Little ol’ me back from Pari!

There is really nothing quite like a waking up (late) in an adorable Parisian apartment and then having a beyond amazing breakfast sandwich filled with new company in what was already one of my favorite cities. The group of girls I was with and I decided to spend our Thursday visiting Versailles.

My amazing breakfast sandwich the first morning
My amazing breakfast sandwich the first morning

In a drastic change from the day before, Paris was quite cold that Thursday, but that wasn’t going to stop us in our exploring. It was very easy and cheap to take the train to Versailles from the metro station, and in under an hour we had arrived at the former French royalty’s “understated” abode. This day was full of learning, everything glided in gold and laughter. I’m so happy I was able to see the Chateau in person. However, their bedrooms, and other rooms for that matter, didn’t really seem luxurious to me, more like unnecessary, unfair, and uncomfortable. I found it frustrating during times of walking around Versailles to see this massive display of uneven wealth distribution. I find it even more frustrating how people think this kind of division of wealth doesn’t exist anymore – maybe not to the extent of prior French Revolution, but it is still very much alive. Versailles, nonetheless, is still beautiful in all its opulence. After being in the gardens, we were all FROZEN and pretty tired from this outing. For our first Parisian dinner, we went to a tiny restaurant where we waited for our table in their wine bar/library across the street. I had an expensive (how French) meal of duck, wine, and creme brulee – I was stuffed and longed for the days Roman prices! We had a late dinner and took pictures along the Seine (I hoped I only blinked in a few of them, being the chronic blinker that I am).

the legendary Hall of Mirrors
the legendary Hall of Mirrors

The next day, Friday March 20th, also known as my mom’s birthday, I was sad I wasn’t with her to celebrate and was also starting to feel that the trip to the city I had only dreamt about was slipping through my fingers. I called her to wish her the best birthday and ended up talking to her about these worries I was having about the trip. How does talking to her always make me feel better? She was able to ensure me that traveling with different interests and wanting to do things that were different and on my own was totally normal. So, after consulting with my travelmates, I sought off to explore solo. I purchased a delicious raspberry pastry, then ate it in the park across the street from the Notre Dame. It was undeniably perfect. The park and views were picturesque, despite it being slightly chilly outside. Then I dropped into the Shakespeare and Company bookstore – I love the smell of books can I just say! Later, I coincidentally met back up with the other girls and walked up the Notre Dame towers. I deeply enjoyed taking the moment up top to just look and not be in such a rush to get back down. The view above was stunning and I’m glad I got up for free (being a student and all). I then went inside the Cathedral, explored the grounds surrounding it, and took off to visit the Musee Rodin. I was really proud of myself for navigating the Paris Metro alone to all the different sites I visited. Their metro, once you get the hang of it, is rather easy, not to mention very cheap. The Musee Rodin is another very underrated museum in Paris. Rodin’s impressionist sculptures and beautiful gardens that surrounds the hotel that was converted into his Museum, was surprising in the best way. However, after being alone most of the day, I wished for my friends at home, but especially my parents to be here experiencing the city with me. That night further emphasized this by being rather stressful and made me realized how truly solo I was in Paris.

The back of Notre Dame from the Love Lock Bridge <3
The back of Notre Dame from the Love Lock Bridge ❤
The Thinker in Musee Rodin's Garden
The Thinker in Musee Rodin’s Garden

My Saturday I spent in the Louvre, first eating in their fancy cafeteria and taking luxury in the colored bathroom of the Louvre circus. Also, I decided then to buy my Paris museum pass late, since it allowed me to jump to the front of all the queues, not wasting any time in those extensive and awful lines. Another day I spent alone, but it didn’t feel as bad exploring the massive Louvre and its amazing works. Seeing all these renowned works was wonderful, and luckily I didn’t have to fight my way to the front to see Mona. I decided I would return tomorrow to see more that I didn’t get to see before.

Mona refusing again to crack more than a smirk
Mona refusing again to crack more than a smirk

After my lovely day at the Palais, I rushed to the Eiffel Tower to meet up with the other girls (super casual), I had to rush in order for us to make our dinner reservation that one of the girl’s father had made for her birthday! A birthday in Paris, can you imagine? I didn’t have much time to Eiffel Tour, but I know I will be returning again someday, so honestly, I wasn’t too upset. The dinner was amazing, I had the lamb, that came in a little crock pot with lots of delicious juices. I felt very honored to have had been included in this free dinner to celebrate her 21st birthday! However, that night got more topsy-turvy, as I left the celebration early, being as tired I was from my full day and expectant full day of viewing art. I planned to head to bed early, but when the airbnb had other plans. As tried to unlock the door, somehow when everyone left the apartment the deadlock had bizarrely shut. Not allowing us in, despite me having the key. The other girls finally got back and once we all  understood the situation I decided to contact the people in charge of the place. After them trying, us all camped out in the hallway, around 5 AM, a locksmith arrived and ripped the the deadlock off the wall, through the door. I was upset and stressed, and definitely didn’t handle the situation as well as I could have. However, it was very annoying and such a freak accident that this occurred at all… I can truly say “experienced” very different sides of Paris now though.

