I know, I haven’t written a blog post in like a month and a half. But I’m going to ignore that and focus this post as an ode to my favorite place on earth, London
This past semester has thrown everything at me. Happiness, sadness, heartbreak, stress, anxiety, excitement, culture shock, etc. I have grown more than I ever thought I would, learned more about myself than I thought possible, and found a life that I can see myself living for the future.
For me, London became my current and future home. I can officially say that I will come back to London, for good. The sadness of leaving was so overwhelming for me. I became so attached to a place I only lived for 4 months.
My time in London will never be over. It was the best study abroad experience for me. There were many obstacles and hurdles that I had to swivel past and jump through but I have become a stronger, more self assured person because of it.
I lived without a meal plan, jetset across a continent, kept up with the bustle of a city, held a steady and consistent internship, had the hardest work load of my college career, and fell in love with the places I was going and people I was with.
I do not regret any part of this trip despite the hardships. The amazing experiences trump anything that could possibly hold me down.
It is overwhelming how this trip has changed my life and the best part is, it will continue to in the future. This trip will influence my decisions and life events forever.
This blog post may seem cliche and over enthusiastic but if you know me at all, you know I tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Thank you London for introducing me to my future. I will never be able to express enough the gratitude I feel for this opportunity .
I love you London, I am coming back soon.
God save the Queen! Ok, I'm done.
xoxo Brunette Hazel-Eyes
We arrived to Vienna Sunday night and the next day I woke up with a wicked cough, followed by a head ache and stuffy nose. #blessed
It put a bit of a damper on the rest of the week but I didn't let it stop me too much. I tried to push myself as much as possible. So that meant on Monday go on a 3 hour walking tour in the rain! Because that is what will help me get better.
Regardless of not feeling well, Vienna is a beautiful city, full of awesome architecture and incredible food (what is an Emily Genzer blog post without food?)
This was a Döner Kebab from the Naschmarkt in Vienna, right across the street from our hostel. This market was one of my favorite places in the city. It was full of all different kinds of cuisines ranging from traditional Austrian to Mediterranean and middle eastern. It was also very entertaining to walk through. Most of the stalls were run by men in their mid to late 20s who, to get our attention, cat-called and gave us free samples of their falafel and/or various types of almonds. We went there during lunch time so it was packed and we managed to get pretty cheap lunches!
This was a traditional sausage from a little street vendor where all the locals apparently go after the opera. It just had mustard on it because putting ketchup on a hot dog is sacrilege and those who commit such a crime should be shunned. Even though it was cold and wet, a small counter surrounded the small stand where we stood under heat lamps enjoying our hot dogs and pomme frites.
This is a Sacher Torte, famous Austrian chocolate cake with fruit preserves in between layers, a thick chocolate coating, and whipped creme on the side. It was delicious and apparently the only place to get "the real deal" is at Hotel Sacher, so of course we went. It was divine!
We also visited the Schoenbrunn Palace, which was the palace of Austria's last imperial powers through the centuries. It was so majestic and HUGE! We got the grand tour which was 40 rooms, but it contains way more rooms and wings than we saw. I learned about Austria's monarchy (which always fascinates me) and walked around the gardens surrounding the palace. We weren't allowed to take any pictures inside but I managed to snap a really quick one of the inside of one of the ball rooms:
This was a shot of the gorgeous painted ceiling and gold chandelier one of the grandest ballrooms I've ever been in, not like that's saying much.
There were also rooms called "The Rich Room" and "The Million Room" because of their decor. This place was just dripping in opulence. It also reminded me of the movie Marie Antoinette because she was born into one of the Austrian royal families and was then married off to one of the King Louis' of France. She was mentioned a few times during the tour.
One of my favorite things we did in Vienna was a wine tasting. Vienna is one of the few cities with vineyards located within city limits and is also very well-known for its wine. So we found this awesome little, under ground wine tasting place that used to be a cave. It was a few stories under ground with a full selection of wines all from Vienna and other parts of Austria. We got three flights: one white, one rosé, and one red. I loved the white and the rosé but the red wasn't my favorite. The man and woman that ran the establishment were really knowledgable about the wines we were trying and gave us very thorough explanations about where they came from and various fun facts. They were great! I would definitely recommend doing this if in Vienna, we felt so civilized and grown up!
