My Trip to Seattle, Washington

My Trip to Seattle, Washington

A few months ago, an idea came into my mind. I decided to see if I could find a travel company that takes groups of millennials on trips. Sure enough, I stumbled upon For The Love of Travel. FTLOT offers amazing weekend trips to cities in North America, as well as longer international getaways. Not only did it sound amazing, but they had a trip to Seattle, one of the cities I wanted to visit. After chatting with a few of the team members via email and on the phone, I booked the Seattle trip before I could talk myself out of it.

The official FTLOT trip started on Friday, but I flew in a day early to get some extra site-seeing in, and most importantly, to see Ellen Degeneres live! I started my day with brunch and coffee at Tilikum Place Cafe, before heading to the Museum of Pop Culture. I thought this museum was really cool, and I especially enjoyed the exhibits for Jimi Hendrix, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana. I liked learning more about the musicians, and seeing actual artifacts such a diary entrees Hendrix wrote, and guitars he played. Another musical highlight of the museum was the Sound Lab, where you can try your hand at playing musical instruments.

 

One of the other women on the trip, Michelle, arrived a day early as well, so we met up for dinner that night at Local 360 Cafe & Bar. We both got a cocktail and sliders, which were delicious. Michelle and I got along really well, and it turned out we were roommates for that weekend, so it worked out great!

After dinner, I went to Benaroya Hall to see Ellen DeGeneres’ stand-up comedy show. It turned out that the show was actually a live taping of her Netflix comedy special, which I didn’t even realize ahead of time. The show was hilarious, and she even did a Q&A session afterwards. Unfortunately, I was sitting too far back to ask a question, but it was really cool to learn more about her. I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes peeled for when that airs on Netflix so I can watch and say “I was there!”

On Friday, I started my morning out right with a stack of pancakes and a mimosa at Portage Bay Cafe. They have a breakfast bar, where you can put all of the toppings your heart desires on your stack of pancakes. After breakfast I met up with Michelle and to head over to the Space Needle. Another member of the group, Joe, met us and we went up the Space Needle together. Even though it was pretty overcast that day (typical Seattle weather) it was still an awesome view of the city from the top! The highlight was definitely the new glass, revolving floors, which were terrifying at first. It took me so long to even step one foot on the floors, because my brain was registering it as unsafe, even though logically I knew it was fine. As you can see, I did eventually conquer my fear to stand, and even sit, on the floor!

 

Next we went to the Chihuly Garden and Glass, which was one of my favorite parts of the entire trip. Dale Chihuly is an artist that creates pieces out of glass, and this exhibition includes indoor galleries, a Glasshouse, and a garden. All of the pieces were so bright and colorful, my photos can’t even do it justice. You can check out more photos other people have taken on Instagram.

 

Friday night we finally met up with the entire FTLOT group we’d spend the rest of the weekend with. There were 8 of us total, including Tara, the founder of the company, and Kelsey, the Operations Coordinator and leader of the trip. We all grabbed drinks at Queen Anne Beerhall, a cool European-style bar with long communal tables and lots of food and beer. Afterwards we went to Brimmer and Heeltap for dinner. The food was amazing and we had a wine pairing with every course, which just made it that much better.

Saturday was a fun day of exploring and eating more great food. We began the day at Pike’s Place Market, where we went on a food tour. Our tour guide walked us around to the different vendors and restaurants, and we got to taste everything from samosas to grilled salmon. We also went to the Gum Wall, which is an alleyway near Pike’s Place that is covered in chewing gum. It’s a little bit gross, but makes for a cool background for Instagram pictures at the very least!

 

After Pike’s Place, we went on a boat tour, where we were able to get a really great view of the city from the water. We also learned a lot of history about Seattle during the tour, including some fun facts about different landmarks. At one point during the tour, the guide mentioned a chair called The Wishing Chair, which sits at the top floor of Smith Tower. The myth of the chair is that single women who sit in it, will find love within the year. Michelle and I decided to go see it after the boat tour. It has yet to be determined if the powers of the chair have worked, but we shall see!

 

Saturday night we had another amazing multiple-course dinner at Tavolata, followed by drinks and playing bocce ball at Rhein Haus. I’d never seen a bocce ball court inside a bar before, and we had a blast playing (very badly) for a while. It made me want to look up bocce ball in Austin, and I found out you can play at Opa Coffee & Wine Bar. I’ll definitely be checking it out soon!