The always beautiful Eiffel Tour
The always beautiful Eiffel Tour
I would do anything to eat this dish again.
I would do anything to eat this dish again.

My next day, my final day in France, I packed up in advance and raced through the Louvre to see a few more exhibits. I definitely didn’t plan as well as I could have, since I left a limited amount of time for the Musee d’Orsay. This museum was hands down my favorite; it is an renovated old train station and organized in a way to allow to only visit the areas you want. This contrasts with the Louvre, which winds you around the thing a ziillion times, before it lets you leave. The Orsay also holds the beautiful Impressionism and Post-impressionist pieces that I’m so obsessed with. I was in definite crunch time here, and had to skip visiting the Arc D’Triomphe and Ladurée, but thankfully I made my flight on time back to Rome!

How am I so lucky to see this in person?
How am I so lucky to see this in person? Thank you Musee D’Orsay.

I was very happy to be home, but I am very thankful I got to visit the city I had always just dreamt of seeing. My Monday was full of catching up on work, relaxing and being verrry sore for walking and traveling. The 24th was a night provided by CIS (my study abroad program), taking us to a cooking class, where we made different Italian dishes then got to eat them all! I much prefer this kind of class of the other any day.. I love hanging out with the people in my program, and these activities they create for us are always such a good time.

Just one of the courses we got to help cook.
Just one of the courses we got to help cook.

The next day, was much more of struggle, while in between morning and night class I tried to visit more art galleries, but sadly the ones I chose were either on lunch break or very difficult to find! Thankfully I have found them by now, and I will discuss that in my next post! Ciao ciao for now, or should I say au revoir! (I did not have an easy time with picking up French – I now appreciate French majors in a whole new light)

The Beginning of Spring Break!

On March 11th, the day before my spring break had officially sprung, I said Arrivederci to 4 out 5 of my lovely roommates, whom the next day would go galavanting off to Ireland to celebrate St. Patrick’s in Dublin. However, my next day, Thursday, March 12th, was a day of happiness because I become recently free from school for 10 days! During this break, I would dabble in Rome’s art life, visit Florence again, and enjoy Paris for the first time. I could barely contain my anxiousness to go to Paris, but I still had until the 18th until I jetted off for the City of Lights. Sooo, this post will discuss my time of being alone in Rome for the most part, including the struggles that entailed. Anyway, back to March 12th when completed my day around 3:30, feeling very worried about writing a strong rough draft for my art theory class.

That night however, I attended my Art Gallery Management professor’s gallery exhibition opening with new friends at the time. This artist they were showing working with carpet, and at first I was very skeptical about how this could look interesting and not turn out tacky. Amazingly that he was able to pull this off brilliantly. Going to this gallery with new people with similar interests and seeing my professor in her element was awesome and reassured me I came to Rome for a good reason. It definitely sparked in interest me to look into interning or working at a gallery at some point. That evening was also nice due to these  new friends’ generosity and extending me an invite to join them for a home-cooked dinner at their apartment. Good meal and fun conversation are definitely some of my favorite things.

Her gallery, including the artist.
Her gallery, including the artist.
One of the pieces integrating carpet.
One of the pieces integrating carpet.

The next day, that Friday the 13th (I just realized how unlucky this was) was going to be a day of Netflix, music, painting and relaxing day for myself. I was also planning on catching up on this blog too.. but my computer had other plans. It decided to not want to start up, so I left it for a while, did laundry and walked around the city and came back to it still being temperamental…… So after researching this and coming to a dead end, since I really don’t know that much about computers – I began calling Apple and looking for an Apple Store. The nearest one was in another town. Simple upsets like this grow exponentially when abroad because everything that would be easy at home, is SO MUCH more difficult and frustrating abroad. I longed for Dallas, where everything is at my finger tips and it’s not as hard to do anything. As much as I love Rome, I do miss how easier everything is back home. Eventually, I found an Apple approved tech shop and took it there way across town, past the Colosseum. This experience, although very frustrating, also made realize how attached we get to material things, dropping off my computer was so difficult. Even though my mac is expensive, it is just a thing.

