Passport to Paris

30 05 2013


Just a quick update from here in the Netherlands! Tomorrow, I leave for the one, the only Paris! I am so, so, so excited to check this off the list of Maggie’s Crazy European Adventure! I’ll be gone until Tuesday and have already planned quite a few things to do while there, including a full day at Versailles, Eiffel Tower, Louvre and of course all the other totally cliche touristy things. I’m also doing this trip by myself since I had so much experience while in Prague! However, this time around, I booked my room through AirBNB which is a site where people can put up their apartments or spare bedrooms for rent. I found a very tiny apartment in Montmartre [near the Sacre Couer Basilica] for a pretty decent price so I am pleased! I’ll be taking the train, but unfortunately I need to leave by about 7 in the morning, so I am pretty discouraged by that, but I’M GOING TO PARIS. I think I’ll deal.

This picture at the top was taken by the ever so talented Marissa Tiel for our magazine, Cultour! It’ll be debuting pretty soon and I know it’s going to be super, super amazing!

I better start packing.


Thank You

27 05 2013

Although I am always thankful for the things I have been afforded in my life, I’m not always the most gracious person. Yes, I say my ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous’ in true southern courtesy fashion, but I have never been the best at just being thankful on a daily basis. I complain A LOT [as I’m sure my two favorite Canadians could attest to]. But hey, that’s my mannerisms. Now that’s not to say that I’m not a positive person, because when push comes to shove, I can be pretty dang optimistic. But I digress.

Today, while biking to school for an inevitably horrid meeting, I had a rare moment. The kind of moment that we as human beings live for. The kind of moment where you have to internally ask, “Is this really my life?” It was a beautiful Monday afternoon and I was biking through a tunnel of trees that were sprinkling petals in the sunshine. I know what you’re thinking: that’s totally cliché and kind of lame. But in that moment, it hit me that I LIVE IN EUROPE. I live here. I’ve been living here for four months. I’m traveling the world. Heck, I’m going to Paris in four days. I’ve become one of those people who can casually book a train to Paris, and I’m freaking out wondering when this happened.

I am so grateful to all the opportunities I’ve had in my 19 [almost 20] years of living. I’ve been blessed beyond words to see and do things that if you would have told me in high school I would have been doing, I would have downright laughed in your face.  I’m thankful to the people who made this possible [and I can’t list you all because let’s be real, there are just too many to name].

However, I will mention one group that have made my traversing of the world possible and that is the fantastic men and women who have, do and will put their lives on the line, who make this freedom to travel, to write, to report and to do what I love possible.

This is my life. How crazy is that?

Happy Memorial Day!

Over the River and Through the Woods

24 05 2013

Being back in Utrecht has been pretty strange after spending two weeks in Prague! But I was definitely happy to be back in the land of stroopwaffels, cooking in my own kitchen and bikes. Smokey XI has been thoroughly broken in and I love having a ‘big girl’s bike,’ as my mom called it.

cuuuubesSpeaking of my mom, a couple of days ago, my parents came over the river and through the woods to good ole Utrecht! Although my dad spent time overseas in the Navy, this is my mom’s first time in Europe, and it’s definitely interesting to see their reactions to different aspects of the culture.

Today, we went to Rotterdam for a bit and enjoyed some of the sites. We didn’t stay too long, but I did get to see the cube houses, the Erasmus statue and many, many shops! Once we were done there, we came back to Utrecht and walking around, getting myself my number one tourist request in the Netherlands: clog house shoes. Mine are black, say Holland and have cows on them! How cute is that!

Tonight, I booked my room and my train to Paris [with the very gracious help/support of Marissa]. I’ll be staying in an apartment in Monmartre with a guy from Australia [or so I’ve been told]. I leave in exactly one week! I’ll be in Paris for five days and I am so, so, so excited! Paris is my second to last stop

My parents brought me American candy! Yum.

My parents brought me American candy! Yum.

on Maggie’s Crazy European Adventure. London will be my last stop right before I head home, and hopefully I’ll be crashing with some of my JEMers.

