Four Months That Changed My Life

Well, I have been back home in America for about a month now which has given me some time to catch up with friends and family and of course answer all their questions about my time abroad. Responding to everyone has also given me time to reflect on my experience.

My last month in Europe was a whirlwind, which I hope justifies my lack of a post. I simply was having so much fun and filling every last second with a new adventure. I finally was able to take a trip to visit my friends Elysia and Dan in Barcelona, along with some other students I had met during my travels.

It was a real treat to visit the sunny city of Barcelona after spending so many months in cloudy Amsterdam. On my first day there I walked La Rambla all the way down to the harbor which was filled with sailboats and yachts floating in the clearest blue water I had seen in a very long time. Seagulls were flying through the warm (well, warm to me, but cold to those from Barcelona) air and the shore was dotted with palm trees. How could I not have a smile on my face the entire trip? After exploring the harbor I met up with Elysia to visit the Picasso Museum. We spent a long time wandering through the many rooms in awe of how his work progressed throughout his lifetime. What puzzled us most was the room containing his many renditions of Las Meninas. Each painting contained the same subjects just with the focus on different parts or the colors switched. The paintings seemed quite obsessive. At night we grabbed some drinks at a bar filled with other Americans studying abroad in Barcelona and while there I began to fear my return back to America after having spent the last few months so far away in a completely different culture. But I can say that the transition back has gone much more smoothly than I expected, but then again maybe I’ve subconsciously been putting off the blog post in denial that it is actually over. My next few days in Barcelona consisted of shopping, eating good food, and taking in the incredible views of the city from Park Qüell and from Bunkers de Carmel. We watched the sun, set from the bunkers and it was a really surreal moment because, in Amsterdam, there are no hills at all. In fact, it is mostly below sea level. But while I was at the top of the bunkers looking out over the city and the ocean, I felt as though I were looking out over my entire experience abroad. I seriously got the chills. My time in Barcelona was capped with a night out typical Barcelona style where we only headed out to the first bar around 10pm which was still empty. Later we ended up at a club called Bling Bling where we knew several people who were also studying abroad and danced all night until 5am when the subways started running again for everyone else’s morning commute.

After my quick trip to Barcelona, Gia and I needed to crack down on studying but didn’t let that get in the way of our continuous exploration of Amsterdam. We jumped from cafe to cafe all around the city as we studied for our finals. I even turned my museum visits into study sessions (okay now I’m getting super sad). The Amsterdam Museum provided a timeline of the expansion of the city and how the culture changed throughout the years. I think I learned just as much in the museums for my Amsterdam Urban History Course as I did during the semester through readings. Luckily, the day I visited the museum was a sunny day and I spent the rest of the day riding around The Nine Streets on my bike trying to soak in every last corner of the city. I’ve never wanted to “hug” a place so much as I’ve wanted to hug Amsterdam. Amsterdam became my own place in the world where I was able to be truly free without any influence from people I had spent my whole life with. I truly had time to find myself as a person and grow up by having to be independent and fend for myself.

Luckily though, I was able to share Amsterdam once again with my sister Holly. As soon as she finished her first semester of college, she flew over to Amsterdam to visit me and celebrate her 19th birthday. While she was with me we biked all around the city hitting all my favorite spots one last time. In just the three days she was there we visited Brouwerij t’ IJ, Albert Cuypt Market, Anne Frank house, the Stedelijk Museum – which had a new exhibit including a whole stairwell of quotes from George Orwell’s 1984, a shared favorite book between the two of us, plus we got to go ice skating right outside the museums, and of course did lots of shopping.

Despite how quick Holly’s trip was we still found time to go to Paris for a couple of nights. We stayed in the nicest Airbnb that had a balcony overlooking the city street down below. While in Paris we got to see all the sites. However, when we visited the Eiffel Tower, it was pretty foggy and rainy so when we were at the tippy top, we could not see a single thing. It was fun though on the way down because it began to light up and sparkle as we were Facetiming our parents. The next day we visited Shakespeare and Company, spent a lot of time walking along the Seine River, gawking at the glass pyramids outside the Louvre, braving the Arc de Triomphe, and we even went all the way the Sacre Coeur (which was neat since Holly attends Sacred Heart University), where we could see the entire city despite the clouds. Inside the Sacre Coeur Cathedral were some of the most beautiful biblical paintings I had ever seen. The ceiling seemed to be covered in gold and it truly felt like a sacred place. Holly’s birthday had to of been one of the best days we had. We began the day with brunch and mimosas before hanging out in the Luxemburg Gardens until our train back to Amsterdam. When we got back to Amsterdam, we went over to my favorite restaurant in Amsterdam North before heading out on a Light Festival canal cruise. Each year, Amsterdam hires artists to create light sculptures to be placed in and along the canals which can be viewed by boat. It was pretty cold but we were provided with blankets and endless mulled wine and hot chocolate. After the cruise, we headed up to one of the fanciest bars in Amsterdam which overlooks the city and harbor. After some drinks, we went to meet up with Gia and her roommate to have a last walk around the city. Knowing you’re in a place for the last time (at least for a while) is such a sad moment. I really did not want to head back to my apartment knowing I had to catch a flight in the morning but my entire experience was so incredible that I had nothing left undone but I already can’t wait to return, hopefully next time in the Spring so I can see all the tulips Amsterdam is so famous for.

Thank you to my friends and family who supported me along the way. I am so grateful for all the new friends I made along the way from all over the world. My experiences would not have been nearly as much fun without having this opportunity to share them with you. I hope you enjoyed my blog as much as I enjoyed writing it! 🙂

A few pictures of some of the marvelous people I got to share these unreal adventures with! XOXO

The Dutch are on to Something

I’ve completely fallen in love with Amsterdam and all the quirky things I always stumbled across in this city. I can 100% say I have never been bored here.

I’ve done so much over the past few weeks I wanted to blog about some of the highlights.

Friends Visiting

Despite coming abroad alone, I knew long before hand that I would have friends studying and working in other cities as well. This was both comforting and exciting because gives us chance to visit each other! About a month ago, my friends, Devon, Elysia, and Dan visited me from Paris and Barcelona. The weekend they came was great but it rained a lot. I’m proud and thankful that they continued to bike around the city with me in the rain because I was able to show them so much in the few days they were here. I ended up giving them a brewery tour of the city to keep us dry and warm. Like I said, Amsterdam is quirky and they are really focused on sustainability which can be seen in their repurposing of buildings. One of the breweries we went to called “Troost” which is in an old monastery. The vibes in the brewery were the perfect example of “gezelligheid which is a Dutch word that doesn’t exactly translate but means something along the lines of cozy. The next day we had lunch at Pllek which is in repurposed shipping containers and went back to Brouwerij’t IJ which is in a repurposed windmill. The Dutch are definitely on to something, they are saving money and the environment, plus creating really cool places that are truly “gezelligheid.”