So Saturday, my new friends at the time, Bridget and Danny invited me to visit the MAAXI museum and the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art with them. I was ecstatic to see some more new areas of the city I live in. First, we visited the National Gallery and we were all pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming amount of beautiful pieces exhibited here. Stumbling upon a Van Gogh and a Klimt, was absolutely lovely. Then we headed to the MAAXI – I was much more excited for this museum, and the architecture was stunning. The exhibits in the museum were very strange and conceptual, except for the one of vintage Italian couture worn by famous movie stars like Grace Kelly and Sophia Loren. It was refreshing to see this one after viewing bizarre conceptual pieces, like strange films and weird taxidermy sculptures. I really enjoy spending time with Bridget and Danny, both whom have similar interests as me and have a similar sense of humor as me.

The unexpected Klimt
The unexpected Klimt
The GNAM's courtyard
The GNAM’s courtyard
Duchamp's revolutionary toilet
Duchamp’s revolutionary toilet
Modigliani <3
Modigliani ❤
The MAAXI
The MAAXI

On that next Monday, March 16th, I had the joy of discovering that my high school AP Literature teacher was in Rome on a class trip for their spring break. Although I ended up missing my train to Florence the next day, I don’t regret one second of staying up late to talk to Mrs. Walls. Having a teacher who took the time to know me years ago, when I was very ready to graduate high school, was absolutely wonderful. She is always such a joy to talk to and I love knowing she’s so supportive of me. It was so interesting to hear what I seemed like in high school and how she thinks I’ve matured and grown since then.

True happiness right here
True happiness right here

So like I said, for St. Patty’s day, I was headed to Florence by myself to visit the Uffizi and the Academia, because the last time I was there I didn’t have enough time to see them. However, I did miss my first train and I had to buy another when I got to the Roma Train Station (Termini), but this pesky gypsy, who with others, pretends to work for Termini and wouldn’t leave me alone there. I was annoyed and was rude to her, but she reacted in a very frightening way and was punching the machine. This day seemed to just keep accumulating more and more stressful experiences. After missing two trains to Firenze, I finally made it there. Then, fearing I would be late my scheduled entrance at the Uffizi, I took a cab, but he didn’t my card at the end, so he had to drive me to the bank, then back to the Uffizi. I’m telling you, doing this alone was mighty stressful.  Eventually, I made it inside the museum and saw beautiful and iconic medieval and Renaissance art. I definitely teared up at Botticelli’s Primavera. Later I went to the Accademia and saw Davide and more medieval artworks that the museum housed. I ended up spending the rest of the day in Florence at Piazza Michelangelo sketching, shopping in tiny leather shops, and stalling until my late train at 9. I was determined not to miss this one so I found an internet shop and plotted my way there. Arriving early at the station, I feel as though I spent a vast amount of time browsing the Italian bookstore and sketching on the bench. Although I’m glad I was able to visit these world famous museums, in the morning I was too upset and stressed to think rationally. I was more than thankful to be on the train home to Rome that evening, even though I still had to pack for Pari!

Botticelli's Primavera - one of my favorite paintings ever
Botticelli’s Primavera – one of my favorite paintings ever
Looking exhausted, but with my homie
Looking exhausted, but with my homie
Piazza Michelangelo
Piazza Michelangelo

The next morning, I was officially off to the city I had dreamed of for years to visit. I woke up early, with my floppy hat on, and took the train to Fiumicino to catch my flight. I was still exhausted from my mentally draining day in Florence alone, but so giddy to land in France. The lady who was in charge of our Airbnb was extremely helpful and helped guide me over the phone on determining how I would find our place through public transportation from the airport. Exiting the metro felt entirely surreal, I was in PARIS!!!

After taking a nap from my Florence and traveling exhaustion, I decided to make the most of Paris and wander around. I walked my way along the Seine and by part of the love lock bridge towards the Louvre. I was already infatuated. Paris is so beautiful – I felt as though I was in a dream or a movie. This couldn’t possibly be my reality. The weather was lovely.  As I drew hungry however, I was called to a place only Americans in Italy would understand – Chipotle. It may have been as sin for my first meal in France to be a burrito bowl and a Dr. Pepper (!!!!). This definitely satisfied my craving and made all my other study abroad friends jealous. After being entirely stuffed, I meandered towards the Tuileries gardens with my sights set on attending one museum there – the Musee d’Orangerie. I felt entirely too overwhelmed and blessed once I entered the first oval room with Monet’s stretching around it. Here there are two rooms like this, along with a hall of Renoir, rooms of Picasso, Cezanne, and many other well known painters. This museum is entirely too underrated, if any of you ever go to Paris I recommend it to the highest. I ate a baguette on my walk back and then that evening my other friends arrived from Lisbon. That night, I was anxious to sleep – way too eager to take on the rest of Paris with them.

oops
oops
These types of canvases took up two rooms!
These types of canvases took up two rooms!
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Monet & Me 🙂
Such a nice first walking day in Paris
Such a nice first walking day in Paris

The first week of March – a taste of Spring

Let me start this post off by saying how very dull this week was in terms of my time in Rome, but it was still enjoyable. So keeping this in mind, consider that this post for the week of March 4th until March 11th will be drastically shorter in comparison to my previous post about my weekend of Florence, Pisa, and Tuscany.