Sunday was the final day in Seattle. We went to brunch at the Chihuly Collections Cafe, and then went to check out Gas Works Park, which is a public park on the site of a former gas company, and many pieces from the plant are still in the park. We also went to see the Fremont Troll, which is a weird sculpture of a troll under a bridge.

 

To say I’m glad I went on this trip would be an understatement. It was such a great experience in so many different ways. I made new friends, explored a new city, and even learned a thing or two about myself along the way. If you’re a millennial looking for a group to travel with, I would highly recommend joining the For The Love of Travel tribe.

Where was the last place you traveled? Where are you headed to next? Let me know in the comments, and feel free to reach out to me on social media if you have any questions about FTLOT or travel in general!

Travel Diary: Nosara, Costa Rica

Travel Diary: Nosara, Costa Rica

As I mentioned in my New Year’s Resolutions post, one of my goals for 2018 is to travel to at least three new places, and I am happy to say I can now check one off the list! If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that I went to Costa Rica for a week with my mom. We went for a One Yoga Global yoga retreat, and stayed at the beautiful Blue Spirit Retreat Center in Nosara.

This vacation was the first time I’d taken a full week off from work since I started my new job in October, and it was exactly what I needed. It was the perfect blend of relaxation, sunshine, fun excursions, and of course yoga. Instead of walking you through what we did every single day, I’m going to just share the top highlights from the trip.

The Location/Accommodations

As I mentioned, we stayed at Blue Spirit. We had a great experience there, and I would highly recommend it if you ever get the chance to stay there. One thing to note is that it is for yoga retreats specifically, so if you practice yoga you should definitely try to go on a retreat there. We stayed in a Nature Suite room, which looked like a little cottage with trees all around it which made it feel like a tree house!

There was a swimming pool at the resort, and a peaceful area with a koi pond that was nice to go to when you wanted some privacy. The beach was only a short walk away, so most days we would go for a swim in the ocean, and then go to the pool to cool off.

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Our room for the week
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My mom and I enjoying the ocean view

Besides the beautiful views, the best part of the accommodations was all of the delicious food! We got breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day, buffet style. It was almost exclusively vegetarian, with fish being the only meat served. The chefs actually made a cook book, and my mom and I bought it so we can try to recreate some of our favorite meals back in Austin now! Stay tuned for some cooking posts in the future, where I’ll share some of those recipes.

We also became obsessed with drinking coconut water, which we drank out of real coconuts!

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One of the breakfasts. The plantains were delicious!
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Posing with my coconut water

The Yoga/Gong Practice

As you can probably assume from the fact that it was a yoga retreat, yoga was a big part of the trip. We woke up every morning bright and early for a sunrise yoga class, then had some free time before returning for a sunset yoga class, followed by a meditation after dinner. For those of you who are familiar with different types of yoga, we were practicing Kundalini yoga.

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Meditating during a sunset yoga class

Another big aspect of this trip was the gong instruments. During almost every yoga class the teachers would play the gong while we relaxed. If you’ve never heard a gong played before, you’re missing out! It is a very calming, yet transformative experience to lay and listen to the sounds. Our brain actually can’t fully understand all of the tones and sounds the gong makes, because it is so different than any other instrument.

Besides listening to the gong, my mom and I also attended a training course a couple of days out of the week, where we learned all about the gong and how to play it, as well as how to connect it to Ayurvedic beliefs and practices. Despite the fact I had only ever played the gong once before this trip, I actually got multiple compliments about how well I played. I will definitely consider learning more about how to play, and possibly even get my own gong someday!

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Meditating and listening to the gongs
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Gong virtuoso right here!

Zip lining adventure

One of the highlights of the trip was when we went zip lining with Miss Sky Canopy Tours. It is the longest zip line tour in the world, with 21 different runs! If you read my Colorado travel post last summer, you know I tried zip lining for the first time then. This one was actually less scary, but much more fun. Unlike in Crested Butte, we didn’t have to jump off any platforms. Instead, we started on the solid ground each time and went off of the mountains. The views were incredible, and it was actually really relaxing to just lay back and fly through the air!

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The view from the top of one of the lines
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Right before going down upside down!

