Traveling Anywhere and Everywhere

So far I have been in England a month and have gone to many places. I have been into Central London 7 times seeing a bunch of different tourist destinations and museums. I have been to Westminster Abbey, the British Museum, the National Gallery, took a tour of Buckingham Palace and took a tour of the famous Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. I have seen the London Eye, Big Ben/Parliament, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Leister Square, and explored the South side of the River Thames. I have taken every chance I have to go into Central London. Central London is like New York City, but it is also completely different. Everyone is a tourist there so you don’t feel weird or feel like you are bothering anyone by stopping to take pictures. Everyone is very nice as well! I have had to asked directions or questions to the police or workers of the tube. If you ask nicely they will be nice to you. Also, travel where you want to go! It’s okay to go see things by yourself. I have seen many things by myself because my friends aren’t interested in seeing it or our schedules clash.
I have also gotten to go out of the UK once. This past weekend I went with a tour group to Ireland. It was a lot of fun! If there are tour groups that your school supports then I would highly suggest that you go! I saw so much more than I would have on my own. I saw small things that most people just pass by. I wish the trip was a little longer, but there is only so much you can do while classes are in session. I highly recommend traveling as much as possible because it is very cheap once you are in Europe to get to a different country.

American Feet on Belgian Streets

Bienvenue! Welcome to Belgium, the land of chocolate. If I had known how many chocolate shops we would have seen today, I would have started counting at the beginning of todays journey! And it’s only our second day in Brussels. Yesterday, we arrived in Belgium in the afternoon, we met our host mom, Judith (also known as Maman), and her daughter Angélique. Both are wonderful! Ema and I live together in Judith’s house with two other girls: Erica (of Washington) and Domenica (of Ecudor). This morning, we scouted out the grocery stores of our area: fresh fruit, muesli, and chocolate spreads galore! Later, after lunch, Becca (our third European adventurer whom is living with another host mom) found her way to our house and we “headed into town.” We set out around 2pm with the goals of finding our school campus (check), finding our internship locations (no check), and finding the city center — or what is actually known as Grand Place or Market Square (check). By the end of the day, we had found our specific campus building, learned how to use public transportation, and saw the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula and Market Square — so much beautiful architecture!

flowers

The above orange trees caught our eyes.

bike

Tigger, the bicycle.

stmichelcathedral

St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral, much larger than its luxurious front entrance.

market square

Not sure about this building yet, but it’s green! We will be given tours later this week.

market square 3

Another beautiful building, not sure again, but we will soon find out!

That’s all for now, there will be more to come from these already sore feet!

Katie

PS. Below are some photos of beautiful Ireland flying above:

FullSizeRender (18) IMG_2683

TAMsterdam

I AMsterdam

I AMsterdam

Hello all!

I have returned from my most recent adventure, Amsterdam, or as I have been referring to it as: TAMsterdam.  Amsterdam was very pretty, I must say that.  There was a ton of water, there are canals everywhere.  Our tour guide assured us that it was the Venice away from Venice.  There were also a ton of bikes.  Our tour guide told us that there are more bikes than people in Amsterdam.  Although this fact sounds crazy, I must believe it to be true.  There were bikes everywhere!  You had to make sure not to get struck by one, while crossing the busy streets.  Amsterdam is relatively small as well.  You can take busses, or trams around, but walking is just as simple.  Plus with walking, you really can take in all of the sights!

11263151_10153329129668921_6102854310211856955_n

11208675_10153329129773921_6733189024393518330_nWe arrived late Thursday night, and just hung out.  But we awoke extra early Friday morning in order to visit Anne Frank House.  I tried to book tickets in advanced online, however the first available tickets were for July 4th!!  Needless to say that would’t work.  I will be back in the US then!  Luckily for me, my friends are troopers.  So Friday morning Heidi, MK, and I headed off to the long line that would await us.  We rose early enough though, so the line really wasn’t too bad!  I was very pleased that we got to the museum, and still had plenty of the day left to explore Amsterdam.

Patatje Oorlog with Heidi & MK

Patatje Oorlog with Heidi & MK

Ok I know I always go on and on about food in my blogs.  But hey can you blame me?  Food is a big part of travel!  Amsterdam was no exception.  I found it similar to London, in the sense that it had such a mixed bag culinarily, something I did not expect.  First off we had to have the fries.  Why oh why must sauce cost extra?  Of course I am going to buy sauce, because what are fries without it?  So why must I be charged extra for this necessity?  I must say I prefer Belgian fries from Brussels to Amsterdam fries (mostly because the ones I had in Amsterdam were frozen), but the sauce is better in Amsterdam.  It may sound weird but the Patatje Oorlog is a must try!  This concoction consists of peanut sauce, mayonnaise, and onions.  It is super unique and super yummy!

Red Velvet cake twinning with MK

Red Velvet cake twinning with MK

Beyond fries, one must have Stroopwafel, cheese, Indonesian food, and Poffertjes.  Stroopwafel is incredible, not only do we need it in the United States, I am also kicking myself for not bringing some back to Milan.  We bought a package of these thin wafer like waffles, sandwiched with caramel in the middle.  The bag was surprisingly heavy!  They are sweet, but not too sweet, and just an overall satisfying snack.  Indonesian food is very popular in Amsterdam.  Although I spent more on it then I would have preferred, it truly was one of the best meals I have had abroad.  We all shared a bunch of small dishes, with a big bowl of rice.  This is one of my favorite ways to eat, so you can try everything.  As for the Poffertjes, they are tiny dutch pancakes.  We dipped them in butter and mugs of hot chocolate.  There were other culinary gems, including my fave RED VELVET CAKE.  But that is not as exotic.

Van Gogh Museum

Van Gogh Museum

We ventured to the I amsterdam sign to take some touristy pictures, and then we were off to the Van Gogh museum.  These tickets we had booked online in advanced, so we got them for less money, which is always a good thing!  The museum was actually really big.  I was quite tired, so I felt I could not take it in, to the best of my ability.  But I powered through as best I could.  Not being a huge art, or museum fan, I liked how interactive the museum was.

