London, England

This is my all-time favorite place to travel from now on – just wondering when I can go again?

Here are the things I did and absolutely loved:

(1) The Buckingham Palace – We got there early Saturday morning about the time they were changing the guards. This made it a little more crowded, but I suggest going at this time because it’s such a neat process to see! You’ll also feel safe because lots of cops (in their cute BMWs) will be circling the gates.

(2) Hard Rock Cafe, London: I was craving a piece of home (aka a pulled pork sandwich). It’s almost baseball season and that’s all I can think about. Also, the loaded nachos – SO good. Who knew overpriced American food could be so tasty?

(3) Browse the National Gallery – then take a break for tea.

Check out their cute website here: http://www.peytonandbyrne.co.uk/the-national-cafe/

My goal is to have Thanksgiving here at this cafe one day ūüėČ

P.S. – If you’re smarter than me, don’t forget to order a scone while at the cafe!

(4) Have breakfast/break time at The Pastry Parlor:

I had a breakfast sandwich with bacon, egg and cheese with a flat white. I sure will miss flat whites while in Rome! I tried HQ sauce for the first time on the sandwich and am wishing I bought a bottle to bring back with me.

(5) Visit the British Museum:

We went on a Sunday, which was free. Most museums in Europe allow free admission on Sundays!

Even on a rainy day, it was pretty crowded. There are four floors of displays, so make sure you allow yourself plenty of time!

There is also a cafeteria there as well if you’d like to break for tea and a pastry.

(6) Take a walk around Picadilly Square:

Here there is lots of shopping – including an M&M world.

Picadilly Square is basically London’s version of New York’s Times Square. Huge billboards, lots of lights, very crowded, but so much fun!

(7) Amorino Cafe – for gelato and macaroons!

I got dark chocolate with raspberry gelato – it was the perfect combo. I got a raspberry macaroon on top, which had raspberry gelato inside of it!

(8) Visit the Tower of London & the bridge – it’s breathtaking!

(9) Take a look at The Ritz Hotel and how BEAUTIFUL the decor is!

(10) Grab an eclaire at Maitre Choux – and a flat white!

(11) Take a look at the London Eye, and while you’re over there, take a look at Big Ben!

(12) Shop at Westfield Mall – this is the most beautiful mall you will ever step foot into. It’s also the largest mall in the world!

While you’re there, try Nando’s at the food courts. It’s a chain in England, and it tastes so fresh!

You get to pick the flavor / spice of your chicken. I got chicken wings with lemon & herb on them and they were incredible! The garlic bread is super good too. Also, order a side of rice!

This place has such a cute environment, I highly suggest it!

(13) Find a Paul’s – This is a bakery that’s also located in New York.

I got a hot chocolate with a slice of blackberry cobbler. No joke, the crust on this cobbler was to die for!

(14) THE BREAKFAST CLUB! This little restaurant was incredible and had the most fun waiters.

I got a flat white and the Croque Madame D’Arblay – with a fried egg on top!

Highly recommend the breakfast potatoes too, with HQ sauce of course!

If you’re on the go and want a smoothie to take with you, I highly suggest the “Morning Glory.” It has passion fruit, papaya, mango, apple, pineapple, turmeric and cashew nuts.

(15) Don’t forget to take a typical picture at a telephone booth!

(16) Don’t forget to visit the Harry Potter 9 3/4 platform in the metro station. The station is beautiful, and also has lots of places to shop and eat!

(17) HARROD’S – need I say more?

If I had more time, this is what else I would do:

(1) Take a look at Kensington Palace.

(2) Eat brunch at Elan Cafe (the most instagrammable place ever).

(3) Visit Sky Garden (admission is free, and it’s a beautiful rooftop bar).

My suggestions:

(1) The “tube” (metro station) can be a little difficult to navigate, but you’ll get the hang of it. Buy an “oyster card” and just refill it as you need. It will save you LOTS of money on transportation.

(2) Stay at the Wombat Hostel – there are other locations and I will most definitely stay here again. The service is very friendly, and they have a basement hangout area with lots of games, food and drinks.

In My First Week of Rome…

I’ve eaten what is equivalent to my body weight in carbs. So yes, my first-week recap is going to be all about food!

I’ve had ravioli, spaghetti al carbonara, lasagna, tortellini con prosciutto, and two trips for gelato. Also, I’ve learned that Coca-Cola is better here for some reason. I drank a coke at an airport while in Atlanta, Georgia, thinking that would be my last one for four months. But I’m so glad it wasn’t!

At this point, I’m super thankful for all of the walking I’ll be doing while I’m here to compensate for all of the eating I will be doing.

After moving into my apartment, my roommates and I walked around the block in Prati district to see if we could find some food close by. We found Zigaetana, which is a cute two-story restaurant. If you didn’t know this, Italians have a reputation for never being in a hurry (unless they’re driving). The food was great, but the service was slow. I had ravioli and it was great after a long flight!

I’ve always been a lasagna fan, and now I think I may be an even bigger fan. This lasagna (pictured below) is from Vito E Dina.

