Roma e Firenze! Part One

30 03 2013

So, as everyone probably guessed, this past week I found myself in Rome and Florence (and Pisa)! I had such as amazing time there seeing the sites and experiencing the culture. So (obviously) there has to be a blog post about it!
me and trevi

I went with my classmate Arik. We started out at about 12:30 that day from Utrecht Centraal to Eindhoven Station. Once in Eindhoven, we took the bus to the airport where we began the wait for our flight to the Rome Ciampino Airport. Unlike my last experience with airplanes, everything went surprisingly smooth and we landed in Rome around 6-7. After waiting on the bus for about 20 minutes, we finally were en route to the centre of Rome near the train station. After getting there, we walked to our hostel, Alessandro’s Palace, and settled very quickly. By about this time it was around 8-9ish, and of course we weren’t going to stay in our hostel (When In Rome!), so we got a map and decided to just walk around. Once we figured out what general direction we were going in, we decided to go to the Trevi Fountain. When we found  it, I was surprised at how big and gorgeous it was! They light it up at night, and it is safe to say that there were less people there than during the day. We took pictures and admired the view. We even got some gelato and sat down, eventually found out when it was actually built (1700s, not that old!). After sitting there for about an hour, we started to wander around again with no general direction in mind and ended up at the Pantheon.  By this point, it’s probably around 11 p.m. So we sat down again, enjoyed the view, took some photos and such.  But of course, it was late and we had been traveling a lot of the day, so we headed back to our hostel for some much needed rest.fountain and pantheon

This was my first experience with a hostel and I can say that although there were some disadvantages, it was not as bad as I thought it would be. I honestly felt I was back at FFA/4-H camp again (especially with sharing bathrooms and bunk beds). I wouldn’t call it terrible by any means, just inconvenient. We got in about 1 a.m. and everyone is in bed. So we were trying to be quiet as we got ready for bed, but as you know, everything is a billion times louder when you are trying to be quiet. Eventually I made it to my bed and fell asleep.

That next morning was Sunday, so we got up early to make it to Palm Sunday Mass to see the new Pope! Although we were way, way, way far away in the back, we did see him, which was pretty awesome. But since I am not Catholic and Arik is Jewish, we left about an hour in to do some other exploring. We decided to hit the Colosseum pope twonext. First, we went to this restaurant right around the bend and I had some spaghetti! It was pretty good, not the kind you love so much you want to swim in. The noodles were a tad bit tougher than what I had had before but still very good! Afterward, we made our way back to the Colosseum. In case you didn’t know, there are people EVERYWHERE in Rome trying to sell you something, whether it’s clothes, random stuff, tours and just little acts. It’s crazy and super annoying. You can tell they are targeting the gullible North American crowd. People will tell you anything to get you to buy their stuff. We were told it was an hour wait to get into the Colosseum when it was only about 30 minutes. We bought our tickets and made our way in.

It’s pretty crazy how well-preserved the Colosseum is. Granted, a lot is gone, but a whole lot does still remain. Not to mention it is pretty gorgeous. We walked around, took pictures and enjoyed thinking about what probably had happened there long, long ago. I was actually thinking about the movie ‘Jumper.’ I’m so cultured. While on the ledge overlooking the outside of the Colosseum, we saw a bunch of people on a hill overlooking it and decided to go up there. It was the Roman Forum and was luckily included in our Colosseum ticket. However, we ended up hiking the wrong hill and not able to get to the forum. What we did see was a family having a picnic, so we decided colo 8to do that, So, we hiked back down the hill and back into town to find a deli. We found one and got a couple of sandwiches. Then we began a second search for the forum/hiking trail that would give us the good view of the Colosseum. After walking for about 20 minutes, we found the right entrance and made our ascent to the top of the hill. We followed a path for about five minutes before we found ourselves overlooking the monument at the top of the hill. We took some pictures and found a nice pillar to sit on and enjoy our lunch.

After we finished, we began to explore the entirety that is the park. The Roman Forum was a small portion of the immense park that surrounded it, including Augustus’ and Caligula’s old houses, tunnels, a panoramic view of Rome, among other things. It was crazy. It took us quite a while to make it through most of the park. It was interesting to see all the old monuments so up close and personal, especially since a lot of the place we saw was talked about in my Western Civ. Class last semester! After we were done with that, we made our way back to the hostel to change (because we were in shorts!) and go out. The disadvantage to Rome is that is immensely huge and spread out. Like incredibly huge. We ended up going to this hole in the wall restaurant and having dinner. It was really good and decently priced. After walking around for another hour, we gave up and went back to the hostel for some sleep.

beggingThe next morning we decided to go back to Vatican City and do all the sightseeing. The previous day, we had met an American named Dan who was backpacking through Europe, so he tagged along as well. I ended up convincing them to climb the Basilica. I knew I wasn’t good with enclosed spaces, but after seeing a photo on Pinterest of the great view, I had to do it. But, of course, enclosed space and me didn’t get along too well and I ended up having to stop quite a few times because of my fear before making it to the top. But once I did, I didn’t regret it. The view was AMAZING. After spending some time up there (it was quite crowded), we made our way back down to go into the Basilica. Of course, it was magnificent. After touring the Basilica, we all decided to go to the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel.