Our next stop was Munich, Germany. As the traveling got longer, my virus got stronger and I couldn't enjoy Munich to its full potential, which I was very bummed about. I spent about half of our first day in bed but before that I did manage to snap this pic:
300 something steps later, and this is Munich for you! My lungs were not happy but it was so worth it.
I rewarded myself with a delicious, German pretzel and then hopped in bed for the remainder of the afternoon because the next day the hills were alive!!!
Sound of Music tour blog post coming soon. As for right now, Auf Wiedersehen!
xoxo Brunette Hazel-Eyes
It's SPRANG BREAK BETCHES and that means travel time. Katie and I's first stop was Prague and I must say, holy snickers this city is amaze balls.
The history behind every detail is incredible, streets are so lively, buildings are colorful and have so many different forms, the list goes on. There are about a million different types of architecture represented within the city allowing you to live within the history and changing of the times. Apparently the government tries to protect every historic element within the city as much as possible so there are things present from like the 10th century. I mean talk about touching history!
We have tried traditional Czech food which is really all meat and carbs but very tasty and also some not-so traditional czech food like Mexican and Vietnamese but both were still spectacular! We have also tried a very traditional dessert called trdelnik. It is basically pretzel dough toasted to perfection with sugar and nuts coated on the outside and cylinder like a telescope. On the inside you can choose what to put into it such as ice cream, whipped cream, fruit, etc. but we went old school with chocolate.
I mean tell me that doesn't just make your mouth water! We also tried some fun alcoholic beverages, a very dark traditional beer and what we think was a honey liquor. Neither were my fave, but the waiter pretty much forced them on us and so we thought why not just try a few sips. Each was about the equivalent to $2 so I'm not complaining.
Here is the lovely Katie modeling the drinks:
Also to add a tid bit, the exchange rate here is crazy! One US dollar equals about 24 Czech korunas, so refreshing after being in London. Getting around the city is also really simple. If you want to it is a pretty walkable city, at least for a tourist Everything we wanted to see was in walking distance from our hostel and from each other. I also have been getting hella steps on my FitBit so that's a plus. We have, however, hopped on to some trains and for one 30 minute ticket, it is 24 CZK or $1. Yes please.
I don't want to leave! It's so cheap and fun and the only down side is the cold. We have had some great weather with sun and minimal wind so I can't complain too much.
I also brought my camera with me for the whole week and these are some other pictures of my time here in Prague:
It is definitely some place I want to come back to. Possibly in the spring and summer months because that is what EVERYONE has been saying. One piece of advice for those who may be coming, try to avoid tourist traps. It was something I read on every travel website/blog. Prague is cheap but there are places that know tourists are not always great with conversions and shoot the prices up so they aren't as cheap as one might think. This mostly happens in the tourist-dense areas such as Old Town Square and Prague Castle. Authenticity is key and if they are standing outside trying to draw you in, they ain't authentic.
Prague you were wonderful and I hands down would recommend. Next stop Vienna!!
xoxo Brunette Hazel-Eyes
It is so embarrassing that my last blog post was a month ago. I didn't realize how stressful studying abroad was. Or maybe its not supposed to be and I'm just crazy. Probably the latter.
Anyway, this new post comes at a good time because last weekend I went to Amsterdam!! Traveling there was a bit hectic. My friend, Katie, and I took 2 trains, one from London to Brussels and then one from Brussels to Amsterdam. The problem was that our train to Brussels was delayed and we missed our train to Amsterdam. Luckily, the good people at Eurostar were very helpful and put us on the next train to Amsterdam. So we made it...only an hour late. But nevertheless, we got there.
