Amsterdam City Guide Part 2

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We kicked off Amsterdam day 2 at the A’dam tower. This was one of my favorite things we did in Amsterdam. The ticket package allowed us to take a couple pictures in front of their green screen, and two free drinks. We sat in the bar for a while and admired the views. Maggie’s friend, Bella, met us up there. She is studying in Italy and was so cool, she’s coming to visit London in a couple weeks and we can’t wait to show her around! The A’dam tower had an indoor bar, and then access to the roof. It was very targeted at people like me who are suckers for a photo op. They had tons of places set up for pictures, and a swing that went over the edge of the building. Obviously, we had to try it out and it was so awesome.

After the tower, we got some pastries at a food truck and headed to the Amsterdam Dungeon. I definitely recommend trying a strawberry waffle in Amsterdam, it was delicious.

The Amsterdam Dungeon is an interactive experience that takes you through horror stories of Amsterdam. I think its meant to be scary, but it was more funny than anything else. There was this one couple who were cracking up the whole time and we though seemed so fun. I walked up and asked where they were from and the woman held her fur coat open and said with an attitude “Milan can’t you tell” and then when I looked at her bag she said “its Prada do you want a picture.” In that moment I decided if thats the attitude money gives you, I’d rather be poor, geez. But everyone else there was really nice!:)

That night, we went to the Red Light District. This is literally a street where prostitutes stand in the windows to attract potential clients. I didn’t take any photos out of respect for the women, but it was definitely an experience. We went through a museum and did some research, and some women find it powerful. To them, more power to em. But unfortunately, a local told us over 60% of the women are trafficked. We went through the Museum of Prostitution that had a lot more information on it. I won’t spoil much, but it isn’t uncommon for women to get wrapped into it by boyfriends or “lover boys” who are basically pimps forcing them into it and taking their money. The Museum of Prostitution was actually audio guided by one of Amsterdam’s top prostitutes which was really interesting.

Saturday we visited the Food Hallen for lunch and it was delicious. I went to three different vendors, but only snapped two pictures because it was just too good. They also had clothing vendors, one specifically was a denim store that had designers in house creating new pieces and up cycling old. This was my favorite, and if I could’ve afforded it, I would’ve bought several things. There was also a closet sale for an influencer from Amsterdam, Diipa Khosla. I couldn’t resist a couple of her items, but I also had the opportunity to meet her and she was incredibly kind.

After the market we had a bit more time to explore the streets of Amsterdam and we got to try the famous Van Wonderen Stroopwaffels and Henry Williams Cheese.

That evening we had tickets to a canal cruise, and the Amsterdam Ice Bar. We were trying to find the canal cruise along the side of the canal, and there were so many boats we weren’t sure which was ours. It was cold, and getting dark, and we realized our boat was heading to a dock on the opposite side of the canal, so we sprinted to the other side just in time to catch it. We were all giggling and winded when we hopped on, and then we basically crashed on the boat and didn’t pay much attention, ha. The glimpses of Amsterdam I did see were beautiful, but I slept most of the time.

After our recharge on the river cruise, we headed back to the hostel to change and eat dinner. We had Chinese delivered to our place, and sat at the bar doing shots with the bartenders, and passing our boxes of Chinese back and forth (bartenders included) sharing our dinner. It’s so funny, we go on these trips and meet people, and it’s like we’re all instant friends. We all agree, maybe one day when we have more money, or boyfriends/husbands, staying in a nice hotel with some privacy would be fun. But at the point we are in our lives, to have the opportunity to travel cheaply and meet like minded people, these hostels are where we make some of the best memories. 

After dinner, we headed to the Ice Bar. This was one of my favorite parts of Amsterdam. You walk in, they give you some gloves and jackets, and head into a ice room where everything down to your drink glass is made of ice. It was cold, and silly, and the bartenders were hitting on us (and giving us free drinks, ha) and it was just SO FUN.