This year was my first time ever not being home on Thanksgiving. Luckily two of my best friends, Shannon and Meghan, who I’ve known since I was in preschool came to visit. They arrived the day before Thanksgiving so we decided to go to the Albert Cuyp Market to grab some vegetables to have for dinner the next night. On Thanksgiving, we started the day with mimosa’s and avocado toast before heading over to the Anne Frank house. It was really special to go back there on Thanksgiving because it made me all the more thankful to have my friends with me and know that I have a family who misses me back home. After the Anne Frank house we took a canal cruise around the city while sipping on some Heinekens and then headed over to the liquor store so that Shannon could buy her first bottle of wine for our dinner. Back at my apartment I cooked my very own Thanksgiving dinner consisting of sweet potatoes, green beans, quinoa, salad, and bread. I truly was very proud of myself and very much into the holiday spirit. We had such a great Thanksgiving dinner together followed by some Dutch apple pie and I was so thankful to have them by my side on my first Thanksgiving away from home.


Also when Shannon and Meghan were here we got a chance to go to the flea market in Amsterdam Noord which is the biggest flea market in Europe. It only happens once a month and just happened to be while they were here. It was also my first time making it there and I was in awe. They sell just about everything you could image for your home and so many clothes, shoes, bags, and jewelry. The vendors there sell most things super cheap and are always down to haggle with you. I was able to find some super cool stuff here and love the concept of the flea market which is a sustainable way to shop.


Even though Shannon and Meghan were here for such a time, we decided to make a day trip to another city in the Netherlands called Utrecht. Utrecht is said to be a smaller, less touristy Amsterdam and I was looking forward to seeing what people meant by that. Utrecht is also a very old city and they have their very own canals but they are much lower than the ones in Amsterdam. When we arrived everywhere we saw Black Friday shopping signs. We spent the whole day shopping in the city and were able to get some really good deals on really nice stuff. It definitely was very crowded in the city that day but never overwhelming and mostly just locals.

I actually ended up going back to Utrecht the next weekend as well with some friends I hadn’t hung out with in awhile. I met Chris and Blaise the first weekend I was here but all of us traveled like crazy so we hadn’t gone out much since but still saw each other frequently in passing. When we realized we were all going to be in the city for the weekend we decided to go out for drinks. Them and Gia got to talking about how they hadn’t visited Utrecht yet and made plans to go the next day. Last minute I tagged along because I had really enjoyed Utrecht and wanted to see more of it beyond the shopping. We decided to visit the Dom Tower which is the huge bell tower in the city. It’s 465 steps to the top and they only get steeper the higher up you get. The tour guide was really informative and told us about the purpose of each of the rooms in the tower, what really amazed me is that to build the tower, they would pull the materials up the middle of it through trap doors. They even pulled all the 14 bells up that way and weighing 32,000 kg in total. From the top of the tower we could look across to St. Martin’s cathedral, at one point the bell tower and the cathedral were actually connected. Today the cathedral is massive itself but the middle half of it which connected it was actually destroyed by tornados in 1674. Below is a picture of me standing where one of the pillars once stood, I can’t believe the size of just the one pillar.

De School

Following the trend of repurposing, nearby my apartment is a techno club called “De School” which is in a former elementary school. Quite an interesting concept to go clubbing in a former school but it was a really cool place to experience techno. Europe is really big on techno music and before coming I personally didn’t know too much about it but was excited to check it out. The only problem was that a lot of the techno clubs are pretty exclusive since the whole idea of them is that it is about the music. Last weekend Gia had a friend visiting so we decided to try it out. I was very pleasantly surprised by the experience. It truly was all about the music, we went in and it was completely dark with only exit lights illuminating the room with the occasional flash of light from the DJ stand. The music itself was also much more enjoyable than I would have thought it would be. No pictures because they cover up your phone camera with a sticker!

Oh Wonder

Also last weekend, my favorite duo came to play at Paradiso. I had been trying to get tickets since September when I heard they were playing but they instantly sold out. Then on day I got a notification that 50 more tickets were released and immediately bought one before even thinking about asking someone to join me because I wanted to buy it so quickly. Luckily the day before the concert, on a ticket resell website, Gia, Chris, and some of his friends were also able to get tickets and join me. Paradiso is an awesome venue, (repurposed former church) and it was the best concert I have ever been to. Oh Wonder is so talented and they really put on a good show, the acoustics were marvelous, I could feel the beats in my body. I’m so grateful that I was able to see my favorite band at my favorite venue here.


Bugs Bagel

As Gia and I got to discussing our dwindling time left here in Amsterdam, we decided we would spend the day doing weird things that only this city has to offer. That day started off with lunch at Bagels and Beans, the little chain of cafes here in Amsterdam. I’ve been several times as their bagels are decent but always stayed away from ordering their “Bug Bagel” which is made with dried crickets, mealworms & a grasshopper. Despite my disgust, I had always been intrigued as to why this otherwise ordinary cafe had it on its menu. So Gia and I took the leap to try it. We figured it was best to split that and then order another bagel with a completely opposite taste to clear our palates with in case. Surprisingly it was not horrible, the cream cheese and avocado pretty much masked the taste but I could definitely tell that there was something in that bagel that wasn’t quite supposed to be there from the crunchiness. I’m glad I tried it, I can now say I ate bugs, but I’m glad we also ordered a cinnamon raisin bagel to have as well.


Bug Bagel

Museum Vrolik

After the bug bagel, we went to check out Museum Vrolik which is a collection of preserved bodies of people who died due to their deformities. Mostly babies who were miscarried or died shortly after birth. The collection is mostly for medical students to visit to learn about different deformities but also open and free to the public. It was really cool to go to but also gross to see so up close. The collection is huge and also includes skeletons of different animals and dinosaurs. Luckily, many of the deformities that can be seen there don’t happen anymore because of modern medicine but it was crazy to see all the things that can go wrong in human development.

Day of Churches

Yesterday I had an awesome day where I explored a few churches in the city. I started my day with a hot chocolate in the attic of the Old Church while I journaled about my time here. I like to journal before I blog so that’s why a lot of my posts have been quite delayed. The hot chocolate was the absolute most delicious hot chocolate I have ever had and really warmed me up as the sun outside was quickly replaced with rain. The weather here the past week has gotten increasingly uncertain. In New England we joke that the weather is crazy because one day it’s warm and sunny, then the next it hails. Well here in Amsterdam we can get those both multiple times in one day. Yesterday it was sunny so I decided to bike then it poured for hours then hailed just as I needed to bike again and then was sunny for the sunset, and then snowed all night. Enough about the weather though because yesterday was super cool despite it. After my hot chocolate, I went into the Old Church. The church is built on a graveyard so the entire floor is made up of tomb stones for families. The church is also massive but since it is from medieval times, it does not have heating. I was cold in there yesterday and it was about about 3 degrees celsius but they said that one winter it got to 20 below celsius. After visiting the Old Church I walked down the street to the Church Our Lord in the Attic which was a Catholic Church built inside one of the canal houses at a time when Protestants controlled the city. Catholics were still able to practice freely but they were to keep their churches private. This resulted in a whole three level church being built inside the house. The Dutch still today have the mentality that religion is sort of a “don’t see, don’t tell”  concept which works out very nicely for them. In the New Church they have an exhibit on Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King lives and their activism. I enjoyed spending the afternoon strolling through and having the time to reflect on their lives and the current world we live in. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Martin Luther King received an honorary doctorate from Vrije Universiteit which is the university I attend here in Amsterdam.

