When In Ibiza

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After spending a couple days in Barcelona, we hopped on a short flight to Ibiza. Fun fact: as Americans we pronounce Ibiza, IbiZa. Traci had heard the Europeans call it, IbeeFa. None of us had heard it like that so we were making fun of her, until we got there, and they ACTUALLY say it like that and would laugh at us for saying the Z. So sorry Traci, you were right!;)

Ibiza is a beautiful island packed with beaches and nightlife and we only had about 36 hours there, so we tried to cram as much as we could in. As soon as our flight landed, we took a cab to our hotel. We stayed at Ryan’s Ibiza apartments, which had a pool, bar, and overlooked the beach. We immediately changed into our swimsuits, and went to layout by the pool. Being the resourceful (and poor) college students that we are, we decided to buy a couple bottles of rum and tequila at the airport so we only had to buy mixers at the hotel. What started as a joke, turned into a pretty dang good idea, as mixed drinks are so expensive. So from here on out, we will be buying bottles in the airport, ha.

After laying out, we went up to our hotel room to relax and fuel up for a night out. As we were just about to take a nap, some Irish boys on the balcony invited us to come hangout with them. After hanging out for a while, we all decided to go out together. Most of the clubs in Ibiza were either closed for season, or charged a cover that required selling organs to fund. Luckily, these boys were also balling on a budget so they showed us a place that had free cover, Murphy’s. It was so much fun dancing. As usual the whole time I just kept thinking how lucky am I to be out partying in Ibiza? Another bucket list item, check.

The next day we spent most of it exploring the island. Usually my role of the group is planner/navigator (which I love doing). I thought I was taking us to a cute little seaside area with houses on the shore to take some photos. As we rounded the corner and descended down a legit cliff, we realized we were at a nude beach. Based on experience, the people laying out there are probably not ones you’d want to see nude. The girls kept joking I did it on purpose, but I am telling you, it was an ACCIDENT. We didn’t stay there for long and took a cab across the island to Cala Salada. I really wanted to cliff dive and this place had good reviews. The beach here was a beautiful, sandy one with a few areas to jump. We ate at a seaside restaurant and then swam out to jump off. It wasn’t quite as big as my adventurous mind was hoping for, but it was still so fun and an experience I’m so thankful for. We then spent the evening napping on the beach until the sun went down and had the most perfect view of the sunset.

We had to catch a flight at midnight, so after the sunset we went back to our hotel. Even though we had to checkout at 10am, they had an area to store our bags and shower which was SO convenient. And then we walked over to a little sushi restaurant for dinner.

Getting to my 9am class the next day was a struggle, but I did it. Spain, I can’t wait to come back!

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48 Hours in Barcelona

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Last weekend we went on another weekend trip, this time to Spain. I was talking to my grandpa on the phone last week and he asked if I actually go to school? For those wondering the same thing, yes, I go Monday-Wednesday. And they told us that if we don’t attend, they are required to report it to immigration and we could actually be kicked out of the country for not complying with our student visas. In other words, I haven’t missed a class!;)

 

We flew into Barcelona Thursday morning and checked into the St. Christopher’s Barcelona hostel. This is my second St. Christopher’s experience and third hostel experience and I cannot recommend them enough. This one also had a bar with food and drink specials, free walking tours, and events each night. It was centrally located within the city and walking distance to most attractions, plus it is SO affordable and a great way to meet people. If you book directly on the St. Christopher’s website you get free breakfast in the morning.

After checking in, we changed clothes and headed down to the bar to get things started, ha. After having a few drinks and meeting some fellow travelers in the hostel, we wandered down the street to the Sky Bar. If you read my Munich blog, you know that rooftop bars are MY FAVORITE, and this one did not disappoint.  From the roof we could see gorgeous views of the city and the ocean and we sipped some five euro mimosas.

After our rooftop experience, we were pretty hungry. I usually have a very strict “no eating at any restaurant they have in America” rule, but a few mimosas deep some good ole fast food sounded pretty good. In a thirty minute span I ate a cheeseburger from McDonald’s and a crunch wrap supreme from Taco Bell. The McDonald’s tasted basically the same as America, but that crunch wrap supreme was easily the best one I’ve ever had.

That night, our hostel had a live paella cooking class. Paella is a traditional Spanish dish with rice, meat, and other ingredients that they mix together in a giant pan. For only seven euros, we were able to watch him cook and taste test it and it was DELICIOUS!

The next day we explored the city. We started by waking Las Ramblas, which is basically the Michigan Avenue of Barcelona and a huge shopping street with lots of vendors (and overpriced tourist traps). Its definitely worth exploring, but I prefer purchasing things at stores/restaurants more off the beaten path.

We popped into La Boqueria Market and tried some fresh pressed juice, churros (the best), and empenadas. Street markets are another one of my favorite things to do when traveling because I think they are cheap and usually a more local experience.