After that, we bar hopped to a karaoke bar and unfortunately, the Dutch DO NOT have “Baby” by Justin Bieber on their machines. When we walked in, the bouncer gave us strict instructions to “not dance on the table,” not sure if that was written on my forehead but it is my go-to. Between our dance moves, and our song choices, I think they were ready for us to leave, ha.

A promoter gave us free cover to the club Escape Amsterdam. Maggie describes our experience better than me. Apparently, we walked in and I looked at the VIP stage and said “we are going up there.” So I walked straight through the crowd towards the stage, went to the corner, looked at two dudes and next thing I know, they lifted us all up into their section. We got some bad gin and tonics and danced like maniacs before getting kicked out of the area for not having bracelets. Around this time, it was 1:30am and we needed to leave for the airport by 3am to catch our 6am flight. We headed back to our hostel, took thirty minute naps, and then I literally had to drag the girls out of bed to the airport. We got to the airport looking absolutely disheveled and the security dudes laughed at us the whole way. It wasn’t our classiest moment, but something we will laugh about forever.

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Good Food and a Good Mood-Amsterdam City Guide Part 1

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Usually, everywhere we go, we always love it but agree London is home. I still think London is my favorite, but Amsterdam is the first place that gives it a run for it’s money. Amsterdam is beautiful, the people are so kind, and it just feels so laid back and safe. Maggie said it felt like a Disney movie and she was waiting for an animal to come out and talk to us, ha.

We bought these hats, with the intention of being space cowboys for Halloween with some colored wigs. The costumes never happened, they don’t really dress up in Amsterdam, but we wore them on the airplane and thought we were so funny. This was our first time flying Veuling, and they shot straight to the top of my favorite airline list. They allowed a trolley bag and personal item to carry on, and our flight was pretty much empty so we each got our own row to sit in.

We arrived in Amsterdam late Wednesday night and checked into our hostel, The Flying Pig Uptown. I think this is my favorite hostel yet, and you know I’ve loved them all. The staff here were the absolute friendliest and gave the best recommendations.

Thursday morning, we visited the Anne Frank House. This was by far the most interesting and my personal favorite museum I’ve done. We booked our tickets over a month ahead of time and barely got in, so definitely book this as soon as you book your trip. It is so worth it! I remember reading the Anne Frank diaries in school, but now having visited a concentration camp, just being older, and understanding the history a lot more made being inside the house so much more real. I would really like to reread the book now because I will likely get a lot more out of it.

“How wonderful is it that no one has to wait even a minute to start gradually changing the world”-Anne Frank

After the Anne Frank House, we walked next door to Pancake Amsterdam. I saw Dutch pancakes on the menu and got so excited. In America, my favorite place is the Iron Whisk (Cobden people, you already know) and the Dutch Baby is always my FAVORITE… Maybe I’m biased, but I think the Iron Whisk does Dutch pancakes better than the Dutch, ha. Tara, if you happen to be reading this, I have been eyeing the Cookie Monster for weeks now. Please, please, please have it on the specials board in December when I come home!;)

We then started walking to the Van Gogh museum. On the way we wandered into the House Boat Museum (4.50 euro), and the Kernel De Vreedy art gallery. The House Boat museum was actually so cool. There are 2,500 houseboats in Amsterdam and rent is actually cheaper on the water, but insurance is higher. The structure of the museum was an actual houseboat so we were able to picture what life would be like.

 

The Kernel De Vreedy art gallery was also quite cool. The artist’s daughter was working and she explained that her mother makes all the pieces with only her hands. And the first picture, is the most famous piece of work which many have offered to buy but they decided it was too special and they wanted to share it in an art gallery.

We finally made it to the Van Gogh museum and decided to spring for the five euro audioguides. This is a “luxury” I usually forego but we actually agreed it was totally worth it here and the information was really good. I thought the famous painting, Starry Night, would be there but unfortunately it is displayed in New York. But the other works of art were quite interesting and hearing the audioguide explain the meaning and how they were created definitely added to the experience.

We also visited the Bloemenmarkt which is the only floating flower market in the world.