Skinny Bridge with MK & Heidi

Skinny Bridge with MK & Heidi

The next day we decided to sleep in, and walk around.  We went to the Skinny bride, because I had heard a lot about it.  Amsterdam was one of the places where I really just compiled tips from everywhere.  We got some food tips from Buzzfeed, some tips from Kara (who visited during spring break), as well as some tips from a guy named Alex we met at a club in Milan a few weeks prior.  Fun fact, Alex too is a SUNY student, a Binghamton Bearcat studying abroad in Amsterdam.  The world is a tiny place!

The big flaw I must point out has to be the amount I spent on bathrooms.  I should not have to pay to pee.  But Amsterdam was after my pockets, more so than any other destination.  So make sure to carry extra change with you!

We embarked on a lengthy but entertaining walking tour.  Our night ended shortly after dinner.  And we woke up the next day to head back to Milan.  Lucky for me, our bus was running behind schedule so I could get my touristy I amsterdam photo, alone.  This was the greatest pro of flying so early in the morning.  Although after how early we flew from Dublin to Milan, any flight after 8pm seems like a piece of cake, mmmmm like that red velvet cake I had in Amsterdam 😉  Till next time readers!

Tamara

10985383_10153329179058921_2380950968547224200_n

Under the Tuscan Sun

Boboli Gardens!

Boboli Gardens!

Study abroad changes you in ways you can never begin to imagine.  This is something that my sorority sister Kimberly instilled in me before I left for Italy.  Kim had the life altering experience of doing a summer study abroad program in London.  At first I wasn’t really sure if Kim’s hypothesis would prove to be correct.  However, I must say after three months abroad I truly feel like a new person.  One way I have changed is my adventurous spirit.  I have always been independent, the truth being that in originating from New York City, it is pretty much a character trait instilled at birth.  I needed to be independent in order to get around my humble home.  However, I learned quickly while abroad what a difference there was between being independent and truly having an adventurous spirit.  Sometimes I tend to doubt myself, my capabilities, and abilities to succeed in difficult obstacles.  Time and time again I have wanted to reach for the phone to call my parents and have them fix the obstacles in my path, but time and time again I have amazed myself with my resourceful attitude in order to fix any problem that comes my way.  I don’t think I realized how many problems I would need to fix abroad, things that I had never had experience with in the United States.  Plus I have the added challenge of a language barrier making it even more difficult to get things fixed.

As you see from my blogs, I have certainly been traveling the world.  This past weekend (despite being opening weekend of the expo in Milan) I decided to explore once again.  Unfortunately for me, my friends abroad did not have the same desire as I had to visit Florence.  I felt, how could I come to Italy and not see Florence?  So despite a lack of travel companions, I decided I would venture to Florence regardless.  Many people take solo trips abroad, however I was not sure I could succeed in this daunting task.  I delayed every step of the planning process.  I enjoy doing abroad research, so I was happy to find hostels, food, transportation, and activities.  But when it came time to book these things, I did not find motivation to do so.  I think I just kept waiting for someone to change their mind and want to come with me.  Finally right before my Ireland trip, I figured I want to book my hostel.  I needed something to be set in stone before I leave for Ireland.  So of course, since the trip was in one week, most of the marvelous hostels I found (one including a pool & sauna) were booked.  I had no choice but to settle.  I did go off to Ireland though with the satisfaction that I had managed to book something.

When I returned from Ireland I booked a day trip to the Chianti region, and a day trip to Pisa.  I felt I had to go to Pisa while in Florence, because they are so close.  How could I visit Italy, without seeing the Leaning Tower?  But I still hadn’t booked transportation.  I figured a train would have better availability by going to the station itself.  So the day before my trip I went to Central station in Milan to find a ticket.  Sure enough to my disappointment the only remaining tickets for Thursday were 116 euro one way.  There was NO way I wanted to pay this.  So after hesitation I dove into the world of bla bla car.  Two girls from my program had used it to get to Florence.  It is so cheap that I wanted to use it to go to Florence as well.  But once I discovered I was going alone to Florence, I wasn’t quite as comfortable with the idea.  Until of course that is, it seemed my only option.  I had to arrive Thursday, since I had a hostel reservation that night, as well as a trip to Chianti the next day.  So after lots of nerves I was able to find both a bla bla car to take me there, and another to take me back.

My next obstacle was waking up the day of my trip, to receive an email that not enough people signed up for Chianti, so they were canceling the trip.  Luckily, I decided to wake up early that morning, so I had time to deal with this situation.  I was given a refund for the trip & was able to sign up for a different trip with a different company.  Phew dodged a bullet there!

Chianti olive trees

Chianti olive trees

I was off to Florence without a hitch.  My trip was truly incredible.  There was something something so illuminating about traveling on my own, but more importantly accomplishing so much in a foreign place alone.  I was able to go where I wanted to go, eat what I wanted to eat, see what I wanted to see, sleep when I wanted to sleep, etc.  Every morning I found myself waking up early and by choice as opposed to feeling forced.  I wanted to get up and explore.  I never created strict itineraries, more like possible ideas of places I wanted to go each day.  It was such a fantastic voyage.

bought myself a little treat in San Lorenzo leather market ;)

bought myself a little treat in San Lorenzo leather market 😉

All'antico Vinaio!

All’antico Vinaio!

Friday I awoke and headed straight to the Boboli Gardens.  I took a bus although I certainly could have walked.  I walked ALL OVER Florence that weekend.  It is small, and yet every turn there is something new to see.  The view at Boboli was impeccable.  I’m so glad it was recommended to me by friend Sarah, studying abroad in Florence.  After Boboli I headed off to All’antico Vinaio for a quick lunch.  Florence had a ton of amazing looking sandwich shops, but I must say I was glad this was recommended to me by both Sarah & my Unicatt friend Kim.  The line is a little crazy, but it really is worth it.  I had no idea what to order, I just kept looking at what others had.  I do wish in retrospect I asked the men working behind the counter what they would recommend, so I could have gotten the best of the best.  However, I was quite satisfied with my sandwich.  Yum, Yum!  After the sandwich, I was off to Chianti.  Chianti was so beautiful & green.  I went with Caf tours, and I would certainly recommend that.  I booked Caf tours for Pisa as well.

