My Thoughts on “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” by Tom Wolfe

In “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” Tom Wolfe presents himself through use of first-person to his audience by telling them about the nonfiction “psychedelic movement” that was growing among young people in California. At the time, the drug LSD was legal, and was hiring participants for research.

Wolfe was a very competitive journalist, which led him to be able to write a book like this full of content that is not typical for literary journalism. Known as “The Feature Game,” Wolfe said the goal was to “get a job on a newspaper, keep body and soul together, pay the rent, get to know ‘the world,’ accumulate ‘experience,’…” (“The Feature Game,” Tom Wolfe). While Wolfe never tried LSD because he was too scared, he did a great job of inserting himself into the lives of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters to inform his audience on what the “psychedelic movement” was. The final goal is “The Novel,” which Wolfe accomplished by composing “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” (Wolfe).

            In “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” Wolfe can be best known for his use of parajournalism, which means he provided entertainment to his audience, which is what readers always hope for. He was known for producing parajournalism at his best (“Parajournalism, or Tom Wolfe and His Magic Writing Machine,” Dwight MacDonald). Wolfe made “no pretense at factuality but sketching with humor and poignancy urban dilemmas one recognizes as real.” An example of this is when the cops pulls over the LSD bus after following them through the woods with Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, where Kesey proceeds to tell the officer they are “show people.” Kesey easily gets the crew out of trouble with the law, and Wolfe used this tactic to add humor to what would otherwise be a dilemma.

Another category of literary journalism that Wolfe belonged to besides parajournalism was known as New Journalism. This category applies to Wolfe’s writing because he composed a book full of reporting on a subculture of people- the hippies (Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters). “The New Journalism took its energy from the recognition of society as a tableau of interesting races, age groups, subcultures, and social classes and the detachment of the self from various conventional sources of identification” (Eason). Wolfe was a part of this subculture only because he was observing them and writing about them, but he was not actually a part of the psychedelic movement. Wolfe is simply storytelling to inform his audience of this growing movement among youth. “A New Journalism emerged in magazines and in books to give shape to many of the cultural changes while revitalizing reporting as a form of storytelling” (Eason). Wolfe contributed his writings to the era of New Journalism because of his book that fell outside the category of “hard news” (Wolfe). While LSD was pertinent at this time, Wolfe shared a story of how it was actually affecting people and what their daily lives looked like while on it.

Besides adding humor to his writing, Wolfe was known for having a realist impulse. He described it as “to show the reader real life- ‘Come here! Look! This is the way people live these days! These are the things they do!’” (“The New Journalism and The Image World,” David Eason). When Wolfe originally meets Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, Wolfe becomes mystified and wants to spend lots of time with them to see exactly what it is they do. He became “puzzled over their style of life” (Eason).

Regarding the psychedelic movement of young people, Wolfe shares with his audience how this movement is also transforming into a religious movement. Ken Kesey, the “de facto” of the Merry Pranksters, was seen as a god among his peers. He was a student at Berkeley who had many talents and offers right and left. Because of his status, others saw him as prophetic. Not only is Wolfe presenting what is currently going on during this trial of LSD, but he is also leading his audience into the future of where these young lives will go. He “furnishes the most elaborate explanations, explanations that link the contemporary to a well-ordered, nonthreatening past that promises to extend into the future” (Eason). Because Wolfe writes about drugs in a way that seems safe and not completely threatening, it is as though he writes about his subjects to show the movements that come along with this crowd, not necessarily to inform his readers of the harm LSD is known for in today’s time. “The drug culture, symbolized by Ken Kesey and his Pranksters, may appear to be a multitude of styles and symbols with no apparent meaning, but it is actually only a new manifestation of an ancient religious impulse and the group an elementary form of religious life” (Eason). I agree with Eason that the movement of LSD does not really symbolize anything, rather, it just manifests into another movement that a young group will lead.

I think Wolfe is trying to focus more on California lifestyles just as Joan Didion did. He is showing how times change periodically, and it always seems that California starts a movement that will then travel across the rest of the U.S. “The diversity of California lifestyles may suggest the loss of a common culture, but they are actually only diverse expressions of a culture transformed by economic expansion that spread the idiosyncratic lifestyles of the upper-class throughout society” (Eason). The economic expansion in this case is led by the FBI legally (LSD research), and a factor such as this can alter a culture. But at the end, traditional values will still exist, mixed along with new movements, which causes a culture to diversify itself.

Tom Wolfe took a serious topic (the experimentation of LSD), and reported it in a way that did not stress the audience. “I can get the message without having it watered down into banal language or dressed up with throat grabbing urgency” (“The Personal Voice and the Impersonal Eye,” Dan Wakefield).

My Thoughts on “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” by Joan Didion

Joan Didion reflects on her personal past in “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” through a collection of numerous essays. She was subjective in her storytelling (“What Followed”) which can be seen as unprofessional as a journalist because it appears that she finds others she writes about to be inferior compared to her, and it is hard to decipher the truth as a reader if what she is writing about is credible since it is her own opinion, and not necessarily factual.

During the 1960s, drugs were running rampant throughout the Haight in California, which Joan Didion herself experienced. By using other characters’ tragedies when drugs were being used, Didion inserted herself through first-person literary journalism. These tragedies portray Didion’s feelings toward mishaps that often occurred during this period such as suicides, car wrecks, divorces, etc. Because she wanted to remember what it was to be her old self (“What Followed”), she told a story to her readers about how close she was to the edge in her past life. Her personal opinions apply to every scenario in all of the essays encased in “Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” which makes her work subjective and quite possibly not credible. Throughout these essays, we can see her resistance to closure as California transforms. She is unable to move on from Old California to New California. I see this subjectivity as Didion’s way of trying to make peace with her past. However, Didion adds a lot of subjective details that are hard to discern as either a truth or a lie. Just because she is subjective, I do not think that gives her the opportunity to undo some details that seem deceptive for readers.