I love it here, I wish I had more time to explore the many streets and canals. They say that you come across three loves in your lifetime, the first is fairytale love, for me that was France. The second is a hard one that teaches you the most about yourself, which would be Amsterdam. And the third is the one you don’t see coming…



Pondering only having one month left in Amsterdam

My time here in Amsterdam has been full of ups and downs. Some days I’m wishing to stay longer and looking for any way to extend my stay, yet there has been others when I’m searching for the soonest flight home. But now that I only have one month left I’m taking a step back to reflect on what I’ve I enjoyed most, will miss the most, and also what I’m looking forward to about going home.

I’m thankful that Amsterdam is such a small city because it has allowed me to get fairly acclimated with the city.

My favorite places in the city:

  • Reading, biking, climbing trees, basically spending any time at all in Vondelpark
  • Visiting the rotating exhibits at the Stedelijk Museum and sitting on the grass roof outside
  • Taking the ferry across the Amsterdam-Noord and getting lunch at Pllek while looking out across the river and enjoying the street art
  • Spending rainy days at Brouwerij ‘t IJ
  • Concerts at Paradiso

Little things I will miss the most:

  • Biking around the city on any given day at any given time
  • Having my own little apartment
  • Studying the history of Amsterdam while in Amsterdam
  • Being able to travel to a new country each weekend
  • My museum pass which gets me into all the Museums in the city
  • An active lifestyle and really fresh vegetables
  • Walking along the canals looking at all the beautiful brick houses
  • Going to school in the city
  • Living right next to the train station
  • Biking through the Rijksmuseum while listening to buskers which always make me feel like royalty
  • Spending the day doing homework in the corner cafe called Caffènation
  • Having the opportunity to show friends and family around the city when they visit

What I am looking forward to about going home:

  • Being able to spend time with my family
  • Snuggling with my dog Max
  • Living with all my friends again
  • Skiing every weekend
  • Being able to drink in America
  • The quietness of being outside the city
  • Driving my car, as much as I like biking its getting pretty cold and it rains almost every day

Being abroad has taught me so much about myself and I am so grateful to be here. Before I came to Europe, I made a commitment to myself to always say “yes” when given the opportunity (granted it is safe) and in turn I have done so many things I would not have thought of even trying in the first place such as going to a heavy metal concert in a Bomb Shelter and biking 26 kilometers through farmland to go see some windmills. Being in a new place opens you up to doing things you never would have thought of doing before. The way I look at being surrounded by a different culture is that I don’t know what is “normal” and I can’t understand the language so if I do something “weird” or “American” as people like to call it, it doesn’t phase me. This has allowed me to get comfortable with the unfamiliarity of a city which makes me nervous returning to a place so familiar may feel stagnant. However, to combat this I think I will make more of an effort to explore new restaurants and museums back home and make an effort to spend more time with my friends.

“You’ve seen Vienna and the Berlin Wall…”

Passenger’s music continuously inspires me to travel and keeps me company when I am alone or out in the cold. Check out their song The Long Road!

I had the privilege of taking on my first trip as a solo traveler in Austria a few weeks ago. After a tearful hug goodbye to my mom and dad I headed to Vienna. I immediately met a guy at the bus stop, also on his way there who was from Texas. Coincidently we were staying at the same hostel and were able to navigate our way through the city to the hostel together. Upon arrival at the hostel we were each given a ticket for a free drink at the bar. After dropping our bags we grabbed a beer and were soon joined by a brother and sister from Australia, and soon another American who now lives in Thailand, and soon two people from my hostel room, and soon some Canadians as well, who ironically had all just been in Prague recently as well, it seems to be a popular route. I was no longer a solo traveler. We decided to head over to a local pub around the corner to get some traditional Austrian food, which was again, meat and potatoes, but I was able to grab a veggie sandwich and some more beer. After dinner we headed back to the hostel bar to catch a comedy show that was being put on and we all shared many laughs before heading to bed and agreeing to meet up again in the morning to take a walking tour of the city.

I woke up early that morning because I wanted to go to a cafe to get some Wifi to do some homework. Luckily across the street from the hostel was Vienna’s Naschmarkt which is a market located where the Wien River used to flow, and the name directly translates to “nibble market” because the stands all give out sample and they joke that you could walk the entire length of it and have an entire lunch. Along Naschmarkt is a newer Opera House where Beethoven actually lived for a few short months. He liked to move around the city and in fact moved around the city 70 times in the 35 years he spent there. Also in Vienna is an art academy which Hitler tried to get into but was rejected, this caused him to hate Vienna and pledge to do something different with his life. Vienna is a beautiful city and still set up in the order it was back in medieval times. Because of this, parts of the city wall are still standing outside the Albertina Museum and adorned with beautiful statues, our tour guide said that back in medieval times the trench outside the wall was 8 meters below where the road runs now. The Parliament building in Vienna seems never ending and it just courtyard after courtyard, including one building that is where the Spanish horses live, it has been compared to a 5 star resort, complete with a gym for their morning workouts. After the tour around the lavish city with beautiful statues in every square and on every building, I decided to head out of the city and see if I could find any open wineries on the outskirts of the city. The only directions I got from the hostel about how to get there was to take the subway to the last stop and then get on the bus and take it to the last stop. Finally by about 3 pm I made it to the top of the hill that looks out across Vienna, the rolling vineyards, and the Alps. The Alps of course had snow at their peaks which was a beautiful contrast with the setting peach sun. From the top of the hill I walked down through the vineyards, the leaves of the grapevines were beginning to turn yellow which only made the rolling hills more beautiful. After walking around for a little I caught the bus back down the hill a few stops to a winery’s restaurant that had a terrace overlooking the city under the sunset. I sat here for the last few hours of sunlight sipping white wine and taking in the views. It was relaxing and refreshing, exactly what I was looking to get out of my trip. After catching one of the last buses into the city I headed back to Naschmarkt for some dinner and drinks. I really liked the local vibe there and grabbed a seat under a heat lamp and read some poetry while I tried some local lavender flavored drinks. The next day was National Day which meant that there were parades across the city, military demonstrations on the lawn outside the parliament building, and even the opportunity to shake the president’s hand! I hung out here for a good part of the day in the sun with my new friends from my hostel before sadly saying goodbye to catch my next train to Salzburg.

I arrived to Salzburg just before sunset after a short train ride. Eager for the nightly showing of The Sound of Music at the hostel, I quickly went to grab a veggie burger and briefly scouted out the tiny, quiet town. Excitedly I hurried back to the hostel to catch The Sound of Music in the common room with a bunch of other travellers. After reminiscing about my childhood I slept soundly. Unfortunately the next day it was raining, but I was not going to let that stand in my way so I headed out into the completely walkable city. The city was still quite sleepy and I was really struggling to find anywhere to get breakfast in the old part of the city. After asking a woman running a chocolate shop, I was pointed in the direction of the oldest running bakery in the city down a super tiny street. The ordering of my breakfast pastry and coffee consisted of a lot of pointing and nodding which was all worth it once I took a bite of the delicious “Danish,” which we learned in Denmark is called “Vienna Bread.” So I found it fitting to at least get one “Danish” or “Vienna Bread” or whatever you want to call it while in Austria. After a filling breakfast I walked through the square to the “Funicular” which is a high-speed, mountain-side tram up to the Salzburg Fortress. The Castle there is about as medieval as it gets, the fortress was made to assert power, and be a look-out against invasions. There was no extravagant decorations, just strong walls to protect those inside. The views of the city and mountains from the top were amazing even with the clouds in the sky. After descending in the funicular it started to downpour. I figured I could brave it for a little and see more of the city but I was soon soaked and sought dryness and warmth in the cafe in Mozart’s Residence. Once caffeinated again and only slightly dried off, I headed next door to the bookstore that had a tiny English section to grab a book for the rest of my travels since I had finished the poetry book on my way to Salzburg.