Leaning Tower of Pisa!

Leaning Tower of Pisa!

The next morning I was off to San Lorenzo for a leather shopping spree.  My oh my did I drop some euros on leather!  I bought two purses & a wallet.  I tried on a jacket and liked it but anytime I feel rushed I don’t like to shop.  So I didn’t buy the jacket then & there.  I figured if I really wanted it I would go back.    I then headed to Pizzeria O’Vesuvio for a ricotta stuffed pie.  This was another place Sarah recommended, but it is also where the cast of the Jersey Shore once worked as well!  The pizza was delicious.  So it was pizza before Pisa.  I am very glad I got to Pisa but to be honest, if I could do it again I would go independently without a trip organizer.  I feel like I could have saved money & stayed longer.  But hey you live and you learn.  I am glad I got my picture with the Leaning Tower, because after all isn’t that the main reason to go to Pisa?  I did make sure to get some gelato in Pisa because I had some free time and that’s the perfect way to pass time.

Gusta Pizza @ Gusta Pizza

Gusta Pizza @ Gusta Pizza

That evening upon my return to Florence I ate dinner at Gusta Pizza, a place both my roommate and Kim had told me about.  I ordered the Gusta Pizza and it certainly was one of the greatest pizzas of my life!  Both of the pizzas I had in Florence were Napoli style, so I must fit Naples into my future travel plans for sure!  Gusta Pizza did have a line but it was so worth it to wait!  All good things are worth waiting for.

NUTELLA ICE CREAM!

NUTELLA ICE CREAM!

After eating my meal I hiked up Piazzale Michelangelo.  I do mean hiked!  That is quite the hill.  But upon arriving at the top you can find one of the most magnificent views overlooking Florence.  But of course my reasoning for the trek was for the 2015 Gelato Festival.  It was so cheap and I ate a ton of gelato.  Every flavor was something I had never tried before.  To be honest, after the hike & pizza I was unable to complete all of my gelato, but don’t fret I certainly made a dent.

Michelangelo's the David

Michelangelo’s the David

Sunday morning I woke up earlier then ever in order to check out of my hostel and wait on line for the Academia.  I am really not a big museum fan, and despite being a New Paltz Hawk, I am not super into art.  But my father recommended seeing the David, so I figured why not?  I waited on line for only thirty minutes!  Then even better was getting into the museum for free!  Since it was the first Sunday of the month.  So this made the visit even more worth it.  The David really is pretty magnificent!

Camp Poyntelle Lewis Village alums in Florence

Camp Poyntelle Lewis Village alums in Florence

After seeing the David I grabbed a Subway sandwich and headed to San Lorenzo to buy a leather jacket!  Then I was between a free walking tour & the Galileo museum (another place Sarah recommended).  Unfortunately for me I decided upon the museum despite breaking one of my cardinal rules.  I neglected to look up the museum beforehand, so I got there and it was closed.  Bummer!  I should have picked the walking tour!  I started walking to the tour, even though I was late.  But all of a sudden I heard “T-Litt, Tamara?”  It was my ex co counselor from camp, Sandra.  Perfect timing!  I didn’t even realize she was abroad in Florence, because so many camp friends are abroad there.  I knew she was abroad but didn’t know it was in Florence.  It was perfectly timed for me!  I spent the next two hours with her before heading home to Milan.  Safe to say this was another successful trip!

Till next time readers!

Tamara

10471319_10153316107223921_5792049304463232072_n

The Luck of the Irish

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Ireland gave me life.  No really it did.  I can’t even explain it.  But this enchanting place truly gave me a new outlook on the world.

This was the trip I was most excited for, hands down.  I actually almost studied abroad in Ireland.  Although Italy was my top choice, I almost didn’t end up here.  Everything happens for a reason and Milan is where I belong.  Studying abroad through a SUNY really is one of the greatest reasons to pick SUNY for your undergrad experience.  When you look into study abroad, you can study abroad through any SUNY.  However, as a last semester Senior, I did not have the same privileges.  I had to study through New Paltz.  I wanted to study abroad regardless though, so this was no major set back.  Years ago when I originally started looking through study abroad options, my dream program was nowhere to be found.  I wasn’t asking much except to come anywhere in Italy, the catch being I needed an English speaking program.  So when New Paltz didn’t offer such a program, I was forced to look elsewhere.  For some reason I have always been enamored with I countries.  It is a coincidence, but for some reason I love the I.  I have visited Israel already.  So from there I have always wanted to visit Italy, Ireland, and India in that order.  So when Italy was a bust, I looked toward Ireland.  This obviously wasn’t a setback, I mean come on it’s Ireland!  It just wasn’t my dream.

I refrained from looking again until it neared closer to the application date, and sure enough this time when I looked again, there was an Italian program that wasn’t there before.  I emailed The Center for International Programs, and sure enough New Paltz had a new program to Milan, in which you didn’t have to speak Italian.  They had only sent 2 students before, but I didn’t care, this was going to be my study abroad program.  They got me in contact with one of the students, and the rest is history.

So that is just kind of my little background story for how I ended up in Milan.  I will say though once I had settled on Milan, I was set to make it my mission to visit Ireland.  I didn’t care who with, where to, or what for, I just knew it and Milan are in Europe, so I was going to get there.  I had wanted to go for St. Patrick’s day but alas it was during the week, so I couldn’t miss class.  My friends and I looked into the weekend before but it was a pretty penny.  We did however book our trip there for April, so it’s safe to say I was beyond excited.  Besides Spring Break Ireland is the longest trip I have taken.  We typically go just for the weekend, but being my lack of classes Friday, we flew out Thursday April 23rd & returned Monday April 27th.  I wanted Ireland to be one of my biggest trips, so I could really spend some time there, and my wish came true.

We found a rainbow!