In Michiko Kakutani’s article about Joan Didion that was featured in the New York Times, she mentioned that Didion’s tone is “unsentimental.” I find this to be false because in a lot of these essays, Didion is nostalgic in her mood and her tone. In her essay “Goodbye to All That,” she talks about her younger twenties and her move to New York. When talking about her instinct of what New York would be, she said “…and some instinct, programmed by all the movies I had ever seen and all the songs I had ever heard sung and all the stories I had ever read…” (“Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” p. 226). She recognizes that her transition from California will be quite hard and is sentimental to say goodbye upon her arrival to New York due to songs and stories she has heard previously. Didion’s use of first-person takes us as readers into her feelings. In “On Epidemic Personism,” Herbert Gold said, “In the fantastic heart of writers there is always the temptation to justify, to brag and confess, to make their own immortal souls the prime issue for everyone else.” Gold’s statement is true of the sentimentality Didion provides for her readers. She opens her heart in her essays a lot, even though you cannot always feel for her because the scenario she explains does not seem so terrible.

Another example of Didion’s subjectivity applies to the bride in “Dreamers of a Golden Dream.” She says the bride is wearing an “illusion veil.” To readers, this can be seen as harsh judgment because this “illusion veil” portrays that the bride is blind to what is in front of her. I do not find this to be making fun of the bride, but rather satirizing weddings overall because marriage is never what people expect it to be. In Kakutani’s article “Joan Didion: Staking Out California,” she explains how Didion has seemed to be fixed on failures of life and marriage since she was young. Didion’s first book was about failed marriage, so I think it is important to realize that Didion is not being harsh with her marriage views, just the thought of marriage itself consumes her which is why she writes so much about it. She writes another essay in “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” titled “Marrying Absurd.” She explains the wedding culture of Las Vegas and how cheap it is to get married. She inserts a lot of pessimism in her essays about marriage, which shows the readers that at one time in her past, she dealt with a failed relationship.

In Didion’s writing about how California has transcribed, it is obvious that she is sentimental to the era of her childhood. She writes about California as though it is a mythical place. To Didion, California was her whole world. In the reading “What Followed,” Didion’s writing was described as “the phenomenal world she is reporting on.” Even Kakutani says California was Didion’s place. Through her description, we see Didion reporting California to her readers as she knew it. When explaining how prominent drugs were during her time, she wrote about a scene when a three-year-old set fire in an apartment. She said the hippies who resided did not even notice “because they were in the kitchen trying to retrieve some very good Moroccan hash which had dropped down through a floorboard damaged in the fire” (“The Struggle for Articulation and Didion’s Construction of the Reader’s Self-Respect,” Paul Heilker). At this time, people’s priorities were different with drugs in mind.

Didion also writes about her social status in what was known to be “Old California.” She was an educated female with class and wealth. In “The Courage of Her Afflictions” by Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, Harrison finds Didion to be putting people down for their social status. I do not agree with this because Didion is being sentimental for what California used to be, and unappreciative for what it turned into. Didion’s rhetoric throughout her essays portrays that she sees new California as fake, compared to when it was full of order, civilization and values. Didion sees new California as a loss and writes about what has changed it and how it dies in the essays “I Can’t Get That Monster Out of My Mind” and “On Mortality.” Rather than seeing Didion’s writing as judgmental, we should appreciate her nostalgia for the place she used to know.

My Thoughts on “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote

In Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, he embarks on a journey of presenting a non-fiction story of a well-respected but “inconsequential” (Amy Standen) family who was slain for unknown reasons. He does so by creating four parts of a book that include the details he accumulated from multiple interviews. Capote establishes credibility with his audience by providing factual evidence, recurring themes, symbolism and oxymorons.

It is often argued that Capote has a “failure of imagination” (George Plimpton) within In Cold Blood because he used factual evidence rather than first-person literary techniques. I disagree that Capote was not creative. He includes strong imagery within the factual evidence which provides readers a chance to envision everything that happened in the time frame prior to the murder, the actual murder, then the trial and execution. Capote said, “Also, it is necessary to have a 20/20 eye for visual detail–in this sense, it is quite true that one must be a ‘literary photographer,’ though an exceedingly selective one” (Plimpton). Capote selectively adds detail where it is fitting in this book, such as including the thoughts of the murderers, Perry and Dick, as they ended all four lives of the Clutters. Out of empathy, it is more than readers want to know, but have to know because of human nature. Because Capote interviewed all of the characters without a recorder, he nails the description of being a “literary photographer” as an author.

Alvin Dewey is a character within the book who is labeled as the Kansas Bureau of Investigation’s lead detective in solving this murder case. “Furthermore, for all Dewey’s experience, some Garden City, Kan., residents are critical of his relationship with Capote and how that affected what ended up in the book” (Kevin Helliker). Because Capote was able to build a well-established relationship with Dewey and his family, critics believe the relationship may have altered the way Capote wrote In Cold Blood. I do not agree with this, but rather I think Capote was an individual who built relationships with all interviewees out of a place of empathy for the trauma that was occurring during this case. Critics also said that Capote seemed to be the only one “…in belief that Dewey was the case’s hero” (Patrick Smith). I find this statement incorrect because a lot of the public knew the amount of stress Dewey went through to find the murderers. Dewey was admired by many and not alone by Capote because he was known for solving 14 of 16 murder cases he worked on (Smith). The details integrated within this book from the work between Capote and Dewey helped readers comprehend this murder case even more- not only did we see what the family was going through, but the investigators as well. Capote includes detail of how Dewey studied the images of all four Clutter members intensely for a period of time. At one time, Dewey’s wife sees the photos in their home setting, to which she responds, “I wish I’d never seen them” (Capote, In Cold Blood). Capote also goes on to explain how not only the Deweys, but other Holcomb families were uneased by this murder and extra paranoid of their own safety at the time of not knowing who did it.