I had scheduled a Sound of Music tour for that afternoon to see all the filming locations in the area but was in desperate need of dry socks which I was surprisingly able to find in a little grocery market. After putting on dry socks I felt much better about the rest of my day and boarded the sightseeing bus. Our tour guide was great and super enthusiastic leading the entire bus in song as we went around the city and eventually out into the countryside to see the mountains and the tiny Church in Mondsee where the wedding scene takes place. Along the way we were able to see the glass gazebo and were let in on the secret that they used two different houses in the movie, one as the front yard and one as the back yard, but they are only just down the street from each other. The guide ended the tour by telling us that the real Von Trapp family escaped the Nazis by making their way to Vermont and settling in Stowe, hopefully I can make my way up there this winter. After the tour I was still a little damp and couldn’t imagine spending any more time out in the rain so I headed back to the hostel and grabbed dinner with two of the girls in my room. The next day I caught a 10 hour train back to Amsterdam that went through Germany which was nice to see during the day. I can say my solo adventure to Austria was successful and relaxing and I am grateful for all the people I met along the way!

This past weekend I returned to Germany, this time to Berlin. My neighbor Gia and I headed out Thursday evening and were quickly in Berlin after and hour long flight. We truly spent more time walking through the airport and driving on the runway than we did actually in the air. After we arrived at our hostel and ate dinner we went to a bar just down the street that was really intimate with a little DJ and a young, local crowd. After a glass of wine we were ready for bed after an evening of travel.

Friday morning, we grabbed breakfast OUTSIDE! The sun was shining down directly on the benches outside a cafe where we enjoyed bagels and coffee under the Berlin Fernsehturm which is a TV Tower in the middle of the city standing at 368 meters high, so you can pretty much see it from anywhere in the city. After breakfast we joined a free group walking tour of the city. Our tour guide was a current masters student in World Heritage, he brought us to many interesting places and taught us about the history of the city. Some facts and places we went on the tour:

  • Hotel Adlon located by the Brandenburg Gate is where Michael Jackson dangled his baby over the balcony back in 2002,
  • When Napoleon conquered Berlin he took the statue of a goddess and put her in the Louvre, after Napoleon’s defeat the statue was returned and slightly altered to now keep a watchful eye out over the French Embassy across the square,
  • Berlin is quite a modern city due to 70% of the being destroyed during bombings in WWII,
  • After WWII Berlin was divided in two, West side capitalistic and East side socialist, people were not supposed to go from East Berlin to West Berlin but many people went to great lengths to escape, including tunneling under the wall and jumping out of windows. The Berlin wall was up for 28 years, many people got used to it’s existence and some never knew any different,
  • Berlin is considered the Street Art Capital of Europe, all over the city are beautiful murals and graffiti.

The stop that was the most gripping for me was the Book Burning Memorial. Here, the Nazis burned 20,000 books written by those they persecuted. The memorial is an empty underground library accompanied by a plaque with a quote from 1820 on it, it doesn’t directly translate from German but it is something along the lines of:

“That was but a prelude;
where they burn books,
they will ultimately burn people as well.”
Heinrich Heine 1820


It is quite thought provoking and really speaks to the essence of history repeating itself. The city of Berlin admits that it is hard to speak about the horrible history there but sees utter importance in sharing the story to prevent similar horrors from happening again in the future.

After our tour we grabbed lunch with some of the people we had met on our tour before heading back to the hostel to warm up after spending the day out in the freezing cold. Once warm up and rested we biked over to a cocktail bar a few blocks away from us called “Wohnzimmer” which means livingroom in German. The tiny corner lounge is decorated with vintage furniture from the 1950s. They had an extensive cocktail list which we enjoyed sampling while feeling at home in a living room. Later in the evening we biked over to another bar which had old arcade games to play while enjoying your drinks. That night we both slept soundly and woke up ready for another day of exploring. We started our morning by grabbing breakfast alongside the Spree river and East Side Gallery. The East Side Gallery is a mile-long stretch of the Berlin Wall that has been preserved and painted with giant murals with peaceful and thought provoking messages and images.

My favorite quote along the wall was:

“I painted over the wall of shame so freedom is ashamed no more. Inferno ruled too many years until the people chose the light. I put my faith in you Berlin, and give to you my colours bright! Fulvio Pinna

In the center of Berlin is an abandoned airport which has been converted into the city’s largest park. Here you can ride bikes, skateboard, windsurf, rollerblade, you name it, up and down the runway strips and explore the former airport building. Gia and I enjoyed biking around despite the nipping cold and went inside to see some vintage photographs of the airport. Seeing a rainstorm in the approaching, we biked over to a really nice brewhouse called BRLO which is in recycled shipping containers (seems to be a trend in Europe for food and drink places). However, BRLO was built in these shipping containers so that in a couple years the whole brewhouse can move to another location in Germany. We sampled the Red Light Ale, Helles, and a limited edition beer they had in collaboration with another local brewery. After waiting out a decent part of the storm we biked back to the hostel to rest up for another night out. After a much needed 3 hour nap we woke up and headed into the cold  to another cocktail bar across the street, again decked out with vintage furniture. Gia and I were both pleased with how relaxing the environments of the bars were and how good the drinks were. Sunday we decided to check out a cafe around the corner which advertised coffee from all around the world, including Columbia, indicating to us that this coffee would most likely really have caffeine in it, unlike the rest of the coffees we have had recently. The cafe was bright and sunny and got put us in a good mood before we braved the cold and rain to venture over the the flea market at Mauerpark. Here there are all sorts of stands, but mainly traditional German Food stands and vintage clothing. Gia and I were already both freezing so we purchased some sweaters and immediately put them on. Further down the street is the Berlin Wall Visitor Center which explains the entire history of the wall’s construction and allows you to listen to people’s stories of their attempts to escape East Berlin to West Berlin. From the top floor of the center you can look down into a remaining section of the wall and “No Man’s Land” in between. I am glad I was able to learn more about the history of the city while I was there and also take time to reflect on current events and what can be learned from this era.