We found a rainbow, but no pot of gold

We did a lot of planning for this trip.  My friends really wanted to go to the Cliffs of Moher, and I was striving to reach the Blarney Stone, for my kiss!  Most of our study abroad friends that went to Ireland were only able to make one, typically the Cliffs.  The problem being that these sights are so spread apart.  We were staying in Dublin, and the Cliffs & The Blarney were in complete opposite directions.  I feel like these were the tourist sites I was told about in Ireland, and it seemed a shame to have to pick and choose.  Luckily for us though we were able to create an itinerary where we could do both.  Leaving Monday makes such a huge difference, because it means you have all of Sunday.  I did this first in Barcelona, and it felt like you were given a gift of an extra day.  Yes, there is nothing more exhausting then flying out Monday morning to make it back in time for class, but believe me it is worth it!

I made sure to buy some chocolate here, of course!

I made sure to buy some chocolate here, of course!

So Friday we embarked early in the morning for a day trip to The Blarney Stone.  The Blarney Castle is right near Cork, Ireland.  These day trips are long, you leave early in the morning and return late at night.  So not making major plans Saturday was a great call on our part.  Also both of our day trips (through different companies) made stops, which was a relief.  First off you get a little stir crazy on the bus, but also there were no bathrooms on the buses!  Our first stop on Friday was in Cork, which was so picturesque.  It was so beautiful.  The weather was a little wacky, it would rain and then it would stop.  But hey that’s better then straight up rain.  Ireland is very rainy.  Our bus driver informed us that it rains 300 days a year!

Best meal in Ireland!!!!!

Best meal in Ireland!!!!!

Next up thank goodness they took us to a longer stop where we could get food.  We were beyond hunger.  One of my biggest tips for those visiting Ireland, would have to be eating in pubs as much as you can.  Pub food is amazing.  It is cheap, hearty, and all around delicious.  I didn’t really think much about the culinary experience in Ireland, beforehand.  But man oh man our first meal was one of the best meals I’ve had in Europe hands down. All of my friends ordered sandwiches, but I was ordering thinking with my stomach, therefor I figured a sandwich wouldn’t cut it.  I ordered an Irish stew, which was certainly pricier then the sandwich, but I must say this was the greatest decision ever.  This stew was the best food I had in Ireland.  The meat was so tender, the broth was flavorful, and it came with Irish soda bread.  It was nice to use butter on my bread, instead of olive oil, just for a change of pace.  (My mouth is literally watering right now, thinking about this stew).

Soft Serve Ice Cream!

Soft Serve Ice Cream!

Next we had some soft serve ice cream, because of course this huge bowl of soup wasn’t enough haha.  I wanted to get the soft serve, because a friend from high school recommended dairy in Ireland because of all the cows, man oh man was she right.  There was some flavor in the soft serve which I could’t even really detect but it added this floral note to the soft serve, which kept us eating more and more.  The soft serve was creamy, sweet, and a nice alternative to the heavy (but obviously delicious) gelato we eat in Italy.  Safe to say I was not hungry for dinner, even hours later.  Dinner that night was a salad.

I won’t write much more about food (although I could).  Sunday I did have some memorable seafood chowder, and some even more memorable fudge!  But I will recommend anyone going to Ireland should certainly get some meat & dairy because the surplus of cows & lambs really do make a difference in the culinary experience there.  You also should get some Irish Breakfast, and of course potatoes!!  The one thing I didn’t have time to eat there, which I wish I did was the Corned Beef.  Oh well, I guess this gives me an excuse to go back!

Kissing The Blarney Stone

Kissing The Blarney Stone

I can’t lie, as much as I was excited to go to The Blarney Stone, I must say I was not disappointed, but certainly underwhelmed.  I was picturing this large rock in the middle of a field, which you could kiss it and take cutesy touristy pictures.  The real Blarney Stone, located in Blarney Castle could not be anything further from my vision.  You hang upside down at the top of the castle, lowering yourself down to kiss the stone.  I did kiss the stone, because come on you must!  But this was not really what I had imagined.  Hopefully I did indeed get the gift of the gab.  I’d say by looking at the length of this blog post, it worked!

Blarney Castle with MK, Heidi, Brooke, and Taylor!

Blarney Castle with MK, Heidi, Brooke, and Taylor!

The grounds at Blarney Castle are so beautiful.  We even saw a Bride & Groom taking wedding photos there!  We got some great pictures on the ground, and the weather held up, which was a major plus.  We returned to the bus, headed back to Dublin, where we did indeed see a rainbow!  Also sure enough, there were two other New Paltz students, studying abroad in Spain on the bus.  It is indeed a small world, after all.

Saturday was rainy to say the least.  We mostly hit up museums (including the Kilmainham Gaol), which is the ideal thing to do in the rain.

Galway!

Galway!

Sunday, we woke up even earlier than we had done on on Friday and headed off to on a day trip to The Cliffs of Moher.  Our first stop was in Galway, which I was very excited about because that is where one of my closest friends studied abroad when she was in Ireland.  Galway is a very small town, but it was so cute.  We took a brief walking tour, and then explored for a short time.  I wish we had more time there, I would have loved to roam even more!

Cliffs of Moher with MK, Taylor, Heidi, and Brooke

Cliffs of Moher with MK, Taylor, Heidi, and Brooke

The Cliffs of Moher were so breathtaking.  It is hard to describe it, write about it, talk about it, because I feel I can’t do it justice.  It was one of my greatest days not only of study abroad, but of my life.  The weather was freezing, but no rain for us!  The sky was so blue.  Sure it is very windy, so you must be careful around the edge of the cliffs.  But the sight of the cliffs was just so incredible, I have seen nothing like it.  It was so powerful to be there.  Also for Princess Bride fans, like myself, The Cliffs of Moher are The Cliffs of Insanity from the film!  That was a fun little piece of trivia for me to learn.  Anyone who goes to Ireland, NEEDS to go to the Cliffs.

11204980_10153304386633921_4008538265041883987_nWe made a few more stops before heading home.  This was the greatest day of the trip, but also the most exhausting.  We stopped at another cool spot, where they filmed a scene from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.  For anyone who remembers my Spring Break blog post, I am a huge Harry Potter fan, so I was exstatic about being there!  We returned to Dublin, slept a few hours and took a 6:15am flight home back to Milan.

This trip was life changing.  I can’t wait to someday return to Ireland.  Thanks for reading! Till next time beannacht!

Tamara

Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle!