Refuge for Wildlife

Our last excursion of the trip was a visit to the Refuge for Wildlife, which is an awesome rehabilitation center for injured, displaced and orphaned wildlife such as howler monkeys that have been injured on electrical wires or bitten by dogs. The purpose of the center is to rescue, rehabilitate, and then release the animals back into their natural habitat after they are better.

We got to tour the facility and see some of the different animals that are being helped right now. They specialize in the howler monkey, but they help all types of animals from birds to raccoons. They don’t want us to share any photos publicly, but you can see a gallery on the website here.

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If you look closely you can see monkeys playing in the trees at Blue Spirit

 

Those were the main highlights of my trip! I hope you enjoyed hearing about it and seeing some photos. Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever traveled to Costa Rica, and which places are on your travel bucket list. Also, enjoy my travel diary video below!

 

Explore With Me: Santa Fe and Crested Butte

Explore With Me: Santa Fe and Crested Butte

I just got back from an amazing road trip to Crested Butte, Colorado with a quick stop in Santa Fe, New Mexico! I’d been to Santa Fe once when I was younger, so I was looking forward returning. I’d never been to Crested Butte before, but my parents and my sister had and they told me how beautiful it was. I’m excited to share some of the photos I took, and talk about the adventures I had, which included zip lining, white water rafting, horseback riding, and a few long hikes.

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We started our journey by driving to Santa Fe on Friday, July 21st. We stayed overnight at a family friend’s house, then spent Saturday exploring the farmer’s market, which was a lot of fun. We got to try “healthy” donuts, and look around at all of the fruits, veggies, and other products being sold. I didn’t buy anything, but it was fun to window shop!

 

 

 

After the farmer’s market we headed to our next stop on the trip, Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa. Ojo Caliente has a bunch of awesome natural mineral hot springs, as well as a pool and a mud bath. We spent Saturday night and Sunday morning enjoying the springs, going on walks, and eating at the delicious restaurant, the Artesian.  

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Sunday afternoon we made the drive up to our main destination: Crested Butte, Colorado. On my first day there I went on a long walk on the hike and bike trail, and not only got to take in the wonderful view, but also learned some fun facts about the town. Crested Butte and the surrounding area was originally home to the Ute Indians, and later became a coal mining town. Today, it’s more known for skiing and other outdoor activities like zip lining and horseback riding (both of which I did later in the week).

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The rest of the week was quite eventful and adventure-filled. Like I mentioned above, I went zip lining and horseback riding. But I also went white water rafting, which was my personal favorite activity! Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures from zip lining or rafting (it’s a little difficult to take a selfie whilst zipping through the mountains and avoiding rocks in a swift river).

But I did get this photo on my awesome horse, whose name was Cobra! He was pretty old and slow, but I was okay with that since I hadn’t ridden a horse since I was young. Cobra also didn’t like any horses riding behind him, so I had to ride in the back of the group.

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The final part of the vacation I wanted to mention was when we hiked to the top of Mount Crested Butte. The hike was quite strenuous, partly because of the high altitude which made it difficult to catch your breath. It was also a unique climb because the terrain changed quite a bit throughout the hike. Parts were like a normal hiking trail, but towards the end, it got super rocky and you had to use your hands to balance and climb to the top. Needless to say, my legs were quite sore for the next couple of days. But it was definitely worth it to see the exquisite view at the top!

 

 

 

Overall it was my ideal vacation – a good blend of adventures and relaxation. If you ever find yourself in Colorado, I would highly recommend checking out this town! And if you’ve never been to Santa Fe, I would 10/10 recommend that city as well.

Have you ever been to either of these places? Where are you headed on your next vacation? Let me know in the comments!

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Blogger Interview: Julie Cao

Blogger Interview: Julie Cao

I had the pleasure of interviewing another travel blogger, who has a unique perspective on travel as an expat in Canada, a freelance travel writer and full-time travel blogger. Check out her travel blog and get to know her in my interview below.

When and why did you decide to become a travel blogger?

I initially set up my blog five years ago to provide a journal for myself of living in Hawaii, and to show readers the reality of living in paradise. I wrote a post on the things I learned after living in Hawaii, and readers and my friends in Hawaii told me they loved my post and could totally relate to what I wrote about.  This inspired me to share more of my island life.

In the About Me section of your blog, you say: For me, living abroad is the best way to get to know a country. What do you think you learn from living abroad that a tourist cant learn during shorter travel? 