Though, after learning about history during the course of our trip we were craving some alternative sight seeing. Over our lunch of huge delicious salads we were scrounging the web were able to find few sights we wanted to check out. Including an abandoned Amusement Park, however it was on the opposite side of the city and our sunlight hours were dwindling so we decided to search out “The World’s Largest Freestanding Aquarium” which is in the lobby of a fancy hotel. Pretending to be guests at the hotel we were able to get into the lobby and quickly see the massive tank before slipping back out. After we set out for a courtyard alley known for its street art. After passing through an old cinema entrance, it opens up into a courtyard covered in beautiful paintings, including one of Anne Frank. The courtyard winds for quite some time with new art to discover around every turn. Sadly the sun was beginning to set so we headed back to the hostel to figure out our plans for the night. After meeting some people in the hostel and winning a round of pool, Gia and I set out for dinner at a cozy Vietnamese place that we noticed because of the delicious smells while biking by the day before. The restaurant did not disappoint and we enjoyed our rice out of the cutest woven bowls. After hanging out there for a little we headed up the street to a Belgian Beer bar. We both decided we had had enough German beer at Oktoberfest back in September so we wanted to switch it up. The bartender let us sample a few beers including one that had been recommended to be called La Choeffe which comes in a glass with a Christmas gnome on it, which did in fact ending up being my favorite. We chatted with the bartender and learned that him and the owner of the bar were both from the same tiny town in Belgium but had only just met in Berlin. It was such a plus that our hostel was so close to so many bars that were off the beaten path and places locals hangout. Berlin amazed me with its history, architecture, street art, and drinks, and of course how bikeable it was, just like home 🙂


Czech Us Out

While my parents were visiting, we took a trip to Prague to get a chance to experience the land of castles, cheap beer, and cheap food for ourselves.

Going to Prague definitely felt like going to another world, the city felt the most foreign to me compared to the others I have visited.

My favorite part of the trip was the scenery, everywhere we walked there were Gothic buildings and at night the entire castle was lit up high on the hill. Plus the hills were covered in foliage which made the whole view very serene despite being in a huge city. I had originally thought Prague was a small city and I did not realize that Prague actually has a much higher population than Amsterdam.

We started off our first day with lunch at a restaurant along the river Vltava, our first meal coupled with beautiful weather did not disappoint. After lunch we met up with a tour guide who gave us a tour of the city, half of it was a bus ride (which I slept through after waking up for our early flight), and the other half was a walking tour of the castle and surrounding area. Besides the beautiful architecture of the castle, which really is like a showcase of all different architectural styles, what I found most surprising was that the President lives and works in the Castle and visitors can walk right through it. I asked the tour guide about this seemingly surprising fact to which he simply replied “Our president is not like the president of the United States.” Partially he meant that their president does not have the same job function as ours, but also that their President is a respected person and people simply want to visit the castle for pleasure. Exiting the castle we walked into a vineyard which has spectacular views of the city, river, and surrounding hills. We winded down the vineyard into Valdštejnská Zahrada which is a garden where several peacocks live. The all just mosey about the garden all day, along with all the people! From here we walked to the Charles Bridge which was the first bridge built connecting the two sides of the river. It is decorated with statues of saints and Jesus Christ. At the other side of the bridge is Old Town Square where we were lucky to get to be among the last few people to see the oldest working Astronomical Clock Cuckoo show which sadly closed for construction a few days after we left the city. One girl we met made a joke that it is one of the most disappointing tourist attractions in Europe, which many be true regarding the cuckoo clock show which lasted less than a minute, but the clock itself is highly impressive. Our town ended here and we set off in search of a typical Czech dinner. We quickly found a pub with a stone facade that served our first of many meals of with potatoes and beer.

While in Prague, we discovered that Prague has its own mini Eiffel Tower called the Petřín Lookout Tower. We planned to take the tram that goes up the hill to the observation tower but when we got there we realized the tram was closed, undiscouraged we trekked up the hill to the tower and allowed ourselves to ride the elevator up the tower to the top. The views from the top were spectacular and we were able to look down into the castle where we had been the day before. As I said, my favorite part of the trip was the scenery. We could see far and wide across the Czech Republic’s many hills and rivers all adorned with foliage. After our descent down the steps of the tower this time and back down the hill we ended up on a narrow cobblestone road. We immediately noticed the number of security cameras lining the street and were a little nervous questioning where we had ended up. As we continued down the street in search of the John Lennon wall, we realized why there was so much security… the U.S. Embassy was on that street. After we jokingly took many pictures with the door and insane amount of security cameras, we saw a huge sign that said “No Photography.” Whoops! While in Amsterdam, to ease my mom’s mind, I showed her where the U.S. Embassy was, the building also has much higher gates and security than any of the other surrounding embassies.

Eventually we ended up at the John Lennon Wall. The John Lennon wall was a place where after John Lennon’s murder, a mural was painted of him. Being a world-wide symbol of peace, many people turned to this wall for peaceful and political messaging during the days of communism in the country. Since then people continue to leave messages (mostly of peace) along the wall and it adds a lot of color to an otherwise quiet street. After visiting the wall and paying respects, we visited a modern art museum that has various statues along the river. To fuel our tourist adventures we headed to Bohemia Bagels to get some lunch and coffee. We ventured back over the Charles Bridge taking our time to chat with street vendors and admire the statues. Ending back up in Old Town Square we explored all the tiny, winding, cobblestone streets that speak to the age of the city. One of the interesting topics we discussed in my Medieval history course was the fact that many of the streets we walk today in Europe have been there since Medieval times, few streets and buildings in the cities have changed since they are literally set in stone. We even grabbed dinner, again complete with potatoes, in a stone cellar below Old Town Square where there was live, traditional Czech music.

On our last full day in the city we ventured over to the Jewish Quarter of the city and visited the Old New Synagogue which is the oldest active Synagogue in Europe. It was really something to see the inside of a Synagogue when in most other cities I have visited Cathedrals. After walking down their fancy shopping street we visited the Gallery of Art Prague which had a Dali exhibit and Warhol exhibit. I had seen Dali at the Moco Museum in Amsterdam but the collection here was expansive and even impressed my dad who says he is now a fan of Dali. The exhibit of Warhol was impressive as well and talked a lot about his family’s Czech history and his experiences as an artist in America. By the third day we were tired of potatoes, and decided to go to an Italian Restaurant for lunch. I ordered a calamari salad, guess what came on top… potatoes. Continuing onto the next museum, we visited the Museum of Communism. Not knowing too much about this period of history, it was great to walk through with my parents who knew a little more. After walking the streets of Prague for a few days, there was no denying our craving for a “chimney” or “trdelník.” Around every corner there are little shops and stands selling Trdelníks which are a round pastry, mimicking a chimney made from dough coated in sugar and cinnamon and cooked on a stick over a fire, the pastry is then filled with whatever you desire!  They were delicious and the perfect treat on the chilly afternoon. We also caved and gave into the foot massages that were advertised everywhere after spending the last week walking all day. However, the lady who gave me mine was super rough and kept poking my feet with this stick, I had to ask her several times to be more gentle, she did not stop and even sat on my legs… I thought my knees were going to break!

Again in our pursuit to find a meal without potatoes we went to an Italian Restaurant. It was probably one of the nicest places I’ve ever been to. It was on a boat docked on the river and was all windows on the top deck. We had a perfect view of the castle which we enjoyed over salad, soup, pizza, and wine and thankfully no potatoes. It was a bittersweet ending to our trip together. I wish my parents and I could have continued exploring Europe together but I am beyond thankful that they came over here and took me on a trip with them.

Chilly Yet Cozy Copenhagen

One of my favorite cities so far has to be Copenhagen.

Maybe it was the help of visiting our family friend Mike and having a personal tour guide, but I felt right at home with the salty air blowing off the chilly Norwegian waters.