Litts > Venice

Spending time with my parents in Venice

Spending time with my parents in Venice

Ciao readers!  It’s been a while since my last post, but I am back to write about my return to Venice!  I did go to Venice for Carnival in February, but with the recent visit of my parents in Italy I agreed to face it once again.  My dad had already been to Italy years ago, but my mother had not.  So although I had visited Venice already, I was willing to back again.  I am so glad I went back, this experience was completely different.  My visit in February was all about Carnival, whereas this visit was focused on Venice itself.  Although this time the weather didn’t hold up.  I taught my parents how to make the best of it & we powered through.

For my last visit, Kara & I stayed in a hotel far from the action, whereas this time around the Litts stayed in an airbnb in the hustle & bustle of Venice.  I was also stoked to find that our airbnb had a dog!  I love animals =)

Our furry friend at our airbnb

Our furry friend at our airbnb

I did a lot more sightseeing this time around, which was wonderful.  I was able to actually see Venice.  The water was so beautiful.  However, I can’t lie you WILL get lost in Venice.  The water creates dead ends like its nobodies business.  Thank goodness for technology!  When we really did find ourselves in a pickle, I would guide us in the right direction with the help of my handy dandy google maps app on my iPhone.  I really would recommend having a phone plan that allows for data usage because I seem to use it time and time again.

Even bread is happy to be in Venice =)

Even bread is happy to be in Venice =)

We visited St. Marco’s square & the Rialto bridge.  Both were jampacked, tourists everywhere.  In my opinion though I still think Rome takes the cake for having the utmost tourists.  We went to a produce market, as well as a fish market near the Rialto.  I must say how much I love all of the food markets in Italy.  Food is so fresh here, so it is so cool to see row after row of fresh food.  As much as I am hungering for some of my American staples, we sure do love to make room for unnecessary additives in our food.  So I am enjoying EATALY.  This market was wonderful.  I even ran into 3 fellow Unicatt students during this adventure!

There are also dogs EVERYWHERE!  Italy has leash laws that differ greatly from America.

Another great experience was the Vaporetto ride around the grand canal.  It was very lengthy, we happened to somehow take the wrong boats.  But it was very relaxing (and cold) along the water.  I would highly recommend Vaporetti rides for those who plan to visit Venice.

10373781_10153288787703921_2097223406779063185_nAs a Jewish family I was very glad that we got to visit the Jewish Ghetto in Venice.  It was very powerful walking around the Jewish quarter.  Italy being a very Catholic country, I felt very comforted being surrounded by all things Jewish.  We visited a Chabad, and met the rabbi.  Being so involved in Chabad & Jewish life at New Paltz, this was a taste of Jew Paltz for me.  There were even Kosher places to eat around the Jewish Quarter.  I do hope to see more WW2 sights around Europe with my future travels.  Visiting the Jewish Quarter with my parents made that a special experience for us to share together.  Judaism has always been a big part of our family, especially having my older sister living abroad in Israel.

My parents & I returned to Milan on Sunday.  Now my parents are off in Rome while I continue on with classes.  I hope they have a safe trip back to America!  Till the next adventure!

Tamara

Litt selfie!

Litt family selfie!

Spring Break VS. Spring Vacation

IMG_2274

SPRING BREAK BABY!  As I write this post my spring break unfortunately comes to an end.  No, I am not bummed to be back in Milan.  However, who would say no to more time off?

Ano Poli, Thessaloniki with Dyeemah

Ano Poli, Thessaloniki with Dyeemah

I had probably the greatest spring break of my life.  My spring break started in Thessaloniki, Greece.  Now I know what you’re thinking, why Thessaloniki?  Lucky for me I have always wanted to go to Greece, and I have a friend from high school, Dyeemah, living there for the year!  It was pretty much fate that our spring breaks collided and I could visit her and truly see her world.  Greece to say the least is truly breathtaking.  I love Milan, but it is a city through & through.  To be able to spend my time along the Mediterranean, gazing upon the gorgeous skyline was something I made sure not to take for granted.

Dyeemah and I infront of the White Tower in Thessaloniki

Dyeemah and I in front of the White Tower in Thessaloniki

The food in Greece was SO good!  The best meal I had was my first night in Greece, where I tagged along to a dinner with Dyeemah, her students, and her colleagues.  We all ordered multiple dishes, and just kind of split everything.  Everything was so delicious, and authentic I can’t really pick a favorite!  That meal really was unfair because of how high it set the bar so early on in my trip.  But I did eat many, many yummy things while there, including a pork hero.  Street food in Europe is one of my favorite things ever, we need more in the US.  Street food is cheap, yummy, and a total comfort.

Pork Hero = yum yum

Pork Hero = Yum Yum

Greece was very relaxing, and serene.  It was nice for once to go on a trip and not have to plan anything.  I was just able to go with the flow.  Plus I got to use Dyeemah’s dryer for my clothes, so that pretty much made the trip worth it just on that note alone.  I was in Thessaloniki for 6 days before heading off to London.  While I have already been to London before, I needed to go back.  I truly mean need, this was far beyond my wants.  Having not been overwhelmed with excitement from my prior visit to London, I was determined to return in order to visit the Harry Potter studio tour.  During my study abroad adventures I really am trying not to double dip on past trips, London so far being my only exception.  My camp friend, Nina, is spending her semester studying in Copenhagen.  Nina and I are huge HP fans, having once even been to the Quidditch world cup in NYC.  Once we both decided on Europe for our Spring 2015 study abroad destinations, we knew it was fate.  We booked our tickets for the attraction months in advanced because it is popular beyond belief, selling out constantly.

Butterbeer with Nina!

Butterbeer with Nina!

The Harry Potter studio tour was beyond what I could have ever imagined.  However, I must say just in general, London really was the real MVP of spring break.  While our stay in London was brief, it was jam packed.  We did a free walking tour, caught up with another camp friend over dinner, spent the day in Camden (which was perfection), and lastly but most essentially left the muggle world behind for bigger and better things.