Living abroad has given me an extended period of time to explore my host city and country, and get to know some aspects of a place other travelers are not aware of. For example, after living in Hawaii for a few years, I realized it was not all paradise. It also has many negative sides – too expensive to live, very limited job opportunities, island fever, and has the second worst traffic in the USA (behind Los Angeles). One cannot notice these parts by just going there on vacation. 

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Youre a full-time travel blogger and freelance travel writer. How did you transition your passion for writing into your full-time job?

I did not think much, I just decided to do it full-time because it would be the best to combine my profession with my passion for travel and sharing stories. When I just started out, I had no experience in travel writing. I joined the MatadorU travel writing program to hone my writing skills and get myself exposed to the travel journalism industry. There are support groups, valuable resources and work opportunities in the program that helped me transition as well.

What are you most proud of that you have accomplished so far with your blog?

One of my favorite parts of blogging is being a part of the supportive travel blogging community. I have met many bloggers and we have been very supportive of each other. You know the feeling when you get to know someone and totally understand what you are doing?

What are you still hoping to accomplish?

I still want to finish the MatadorU travel writing program. I signed up for the course three years ago and I am still only halfway through it. It is a huge commitment and it’s easy to get distracted, but I am determined to finish this course so I can step up my career.

What has been your favorite place youve visited, and where do you still want to visit? 

Alaska. It is the best place to visit in the USA if you love natural beauty. I have been to Alaska five times and I still want to return. 

I also wish to visit Churchill Manitoba, the polar bear capital of the world with 300 days Aurora Borealis every year and only 3,000 residents. 

North Douglas Island

What is the biggest lesson travel blogging has taught you?

Always be kind and generous. The world is very small and the travel blogging community is no exception. Everyone loves working with those who are nice and easy to work with. 

What are some of the things you are most grateful for in your life right now?

Having the opportunity to live abroad and travel around the world. I have seen poverty and people struggle with daily life and it makes me feel privileged to live the life I want in a developed country and be able to travel.

Who are some of the women (both in your personal life and famous people) who inspire you the most and why?

Julia Dimon, co-host of Word Travel, gave me the idea for travel writing in the first place. Her travel show revealed that it is possible to travel around the world full-time. She is quirky and practical, and you can tell she is very intuitive and smart.

I am also grateful to have met my travel blogger friend, Emily Luxton, when I just started out. We collaborated with each other and she invited me to her Facebook group where I had the opportunity to meet and collaborate with other travel bloggers. She offered me valuable advice on blogging and encouraged me to work with tourism boards when my blog was just five months old. Thanks to her, I was then offered a self-organized press trip to Winnipeg early this year despite my blog being so new.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start a travel blog?

Focus on creating high-quality content, and try not to look at the numbers and your blog statistics. I used to obsess over social media, blog statistics and comment pods, but I found it very time-consuming and can only get me so far. If you offer something readers really need and write from your heart, followers will come and ask for more.

What is one thing most people dont know about you? 

I do not like most sweet foods and desserts, but chocolate and ice-cream are exceptions.

 

Make sure to follow Julie on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to follow along with her exciting travels.

 

Explore With Me: Las Vegas, Nevada

Explore With Me: Las Vegas, Nevada

Last month I visited Las Vegas for the first time with two of my friends, so I wanted to share some photos and talk about my experience. Vegas is somewhere I knew I wanted to visit at least once in my life, and I’m glad I finally did it!

Day One
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The MGM Grand lobby

We arrived in Las Vegas on Thursday, June 1 around 11 in the morning. My friend Rachel and I flew together, and Lisa flew separately and got in later in the afternoon. We stayed at the MGM Grand, which we later learned is one of the biggest hotels in Vegas. It definitely seemed huge, and we kept getting lost on our way to the room even after we’d been there a few days.

After we’d settled into our room, Rachel and I set out to walk around The Strip (the main street in Vegas where you can find lots of casinos, hotels, and restaurants). We walked pretty far that afternoon, going into a bunch of different hotels to see what they looked like, and spending some time watching the Fountains of Bellagio. All of the hotels have a different theme, and the architecture and decorations in each are amazing!

