Amsterdam

Hello friends! Here is part two of my spring break, in Amsterdam! Pretty much everyone who goes abroad goes to Amsterdam for one reason or another, and I was no different. Straight from Barcelona we flew to Amsterdam. I don’t think I have ever been so tired as I was that day. After 5 days in Barcelona, grabbing my backpack and hopping on a plane even farther from Sevilla was tough.

So probably my favorite part of Amsterdam was where we stayed. We stayed in a house boat that we found on hostelworld.com, except it wasn’t an ordinary hostel. It was a private 4 person room that happened to be on a boat. Amsterdam has canals all over the place, and it was really cool to be able to lodge right on one of the canals. The house boat had two floors and the upstairs was a living room with couches and a kitchen and a stocked refrigerator. The downstairs had our beds and was super cozy. When we walked in there was relaxing music playing and I was ready to move in right away. If you or anyone you know is going to Amsterdam and are a group of four people, I highly highly highly recommend the Beagle House Beat. I’m in love.

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Anyways, we got to Amsterdam pretty late Monday night, so we just wandered around a little. It was FREEZING. I wasn’t ready for that. It had just started warming up in Sevilla when we left for our spring break trip, so I wasn’t ready to put my winter jacket back on. That is really my only complaint about Amsterdam is the weather.

The next morning we went to the highly recommended pancake bakery, and yes, it was worth the hype. There was a line out the door but it moved pretty quickly and was worth the wait. Thank god I looked at the menu beforehand because I am terrible with decisions and there were so many types of pancakes. I got an apple pancake with cinnamon ice cream with cinnamon liquor and with powdered sugar and whipped cream with caramel syrup. Best thing I have ever eaten. Ever. I would go back to Amsterdam just for that pancake.

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We had gotten tickets to the Anne Frank house way in advance and I am so glad we did. There was a huge line that seemed to be going throughout all of Amsterdam. It was very moving and special for me and it was nice to go to a museum/tour that I had a real passion for, instead of the dozens of art museums and cathedrals I’ve been to. I think the Anne Frank house was really well done and interesting.

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After the Anne Frank house we stumbled upon the cheese museum. Apparently there’s a tour and it’s very informative, but when we were there they had lost power so we were able to go in and sample every type of cheese they had. It was awesome. After going back and forth between 5, I picked out one called Contadino. Satisfied with my purchase.

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The next day Skye and I got brunch at a place called Bakers and Roasters. It’s really exciting for us, as Americans, when we see brunch places in other countries. Especially knowing I can most likely have eggs for breakfast, instead of just toast like all the Spaniards eat. Eggs<3 (see Barcelona post) The way the restaurant is set up is super cozy so you’re sitting right next to the people at the table over from you. We struck up some nice conversation with attractive Australian chiropractors that live in Amsterdam.

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After brunch we went to the Van Gogh museum because he’s my mom’s favorite artist and I wanted to learn more about him (Shout out to my mama who reads all my blog posts). Then the four of us met up and went to the Heineken factory for the “Heineken experience” where we learned how to make beer and got free beer with our ticket. You were supposed to get two free cups but I somehow managed to get 4 or 5. Quite the experience. I learned how to pour the perfect beer and even got a certificate to prove it! I plan on adding it under “Skills” on my résumé.

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Once we left the Heineken factory, with a slight buzz, we stumbled upon the I Am Amsterdam sign. After a few more touristy things including taking funny pictures with the letters and eating stroopwafel and nutella, we set out for the red light district. Side note: stroopwafel is this little waffle cookie sandwich filled with caramel and it tastes like heaven.

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The long awaited red light district. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about going here. For anyone that doesn’t know, prostitution (and a whole lot of other things) is legal in Amsterdam. There’s an area of Amsterdam called the red light district and every night the prostitutes stand in windows half naked (more like 90% naked) and stare at you sexually until they have a “client”. Being a girl, I thought I would be disgusted and ashamed, but surprisingly, I was okay. These girls/women treated it as a job and hey, if that’s how they want to make money, power to them, that just isn’t my thing. It was definitely an experience to say the least.

