Sunday, May 20, 2012

Home Sweet Home

So I’ve made it home, finally settled in, and I wanted to have one more post to wrap up my travels. I’ve already expressed how much I enjoyed this experience. It has definitely been a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I could not be happier that I decided to do it. Orvieto was wonderful; I couldn’t imagine a better town to live in and a better country to study in (especially for architecture). I got to see so much of Italy – every town has something that makes them special and unique compared to every other town. I have already started making a list of places I want to see when I go back… and I WILL go back. It’s only a matter of time.

So to wrap all this up, I’ll stop all the mushy “I love this place” talk and end my blog on a lighter note. I began making a list of things I think Italy/Europe does better than America (and vice versa) that I really noticed. Here are a few of them:

Italy/Europe does better than America:

-Public/Cheap transportation – you can hop on a train and be in a new part of the country within a short amount of time for a small amount of money. And flights are so cheap! I flew to London from Rome for only $25! I will definitely miss this.
-Walkability – thanks to the public transportation and the size of the towns, you can easily get around without needing a car. I didn’t miss driving at all these past 4 months. I loved walking everywhere.
-Being “chill” – everyone here seemed so relaxed. The pace of life was so much slower and not stressful.
-Food and wine in general of course
-Hand-made crafts – this is something I think America is missing out on. People appreciate handmade things, but America has become all about mass production and globalization…so we’re losing this beautiful art.
-Farmers Markets – These were everywhere, not only in Italy, but in Europe in general. It brings people closer together, and let’s face it, the fresh food is better. I will definitely miss the markets.
-Metric System – let’s stop kidding ourselves… the metric system is so much easier. Why do we like to make things hard on ourselves?

Ok… now to things America does better:

-Standing in lines – Most of Europe doesn’t have concept of this… it’s usually a mass of people trying to push their way through a small opening. This was hard to adjust to – just gotta push your way through!
-Staying on schedule – this could be good and bad… but because the pace of life in Italy is much slower, they tend to fall off of schedule. I guess this is the one time that our fast, strenuous pace of life is good.
-Dryers – This may sound silly, but I missed being able to do my laundry in one day… I had to plan ahead and give myself time for the laundry to air dry for a few days. It wasn’t horrible, but sometimes inconvenient.
-Toilet Paper – Yes, Europe does have toilet paper… but it’s very rarely stocked in public bathrooms. We learned to plan for this and carried tissues or our own roll with us at all times.
-Free water/refills – yep… you had to pay for your water. And sometimes wine was cheaper… :S
-Showers you can move in – I missed having a shower I had room to shower in. Our shower in Italy was about 2’x2’… It was hard, but I made it work.

These are just a few of the things off my lists that I missed about America and will miss about Italy. I’ve been home for about a week now, and I’m waiting for the day to come when I decide I’m ready to go back. I’m sure it’s coming up! But for now I’m going to enjoy my time at home and my summer. My next adventures consist of catching up with people, starting my internship and a vacation to New York City! What a great year this has been so far. I feel very lucky to have had all these opportunities presented to me.

Thank you for reading along and following my adventures – I wanted to do this for me, but I’m glad I could share it with others as well. This is where I think it ends!

Until my next travelling adventures…


Monday, May 14, 2012

Planes, Trains and Automobiles...

Flight to Rome, train to Orvieto, train back to Rome, sleep for 4 hours, taxi to train station, train to airport, 9 hour flight = my life the last 24 hours. But guess what?? I’m back in the states now! Got back and made it through customs just in time to find out our flight is delayed 3 hours… and then 3 ½ hours… and our latest update – 3 hours and 40 minutes… awesome right? I’m excited to be back here and all, and I would rather be stuck in the US than in Italy, but I’m ready to get home. I did find a silver lining to this though… Chipotle is in the airport. What a great first meal back home. :)
Short and sweet post... not much to talk about when you're sitting constantly. :)

Ciao Ciao!