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Day Two

Our second day was arguably the most fun. We started the day at our hotel’s brunch buffet, which included plenty of food and bottomless mimosas. The buffet had every kind of food you can imagine, from sushi to typical breakfast to chips and queso. After our stomachs were happy, we headed to the hotel pool, where we somehow ended up being handed free passes to get into an exclusive party at MGM’s second pool, Wet Republic.

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I personally liked the regular pool the best, because Wet Republic was really crowded and you could barely find space to even get in the pool, while the regular hotel pool had plenty of room and there was also a relaxing lazy river! But, if you are someone who likes big parties with great music and plenty of people to meet, I would definitely suggest you check out Wet Republic next time you’re in Vegas.

After our pool day came to a close, we headed to dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant I would highly recommend called LAVO. We all ordered cocktails which were very tasty, and the pasta and salads were delicious as well. We also got to sit outside on the patio and have a great view of The Strip which was really nice.

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Standing on the Palazzo hotel steps after dinner at LAVO

Remember how I said this was probably the best day of the trip? The fun didn’t end there! After dinner we walked over to The Mirage to see The Beatles LOVE Cirque du Soleil show! The show was just as awesome as I hoped it would be, from the fantastic acrobatics to the actual recordings of The Beatles talking and singing, this is a show I would recommend everyone see during their time in Las Vegas.

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Day Three

By the third day we were all pretty exhausted (I think that tends to happen in Las Vegas), so we walked around on The Strip for a bit and then hung out at the pool again. That night we had another amazing dinner at a restaurant called Beauty and Essex in The Cosmopolitan Hotel. The food and drinks were delicious, just like LAVO. The two restaurants are actually owned by the same restaurant group, TAO Group.

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My friends and I enjoying our drinks at Beauty & Essex

The Cosmopolitan was one of my favorite hotels we visited, mostly because of the awesome Chandelier bar, which has purple beaded chandeliers hanging from three different stories, creating a really beautiful atmosphere. We hung out at the bar and took lots of fun pictures after dinner, before heading the hotel’s club, Marquee.

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Lisa and I at the Chandelier bar

On Sunday we had to head to the airport fairly early, so our last day was uneventful. Overall it was a great trip, and I’m glad I was able to experience Las Vegas for the first time. We definitely took the more relaxed, sight-seeing route compared to how most people do Vegas, but that was exactly what I wanted. There’s no “right” way to do Las Vegas, after all! Great food, an amazing show, plenty of pool time, and I am a happy girl.

If you’ve been to Vegas before, let me know what your experience was like in the comments! I’d love to hear where you stayed, as well as some of the bars and restaurants you visited.

My next vacation is coming up at the end of the month, so stay tuned for a post about that in August, and be sure to follow me on Instagram to stay up-to-date on what I’m up to!

July, August & September Recap

July, August & September Recap

I dropped the ball on my monthly recap posts since June, so I thought I would bundle the main highlights from the last few months into one blog post to catch you guys up on my life. Enjoy!

Family Beach Vacation
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Growing up, my family and I used to go to Port Aransas every summer. We hadn’t been in a few years, so we decided to take a trip for old time’s sake. I took three days off of work, and left my laptop at home so I could completely disconnect and have some much-needed relaxation time. (I’m thinking of writing a post about how to have a work-free vacation, so let me know in the comments if you’d be interested in that.)

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It was my ideal type of vacation, because it had the perfect mix of chill-out time and adventuring. We spent a good amount of time reading, swimming in the pool and ocean, and watching the Olympics, but we also went out and explored new places in Corpus Christie like the botanical gardens (where a parrot with no beak hung out on my shoulder) and the aquarium!

Elizabeth’s Wedding
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One of my first ever friends, literally from when I was an infant, got married in August! Although she and I haven’t stayed in touch very well in recent years, my mom and her mom have remained best friends, and I was really excited to be able to attend her wedding. It was cool to to witness such a big milestone in her life and to remember playing with her when we were kids. Time really does fly!

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This was the third wedding Brian and I have attended together, so it was fun having him there with me along with my parents. Their reception was in a really cool lounge area. It was decorated with beautiful flowers, and the lighting was perfect. They also had an adorable slideshow playing with baby pictures, and I made it into one of the pictures!

Lauren’s Visit
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Last month, my friend Lauren (who I wrote about in my June Recap post) came to visit me for the weekend! It was so much fun having her here, and we managed to fit a lot of fun into a few days. We went to the Blue Cat Cafe (mentioned in my May Recap post), and ate delicious food at VoodooSpun, and Gourdough’s.