It’s hard to believe that my time in Utrecht is slowly winding down. I still can remember counting down the days in December, thinking about how crazy this whole experience would be and now I’m counting down the days until Greeneville! I’m trying to not think about the packing and the graduation and most of all the goodbyes, so let’s stay positive and remember that this time next week I’ll be in Paris!

Tot ziens for now!

Swiper, No Swiping!

15 05 2013

Swiper, No Swiping!

But unfortunately, Swiper did swipe my cute mini-bike named Elphie on Queensday! Imagine my surprise the day before I left for Prague when I couldn’t find my tiny bike anywhere! Luckily, my roommate Marie Jose let me borrow her bike that day, but I knew that when I returned, I would have to buy a new bike to last me through the next two months. This time, however, I resolved to buy a big bike so I wouldn’t get strange looks on my way to school anymore. This being said, it’s still a children’s bike…but he’s big! His name is Smokey XI [Smokey X is our current mascot on Rocky Top], and I know he will be a great companion through the next two months!

Prague: Final Farewells

15 05 2013


Since I am having the worst time finding motivation to stay with my transcription process [I am blaming it on my lack of a library], I have decided to go ahead and finish my blog updates in relation to Prague!

Saturday, I had planned to get up at 5 a.m. and make my way to Charles Bridge to catch it at sunset, but when I awoke, the sun had already risen and the sky was overcast. I was somewhat distraught, but that was quickly swept away as I fell back asleep. I awoke again thinking I may go to the Vyšehrad Fort, but I decided not to since it was raining outside. Still in bed and on my phone, I started to hunt places to eat for lunch. I really wanted the “authentic Czech” experience and I wasn’t going to find it in the tourist section of town. Eventually, I found U Kroka, a restaurant that served Czech cuisine and had garnered very nice reviews on the internet. I decided to make it my destination and found the location. Ironically, it happened to be right beside the Vyšehrad Fort, and since food can motivate me to do anything, I decided to make a day of it and go to the fort as well. I set off with my map and my rain coat on the dreary afternoon. I was walking away from the tourist section towards the Southern end of town. Online, I read there had been speculation that the city of Prague started in the fort and progressively extended its way out [although there is no proof].

I eventually found U Kroka and went inside. I was greeted with a light, chill atmosphere and not one person speak English. I knew I had made the correct decision. After glancing over the menu a few times, I was going back and forth between getting some dumpling dish or rabbit. I wasn’t too confident in the rabbit decision, so I opted to get the sirloin with sauce and dumpling. As I waited, I listen and observed the people of the restaurant. I really loved the non-tourist, normal Czech atmosphere. Something I could definitely get used to. No long after ordering, my dish was back out. Turned out, the sauce I ended up getting was very much like gravy. It was good, however. One thing that shows my food ignorance was that I thought dumpling were potatoes, so imagine my surprise with I got some sort of bread! None the less, I ate the good majority of them and ended my meal with a cappuccino.

IMG_4403I started to head up the hill which I was sure would take me to the fort. After a moment of short confusion, I steered myself in the right direction and up another hill into Vyšehrad Fort. The fort was rather open and not tourist heavy, as I had imagined [even though there were plenty of tourists]. I walked around aimlessly for a couple of minutes until I heard a voice over a loud speaker. I followed the voice until I came across a bunch of tents in a circle next to the cathedral. I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on, but I decided to investigate. Much to my surprise, the locals appeared to be having a sort of festival going on, complete with mini cocktails, sausages, haircuts, chocolate and crafts. I was enthralled as I went from booth to booth to investigate what each had to offer. I ended up getting a small glass and welded angel from a man who didn’t have change. It was super cute and something that I couldn’t eat [I resisted the beautiful chocolate they did have]. The festival was complete with a dance ensemble full of teen girls and one boy doing some sort of salsa/Indian =-type dance in the middle of a muddy, wet patch of grass. After finishing up at the festival, I maneuvered on to see the views. It was a different view of Prague towards the farther south that was much like being back home in the Smokies. Granted, the mountains weren’t as big, but it has been quite a while since I had seen some rolling hills and I was so glad to see some again! I went to the cathedral next, which was just as gorgeous as any other I had seen. I then proceeded to move out to the cemetery were Alfons Mucha was buried. I set out on a mission to find his grave and spent close to thirty minutes walking around looking for it. I did find a numerous amount of extravagant graves, though. After it started raining again, I decided that looking was in vain and slumped back out. As I immediately exited the cemetery, imagine my surprise to find a grave plot map, showing me exactly where the grave of Mucha was. However, I found it rather difficult to read and I was so frustrated with the whole thing that I decided to go ahead and head back. I walked around a bit longer, even finding the oldest rotunda in all of the Czech Republic [dating back to the 10th/11th century], and then started my walk back home.