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Well, I caught my flight to Prague, and I passed out right when I sat down and didn’t wake up until we landed. It was a great flight haha. I hopped on the bus and made it into town, but I then realized I didn’t have the map telling me where Kelsie’s dorm was. So I wandered around for a bit trying to find WiFi so I could pull up the map. It took some searching, but I found a Starbucks and stole internet from them. Luckily, I didn’t have to find my way because she got out of studio in time to come find me and take me back. We dropped off our stuff and had a quick lunch in the dining hall, and then we began walking around.
The library on campus
We took the metro to a part of town with a castle and pretty awesome cathedral – can’t get enough churches! We walked around for a bit just wandering the streets. Prague is quite a beautiful city. During this walk, she talked me into getting this dessert thing that is basically baked bread with cinnamon and sugar on it and Nutella smeared on the inside. It was pretty delicious! At about this same time, I realized when I went to buy my metro ticket, I got shorted 1000 crowns… which is about $50. I decided I would go try to get it back, thinking I probably had a very slim chance of doing so. We got back to the station and it took a little bit, but the lady remembered me and returned my money! Haha.
The cathedral
We got back to the room, and I was pretty tired…ended up passing out on Kelsie’s bed while she went for a run haha. It was a great nap though, and we went out to dinner with a group of people afterwards. We were going to try to go to a Mexican place, but the boys wanted pizza. Even though I just had 4 months of pizza, I went along with it, and it was pretty good I will admit. We headed back to the rooms afterwards and just relaxed and called it an early night. After four days of non-stop going in London, I needed an easy day.
Views from the hill of the cathedral
We got up not so early on Friday and grabbed some food and continued our adventures. We went to Old Town, which is very beautiful, and walked around before hitting up the Jewish quarters. We got to go inside a couple synagogues and museums and even a cemetery. The cemetery was unbelievable. There were tombstones everywhere, one right after another basically touching each other. We were a bit confused by it, and we read something that said there are over 100,000 Jewish people buried here and they are buried on top of each other. I couldn’t believe this!
The cemetary
After walking around we went back to the dorm to meet up with some people. We originally were going to go rent paddle boats and take on the river, but then everyone wanted to go to the lake, so we did that instead. This was perfectly fine with me – an afternoon of relaxing in the sun. We spent a couple hours here before heading back. Kelsie and I had been craving Mexican food so we set out to find a restaurant. We found one that was pretty good… not like home, but it satisfied the craving for a while. The salsa kind of tasted like spaghetti sauce… but we ate it anyway haha.
Mama and baby ducks at the lake
After dinner we walked around a bit more, grabbed some ice cream and headed back to the room. Kelsie said I had to try a beer from here, and I’m not one to argue so I did. It was pretty good – better than any Italian or London beer I had tried. It’s amazing how different everything is. We went back up to the room and sat out on the balcony watching the day turn to night. It was so beautiful out – much better weather than in London. It was a great day two in Prague.
Beautiful day
Day three began a lot later than expected… I may or may not have overslept until almost noon… :S I guess all these travels are wearing me out! But better late than never I guess! We began our journey, and the first stop was a recommendation by Kelsie… a street vendor that sells sausages. Apparently that’s something Prague is known for so I had to try it! It was rather large, but it was very good, and I ate it all! We continued walking and ended up at Frank Gehry’s Fred and Ginger house! It was really cool to see this since I had only seen it in books, but it did stick out like a sore thumb where it was. There was a balcony, but you are only allowed to go up between 4 and 6… :( dang our luck…
Fred and Ginger
At this point we went our separate ways so Kelsie could do work and rest before her marathon tomorrow and so I could keep exploring. I wandered around the city a bit, and then I climbed my way up a big hill to a tower that looked a lot like a mini version of the Eiffel Tower. I got to it and climbed to the top which gave a great 360 degree view of the city. It was beautiful! Definitely worth the climb. I began the walk down, rolling my ankle along the way but determined to keep going haha. I walked a bit more and made my way up to another recommendation – the metronome. It literally is a giant metronome, but it is at the top of a bunch of stairs serving as another nice overlook.
Mini Eiffel Tower
I made my way back down the stairs and wandered some more. First, I went back towards old town and hung out a bit; then I walked a little further and got a little lost, but I did make my way back. I met up with Kelsie to go grab some dinner. I thought since it was my last night in Prague, I should probably have some food from here… cuz the one sausage wasn’t enough. So we hit up a restaurant close by that serves a lot of typical dishes. I got Venison with Potato Pancakes. The meat was so tender; it was delicious. And the pancakes were basically like big hash browns. The food was really good, but it is so heavy, I don’t see how they would be able to eat it very often!
The Metronome
After dinner, we just hung out at the room for a bit and relaxed. Kelsie needed to rest before her race, and I didn’t mind relaxing either…even though I had only been up since noon. On Sunday I headed out and made my way back to Rome. It’s crazy to think that this adventure is almost over! In 24 hours I will be getting ready to board a plane for the US – it’s not just another weekend trip.
Views from the Tower...
Ciao Praha! It's been real. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Goodbye London... til next time!