After snacking at the market, we made our way to the Gothic Quarter. This area of the city has a lot of beautiful architecture, shopping, restaurants, and the Barcelona Cathedral. We picked up a few fans for props and took advantage of every photo opportunity we could find.

After the Gothic Quarter, we wandered to the Picasso Museum (seven euros with a student id). Whether you like art or you don’t, I’d say this is definitely a must see. The building itself was art, and the amount of artwork by Picasso was amazing. They even displayed some of the sketches and letters he wrote as well, which was extremely interesting to me because I just assumed artists created a one and done piece, I didn’t realize they had multiple “rough drafts.”

For lunch, we went to Rosa Negra for some four euro margaritas, tacos, nachos, and the most delicious shrimp ceviche.

After fueling up on some tacos, we went to the Passeig de Gracia. We were able to see where Gaudi lived. There was quite a long line and it was pretty expensive so we decided to skip going in, but the outside was beautiful.

 

To finish the day, we went to Tibidado for the most gorgeous views of Barcelona. Up until this point, we walked everywhere, but we decided to take a cab to the top of the hill when we discovered taxis in Spain are SO cheap.

That night, we went to Paradiso, a speakeasy bar. To get in, you have to walk through a freezer door into a hidden bar. If going here, we definitely recommend going earlier in the night as the lines were pretty long the later it got. But this place was so cool.

We then went to Opium, a huge club right on the beach. This is probably the best club I’ve ever been to. The dj played everything from Queen to Kanye West and it was the most fun to dance to. Plus after a night of dancing, we were able to walk along the beach. If visiting, you can put your name on the list to avoid paying a cover.

Barcelona is the first place we have traveled to that I have a desire to go back soon. Spain is gorgeous and I would love to work my way from Barcelona, to Madrid, and then down to Seville!

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THE NORTHERN LIGHTS and Thirteen Things To Do In Reykjavik, Iceland

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So when we weren’t exploring the Blue Lagoon and Golden Circle, we spent most of our time in Reykjavik just walking around. Thursday night, when we checked into our hostel, we met some people in our dorm. We explained that we were scheduled to do a Northern Lights tour on Friday, but were going to go out by ourselves Thursday and try and catch them. Because of the light in Reykjavik from the city, you have to travel outside of the city to see them. It also has to be clear skies of clouds. One of the boys in our dorm, Paul, said he’d been there for a week and would show us where he saw them if we didn’t mind him tagging along.

It wasn’t quite dark yet, so we walked around the city for a bit. Reykjavik is actually the only city in Iceland, but it is still incredibly small, it feels like more of a town than a city. Reykjavik has a lot of street art, so we explored that and saw Hallgrimskirkja, a beautiful church in Reykjavik and the tallest building in the city. We ate dinner at a little restaurant and I had the best chicken nachos I’ve ever had. This is where we quickly realized eating in Iceland is expensive. We tried to eat as cheaply as possible the whole time, but its pretty difficult to find a meal less than $15-20 and drinks are usually at least $12. After dinner, Paul took us on a bus to a lighthouse outside the city. It was right next to a sea and it was dark, and the whole time I thought to myself “we are walking with a stranger alone at night, this is everything my mom told me not to do when I went abroad.” Obviously, we trusted Paul and he was a great guide, but I laughed the whole time because we were basically breaking every rule for girls going abroad (which I do not encourage, but we were desperate to see the Northern Lights). Unfortunately, it was too cloudy and rainy that we didn’t see the Northern Lights that night. But as we were standing seaside next to the lighthouse in Iceland late at night under the stars, it was easy to forget my disappointment because what we were doing was already amazing enough.

Friday, we spent most of the day on the Golden Circle tour. We were supposed to go on a Northern Lights tour that night, but it got cancelled because of the weather. At this point we had pretty much accepted that we weren’t going to see them because we were supposed to fly out Saturday night. We went to Iceland for the Northern Lights, so we were pretty bummed but we all agreed the trip itself was still awesome and totally worth it. So we went to a Philological museum and ate some overpriced crepes to make up for it before heading back to the hostel. When we got there, the downstairs bar was pretty crowded and we didn’t want to miss out on the fun. So naturally we went upstairs, changed into our pajamas, and came back downstairs to hangout, ha. We had so much fun conversing with the locals and playing games in a warm, dry setting.

Saturday was our day to explore Reykjavik a lot more. I spent quite some time online making a list of things to do and see. The Google Maps app has a feature where you can map multiple destinations and customize your route, so we were able to walk the city and see most of it in a day before our flight later that night.

We started by walking back up to Hallgrimskirkja because we wanted to go inside. It cost $8 (tip: pay in the currency of the country, usually the conversion rate is cheaper) to go to the top of the tower. We definitely recommend doing this, the view is beautiful.

Right across the street is Einar Jonsson Sculpture Garden. It cost to go inside the museum so we decided to skip it, but we did see the sculptures outside which is free.