I dried off in my room as I debated on where to eat for dinner. I really wanted to go back to the Pizzeria behind my hostel and actually try their pizza, so I headed back out towards Pizzeria Einstein. I ended up ordering the plain cheese pizza because I didn’t feel like confusing anyone with my crazy American specifications. I didn’t expect anything fantastic, but imagine my surprise when I got the pizza and had the best pizza I’ve had since being in Europe [sorry, Italy]. Although the crust was not as thick as I like it, everything else was delicious and I ended up eating the whole thing [in a very short amount of time]. Since I figure ordering a second one would be a bit too ambitious, I opted to have dessert instead and had some nice chocolate ice cream with whipped cream to match!

I walked around the city for a bit as the sun slowly set. It was a nice feeling to just walk around and enjoy the beautiful city at dusk. But eventually, I made a beeline for bed.

Sunday, I had set my alarm for 4 a.m. to once again hopefully catch the sunrise at the bridge. Unfortunately, I slept through the THREE alarms I had set for myself. I wasn’t happy with this, but since there was nothing I could do, I decided to just go with it. Again, I decided to search for some ‘hidden’ restaurants in Prague, places off the beaten path. I ended up on the ex-pats website scoping out IMG_4364their favorite restaurants. Eventually, I found a place right beside the Dancing House that seemed relatively cheap and decent, so off I went. Upon my arrival, I was greeted with an empty restaurant, Just as I was contemplating whether they were open, a man ushered me to the downstairs garden where there was one other older couple. I was handed a menu and left to decide. I opted to go ahead and have one of my newest favorites, chicken and rice in a honey-mustard sauce. I wasn’t expecting anything delicious, so imagine my surprise when I was brought THE TASTIEST dish of chicken and rice I have ever had. It was juicy and delicious and I think I wolfed it down in under ten minutes. Like every other meal, I ended with a cappuccino and made my way back towards the centre. I walked around for a short bit before heading back to the hostel to prepare for my final interview. I was to interview Shaan, the editor-in-chief of the Prague Revue. Although I had seen him several times, it was time for the ‘official’ interview.

I arrived at Jáma at a quarter to four to prepare my notes. As I waited on Shaan, I decided to peek inside the menu to look because I wasn’t really planning on ordering anything, at least until I saw they were still serving breakfast. I decided to go ahead and order some French toast and bacon [because WHO WOULDN’T] and wait for Shaan. Luckily, he was running late, and I was able to enjoy my  mini meal guilt free of being unprofessional. When he arrived, we then spent a good while tying up loose ends and bringing the story home. I thanked him for all his help and departed Jáma [my almost second home] for the last time.

Before we had left, Shaan had suggested two restaurants that I try if I wanted for my last dinner in Prague. Although the first one seemed a bit exensive, the second seemed interesting and affordable, so off I went to Café Louvre.

Café Louvre has an interesting history, since it was often frequented by Albert Einstein when he was in Prague. Even now, the restaurant had a sort of flapper feel with the tall and decorated ceilings with beautiful chandeliers. As I looked at the menu, I decided that for my last meal, I should go out with a bang. I ordered the rabbit in sauce with a rice ball. I wasn’t sure what to expect when they set the dish in front of me. But I ate it. And it wasn’t bad at all. Rabbit was pretty tangy, as I assume most game is. I wasn’t sure what the taste was. Maybe kind of salty? I did eat it all, though, and finished off the rice, too. I decided to have desert as well and after a quick glance, decided to try the blueberry ‘cake’ with ice cream. Although when they brought it out, it turned out the be blueberry pie. It ended up being DELICIOUSLY AMAZING and I wanted more but decided against it. That night I walked around Prague for the last time before heading back to the hostel to pack.

