After arriving in the Bay last week, I was pleasantly surprised to learn I’d be around for Pride. I had no idea what to expect but the festivities far exceeded any expectations. Never have I witnessed an event captivate a community like Pride. Local business, large corporations, organizations and even celebrities (Oh hey OITNB!) put together extravagant displays to show their support in the parade. Families of all ages lined the streets to watch the beautiful displays of love pass by. I mean, how cool is that? Can you imagine growing up in the middle of such a powerful human right’s movement? I left so inspired by my new community and their contagious passion for change.
British Virgin Islands
Large family, 1 boat, 7 days. Recipe for disaster? We may have had our doubts in the beginning, but the trip proved to be one of the best family vacations yet. Each day, was a new water to sail with a new isle to explore. With over 60 islands in reach there was never a shortage of things to do.
We geocached for treasure, snorkeled reefs and did some of the most beautiful scuba divining I’ve ever seen. A major highlight was diving the Rhone, a world famous shipwreck that went down in 1867. At night we switched off between cooking on the boat and dining on the islands. Each restaurant we’d take turns ordering a “pain killer”, the trademark BVI drink. Turns out, the best ones came from our very own captain!
My last hurrah before ending this incredible semester abroad. To be honest, I didn’t’ have high expectations for the city. From my experience, people have a strict love/hate relationship with the Parisian culture and I was ready for the latter. But upon arrival, I fell in love with the late night cafes and French lifestyle. Although much of the city was alluringly over-the-top (ahem, Versailles), the Parisian’s effortless spirit created the most charming atmosphere.
On our first morning we traveled to Versailles and paid our dues as weekend tourists. The ornate walls, gardens, glistening chandeliers, banisters, gates, plated gold details—no words can do it all justice.
Later we headed to Notre Dame and the infamous lovelock bridge. The cathedral, famous for it’s stunning stained glass didn’t disappoint. The lovelock was a sight as couples eternalized their love on the bridge. We settled down in the park nearby with some fresh Laudree Macrons, a classic bottle of wine and baguette. The accordion player in the background was an added bonus!
The next day I ventured to the Louvre for an afternoon of Italian Renaissance and Egyptian artifacts. Not before sunbathing next to the beautiful fountain outside for a bit though.
That night we made out way to the Eiffel tower for part du of our picnic day. As we finished our wine and baguettes, we watched the shimmering eiffel tower show. What a night indeed.
Oh Paris, you didn’t disappoint
Jossie and I headed to Amsterdam for a girl’s trip last weekend. I’ve been to the Netherlands before but have always dreamed of returning to see their world renowned tulip fields in bloom. After an exhausting night bus ride we walked around the city and took in the sights. First thing in the morning we went to the Keukenhof Gardens, home of the world’s largest flower collection and tulip fields. Needless to say the gardens were absolutely breathtaking with flowers of all shapes and colors.
The next day we stayed in the city and enjoyed the wonderful weather. We tasted cheese,visited the flower market and even stumbled upon the infamous I Amsterdam sign in the park. I just love the Dutch and their friendly demeanour and lifestyle. The Netherlands have a very diverse mix of people, and it was one of the few places in Europe I never felt like an obvious American traveler.
Italy will always have soft spot in my heart. After an adventure-filled week in Croatia, I was ecstatic for a relaxing stay in Sicily. I met up with my friend Jami in Rome, where we explored for a day before jumping on the night train to Sicily. Although night trains normally have a bad rep, we had a wonderful experience and one I’d suggest to everyone. I mean, when else do you get to wake up to breakfast in bed in the view of the Italian countryside?
We stayed in On the Way Hostel for our first few nights where the adorable owners baked us fresh breakfast every morning. We spent these days exploring Palermo and nearby areas. We visited the botanical gardens where we had so much fun swinging on vines and smelling flowers. The local markets were bustling with fruit, meat, pastry and vegetable vendors. The GIANT 6 foot swordfish lying on the tables never failed to startle me.