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On Sunday we went to an awesome event put on by Aerie, where we got to take free yoga classes, and meet the very sweet and super inspirational model Iskra Lawrence! Aerie is a unique brand in that they don’t retouch or Photoshop any of their models, and they make an effort to promote body positivity for young girls. I love everything they stand for, and it was really great to meet Iskra and get to hear her talk about how she has managed to stay positive and love herself despite the media and people in the modeling industry making it difficult.

Family Time in Wimberley

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My parents recently rented a house in Wimberley, and they’ve been staying out there almost every weekend. It’s right on the creek, and they are walking distance from a coffee shop, some restaurants, and even a library which they are now members of.

My younger sister and her boyfriend went out to stay with them for a weekend in September, so Brian and I went out on Sunday and we all got to swim and have a nice lunch at The Leaning Pear (which I mentioned in my June Recap). It was really nice visiting with everyone and having a “triple date”, and I can definitely see why my parents are loving it out there so much. It’s so peaceful and quiet compared to the bustle of the city, which makes for a great escape on the weekends.

I hope you enjoyed reading about what I’ve been up to the past few months! I will definitely try to write a recap every month like I did in May and June, so be on the lookout for an October Recap next month.

Answer in the comments: What was your favorite memory from the last three months?

Spring Break ’14: A Week in Italy

¡Hola amigos! Happy belated Easter! Though I may have been slightly jealous when the rest of you were on Spring Break a month ago, this past week definitely made all of the waiting worthwhile. In Spain, and most of the rest of Europe, they don’t really have a “Spring Break” like we do in the U.S. Instead, they have Easter Break, which falls, you guessed it, around Easter time. As I mentioned in my last post, I got a week off from class for our break, and Rowan and I decided to spend it together in Italy! We went to Venice for 4 days, and Florence for 4 days.

Venice was really cool and unlike any other city I’ve been to before. The city is on a group of islands, separated by canals and linked by a bunch of bridges. The streets are all really narrow because there are no cars on the island, and all of the streets kind of look the same (narrow, going along a canal with a bridge) so navigating around the city proved to be a difficult task. For example, it took us an extremely long time to get to our hostel because the map we had was tiny and the street we were supposed to turn on looked more like a sketchy alleyway to us (we actually called it “The Sketchy Alleyway” for the rest of our time there).

We decided to explore on our own for a while on Sunday, before we went on a walking tour. We stumbled across Teatro La Fenice, one of the most famous opera houses in Italy and all of Europe. We got to walk through the theatre and see all of the different rooms, and got free audio guides to hear about all of the history behind each room. We also got lucky enough to watch a few minutes of a rehearsal that was going on onstage. We think it was La Boheme. I wish I could have taken pictures or videos of the rehearsal, but that wasn’t allowed. But it was really cool to watch since I have never been to the opera before. 

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Teatro La Fenice

Later we went on our walking tour of the city, which was really nice because we got to hear a lot of things about the history of the city, including facts about how it is slowly sinking. The second part of our tour was on a boat, which was really fun, but apparently did not satisfy our urge to ride boats. We were really determined to go on a gondola ride down the canal, but when we asked for the price it was 80 euros per ride, which seemed way too expensive for just one ride. So we decided to try to get a group of people to go with us so we could all split the amount and it would be cheaper. This didn’t end up working out unfortunately, but we watched a lot of gondola rides and even got our picture taken by a random man who was going by on the boat, so I think we basically got the full experience.

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The gondola ride we should have been on

We spent our second full day there exploring some of the nearby islands. The first is called Burano, and is a really cute little town with canals like Venice. What makes it special is that all of the houses and buildings are painted really colorfully. It has become a bit touristy, and I couldn’t help wondering what the locals think of all of these people walking by and taking pictures of their brightly painted houses, which to them must just seem normal. Next we went to Torcello, which was even tinier, and only really had one church that we went inside, and a few cafes. We stopped at one cafe to have crepes, which were delicious. We then made our way back to Venice, which proved to be more difficult than it should have been because we got on the wrong water bus and had to get off and wait for the right one to take us back.