On the Thursday of March 5th, was my older sister Marlene’s 25th birthday. Dang you’re old. Mar, if you’re reading this… miss you and I hope you’re doing well and school isn’t too hard. I’m also super glad we both are bad at communicating. Otherwise, one of us could easily get offended. This Thursday I was definitely missing you and wished (still do) that you could come visit me in Rome! Also, this Thursday our apartment had our first guest and it was such blast to have one of my roommate’s friends from home stay with us for the weekend! (please come back). Also, if you have never played heads up! the game app created by Ellen, please download it because this app created my apartment hours of entertainment and laughs. I think it would be an understatement to say I get wayyy too into this game though…

Showing off Rome to Priscilla's friend from home
Showing off Rome to Priscilla’s friend from home

But this weekend was pretty lull, except for studying intensely for midterms. I was anxiously trying to play catch up as well! Rome can be very distracting… It was so nice to have relaxed weekend of hanging with friends and studying. I really do love to stay in Rome, it being Rome and all!

On Saturday my study abroad program arranged for a us a day trip to Castel Gondolfo. This is where both the directors grew up, in a town outside of Rome with two beautiful lakes, and hills. This is also known as where the Pope has a stunning summer home. It was so beautiful and nice to visit this town and also to meet the new study abroad intern, who graduated from  U of A and lives in Dallas. It was the first time for me to meet someone here in Italy who has actually heard of Hendrix! Talk about an accomplishment. They provided us a delicious and very filling meal and the chance to explore small towns around the main city of Rome.  I feel very thankful to have found CIS Abroad, although it’s more expensive than I planned on it being, I really love the people in it and the directors in charge of it. It seems to be much more personal than most of the study abroad programs that other people studying at AUR are involved it.

One of the beautiful lakes of Castel Gandolfo - I really hope to go kayaking here eventually!
One of the beautiful lakes of Castel Gandolfo – I really hope to go kayaking here eventually!
More of Castel Gandolfo's lakes
More of Castel Gandolfo’s lakes
Castel Gandolfo with a tiny peek at the Pope's summer home in the distance
Castel Gandolfo with a tiny peek at the Pope’s summer home in the distance
Each turn here had another amazing view
Each turn here had another amazing view
the Papal Summer Home (just one side of it)
the Papal Summer Home (just one side of it)
My roomie Katie and our director Romina with her pup, Nina
My roomie Katie and our director Romina with her pup, Nina
fresh tomatoes, arugula, mozzarella, and balsamic vinegar
fresh tomatoes, arugula, mozzarella, and balsamic vinegar
an amazing ravioli with zucchini flowers
an amazing ravioli with zucchini flowers
Near Romina's grandmother lives
Near Romina’s grandmother lives
a Medieval church near Castel Gandolfo
a Medieval church near Castel Gandolfo

The school week of course turned out to be me anxiously getting ready for spring break, while still working on past readings and paintings that I put off…  Kids, don’t procrastinate, it really really stinks. I get way to easily distracted and I’m definitely hoping to correct this vice of mine. Anyway, I was trying to figure out what the first of my spring break would consist of – hopefully taking advantage of the most of Rome’s art and culture. I love going to museums, but since I would be here during the first of break by myself, while my roommates were in Ireland, I hoped I could find some company to enjoy Roma with me!

Gelato with friends back in Rome - I had an amazing cheesecake flavor
Gelato with friends back in Rome – I had an amazing cheesecake flavor
you can get so many delicious fruits and veggies here in Roma for very little euro
you can get so many delicious fruits and veggies here in Roma for very little euro
the view from my apartment's balcony, also what I saw while I was studying for midterms
the view from my apartment’s balcony, also what I saw while I was studying for midterms

So after my packed school week of midterm type events, even though two exams were after break, I was more than ready to break 🙂 Again, sorry this post is so short, but at least you “loyal” readers get a break in this post from my usual memoir style posts. Thanks for letting to play catch up with you all!

