5 Things I Learned in Italy

Things I learned in ItalyPhoto of the ruins in Rome, Italy.

If you’ve been keeping up with this blog, you’ll know that I spent Spring holiday traveling around Europe with my best friend from back in the States. It was definitely a once in a lifetime kind of opportunity for the two of us, and we tried to make the most of it by visiting as many sights as possible as well as strolling around to see where the side roads would take us. Here are a few of the things that I took away from our adventures in Florence and Rome that I thought may be helpful to remember in the future!

1. Street Crossing-You know those little zebra crossings located in busy parts of the city? Become best friends with them! Unless you are super bold and are willing to risk your life crossing the street you might want to seek out a proper cross walk. Especially when trying to cross the road near a roundabout, and chances are you’ll encounter many of these. If you are feeling daring, you kind of just have to go for it and hope that the cars will stop, but please please be safe and just opt for the marked walkway.

2. Directions Please?-The cities we visited in Italy are not on a grid system like streets in the U.S. are, and often times the signs are tricky to find. For two girls who struggle with directions, you can only imagine all of the wandering around we did looking like complete idiots. If you have an idea where you are going beforehand this will save quite a bit of time, but just remember streets change into other streets and soon enough the city will have you walking in circles!

3. Food Glorious Food-Don’t be too quick to judge a place based on the prices, some of the best food we had was not the most expensive out there. Our Belgian friend we met in Prague advised us to find places far away from tourist attractions for the cheaper, most authentic options. As for the gelato, just because it looks beautiful doesn’t mean it’s the best. Try out a few places and see what you like! (But honestly, can you ever really go wrong with gelato?)

4.Tickets Anyone?-If you want to spend less time in line to see the sights of Italy, reserve tickets way in advance! We made the mistake of not doing this and I’ll just say that next time the minute I know about a trip I’ll be popping on my  computer ASAP.

5.Relax-Because there are so many tourists and people seem more relaxed, life moves a bit slower in Italy. Chill out and take a leisurely stroll to each venue. In the U.S and even in London, things seem more fast-paced, but sometimes it’s good to take some time to soak in all that a new city has to offer. When in Rome right?

Let me know what you’ve learned from your travels in the comments and any tips you have!

Until next time,New blog signature 2

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Waffles, Chocolate, and Our Encounter with the Manneken Pis . . .

Brussels Blog Post HeaderThe Grand Place in Brussels, Belgium on the first evening of our stay. The lights just add a lovely magical charm don’t you think?

This past month I had a holiday break from University in between Spring and Summer terms, so my best friend from back home Emma (Hello if you are reading this Ems!) and I decided to take a little backpacking trip around Europe. Cliche, I know but hey I figured since I’m so close to many different countries, I might as well take the opportunity to explore other cities out there because who knows when the next time I’ll be able to do that is. . . Before Emma ventured across the pond to come visit me, we had been planning out where we wanted to go that would be realistic to travel to in the three weeks that we’d be away for. Considering our wanderlust, deciding where to go was actually more complicated than we had thought! We decided to get a Eurail pass to save some money on train tickets, which was also a great decision to help us narrow down our options for where we could travel. Although we had originally planned to fly from London to Rome and then make our way back towards the U.K. through other countries our plans were changed when we discovered there was an airline strike occurring on the day we were meant to be traveling. That day seemed like everything that could’ve gone wrong did, but sometimes things just don’t work out exactly as you’ve imagined and you just have to roll with the punches. After all people didn’t come up with the saying “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” for no reason! I think that part of the adventure of traveling is facing any glitches in the road while remaining positive because at the end of the day, it’s usually a small issue and ultimately makes for a good story! Since we weren’t able to fly out of London that day without paying for another expensive flight, we decided to take the train to mainland Europe and do our trip backwards. Our first stop was Brussels, Belgium! We only had two nights in Brussels and we definitely wanted to make the most out of the limited amount of time we had to soak in the city sights. I will admit, we had a bit of difficulty figuring out the transportation system to get us from the train station in Brussels to our hostel in the city centre but we managed to just observe other people and work out how to pay the tram fare. Our hostel was only about a two minute walk to the main square in Brussels pictured above, which was perfect since it made getting to the main parts of the city really easy. IMG_0935The exterior of the  Hostel Grand Place.IMG_0986The seating area at the hostel entrance. (The evergreens on the curtains in the background were a nice reminder of home back in the States)IMG_0987The opposite wall of the seating area.

We stayed in an eight bed room in this hostel and got to meet a fellow traveler from the U.S. who was really nice! Since we arrived in Brussels in the evening we decided to take a walk around the city centre and go out for dinner and drinks with the girl we met. Emma and I always love meeting new people and I think one of the amazing things about staying in hostels (in addition to the fact that they are usually a lot less expensive than a hotel room) is getting to swap stories with people from different parts of the world! Of course on our little walk that evening we just randomly ran in to the infamous statue of a little boy peeing in to a fountain, the Manneken Pis! IMG_0933We had heard that it was small, but we didn’t know that it was going to be that small! I think that’s what made this tourist attraction particularly funny because it isn’t very epic, yet it attracts so many people photographing and giggling at the uneventful sight. The next day we took a trip to the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate, which is a must when you visit a place famous for making the delicious sweets! Although it was a smaller museum, it provided a lot of insight about the trade and history of cocoa as well as how chocolates are made. The end of our visit to the museum even concluded with a demonstration of how different types of fine chocolates are formed today and we even received a complementary piece to eat!IMG_0966The entrance to the Museum.IMG_0956Fashions constructed using chocolate!IMG_0965The chocolatier giving us a demonstration of chocolate making.

It was incredible to see how many chocolate shops there were around the city. Perhaps this is because we were staying in a fairly touristy area, but still you didn’t have to look far to find a sweet treat to eat! Brussels definitely knows how to attract fellow people like me who have a sweet tooth. Following our trip to the Museum of Chocolate we stopped by the Maison du Roi or The King’s House to have a look around the museum which just so happened to be free on the day we were visiting! IMG_0968Stained glass windows by the staircase to the top floor of the museum.IMG_0972A view from the top floor.

 Although we didn’t have the ideal weather during our brief stay in Brussels (We like to joke that the rain just followed us wherever we went on our trip) this didn’t stop the city from really coming alive at night. If the main square didn’t seem buzzing with tourists before, we really got a sense of community during the evenings when people would just find a place in the city centre to sit in a circle with their friends and party it up! I really enjoyed our time in Brussels, but I will have to say it wasn’t the cleanest city we traveled to, even our Belgian friends that we met at a hostel in Prague filled us in on their opinion of that. Next stop on our journey was Berlin, a vibrant city with an enormous amount of history . . .

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Until next time,New blog signature 2