Throughout In Cold Blood, Capote uses recurring themes of religion that are symbolic of stories in the Bible that readers are able to relate for better insight. While critics claim the “immaculately factual” (Helliker) evidence in the book is less than imaginative, I find the parallel between religion and the secular world to be brilliant. For example, Capote repeats that Mr. Clutter starts the day with an apple, which is symbolic of knowledge that Eve would acquire in the Bible by eating from “the tree of life.” When Mr. Clutter would eat an apple, he was inviting evil into his life. This means he could see right from wrong.

Capote included a lot of oxymorons for the characters. For example, the two murderers’ upbringing tells readers opposite of what we would think. Perry, who was the more delicate murder of the two, grew up in a rough home life of alcohol and abuse. At the time of the murder, he tried to make the deaths more delicate for the family members. He put a mattress box under Herb. When his partner wanted to rape Nancy, he drew the line there and would not allow it. “His (Capote’s) accounts of Perry’s small, paradoxical kindnesses to the doomed Clutters, like when he places a pillow under Kenyon’s head before putting a gun to his temple, are a hundred times more effective in describing the tumult of emotions in a criminal’s mind than an expert’s analysis could ever have been” (Standen). This explains that this detail of Perry’s original rough life proved itself opposite during the murder. For Dick, he had a safe upbringing. He was smart, athletic, had offers to play college ball, had a couple of girlfriends but never did more than kiss. Now at the time of the murder for him, he is more ruthless and is sexually attracted to young females and wanted to harm Nancy. After all, he is the main leader of this murder because he was determined to find Mr. Clutter’s safe. He was stable in his younger days, and now a traumatic head injury has turned him astray.

Another oxymoron that Capote cohesively included was the establishment of how the Clutter family was well known in Holcomb. He explains how Mr. Clutter is a religious man who is committed to his ill wife. Mr. Clutter represents a “man’s man,” (Capote) while his daughter is a role model for younger girls. Nancy is discussed as a respected female who does well in school and is notorious for her baked apple pie. The murder of the family was a bad thing that happened to good people.

Capote provides credibility with not only factual evidence, but literary techniques that broaden the horizon of a non-fiction novel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Thoughts on “Hiroshima” by John Hersey

In John Hersey’s book “Hiroshima,” he writes in third-person. Considering the scenario of history presented here, I find it very impressive that he leaves his own voice out of this work. As a reader, it feels as though you are there experiencing the trauma with the characters and also going through the aftermath and healing process. One way Hersey gives his audience the chance to feel for the characters is through very descriptive imagery. In “A History of American Literary Journalism,” Asch said Hersey falls into the ‘descriptive’ category because he “achieved the pose of a neutrality of tone- leaving it up to the reader to draw his own conclusions” (p. 185). Of course every reader will feel sorrow for the tragedies that happen within “Hiroshima,” but each reader will draw his own conclusion(s). For example, Hersey explains in the last chapter of “Hiroshima” the scars survivors had as “hideously ugly, thick, itchy, rubbery, copper-red crablike growths” (p. 102). For readers, we picture how horrid these battle wounds appear but can almost imagine what they feel like, too.

Hersey created this work where readers are able to “see” people and events, just as Lincoln Steffens did when he wanted to create a new kind of journalism (Connery, Thomas. “A Third Way to Tell the Story”). This differs from traditional journalism that seems to only record, report and interpret because Hersey does not interpret the bombing of Hiroshima, but rather takes his readers step by step through the lives of six, average residents of the city who encounter the bombing. Traditional journalism prioritizes facts and uses an inverted pyramid, but “Hiroshima” has a story that remains important until the end. Much like the article written by Sam Ward (Thomas Connery) that was very disliked because it was “not news,” Hersey, too, created a literary work where the people were real and the events had just happened. Much of Hersey’s writing is hard to interpret as a reader who has never been through a tragedy such as this. Like Hutchins Hapgood’s work, Hersey’s work also “went beyond journalism’s facts but stopped short of fiction” (Thomas Connery). The events prior to the bombing and the events to follow are interpreted through a narrative point of view.

The way Hersey develops the six characters throughout the book falls under the category of literary journalism. In the beginning, Hersey gives a character’s introduction as to what they are doing before the bomb drops. He even gives descriptive detail as to what steps they took (such as “taking the next street car”) that saved them from being closer to the bomb that saved his life (“Hiroshima,” p. 2). Throughout the rest of the book, we see what characters encounter as the bomb drops, the family members and friends lost, the injuries they dealt with, then what their lives look like when trying to make things “normal” then how their lives develop after the catastrophe subsides. In “A History of American Literary Journalism,” Hersey’s work is considered “probably the best known journalism work of the post World War II period.” This is because of the detail behind these six characters’ lives during this time of what they were seeing while going through this misfortune. For example, Father Kleinsorge in the book befriends two children who could not find their mother. Hersey goes on to explain that Father Kleinsorge attempts to distract them by playing games or changing conversation topics, but as time goes on, the children begin frequently yelling out of distress for their mother to return. The whole time, Father Kleinsorge knew the children’s mother was dead.

My favorite part of this book is chapter five, when Hersey subtitles every couple of pages with each of the six characters individually. This is where resolution after conflict is developed. In the article “Dissent” by Dan Gerstle, Hersey is known for doing more than to “recreate the atomic bombing in an empathetic and stylistically innovative way.” He also helped create literary journalism because this book is “recreating the event rather than disinterestedly reporting events.” Hersey did this by detaching his tone from the stories of these characters. He probably did this to remove his emotion. The layout in chapter five, although written forty years later, is very substantial to the book overall as it guides readers through how these characters’ lives develop after the bomb. For example, Mrs. Nakamura goes from barely making enough money for food alone, to then getting two new jobs, then seeing all three of her kids get married. Her son Toshio takes care of her and gifts her a new sewing machine after she lost her husband’s, who was a former tailor who had lost his life to an “honorable death” in Singapore. At that point in her life, she knew she had hit her lowest point. But after all of her kids are happily married and she is financially eased, she take up embroidery, makes dolls and goes dancing once a week. This is just one example of how the six characters form a better ending after seeing how the bomb had taken a toll on her family’s life.