A Weekend of Stairs & a Beautiful Tuscan Golden Retriever

The treacherous Duomo stairs
The treacherous Duomo stairs

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My accidental Italian flag colored flavors
My accidental Italian flag colored flavors

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Goldens are my favorite
Goldens are my favorite
A cute, random door on the vineyard.
A cute, random door on the vineyard.

Recovered from my last trip, I threw myself into my schoolwork. Around this time, I had been feeling pretty behind and that my classes were much more difficult than my friends. Not only was this stressful and frustrating, but it seemed unrealistic for me to devote so much to schoolwork, while also immersing myself wholly in Italia. I missed my rents, friendies at Homedrix, and pets, all to snuggle and talk with when I get overwhelmed, especially with people who really know me. I try to do as much as I can everyday, but I get tired, distracted, and want to relax. I should be looking more in advance, but I have just been going day by day. I did homework all Thursday the 26th and stayed in, instead of going out with friends, so I could pack for the school weekend excursion and have the luxury of getting the room all to myself.

The next day, Friday the 27th, I woke up early in order to catch the bus for the school-organized weekend trip to Pisa, Florence, and to a Tuscan winery. We arrived in Pisa, blessed with good weather. Seeing the Leaning Tower and the buildings surrounding it made me feel like I was walking onto a movie set. The grass was unbelievably green and the architecture was sparkling. Pisa is a very small city, and seemed to mainly dominated by tourism. In cities with so much tourism like this, I always wonder how many natives stay or if they are driven away in search for less activity, annoying visitors and pestering retailers. If it was me, I know I would be irritated with all of the bothersome stands set up selling the exact same low-quality knick knacks. Walking around Pisa was wonderful, with great weather and beautiful buildings, but it was much smaller than Rome. I had a delicious panino for lunch that I got to create, kind of like an Italian version of Subway. Then after lunch, before we were supposed to meet back up with the school group, my friends and I took cheesy pictures in front of the leaning Tower and then climbed up it!!

I have to be honest and say that some parts were frightening and I felt very crooked. Seeing the molded steps from 500 years of people going up them however was pretty amazing. They were curvy and slippery, which also made it a little treacherous to walk up them. The walk up was fun, but the view and being at the top was so neat. I loved seeing the little cars and people walking around, but since it is “leaning” walking around the top of it got a little disorienting and scary too.

That night, after our half day in Pisa, we were in a town between Pisa and Florence, which I still am not sure of its name to this day. After dinner, my friends and I ventured out from the adorable “President’s Hotel,” where the school had arranged for us, and walked to a tiny gelato shop. One flavor with bits of cookie and chocolate was heavenly; it was tasty in the most unusual way. Some of the girls in my program had met more people on the trip, so we hung with them and chatted in the card room. Meanwhile, the main entry hall had an older Italian man DJ-ing/singing as other elder italians sat and drank wine! It was a very loud get together. Italians sure do know how to be loud if anything.

Our hotel rooms were tiny, with 4 beds crammed into half the size of my bedroom at home. I expected as much, considering space is a luxury in most of Europe. Not only did this trip provide us with somewhere nice to stay, they provided an ample buffet breakfast and delicious sit-down dinners too! It was nice rely on someone else to prepare the meal. This and we got to dine with different people than you’re used to. I met several new students at AUR through this trip, which is hard to do here, since it’s not like opposite of the Hendrix bubble. Everyone does their own thing here and lives off campus in various apartments. Finally, I was able to sleep and rest before we headed to Florence the next day.

It seemed like we woke up unreasonably early (it wasn’t too unreasonable), but we got to sleep in the comfy charter bus on the ride there to Firenze. We took a walking tour around the main parts of Florence, so we were able to see all the main sights. Then we could decide what we wanted to do after that, so my friends and I went to the Centrale Market. This place was amazing and had several different options of what to eat for lunch, but I decided on a bowl of prawns, calamari and anchovies (I hate anchovies). The only downside was how long it took for me to get it.

Because we wanted to do different things – soon to be a reoccurring theme in all my travels – my group of friends split up into two. My roommate Josie and I both had been dying to climb up Brunelleschi’s il Duomo, and I had trouble believing my other friends didn’t want to do that even though the line looked long. We only had to wait for about 15 minutes and then we purchased our tickets, which also go us into the Bell Tower, Baptistry and the underground ruins beneath the main cathedral. Going up il Duomo was a dream come true!!! As you climb, you get a better view of the fresco (The Last Judgement by Federico Zuccaro) on the dome’s ceiling. The colors and details are so amazing to see up close, and I personally loved getting to see the descent into hell part of the work. The figures and subjects in this section are super disturbed and bizarre. I wish I could find a better picture, or I took one that did it justice. Many I know would complain about those 400 and something stairs, but they weren’t bad until we reached the actual curving parts of the dome. People were trying to go up and down the miniscule, slippery, and railingless stairs at the same time. It got way too hot and claustrophobic, thankfully the view made me forget all about those stairs. Finally – we had made it. The view of Florence from above is stunning. It far exceeded the Leaning Tower’s view in my opinion (il Duomo is much taller to be fair). I love getting all these opportunities to see my art history book and lectures come to life, as corny as that may sound. Italy truly has allowed me to geek out over all of its architecture and art.

