out that we got there early and everyone else was late. I’m pretty sure I was drenched in sweat from head-to-toe and looked amazingly pleasant for dinner.

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We went to the same restaurant as our first group dinner to come back full circle! I’ll never forget the amazing mussels from that restaurant – yum. It was so hard saying goodbye to everyone afterward.

A few friends and I walked to the Trevi fountain yet again to see it one last time at night. It was super crowded but some of them threw more coins in since they wouldn’t need euros once they were back in the states. I’m pretty sure you’re only supposed to make one wish, but my peers were going ham and threw multiple coins in, it was adorable! We made one last pit stop at Frigidarium, because duh, that gelato place had to have the last word.

The next morning, we checked out of our apartment and headed to the airport! I took a taxi with three friends since we were travelling the next leg of the trip together.

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As a farewell, I know Rome is going to hold a very special place in my heart. It’s so fruitful with culture and things to do, and the people I spent my time there with have taught me so much about myself. Italy in general is unforgettable. I’ll be coming back to you someday- ciao, Roma!