I’ve learned that typically, most restaurants in Rome charge 1 Euro per customer. If they give you bread, you’re actually paying for it, because then the service charge per customer is 1.5 Euro.

This next meal pictured below is “Pollo al Roma,” which is Roman chicken. This is a classic dish with a red sauce and red and green bell peppers.

This restaurant is an older, family-style one located right around the Pantheon, La Sagrestia.

This is a great place to grab dinner with friends and family, take a look at the Pantheon, and grab some gelato!

Now on to the gelato that’s close to the Pantheon… This place is called Della Palma, and has 150 flavors! I got the champagne flavor and would have it again and again!

Tip: Typically gelato shops around major landmarks (such as the Pantheon) are a tourist trap. You can tell because the price is 4 Euros, instead of 2 Euros. Also, anytime a gelato shop is a bunch of bright colors, stay away. It’s FAKE!

This gelato was a size small that came with three scoops, and was only 2 Euros!

Now here’s the real deal when you want to stay in and eat to-go. Delivaroo is an app you can download and have delivered to you. They have multiple restaurants on the app and the delivery charge is only 2.5 Euros!

I ordered a classic burger with fries and a sprite, and it hit the spot and made me feel right at home again!

This meal was from Tommi’s Burger Joint, which is a cute restaurant located in Prati District.

Last thing – I ordered a spicy salami sandwich in the district where school is located (Campo Marzio) that inspired me to grab some salami at the grocery store. I’ve been grilling sandwiches at home with salami, prosciutto (yes, double meat and I am a girl) and provolone cheese and it’s INCREDIBLE!

 

 

 

Vatican City

I am still in AWE of all of the beauty Vatican City has to offer.

It was incredible to walk through the Vatican and see all of the different galleries within the church. I wasn’t aware of the many tapestries that one gallery contained, and they were so large I wasn’t able to get a complete picture of just one of the tapestries.

My favorite part was the ceilings. Can you imagine how much time it would take to create something this beautiful? Or the cricks in your neck you would get from perfecting this?

Another part I wasn’t able to take pictures of was the Sistine Chapel (because this is considered the most sacred chapel), but it was absolutely stunning and covered with multiple story-telling photos.

While you’re there, make sure to walk around the courtyard as well, where you can spot St. Peter’s Basilica.

 

The Roman Colosseum

If you’ve found yourself here to follow my adventure, I’m happy you did!

Today I’ll be sharing the Colosseum, formally known as the Flavian Amphitheater.

My sophomore year of college I vividly remember taking Western Art History, specifically studying the history of Rome. The textbook provided a picture of the broken part of the amphitheater, but I did not even think to look into why it was broken. Upon taking a tour of the Colosseum, I enjoyed learning the history of it I did not know. The break on the top was caused by an earthquake. After this earthquake, architects learned that their original foundation for the entire Colosseum was not fully steady, which is why part of the Colosseum was able to break due to natural force.

Something else I’ve learned from textbooks is that they never show the inside of the Colosseum. So, here it is:

The Colosseum is something I could visit again and again and never get bored of!

Travel Tip: If there are any men dressed in gladiators, do not get pictures with them – they are either trying to pick pocket you or get money because you took pictures with them.

Stay tuned for more posts about travels and safety tips!

-Rach

 

Settling In

As a high school student on a larger field trip, you don’t realize the benefit of having someone lead you 24/7. Now as a college student, you have gained more trust, better sense of direction, and more responsibilities. It has taken me a bit to learn the metro and bus routes of the city, but it’s a humbling experience as I learn to navigate more on my own.

With a Madrid book in hand, I have compiled a list of things I would like to experience while traveling. With a week behind me, I have experienced many tapas bars, chocolate churros, Parque del Retiro, the El Rastro flea market, and the town of Toledo.

The tapas bars have been delicious and always plentiful. With 25 students belonging to my school, we have been able to divide into smaller groups and from there, divide and conquer the city. On Wednesdays and Sundays, the tapas bars run specials where you can order the tapas and a drink for around three euros, so you can only imagine how crowded these places can be. This has been such a fun experience in itself because you get to know your friends more while also experiencing the culture. So far, the croquettes have been my favorite. Ham is abundant here, and with cheese and then deep fried has been most enjoyable. The median for me has been the bull’s tail because while it may have a taste similar to that of roast beef, the thought of what I’m eating grosses me a bit. I have least enjoyed octopus, but I will say it looks very pretty when first served.

Tapas for Blog

The churros with chocolate here are so delicious, and I love the setup of how they are served. The chocolate churros have allowed me to feel as if I’m a bit closer to home. The first place we tried was Chocolateria de San Guias, and that is a place I would hands down suggest if you ever find yourself in the area. It is located in Plaza del Sol, which has a very active nightlife and is a beautiful place to wander around.

chocolate churros

The Parque del Retiro has been my favorite place yet. We went on a Sunday, when many families are there, which made it a very enjoyable environment. There we rented a small boat, and paddled out and just enjoyed the scenery. There was also a very beautiful glass building where you could walk around inside and still be able to enjoy the views of the park.