My Dad’s friend from when he was younger Mike, moved to Copenhagen with his girlfriend six years ago and we finally got the chance to visit him. My memories of Mike were happy ones with him playing guitar, letting us play with his dog, and always full of new information. Our visit with him for the day did not disappoint.

He met us at the airport and helped us navigate the train to our hotel.

Our first stop, as my mom’s request was to visit “The Little Mermaid,” and she for sure is little. We continued our stroll along the water to Kastellet which is an old military fortress built in the shape of a star which rises up out of the moat. It was incredible to admire the construction that had gone into creating the steep walls of the fortress built ages ago. While we were there we got to see them mowing the steep lawns, which is surprisingly done by a remote-control lawn mower, we all joked about different people we knew who would enjoy this invention!

Our next stop was Nyhaven which Mike told us was the quintessential post card picture of Copenhagen. The harbor here is beautiful and surrounded by colorful townhouses that brightened the cloudy day. We were sure to take some pictures here! After getting our pictures, we headed over to the other side of the harbor to explore Freetown Christiania which is an autonomous anarchist area of the city in a former military barracks. Despite the negative connotations those words may have, Christiania is a colourful place with many art galleries, concerts, shops, restaurants, and some “legal” drug dealing. The area is decorated with street art and flowers, clearly intended to be a place where people can escape the city and feel free to live as they please. To our surprise, Copenhagen has a similar concept as Foodhallen in Amsterdam called Street Food in an old warehouse on Paper Island which has all sorts of stalls. Mike took us here for lunch and also to meet up with his girlfriend Greta. We all got to get our own food and drinks and catch up over the past several years. I hadn’t had sushi in quite some time and was excited to get some Nordic fish sushi. It did not disappoint.

After lunch, Greta gave us a tour of the city center, including another walk through Nyhaven where one of the restaurants was giving out samples of their signature winter drink, mulled wine which is warm wine with spices and fruits that is made over the timespan of a whole year. It was very delicious and exactly what we all needed to warm us up. Our next stop was the Round Tower which is a former astronomical tower. The inside is an easy climb up because it is just a ramp, no stairs. From the top, we could see the entire city and beyond despite the clouds. Despite it being a ramp we were all a little tired from our ascent and descent of the tower and went out in search of some coffee. We grabbed some from a little market nearby that has enclosed areas for cafes, candy shops, and bakeries and an outdoor area for a produce market.

Our next stop was my absolute favorite. Greta’s daughter and her boyfriend have an art studio across from Tivoli gardens. They each have their own studio room along with renting space to other artists in the city. Greta’s daughter Jacoba was at yoga when we arrived but we were greeted by her boyfriend Brendan. He showed us his music studio and her art studio where she had up some drawings she was working on. It was very thought provoking to look at her work just before I met her. Come to find out though, Jacoba and Brendan met in an art class when they were both students at UMass, such a small world! It was such a great time to hang out with them in their studio and get to know them. Sadly, we had to part ways before dinner but I do hope to see them again in the future, whether it be in Massachusetts or Copenhagen.

My parents, Greta, Mike and I ended our night at their favorite creperie. We all got dinner crepes and talked about our day and lives for a long time before we had to depart. I’m so thankful to Mike and Greta for taking the time to show us around the city. I will hopefully be returning to Copenhagen very soon!


Welcome to my New Home

Last week I had the pleasure of showing my mom and dad around Amsterdam as part of the 25th anniversary trip to Europe. Tuesday morning, I met them at the airport and took them to their hotel. After checking in and renting some bikes we got right to exploring the city. We stared in De Pijp where we walked through the Albert Cupyt market and got right to shopping, dad got a new scaly cap, mom a scarf, and I, a new bag. We also tried out some of the sweets at one of the stalls, we got coconut cookies that tasted like macaroons. Afterwards we biked over to The Corner Bakery where my neighbor works and had been raving about. The shop did not disappoint and I’m glad we made reservations, it was quite a busy and small place. We all got sandwiches and decided we were too full for one of their famous freak shakes for dessert and chose to head over to Brouwerij’t IJ for beer instead. Along the way we made a pit stop at the botanical gardens which had plants still in bloom in green houses from all over the world and the foliage in the outdoor gardens was in full swing. Dad was really ready for beers at this point, so when we finally made it there we each ordered a flight so we could try them all out. After we each tried them all and decided on our favorites we each got a glass to toast in celebration of my first legal drink with my parents, a redo of my 21st birthday celebration there with my friends, and their 25th anniversary. We also had reservations for dinner at an Indonesian Restaurant near my apartment so after we rode to through Vondelpark on the way to my apartment. I showed my mom my favorite willow trees that we got to climb. I’m very happy they both really liked where I’m living and appreciated how clean I try to keep my apartment. At dinner at Restaurant Blauw we ordered the traditional rice table, I’m really glad my mom liked it because it is the cuisine is very different from anything she has had before. After we had finished our meal I sent them on their way back to their hotel which they thankfully successfully made it to without guidance.

The next morning, we planned to meet up outside Concertgebouw which has free lunchtime concerts every Wednesday, it’s only required you wait in line and it is one per person. Unfortunately, I got a flat tire on the way and Mom and Dad had not quite navigated their way there in the most direct way so after I went through and got my ticket, I threw on a scarf and asked a kind gentleman on the street if he would go through the line with me to get two more tickets, thankfully he obliged and Mom, Dad, and I were able to enjoy the show together. The concert was great and the musicians were very lively which made the whole show even more enjoyable. Afterwards, since I had a flat tire and there was not a nearby shop to fix my tire, I rode side saddle all the way to the Anne Frank house. I made the sort 1.5 km there surprisingly successfully blinding guiding Dad and we were just in time for the tour. It was really nice that my mom had scheduled a tour of the house for us so we didn’t need to wait in the massive line. We got to walk through her house which was much larger than I had imagined. There was an entire building in the front dedicated to her father’s business in the front and just about an entire house accessible in the back through the secret bookcase door. As we walked through we were able to have an audio tour about each room and the history of the city in the time period. Unfortunately, Anne Frank died in WWII due to illness but her father survived and chose to read her diary after her death which he felt was worth publishing as a way to learn about life during the war and help her legacy to live on. Since then, her diary has been given many awards and translated into many different languages. It was unusually sunny and warm out after the tour, so we crossed a bridge to grab lunch on along the canal at a traditional brown café. They are given this name because in the past people were allowed to smoke inside, turning the walls brown, even though you can no longer smoke in the bars in Amsterdam, the idea and name lives on. I ordered fries which coincidently came with bitter ballen for my parents to try traditional Dutch foods. I’m glad they also loved the fries with mayo and bitter ballen with mustard. My parents had been wanting to do a canal tour of Amsterdam and there happened to be many leaving from right in front of the Anne Frank house, I invited my neighbor Gia to join us and we went on an hour-long tour of the city. The canal tour was surprisingly a lot of fun on the small boat. They provided pillows and blankets and served Heineken. My favorite part of the cruise was when we went under one of the lowest bridges in Amsterdam and all had to lay flat to go under! The people who did the tour were great and also students in the city. Their friend had just recently built the entire boat and they started the company together. The day before my dad has spotted the bright lights of rides in Dam Square from the brewery. Still wanting to check it out we walked over to the square and sure enough an entire carnival was in full swing. Gia and I, decided to go up in the big swings which was one of the best things I’ve done in my time here in Amsterdam. Since we have been living in the city for over two months now, we were able to tell where we were pointing out landmarks and it was amazing to see the city from up above just starting to be lit up as dusk approached. We spent some time walking around the carnival until Gia had to say goodbye to go meet up with one of our friends for dinner. Since we were already so close to the Red Light District I figured I would walk my parents through, it was still only early evening and I figured it would probably be pretty calm. Thankfully it was, but I was still able to give them a little taste of what it is like in there. Since I still had a flat tire, we thought it was best to go back to my bike and grab dinner nearby. Thank goodness for my dad, he is so good to me and rode me side saddle back to my bike and then let me ride his rental bike while he walked my bike to dinner and then all the way to the bike repair shop near my apartment.