Throughout our walk, there was street art everywhere. The buildings all have intricate artwork covering them, there are sculptures lining the streets, and the sidewalks are decorated.

We then walked to Fríkirkjan í Reykjavík church. The inside was closed but we took some pictures on the outside, and its in front of a beautiful pond with cute houses lining the bank. This is also right next to Reykjavik City Hall which has beautiful architecture.

The National Gallery of Iceland wasn’t on our list, but it was right next to the church and it was warm, so we decided to walk in. It cost $8 with a student ID and the art was really cool. They had a classical music concert going on while we were there so we were able to stop and listen to a song.

After the gallery we walked to Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, a famous hot dog stand in Iceland. When we walked up, there was a line of people, probably because its the only thing in Iceland for less than $5. This was our cheapest meal, at only $4 and it was actually so good. The hotdogs come with ketchup, mayo, mustard, and onions.

We then walked over to the Harpa Concert Hall, which is one of the coolest looking buildings in the city. And this is right next to the Sun Voyager sculpture.

We also explored Laugavuer Street, which has a lot of street art, shopping, and restaurant! The fries at Reykjavik Chips are delicious!

After we walked this loop, we were back at our hostel. We grabbed our luggage and took a cab over to the Perlan Museum. This was one of our favorite things we did and we actually wished we had allotted more time. It does cost about $30 to get in, but they have an interactive Northern Lights display, a glacier replica (with real ice) you can go through, and a glass dome with a beautiful view of the city. Since we didn’t get to see the Northern Lights, we took a bunch of pictures in the interactive one in the museum and posted them on our stories, catfishing everyone like we were there. I got a text from my mom that she almost cried when she saw I got to see them, to which I had to explain it was fake, ha.

We took a bus we booked on Get your Guide from the city to the airport to catch our flight at 8pm. We had pretty much moved on from the fact that we weren’t going to see the Northern Lights. Miraculously, when we were on our flight, everyone was stirring and I wasn’t really sure what was going on, I looked to my left and it was the Northern Lights. I got SO lucky and I had the window seat on the side facing the lights, so I had the best view. Everyone was so excited because it had been bad weather all week so this was most everyones first time seeing them. They are amazing and it was an incredible end to our trip.

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Exploring Iceland: The Blue Lagoon and Golden Circle

Lea, Maggie and I flew to Reykjavik, Iceland on Thursday to find that Iceland is one of the most beautiful (and expensive) countries ever! We all agreed, Iceland is so different than any other country we will likely have the opportunity to visit this semester so we are so thankful we were able to fit it in!

That morning, we caught a 6am flight and arrived in Iceland at 8am so we would have the day to explore. When we landed, we weren’t allowed off of our plane for THREE HOURS (you can’t make this stuff up) because it was “too windy.” At one point I literally thought we were sleeping on that plane because there was no sign of the wind slowing down, it was shaking the plane. I honestly don’t think it was any better when we got off but maybe they just realized that it could last all day.

After we were finally allowed off of our plane, we caught a thirty minute cab straight to the Blue Lagoon.  The Blue Lagoon is a sulfur filled, man made hot spring with the brightest blue waters I’ve ever seen. It is supposed to have health benefits, but be warned, it makes your hair feel like sandpaper for days. I did a lot of research beforehand and everyone recommended to book your Blue Lagoon tickets in advance as it can fill up quick so we had reservations for noon. This is a bit more of an expensive excursion, but I would say its a definite must if you’re in Iceland. The package we went with included a drink ticket and a face mask. It was extremely cold, windy, and a little rainy the day we went but the water was still so amazing. Maggie and Lea are two of my roommates from a school in Nevada and before London we had never met. As we were sitting there, we all kept looking at each other saying how crazy it is that we are so young, doing something people dream of, with people we literally just met. We’ve already talked about how after this we are going to visit each other and how lucky we are to be paired together because we feel the experience is only that much more amazing doing it with people you love. And its so weird that we already feel so close, and we would never even know each other without study abroad. I know I keep saying it, but every day I am just so incredibly thankful to be here with such incredible people.

After the Blue Lagoon, we took another taxi to Kex Hostel, our accommodations for our stay. It is setup in an old bread factory and has a bar and restaurant downstairs, plus for two nights, it was only $35. This was my second hostel experience, and the girls first, and we all agreed this one was totally awesome. It was super affordable, really nice, and within walking distance of pretty much everything in Reykjavik.  We stayed in a shared dorm with three other people and we made some friends which I will share in part two of this experience.