After we took pictures, gazed and gawked some more atop il Duomo, Josie and I decided to descend the 463 back down. We chose then to make to very questionable decision to climb the Bell Tower immediately after we finished il Duomo. In a crunch for time, I know we didn’t have much else of choice, but my calves were screaming for a different alternative once we hit the first 100 stairs of the Bell Tower. Again, the view of Florence and this time, il Duomo, were flawless. However, we were both woefully exhausted after this extremelly cultured workout. The rest of the afternoon was just as satisfying, but less tiring. Josie and I dipped into the Bapistry, walked across Ponte Vecchio, snacked on some tasty gelati while resting in Piazza dei Piatti. I loved visiting Florence, and I knew I was to have to come back at some point to visit the Uffizi and the Accademia. This afternoon was also super fun because I got to hang out with one of my roommates who I never spendt time with one on one. I laughed so much and throughly enjoyed her company! Josie – if you’re reading this (I don’t know if you do..) you rule.

That night we had more pre-planned dinner, which I didn’t really mind, but others complained about…and then had a relaxing night in the hotel. Our next day was to be more laid back, visiting an authentic Tuscan vineyard and doing a wine tasting there. The drive there was looked like it was straight out of an Italian travel magazine. Getting out of the bus, I immediately noticed (of course) that there was a golden retriever there. Having one of these magnificent creatures myself, I am always drawn to them, which of course makes me miss my own dog. This one however was not as cute as mine, but still pretty darn adorable. I could have just stayed with him the rest of the day. Our day went onto to entail a tour of their grounds, turned out it was a vineyard that only hired women, a short cooking lesson with a woman who doesn’t speak any English, a wine tasting and lesson about wine, an amazing five-course dinner, and then the most frustrating event that occurred to me thus far during my time abroad.

I got a call from my bank, saying that my account had been wired into, despite me having my debit card on my person. This person had been doing little transactions with it, just to make sure it actually worked, then started pulling out large amounts. Seeing this on my phone and having them tell me about this was super upsetting and irritating. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do about this. Of course my parents helped me, but it was just the worst because we were on the bus ride home when all this happened. I had to talk to the bank, but I could barely hear the lady due to all 50 of my noisy peers. After I did as much I could where I was, this drive home was still filled with frustration and very sore muscles. I wanted desperately to be home, not sitting on the same seat, and to be done with this bothersome bank fiasco. I will let you know what happened it in the next post! Heh

Time for Waffles

This past Thursday (2/19), I went to only one of my classes in order to take my flight to Brussels, Belgium for the weekend with my friend Megan to explore the city and Bruges as well. Because some of my friends from Hendrix are there, we already a place to stay. Not having to book a place to stay cuts a huge expense out of traveling. Although having this place to stay was a huge perk, the week before I was very homesick and was getting jealous of those that had their college friends with them in Italy. I was really ready to see a familiar face.

It was both Meggie and I’s first time to go the airport while living in Rome; we struggled figuring out how to get there. My Italian friend was supposed to take us…..but, he only had a smart car – so that was a bust. Thankfullllly, I asked other people in my painting class how to get to the airport, only for them to tell me there was train station right down the street from our apartment building. Oops. At least it was very convenient! Sometimes I forget that you can ask someone – instead of asking the internet. People turn out to be much more helpful, imagine that!

We bought our tickets that took us straight to the airport, and then only struggled slightly to check in (annoying carry-on procedures) and then finally we boarded our flight to Belgium. Both of us were stoked to go to new country, especially one we knew very little about. The little I knew was from seeing Hendrix study abroad students pictures from there. I liked what I had heard though: wonderful museums, delicious waffles, chocolate and unique beers.

The flight over was beautiful, but my favorite part was seeing my friend Chris from Hendrix greet us at the airport – which I wasn’t planning on them meet us there (since they have their own things to do and all). It was such a great feeling to see someone from Homedrix. I loved seeing the colliding of my two worlds – study abroad (Megan) and Hendrix (Chris) merge.