The next day I had to give a final presentation in class, so while I did that my parents went on a tour of the windmills. I’m so happy that they found it through their hotel because they really wanted to get a taste of The Netherland’s history and see the cheese factories and wooden shoe factories. We met up again at Van Gogh after and went through the museum. I wanted to give them a little walking tour of Amsterdam after and brought them through a street of art galleries, to the floating flower market, and we snuck into one of my favorite places in the city, an old convent called Begijnhof which feels like an oasis because of how quiet it is in there. We then set out to find the bench where a scene was filmed for The Fault in Our Stars. I’m shocked and grateful that we were able to find it and rest on it for a little while. For dinner, we headed to Food Hallen which has all sorts of stands with different kinds of foods and drinks. It ended up being a little further than I thought, sorry Mom! But once we were there we soon had beers in our hands and food in our stomachs while we talked about how well we enjoyed the past few days in my new city and made plans for our next adventure to Copenhagen.



Haven’t posted in a while because I have been so busy traveling but it has been great! A few weekends ago I was able to go to Ireland… the homeland!

After my business class ended for the period, our professor invited us for drinks at the bar on campus, where we got to say our thanks and say goodbye to our classmates. From here I ran to grab my backpack from my apartment and head to the airport meet Anna and Nicole and catch our flight to Ireland. We arrived pretty late in Dublin and took a taxi over to Anna’s friend’s apartment, who was kind enough to let us crash at her place which was in an old monastery, for the weekend and went straight to bed.

The next day we had scheduled a tour of the Guinness Storehouse and the Kilmainham Jail. We grabbed breakfast crepes at a little café near the apartment called Le Petit Brenton and caught a taxi over to the brewery. Our taxi driver was the nicest man who had lived in Dublin his entire life and gave us a mini tour of the city on the way. The Guinness Storehouse is MASSIVE. It is seven stories in a circular set up, surrounding a “glass” of Guinness, which if real, would fit 14.3 million liters of Guinness.

Some other fun facts from the tour:

  • Guinness is brewed right in Dublin with water from the Wicklow Mountains
  • 100,000 tons of barley are used every year to make Guinness
  • The Guinness family shaped the city of Dublin providing jobs and St. Stephen’s Green
  • Arthur Guinness and his wife Olivia had 21 children but only 11 lived past the first few years of their lives
  • The brewery is one of the most advanced and sustainable breweries in the world
  • “One or Toucan Do” is the slogan behind the use of a toucan in Guinness ads
  • Guinness pairs well with oysters
  • One of their ads to get women to drink Guinness was “A Woman Needs a Man Like a Fish Needs a Bicycle”

The tour finished at a 360-degree Sky Bar which has views of the city and points out places of interest for you to view while enjoying a Guinness, complements of the tour.

Afterwards we took a short walk to Kilmainham Jail. The jail is famous for the many political prisoners who did time there. Many of the prisoners were in for petty crimes and only spent a few weeks or months there which meant there was always an overload of prisoners in poor conditions. Being an advanced jail for its time, only 15 people out of the 150,000 over 100 years were able to escape.

Ireland has many famous writers, with Oscar Wilde being one of the most loved. There were some of his quotes around the museum of the jail, a few that resonated with me were:

“Every stone one lifts by day becomes one’s heart by night.”

“And sleep will not lay down, but walks wild-eyed, and cries to time.”

After our tours, we headed over to the Temple Bar district and grabbed dinner at The Quays, I got fish and chips with a local Kilkenny beer which I enjoyed very much. After dinner, we went out in search of a liquor store to have something to drink before going out to the bars with our host Meaghan. In Ireland, they are called an “off-license” and you have to go to a counter and place your order which is then slid to you through a drawer after you pay through the window. Once we were ready for the night we headed back to the Temple Bar district and went to Dame Tavern where I tried a Smithwicks beer (pronounced “Smidicks”). We went to a few more bars before heading home, a typical Irish night.

The next morning, we planned to wake up early to take the train to Galway to see the Cliffs of Moher, sadly it was really cloudy and we weren’t sure if we would be able to see them. The train was two hours west to Galway through Irish farmlands, trust me, there are more sheep out there than you would ever need to count to fall asleep for the rest of your life. When we finally got out there we found out that the last tour of the cliffs had just left and our only other option would be to take the public transportation out that left in 45 minutes. The only problem was that it would not get us back to Galway in time to catch the last train back to Dublin for the night. Making a split-second decision to stay in Galway for the night we asked the hostel across from the train station if they had room for us, unfortunately they did not, BUT the girl working the hostel desk was so kind and called a lady down the street named Betty who ran an B&B and asked if she could put us up for the night. Thankfully she had a room and put a cot in there for use to stay.

Shortly after we caught the bus out to the Cliffs. The ride out there was absolute HELL. Imagine a coach bus navigating narrow country roads that hadn’t recently been paved on the edge of a cliff for over two hours. I was more car sick than I had ever been in my life. There was no bathroom on board. I completely emptied my purse and had all my belongings on the seat next to me with my bag ready to throw up in. My entire body was shaking and when I asked the driver if he would let me get out at one of the stops for a minute for fresh air, he was very hesitant. Luckily, I was able to hold it together until we got to the cliffs and got some water in me and began to feel better.

I’m glad I was able to overcome the motion sickness for a little because the cliffs were absolutely stunning. The sun had just come out as we arrived at the cliffs taking my breath away. I could see the beams of sunlight coming down and illuminating the cliffs rising out of the open ocean. We walked around, trying not to be blown away by the winds or slip off the edge for a couple of hours before having to get on the last bus back to Galway. The whole time I was dreading getting back on the bus in fear of more car sickness. THANKFULLY we had a different bus driver who took a much more paved route through Ennis.

When we got back to Galway, we were exhausted but wanted to appreciate the music and nightlife Galway is known for so we headed to Quay Bar, on Quay Street ironically. At the bar, there was a little band playing great songs to sing along to so we each decided to grab one beer and hang out for a bit before heading back to Betty’s B&B. We all slept so soundly that night.

In the morning, we wanted to get a chance to see Galway so we woke up early and Betty made us a home cooked breakfast of eggs and pancakes. We walked back down Quay Street and went to see the Spanish Arch, the Cathedral and Eyre Square. On the train back to Dublin, everyone was talking about a huge hurricane due to hit Ireland the next day, Monday. It was assumed to be the largest storm to hit Ireland in over 5o years, all schools in the entire country were canceled.