Monday morning we got a rental car and moved into the flat we rented on the outskirts of the city. Having a car made all the difference on the trip. The next day we woke up first thing and drove to Taormina, on the other side of Sicily where I got to do a shipwreck dive. We explored the adorable shops and made a day adventure of exploring nearby cities. Taormina’s colourful shops, rolling hills and beautiful ocean had just the charm we were looking for.
The next day we found my ancestral village of Lecara Friddi, tucked away in the mountains. We spent a few hours in the city talking to locals, taking pictures and exploring its charm. Afterwards, we threw out our plans and drove to explore.
After a few hours we ended up in an old, abandoned village in a valley. It was suuuuper creepy but there were beautiful horses guarding to keep us company. Jami and I both love photography so the day was filled with cool opportunities to shoot.
All in all, the trip was incredible. Though we had our fair share of obstacles in the beginning of the trip, we had so much making the most of Sicilian culture. Until next time Italy.
Visiting Croatia’s been on my bucket list for some time now, and saw my Spring Break as the perfect chance to experience it. When my friend Joe shared the same interest, we booked our tickets and the rest was history. When I arrived in Split I didn’t know what to expect. Though April is the start of spring weather, the country’s high season doesn’t pick up until May. Nonetheless, the unique Dalmatian landscape of caves, mountains, beaches and cities offered plenty to do!
We spent our first few days island hopping on Brac and Hvar where the pebble beaches met the stunning turquoise water of the Adriatic Sea. We met some Spanish travelers and a group of friends on both rides who made great company both days. Besides our new friends, very few visitors (and restaurants) were around so we made the most of the wonderful weather and lounged on the beach.
Joe and I rented a car in the early morning so we could drive to Plitvice National Park. Despite the weather in Split, as we drove through the mountains it started to snow. We were so scared we wouldn’t survive the 6-mile hike in our ill prepared shorts and T-shirts. Luckily, the snow stopped once we arrived and we were able to enjoy the stunning waterfalls.The Croatian people were incredible too. When I pictured Eastern Europe I imagined very traditional society filled with foreign lingo and few tourists. Boy was I wrong to judge! Everyone I met genuinely wanted to help me enjoy their country to the fullest.
On our last day we headed south to Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik’s tourist industry has exploded since becoming a major filming spot for Game of Thrones. The city’s old town is encased in a thick wall that allows visitors to walk around they city and get a unique perspective on the town. Though we were only there for a day it was easy to see it’s charm.
Overall, Croatia was a huge success. I met some incredible people and was reminded once again how great the power of travel is.
Within hours of arriving home from Denmark, I jumped on a train to Brighton for a day trip with friends. They call Brighton the “San Francisco of the UK for its hilly roads and beaches. The weather was sunny, beautiful and I loved every second of it. Once I arrived we grabbed some food, we headed to the pier for carnival games and rides. Coming from Arizona, I hardly get the chance to play on piers so I was like a kid at a carnival. Afterwards we walked around town, and soaked up rays in the park with some beautiful tulips. The day ended with some delicious cocktails and Hors d’oeuvres before heading home.
Last weekend I ventured up North to visit my friend Claire in Denmark. Despite the cool weather, Copenhagen was absolutely delightful. From the moment I stepped off the plane, everyone I spoke with was welcoming and friendly.
In general, the Danes had a very quaint yet progressive way of life. From their subway systems to their recycling programs, the Danish community felt unified and efficient. Coming from a big city like London, it was refreshing to feel such a strong sense of community organization.
Claire did some research and found a huge designer forum going on downtown. We showed up and hundreds of designers had set up booths to sell their work. It was such a cool way to see Danish fashion and culture in action. Plus I scored a gorgeous leather jacket for a few bucks.
On Sunday morning we took a quick train ride to Malmo, Sweden. Despite being so close, Malmo had much different atmosphere than Copenhagen. Though most things were closed (dang Sundays), we had a splendid afternoon walking through the city’s iconic Kungsparkengarden, cemeteries and Malmöhus Castle.