Just so everyone knows, the Vatican Museum is HUGE. Like super massive. We thought we would get done with Vatican City in a few hours but ended up staying there for quite a while. That being said, it’s amazing at all the history that has been acquired. There was a pretty garden, an basilica view twoAfrican/Australian exhibit?, and plenty of busts to see in a lifetime. But of course, everyone was there for the main attraction: the Sistine Chapel. Of course, everyone has seen the pictures. But you can’t really appreciate the beauty of it until you are standing in the chapel looking up. I was blown away at its beauty. However, the beauty was slightly derailed by the security men constantly yelling, “SHH. BE QUIET. NO PICUTRES.” I stayed in there a good fifteen to twenty minutes just staring up at the ceiling and around the walls. However, everything must come to an end, so we left. After we finally got out, it was much later than we had anticipated – around 5 p.m. So instead of hitting the Spanish Steps, we went back to the hostel.

That night, Arik had a place to be so I was left alone to go explore. I didn’t really do too much exploring, but it was nice to just walk around at night and experience it bymyself. I went and had dinner at a restaurant behind the train station (where I had a very good porkchop) and continued to walk towards the downtown area. I didn’t go too far, however (mostly because I am not an idiot), so I began to meander my way back towards the hostel, ducking into another street every now and then. Even stopped and got my mom the first magnet in her European collection. After that, I headed back home and went to sleep about 10 p.m., which was pretty early in traveler’s time.

The next morning (Tuesday) was the day we were to head to Florence. However, before we did, I really wanted to go see the Spanish Steps. So we checked out of our hostel and took the Metro to the steps.

spanish stepsThe steps were not as touristy as I thought (although it may have been the fact we were there around 8:30). We climbed them and looked around, took some photos and just watched around us. It was historical and nice. But we didn’t stay too long. Arik and I decided to go get some breakfast before making our trip to the train station. Unlike the places surrounding the other sites of Rome, the shops were not geared towards tourists. We found this nice little café where we ate at the bar (like the Italians do!). I had a chocolate croissant and a cappuccino (which was delicious). As we left, I saw a nice little market and had to get myself an apple for the train ride. After we had purchased a few veggies, we made our way back to the metro and to Roma Termini to catch our train to Florence.

SHEW! What a blog post, right? So I am going to have to break it up and post a second part about Florence because it has went on so long!

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Trips Galore!

16 03 2013

Well, the past few days have been incredibly stressful and crazed, but long story short, I am now booked to go to Rome, Italy from March 23 to the 28 and Berlin, Germany from April 3 to the 7! WHAT! In a week, I will be on my way to one of the most beautiful and historic cities in Europe! ONE WEEK! I’m kind of freaking out, considering this is kind of whirlwind for me. The whole traveling on a whim makes me so nervous, but I guess that’s the experience!

In addition to these trips, I am also planning to go to Paris for a weekend sometime in April, which I am also super excited for. But for right now…OMG YOU GUYS I’M GOING TO ROME IN A WEEK.





Favorite Photos

13 03 2013
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♪ Under the sea, under the sea ♪

My '♪High School Musical♪' Jump

My ‘♪High School Musical♪’ Jump

Shout out to Marissa (http://marissatielphoto.com/) for being a totally awesome photographer.





Food and Clothes and Makeup, Oh My!

13 03 2013

Like all great blog posts, I apparently do them when I should be doing something important, like homework. So I decided to take a break from reading Pretty Little Liar theories and discuss one of the more important factors of studying abroad: shopping!

 

I assumed shopping in Utrecht would be a lot harder and more difficult than it actually is. Especially when you’re used to a jack of all trades like Walmart. But I was pleasantly surprised to learn that, in fact, things aren’t that much different here.
Even though there is not glorious Walmart or Target, there are some quality places of shopping that I have encountered in my stay. First, the food.

 

Albert Heijn is the main place of food shopping for myself. I can say it very closely resembles Kroger (especially with its main color being blue). It’s probably more ‘upscale’ of a grocery store when compared to Jumbo, to which I only describe as the European equivalent of Food Lion. Not to mention, it is conveniently less than five minutes away by bike. It has pretty normal food stuff, except for the whole being written in Dutch thing. One of the weird things about here is that the amount of frozen foods is considerably less than that of America. Overall, I would say most of the prices are about the same with conversion to America. Some more expensive, some less. I will say that because of the incredible lack of accessibility of fast food, I have cooked more here than ever in my entire life ever. Shout out to Emma, Marissa and Lisa for being so supportive of my new-found cooking ‘talent.’