I was sleeping on a top bunk, and Friday morning I had set my alarm for 8am as we were catching a bus to take a tour of the Golden Circle that day. My alarm went off and I was trying to hurry down so I wouldn’t wake anyone else up in our room, and I fell off the bunkbed, ha. Of course I woke everyone else up, and I just tried laughing it off because I’ve rolled my ankle many times in cheer and just assumed it was no big deal, plus I didn’t want to seem like a drama queen and blow it out of proportion. I went out in the hallway and tried walking it off, I could tell pretty immediately this was a little more serious than the ankle rolls I’ve experienced in the past. I sat down, I was still in pain. I finally admit to the girls that I think its a little bit more serious, and Lea, who is a paramedic took a look. She determined pretty quick she thought it was a sprain and I put some ice on it. We went downstairs to eat breakfast, and the pain was getting worse.

This is the day it happened

When I couldn’t put my boot on without crying, I knew it was worse than I wanted to believe. I didn’t want to ruin Lea and Maggie’s experience so I offered to stay back and they insisted they would carry me around if I needed, they weren’t leaving me behind. I finally managed to get my boot on, and our new friend Paul, insisted on carrying me downstairs. I’m telling you, the people I have met here are freaking amazing. But the hero that really pushed it over the edge, was our cab driver that took us to the bus stop to catch the tour. We talked to him on the way about what happened, he dropped us off and I literally hopped on one foot onto the bus. As we were sitting waiting for the tour to start, our guide walks up to me and hands me a bag and explained that a cab driver had just come back and was looking for a girl with a sprained ankle. This man literally raced to a pharmacy, got me some medicine and a compression sock, and raced back before we left. Things in Iceland are so expensive I’m sure that the stuff he bought cost at least two to three times our cab fare. I cried when she handed it to me, and I never got the chance to thank him but I promise to pay it forward sometime this semester. This is an act of kindness I will never forget. I ended up walking over fourteen miles in Iceland on my bum foot. I’m attaching the pictures, but for those concerned its broken, its been about ten days and its still a bit sore, but mostly healed up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These pictures were taken four days after it happened.

Despite my sprained foot, our Golden Circle tour was awesome. This is the exact tour we booked with Get Your Guide and we thought it was a wonderful experience. It was a bus tour that took us to Geysir and Stokkur, the Gullfoss waterfall, and Pingvellir National Park. We were pretty much the youngest people on the tour and Maggie said “how lucky are we that most people don’t get to do this until they’re older, and we are so young doing this now.” Wow, talk about perspective. I literally couldn’t even be mad or upset about my foot because we were so immersed in such an amazing experience that few get the chance to see. I went at snail pace all day, but Maggie and Lea were the absolute best sports about it.

And for anyone curious about Icelandic weather: I checked the weather before we left and it was supposed to be in the 40-50s, I almost didn’t bring my big coat. Forties in Iceland is NOT THE SAME as forties anywhere else. I had three layers of sweaters and jackets everyday, a beanie, thick socks, and was still cold. Our tour guide said “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just badly dressed people.” Clearly they don’t live by my “fashion over function” motto, but here they might be onto something!;)

For every country I visit, I want to be able to find it on the map and know the flag

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A Day in Munich

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Because of my flight mishaps, I had a full day in Munich by myself to explore the city. In the couple of weeks I have spent in Europe, I have come to truly enjoy independent travel. As cheesy as it sounds, it makes me feel like such a strong, independent woman to figure it out by myself and it honestly becomes addicting. I get so excited and proud of accomplishing the littlest things like figuring out public transit, or mapping out a route to all of the sights on my list, or even making friends with strangers. It takes some serious guts to just strike up a conversation with someone you’ve never met, but I have truly met some of the coolest people. And social media makes it so easy to stay in touch with them.

I started the day by taking a train to Dachau, the concentration camp. This was such an incredible experience and I think everyone should visit one if they get the chance. It is hard to describe the experience because I truly have a hard time grasping such tragedy and hatred. And its hard to put words on such a lack of humanity that affected millions of people. When I learned about the Holocaust in school, I was obviously disgusted, but to see where it happened in real life makes it so much more real. And to think, it didn’t even happen that long ago. It really made me think about the world we live in now and what is currently happening, and that we need to change it and act out of love instead of such a divide.

On the bus, I met a group of girls studying abroad in Florence. They were so nice and let me tag along on their tour so I could easily find my way. My favorite part of traveling in Europe, is that its so easy to meet like minded travelers. It seems like so many people are in the same boat and looking for friends. Plus, when I am by myself, I am much more likely to branch out and create these friendships.

The rest of the day I walked around and explored Munich. I started at Residenz Munchen. When I got off the train and walked up, there was an outdoor street market with live music and a bunch of vendors. I spent some time exploring and sampling some of the food. I love going to markets like that because I think it is a more local experience, and the food is generally cheaper than a restaurant but still authentic and delicious.

I then walked to Cathedral Church of Our Lady and Marienplatz.

After visiting these places, I really wanted a rooftop view of the city so I found The Terrace at Mandarin Oriental on Yelp. This was one of my favorite things I’ve done in Europe. The food was delicious and the views were STUNNING. I sat at the bar and met a girl from Texas studying and playing soccer at a university in the UK so we chatted for a bit and I got to soak up the views. From now on, I want to make going to a rooftop bar a regular part of my travels because I think it is such a unique experience and a great way to see the city.