The next day was travel day. I won’t go into much detail since the details are somewhat boring, but I can say that my flight ended up being delayed for three hours and I didn’t make it home until close to midnight [something I wasn’t too happy with]. But I did make it home, so that is all that matters!

IMG_4337I really enjoyed my time in Prague. Before I went, I was pretty scared to be traveling alone to somewhere with a not-so-great reputation, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed just being by myself and not feeling obligated to anyone else. I could do what I wanted when I wanted and I loved that. Prague has definitely hit my top five cities in Europe list and I can’t wait to go back. The city was lively and interesting in a way many other cities in Europe don’t really appeal. I am also pretty proud of myself for making the trip on my own. When I left for Europe, everyone said I was so brave to be traveling to Utrecht on my own, studying somewhere where I had no one, but the truth is from the start I have had someone there along the way to talk to, vent to and spend time with. Prague was purely for me. Prague was me getting lost, me making decisions and me on my own time. And I absolutely loved that freedom.

As for now, I am back in Utrecht to finish up my time in Europe! I have decided to only go three more places in my list [Brussels, Paris and London], one of which I already have a date and the other which I am planning! Unfortunately, Poland, Hungary, Ireland and Scotland will have to wait until the next go around. But I am super excited to enjoy my next 40 days with my amazing friends in an amazing town!

Tot ziens!

Prague: Fairytale Fanatics

12 05 2013


Thursday, I made my way up to be a princess at the one, the only: Prague Castle! I had been putting off the hike up the hill since my arrival because I wanted to go when it was a nice day, and finally I decided that it wasn’t going to get better than Thursday, so I woke up early and off I went. I ducked into the supermarket really quick and grabbed a cream cheese and strawberry pastry before making IMG_2060my way across the river. One thing I wanted to do while I was near it was see the Lennon Wall, a wall where graffiti is allowed and displayed in his honor. I spent a while walking around trying to find it [the map I had wasn’t very helpful since some of the street names were different in real life or just not mentioned at all].

I walked around for about 20 minutes before I decided to stop and ask for directions. Luckily, the guy was able to point me in the right direction. After getting lost one more time, I finally found the Lennon Wall. It was interesting to see it, especially since there were hardly any tourists around. I loved the graffiti and stuck around for a bit to take some photos and sign the wall myself!

After I finished, I started to make my way towards the castle. By this point, I had to guess the way which wasn’t that difficult since it was clearly in sight. However, the climb was quite difficult.IMG_1724

My UT friends: just imagine Pedestrian’s steep part times four and you’ve got the climb up the hill to Prague Castle. Since Utrecht has no hills, it has really been a while since I have truly climbed a hill and it was quite noticeable. Although, I am sure it was good practice for when I return to Rocky Top in August. Once I reached the top, I was sweaty, gross but definitely glad I had done it because of the amazing view of Prague. It was fantastic. I stood there and took photos until I saw a crowd gathering around the entrance, so I ran over to see what the fuss was about. There were many guards marching and a few more in windows with instruments playing, so I can assume it was some sort of IMG_1832changing of the guards. But then again, I can’t be sure because I couldn’t really see a thing.

I quickly got bored by standing around so I decided to find the information location to get some tickets. I got into line and met another American from New England. We chatted as the line slowly moved and once I was finally at the ticket counter, I opted to do the short visit option as opposed to the long visit. I felt like the short visit would satisfy my fairy-tale cravings without paying the extra to walk through a bunch of photography galleries.

My first stop was the St. Vitus Cathedral, the part of the castle that is visible down in Prague. There was a line to get in but it moved fairly quickly. As I’ve probably said a million times, I love going to cathedrals in Europe. The larger-than-life buildings are amazing and beautiful, probably one of my IMG_2008favorite things about Europe, in fact. St. Vitus was no different. Inside, there were huge stained glass windows, a rose window and amazing sculptures. After I finished inside the cathedral a good thirty minutes later, I made my way back outside to check out some other parts of this mini town. I went to the Basilica of St. George, a smaller, older church behind the cathedral. You could definitely see the age. Instead of jumping in with all of the tourists, I saw down at a pew and took it all in. I didn’t stay long, only about 10 minutes, but it was nice. I then headed back to the Golden Lane, which wasn’t anything special. I suppose there is some sort of historical context, but I wasn’t impressed. I quickly walked through it and made my way outside to another ledge to take in the view. By this point, it had started raining and I had seen all I had really wanted to, so I headed back the way I came down the [MASSIVE] hill to find some food.