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The only picture I managed to take

Our last meal before we hit the airport was at a place called “Café Trust” that I had heard about from a friend. The concept of this place is very interesting, I just wish we weren’t in such a rush when we were there. It is called café trust because none of the menu items have a set price. You pay as you feel and what how much you believe the meal is worth. It is run by what seemed like a group of friends who are all natural and super healthy. Everyone on the menu was healthy and every order was made with TLC. The food did take a lot longer because there were only about 7 of them managing the entire restaurant. The food was actually pretty good, but it’s not a good place to go if you’re cranky and hungry. It might be a little too “hippie”-ish for a lot of people but overall I thought it was a pretty cool concept.

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In all, I really loved Amsterdam. It was unlike any other place I had traveled to. The canals, and the fact that there were more bikes than people, truly made it a memorable place. Before I went, a lot of people warned me people in Amsterdam were rude and irritable, I can honestly say everyone I met was super nice! I definitely want to head back to Amsterdam when I get the chance, I got such a good vibe there and not just because drugs are legal. Hopefully I can make it back there so I can attempt to read the street signs again (they all went something like this: stoobnszfvartel)

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Barcelona

Apologies for the major delay but my procrastination level is at an all time high while I’m abroad.  So over a month ago I had my (first of two) spring break and spent it the best way possible, in Barcelona with some of my best friends.  I booked this trip back in January and had been looking forward to it for months.  I was gonna get to see Sammy, my freshman year roommate and really close friend, as well as a bunch of my other friends that are abroad all over Europe.  I was able to celebrate by 21st birthday with friends studying in Rome, Salamanca, Prague, Barcelona, and Sevilla, pretty cool.

I wanna start off by thanking Sammy for absolutely everything.  She knew all the ins and outs of Barcelona, and thanks to her I ate some of the most amazing food and had an overall incredible experience there.  So as soon as I met up with Sammy, we had the first of many amazing meals, and obviously had sangria because what Spain without sangria with every meal…

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So after dinner we decided to go out, even though none of us were really dressed for it, we just strolled into a club called Sutton.  It was pretty awesome I just wish I wasn’t wearing jeans, oops.  The next day the weather was absolutely beautiful and my friends and I got to explore the beautiful city of Barcelona.  We saw the Arc de Triomfe, another beautiful park that I don’t remember the name of, and then ate ice cream on the beach.  Not too shabby.

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After that we took a cable car ride over the city to Montjuïc.  We were able to see some incredible views and take tons of silly pictures together.

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The next day was my 21st birthday, so we obviously had to start celebrating early and went to a bar called George Payne’s and ordered the famous “Blackout Platter” (sorry mom).

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The next day we had the most incredible breakfast at a place called “Brunch and Cake”.  Pretty much everyone who has visited Barcelona recommends this place, and now I see why.  It was absolutely incredible.  I especially enjoyed it because there’s no such things as “eggs for breakfast” in southern Spain.  If you tell them you want eggs for breakfast they look at you like you are absolutely insane.  Also, the concept of brunch just doesn’t exist in Sevilla.  Needless to say I was stoked to get brunch. And cake. It was my birthday afterall…. 🙂

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The most amazing french toast on earth.

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After a super filling brunch we walked around Las Ramblas, which is a famous street in Barcelona with tons of cool things, especially La Boqueria, which is a market with tons of fresh fruit and juices and meats and fish and really anything you could imagine.  After we walked out of La Boqueria, I saw a sign for the “Erotic Museum”, which weirdly peaked my interest.  What a way to spend a birthday.  You can use your imagination for what was inside, because unfortunately I can’t post pictures here.  This is a family-oriented blog after all. **If you’re dying to hear more about it, feel free to message me privately ** But for now enjoy pictures of the market.

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Then we did a few more touristy things around the center of the city, before going out to dinner for ma birthday wooooo.  Thanks to Sammy’s recommendation, once again, we had an awesome dinner at Da Greco.  It’s an Italian restaurant where for every main dish you order, the waiter brings a smaller portion of the food for everyone else at the table to try. Genius.  We need places like this in America.  After dinner we got ready to go out for my birthday and one of the most famous clubs in Barcelona. Opium.  Shoutout to Sammy (yes, again) for getting us a table with champagne and fancy sparklers and cool things that rich people do when they go out….fo freeeee. Perfect 21st birthday.