Nina & I with our camp friend Nicole

Nina & I with our camp friend Nicole =)

IMG_2604If you have the chance to visit the Harry Potter studio tour in London I really do recommend it.  Being a die hard fan of the books, films, and everything in between, this experience really did provide us with an insight into the intricate details of this world we have learned to love with all of our hearts.  Harry Potter is universal, teaching messages including love, determination, friendship, imagination, and so much more.  Harry Potter was such a big part of my childhood, it had become a ritual for my mother to read the books to me at night.  Seeing the world come to life in front of my own eyes was the cherry on top of my London sundae (or the Cadbury egg McFlurry I had while in London).

Hogwarts!

Hogwarts!

It is safe to assume that after my spring break I will be leaving Italy, in search for my new study abroad destination aka Hogwarts.

Thanks for reading, until next time keep practicing your spells!

This proud Slytherin is off to her next adventure

This proud Slytherin is off to her next adventure

Taking on Brussels; One Forkful at a Time

Unicatt students taking on Brussels!

Unicatt students: Emme Kappa and Tay

From one B destination to the next.  Last weekend I found myself in Barcelona, Spain, this weekend I found myself in Brussels, Belgium.  Might I just start off by saying how in love I was with the food in Brussels.  I am pretty much living my life Eat, Pray, Love style (minus the prayer, and love).  I must say I continue to amaze myself with how much one can fit into a weekend.  Sure it is EXHAUSTING, but it is always worth it.

Also I finally caught a break in Brussels, which is notorious for not having the grandest weather.  I did indeed bring an umbrella with me, but I never used it.  Isn’t that always how it goes?  When you bring an umbrella, you almost never need it, but when you don’t bring it, you wish you had it.

IMG_2031Ok let’s start off with waffles for my eating my way through Brussels extravaganza.  I learned all of the best tricks of the trade amongst this voyage.  I yet again took another free walking tour, which actually proved to be my favorite of the three I have taken so far.  The walking tour was fantastic, despite the fact it was nearly three hours!  Having been a tour guide at New Paltz, I always feel as though I view these tours under a different lens.  This tour guide was so knowledgeable, but he also knew his audience.  He informed us about waffles, fries, chocolates, and basically anything else we would want to gnaw on while in Brussels.

Liège waffle with whipped cream, strawberries, and chocolate sauce

Liège waffle with whipped cream, strawberries, and chocolate!

I did indeed have my fair share of waffles during my brief stay in Belgium.  Now the most important thing to share with you readers is the different waffle types there are.  It is a very common misconception for someone to go to Belgium and order a Belgian waffle, thinking that any waffle from Belgium is considered a Belgian waffle.  This is not the case.  Which is why I had to make sure to try an array of waffle types while in Brussels.  After sampling an array, I think my favorite waffle I had was the Liège waffle.

Belgian waffle with vanilla ice cream

Belgian waffle with vanilla ice cream

But I did make sure to have a Belgian waffle while I was there, because you must!  Both are sweet and yummy, but I personally did indeed favor the Liège waffle, so much so that I did indeed eat another one later in the trip!

IMG_2075

Belgian cone of fries! YUM YUM

Moving on from waffles, to the french fries.  Again we got the tricks of the trade from our tour guide.  Our tour guide informed us that most places in Brussels serve frozen fries!  Who wants that!?  He did assure us that not all establishments take the easy way out, so we knew where to go for the traditional Belgian cone of fries.  Typically Belgians eat an entire cone of fries with a blob of mayonnaise, but I was content with taking the touristy route and avoiding that via a variety of sauces in order to mix, and match.  The fries could not have hit the spot anymore than they did.  There was nothing more satisfying than walking to our hostel in the wee hours of the night/morning to see those golden spuds were still available for purchase.  I think the fries were my favorite food in Brussels.  It is overwhelming to come face to face with an entire cone.  I was actually unable to eat the cone in it’s entirety, but man oh man what I wouldn’t do for some Belgian fries right now as I write this post!

Belgian chocolates <3

Belgian chocolates <3

Next up has to be the chocolate.  I was really curious for this one because I had already visited Switzerland this semester.  Switzerland being known for their chocolate, I was eager to do a compare/contrast.  My verdict being that they really both take the cake, pun intended.

Meatballs and Fries

Meatballs and Fries

I did want to have an authentic Belgian meal while I was in Brussels, so I did make sure to have the meatballs with french fries.  I am ashamed to say, I have yet to eat meatballs in Italy, so these Belgian delicacies didn’t stand a chance to pale in comparison.  It was one of those meals that really was right on the money!  I was enjoyed this first meal in Brussels, especially considering how hungry I was upon arrival!

Brussels mussels

Brussels mussels

It is also common to find the rhyming dish of Brussels mussels, so I of course had to engage in that as well.  I am a big seafood person!  The mussels were good, but I must admit I have indeed had better before.  But alas I ate my fair share of anything and everything in Brussels, so I have no complaints.  Plus this was our last meal in Brussels, which I found to be rather reasonably priced, which is always a challenge to find!

Do you take dining dollars?

Do you take dining dollars?

I did make sure to have my Americanized staples of guacamole, and Starbucks because they are my kryptonite, and I couldn’t resist.

GUAC.

GUAC.

I did indeed do other things in Brussels besides eat, despite what this post will lead you to believe.  However, I wanted to focus on the food for this post because it really was the ultimate highlight of Brussels.  It brought my trip above and beyond, to the next level.  I would highly recommend you visit there, and wear your stretchy pants. And if you do visit, be sure to stuff me in your suitcase!

Till next time,

Tamara

Can't go to Brussels without visiting Manneken Pis!

Can’t go to Brussels without visiting Manneken Pis!

Also as just kind of a cool ps, the world truly is the smallest place.  I managed to find a girl who I went to high school with on my walking tour of Brussels!  So it is indeed a small world after all!

The Beacon School reunion!

The Beacon School reunion!

 

Real Life Cheetah Girl

New Paltz takes on Barcelona

New Paltz takes on Barcelona!

Hola!  From one adventure to the next.  This past weekend I embarked on a journey to Barcelona with fellow New Paltz student, Kara.  The truth is we didn’t really have expectations for the trip, it was kind of spur of the moment planning.  I never really thought about visiting Spain before, I think mostly because I’ve always associated Spanish speaking countries with my older sister.  But I never thought about it for myself, till now that is.  I know someone living in Spain right now, although I wasn’t sure where.  I just assumed she lived in Barcelona, so without hesitating I texted Kara, and the rest was history.