I decided to try something Marissa had been pressuring me to try since I decided to go to Prague: fried cheese. Little did I know this was in sandwich form! I ordered it for 40 korunas and received something that did certainly smell good. I tried it and to be fair, it wasn’t the best thing I ever had. IMG_2067It tasted like a mix of a grilled cheese sandwich and a mozzarella stick on a bun, but I did it eat it all quite happily as I made my way back to the hostel.

That night, I had an interview appointment with the owner of Jáma and co-founder of the Prague Revue, Max, for one of my stories. The interview took about an hour, and afterward, we went to a table for the three editors to have an editorial meeting. They kept it quite casual (can you get into business mode at a bar?). It was neat and interesting to watch. I stuck around for a little afterward, but departed shortly after to go find some dinner. I originally was going to head to a vegetarian restaurant near my hostel, but after finding out it closed about 30 minutes before, I decided to just walk around until I found a place. My hostel is in the part of town away from the tourist section, so I was pretty confident I would find something.IMG_2050

I ended up at the restaurant called Pizzeria Einstein and ordered something that wasn’t in English. The waiter was really vague about what I was getting, only that chicken, rice and mushrooms were involved. I ended up getting a grilled piece of chicken (which tasted fried) over a bed of rice with tons and tons of mushroom sauce. The portion was so big that I couldn’t finish it but quite good. I ended my meal with a cappuccino and headed back to the hostel to call it a night.

On Friday, I woke up feeling pretty bad. The sinuses were still acting up and I essentially wanted to spend the whole day in bed. But since I knew that couldn’t happen, I braved getting up and getting ready to go somewhere. I finally decided on the Mucha exhibit, because it was close and out of the rain that was pouring outside.

I don't know why I'm touching this on Charles Bridge.

I don’t know why I’m touching this on Charles Bridge.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have my umbrella with me, so my handy-dandy rain jacket and I went out to brave the weather.

It was quite gross out as I maneuvered my way to Wenceslas Square. I walked to the bottom and before heading to the Municipal House, stopped at a food stand and got a Wenceslas sausage for lunch. It wasn’t so great (since I was kind of hoping it would taste like a hot dog) but I ate it and moved on towards Old Town Square.

I got my ticket for the Mucha exhibit and made my way up the stairs. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. Although I had seen posters advertising around town, I wasn’t familiar with Alfons Mucha. I was quite surprised. Although there were some pieces I wasn’t too keen on, the portraits of these beautiful girls Mucha painted were fantastic. I loved the elegance in them; I was stunned. I spent about an hour in there looking at an almost completely collection of everything Mucha before heading back outside into the rain. I still felt pretty bad, so instead of walking around, I IMG_1800decided to just go back to the hostel and get some rest. I had intended to go back out for dinner, but between me drifting in and out of sleep and loving the feeling of being in bed, I opted to skip dinner and just get some rest.

Wow! The end of my stay in Prague is almost here. Tomorrow, I head back to [hopefully] lovely Utrecht to transcribe and write my stories! I’ll try to post an update about Saturday’s and Sunday’s events once I am back in quiet Holland.

But for now, tot ziens!

Prague: Times Three

9 05 2013


Hello, all! I realize I haven’t written in a while, but past few days have not been as exciting as I had hoped. On Monday, I woke up feeling rather awful. My sinuses had drained which had left me feeling achy and with a nasty head cold. I spent most of the day in bed until I went to dinner, which I will admit was nothing adventurous. I am afraid Monday was nothing of great interest.

Yesterday I awoke feeling still not great, but I did want to do something interesting with my day. I was supposed to meet a monthly contributor to the Prague Revue at 5 p.m. I decided to go to the Rudolfinum to see their gallery which focuses on contemporary art.