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Oktoberfest

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Hi friends! If you’ve been following, you know getting to Oktoberfest was a dang journey. BUT, it was totally worth it!! After a successful train ride, flight, bus ride, another train, and tram, I finally arrived to Munich Friday night. As my phone was at 1% and I was a few blocks from the Air Bnb, I miraculously ran into Traci and Lea on the street. Things were finally starting to look up!;) Our Air Bnb was a private room in someone’s apartment in downtown Munich. We were a little hesitant to do that, but the host got great reviews and it was significantly cheaper than any other options so we went ahead and booked it. It turned out to be a success. Our host was extremely nice and we felt totally safe, plus the apartment was in a central location within walking distance to Oktoberfest. Here is the link if anyone is considering going next year.

For Oktoberfest, we had booked tickets with a company called Stoke Travel, which offered free breakfast/dinner and unlimited drinks. We assumed they had a tent at Oktoberfest, so after walking around for about 30 minutes looking for their tent, we found out they were actually a campsite.We Ubered out there and loaded up on some drinks and made a bunch of friends. It wasn’t very crowded during the day, but apparently people camp there and its a huge afterparty at night. After a bit, we had rounded up a group of Americans, New Zealanders, and Europeans to head back to Oktoberfest with us. Sometimes when I’m here I have these moments that I wish I could just freeze because I feel so free and like I will never be this young and carefree again. Running through a field outside of Munich to catch the bus with all these strangers I had just met in our dirndls was one of those times.

We went to Oktoberfest on Saturday, and Traci described it as “the baddest county fair ever” (mom, bad means good in this context). It is a huge party with all kinds of street vendors and food trucks selling pretzels and beer, there were carnival rides, and big beer tents where the party really happens. Getting into the tents is no easy task. Apparently you can get reservations months in advance to get a table, but if you were unprepared like us you have to wait in these massive lines to get in. As we were waiting, some random guy came up and promised to skeet us in the back for ten euros each. We were pretty skeptical but also impatient so we decided to follow him and somehow he pulled through. The inside of the tent was crazy. Waitresses are walking by with these long boards of food and pitchers of beer, people are standing on the tables dancing, everyone is wearing a dirndl, and there was a band playing classic rock (didn’t expect that). Singing Sweet Caroline with thousands of people in this tent is something I will never forget.

I’m so so thankful I was able to go and for all the experiences I’ve had here, thank you so much for reading and for all the kind comments/messages I’ve gotten!

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A Forgotten Passport, Missed Flight, and Wrong Return Date

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Hi guys! So usually I like to keep it pretty positive over here. I mean I’m in London and traveling the world, what could I possibly have to complain about? Although traveling is SO FUN, and in my two weeks of doing it I’ve decided I want to make traveling a part of my life forever (even after the experience I’m going to share), it’s not always as glamorous as it looks. So today I’m going to keep it real, I finally got my first taste of what people mean when when they say “traveling is hard”.

The only weekend trip I had booked ahead of time before coming to London was Oktoberfest in Munich, which I was leaving for on Thursday. I left for the airport about 3 hours early to give me plenty of time to get there, check in, get through security, and find my gate.  About 30 minutes to the airport I realized I made the rookiest of all mistakes, I left my passport in my flat. Although I knew I’d be pushing it, I didn’t panic because I still had plenty of time. So I got on the tube headed back to my flat, literally sprinted half a mile to my flat, grabbed my passport, and sprinted back to the tube. At this point I’m a little frazzled but I’m pretty sure I can still make my flight.

As I’m about 10 minutes from what I thought was the airport, things aren’t looking right. This is when I realized I was on my way to Gatwick Airport Homestay which is an hour and fifteen minutes from Gatwick Airport where I need to be. Apparently they are two different places. At this point, I have less than 2 hours until my currently delayed flight leaves and at least an hour and fifteen minute rush hour commute. I decide to still go for it and that an Uber might be better than the tube. As I start to order the Uber, of course the app isn’t working. So now I am literally sitting on the ground outside the train station because I can’t hold all my stuff while I’m trying to update my card information. Then when it FINALLY went through, it took the Uber about 10 or so minutes to get there. I hop into his car, explain the situation, and in a British accent he replies “sweetheart I will do my best but it will take a miracle”. At this point I didn’t think it could get much worse so I told him to try and hope for the best. This sweet man consoles me the whole way there, is speeding along the back roads to avoid rush hour traffic, helps me call the airport to see if there are any alternatives, and reminds me that everything happens for a reason and maybe I’m not supposed to be on that flight. Honestly, he made a crummy situation a lot better.

