What’s on Your TO DO List?

Packing.

One of my least favorite tasks when embarking on a journey, whether it be for a weekend or four months, is packing.

This upcoming Monday, I will catch a bus down to New York City with Erin (my sister) to stay with Conor (my boyfriend) for a little less than a week before catching my plane with Ema and Becca (my two fellow “European Adventurers” — so we’ve dubbed ourselves) for Brussels, Belgium.

As of right now, I believe I have everything I’ll need, but of course, I’ll never really know until we get there!

Check back in later next week for pre-departure updates (and pictures of yummy food)!

Katie

Hello Ireland!

I have less than two weeks left in Europe. I thought it was be good idea to squeeze in two more countries before I head back home. My friend Lauren and I made a decision to visit Ireland and Amsterdam because those are two countries that we always wanted to visit. Spring break happened so fast that we didn’t get to include these countries into our travels.

So in the beginning of June, we headed off to Dublin, Ireland for three days. Out of all the traveling I’ve done, Ireland was the easiest and smoothest traveling day. We were able to explore on the first day with no problem.

Tip #1: Traveling can be fun, but it’s not glamorous all the time. There were moments that I was so exhausted and wanted to just sleep. You’re constantly on the move and alert. Traveling is fun, but it’s not always fun.

On the first day, we explored the city of Dublin. We even went to the Guinness Storehouse and learned how beer was made. It was really informative and I learned a lot about the industry. The highlight  of that day was that met three different people that either lives in New Paltz or went to SUNY New Paltz. It was such a small world!

Tip #2: You never know who you’re going to meet on your travels. The world made me large, but it can surprise you in the smallest ways.

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On the second day, we took a bus tour to Belfast which is in Northern Ireland. The bus tour ran from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. filled with so many things to do. First, there was a black taxi tour in the town of Ulster, where I learned about the troubles between Catholics and Protestants. It was interesting to see and learn about the history between the communities. It’s crazy to think it’s still going on after all these years. We got to visit the peace wall and I wrote a small note with the lines of “Love is love. Peace is peace. All lives matter.”

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While we were on the bus, the tour guide gave us information on Ireland and told us many mythological tales. There were even moments that we learned about Game of Thrones shootings, a show that I love very much.

Aside from that we visited the Giant Causeways and the Rope Bridge which I went over. It was amazing! The view of Northern Ireland is breathtaking. The water is a bright blue and there is so much green life around. I fell in love with the views of Ireland. By the time we headed back to Dublin, a rainbow appeared in the sky, and I knew that going to Ireland was a great decision.

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On the last day in Dublin, it was a perfect day to visit the parks. I got to see the Oscar Wilde statue. He is one of my favorite authors and the statue fit his personality perfectly. I also got the opportunity to visit Dublin Castle for free because it was the first Wednesday of the month. The day ended with a view of the state apartments as well.

Tip #3: Make sure you research the places you go to. There can be great discounts and free places to visit.

Ireland was such a great place to visit and I can’t wait to come again!

Final Stop: Austria & Germany!

I couldn’t believe Spring Break was almost over. Before I was returning to Cardiff for my last weeks of classes, I headed to Austria for a few days. I’ve heard of Austria briefly and I was curious to find out all about it. The minute the plane landed and I was surrounded by a breathtaking view of the mountains, I knew I was going to fall in love with the country.

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I stayed in Salzburg, Austria, the home to the famous movie Sound of Music. It’s also the hometown to the composer Mozart. The town is small, but nonetheless it held a lot of history and fun things to do. It was a change from the busy cities I’ve traveled previously. We spent the whole time walking around rather than relying on transportation.

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On our second day in Austria, my friend and I went on the Sound of Music tour. We got to see places where they shot the classic movie. It was also a great opportunity to see how scenic Austria was. Austria is filled with so much green life, it’s honestly the most beautiful place in the world.

I’ve only seen the movie twice (my friend Lauren was more of the fan), so I got to learn about the scenes, fun facts, and even sing along on the bus with other fans. By the end of the trip, I knew all the words, and I  may have even get some holy water from the famous church that the main character got married in.

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397562_10205498911728850_5837471293956446950_nOne of the things I miss from Austria is their delicious food. I got to try their famous pretzels, apple strudels, schnitzel, and goulash. I loved the opportunity to eat different foods from the different countries I visited.

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Tip #1: Don’t be afraid to try new things. When you’re traveling, step out of your comfort zone.

On our third day, we decided to take a trip to Munich, Germany! We took a train from Salzburg and decided on a hop on/off bus for the day.

Tip #2: If you’re only in a country for a day, try a hop on/off bus. It’s a great way to see everything that country has to offer and learn about them in a short amount of time.

The weather was nice to see Germany through the top of the bus. It was nice to get off the bus and spend time to see the city through our eyes. It was weird to see everyone out and about because most of thee stores were closed. This was a repeated pattern in Europe. Either stores were closed completely on the weekends or they closed earlier than I’m use to. I’m so use to stores being open everyday on late hours. Just one of the many differences between Europe and America.