IMG_1644I have come to find that I am much more keen on contemporary, mixed media art as opposed to the older stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I loved seeing the Friedrich pieces in person in Berlin, pieces that could easily beat out many contemporary paintings, but I am much more interested on interpretations of now as opposed to the past.

The exhibit is entitled Nightfall and focuses on the possible effects of darkness on the human psyche. It was definitely intriguing as well as beautiful. Surprisingly, there was a very good piece by Daniel Richter, the IMG_1658exhibitionist my class and I saw while in Berlin! I recognized the style right away and was glad to see this piece as well as other pieces of his work present. Overall, I was happy with the exhibition and left in a very pleasant mood. By this point, it was around 3:30, so I felt like starting my walk back would be strange. I decided to have a cup of coffee in the Café Rudolfinum and work on some questions. I can honestly say that the coffee was one of the smoothest cups of coffee I have ever had in my life!

Once I finished that, I made my way toward Jáma [the Prague Revue headquarters] to interview one of the monthly contributors named Ship. Now, let it be known that most people involved in the Prague Review/friends of them that I had met up until this point had been older gentlemen [ranging from around 30 to 50]. So I wasn’t surprised when I saw an over-50-years-old man sitting at the table waiting for me.

IMG_1662The great thing about these guys [who call themselves ex-pats for ex-patriots] is that they have been nothing but nice and welcoming to me, inviting me places and making sure I am taken care of. All of them have been so nice and I am so grateful!
After interviewing Ship, I hung around Jama for an hour or two getting to know two older gentlemen from the US. They were both nice and interested in my time in Prague. After sitting there for a while, I was invited to dinner to a Croatian restaurant with the bar owner, Max, and Ship. I ended up trying something the chef suggested which had pork and mushroom sauce [a Ukrainian dish] which was delicious. Sneaky Max ended up buying the all our meals before we could realize, which was probably the nicest thing that’s happened to me since being in Prague [possibly Europe].

Afterward we went to Max’s other restaurant, Jáma Steakhouse, for meeting up with other people and where I was introduced to [no IMG_4259surprise] so more older gentlemen. I’m quite lucky they are all so nice! Once we had spent around an hour there joking around, we headed back to Jáma – The Hollow, but I left about as soon as I had arrived because I was quite tired and planning to go to the castle the next day. So I bid the adieu and made my way back to the hostel.

Tuesday started with me deciding half asleep in bed that it was not the day to do the castle. I was still not feeling up to par and wanted to get more rest, so I drifted back to sleep and woke up a couple of hours later. I still wanted to do something productive with my day, so I decided to go see the Jewish sites of Prague. Within a few hours, I saw the Pinkas Synagogue, Old Jewish Cemetery,

Klausen Synagogue, Ceremonial Hall, Old-New Synagogue, Spanish Synagogue and the Robert Guttmann Gallery. The most haunting was the Old Jewish Cemetery, where there were stack upon stacks of tombstones with probably even more bodies buried beneath them. And it was not small, by any means. This graveyard was pretty big, considering it is in the downtown of Prague. I would have IMG_1694spent much longer there if we hadn’t been ushered to keep walking.

The most beautiful place I visited was the Spanish Synagogue. The vibrant colors and beautiful ceiling work was beyond words, but if I had to use one: stunning. I loved the whole atmosphere of the building and, of course, the amazing architecture.

After my tourist part of the day, it was time to get back to journalism as I made my way to Jáma to interview the poetry editor, Annie. However, after I finished my interview with her, I didn’t stick around for too long. Since I didn’t have enough time for dinner, I grabbed a Starbucks and was off to meet my side story, the French Horn competitor at the Prague Spring International Music Festival. When we met up, he said he hadn’t ate dinner and since I had not either, he suggested we go to the place a friend of his suggested. Imagine my surprise when we ended right back up at Jáma!  I laughed it off and had a very good burger while we were entertained by some of the ex-pats. Afterward, we went to a Starbucks off Wenceslas square to do an intro interview and since I was pretty exhausted by this point, I went home.

For today’s events, I will probably write an update tomorrow! Today consisted of the Prague Castle but more importantly, the worst hike up to the Prague Castle. Tomorrow, I am planning to go to the Mucha Exhibit [and possibly something else that I have yet to think of].

Now off to bed! Tot ziens!