The final day in London… I was feeling pretty tired because the last three days have been non-stop walking, so I decided I wanted to slow it down a little bit… not to mention I had already seen almost everything I wanted to ! haha. I got up and went to Liverpool Station in search of The Breakfast Club restaurant that one of my friends told me about. I searched high and low and was unable to find it… so I settled for Krispy Kreme donuts :) mmmm… Haven’t had those in quite a while!
Well, guess I can say I made it to Liverpool
I started walking from there towards the London Bridge, but I made a stop along the way at the Lloyds of London. Ryan had been talking about it so much I thought I needed to check it out. I’m glad I did! They are very different compared to everything else I had seen here, but it was pretty cool. It’s almost like the Pompidou in Paris where a lot of the things are on the outside like pipes and stairs and elevators. I was also able to see the Gherkin building while I was here… which is exactly like Torre Agbar in Barcelona. I don’t understand why this shape of building is becoming so popular… haha
Lloyds of London
I continued my walk to the bridge and stumbled upon the monument in place for the London fire. You are able to climb to the top, but I decided to bypass that because it’s not that tall so the views wouldn’t have been anything compared to St. Paul’s. I made it to the bridge and my destination – the London Bridge Experience. I wouldn’t have known about this if it weren’t for my London Pass. Basically, it was an exhibition within the bridge where actors took you through and sort of reenacted the history… then came the fun part – the haunted house. Luckily there was a group there because I probably wouldn’t have survived it alone! Haha. It wasn’t too scary, but the part where the rubber inflatables somewhat suffocated you was not pleasant! But I made it, and was glad to be back out in open air again!
London Bridge still standing!
The next stop on my journey was the Design Museum. I was pretty excited for this. It is a museum all about design obviously, but it is a mixture of architecture, furniture, fashion, products, graphic design… basically anything you can think of. It was really cool, and I spent a lot of time in the shop. There were so many books to flip through and a bunch of little gadgets everywhere. Now this is my kind of museum!
Design Museum
After the museum I grabbed a quick lunch and headed to Fleet Street. Yep, I saw Johnny Depps…errr…Sweeny Todd’s old shop. Unfortunately it isn’t anything too spectacular, just a shop that is in need of renovation. I feel like they could really turn this into a tourist attraction, but I guess they already have plenty of those!
Sweeny Todd's old place
I was feeling pretty worn out at this point, and it had started raining. So I got the brilliant idea to take this opportunity to ride a double decker bus! I couldn’t leave here without doing it! I took it from Fleet Street to a stop close to where I was staying. It wasn’t too thrilling, just a bus ride, but I can now say I’ve been on one of the infamous red double deckers! After I got off the bus I walked around to shop a little bit and just wander. I headed back to the room, and then we went and got fish and chips… yes again. I won’t get to have the real deal for a while! After dinner I went back to the room and decided to take a nap because I knew I wouldn’t be sleeping that night since I would be in the airport.
A double decker bus
So I got a few winks and went to catch my bus to the airport. I had bought a ticket, but wasn’t able to print it. So I took a picture of the confirmation and ticket on my computer to bring with me thinking that would be good enough. I told the driver this when I got there… you would have thought this was the end of the world – they don’t even take your ticket they just glance at it. I think he just wanted to make a scene in front of everyone because as he was loading my bag and pointing at me to take a seat he proceeded to say over and over “that’s your problem you don’t have printer, not mine” loud enough for everyone to hear of course. I don’t get it. But I was able to get on, and I made it to the airport… which is where I sit right now writing this at 2:30am. Only a few more hours before I board my plane and head for Prague. I can’t wait.
Random Shot of the day
Cheers London.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I've been everywhere man...