We didn’t have any other plans for the night and we walked by a movie theatre that happened to be playing the Joker in fifteen minutes so we decided that would be a fun way to relax for a bit. The theatre itself was like a nice theatre for plays in the United States and the architecture was beautiful. Unfortunately, they don’t butter the popcorn in Europe (at least we haven’t found it), but they do salt the popcorn in Amsterdam (unlike London), so we were excited to have a bit of a taste of home. The Joker was soooooo good. I won’t post any spoilers, but if you’ve seen the movie, slide in my dms and let me know what you think of the ending because we’ve had several long debates about it and I have a lot of thoughts!;)

After the movie, we went to the restaurant Fondue & Fondue for dinner. The restaurant was full when we got there so he told us to come back in a couple hours and they would seat us. We were close to our hostel so we went there to freshen up, then when we returned they were still full. The people in Amsterdam are seriously so nice, he told us to go next door to the bar and have a beer (cider in my case, ha) and he would come over and get us when a table opened up. So we went next door for a drink, and came back for a delicious three course fondue dinner (27.50 euro special).  We agreed, the experience at the Parisian fondue place was better, but we think the food and staff were better here. We started with a shrimp appetizer. Then we had bread and salad before a spread of truffle cheese fondue, vegetables, more bread, four types of meat, and oil to cook it in. It was FANTASTIC. For dessert we split chocolate fondue, fruit, marshmallows, and cheesecake.

To finish the night, we went to Maxim Piano Bar. I have always wanted to visit a piano bar, and I love to dance to some classic rock (shoutout mom and dad for keeping me cultured on your songs) so this was totally my scene. I was talking to the manager and he explained that this bar brings in pianists from all over the world, and the night we were there the artist was from Australia. He played Elton John, Dolly Parton and Van Halen and I LOVED it.

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Au Revoir: Paris City Guide Part 3

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We started our last full day in Paris by taking the train to the Palace of Versailles. We have toured a lot of extravagant buildings in our time here, but this one was by far the best I’ve ever seen. It is absolutely huge, and the architecture, art work, and design is incredible. I love to walk around and imagine what the people living there would’ve talked about, or done for fun and what it was like to have that much money and status… They used to have 10,000 servants that lived on the property, I can only imagine some of the ridiculous requests.

After Versailles we visited the Louis Vuitton Foundation. I was stoked because Paris is so known for fashion. We walked a street that had Chanel, Chloe, Versace, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and so any more designers. You name it, it was there. We merely window shopped, I figured if I walked in they would smell “poor college student who stays in budget hostels and uses coupon apps at restaurants” from a mile away. Anyways, we went to the Louis Vuitton foundation and we got totally cat fished. There was not a single bag, shoe, or dress in sight. We didn’t stay long but its a space to promote young artists. If modern art is your scene, this is the place for you. However, if you’re expecting a collection of clothes and accessories, you will be disappointed.

We were walking back to our hostel, and we passed the Palace Royal. This was on my list but I didn’t think we would be able to fit it in. I mainly just wanted to take pictures on the striped columns so we peeped in so I could get the shot and headed back.

That night, we had a river cruise booked. Remember in Ibiza when we bought cheap airport liquor? Well that turned out to be a pretty dang good idea, so before our cruise we popped into a supermarket and grabbed some gin, sprite, and plastic cups. We ever so classily mixed our concoctions on the street and boarded the cruise. We hopped on just in time to see the Eiffel Tower glow, and if I thought it was impressive before it was even more amazing lighting the sky at night. Cruising down the canal, giggling about our weekend, and just gazing at Paris was another highlight moment of my travels.

The next morning we grabbed brunch and headed to Montmarte, a little neighborhood with shops and cafes, to explore before we had to catch our flight.

Traci, Lea, Maggie and I have all been reflecting on how this experience has been so far. We are doing so many amazing things and learning so much about culture and history, but I think the biggest lesson of this experience has been that I am a lot more capable than anything I thought of. This is another post where I’m keeping it real. This experience has been so amazing, and if you follow me on social media or read this blog, its mostly a highlight reel of all the amazing things I’ve been doing here. But that’s not real, and life isn’t always perfect.