While reading chapter five, I found it interesting how there was a subtitle for Father Kleinsorge, but then Hersey went on to discuss Father Takakura without a subtitle. My instinct about this choice is that Hersey had a large emotional attachment to Father Takakura, and was unable to differentiate objectivity from subjectivity as he did with the rest of the characters (“A History of American Literary Journalism”).

A critic of Hersey’s said that “Hiroshima” failed to “bring home” the horror the Americans caused the Japanese because of his detached tone (“Politics”). I do not agree with this since the reader is able to infer his own conclusion regarding the bomb placed on the Japanese. In another article, Hersey’s “impersonal” writing regarding the characters makes the occasion appear unimportant (“Frus”), but I disagree with this because of the horrific detail involved in the six characters’ lives.

 

Berlin, Germany

To finish spring break, I headed toward Berlin, Germany, in hopes to get a better idea of past history and explore Germany’s capital.

At first, I went into the city with a close-minded idea that it was going to be depressing, but was very surprised at the liveliness and beauty Berlin has to offer. I left with an attitude of gratefulness that I was able to learn more about the Holocaust and indulge myself in German culture.

What I Visited:

(1) The Jewish Museum

The Jewish Museum

While the colors are rather dull, they are full of stories of Jewish history everyone should learn about. This is such a surreal experience to examine art that is dedicated to the lives that were lost during the Holocaust.

There is also a long hallway in this museum that has remains of belongings that have been salvaged that tell stories behind the individuals or families they belonged to.

(2) Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

The weekend we visited Berlin it was freezing and slightly snowing, but standing in the line in these weather conditions to visit this museum was so SO worth it.

I loved the set up of this museum. As you walk through the entry hallway, there are stories of the Holocaust from beginning to end hanging on the walls.

The next room you enter are written notes (originally German, but then translated in English to the side) from loved ones talking about their journeys of migrating to find safety, work, etc. Warning you now- this was the most emotional part of the museum.

Then, there is another room that has stories of individuals or families and talks about their journey through the Holocaust.

(3) The East Berlin Wall Art Gallery

Quote from the East Berlin Wall Art Gallery

Upon arrival of the East Berlin Wall, I was shocked to see all of the beautiful color it was painted with. In my mind, I pictured an off-white brick wall, but I was wrong!

East Berlin Wall doves
East Berlin Wall gate with locks

P.S. my pink, fluffy scarf is on sale! Just under $10-  H&M Blush Pink Fluffy Scarf

Shop my favorite lip stain here: Marc Jacobs “Shush, Blush”

(4) Brandenburg Gate

What Else to See:

(1) Reichstag Building

This is Germany’s Parliament House. While you’re visiting the Brandenburg Gate, go ahead and see this phenomenal building right behind the gate!

(2) Checkpoint Charlie

I didn’t have much time while I was in Berlin, but if I visit again I’ll be sure to go here!

(3) Alexanderplatz and Potsdamer Platz

These are both city squares that are stunning with beautiful skyscrapers.

What to Eat:

(1) All kinds of pizza from Social Salami Club

I happened to be there on a Thursday night, when they were running a special where each slice of pizza was only €1.

The way it works: they cook multiple pizzas, then you go to the counter and pick which one you want.

The staff is extremely sociable, so you’re sure to have fun while you’re there! It’s a rather small restaurant, but so worth going in!

(2) The Barn Cafe:

I had a soup (not sure what the name is) and a slice of orange cake- the cake was my favorite! Of course I had a flat white, too!

Soup from The Barn Cafe
Orange Cake from The Barn Cafe

(3) Shiso Burger:

I had a chili lemon burger – highly recommend!

Chili Lemon Burger with angus beef, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, ketchup, cilantro & lime-mayo chili sauce

The presentation here was also very cute- your burgers and fries came out in separate, circular, cardboard frames.

(4) Hopfingerbräu im Palais

I had curry wurst and potatoes with mayonnaise. I’m dying to learn how to cook German food now! Also, I know french fries with mayonnaise sounds so unappealing, but I’ve made a habit of it now and won’t be able to break it when I get back to the States!

(5) Reichert Bakery

Everything in here is to die for. I can’t spell or pronounce anything, but I got some kind of strawberry cheesecake. I don’t think it’s possible to get anything you won’t like!

Thanks for reading,

-Rach

PARIS!

Bonjour!

This may be a bit of a lengthy post, but rightfully so. Paris is an incredible city that deserves lots of love, so here goes:

(1) Luxembourg Garden:

This is a gorgeous park you MUST take a stroll in. There’s a pond where kids have sailboat competitions, families play bocce ball, the list goes on. It’s a large park, so you can spend quite a bit of time there.

(2) Crepes at Au P’tit Grec:

This is a street stand where you grab a crepe and go. Both times I went, there was quite a long line, but well worth the wait.

My first one was a “Savoyarde,” which had potatoes, Raclette (Savoy cheese), country ham, lettuce, tomatoes and onion.

Savoyarde Crepe

My second one was the “Crepe du Chef,” which had coppa (Italian ham) mozzarella, tomatoes, onion, lettuce, and I requested to add potatoes (great idea).

Crepe du Chef (with added potatoes)

(3) The Pantheon:

All along I thought the rave about the Pantheon was about the one in Rome, but turns out there’s a Pantheon in Paris, too.