Day three in London proved to be just as amazing as day one and two. I got up bright and early again to get a good jump on my day. I wanted to get to St. Paul’s Cathedral before all the other tourists, so I jumped on an early metro which was more difficult than I imagined. It was packed full with people commuting to work. I think tomorrow morning I will just walk to my destination! Anyway, I got to St. Paul’s around 9, and there weren’t many people there so I took advantage of it. Pictures “weren’t allowed” so I don’t have many, but I spent a lot of time inside just taking in all it’s glory. It is an absolutely beautiful place – go if you ever find yourself in London!
St. Paul's Cathedral
Before I left I wanted to climb to the top of the dome… it’s been a tradition this semester so I thought I should keep it up. Not to mention the views were pretty cool to. 528 stairs later, I was at the top. It was pretty incredible. You could see forever even though it was cloudy. After spending some time up at the top, I worked my way down and headed to my next destination.
Made it to the top!
Westminster Abbey was calling my name. I went and was not quite as excited with the content of it like I was with St. Paul’s. It was beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but it was full of tombs you had to squeeze by… and when there are other tourists everywhere it gets a little nuts. I didn’t spend as much time here as I did at St. Paul’s, but it was a pretty beautiful place to be.
Westminster Abbey
Since I was at Westminster and by the pier already, I decided to take advantage of my pass for a boat tour down the Thames River. It was pretty cool to see everything from this perspective. It reminded me a lot of the Chicago boat tour I took a couple summers ago. We saw everything from the London Eye and Tower Bridge to Globe Theatre and the tallest building in Europe currently being built. It was pretty cool to see the transformation from the historical area with Parliament and Westminster Abbey to the modern business district we ended at. I really enjoyed the cruise.
Cool shot of the London Eye from the boat
I was feeling a bit famished so I made a stop for lunch – plenty of places to choose from at these big touristy areas – then headed to All Hallows Church. This is the oldest church in London… although it didn’t look like it. It definitely wasn’t as cool inside as the others I had seen that day. Don’t put this on your list of things to see if you only have a few days. It’s not really worth the trip – only to say you’ve been to the oldest church in London haha.
Right next to the church is the Tower of London, so this is where I went. I started walking with a guided tour, but then realized if I kept that up I would waste an hour just looking at things from the outside and listening to the guy talk… although he was pretty funny. So I grabbed a map and began exploring on my own; I like it better this way anyway! It was really cool, kind of like a giant stone city or playground you can explore. They have paths taking you in and out of towers and along the outer walls of the fortress, and along the way they showed different artifacts and what those particular towers were used for. Within the fortress was also an armory which was pretty cool to look at, but I think the best thing I saw at the Tower of London was the Crown Jewels. So… many… diamonds. Apparently they used to be kept at Westminster Abbey, but they kept getting stolen so they moved them here, and there is a guard outside of it like at Buckingham Palace!
Tower(s) of London
After the Tower of London I went to my next big destination – Tower Bridge of course! There is an exhibition my London Pass got me into that was pretty neat. You take a lift up to the walkways at the top of the bridge, watch a video about why it was built, walk across the walkways, watch a video about the construction of the bridge and even where the gears and everything are that run the bridge. I really enjoyed this stop.
Tower Bridge
As I was walking towards the metro stop I walked by city hall, which has gained the nickname “The Armadillo”… look at the picture and you’ll know why! I was able to go in and see a little bit of it, and it blew my mind. It was a very cool building, and it was a nice change to see this new modern work of art after seeing all the old historical buildings. Both are amazing of course, but it was a nice change of pace.
Coolest City Hall building you've ever seen right??
I hopped on the metro and headed towards the theater because guess what?? I got cheap tickets to see Wicked! I was so excited; I had heard all about this musical and was excited to finally see it for myself. It began at 7:30 and ended just before 10:30… it was so good that it didn’t feel like it was that long. I ended up sitting by a nice lady who started talking to me during intermission, and she found it pretty funny that I was from Kansas considering what we were watching. I just had to laugh along with her haha.
Cast from Wicked
After the musical and this long day full of walking, I was ready to be done for the day… ready to pass out again tonight! One more full day left here which is perfect for what I have left to see on my to-do list, then it’s off to Prague. It’s probably a good thing I will be going home in a week because I don’t think my legs could handle much more of this exploring I’ve been putting them through! But I am enjoying every minute of it!
Random shot of the day

Monday, May 7, 2012

When in London...