I said it before and I’ll say it again, traveling can be hard. Each time though, we have to problem solve and come up with a solution. From figuring out little things like public transit, language barriers, and budgeting to big things like missing a flight, scheduling a wrong flight, or falling off a bunk bed and spraining my ankle, we are totally doing it on our own here.

In the last hour we were in Paris, I opened my bag to grab my wallet and it wasn’t there. We had ridden the underground to Montmarte. The last place I could remember having it was when I retrieved our train tickets in the station. It’s likely in between the shuffle of scanning tickets and getting on the train, I stuck it in my jacket pocket or bag and someone reached in and grabbed it. We had made several transfers since then and I knew that it was a long shot that if I actually did lose it and it wasn’t stolen, someone actually returned it. We backtracked with no luck finding it, but we did find someone else’s empty wallet in a trash can (I guess they were having some bad luck too). Shoutout to the girls as they were so patient in backtracking for an hour, keeping a positive attitude, and assuring me they would do anything to help me. They are some real friends. Ironically, in Barcelona, someone we met had their wallet stolen so I had taken pretty much everything out of mine except my expired drivers license, my debit card, and some cash.

This was one of those times where I had to remind myself that things could be way worse and there are much worse problems. Luckily the lost/stolen wallet is about a 100 euro cash loss, and a pain in the butt trying to get a new id and cards across the pond. My friends kept joking that they couldn’t believe how calm I was and I was like, “well freaking out isn’t going to fix find it.” I told my mom that and she’s like, “maybe the new you, but the old you wouldn’t have felt that way.” Maybe it takes spending 3 months in a foreign country at the ripe age of 21 and having a few bumps in the road, or maybe it takes something else, but this is one of those times where I had to realize I need to take a breath and figure it out. I’m not grateful my wallet was stolen but I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be here. It’s hard to even be that upset when I have something like this happen because I’m in Paris doing things that people dream of and at the end of the day I can have a lost wallet here, car problems at home, or another thing happen. Life isn’t perfect, traveling isn’t perfect, I’m not perfect.

One of my favorite quotes by a traveling family on YouTube, The Bucket List Family, “Rich” is a relative and opinion-based adjective which is mostly based on each individuals level of gratitude towards life.” I am certainly not rich, actually I’m operating on a strict budget here. But as my sister said “I’m a poor girl doing rich girl things.”  I’m not talking about rich monetarily though, I’m talking about rich in experiences and my gratitude for life.

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A France-y Toruist in a France-y City: Paris City Guide Part 2

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The second day in Paris we tried to hit all the big touristy things (part 1 here). We started at the Sacer Coer. This is a stunning church on the top of a hill with breathtaking views of Paris. There were so many stairs, and every few minutes I would turn around to look at the city and it was more incredible with each step. The architecture inside of the church was also amazing.

After the church, we took a pit stop for some macaroons and than headed to the Arc De Triomphe. We went to the top to soak up the views, ten euros with a student ID. We were able to see the Eiffel Tower from this angle, and each time I saw it I was equally impressed. Traci and I decided to do handstands on the top. Seconds after kicking up I was scolded by a security guard, lesson learned.

To finish our touristy day, we headed to the Lourve. With a student id, its free to get in. This was by far the most impressive art museum I have ever been to, and is home to the most famous, Mona Lisa and the Venus De Milo. We went later in the day, but if we had went earlier and weren’t as tired we agreed we could’ve spent hours there, it is HUGE. You enter in through the famous glass pyramid, and the buildings themselves were literally art.

 

 

We finished the day with possibly my favorite meal EVER tied only with an Argentinian restaurant in Paducah, Kentucky of all places (shoutout to the Reach’s I still think about that meal). Les Refuge Des Fondue is a little hole in the wall in Paris that literally only has two rows of tables and you have to climb over them to sit down. They serve wine in baby bottles because people kept spilling, they have the best cheese fondue, and meat to cook in oil. It was DELICIOUS and if were up to me I would’ve eaten there for every other meal. We tried to go the night before but they were so busy we had to make reservations but it was totally worth it. Plus it was only 25 euros total for an appetizer, the fondue, meat, and two glasses of wine.