Pantheon in Paris

(4) Notre Dame

It was quite popular on a Saturday night, but still had to get a picture in front!

Notre Dame + Me

(5) Starbucks:

I know what you’re thinking- “Why Starbucks in Paris?”

Honestly, I have been missing my go-to order back home: a blueberry scone and a flat white. Except this time, it was just a coffee with milk and nutmeg, and a blueberry muffin. Still a VERY happy me!

A blueberry muffin and a coffee with milk and nutmeg.

(6) Tuileries Garden:

Paris knows how to do parks. Tuileries Garden is another stunning place for a stroll and time with family and friends!

Ferris wheel at the Tuileries Garden

(7) Eiffel Tower:

The Tuileries Garden is very close to the Eiffel Tower, so if you visit one or the other, be sure to go ahead and visit both!

Eiffel Tower + Me

The night before my friends and I left, we went to the Eiffel Tower to watch it twinkle for a proper goodbye to Paris. The tower begins sparkling at 10 p.m. and sparkles on the hour for 5 minutes!

I suggest stopping for a savory crepe somewhere around the Eiffel Tower- I got a nutella and banana crepe!

Nutella & Banana Crepe at the Eiffel Tower

(8) Avenue of Champs Elysees:

This is a mile long strip of all of the most incredible things you can think of- Louis Vuitton, Tiffany, Perfumeries and Macaroons, you name it!

I had Pierre Herme macaroons and they were so good because you had the option to have two flavors instead of one! I had raspberry with pistachio (“Montebello”), then Madagascar chocolate with dark chocolate (“Ultime”).

They also came in the cutest little origami boxes!

Pierre Herme origami boxes

The “Montebello” flavor was my favorite!

“Montebello”- Raspberry & Pistachio

(9) Arc de Triomphe:

Once you finish walking the strip of Champs Elysees, be sure to check out this monument!

(10) Le “Relais de l’Entrecote”:

Bottomless steak and fries, anyone?

This restaurant is a total tourist spot, but so SO worth it!

Bottomless steak + fries!!

(11) Midore:

If you have the chance, you must go to this bakery! While I was there, I got a baguette and the most incredible slice of chocolate chip flan. Wish I had some right now!

Midore Chocolate Chip Flan

(12) Fromagerie Cheese Shop:

This is a small cheese shop that was located right next to our airbnb, and it had the prettiest selection of cheeses! I got goat and gouda cheese, peach and blackberry yogurt, and rice pudding. Isn’t it the cutest?

Fromagerie Cheese Shop

(13) Louvre Museum:

I had no idea how massive this museum is! This is my favorite thing I have EVER DONE!

I love the organization of the museum. I saw the sections of Islamic art, Spanish, Italian, Grecian, Egyptian and Mediterranean. And yes, I did see the Mona Lisa. And yes, it is way smaller than I had hoped for!

(14) Shakespeare & Company Bookstore:

This is a beautiful, two-story bookstore with all English books.

(15) Museum d’Orsay:

Head here to see Picasso’s art, Degas’, Monet’s and Van Gogh’s.

(16) Centre Pompidou:

This is such a fun, modern museum. You can’t miss it by its looks on the outside- a bunch of HUGE tubes!

(17) Rodin House:

Besides the Louvre, the Rodin House was my second favorite thing to visit in Paris. Rodin completed lots of sculptures during his time and this museum houses all of them. While you’re there, be sure to take a walk around the garden, too, and enjoy a cappuccino!

(18) The Palace of Versailles:

You can take a train from Paris to Versailles and back for under $10! The Palace is absolutely stunning, as is the courtyard. Be sure to check out Marie Antoinette’s estate as well!

Don’t forget to treat yourself to Laduree Macaroons!

Raspberry, Pistachio, Vanilla, Caramel, Rose, Dark Chocolate and Lavender Laduree Macaroons

Thanks for following along,

-Rach

 

 

 

Edinburgh, Scotland

A medieval town with the addition of a new town, Edinburgh is the perfect city to visit for a weekend.

If you decide to go during springtime, be sure to bundle up. I spent the first weekend of March here, and I arrived to a thick layer of snow and saw more snow fall during my three days there.

Photo Credit: Katherine Penney

Patagonia Parka: If there’s anything I’ve learned about being cold, I feel best when my backside and bottom has some extra length to it! This parka is from last season, but I linked a similar one. The one linked has a hood with it, which I wish mine had!

J. Crew Jeans: I love these jeans because they’re thicker than your usual denim and keep you warm. They stay right in place, too! I’m 5’4″ and they hit at the perfect place on my ankles.

Boots: These are a classic pair of light brown, heeled boots that I have on in this photo that did keep me warm, but were NOT hiking-friendly for Arthur’s Seat (I’ll talk about this later).

Boots I DO suggest for snowy Edinburgh: I have these boots in the color “sand,” and they are insulated with sheep’s fur on the inside, keeping your feet SUPER warm without the need for thick socks. MAN, do I wish I would have had these packed with me! These have laces so you can loosen and tighten them as needed, which is nice if you need to tuck your pants into the boots. Also, the tracking on the bottom is excellent to keep you trekking through slick and snowy areas.

Beanie: I just have on the classic CC beanie, with a detachable pom on top. A layer around your ears is necessary to keep you from completely going crazy in the cold!

Friday, March 2:

After settling into our hostel, we set out to explore Arthur’s Seat. This is a beautiful set of hills located in the “Old Town” of Edinburgh.

And this is why I mentioned earlier that I made a mistake with the boots I was wearing- they were NOT hiking material. I tried to hike as far as I could, but let’s just say I didn’t exactly make it to the top.

Partially up the largest hill – Photo Credit: Katherine Penney

If you visit Edinburgh, don’t make the same mistake I did by packing the wrong shoes. Make sure you pack hiking shoes so you can make it to the top and experience the full outlook over the city! Partially up the hill will still give you a beautiful view, anyway.