The view from the plane

The view from the plane

This was my first study abroad, out of country trip which required an airplane.  I met Kara at the airport, and the truth is I was impressed that I made it there on time, in one piece.  The independence one obtains while studying abroad is simply mind-blowing.  Even growing up in New York City, everyday I still push my own boundaries of independence living abroad.  I am always proud of myself even if I just accomplish simple tasks.

I truly consider Kara and I to be blessed to have made it to Barcelona.  We waited in the airport, and every five minutes I would check the departure board for our gate.  However, every time I would check the board it would say, “check back in five minutes.”  This was very disheartening, Kara was pretty sure we were not going to be leaving Milan.  I really tried to stay positive, as hard as it may have been.  I figured it wasn’t over till the fat lady sang!  Eventually a man sitting next to us informed us that our flight had been delayed.  He showed us on our computer, something that had not even appeared on the departure board.  Kara and I knew about the ground crew going on strike that day, but I really didn’t know the extent to which it affected people.  The man told us that almost every flight from Malpensa airport was canceled.  So when Kara and I eventually boarded our flight, I was beyond grateful.  I felt so fortunate, and lucky to be Barcelona bound.

YUM!

YUM!

When Kara and I landed, we headed straight to our airbnb.  We weren’t going to let any time get wasted, so we met up with fellow New Paltz abroad student, Hannah.  Hannah is studying in London, and just happened to be Barcelona bound when we were as well.  New Paltz ate quite a delicious meal.  I was especially happy because I got guacamole, something I almost never can find in Milan.  Avocado is one of the number one foods I miss while abroad, my mom and I eat entire avocados as a snack.  So anytime I find anything avocado related, I pounce.  It is so funny how difficult I find it to eat dinner on Italian time, most places don’t open till 7:30ish.  But Spanish dinner begins at like 10.  We finished dinner our first night after midnight!  Man was it worth it for that delicious food!

Huevos Rancheros y cafe con leche

Huevos Rancheros y cafe con leche

The next day we met up again with Hannah for some brunch.  I am a big brunch girl.  I miss Main Street Bistro pretty much everyday, whether I am in Italy, New York City, or anywhere else in between.  Milan isn’t really a popular brunch place.  The breakfast foods I am accustomed to aren’t big in Milan.  One thing I love to eat, and never eat in Milan is eggs.  It is so simple, but pretty much all the time I crave a bowl of scrambled eggs.  So I was definitely on board to get some brunch.  I had the hues rancheros, as well as the cafe con leche.  Milan has amazing coffee, but it is pretty much all espresso.  So I was also excited for some yummy Spanish coffee!  Again, another successful meal!

New Paltz Starbucks selfie

New Paltz Starbucks selfie

Kara and I were also beyond excited with all of the American places we stumbled upon in Barcelona.  Getting off the bus to see Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and Subway excited us probably more then anything.  It’s the little things you know?  Don’t get me wrong, Milan has AMAZING food, but shockingly enough the only American establishments we have are McDonalds & Burger King, two fast food places I do not eat.  To see these familiar places really made Barcelona feel like home.

NPsocial:  Hannah, Kara, and Tamara embracing Barcelona one peace sign at a time

NPsocial: Hannah, Kara, and Tamara embracing Barcelona one peace sign at a time

Viva España!

Viva España!

After brunch Kara, Hannah, and I went on a free walking tour of Barcelona, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  In fact comparatively, I liked it even more than the free walking tour I took in Rome.  We also lucked out with the weather!  Another Tamara travel tip is to ALWAYS pack an umbrella.  Weather is so unpredictable.  I so far have not had the best luck, experiencing rain in Milan, Rome, Lugano, and now Barcelona.  The rain hasn’t stopped me, but it is always an unavoidable inconvenience.  Of course, I did not bring an umbrella to Spain, because I looked at the weather before I left and thought I would be safe.  But alas I was not.  Our airbnb host was so incredibly welcoming, he told me to help himself to any of his umbrellas.  We did luck out though to not have rain during our walking tour, or for most of our time in Barcelona.

Traditional Catalan tomato bread tappa

Traditional Catalan tomato bread tappa

After the walking tour, we were very hungry, so we took to the tapas bar near the airbnb Kara & I were staying at.  The tapas were unreal.  Out of all the incredible things I ate in Barcelona, I must say the tapas were probably my all time favorite.  Sure, they weren’t cheap.  But it was so worth.  It was the best way to sample everything.  We made sure to have the traditional Catalan tappa of tomato bread.  But all of the tappas I ordered were yummy in my tummy.

Horta Maze

Horta Maze

Staying the extra day really made the difference.  Our last day in Barcelona, Sunday, Kara and I made sure to not slow down, so we took to the metro and embarked on some parks.  I have a friend studying in Copenhagen who visited Barcelona recently, and she recommended a maze for me to check out.  Let me tell you, this place was aMAZEing (pun intended).  It was so beautiful, we made sure to take lots of pictures.

Started from the bottom, now we're here

Started from the bottom, now we’re here

After the maze, Kara wanted to find the balcony the Cheetah Girls 2 shot at.  I being down for anything, was up for the trip.  We walked more than I probably have walked in my life, my legs hurt to say the least.  But, the view overlooking Barcelona was breathtaking.  Plus we did eventually find the balcony, because we were determined beyond belief!

Cheetah Girls 2 balcony; Park Güell

Cheetah Girls 2 balcony; Park Güell

Seafood Paella

Seafood Paella

The rest of the day was spent buying some beautiful souvenirs for our loved ones, petting an adorable black cat, and sampling some more local cuisine.  We felt we couldn’t leave Spain without having Paella, and churros.  So we crossed both of those noms off our list later that evening.  Like I said, when Kara and I are determined, we do not take no for an answer.  Our minds were set on churros and paella and we would be damned if we hadn’t eaten our fill!