I get to the airport literally 13 minutes before my flight is supposed to depart, race up to security, and they tell me unfortunately my boarding gate is closed and although the plane is there, there is no way I can get on… talk about frustrating and sad. I went down to the Easy Jet customer service and quite honestly, they weren’t the most helpful. I tried to remember these people deal with situations like this all the time, and frankly they’ve heard every excuse in the book, so their sympathy levels aren’t high and it’s probably annoying to deal with mad people all day. The lady next to me was dealing with lost luggage and said she only had 25 pounds on her, we all had problems there.

I was supposed to fly out at 7pm Thursday night, the earliest flight they can get me on is at 1:30pm on Friday and of course it comes at a price. As he’s looking at my confirmation, he asks if my return flight is December 29? To which I’m immediately confused, and I explain I’m supposed to be coming back on September 29. This is where I find out I BOOKED THE WRONG RETURN FLIGHT, so now I’m paying up again. At this point I’m considering just cancelling but I was supposed to meet two friends there, I’d already paid for the flight, my Oktoberfest tent ticket, and the air bnb so I would be out money anyways and lose out on the experience so I decided it was worth it to me to pay the fines.

*Disclaimer: although my parents support me in many ways, funding my weekend trips is not one of them and I try to do things as cheaply, efficiently, and practically as possible. This literally brought me pain.

I finally got it worked out to fly out Friday afternoon, still make Oktoberfest Saturday, and come back to London Sunday night just in time for class on Monday. When I was on the train going back to my flat for the night, a woman was begging for money for a warm place to sleep and some food. As I dropped a few bucks in her cup I was reminded that my situation really could’ve been so much worse. It’s like the saying goes, “if we all threw our problems in a pile and saw what everyone else was dealing with, we’d probably grab ours back”. So lesson learned: always grab your passport, always double check the address, and always triple check the dates.

Next post will be all about Oktoberfest, and for those wondering, it was totally worth it!:)

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Making London Feel Like Home

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Hi friends, this past week has been a blur of settling into London, school orientation, traveling to Munich, and Oktoberfest. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m just going to be tired for three months because I want to be this busy everyday here, its like once I start traveling like this I physically cannot stop and am just eager for more. The beginning of the week I finally got to explore London a bit more and I’m falling more in love with the city each day. I get so excited about the littlest things like scanning my Oyster card to ride the tube or going to the grocery store. I don’t even mind carrying the groceries .7 miles back to my flat because I feel like I’m getting a local experience, ha. London is such a hub and it feels like I have so much access to culture, history, shopping, new foods, travel, and meeting new people. I don’t think I could ever get bored here and as ridiculous as it sounds, sometimes I get stressed that in three months I won’t get to experience even half of it so I’m doing my best to maximize my time and see as much as I can, and if I can’t do it all… I just might have to move here after college!;) Everyday I am so filled with gratitude that this is my life right now.

I finally got to meet my last two roommates, Lea and Maggie and I hit the FREAKING JACKPOT! The four of us have so much in common and get along so well. We have the best times even just hanging out in the kitchen cooking and talking. They are also extremely adventurous and balling on a budget too,  so it seems we got the best of both worlds. I can’t wait for all the things we are going to experience together. For some reason, I don’t have a group picture of just the four of us yet but they’re all pictured throughout.

Last weekend Traci, Lea, and I all went out to a club here in Shoreditch called XOYO. I’m telling ya, if you get the chance to go European clubbing, GO! London clubs are so different from American clubs, not as crazy as Berlin clubs, but such a fun experience. And they literally go all. night. long. My stamina isn’t quite built for that, but its a party nonetheless.

Sunday, a group of us in the program went to Primark, which is basically the European version of Forever 21 but the prices are even cheaper and the quality is higher. It’s a danger zone for me and my bank account. Then we had bottomless cocktails and brunch at Old Compton Brasserie, the Europeans just skip a light mimosa and head straight to the vodka apparently. And they give you an hour and a half time limit on your drinks so we had a power hour to get our 20 pounds worth, ha. It was so delicious, and the drinks were strong.

I also tried the restaurant Patty and Bun this week and had one of the best cheeseburgers I’ve ever had.

We had school orientation and if I’m being totally honest, I’d rather just keep up this European “vacation” I’ve been having without the work. But I guess we can’t have it all, right? I am taking one required International Business class for my major, and then am taking three marketing electives: Online Fashion Retail, Brand Management, and Managing the Creative  Environment. After this semester I will have completed all of my required courses and am graduating in December. Since I have been planning to study abroad for a while, I had it worked out to where I get to finish up with electives instead of core classes which is really nice that I will be exploring topics I’m actually interested in here. They do school much different here and really emphasize independent learning. So instead of doing periodic quizzes, homework, and exams, they require two forms of “assessment” throughout the whole semester which could be a test, project, paper, etc. It will be interesting to see which style of teaching I prefer after this semester, but right now I like the idea of doing without all the busy work they assign us in America.