The castle was one of the creepiest places I’d ever been to. Given it’s almost 500 year old age, the castle’s purpose has changed over the years from a residence to a prison to museum today. We read about past inmate’s stories and even stumbled upon a room of dolls. I knew Scandinavians loved their murder mystery stories but it wasn’t until the creepy exhibit of serial killers that I got the picture.
Despite the spooky afternoon, I left Denmark/Sweden hooked on the series “The Bron”. All in all, it was a wonderful change of scenery!
Travelling to Dublin for St. Patricks day’s been on my bucket list and my semester abroad seemed like the perfect chance to make it happen!
4 of my flatmates (+1 boyfriend) headed to Dublin last Thursday for a week of Irish festivities! We stayed in Tara Towers, a quaint hotel on the outskirts of town with a beautiful ocean view. It was a little out of town but the buses were easy to navigate so it didn’t stop us.
We had an early start on Friday as we headed to the Cliffs of Moher. It was about a three hour bus ride filled with mini-stops to explore a range of Ireland. One of the best parts of the day was stopping for lunch in Doolin for some incredibly delicious and authentic Irish food and beer. The cliffs were just beautiful. Even though some heavy fog had just rolled in, their majestic essence was not lost. Plus my friends and I had wayyy to much fun seeing who would go closest to the edge (sorry mom).
The next few days of the trip were filled with lots of lots of city exploring! The Dublin music scene is huge! Along with the loads of incredible street performers, there were also several jazz festivals going through the weekend. Needless to say our favourite thing was to explore the pubs and listen to different music.
As you can imagine, the Irish LOVE St. Patricks day! In the days leading up to Monday, people were doning green garb from head-to-toe. The streets were packed at all hours of the day. I was shocked by how many people I
ran into! A lot of other study abroad students make the treck for the holiday so it common to run into old mates on the street.
On St. Patrick’s day we had an early start so we could snag a good spot for the parade. The theme was “Let’s Make History”, honoring former High King of Ireland, Brian Boru. Floats were filled with patron’s takes on country folk tales, legends and historical figures. My favourite part of the day was meeting Nancy, a little old lady who was keen on us learning irish river dancing to meet a nice lad. At one point in the night she even rounded up dance partners for us so we could practice!
All in all my trip to the Emerald Isle was the trip of a lifetime!
I decided to book a last minute trip to Edinburgh, Scotland when I got a mean case of wanderlust. MegaBus had a cheap night bus and EasyJet’s insane prices were too hard to resist! So why not right?
Edinburgh was just wonderful! Normally when I go to a new place I always feel a little resentment from locals, but the Scottish were anything but! Every person I met was animated, helpful and so so proud of their country. Men would walk down the streets in Kilts and bagpipes just cause.
We stayed at Castle Rock Hostel, which looked AMAZING upon arrival. It was located in the center of town, great facilitates and full of lively travelers ready to mingle. However, during our second night, my friend woke up covered in bug bites and found her bed infested with bed bugs! The hostel refunded her one night but was surprisingly nonchalant about the ordeal….
Sandeman’s free walking tour was a great way because we were able to orient ourselves and gain some basic background and history of the city. My favorite part was visiting Greyfriars Kirk where JK Rowling was known to have wandered seeking inspiration for Harry Potter. Apparently the “Tom Riddle” and William “McGonagall” gravestones really stuck with her!
The rest of the day involved some Scottish whiskey tastings, fudge shops ( lots of em) and some good old fashioned exploring! On Day 2 we hiked to Arthur’s Chair for a view and even made it to Portobello beach for some delicious soup at Porto café. Although the beach was FREEZING, you would’ve thought it was a warm summer day with all the excited dogs playing in the water.
Although Edinburgh was a short trip, it was a easy escape from London to experience a new culture. I can’t wait to return and see what the rest of the country has to offer.