We caught up while taking the bus, then metro to their dorm style living arrangement. This made me verrrry appreciative for my large apartment in Rome, with our own kitchen, two bathrooms and weekly cleaning service. That evening Jolyon and Chris took us to a famous 4-story bar called Delirium Café, apparently there was a study abroad event there that night, including the other Hendrix kids studying there.

Delirium was wayyy cool, it had live music (playing American oldies rock) with beer trays all over the ceilings. Apparently this bar serves over thousand types of beer. Beer is a large part of the culture in Belgium, kind of like wine is in Italy.

Getting so homesick and feeling rather isolated that a few days earlier made it all the more wonderful and me much more thankful to see familiar Hendrix faces. Even better – seeing them in Europe.

One thing I noticed when arriving in Belgium, is how living so immersed in Italy has shaped my perspective and daily habits. For example, I repeatedly kept saying “Grazie” when I received a service or greeting others with “ciao” or “buongiorno.”  Even if this made my friends laugh, I secretly loved how ingrained italian was in my brain.

The next day, Megan, Jol and I spent the day exploring the bitterly cold and sometimes rainy, city of Brussels. I instantly began to notice the weirdness of its architecture. The mixture of all different periods is visible on almost every street. We all walked to the Grand Place – which is more ornate style of architecture, with lots of gold detailing. One of the pubs/restaurants in the square was where the Communist Manifesto was signed.

We continued to walk around the drizzling city, seeing the famous peeing boy, grabbing a waffle (which I still haven’t recovered from..sugar coma wise), going to the Tin Tin store!!!!! (I was way too excited about this and wish I could’ve afforded a Snowy plush), eating lots of Kebap (kebabs), and walking around the Magritte Museum. I cannot express strongly enough how much I love getting a taste of different places. More specifically I feel as though I tasted way tooooo many things in Brussels too. I think I ate my way through the city – I had trouble walking. We couldn’t even get dinner until 11 at night we were so bloated.

At the end of this day walking around in the blistering cold, I truly was thankful to live abroad in warmer environment with a larger abode. It’s amazing that I always begin to miss Rome – home sweet Roma. The next day, Saturday, Meggie and I had a late start getting to the train station for our day trip to the medieval world of Bruges.

Slowing walking into Bruges was like entering a different world. I can’t even describe the beauty of this town. The river went through the town with adorable bridges built over it. The pictures below show one of many churches in Bruges and part of the river and buildings along it. Meg and I had the best time getting lost here and eating several chocolates.

DSC_1046 DSC_1042

IMG_4958_2DSC_0052DSC_0018DSC_1054 (This is the town square)DSC_1057(I LOVE HORSE CARRIAGES AND HORSES)

Although I didn’t get to spot many swans – what I really did want to see – I love this town and really hope I will be able to return here someday. When we were lost at one point trying to find the swans, we ended up asking an older couple walking around for directions. These two turned out to be native to Bruges and way too cute to be true. I love being able to converse with natives and stumbling upon this couple was a dream come true.

Sunday, before our flights home we visited the famous Atomium sculpture and a sickeningly sweet waffle as we walked around and took pictures. On this day I was tired and ready to head home for Rome. However, this day was one of challenges. Getting to the airport on time was a difficulty since none of us knew where the bus stop was located. Then once I made it there, I had very little time to check in. Since they made me check my bag, which wasn’t even big, on the flight to Brussels, I figured I could save time and check my bag in online while riding the bus (which was a problem later, saying it didn’t show up). Additional money I didn’t plan on spending. However, when I tried to actually check-in the website wouldn’t work, so I figured I would do it at the airport. Ryanair had a different idea and decided to charge me 70 euros because I didn’t check in on time. Even though I couldn’t get it to work!!! Ugh. Talk about frustrating. I was so upset at this point, but I knew I had to focus on getting to my flight. I was sprinting up the escalators and running to my terminal, finding everyone in line to board. My next irksome moment, was when I wanted a snack from a vending machine and it got stuck and ate my money. I officially can attest that airports can really work against you. Lastly, another test my will occurred when my flight got repeatedly got delayed. At this point, I knew I needed to seek out the positivity of my day. By having these troubles, I know what to do next time – check in early, plan out how to find the airport, allow for plenty of time in case of problems. Eventually I was home, after a long 2 hour flight next to a loud, affectionate couple and short train ride home to Trastevere.

The next week I was beyond exhausted, but I had to focus on getting schoolwork done since the next weekend was another one full of traveling. I loved going to Belgium, but it was way more expensive and stressful than I could have expected. My mom always tells me to expect more than you think, and I usually brush it off; this trip proved that in more than one way. Thankfully my next trip was one with the school so I didn’t have to plan out each day – I needed a break! Until next time, ciao!