If you’re able to visit when there’s snow around, I highly suggest gathering your family and friends and taking a few sledding boards. I saw so many families out pushing each other around and it looked like so much fun!

I also suggest taking a snack and possibly a hot drink with you. I stopped at a little cafe, Holyrood Coffee Shop, which was between our hostel and Arthur’s Seat.

Photo Credit: Katherine Penney

I got a hot, fruit tea with a mixed berry scone. I loved this little place so much that I did go twice during my short stay!

Mixed Berry Scone & Hot Fruit Tea

After finishing our hike, my friends and I decided to do a little shopping to warm-up. We found the cutest vintage shop called W. Armstrong & Son. There are three locations in Edinburgh, and we made it to two of the three. I was so impressed with this shop because of the organization. They had a section of sweaters, blue jean jackets, leather jackets, kilts (of course), even wedding dresses and much more!

For dinner, we ate at The Last Drop. At this point, we were all so cold that we wanted to stay right around our hostel. I highly recommend staying at Budget Backpackers in Edinburgh because of the great location and great price (per person per night ranges anywhere from €9-€14).

The Last Drop has such a neat history behind it- it’s all about a young girl named Maggie who was on trial, hung, and then survived for 40 years after the hanging. The waiters here were very friendly and the restaurant provided a great atmosphere.

I had a lentil cottage pie, which was a lentil and vegetable pie topped with sweet potato and carrot mash, served with a side salad.

Side note: I’m not really sure why it was called a “cottage pie” because there definitely wasn’t cottage cheese in it- in case you were worried/grossed out!

Also, The Last Drop has GREAT cappuccinos!

After dinner, we ventured out to find some dessert, and ended up at Vittoria Restaurant.

I had the sticky toffee pudding, which was topped with hot toffee sauce and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It was excellent!

Sticky Toffee Pudding with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, topped with a waffle crisp

Saturday, March 3:

To start the day, we began with breakfast at the Filling Station. I had french toast with fresh berries on top and a berry compote sauce. I also had a hazelnut latte (I’ve been deprived of hazelnut and french vanilla creamer while in Italy)- it was so yummy and a taste of home.

Filling Station French Toast with fresh berries & a berry compote sauce

Next, we took a Sandeman’s Tour of “The Royal Mile.”

If you’re in Europe and are looking for affordable tours, I highly suggest these tours.

The way it works: they are technically “free,” but at the end, you tip your tour guide whatever you found the tour to be worth. These tours are typically anywhere from 2-4 hours, and you can easily spot them at the meeting location with their red umbrellas.

P.S.- I stopped at a Starbucks before the tour to have something hot while I was walking through the cold. I had a matcha tea latte (and added a bit of sugar). I highly recommend trying it! It’s a nice switch up (and healthy too).

While on our tour, we stopped at the Grassmarket Centre. Ironically, this was right across from our hostel.

At the cafe, I had a chai masala tea and a raisin scone.

Grassmarket Centre- Scone with raisins

Lunch: Olly Bongo’s. This was a cute, small restaurant with lots of different options. I had a baked potato with chili, a side salad, and cole slaw.

I also needed an afternoon pick-me-up, so I had a cappuccino there as well.

Cappuccino at Olly Bongo’s

After lunch, we visited the Scottish National Gallery. Bonus: free entrance!

I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but I visited a catfe while I was there. I’ve been missing some animal time! We went to Maison de Moggy and it was a nice way to stay warm.

Cost: £8 for one hour. While you’re there, you can order dessert and coffee.

Sunday, March 4:

I went back to Holyrood Cafe for breakfast, and had a cappuccino and a blueberry muffin.

Hollyrood Cappuccino
Hollyrood Blueberry Muffin

After that, I did some souvenir shopping throughout The Royal Mile.

For lunch, we went to The Elephant Room, which is where J.K. Rowling got her inspiration to write the Harry Potter series.

I wrote my post cards here and enjoyed a flat white and a chicken pot pie with brown gravy and mashed potatoes.

Chicken Pot Pie with brown gravy & mashed potatoes
Writing post cards at The Elephant Room

This is a place I HIGHLY suggest eating if you go to Edinburgh!

Thanks for reading along with my travels,

-Rach

How Thoughts Control Your Happiness

Photo Credit: Riley Madlock

Happy International Day of Happiness! Today, I wanted to share with you how important it is to know that YOU control your happiness. As I was listening to Joyce Meyer’s podcast series “Thinking Your Way Out of Bondage,” I was inspired to change the path of my thoughts.

On this cheesy holiday, this podcast couldn’t have been any more perfect because it gave me a new perspective on what happiness is all about.

Happiness isn’t what society tells you. Your thoughts control your happiness.

If you’ve been struggling with maintaining a positive attitude lately, change HOW you’re thinking about things.

Meyer gave the example of a house owner who kept thinking bad thoughts about a plant she had in her house. The owner was always worried about the leaves, and one day she noticed they were all dead, regardless of the care she was giving it. Meyer explained this as a life lesson to the owner to think encouraging thoughts about the plant, instead of negative ones.

And so the lesson goes for the rest of us: if we think of an uplifting outcome of things we would normally tear apart, our end result will be significantly better.

This goes on to affect our relationships with those around us also. If we think only loving thoughts of others, our relationships will be much better. Don’t forget to only think kind thoughts of yourself, too!

I’m not saying that spontaneous, weekend trips with friends and comedic movies don’t make us happy, but do remember to be happy from the core, you must start with what is going on inside of your mind first.

Hope you’ve had a lovely Tuesday!

XO,

Rach

 

 

Siena, Italy

Siena, Italy, is a beautiful, small town in Tuscany. It made up for the crazy start to my morning.