Day two… ohhhh day 2. Where to begin. I got up bright and early to begin my explorations. I started off on foot towards Kensington Gardens to see Kensington Palace and Princess Diana’s Memorial Fountain. As I was walking I realized it was taking longer than I would like – I had plans to get to Buckingham Palace to see changing of the guards so I was on a bit of a time crunch. I hopped on a metro and was to the gardens in no time. I wandered through – saw the Elfin Tree along the way which was cute. It wasn’t until I got to Kensington Palace that I realized Princess Diana’s fountain was in a different park right next to Kensington – oh well, it was still a nice stroll!
Blooming Flowers :)
So I cut across the gardens and made my way towards Hyde Park to see the fountain. I found it! It looked cool… except it wasn’t on. Turns out they only run it during a certain time in the day and that time happened to be 10am. Since my ultimate destination was Buckingham Palace, I decided to leave and come back later to see the fountain so I could go get a good spot. I finished my stroll/speed walk to the edge of the park, and the next task was to figure out how to get to the Palace. I knew the direction I needed to go, but the lack of crosswalks and the pedestrian subways made it difficult to find my way – but I finally got to Wellington Arch marking my successful journey toward Constitution Hill and the palace.
Wellington Arch
There were more people around here so I picked up the pace to get a good spot. According to my man Rick Steves, one of the best spots is right on the fence since the main part of the ceremony takes place right in front of the palace. When I got there, there appeared to be no open spots along the fence (apparently everyone else got that memo too…). So I picked a spot that looked like I would get a good watch. Then you’ll never guess what happened next! The man in front of me just decided to leave – so I got his spot on the fence! Front row action!
This is his "ready to get off work" march
I can’t even begin to describe the ceremony… It was incredible. I would hate to sound like a stereotypical tourist, but it is by far one of my most favorite things I’ve seen so far. I stood in the wind and rain for a couple hours to watch, and I enjoyed every minute of it. After the ceremony was over I recruited an old man to take my picture. The only bad thing about travelling alone is that you have to find random people to take your picture… some are better than others haha.
The band and guards
The ceremony was over at noon, and I decided to go off to find food. Along the way I found the Horse Guards – yep guards sitting on horses. Then I kept walking and guess what I ran into… Parliament and Big Ben. No big deal. I took my fill of pictures, and recruited a couple different people to take my picture this time. I actually got some good shots! I continued across Westminster Bridge and was starving at this point. So I hit up a Subway. I know, I know… but I haven’t had turkey or ham since I’ve been here!
Parliament and Big Ben
After lunch, I hopped on the metro and went to Trafalgar Square. Not only is this a famous square, but it contains St. Martin-in-the-Fields (a church we learned about in history) which was my main destination. It was so beautiful inside, and the organ pipes were incredible. It was an amazing church… then I went down to the “crypt”. I put quotes around this because they turned what used to be the crypt into a restaurant… I wasn’t so thrilled to see this.
Organ Pipes in the church
After the church I back traced down The Mall towards Buckingham Palace, but instead of walking back to the palace, I wandered through St. James Park. It was so beautiful, and they had lawn chairs sat out all over the place in the grass. It is a very cool little park. I ended up following my ears to the edge to see a sort of military barrack where they seemed to be training up-and-coming guards. They were definitely getting yelled at after they marched. Guess they have a long ways to go…
Views from the St. James Park
By the barracks there was a guards museum and shop I went to. It had uniforms, medals, weapons, instruments… anything you can think of throughout the time of the guards. A nice little piece of history. After hanging out on this side for a while I went back towards Kensington Park to see the Science Museum I had heard all about. They had a gift shop inside with more gadgets and fun toys you could imagine! I resisted the urge to buy any of them… mainly because I have to limit the weight of my bag for the rest of my travels haha. The museum itself was also really cool. There were a bunch of different exhibits, and they were all interactive. I think that’s why I like science museums the most – they are hands on instead of just looking at stuff. Maybe it’s the kid inside me haha.
Display in the museum
I began my journey back to meet up with Ryan to go to the musical, but made a stop back by Princess Diana’s Memorial Fountain along the way. It was definitely worth the stop; it was beautiful. It is a ring with one point at the top higher than anything else. The water then flows two directions and ends at a calm area at the bottom. I could have spent a lot of time here… but again, I had places to be! Maybe I’ll go spend my last afternoon there. Also, while walking through the park I found something else that was a pleasant surprise. The squirrels here will come right up to you; they love people! So on my walk I made a couple friends. It was pretty cute :)
Part of the fountain
I walked back to meet Ryan, and before we went to see Chicago we stopped for some dinner – London style! I had fish and chips and London gold beer. I don’t tend to like fish much, but this was delicious. After dinner we walked to the theater. The musical was nothing short of amazing. I love the movie so I knew this would be good. I loved it – it was a great end to a great day!
Now I’m ready to pass out and enjoy another fun-filled, packed day tomorrow!
One of my squirrel friends posing :)
Random shot of the day.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