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I am so grateful I got to spend it with friends, because every college kid (in America) understands how huge turning 21 is, but in Europe it doesn’t really matter.  Now I can get into bars and all those fun things, but Europeans start doing that when they’re 14 so no one here really cares about turning 21.

The next day the squad finally made it to breakfast at around 4pm…oops?  We ate at a restaurant called Pudding, which was fantastic.  And then we got more cake because hey it was the day after my birthday so I was allowed.

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After finishing breakfast at 5:30pm, we did more touristy things and visited La Sagrada Familia, one of the most famous places in Barcelona.  While I agree it’s really beautiful, I have to admit the fact that every person who visits Barcelona posts a million pictures of it, it kind of ruined the magic for me.  That’s one of the major problems with social media in my opinion.  It takes away from other people’s experiences.

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That night we went to a bar called Chupitos, aka the Spanish word for shots.  This place had over 600 different types of shots.  The thing was, you never knew what you were ordering.  We got a Willy Wonka shot which had chocolate on it, so I was happy.  We also got the boy scout shot, and the bartender handed us marshmallows on sticks and then lit the bar on fire so we could roast them.  Once they were roasted she gave us shot glasses filled with a mystery mixture and we had to put the marshmallow in and take the shot.  Pretty awesome.

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The next morning was our last in Barcelona, no clue how we were still functioning at this point.  Skye and I had one last amazing brunch at a place called Milk, also definitely recommend it.

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Sorry this blog was basically just recapping on all the food I ate.  It was probably my favorite trip abroad.  It was so nice to be reunited with school friends.  That’s something they don’t really tell you about being abroad, unless you go with your absolute best friends (which I don’t recommend).  Sure you’re gonna be homesick and miss your family at times, but you also miss your friends from school, as Eryn put it when we saw each other “I needed a piece of home”, but luckily for us we consider UMiami our home.  It’s so nice to reunite with other people who are abroad in completely different places and talk about your experiences.  I loved Barcelona and for the 100th time I wanna thank Sammy for being absolutely awesome and the hostess with the mostest and making my 21st birthday weekend the best it could have been.

Barcelona and Sevilla are extremely extremely different.  People think of Spain as one distinct country.  They don’t realize how every area of Spain is completely different.  Barcelona is a very young city with the hustle and bustle of Miami.  It has such a different atmosphere than Sevilla.  Also, it’s in Catalunya, so their language, food, and culture is completely different.  The people look and act different.  If I had studied abroad in Barcelona, my “Spain experience” would have been wildly different.  I have no doubt in my mind I would have loved it, I would just come back to America with a different outlook on Spain.  First off, I would not be nearly as good at Spanish.   Not saying I’m currently fluent (or anywhere close) after studying in Sevilla, but I’m much better than when I first got here.  In Barcelona they speak primarily Catalan, and then English, and then Spanish.  I also wouldn’t live with a host family, so I would have very few opportunities to really practice my Spanish, unless I took Spanish classes there, which most people that study in Barcelona don’t do.  I definitely want to go back to Barcelona, and would go in a heartbeat, but at the end of the day I am still glad I chose Sevilla.

After we left Barcelona, we hopped on a plane and went straight to Amsterdam.  Stay tuned for that post…

The City on Fire (Valencia)

Three days after I came back from Paris, I repacked my bags (who am I kidding I never unpacked in the first place) and hopped on a plane to Valencia, Spain.  I went with my friend Karishma, and we stayed with her friend, Belén.  Karishma did a 2 week exchange program back in high school and Belén lived with her in the US for two weeks, and then Karishma stayed in Valencia for 2 weeks.  Belén was nice enough to host us for the 3 days we were in Valencia for Las Fallas.