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Eiffel For Paris: Paris City Guide Part 1

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Paris was number one on my list of places I HAD to visit while in Europe. We arrived Thursday morning and checked into our hostel. As usual, we stayed at another St. Christopher’s Inn right on the canal, then we immediately took public transit to the Eiffel Tower. We were super impressed by the Paris underground, it was super similar to London’s and very easy to navigate. Use the Google maps app for specific instructions on stops, and buy the booklets of ten or twenty train tickets to save some money. We were given specific instructions to take either the M6 or the M9 to the Tracadero stop and get off there for the BEST first impression of the Eiffel Tower.

This sounds extremely cheesy, but every week I have these moments of feeling so much joy like I will never be this young, free, and happy again, and I almost get scared like there’s no way life can get this good again… and then somehow each week here, it does. We exited the train, rounded the corner, and there was the Eiffel Tower in all its glory. My jaw honestly hit the floor. I have literally dreamed of seeing it for so long and couldn’t believe I was actually in Paris, with some of the best girls, staring at the Eiffel Tower. It was everything I thought it would be and probably one of, if not my actual favorite moment of this trip, competing only with seeing the Northern Lights.

As we were walking closer we were literally bombarded with tons of merchants. The first one we met, was calling us sexy fruits (I was a kiwi) and we thought it was so funny. He gave us some free Eiffel Towers, we offered to pay him and he told us they were worth six euros. We didn’t have much cash so we gave him the little we had, maybe six euros total. Then we kept walking… and ALL the merchants kept calling us fruits, Beyonce, Shakira, and Lady Gaga. We quickly realized we weren’t special, the trinkets (that we didn’t even really want) were being sold five for one euro, and it got kind of annoying. So anyone reading this, just walk on by or prepare to get ripped off. Rookie mistake.

Back to the Eiffel Tower though, wow! In true millennial, Instagram, basic girl fashion… we took a ton of pictures. We were going to go up it, but the lines were so long we decided to skip it. Plus, we figured if we did a rooftop thing on another building, we would have views of the Eiffel Tower, which is the highlight anyways. It’s definitely on my list for next time though.

After the Eiffel Tower, we headed to the catacombs. Over six million people were buried underground here to save space in cemeteries. The history here was amazing, and we kept trying to figure out how they got so many bodies down there, or even how they built the channel itself? Especially so many years ago without the technology we have now. The line here was extremely long too, so if visiting I would suggest trying to buy tickets online or getting there earlier in the day. Maggie had been to the catacombs in Rome and she said the Paris ones were better so we absolutely recommend visiting.

That night we went to a little Parisian restaurant and tried escargot. One of my favorite things to do is try new food, and these snails did not disappoint. We all thought they were delicious.

After dinner we walked over to see the Moulin Rouge. I would’ve loved to see a show but the cheapest tickets were 97 euros so we skipped it. The street that it was on was definitely an experience to walk on at night though. I’ve never been to Vegas, but I would describe it as a rated R version of the strip. I’ll leave it to your imagination what we saw.

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An Afternoon in Brighton

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USAC, our study abroad program, offers several field trips throughout the semester that are free to us as study abroad students. We intentionally planned our weekend trips around these field trips, as we wanted a few weekends in London, and they don’t come at an additional charge. Our first field trip was to Brighton, a seaside town about an hour train ride outside of London.  I thought it was kind of hippy-esqe and a much more chill, slow paced city than London. I quite enjoyed the change of scenery and relaxed day.

Upon arrival, we visited The Royal Pavilion as a group. This is a former residence to UK royalty and is as extravagant and beautiful as you can imagine. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside but the architecture and design was beautiful and definitely worth visiting.