So Saturday afternoon and evening were full of travels – I’m really liking this public transportation thing. Train to Rome, bus to airport, plane to London, bus to city… it’s really quite nice! Anyway, I left Orvieto at 3:30pm and got into London at about midnight. Lots of travel time, but it was well worth it. I met up with my friend Ryan and got settled in. I began planning what my first day in London should be filled with and then headed to sleep.
The tube...
I got up bright and early to begin my adventures – I didn’t want to waste any time in this great city. My first stop of the day was King’s Cross Station – just for all my Harry Potter friends. Yep, I went and gave platform 9 ¾ a visit haha. There were quite a few people gathered around it, but I waited my turn and got a picture pushing the cart into the wall.
Gettin' my Harry Potter on
My next destination – none other than the Olympic grounds. I was a little bummed out that I couldn’t get any closer to the buildings, but it was still pretty cool to see the stadium and aquatics center and everything. The Westfield shopping mall is right by the grounds, so I decided to make my way in there. From inside there is a mezzanine you can stand on and see the grounds, but sadly it wasn’t any better of a view from the outside. At the mall they also had a world food court… what did I pick you might ask? The Chipotle knock off of course… and it was gooooood eatin’!
Lunch! Chipotle knock off - equally delicious!
Before I headed back, I went to the Olympic store. From here there is an overlook that is much better. You can see everything! I’m actually kind of surprised that they aren’t further than they are, but I suppose two months is enough time to finish up. It better be anyway! After picking up some souvenirs I headed back towards the middle of the city.
Part of the Olympic Grounds
I met up with Ryan, and we took a walk down a very touristy street full of shops on our way to the British Museum. What’s nice about London is that although it is expensive in most aspects, the museums are free. Too bad I don’t like museums that much haha. But we spent a couple hours in the British Museum – saw a lot of things including the Rosetta Stone.
British Museum
After walking around so much, we decided to go grab some dinner. Along the way we walked through Covent Garden Market. It had a bunch of little shops and booths set up – and street performers of course. It was a pretty cool little place. We continued our walk and ended at Byron, a delicious burger place. I haven’t had a great burger since I’ve been here, so this was definitely welcomed. I had a cheeseburger with fries and an Oreo cookie milkshake. Could this day get any better?? Haha
Yes… yes it could – we headed to Abbey Road after dinner – so of course it could get better. The Beatles bring smiles to everyone’s faces! I was kind of surprised that there wasn’t much around… just the crosswalk. I think it’s funny how something so small can attract tourists from all over. If only the Beatles could be here now. We took the legendary picture and headed back home.
Being a loner on Abbey Road
Along the way we walked through part of Regent’s Park which is a HUGE park by Ryan’s dorm. It is very pretty right now because things are beginning to bloom – it was a great, peaceful way to end the day. Now I’m just planning out what the rest of my time here will be consumed with now that I have my London Pass! I can get into a lot of things for “free”! haha.
Regents Park
Can’t wait for day two! Stay tuned!
Ciao! I mean… Cheers!