Valencia itself is a beautiful place.  It is very very different from Sevilla because most of them speak Valenciano, which is it’s own language similar to Catalan (spoken in Barcelona and other places in Catalunya).  Luckily, Belén also knows Castellano, the Spanish I am familiar with.  Staying in Belén’s apartment was an incredible experience because I was forced to speak Spanish the entire time with her and her friends, it was great practice.  It’s crazy how different the Castellano Spanish is in Valencia vs. Sevilla.  As I’ve said before, Sevillano Spanish has a thick accent and is very, very quick.  Sevillanos omit the “s” at the end of words and tend to cut almost every word in half.  In Valencia, the Spanish is clear and they pronounce every letter of every word, what a pleasant surprise.

Las Fallas is a huge celebration in Valencia.  Each neighborhood in the city is organized into groups with a head fallero or fallera, the person in charge of planning for the celebration.  Each fallero produces a “falla” which is a huge piece made of cardboard and paper mache.  They are cartoons that tell a story, and usually involve political figures.  Also, a lot of them have no mercy when it comes to censoring, because almost all of them display women with exaggerated features and curses (in Valenciano) and really aggressive political cartoons.  Artists, sculptors, and painters spend all year constructing the fallas.

Las Fallas is a week long, and on the last day (March 19), they burn all of the fallas. There are hundreds.  In the days leading up to the “Nit del Foc” (night of fire in Valenciano) they have other events, the most intense known as Mascletas.  Every day (for 20 days) at 2pm, they have the Mascletas, aka the loudest explosives you will ever hear in your life.  Right in front of the Ayuntamiento (city hall) they set up a labyrinth of explosives and at 2pm they light it.  Before it started, plenty of people told me to keep my mouth open.  I never understood why, until it started.  The mascletas are so loud your mouth automatically drops at the sound.  Good luck trying to talk to a friend during the show.  Thousands of people flock to city hall to see the mascletas.  Fortunately for us, one of Belén’s friends mothers works in an office building right across from the Ayuntamiento, so we got to watch the fireworks from her office window, instead of in a claustrophobic crowd.IMG_4853

Later that night we went to a radio concert. My first Spanish concert woo!!  It was tons of fun even though they played some American music too.  But, when the Spanish music came on I felt like a true Spaniard (sorta).  I also fell in love with a Spanish boy band…  Anyways the concert was right near the museum of arts and sciences, the most beautiful view in Valencia.IMG_4867 IMG_4872

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Karishma and I before the concert

The next day we wandered around and looked at as many Fallas as we could.  The artwork and detail were truly incredible.  I could spend hours looking at one piece and would constantly find new details I hadn’t noticed.  I was almost upset that they would all be set on fire later that night.  The artists spend a year on the Fallas, just to display them for 3 days and then burn them.  But hey, that’s the holiday.  Here are some pictures of awesome Fallas.

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My favorite because it was all about food that came to life hehe

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Another must see part of Las Fallas is the Virgin Mary, as la Señora de los Desamparados (Lady of the Abandoned).  Each falla brings an offering of flowers to her, and she herself is a huge statue made of flowers, absolutely beautiful.IMG_4906 IMG_4913 IMG_4915

Belén, Karishma, and I in front of all the flowers

That evening we went to a light show.  Tons of people filled the streets to watch the light show and listen to Spanish music.  It was so cool to be smack in the middle of all these cultural experiences.  One thing I wasn’t a fan of was the fact that all of the little kids buy little firecrackers, bombas (literally bombs) and set them off all over the street with little to no warning.  Every few minutes something would explode in the corner of my eye.  I felt like a PTSD patient after the war.  My anxiety was at an all time high and I panicked every time I saw a little kid in the street.  These things were LOUD.  And there were 5 year olds setting them off!  When I was 5 I was terrified of fireworks and loud noises in general.  I guess that’s just how these kids are raised??? I could’ve done without them.

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Light show 🙂

So, Spaniards are known for having a late start with pretty much everything.  Las Fallas was no different.  The Nit del Foc didn’t start until midnight.  This is when they start burning all of the Fallas.  People flock to all of them, especially if their neighborhood (pueblo) has their own falla.  The main one that people go to is in front of the Ayuntamiento.  The Falla changes every year and this year it was a lion.  Unfortunately, I never got around to seeing it from the front during the daytime, because there were always tons of people there, but here’s a picture from the internet so you get the idea.

