5 Things I Learned in Rome

Things I learned in RomeA Photograph of the roundabout near our hostel in Rome at the top of Via Nazionale.

After reflecting on my trip to Rome, I thought I’d compile a unique list of things that  I learned or wished I’d known before touring around Rome. So here they are . . .

1. Ahhh Choo!-Always have some allergy medication on hand. When it’s nice outside, the pollen in the air is crazy in Rome (at least when we visited) and you don’t want to be sneezing so much that you can’t enjoy what the city has to offer. I wish I would have thought about this before traveling here because my hay fever was off the charts!

2. Sizzling in the Sun-Suncreen is really expensive in Rome! Maybe it’s because people skip the SPF or maybe it’s because it’s so sunny that the shops are sure people will come to purchase some I don’t know, but this stuff will cost you a pretty penny compared to what you’d pay in the States. I’d recommend packing some if you don’t wanna look like a tomato by the end of your trip.

3. Be Careful Where You Look-Whatever you do, don’t even glance at the vendors wandering throughout the city, and it will be difficult because they can be quite persistent when trying to make a sale. It’s like they have a radar or something that thinks you always want to buy something, even if you already have it. When I visited the Colosseum they must have come around about 5 times to ask if I wanted to buy sunglasses when I already was wearing a pair. Gentleman BEWARE-if you are traveling with Ladies, keep away from the rose sellers, they will try and put them in your hand and then afterwards make you purchase them.

4. Bring on the Bubbly-No I’m not talking about Prosecco, although that’s nice too…I’m talking about the San Pellegrino. A whole big bottle of the Aranciata will cost you a little over a Euro. If you’re like me and like a refreshing beverage every once in a while, you’ll know that a can of these in the States is nearly 4 dollars! Make good use of your money and invest in some local treats!

5. Dining in Despar-A trip to the local supermarket will save you some money and get you out of the sun for a little while to cool off. I know Despar isn’t unique to Rome or Italy for that matter, but it’s a great place to pop in for a fresh made salad if you need a little pick me up throughout the day of touring the city. (The Despar right by the Pantheon is our favorite!)

* Bonus! Sight Seeing-The colosseum alone is quite a magnificent sight, but it’s even better with an audio guide. There are lots of free audio guides available through apps if you have a smartphone. Our personal guide of choice on this trip was the Rick Steves’ Europe audio tour which offers tours of lots of popular destinations around Europe for free!

I hope some of these were helpful, if they weren’t at least it only took a few minutes out of your day right? Let me know some of your travel tips for the city in the comments!

Until next time,New blog signature 2

One Ticket to Florence Please!

Florence header 1Why hello there everyone, or should I say ciao! As a girl with a craving for adventure and travel, Italy has been on the top of my list of places to visit for quite a while, so I was so excited to finally have the opportunity to make it to Florence in Tuscany. I think it’s safe to say that by now, Emma and I were craving some warmer weather coming from some areas that were still in the transition between seasons. Continue reading

Vienna Waits For You

Vienna HeaderHere is a photograph of the Hofburg Imperial Palace exterior just before sunset. Isn’t it just gorgeous!

After saying our goodbyes to the city of Prague, we took the train to Vienna, Austria. Despite the beautiful weather reflected in the photograph above, we stepped off of the train into pouring rain. Now coming from the Pacific Northwest, Emma and I are not strangers to heavy downfalls of rain, the problem was that we yet again had trouble figuring out the right directions to get to our hostel. Getting off the metro line in Vienna, we ended up walking about 20 minutes in the wrong direction, so by the time we arrived at the hostel sopping wet, I don’t think we even needed a shower. Continue reading

Czech-ing Out Prague

Prague Header PhotoThe rooftops of Prague taken from the Prague Castle! (Oh and sorry for the totally cheesy blog title, but I couldn’t help myself)

After saying our goodbyes to the city of Berlin, Emma and I boarded the train to Prague in the morning and set off on our next adventure. The train ride was really smooth with beautiful views of the hillsides and rivers along the way. Although we were both really exausted and ready to pass out on the train I managed to stay awake for a little while to soak in the beauty of the countryside. Prague has been on my list of places to visit for quite a while, especially because my Grandmother’s family was from the Czech Republic, and being over in the U.K. this year for Uni, I found it the perfect opportunity to visit. Continue reading

Taking a Stroll Around Berlin

Brandenburg Gate HeaderAs briefly mentioned in my previous post my best friend and fellow traveller Emma and I took a six hour walking tour around Berlin to quickly get to all of the sights in the city within the limited amount of time we were staying in Germany. The walking tour that we decided included history spanning from World War I all the way through modern day Berlin, which not only enhanced the tour but also the manner in which the history was taught because we got to physically stand in the locations in which major events occurred. Our tour began at 10:30 in the morning, which was perfect for us because we were able to sleep in a bit while leaving enough time to arrive on time and enjoy a full day in the city. After picking up a small group of people from a nearby hostel, we walked to the first destination located at a beautiful synagogue that had been saved from being destroyed from attacks during WWII by a police officer and the fire brigade. This made visiting this particular location that much more powerful because a lot of the buildings in Berlin were completely demolished or visibly damaged during the war, so the fact that this synagogue still stands is absolutely incredible.  Continue reading

Let’s Get Lost in Berlin!

Berlin Blog Post Header

If there was one key lesson that my friend Emma and I learned from our traveling adventures, it was: if you think a destination is in a certain direction, turn around and walk the other way. . .Let’s just say having a good sense of direction is not our strong suit but sometimes it makes visiting different places more interesting! This was a pretty consistent theme with our trip which I will explain later on, but let’s just get on with our stay in Berlin shall we? Hopping on the train to Germany went very smoothly and overall we had a lovely ride over to Berlin with only a minor delay at one of the stations where we had to transfer trains, but unfortunately due to the delay we arrived to the station in Berlin a lot later than we had expected which made it a bit tricky to figure out how to get to the apartment that we had booked to stay in since it was in a neighborhood a bit out of the city centre. I felt really guilty for making the apartment owner stay up waiting for the two of us to arrive and check-in, but I suppose there are some things you just can’t control. Of course knowing our issues with direction, we made sure to carefully follow the directions the owner had given us, but somewhere along the way we took a wrong turn and ended up walking ten minutes in the opposite direction. Continue reading

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