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The island of Burano

Venice was a lot of fun, and when it was time to leave on Tuesday we definitely felt that we could have stayed and seen more even though the city is fairly small. One of the highlights was definitely our hostel owner, Amran, who shared a bunch of funny stories with us about Venice and people who have stayed in the hostel, and let us sit and talk to him for hours! When two guys from New York started giving us a hard time and making fun of Texas, Amran agreed that he would rather visit Texas than New York, which kind of made our night. We were obviously not alone in our appreciation for Amran, because behind his desk the entire wall was filled with thank you notes written by people who had stayed in the hostel. We decided to make ours have a Texas theme, and poke a little fun at the New York boys.

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My thank you sign
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Rowan’s thank you sign

Tuesday afternoon we got on a train and headed to Florence, where we would stay until Friday night. The couple sitting next to us on the train were pretty friendly, and Rowan and I both agreed the husband was definitely not quite ready to leave behind his youth. He talked about his trip to Amsterdam with a bit too much enthusiasm, right before showing us pictures of his two young children.

Florence was definitely an easier city to navigate in comparison to Venice. There are a couple of big landmarks that, if you can find them, you can pretty much find anything. The first night we just wandered a bit and ended up stumbling upon a lot of the famous sights including the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, Santa Maria Novella and Santa Crocce. But we waited until the next day to explore them more.

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In front of Santa Maria Novella

We had a list of things we wanted to do and see in Florence, and I think we did a pretty good job accomplishing all of them. We woke up bright and early Wednesday morning to go to the Uffizi Gallery, which is one of the oldest and most famous art museums in the world, and one of the top tourist attractions in the city. It took us hours to go through the whole thing, and it was definitely worth it. It has a huge collection of Renaissance art, including a lot of sculptures. Me and Rowan’s favorite part was laughing at all of the bizarre faces of the babies in paintings. Next time you go to a museum, pay special attention to the fact that all babies during the Renaissance period have the faces of adults. They don’t look like baby faces at all. It’s quite strange.

After the gallery we met up with our designated tour guide, Nathan, who I met in Barcelona and basically forced into being our tour guide for the week. He was nice enough to show us around and put up with listening to our incessant gossiping about people and places he didn’t know. First he took us to go inside the Basilica of Santa Crocce, the main church and another big tourist attraction in the city. The church happens to be the burial place of many well-known Italians, including Michelangelo, Galileo and Dante. It was really beautiful inside, with a lot of stained glass windows and really detailed wall paintings. We went back inside Thursday night, because all of the churches were free at night as part of Semana Santa (Holy Week) before Easter.

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Santa Crocce
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Galileo’s tomb
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Michaelangelo’s tomb

We also visited the Bobili Gardens, a big park with a lot of Roman sculptures, and Ponte Vecchio, a bridge over the Arno River, which was built back in Roman times. It is the oldest bridge in Florence, and one of the top tourist attractions. In Medieval times, Ponte Vecchio was a top place for jewelry shopping, and today the bridge is still lined with shops selling gold and jewelry as well as tourist souvenirs. We also went to Piazza Michelangelo which is on top of a hill and has an amazing view of the entire city, as well as a very pretty rose garden. 

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Me and Rowan at Ponte Vecchio

And of course I have to mention the food we ate, since this was a week in Italy and all. Rowan and I stumbled upon a couple of little cafes, one with really good pasta, and the other with salads. We were both really craving a salad, which I know sounds stupid since we were in the land of pasta, pizza, gelato, and other carb-stuffed things. But the salads we had were amazing! Nathan also took us to two different sandwich shops, which were both delicious, as well as a gelato place that serves organic flavors such as kiwi, pistachio, cinnamon and even a wine flavor. We also went to Secret Bakery, a bakery that really is secret unless you know where to find it. It is in a random alleyway, in a tiny room that I definitely would never have noticed on my own. They bake the pastries fresh, and they were delicious!

Overall my Spring Break was a week I will never forget. Italy was such a fun country to visit, and I feel like I actually learned a lot about the history from the tour in Venice (be proud mom and dad!) From the food, to the art, to the beautiful landmarks, I would definitely recommend both Venice and Florence. I hope I can go back someday and maybe explore Rome and other parts of Italy as well!

This Thursday I am traveling again, on my last trip before I return home. The semester has really flown by! I will be going to London for the weekend, then heading to Aberdeen, Scotland to visit Rowan! (Hopefully she didn’t get sick of me during our week together..)

Ciao for now,

Shelly