The rest of the day we had free time to explore whatever we wanted. We started by visiting the rock beach and pier. It was chilly and windy, but the view was beautiful and it was so peaceful to sit and hear the consistent crashing of the waves. I had some time to sit and be thankful and just relax.

We then visited the pier and decided to ride the biggest upside down ride which literally just went in circles. It was only Lea, Maggie and I so I volunteered to go by myself. I had just eaten a giant slice of cheesecake so I was probably the least thrilled to go on the ride, but somehow got lucky enough to stop at the top with the view of the city while the girls were face down over the ocean, and I loved it the most. It was one of those moments where I thought, “holy cow I’m on a sketchy pier ride in the UK overlooking the city of Brighton,” and it was thrilling.

 

The rest of the day we walked around and vintage shopped and sampled some of the delicious food. I found a pair of white Converse at a thrift store for one pound, the deal of a lifetime, ha. If you’ve seen my wardrobe, you know I can get down in any store. But since moving to London, I have been super intentional with purchases and tried to invest more in experiences than things. But a one pound pair of sneakers? You know I had to.

We also went into a photo booth store, Photomatic, to take some pictures and wandered around the town admiring the street art before heading back to the train.

This was such a fun day trip and I’m so glad our program sets up fun activities like this for us.

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Life In London

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I’ve been in London and other parts of Europe for a little over a month now and it is safe to say I LOVE LONDON! If I could move here, I would in a heartbeat. I love the hustle and bustle of the city, the architecture, the fact that something is going on always, the people, the convenience of public transport… I mean seriously I don’t think I could ever be bored here.

And I think the people are incredibly kind… Or they just love my American accent, but who cares? Accent or not, one day I don’t want to be a tourist anymore, I want to be a for real Londoner. Although… I still have a lot of touristy things to check off the list so I might not be able to change my label for a bit. I posted a London Bucket List a while back, and it keeps growing. These past couple weeks in between travel we have tried to check a few things off.

A couple weeks ago, we saw Wicked the musical. Concert, sporting event, theatre–I’m always down for some live entertainment and this one did not disappoint. The theatre was beautiful and the show was spectacular.

We also frequent a small pub in Camden Town, the Elephant’s Head. I don’t know what I expected London nightlife to be, but the amount of old rock and roll to be played at bars here wasn’t it. It always reminds me of home though. One night we made some friends with two deaf guys and they taught us some sign language and how they communicate which was so cool. One of the best parts of traveling is the amount of diversity I have been exposed to that I wouldn’t usually be. We’ve also been there for open mic night and Lea and Sophie brought it down, ha.

We also have tried a couple cafes close to our school. Ez and Moss and Miki’s Paradise have been two of my favorites.

Our school offered a horseback riding lesson for study abroad students so we had the opportunity to go to an equestrian center outside the city and ride. My grandpa lives on a farm and my mom grew up riding horses, so I was so excited to get the chance to ride here.

We did a Mad Hatter Gin and Tea Party (without the tea). This was an absolute BLAST. We got to choose extravagant hats and literally go “down a rabbit hole” into Wonderland. The staff put on an entertaining show and we were served several drinks that we got to help mix, it was sooooo fun.

We also went to the Jonathan Van Ness “Road to Beijing” tour. To all the Queer Eye fans out there, you already know he was HILARIOUS. And he did one of his gymnastics routines, fabulous. We love a queen!!

Hopefully in the coming weeks I can check a lot more off the list, but we’re off to a good start! I think I write it in every post, but I am seriously so thankful for this opportunity. Anyone that is reading this and considering studying abroad, I so encourage you to do it. This is easily one of the coolest things I’ve done!

I am working on a series of London posts for the end of the semester of my favorite things broken up by area. If you have any questions about living in London, study abroad, etc please leave them in the comments or dm me. Also, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for all the comments, shares, and love back home. My mom is always telling me people come talk to her about my trip and are so excited for me and it means so much. I picked the blog back up more for myself to have a journal to look back on the experience, but I am so glad so many of you are enjoying following! Xoxo

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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

Processed with RNI Films. Preset 'Technicolor 2'

 

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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