Parque del Retiro scenery

First Impressions

Within the first five minutes of exiting the plane and entering the Barajas airport in Madrid, Spain, I knew I had chosen the right place to study abroad. I’ve seen many pictures of the beautiful architecture of the city, and the airport presented me with a tease of just how beautiful the city really would be.

Our group loaded our luggage underneath the bus and anticipated what was to come. Our first stop was to meet our host family who would be our home away from home for the next month.

My two roommates and I are greeted by Delores, who goes by Lola. She is fluent in Spanish, which intimidates me so I smile and nod but luckily my roommates can translate for me. I couldn’t have asked for a better host mom who has already made this experience more than enjoyable.

Madrid Room

We load our taxi, and we’re off to our new home. The city is just as beautiful and lively as I pictured. The apartment is in a fun part of the city and has beautiful windows with the best views. It won’t be a problem to adapt to one bit! But for the metros, that’s a different story. A nightmare actually. Here the city is known for notorious pick-pocketers, and in the 5 days that I’ve been here, I already have a story to share (in later post). Navigation isn’t my strong suit, so I’m a bit overwhelmed so the bus might just be my best friend instead.

The food? Couldn’t be better. Restaurants can be spotted everywhere included with beautiful set up and outdoor seating. I wouldn’t mind continuing to eat this food when I return to the states. Tapas are the norm here, which includes rice dishes or bread topped with various things.

There is a time difference of seven hours, so I am currently still trying to learn an appropriate sleeping pattern and normal eating times.

I will be updating you guys on activities and pictures of the beautiful city!

Thanks for reading,

Rachel

Travel Necessities

Due to a lay over of a total of eight hours, I am updating you with my list of everything in my bag that is necessary to survive for a month abroad.

Stay tuned for a post over what to include on your carry on!

Main Suitcase Essentials:

Hair:

(1)¬†Curling Iron¬†– You’ll thank yourself for this one. Just clamp in the middle of a two piece section, then twist the clamp with your thumb away from your face, and you have a nice curl that will hold for the day. The nice part about this curling iron is that you control the heat settings, and it takes no time to heat up or cool down!

(2) A small bottle of purifying shampoo Рthis works very similar to a clarifying shampoo, and after one use product build up removes itself from your scalp. I use this once a week to fight back all of the hair spray! *Tip: Mix in a tiny amount of baking soda to really help with build up and give you better volume!

(3) A small bottle of purple shampoo Рthis can be used once every week or every other week. This is for the blondes who tend to pick up a brassy tone and give you a nice golden blonde tone. I use the conditioner with every use on just my ends. To use the shampoo, I put it in my hair at the beginning of the shower and then rinse it out at the end so that it gives the shampoo time to do its work!

(4) Wide Tooth Comb Рto help with all of the tangles after showering/swimming.

(5)¬†Shower Cap¬†– Simply put, for when you’re too lazy to wash your hair!

(6)¬†Dry Shampoo¬†– For the days that you skip your wash (it helps your hair smell like you’ve had a fresh wash, no worries)

(7) Hair Brush РI use this for styling while blow drying and basically everything else!

(8) Moroccan Oil Рto help combat the summer heat and fight against dry ends. I use this once a day either before styling it, or before I go to bed, then I put it in a messy bun to avoid breakouts.

(9) Your Everyday Shampoo Рthis really helps with color treated hair and renews the strength!

(10)¬†Hairspray¬†– this doesn’t weigh down your hair too much but gives you a great hold on all styles!

(11)¬†Heat Protectant¬†– You can put this in your hair while it’s still wet, then you’re good to go with every heat tool you use on it!

(12) Leave In Рthis is also to be put in damp hair. This is good for detangling, damaged hair, and anything else you can think of.

(13) Travel Size Hair Dryer РThis will save MUCH more room than the normal sized hair dryer.

(14) Lastly but not least, a little kit containing classic ponytails, no-crease hair ties, bobby pins, and hair clips.

The Girl Basics:

(1) Lint Roller Рfor the uh ohs on your black clothing.

(2) Tampons Рbecause lady cycles are VERY unpredictable.

(3) Deoderant Рand an extra one for your purse in case of an emergency!

(4) Lotion Рespecially because Europe has a dry climate currently.

(5) Nail Polish Remover Рto help clean up the sometimes messy nails.

(6) Nail Kit РI love this one because it is tiny but has every little tool that you could possibly need. Also, the little scissors are very beneficial.

(7) Vaseline Рyou can use this for cracked lips or dry heels before bedtime.

(8)¬†Facial Sunscreen¬†– to keep away the wrinkles ūüėČ

(9)¬†Make-up Remover¬†– I’m a strong believer in these. I just recently started using this brand and I love them!

(10) Toothpaste Рjust stating the obvious!

(11) Facial Night Cream Рjust to give you some nice moisture and keep your face from drying out.

First aid kit:

Everyone knows their preferences, but this is what I keep in mine:

(1) Cough drops – just for sore throats.

(2) AZO tablets – in case of an urgent UTI.

(3) Mucinex – to combat coughs, colds, a runny nose, or a sore thoat.

(4) Bandaids – everyone kind you can think of, including blister bandaids!

(5) Off- bug spray!

Happy Packing!!

XOXO,

Rachel