Churros & chocolate sauce

Churros & chocolate sauce

Las Ramblas

La Rambla after the soccer game

After our meal we walked down La Rambla for one last time, and found ourselves amidst a celebration for the soccer game from earlier that day.  Personally, this reasoning really was why las ramblas was one of my favorite places.  Las Ramblas may be very touristy, but it was also just so action packed, I looked forward to every trip we had to it.

11080966_10153221513713921_3756484902857979934_n

Barcelona truly took our breath away.  It is so incredibly alive, and the energy is so contagious.  For a place that neither of us were really dying to do, we probably would have killed to stay!  I am so, so glad we made it to Barcelona, despite everything.  There is no place like it, and no way to describe it.  But we both said this was the first place we could actually see ourselves moving.  I don’t know if it was the American establishments, the fact everyone spoke English, the AMAZING food, the accessibility of everything (we almost never took the metro), or just the friendly people we met, but Barcelona really did steal both of our hearts.  Don’t worry mom & dad I’m not planning on moving anytime soon, but it was truly one of the greatest trips of my life.  I love Milan so much, but I would have not minded if our flight had been delayed a few days 😉

Spooning with a sculpture in Montbau

Spooning with a sculpture in Montbau

Kara and I slept two hours, since Barcelona never sleeps.  We returned to Milan, and went straight to our dramaturgy class.  Sure, we were exhausted, but nothing would ever seem more worth it.

11011050_10153221467313921_1534730891750716530_n

Till next time, thanks for reading! Adios <3

Tamara

11065303_10153221511508921_2508426859924204741_n

 

When Life Gives You Lemons… Go to Rome!

Hey all!  I know it has been a while since my last post, I have just been so caught up in Milan truly embracing life.  I must say being in Milan for Fashion Week was quite cool.  But alas I am writing another post, about my latest adventure, ROMA!

Roommates Roam Rome!

Roommates Roam Rome!

The past week has not really been the best.  But that’s what is important with study abroad, you must keep in mind that not every day is going to be perfect; nothing ever is.  I do constantly remind myself though that even when times are tough, they are tough while I’m in Milan!  This reassurance was something I came up with in the shower one day, and it really does make me feel better time and time again.  Last week (and still even today) I unfortunately came down with some sort of illness.  Despite wanting to run around and play all over Milano, I knew as much as it wouldn’t be fun, I would have to slow down and rest.  I am slowly but surely getting better, which is good!  But that too is the thing about study abroad, some things are just out of your control.  One instance is weather, like when we planned our day trip to Switzerland, and it rained.  Another instance is illness, you really cannot control when you get sick.  So I had to embark on a journey to Rome this weekend besides battling sickness.  Which is why when life inevitably gives you lemons, drink that lemonade in Europe!

Mass in the Vatican City with the Pope!

Mass in the Vatican City with the Pope!

I really was a champ through it all, if I do say so myself.  Our first day in Rome, I had only slept for two hours, and I was sick but that didn’t stop me from seeing this truly magnificent city. I never realized how touristy Rome is.  It seemed scary to me that I spoke more Italian then most people we met along the way.  This meant when we tried to ask people for directions they were unable to help.  When studying abroad you really need to pool any and every resource at your disposal, I’ve needed to do this pretty much everyday and traveling is no exception.  My roommate and I were constantly running around, trying to make the most of our time in Rome.  This was also my first weekend trip which required a flight.  The weekend was exhausting to say the least!  However, it really was quite a trip!

I do have to go back to Rome someday though when the Trevi Fountain isn’t under renovation.  Although I knew it was under renovation, it still was such a disappointment to be in Rome but unable to experience it in its glory.  I did throw my coin in the fountain regardless though, so let’s hope there is still enough magic in the fountain for my wish to come true!

Roomies at the Trevi Fountain

Roomies at the Trevi Fountain

I am learning more and more with each trip I take.  I have never had to independently plan trips of such stature before.  The only way to learn how to plan a trip is by actually planning one.  The example that comes to mind was when my friends and I embarked on a journey to Lugano, Switzerland and didn’t really plan what we wanted to do when we got there.  Luckily Lugano is beautiful (despite the rain that didn’t rain on our parade).  But we got there and it was kind of like now what?  With trips that are as brief as these are, it is essential to make the most of your short time there.  Which is why I vowed to make the most of the next trip I took, by actually figuring out what I wanted to do.  So when it came time for Rome, my roommate and I were true gems and spent days planning, researching, and just sort of getting our lives together.

Wouldn't be a trip in Italy without Gelato!

Wouldn’t be a trip in Italy without Gelato!

However, when it came time to actually do the things we planned we hit some bumps along the way.  So my next tip for all of you readers, but more importantly for myself is: look at closing times!  Not once, but twice, we had made it all the way to our destination to find our locations closed!  I am a born and raised NYC girl who is used to everything being open all the time.  But hey, you learn the hard way.  Now I know for my next trip!

Palatine Hill

Panorama of the Palatine Hill

Fortunately for us both scenarios ended up working in our favor.  One place that wasn’t open was a pizza place.  Oh well, we just ate somewhere else.  I actually had grilled chicken because everything in Italy is so carb infused.  As much as I do love carbs, it was a blissful experience to give my body some simple protein.  As for the other closed experience, my roommate, Ashley and I had planned on taking a free walking tour of Rome, which would end outside of the Colosseum, basically the biggest MUST see in Rome.  Well when we arrived after our walking tour, the colosseum was closed…  However, Ashley and I rallied on.  We did not give up!  Besides this being a must see of Rome, we had also already purchased tickets online.  So we woke up extra early our last day in Rome, and went straight from the Colosseum to the airport!  It was definitely tiresome, but beyond worth it.  We saw so much in our short time in Rome.  But, the colosseum was my favorite thing we saw in Rome.  It is just so magnificent to be there.  It was so breathtaking, I can’t even really describe it.  I am so glad we made it there.  I can officially mark it off my checklist of the seven wonders of the world!

IMG_1725

The Colosseum!

Alas like all good things, Rome too had to come to an end.  But I hope to someday be back, if for nothing else but to have a clear of construction, Lizzy McGuire moment at the Trevi Fountain!  Till next time, thanks for reading!

Tamara

IMG_1644

As seen in our airbnb