After walking downstairs five flights with purses and cameras in hand, three girls are on their way to the metro to ride quite a few stops to the train station, Termini. Finally to the bottom floor and out the door, one girl realizes she doesn’t have her purse. OR her key. (Okay Rachel, just be patient).

Now we are finally back on our way to the metro, and the ride to the train station seems longer than usual. Upon arrival, we find out our train is stationed at the farthest platform. So, off we run, and there I have probably met my burned calories goal for the day. The train conductor laughs and says we have made it just in time, and welcomes us on the train.

In three shorts hours, we arrive in Siena.

Siena outlook

Our first stop is Catherine’s Basilica. This church has a medieval theme (as does the town), and is adorned with beautiful, color-filled detail.

Siena is such a beautiful town to simply walk around and enjoy all of the sights. Also, the people here are some of the friendliest I’ve encountered in all of Italy!

Flower Wall in Siena

I found this adorable little market with lots of fruit, pictured below. I got a bag of dried fruit to take back with me and it was some of the best I’ve had.

Fruit Market in Siena

While you’re in Siena, I highly recommend stopping at Bar Quattro Cantoni for lunch. It’s an adorable cafe with the friendliest staff, and not to mention freshly baked everything!

I had pumpkin soup (seriously the best I’ve EVER had), a focaccia sandwich with an omelette, and a cappuccino.

Pumpkin Soup
Focaccia Sandwich
Cappuccino

Another Italian town, another outstanding dome.

Duomo Siena

Now on to the main piazza of the city, Il Campo. This is where the horse races take place every summer, and also where the James Bond movie was taped. I loved being in this area and seeing the market they had set up for a casual Saturday.

Thanks for stopping by!

-Rach

The Ultimate Packing Guide for the Student Abroad

PACKING:

First off, let’s talk packing. It’s important that you are prepared for your time abroad in case some of your personal necessities can’t be found in a foreign country.

First Aid Kit:

You know yourself best, so make sure you come prepared with the medicines that you know work for you. Your body is more susceptible to becoming sick while you’re traveling, so it’s best to be over-prepared.

Some things to be prepared for:

Common Cold (Runny nose, sore throat, cough)

 -Blisters

 -Digestion Issues

 -Pain Relief (Headaches, sore muscles, other aches)

Suitcase Organizers

I ordered these cute cubicle organizers from Amazon, and they really made a difference with my packing. Also, it’s much easier to unpack to see what you brought! Packing Cubes

Packing Cubes

*Tip: If you’re very careful to organize what you put into each cube, you can just pull them out of your suitcase whenever you arrive to your final destination and stack them wherever you please. They serve as portable drawers!

-Pants/Shorts/Skirts/Dresses

 -Shirts for warmer weather

 -Shirts for cooler weather

 -Work-out clothes: It’s important to still maintain your physical goals while you are traveling! Even if it’s just ten minutes every day, you’ll thank yourself for prioritizing your health.

 *Tip: It’s best to fold your clothing articles in half first, then roll them up. This will lessen the likeliness of wrinkles during travel, allow you to pack much more, and in the end – save you lots of room for more things to pack!

How to Roll Your Clothes

-Undergarments

 Depending on the time of year you study abroad or your location specifically, be sure to pack undergarments accordingly (thin socks, thick socks, long-johns, etc.).

*Tip: I recommend packing at least 12 pairs of socks with you. This will help you in the long run in terms of laundry and travel, because with this many pairs with you, you won’t have to do laundry often and you’ll always have a few pairs to spare.

 -Toiletries

 If you are going for an entire semester or longer, then it’s okay to go ahead and pack full-size toiletries instead of the travel-size ones. However, I do recommend packing a travel-size kit for your small get-a-ways.

 *Tip: Instead of packing a large bottle of body wash, I recommend packing a couple of body wash soap bars. It’ll save you lots of room and weight!

*Tip: Buy a plastic soap box from Walgreens, Wal-Mart, CVS or Target before your departure. This way, you’ll have something to store your wet soap bar in (they are available in the dollar and travel section).

*Tip: In your travel kit, pack a shampoo bottle, a conditioner bottle, your soap box with a soap bar, face wash, mini deodorant, and a small toothbrush (with a cover for hygiene reasons) and toothpaste. Once again, at Walgreens, Wal-Mart, CVS or Target, you can find a zip-up bag with empty travel-size bottles that you can fill with your own preferences. These are TSA approved (under 3 ounces) and will go through any airport security at that size.

-Accessories

 *Tip: I recommend packing a scarf to wear on the plane. It’ll help you feel more comfortable, provide more of a pillow for you to sleep on, and more warmth.

 -Shoes

 *Tip: Pack a pair of flip flops that you can wear in the shower – it’s better to be safe than sorry! If you take weekend trips to stay in a hostel, Airbnb or hotel, make sure to take them with you too, then!

Suitcase(s)

 -Main suitcase: I ordered my main suitcase from Amazon, linked here: IT Luggage. It’s super lightweight (until you pack it, of course). IT Luggage brand is known for providing one of the lightest suitcase lines (this helps to save you a few pounds for other things).

*Tip: I wish I had ordered a suitcase with four wheels on the bottom instead of just two, that way I would be able to stand it up and push it while it is positioned upright.

-Carry-on:

 On the way from the U.S. to Italy, I originally brought a duffel bag to carry on my shoulder (big mistake, I knew better!) and a backpack!

Since I’ve been here, I ended up needing to buy a carry-on bag that I could roll for my weekend trips. This time, I bought one with four wheels and it has saved me a lot of pain! I just bought it from a small, city market here in Rome. If you decide to order one before your trip, I highly recommend ordering an IT from Amazon once again.