This was my first time out of the UK and it was both of our first times staying in a hostel. We stayed at the Flying Pig Hostel in Noordwijk, NL. Since it was Valentine's Weekend and also a huge weekend for traveling for students in Europe apparently, a ton of the hostels in the city were sold out or too expensive. Noordwijk was about a 45 minute drive, so it wasn't an ideal location for where we wanted to go BUT it was the cutest little beach town!
On our first night we were exhausted from traveling and didn't feel like taking the hostel-provided shuttled service into Amsterdam. We wanted to have a chance to settle in, meet our roommates, and have a nice meal. We decided that a walk was a good idea for exploring and seeing what Noordwijk had to offer. The houses were so cute and quaint. We even found a little horse stable with real horses and everything!!!!
And then around 5pm we found this:
After dinner at a restaurant over looking the water, we called it a night. I was ex-haust-ed.
The next day was exploring day! We woke up to eat our *free* breakfast at the hostel (anything free I'm a fan of) and catch the earliest shuttle to Amsterdam. In the car we met a new friend named Hansa who is from the Czech Republic but has been traveling for a while now. He is 26 and is moving to Australia in a few weeks but wanted to check out Amsterdam and "get high" (all his words). That day we walked around the city a lot, saw some prostitutes (who by the way stand in like cabanas with windows open for business, they were really interesting), took a tour down the canals, and ate a ton of food. We also found a cool warping pub on one of the canals that was almost falling over but was the cutest little thing inside, I had tea and Katie had a nice lager.
The next day it poured. And by poured, I mean wintery-mix of snow, sleet, and rain. It was lovely. So, naturally, it was museum day. We started at the Anne Frank House. After standing in the cold, rain, and snow we made it in. I was overwhelmed with emotion, more than I expected. It was something that just hits you right in the gut and makes your mind wander with thoughts and feelings. Really major feels.
Afterwards, we needed something to lighten the mood and take us down from the emotions. SO we went to the Sex Museum. It was a Sunday. And Valentines Day. So this place was packed and its not the biggest establishment in the world. I'd say it was worth the 4 euros but I wouldn't go back. That's all I am going to say about the matter.
We also had a lovely Valentine's Day snack of strawberries and brie and crackers. It was romantic ;)
In addition to eating and museuming, we found really cool outdoor markets all throughout the city. They all had different themes. One was right on a canal and was very vintage with old clothes, furniture, and random ass stuff. Another was just all food, very farmers market-esque if you will. This was on display on February 14th:
Back at the hostel, we met some really interesting people throughout the weekend. People from all over the world really. Our favorite was Al. Al was from Ireland and was a boxer (I believe that is what he said). He was visiting Amsterdam after a match and when he got there, the cab driver stole all of his belongings, including his passport, money, clothes, everything. We really felt for the guy. Others were not so great, but they were very interesting to meet and I definitely do not regret meeting them. People from all over the world stayed here; I have probably met a more nationality diverse group of people here than I have any other time of my life. The hostel also had its own bar/club atmosphere going on with a DJ and really cheap drinks. We enjoyed some nice Heinekens, music, and conversations.
Overall it was a great weekend, full of adventures, trying new things, and moments I never want to forget. At the same time, it was so exhausting. Next week is Spring Break (!) so there will be plenty of new stories to come!!!
The past week and a half has been a whirlwind. Orientation event after orientation event and then classes. So here is my not-so-brief low down:
1. FIE, my international school, did a great job with planning events. Some of them were boring lectures but most of them were insanely fun and a great way to help orient ourselves with the city. One of the events that really stood out was the bus tour. At 10:30 AM on Saturday, a coach bus met us outside our building accompanied by a guide, our visiting faculty from Elon, and a driver. We piled on and rode through the city, seeing The Tower Bridge, The River Thames, Buckingham Palace, and Big Ben, just to name a few. We stopped at a small outdoor shopping mall, climbed to the top, and spotted this view:
We also got a tour of Parliament and it was fascinating. The history and authenticity of it made me not want to leave. The entire building was so ornate, there wasn't a single wall without decoration or bust or oil painting. Unfortunately pictures weren't permitted or I would have thousands.