All the study abroad students were treated to a dinner at The Skinny Kitchen and introduced to each other. The food there was incredible, I would definitely recommend trying it on a trip to London. Plus I’ve met severalcool people in the program. A lot of us are living in the same apartment building so it’s been awesome to have some built in friends here and I would say it’s made the transition much easier.

We’ve mostly just been getting in the swing of things and I still feel like there is SO MUCH of London I want to see and experience in my three months here so I’ve compiled a bucket list. Fingers crossed I can do it all!

  • Go up the London Eye
  • Visit Buckingham Palace
  • Have a tea party
  • Recreate the Beatles photo
  • Visit an art gallery
  • Go to God’s Own Junkyard
  • Eat a street food meal at Camden Market
  • See a musical (Magic Mike, Mama Mia, Wicked)
  • Attend a show at Shakespeare’s Globe
  • Visit Notting Hill
  • Take a photo in the tube
  • Vintage shop at Shoreditch market
  • Go up The Shard
  • Take a photo at Big Ben
  • See a football/soccer game
  • See a rugby game
  • Enjoy a rooftop meal
  • Shop and eat in Islington town
  • See a rooftop cinema
  • Visit Platform 9 and 3/4
  • See a free comedy show at Theatre Royal Stratford East on Mondays
  • Eat fish and chips
  • Go to the club: Ballie Ballerson
  • Go to an ice bar
  • Attend a concert or music festival
  • Visit Westminster Abbey
  • Explore Piccadilly Circus

 

If you have any London recommendations please share! Thanks for reading!

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A Solo Female Traveler’s Guide to Berlin, Germany

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Hello! This week I did my first solo trip ever, 3 days 2 nights in Berlin, Germany. Safety and loneliness were definitely concerns when I decided to book this, but I found neither of these to be an issue and it was actually one of the most freeing and liberating things I’ve ever done.

For those curious, when I originally told my mom I was thinking of traveling alone she was definitely skeptical at first. I don’t know if she realized, but if she had really freaked out or tried to stop me, I wouldn’t have gone. I did quite a bit of research and found that Europe is actually quite safe for travelers. Most of the information I read said to follow a lot of the same precautions I would in the US: don’t go anywhere alone at night, don’t walk with headphones, be aware of your surroundings, and let people know where you’re going. After giving my pitch, she was actually quite encouraging of the whole thing. I definitely got my fair share of lectures to use common sense, be aware, and keep her updated. But she said she understood why I wanted to do it and since I was paying, she said she “couldn’t stop me” (I honestly didn’t have that attitude but I was glad she felt that way). And I promised her I was staying in an all girl dorm in the hostel, I wouldn’t walk by myself after dark, and every night I made sure to text her that I made it safety in bed.

Accommodations: St. Christopher’s Inns Berlin Mitte

I stayed in the St. Christopher Hostel in Berlin and absolutely LOVED it. I’m actually going to try to stay in hostels as often as I can based on this experience. My stay was about $40 a night, and the hostel had a bar and restaurant below that had drink specials and 25% off everything for hotel guests. The food was seriously delicious, three of the meals pictured below are from there and I didn’t have a complaint about one of them. I chose to stay in an all female dorm because I was worried about being by myself (sorry dudes), but honestly after my experience, I think staying in a mixed dorm would be fine too. Because of the bar/restaurant it was super easy to meet people as I hung out there a lot and made friends.

Pretty much everyone staying here is also young, on a budget, and looking for adventure so immediately we all have a bit in common. The bed itself was quite nice and there was an area for me to lock my belongings, I would DEFINITELY recommend bringing ear plugs as it was quite noisy with people coming in/out or below in the bar. On my last night here, I had a little liquid courage and walked up to three girls and in true “grade school trying to make friends” fashion, I asked if I could join them. They turned out to be some of the friendliest gals out there and I went out with them on my last night. It’s experiences like that that I don’t think you would get in a hotel/air bnb.

Schnitzel–A German staple and totally delicious

 

A falafel wrap

Things to D0

Berlin is packed with history, I didn’t really know what to expect but most of the city and attractions revolve around WWII. It was quite interesting and the architecture was beautiful. I was by myself and walked pretty much everywhere–about 20 miles in two days: partly because I’m cheap, partly for the exercise, and partly because its a better view of the city. The tram and trains were easy enough to figure out though if you prefer to do it that way. I was worried when I was by myself I would feel lonely but it was actually quite fun. I was able to go totally at my own pace, pop into shops and restaurants as I pleased, and do everything I wanted to do. In two and a half days I felt like I saw everything I wanted to so if you have a few days, Berlin would be a great city to cram a lot in. I didn’t go inside a lot of the museums/buildings but there was a lot of reading and sites on the streets and I felt that was enough for me. These are the things I did do, and I am listing them in order from my hostel if you are interested in walking a similar route:

Day 1

Berlin Cathedral

Berlin TV Tower-16 euros to go inside, 13 euros with a student ID, would definitely recommend

East Side Gallery 

Day 2

Museum Island

Brandenburg Gate

Memorial of the Murdered Jews

Postdamer Platz

Gendarmenmarkt

Checkpoint Charlie

Markthalle Neun– Street Food on Thursdays, Best Empanada of my life

Day 3

Jewish Museum Berlin-I went inside of this one, 3 euros with a student ID. Amazing art, artifacts, and storytelling of the Jewish culture and Holocaust. I would definitely recommend this one.