*Side note: Here’s why I don’t suggest taking a duffel bag that you carry on your shoulder as your primary carry-on. Picture this: You’re in a crowded airport, specifically Terminal 1. This is your connecting flight. Your next flight leaves out of Terminal 3. This is me: I’m trying to keep my calm amidst pushing through crowds to switch terminals. I have a HEAVY carry-on DIGGING into my shoulder. As I walk through the crowd, my body misses bumping into strangers, but my bag does not. Therefore, I am not only in pain, but I am receiving rude looks from strangers who I’ll never see again that think I am rude for bumping into them (but it’s impossible to miss bumping into people with a large duffel bag). No, I’m not rude, just unprepared by bringing a shoulder bag for a carry-on. Another picture: Me, gracefully navigating through a crowded airport with a small carry-on that rolls. Better yet, I can push it in front of me and float through the crowds. Now you see why I don’t suggest a shoulder bag?

*Tip: Because most international flights are overnight, I would pack a change of clothes! Being on a plane for 10+ hours already makes you feel gross enough, so being able to change into something fresh will make you feel a little better once you arrive to your destination.

 -Backpack: I brought one that has a protective sleeve for your laptop, which I highly recommend. I got this backpack from Dillard’s, which has RFID protectors in it as well. In Europe, people are known to scan your information off of you. Make sure to buy a purse or wallet with RFID slots or at least have your ID, passport and credit cards well-covered, that way no one can scan your personal information from you.

-Wallet: I found this well-priced wallet on Amazon. It comes in a variety of colors and helps you to stay organized. It has a spot for your ID card, 3 credit card slots, a place for a pen and a checkbook, a zippered-pocket and an optional loop to use as a key-chain. Travel Wallet

-Passport Cover: I recommend that everyone have a passport cover. In case your passport becomes buried in your bag, it will be much easier to spot with a colored cover on it. In addition, passport covers have small slots inside of them too, which are great for holding your plane tickets or other various things you may want to store in there. I bought this passport cover because I loved the water color within it! Not only that, but it’s also a global map. Anthropologie Water Color Passport Cover

Anthropologie Water Color Passport Cover

*Tip: Protect your passport with your LIFE! If it is stolen abroad, it is a huge mess to fix. Passports are sold for up to $10,000 in the black market. Make a copy of your passport to keep in your wallet or your purse, then keep your passport secure at your home in your final destination.

Purse (for the ladies): I recommend taking a small purse, specifically a cross-body. It’s important to have a purse that zips to prevent the possibility of stealing. On the way to my destination, I kept my purse tucked inside of my backpack since you are typically only allowed one carry-on and one personal item for your flight.

*Tip: If you decide to carry a tote-styled purse that zips, when you carry it, make sure the actual zipper is closest to you (right under your armpit). If the zipper is to the back, pick-pocketers are skilled enough to unzip it while it is on you!

*Tip #2: If you carry a cross-body purse, always carry it to where it lays in front of you. If you let it hang to the back of you, you’re giving thieves another chance to pick-pocket you!

-Journal: There are a lot of useful things a journal will provide you, I’ll touch on this more later!

*Back-up Cell Phone: Even if it’s just a little flip phone that you can make calls on, it’s best to come prepared with a back-up in case something happens to your primary phone.

*Portable Charger: In case you are out and about using your phone to navigate a new place, make sure you have a portable charger handy, so you can make it back home safely!

Linked below is my portable charger by Mophie. I like it because it is super thin and barely takes up any room!

Mophie Portable Charger

*Camera: This one is more optional, but you are travelling so I say you MUST have one! It doesn’t need to be a fancy DSLR, but make sure it’s one you are comfortable working.

*Tip: Take a backup memory card.

EXPENSES:

 -Currency: Wherever you are going, I suggest always keeping that currency on you in cash-form. Each time you use your debit card to make a withdrawal, there will be the exchange rate, the withdrawal fee, and depending on your bank, an international fee. Because of these fees, I suggest taking out a larger amount at least 2x a month, then keeping it in a safe spot at home and keeping a small amount on you for daily things such as metro tickets or the urge to get a coffee or gelato. In the end, taking out larger amounts will save you from losing money to the withdrawal and international fees.

*Tip: Have a debit card and a credit card with you. I suggest leaving the credit card at home just in case you lose your wallet, or it was stolen, that way you would have a back-up. This will help you dodge the stress of having to order a new card!

*Tip #2: Check with your bank before you begin your international travel to see if there are international fees each time you make a charge. If that’s the case, I suggest applying for a Capital One card! There are no hidden international fees.

*Tip #3: Because you’re living abroad, I suggest making a budget plan before you leave. Make a goal not to spend over X amount for food, basic house necessities, etc. each week.

*Tip #4: Before you leave, make sure to tell your bank the dates of your travels and which countries you will be in. It would be awful to have your card locked while you are traveling just because you forgot to alert your bank you will be in a different place!

JOURNALING:

 -Everyday Purpose: It would be smart of you to leave your journal next to your bed or somewhere that will remind you to write in it every day. While you’re traveling, it’s important to document what each day consists of. Don’t forget to include detail about the exhibit you saw, what your favorite part was, and how you felt when you saw it!

-Budget Journal: Each week, I categorize my budget journal into three main sections:

Food: Before you leave, you should think about how many times you normally eat out a week, and how many times you cook a meal and stay in. Whenever you’re in a new city, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and only want to eat out. Also, think about how much you typically spend on groceries per week. Now, try to sensibly translate your usual habits to what your habits will become abroad. Set aside a number of times you’ll allow yourself to eat out a week (including coffee and ice cream), and how much you’ll spend on groceries. At the end of the first week, add your numbers up and see how that compares to what you had in mind. From there, you may need to make some minor changes.

Travel: This includes anything from taxi rides, metro tickets or plane/train tickets for weekend travels.

Anonymous: You can write down fees you don’t expect here (cover charges, coat checks, souvenirs, post card fees, etc.).

I hope these tips will help you to enjoy your time abroad with ease! Please let me know what you think.

 Thank you for reading,

 -Rach