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Luckily I got to see it being set on fire…

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It was pretty crazy to witness this huge statue completely on fire.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it, and the pictures don’t do it justice.  As soon as it caught fire, the Valencia anthem started playing and everyone around me sang along.  Overall, Las Fallas really opened my eyes.  Before coming to Spain I lived in an American bubble.  I celebrated the American holidays and the Jewish holidays, never realizing that all of these incredible events and holidays were happening all over the world.  Valencianos look forward to Las Fallas all year, and if I hadn’t been in Spain, I would probably never learn about it or even know it exists.

The next day we went out with Belén’s parents for some authentic Valencia food.  Valencia is the home of Paella.  If you’re ever in Madrid or Barcelona or other touristy places in Spain and they try to sell you little souvenirs with paella on them (yes, they make paella magnets), DON’T FALL FOR IT.  Valencia = paella. Everywhere else wishes they were known for their paella.  Let me tell you, it did NOT disappoint.

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This was traditional paella Valenciana with vegetables, chicken, and rabbit (yes you read that correctly)

After sawing through 2 trays of paella, we were told we had to try Orxata (Valenciano spelling)/Orchata (Castellano spelling) which is a traditional drink of Valencia.  I had no clue what to expect but I was excited.  Belén’s family told us we had to try it with fartons, basically glazed donut sticks.  Orchata is similar to almond milk and it comes from a tiger nut.  It was delicioso, especially with fresh, warm fartons.  Don’t worry I laughed at the name too.  With full stomachs and very tight fitting pants, we got on the plane back to Sevilla.

I am so glad I took this little trip to Valencia.  It was such a cool cultural experience and a great way to practice my Spanish.  After being in Sevilla for so long, it’s easy to feel like my spanish had stopped improving. I went through a period of intense learning, and at this point I thought I had hit a low point.  The Sevillano accent seems to be getting stronger and more difficult to understand.  Going to Valencia where they speak clearly was a nice reminder that I actually do understand Spanish.  Not saying I am fluent, nor am I anywhere close, but I am definitely way better than I was when I first stepped off the plane in January.

Crêpes and macarons and crêpes (Paris)

Bonjourrrrrr friends and family!  It’s been about a month since I’ve blogged and I sincerely apologize.  I didn’t do any major traveling for two weeks and then I had midterms so I didn’t feel the need to share much (however if you’re curious about those two weeks, don’t be afraid to inquire).  Last weekend I went to the most romantic city in the world: Paris!

I spent 3 days there with my friend Alex and am happy to say we covered most of the must-see places, and made sure that none of the crepe or macaron places were poisonous, don’t worry!  I got in Thursday night and checked in at the airbnb and went to sleep because it was already 12:30am.  Friday morning we got up on the early side and began our adventure to be super tourists.  It is almost always overcast in France, which put a little damper on sightseeing, but none the less, I enjoyed it.  First up, we went to the Notre-Dame Cathedral.  Although I am Jewish, I’ve probably been to more cathedrals than synagogues at this point.  Notre-Dame was very impressive, my favorite part were all the stain glass windows, or “vidrieras” as you say in Spanish.

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Side view of the cathedral

We climbed to the top and had a lovely (but cloudy) view of the city.  Climbing all these spiral staircases will never get easier, and every time I do it I am reminded how out of shape I am.

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View from the top!

After that we tried to find the Louvre, aka the famous art museum that is home to the Mona Lisa.  One thing I learned is the French are terrible when it comes to directions and signs.  Every sign for the Louvre pointed in a different direction, leading us all over the place.  In our quest to find Ms. Lisa, we stumbled upon the love lock bridge, which was convenient because I had really wanted to go there, but had no clue where it was.  Perfect.  Back in December when I was packing for my trip, I made SURE to pack a black sharpie, knowing I would bring it to Paris and use it to write on my lock for the bridge.  Well, I remembered to bring it to Paris, but of course I left it in the airbnb that day.  At least I tried.  Luckily the shady people selling locks had extra markers, so I tried to get super crafty (kidding, not at all) and on one side wrote my ADPi family’s initials, and on the other side I wrote my bffs back at school.  I wish I could’ve bought more locks for all the other important people in my life, but I needed to save money for the rest of the trip (and Alex was not really feeling the bridge whatsoever, so I had to rush).  The lock came with three keys that are now with me in Sevilla, maybe someone will go back to Paris and unlock it hehe.  But it’s very unlikely considering how many locks are on that bridge.