When we got back to Dublin, we went to meet up with my friend Nick from UMass who is studying there for a personal tour. We started at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and then headed directly to The Brazen Head, which is said to be Ireland’s oldest pub, dating back to 1198. I ordered a Bulmer’s cider which was also delicious. We sat in a room called “The Library,” but was covered in Police and Fire patches from all over the world, but not surprisingly, most were from Massachusetts. Everyone there loved that I was from Boston, probably the only place I’ve been were people were genuinely excited I was American. Afterwards we walked around the city seeing churches, shopping streets, Trinity College, Christ Church Cathedral, the Dublin Castle, and many more historical sites.

We ended our tour along the River Liffey where there is a memorial for those who lost their lives in the Potato Famine. While there I learned that the country has never truly recovered population and economy wise from the famine which is evident in the amount of homeless people I saw on the streets and the country wide suicide prevention campaign. Dublin is a beautiful city though and there are lots of new companies coming into the city, including Facebook which is building a new big office along the river. Nick has been taking a Dublin History course at his university so we got to learn so much about the city while hanging out with a friend.

In the middle of the night, Anna woke me to tell me that out flight had been canceled due to the storm and the only other option was to change our flight to 6am, meaning we had to pack and leave for the airport in two hours. Luckily, we were able to make it out of Ireland before the storm hit and thankfully it was not as bad as predicted.

Ireland definitely felt like home and I already can’t wait to go back to enjoy more of the local music, beer and countryside.



FALLing in Love with Amsterdam Everyday

The fall weather here has been absolutely gorgeous. Each day the foliage gets better and better and had led me to spend a lot of time outside despite the brisk air. The temperature is more tolerable than in New England though because despite being cold, the air is dry.

Some recent adventures from the past week here in Amsterdam have included:

  • People watching and reading Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? on a bench in Vondelpark.
  • Warming up with coffee and apple pie along the canal at a favorite neighborhood restaurant.
  • Dying Gia’s hair red and doing drugstore facials on our new pink couch.
  • Caving and getting a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks to enjoy as I strolled along Herenstraat, one of my favorite streets here, admiring the colorful leaves lining the streets in front of the fancy homes.
  • Exploring the Tropenmuseum, an ethnographic museum, with Berkley and Vinny. We got to listen to music from across the world, see a maquette of Aleppo, and learn about various forms of body art.
  • Playing on the playground that like a rollercoaster in Oosterpark with Vinny.
  • Going to see ODESZA at Paradiso with Chris and my new friend Caroline who I met at my hostel during Oktoberfest, and studies abroad in Barcelona with my friend Dan from UMass and happened to be visiting Amsterdam for the weekend… such a small world!
  • Attending Ad Night where 40+ creative ad agencies across the city opened their doors to the public to network, enjoy drinks, and dance. Plus I was even able to score a free massage while I was there!
  • Tramming to the National Holocaust Museum and National Holocaust Memorial where Jenni and I learned that the tram stopped in the exact spot during WWII.  This allowed for over 1,000 children to be smuggled from the Jewish Theatre where they were held with the intention to be transported to various concentration camps to safety at a school across the street when the tram stopped and blocked the guards view.
  • Going to vinyasa yoga at my gym a few times.
  • Stumbling upon an antique market at Museumplein that only happens 4 times a year, my mom would have absolutely loved it. I wanted to buy her everything!
  • Playing in the garden of the Rijksmuseum on a sunny day and getting completely soaked by the fountain.
  • Viewing the Matthijs Maris exhibit at the Rijksmuseum, as amazing as his art is, a quote by him really stood out to me, “An imitation of something cannot express feeling.”
  • Riding my bike around the city and finding inspiring street art on the side of a hotel which read, “Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember and remember more than I have seen.” – Benjamin Disraeli
  • Climbing a willow tree in Vondelpark out over a pond and watching the ducks.
  • Going to the movie theatre to see Blade Runner 2049, yes it was in English, and yes Ryan Gosling did an incredible job.
  • Spending an entire day in the library writing a five page essay.

Food and Food Fights

In one of my courses here, Amsterdam: Global Historical  Perspectives, the focus of study is how trade has impacted cities across the globe and transformed them into the cities and waterfronts they are today (I signed up for it because it said there were field trips). BUT, what I have learned in the class is that Amsterdam has a deep history of trade with the East Indies. Influenced by this trade route, there are quite a few well known Indonesian restaurants.

Last weekend Gia, Berkley and I decided to give one of them a try. We were able to score a reservation at Aneka Rasa, right in the center of the city. We got the traditional Indonesian meal called a “Rijsttafel” which means rice table. Your order is based off the number of people you have in your group and each person pays one set price for the meal. Two huge bowls of rice were given along with chicken, beef, and veal sauteed in different sauces, various vegetables in different sauces such as sweet and sour sauce, coconut sauce, and the Indonesian version of fries all to top off the rice. For dessert we were each given a mini version of Spekkok, a green layered cake that tastes similar to pound cake. We were extremely pleased with the meal and can see why everyone recommends trying it out while in The Netherlands.

After dinner we walked around the center of the city for a bit since you really never know what you will find in all those narrow streets. While walking we decided to grab dessert and one of the MANY hole in the wall dessert cafes. Gia, really craving a Dutch Waffle, decided on this place called Sweetella. Specializing in waffles, this place had many options to choose from. Gia decided to go all out with the “special” waffle, while Berkley and I grabbed a cupcake and brownie which we got pretty quickly. We went over to grab a table in the back while we waited for Gia’s waffle to come out. After respectively waiting a little for Gia’s waffle to arrive, Berkley and I gave in and dug into our desserts. After a few bites, all of a sudden “Fireball” by Pitbull started blaring in the cafe. The server walked out from behind the counter with a huge plate stacked high with waffles with a sparkler coming out the top! Then he shook the powdered sugar shaker over it and the whole plate went up in flames, he did this over and over again as he slowly sauntered over to the table with the waffles. We couldn’t stop laughing in disbelief of what had just happened and came to the consensus that it made sense why the desserts were so pricey.

As we were all finally enjoying our desserts, a group of guys came in and also ordered the special waffles. But this time a full fledged food fight broke out, when the server began shaking powdered sugar over the sparkler resulting in large flames, another worked dressed in a black morphsuit (full body spandex suit) also came out shaking sugar everywhere. Immediately the group of boys also joined in shaking sugar and jumping on tables. Gia, Berkley, and I, of course all wearing black, were soon covered head to toe in sugar. In further disbelief of what just happened we had ceased eating our desserts and were looking for an escape route. But because we had chosen a table in the back and the cafe being so small, the only way out would be to attempt to jump over the guys wrestling on the floor. After waiting a little, a moment of calmness occurred and we sprinted out of the shop abandoning our desserts. A crowd had gathered outside the shop of tourists attempting to peer in the window, wondering what on earth could be happening in the cloud of powdered sugar.

We continued to sprint once again through all the tiny streets trying to get as far away from the cloud of powdered sugar as we could before making an attempt to dust ourselves off. Ending up at one of our favorite bars, Hill Street Blues, we finally felt safe and semi-clean again. But we could not contain our laughter about what had just happened. Our goal of the night was to try out typical food found in Amsterdam and I can confidently say we met that goal and then some.