And while you’re in Berlin, try some of the chocolate!

Berlin Nightlife

Charolette, Ella, and Lizzie

My first night I stayed in the bar/restaurant here and just hung out with other people doing the same. I was EXTREMELY hesitant to go out and there was a 0% chance I was going by myself but it was actually quite nice conversing with some of the other travelers and getting their recommendations. The last night, my four British friends invited me out and boy was it an ~experience~. 212 most certainly did not prepare me for this, back in little St. Charles the bars close at 1am. Here they call 1am “early” and people literally go until 6am, the stamina of these people is incredible. We started at a bar, and it was so bizarre . When we walked in, there were DJs playing “music” but it sounded more like when your radio is staticky, and people were standing by themselves just swaying. After about 15 minutes we decided that was not our scene, so we Ubered to a bar across town and it was WILD. I swear people in Europe just don’t care–the outfits are crazy (in the best way possible), you can take drinks to go, the music doesn’t really have words, I literally watched someone whip out a fan and do choreography, and the clubs are so huge the individual rooms had different DJs so its a different experience everywhere you go!

I love it here! Thanks so much for reading, and if you get the chance to go, happy traveling!:)

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Visiting a Friend in Weiden and Nuremberg, Germany

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Hi, before I get into this post I gotta throw in a little explanation. I’ve been trying to write at events, on transit, and in hotels so I can remember what’s going on and give more details. I was writing on the train the other day when I thought I had almost reached my destination, just keep reading and see where it went wrong, hah. I almost edited it out but thought I’d share one of the many mistakes I’ve made this trip in real time! Thanks so much for reading, all the comments and support means the world!

9/15 Excerpt from the train:

Hallo from Germany! I have been up and traveling since 4am and successfully navigated the tube, Stansted airport, Munich airport, and three German train stations. To say I need a nap would be an understatement. I really thought that the adrenaline and excitement would make me immune to exhaustion and jet lag, but I got played. I finally managed to dose on a train when the poor conductor had to try and wake me for who knows how long and look at my ticket, sorry sir. Navigation in Germany has proven to be a bit more challenging then London because of the language barrier, and this is my first experience doing any kind of solo travel. But, I gotta admit I’m a little impressed that I was able to make so many transitions alone. Hopefully my good luck continues! Like in London, the people here are very kind and helpful. So with my limited experience, I would recommend to anyone traveling here to ask for help as the local people have been keeping me on track. I should be at my destination in the next hour and I cannot wait to get off public transit and relax for a bit with some familiar faces!

FRIENDS, I just got served a big slice of humble pie. Literally 30 minutes after I typed this I realized I was supposed to be at my stop and I wasn’t bc the train I got on SPLIT IN TWO at a Y and mine went the opposite direction. I’m never writing about good luck again until I actually get to the destination. In my defense though, how was I supposed to know the cars split?? Luckily I was within driving range to my destination so a quick pickup solved my problems.

I spent three days in Weiden and Nuremberg, Germany. My once English teacher now friend, Mrs. Jannings, just relocated to Weiden and invited me to come stay for a bit so I was so excited to take her up on the offer before starting school. The first night I was there, her and her family treated me to a delicious German meal where I got to sample some of the local cuisine and we were able to catch up. I quickly learned that meat and potatoes are the staple meal, the potato dumplings are a personal favorite. We then had an early night and I was able to finally catch up on some sleep. The second day was a much needed lounge day: I slept until 11, ate a delicious meal, and Mrs. Jannings explained a lot about what life in Germany is like and I caught her up on the bit of Cobden news I still know. The third and final day we took the train to Nuremberg, German. I had never even heard of the city but it is packed with a ton of history, shopping, and food. They took me on a walking tour around all the significant landmarks and explained that much of the city was lost in the WWII bombings, but they recreated it to look like the old city, her three kids are expert tour guides. I was able to sample a local pretzel with cheese (Annie Em’s you got nothing on Germany) and a Nuremberger, which is basically a sausage. I am so thankful I was able to stay for a bit and get a more authentic German experience and to Mrs. Jannings and her family for being such wonderful hosts.

 

A Nuremberger

Mrs. Jannings had these treats waiting on my bed and explained that the person who invented Gummy Bears is from Germany, and because of regulation, they don’t use the same dyes and preservatives here that they do in the US. These taste much better.

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