2. Classes have officially started but that doesn't mean that I have any less time to get around and find new places. I have classes Monday and Tuesday afternoons. That's it! I have no idea how I managed to get that but I'm going to take every advantage of it. All of my professors are awesome and understand that this is a study abroad experience and not just for studying. Traveling and exploring is part of most of their curriculums and so I have a feeling it's going to be a good time.
3. Hyde Park is one of my favorite spots at the moment. It's so full of life which surprised me being that it is the middle of January. Dogs run freely, the Queen's swans mingle with the people, and the ducks are so friendly. Especially today, which was a spectacular day with blue clear skies and a bright sun.
4. Kensington Palace was something at the top of my list and today we popped in. I have to be honest, it was different than I thought. It was set up more as a museum than a palace. There were different exhibits for specific monarchs, with descriptions of their history. However, unlike Parliament, they were recreated and not as ornate as I thought they would be. Some original furniture, knickknacks, and clothes were on display but some rooms were remodeled to look original. The best part were the gardens. They are so beautiful and in the spring I can see myself spending a lot of time there.
Some other things I've done this week:
I've done a lot in my first week and a half but there is so much more to do, so stay tuned!
xoxo Brunette Hazel-Eyes
Wow, I can't believe the past 24 hours have only been 24 hours.
24 hours ago I was in Pennsylvania.
24 hours ago my bags weren't totally packed.
24 hours ago I hadn't met the city of my dreams.
Lets start with the flight. I left JFK airport at 10:30 yesterday night. The overnight flight was a great way to allow my body to rest and possibly jump start getting on Zulu time. Although failing to sleep, I stepped off the plain feeling refreshed and full of energy. If anyone has spent any time with me what so ever, they know that I have a tendency to get really, really over tired. I call it the 'sleepy ha-ha's' but I'm not quite sure thats what this was.
The second we got off the plane, there was so much for us to do. I swear we walked a mile before getting to customs. As I tried to be a polite, perfect presence with the government official, my nerves were over the moon. Even though I have nothing to hide, that shit freaks me out!
Getting our baggage was a sight to see. We giggled uncontrollably as we lugged a cart piled high through the airport. Let me tell you, that cart had a mind of its own.
Once we got on the bus, my whole world changed. London is better than I had imagined and I had pretty high hopes. The old buildings that are full of character, the alleyways that are full of color, the cute taxis that zip around bends, all bring this happiness to me that I never knew I could get from any other city than my own. I mean just ask my friends, every five seconds I remind them that I'm already in love with London.
This opportunity is incredible, not only do I get to live in one of the most 'posh' parts of the city, I get to learn, travel, experience, explore, etc. The gratitude I feel for this experience is so overwhelming, I can't stop smiling, despite my exhausted body.
And to think, I've only been here less than 24 hours.
So it's official, I am going to London tomorrow. In [about] 24 hours I will be sailing over the Atlantic about to embark on hopefully the best experience of my lifetime. As I lie in my bed in Philadelphia, full of anticipation, excitement, paranoia, and exhaustiveness, I write.
Today I spent the day sorting, consolidating, organizing, procrastinating (we're all guilty), reminiscing, and panicking. A couple goodbyes were said. Which by the way, I am awful at goodbyes so it was more of an awkward conversation consisting of 'thank you, you too!'
*face in palm*
This day was really for preparations, and now is the time to take care of one last one before snoozeville, kicking off my blog.
Honestly, I've never blogged before, I haven't even kept a journal, so please bear with me. I decided to begin this word-rambling page because I want to be able to remember this awesome experience. I will most likely have only one study abroad opportunity during my undergraduate career and so why not immortalize it publicly with friends and close acquaintances on my social media? I mean, who are we kidding, I've never spoken to half my Facebook friends.
So come by or don't, I promise to be funny (in my awkward, 'it's only funny to you' way) and honest. I will share all that is appropriate ;) and invite you into my journey through London and most of Europe. Hopefully it will be life-changing but we'll see.
Enjoy but if you don't, honestly, this blog is more for my mom than anyone else #loveyamom.
So I sign off, probably wont sleep a wink but who cares, I'm going to London!