Week:7 #TravelGoals

Australia. The great adventure. I came to Australia with many places in mind to visit. From iconic Sydney, to Uluru, to tropical Queensland and the Great barrier reef there is a lot Australia has on offer. What I didn’t expect however was how much there is to see in Victoria alone. From the moment I decided to study abroad in Australia (about a year ago) I knew I wanted to experience the nature in Australia. I would focus more on wildlife and natural scenery than I would the city.

Yesterday I accomplished one of my life goals and one of the reasons I chose to come here. I wanted to experience something completely unique to Australia… Kangaroos! It was just as amazing as I envisioned. I am sure that for natives of Australia they are not all that exciting but for a tourist like me they are incredible. I started the day by taking a 2 hr train ride to Ballarat. From there I took a bus and eventually arrived at Ballarat Wildlife Park. What I really loved about this place is that unlike some places where you pay to pet kangaroos within an enclosure all the kangaroos here were roaming free!

Over the past week I have seen some beautiful parts of Australia I never thought I would be able to see. I spend the first half of the last week in Sydney! I stood in a nice neighborhood called Surry Hills (Airbnb is the way to go). It was absolutely incredible. Finally seeing the Opera house in person was unreal. I walked the harbor bridge where just a few months ago they had the most amazing firework show I have ever seen… needless to say it was surreal. If you plan on traveling while abroad (which you should!) I recommend you plan things in advance because it will save you tons of money. While in Sydney a few friends and I hiked for about 2 hrs to go see the Figure 8 pools (picture below). Sydney was by far the closest to New York City I have gotten since getting here and I could honestly see myself living there. If you do make it out to Sydney do yourself a favor and go to Bondi Beach!

Later that same week I had the trip of a lifetime… the reason I chose Australia over every other program. I went up to Cairns and scuba dived in the Great Barrier Reef! It was incredible! As a child I always knew I wanted to see the reef in person but never ever thought it would be possible. When I decided to go to Australia I knew I would have to visit Cairns which is about 3.5 hours north of Melbourne. It was worth every penny and again the earlier you plan the better! I planned my trip to Cairns about a month and a half before hand. I have been making it a point to do things differently here than I do back home.. to be adventurous. This trip was by far the highlight of my experience. I got there Wednesday night and on Thursday morning took a ferry 2 hours out to sea until we arrived at our first dive spot. Keep in mind I cannot swim (AT ALL) but I had come to far to not try it. I jumped in the water and while scary at first it turned out to be one of the best decisions I have made. Facing that fear in such a beautiful place was amazing. I saw fish swimming all around me and did my best to get some footage (see below).

The next morning I headed out on a trip to the Daintree Rainforest and had a 12 hour day in the rainforest. It was so much fun and I got to see some crazy Australian wildlife such as the spider pictured below. Our tour guide was as Australian as they get and i truly felt at times as if I was in the movie ‘Crocodile Dundee”.This trip is by far the most exciting thing I have done and I recommend it if you are ever in Australia. I have added photos below:).

 

Reef Snorkeling

Huge spider in Rain Forest!

Sydney Opera House <3

Fitzroy Island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 5:

Australia has been amazing so far! From seeing Kangaroos, to crazy spiders, to exploring Melbourne my experience has been great. However, that does not mean there have not been down sides. During my time here I’ve noticed that many Americans who study abroad do so with tight budgets while many Europeans and people from other places spend money a lot more freely. I have often found my self jealous of my friends who are skydiving in New Zealand, or sailing the Whitsunday isles. Now you may or may not feel this way when you study abroad but if you do just remember it is a blessing to be abroad and you are one of very few students who take the opportunity to do so. Embrace it. Embrace your local area, embrace the culture, and honestly just take it all in.

Now heres how I did spring break on a budget. First I looked at all the stuff within Melbourne that I had wanted to do while I was here and then I crammed it into one week. I went to the Melbourne Sealife Aquarium and did a glass bottom boat tour from the top of the tank! I went to the shrine of remembrance (one of the best sites to see the sunset). I went to the Marvels Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N in anticipation of the new avengers movie! I checked out the royal botanical gardens where I heard some strange birds. I went to the National gallery of Victoria and the Bunjilka museum where I learned about aboriginal culture. I did a tour of the parliament building and got to sit in the seats within the lower chamber! To top it all off I saw my favorite artist in person got her autograph and she called me her love. Needless to say my life is complete. While I didn’t get to do anything necessarily exotic I still visited many things unique to Melbourne and actually managed to have a great week!

I started out this trip with 144 days worth of time in Australia. Suddenly I am down to 92. Time really does fly. Next thing I know I will be on a flight back home and I intend on making every second count until then.

Feel free to view the photos below:)

 

 

Parliament

SeaLife Aquarium

 

I GOT TO MEET LANA DEL REY

Made some new Friends at the Lana Del Rey Concert

Week 1: The Adventure Begins

G’day Mates!

Greetings from down Under! 22 Hours on plane… 22! I was lucky enough to have not one.. but two crying children on my flight! Boy it was quite an experience. But when I landed at Melbourne International I was beyond excited. After waiting almost two hours to be taken to my accommodation ( Thanks Victoria University) I finally arrived at Unilodge. Of course the first thing I noticed was how all the cars were driving on the left side which made crossing the street a lot more difficult than I am used to. I got to Unilodge and was introduced to my five roommates since I had signed up for a six bedroom suite (not my brightest moment). The suite was A MESS. But I told my self I am in a new country over 10,000 miles away from home I wasn’t going to let that disastrous apartment set the mood for my time abroad.

Reflecting back it was probably a good thing that the suite was they way it was as it pushed me to leave Unilodge and explore my very first day. With absolutely no sense of direction in my newfound environment I just picked a direction and started walking. I saw many southeast Asians and many signs in Chinese. A lot of businesses have signs in Chinese which was one of the first things that surprised me. Also if you come to Australia don’t be surprised if people stop you to ask “how ya going”? Being from New York City I always have my guard up and of course you should do the same abroad but it was surprising to me that people would take the time to ask how I am doing without wanting anything in return! The people here truly are incredibly friendly.

It was an interesting feeling to wander around in a completely new environment. I found a Kmart which was essential in buying essentials (Ha! see what I did there?) . Anyways if you do stay at Unilodge you should expect some differences. Like you need to pretty much pay for everything other than oxygen. But if you budget your money and spend wisely you should be fine:). My first two weeks were nice but I was counting down the days to the Great Ocean Road Orientation trip. I wanted to get away from the city and head out towards the bush and explore the parts of Australia I read so much about.

Atrium Vibes (New Paltz is that you?)

I love doing work here! (Victoria State Library)

Unilodge @ Vu

 

Hosier Lane

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:

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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!

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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

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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

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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