Thus My Exploring Begins

As I still felt very sick with my recent Tuesday diagnosis of pink eye and a swollen throat, I was exhausted and homesick. Getting well in out of the country is slightly more challenging than one could wish, but this experience, however helped me to gain mental strength and will. As cheesy as that sounds…

On Wednesday and Thursday, I was frustrated that I still didn’t feel my best. My throat was in so much pain, I drank so much hot tea and sipped constantly on ramen. Without my friends or family around to help me not even physically, but their encouragement and love always helps so much. I missed having familiar faces around, especially while feeling so crappy. Now that I am better, I realize how proud I am of myself for pushing through this tough time and being able to travel that weekend.

I went to bed early on Thursday, so I would be ready for my school sponsored excursion to Terni, Italy for the St. Valentine’s Chocolate Festival. A bunch of students and I took the train there, and may I add that my voice was almost gone at this point. I sounded like someone who had been chain smoking for decades. My roommate kept telling me how much she loved it… Weirdo. Despite not feeling my very best, I pushed through for the chocolate!!

Going to tiny towns like Terni is one of the best parts of getting to live abroad. I throughly enjoy seeing native Italians in their home town and learning about new beautiful places. It gives me a better sense of immersion and the Italian way of life, set away from the touristy places that can get very difficult to differentiate in Rome. The nooks and crannies of Italy are even beautiful. How can this be possible?? Despite not feeling my best, I was very satisfied with my chocolates and day overall. I was hoping and praying that tomorrow I would feel much better though, since I was supposed to take the day to explore Venice for Carnevale through a student excursion company that I had booked with my friends.

The next morning was challenging trying to get out the door and ready to go at 6:00 in the morning. However, knowing I can figure my way to the train station (Termini), even when not fully awake, makes me feel much more settled in Rome. We then bused to Venice through sleep and movies, finally at least 70 students and I arrived to this surreal city. Before we got off the bus though, the girl across from me (whom looked very familiar prior to this) and I realized that we were actually childhood and family friends back in St. Louis, the wonderful city where I lived until I was 9. I hadn’t seen her since then, it had been at least ten years. What were the odds she would end up in Rome during the same semester, nonetheless decide to head to Venice on this specific day? This was fate at its best.

Nora and I  - still having trouble believing this.
Nora and I – still having trouble believing this happened

Getting there around early afternoon allowed a good amount of time to see Venice, but not as much I would like. Although it was insanely crowded with Italians and tourists for Carnevale, I’m so happy I’ve been able to visit this town once in my lifetime (it is sinking and all) The transportation there, like walking across the bridges to go from block to block, riding a gondola and  taking the water taxi, were all amazing and beautiful, but didn’t seem at all practical for everyday life.

The beautiful and packed streets of Venezia
The beautiful and packed streets of Venezia

Nonetheless, I can’t emphasize enough how magical Venice is. There isn’t another city quite like it. Since we only had a little over a half day there, I would love to return someday. Perhaps when it’s warmer.. Whenever I go to a new city or place, I attempt being more adventurous to learn and try new things. Because the peach bellini and squid ink spaghetti were born in Venice, I had them for dinner. We also wore Carnevale masks, saw a glass blowing demonstration, rode a gondola while being sung to in Italian, ate gelato (which isn’t new for me), and of course practiced my Italian. One of best parts of Venice was after dinner, once we were all stuffed with seafood and wine, we heard loud music coming from a nearby piazza. Between ancient buildings lined with cobblestone, there was a DJ blasting dance music and people dressed in costumes outside in the piazza grooving. My friends and I joined in obviously – at one point one of my friends was even leading the congo line.

Squid-ink pasta; weird, but delicious
Squid-ink pasta; weird, but delicious
My housemate Andi and I with our Carnevale masks!
My housemate Andi and I with our Carnevale masks!
Riding the gondola
Riding the gondola

We wish we could’ve stayed longer, but I always miss Rome. I’ve gotten pretty fond of the Eternal City and its people. I may have longed for Roma, but I didn’t wish to experience another long bus ride. Even if the seats were plush, I don’t think anyone can sleep comfortably in a moving vehicle – bus, car, train or plane.  Getting back to Rome at 5 in the morning was haunting, in addition to taking to the tram back home was as well. Before this I wouldn’t be able to say I’ve seen Piazza Venezia deserted, but now I know what it looks like before the sun comes up.

My Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were filled with more homework, laughter, and a mild amount of homesickness (you’re allowed to talk to your friends and family back home turns out), but mainly I couldn’t wait for the weekend again. Not to party or anything, but because I was leaving that Thursday to visit Belgium to see friends from Hendrix and the beautiful cities of Brussels and Bruges. Until next time! Ciao!