 

Probably the best place for the money is HEMA, which is best described as a K-Mart. It has everything from school supplies to cheap makeup to clothes. I plan to get all my makeup from here (because it’s decent and as long as it does the job, I’m not picky)! It’s definitely ‘cheap’ compared to other brands that are available in Utrecht, but when you a college, study abroad student, you take what you can get for the least amount possible!

 

Although we have this store in America (the only one I have ever seen is in New York), H&M seems like the ‘go-to’ clothes store, much like Forever 21 is for me. It’s fairly cheap and nice quality. I can’t really say much on it

 

Next is Kruidvat, which closely resembles a CVS/Walgreens. It has brands like Maybelline and is quite more expensive than HEMA. The Maybelline powder I can get at home for $5 is 15 euro here! Crazy much? I’ll stick with HEMA. I bought my hairdryer from there and it’s a pretty decent place.

 

Bruna is very much a mix of a postal office/small bookstore/greeting card outlet. It’s where you buy your postcards, stamps, books and birthday cards. Conveniently, they are everywhere (including the train stations), so sending post cards back to my Nanny has been pretty easy!

 

I should also mention that the Albert Heijn that is close to me is in a shopping mall, so there is also a Bruna, HEMA and many clothes shops within walking distance as well!

 

Although these stores are great, the best gems are the many local shops found throughout Utrecht. They’re cozy, cultural and just too cute.

 

All in all, shopping isn’t that much different here. The real problem is getting the things you buy from the place back to your apartment. And getting 50 euro worth of groceries home is no easy task. I’ll just leave you with that image in your head.

 

Tot ziens!





A Place to Live, Too

12 03 2013

A Place to Live, Too

In addition to my schedule, my room for next year was also done! Luckily (LUCKILY), I was able to get back into Volunteer Hall! Different apartment, same room, same roommate. Can’t wait to get back to my lovely, lovely apartment!





Next Semester Schedule

12 03 2013

Next Semester Schedule

Even though I’ve barely been in Utrecht a month, yesterday I did my schedule for Fall 2013! Because I am an Honors Student, I get first priority. And thank goodness. Right now, I am at 18 hours, but I may end up dropping the Yoga class, which would put me at a whopping 17 hours (the most hours I’ve ever had!). This schedule which includes three major classes, plus my deejay gig at WUTK, my job at TAH and my 10-12 hours/week practicum has shown me next semester is going to be TERRIBLE. Yay, home?





A Day in Den Haag

9 03 2013
Gustave Caillebotte, "The Floor Scrapers"

Gustave Caillebotte, “The Floor Scrapers”

For my Art History class, we were required to go to see an exhibit on Gustave Caillebotte at the Gemeente Museum in The Hague. So yesterday, my roommate Marissa and four of our other ECEJ classmates decided to make the trip! We got to the Hague around 11:40 and took the bus to the museum. The exhibit wasn’t as fantastic as I had hoped. Granted, there were some pretty powerful pieces (and a Monet on lend to compare!) but overall, I wasn’t emotionally moved. It was a nice exhibit, though, because it was the paintings compared to photographs that were taken in and around the 1870-80s in France.

After we were done with the exhibit, we found our way to the actual museum, where the pieces were much more powerful. Although I had seen a replica of the piece in Amsterdam, I was lucky to see Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson in person and was in awe! Such a beautiful piece in person. We also were lucky enough to see some Vermeer (even though the Girl with the Pearl Earring piece is on tour for two years!) and some Van Gogh, my favorite being Field with Poppies. That part was much more enjoyable!

After we were done with the museum, the group decided to split up because me and Marissa were dying to go to the beach. After stopping at an outside café (it was super pretty outside!) and having a quick bite to eat, we started walking towards the shore. After about twenty minutes, we found ourselves at the ocean, enjoying the breeze and the surfers who were as excited about enjoying the day as we were! It was incredibly relaxing, especially after the stressful week we’ve had. I collected some seashells (low tide) and convinced Marissa to take ridiculous photos of me with the sea, which I am super excited to see. After a good long therapeutic session of beach fever, we decided to make the walk back to the city centre to meet back up with our four friends. This is when the story goes a bit sour, because we ended up getting a tiny bit lost and walked for about an hour straight! To say the least, my feet felt awful by the end, but we finally found our way to the city centre and found Café Rootz, the place we were meeting our friends.me and marissa AFTER

Even though our friends were drinking, I decided that a nice hot chocolate was exactly what I needed, especially since it was just starting to get dark. Just on a side note, Europeans make a GREAT cup of hot chocolate. We sat for about an hour talking about random things and when it was around 7:30, decided it was time to head home. The walk back to the station only took about 15 minutes and after buying a post card for my Nanny, we were on our way back to Utrecht. Although the trip had its ups and downs, it was a super nice day that was exactly what was needed after a long week!

Can’t wait until it gets warm so we can go to the beach and actually swim!