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A moment that I will always remember is when an elderly woman dropped her phone, I picked it up, and gave it back to her. She was so thankful, she decided to give me some German chocolate and 50 cents. I wasn’t expecting that and it just made my day that she was just so happy that I helped her out. It made my experience in Germany even brighter.

Tip #3: Expect the unexpected. There are good people in the world.

I couldn’t believe Austria and Germany was my last countries that I visited for the break, but it was a good way to end the best trips of my life. So when you’re planning your trip to explore Europe, don’t forget to add Austria and Germany to your list.

Third Stop: Rome!

The next stop for five days was in the beautiful city of Rome! Not only was I spending the first week in April in Rome, but I was spending my birthday in the ancient city.

The weather in Rome was a nice change from the wind and rain from our previous trips. Before heading to Rome, one of the things I was looking forward to was the food! The first meal I had in Rome was a pizza filled with prosciutto. I knew from that first meal that Italy was not going to disappoint!

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The first place I visited was the Vatican Museum. The Vatican Museum was overwhelming, amazing, but overwhelming! There was so many things to look at. In every direction, there was beautiful art that I wanted to capture in my mind forever. It took my breath away at the amount of work that went into making these masterpieces we know today.

From my time at the Vatican Museum, I learned two things:

  • Be VERY careful: I learned before traveling about the thieves, but also keep in mind for the people trying to sell you a bag, selfie stick, tour, whatever. Be mindful and smart.
  • Be in the moment: I made the mistake of missing the most important piece in the Vatican. I was so focused on taking a photo of the overall picture, I forgot to take the finer details in. Put down the phone and just take it in.

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Aside from the Vatican. I saw the Colosseum and I was in awe. I’ve always saw this on television and photos that actually being there left me speechless. I remember taking photos and realizing how unreal it looked. I also had the opportunity to go inside and explore it’s history. I was surprised at the information I’ve already knew. (Thanks SUNY New Paltz!)

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Since I went the week of Easter, I was honored to see the Pope! On Good Friday, we were able to see him and be apart of a mass in front of the Colosseum with over thousands of people from around the world. It was a surreal experience that I will never forget. Also seeing the sunset behind the Colosseum wasn’t a bad sight.

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Towards the end of the trip, I wanted to fulfill my Lizzie McGuire dream of seeing the Trevi Fountain. Now, I knew beforehand it was under construction, but I was in for a surprise.

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Tip #3: Don’t assume things are going to be like the movies or the way you wanted it.

Even though it was HEAVILY under construction, it was still great to see it and throw a coin, even if no water was running.

Rome was filled with so much great history and delicious food. I had an amazing time and wouldn’t mind visiting Italy again.

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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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!

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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.

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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.

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Till next time, thanks for reading! Adios <3

Tamara

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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!

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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

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As seen in our airbnb

 

 

Adjusting My (Budgeting) Life

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Roath Park

I can’t believe it’s been over a month and a half! I’ve been settling in Wales nicely with juggling personal responsibilities, academics, and a social life.  Although I feel like time is moving fast, my life has been at a steady pace. It took a while to adjust to the calm atmosphere that Wales brings me.

I always considered myself an independent person. However, I realized I wasn’t as independent as I thought. It was a new challenge for me to start budgeting my life when it came to food, travels, and social events.

Although it’s fun to spend money on traveling and social events, it’s also important to budget money for eating. When I first came to Wales, I was overwhelmed. I didn’t know how I was going to use my money wisely. How was I going to eat and have fun at the same time? I realized I relied so much on a meal plan, that I forgot how to step out of it.

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First real cooked meal at Wales!

 

By the next week, I was getting better at budgeting. I began writing my expenses down and focusing on what’s important. I only cashed out money once (even twice) a month. I used the cash when I really needed it or my purchases were less than twenty pounds.

When it came to food shopping, I began comparing prices. There are three (sometimes four) supermarkets I look into. By comparing prices of the items I buy, I’m cutting cost and getting an abundance of items that can hold me for a month or two. Before coming to Wales, I was afraid I wasn’t going to find anything I like. But that fear slowly faded with the variety of choices I was familiar with when I walk the aisle of the supermarkets. Oh poptarts, how I missed you!

With a focus on what I’m buying and how much I’m spending, I have enough money left over for fun stuff like trips, social events with friends, and delicious traditional Welsh food!

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Traditional Welsh Breakfast

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Welsh Rarebit & Earl Grey Tea

 

I always relied on the advice of my mother or on SUNY New Paltz for so many of things. It’s weird not being able to pick up the phone and call my mother (with the rates for international calling and the five hours difference it’s difficult). It’s also weird that my student id is nothing more than just identification. I never use my id except to let people know I go to Cardiff University or discounts at stores (there’s 20% discount at Krispy Kreme’s!).

From meals to printing, budgeting has become a major adjustment to my life.