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After that, we FINALLY found the Louvre and took the classic touristy picture touching the point.  Im not sure what I enjoyed more, trying to position my own hand in the right spot, or seeing everyone else attempt the same thing.  It looked ridiculous.  Just touristy things.

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The Louvre is huge.  At this point in my trip I have been to plenty of museums and even though it’s terrible to say, I’m kind of tired of them.  I wish I could appreciate the art more but I just can’t, so finally we decided to just find the Mona Lisa.  Boy is she tiny.  There was a huge crowd of people trying to get group shots with her.  I still don’t understand the hype over that painting.  No offense to Leo.  Either way, here is me posing with my new pal who never smiles.IMG_4418

Then Alex and I decided to have some fun in the museum since the art was way too profound for us…

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After the Louvre we made a quick crepe stop, before heading over to the Eiffel tower.  I don’t really like change so I got nutella and banana multiple times throughout the course of the weekend, but the first crepe I had was the absolute best.  He cooked the nutella on the crepe and it got all melty and delicious.  Word to the wise: never order a nutella crepe on a first date or if you’re with someone you’re trying to impress, things WILL get messy.  Thankfully I’ve known Alex for years and couldn’t care less if I was dripping nutella by the end of it…IMG_4436IMG_4444

YUMMM

Off to the Eiffel Tower, aka the most touristy spot in Paris.  It was pretty incredible to be standing in front of something I’ve seen portrayed a million times in textbooks, movies, any French-themed things, and anything romantic really.  My biggest regret was not seeing it at night when it lights up.  Nonetheless it was impressive, just not what I expected.  There’s a highway running right past it, and it’s just not as romantic as I imagined.  Regardless, I got my touristy pictures in front of it.  Then I decided to be a little different and flash back to my gymnastics years (circa 2001).  After many failed attempts, I managed to do a (sloppy) handstand in front of the tower.IMG_4498 IMG_4500 IMG_4501

Nailed it.

After such a long day of sightseeing, we were wiped out so we just went back to the airbnb and passed out. The next day we did some more sightseeing, and eating, starting with finding one of the few Chipotle’s in existence in Europe.  Normally, I’m all for eating authentic food when traveling, but (overpriced) Chipotle has never tasted so good.  Definitely worth the trek.  With full stomachs and slightly lighter wallets, we headed over the the Opera.  Our airbnb host told us about it, and Alex said there’s nothing less he’d rather do than go to the opera.  But I wanted to check it out.  And thank goodness we did.

It was one of my favorite sights in Paris and one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life.  After so much traveling I’ve realized the truly amazing and memorable moments are the ones you stumble upon by accident, the ones that leave you absolutely speechless, where you just end up standing there gazing at your surroundings.  It’s happened to me a few times by now, one was at the top of St. Peter’s Basilica, another time was when I was exploring around Sevilla, and the opera was another.  There is one room in the opera house that is completely gold, and I don’t think I have ever seen something more beautiful.  I could’ve stood in that room for hours.  I was completely awestruck by it’s beauty. This is one of the many examples I have of sights that a photo simply can’t capture, but I tried.

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After the opera, we headed over to the Montmartre area, which is located at the top of a hill.  We climbed countless steps, once again, reminding me how out of shape I am, until we reached the Montmartre Sacré Coeur, aka another cathedral.  From the top there is a panoramic view of Paris, which, once again, would’ve been nicer without the clouds, but still impressive.

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After the long walk down, I figured I deserved another crepe, so that happened.  Then we stumbled upon a chocolate/macaron shop and my self control went out the window and I bought the store. IMG_4667 IMG_4675 IMG_4671

With full stomachs and tired feet we went back to our airbnb to rest.  I really wanted to eat at an authentic French restaurant.  We met up with my friend Riyaz who’s studying in Paris, and he took us to an off the grid restaurant called Le Circus that ended up being AMAZING and reasonably priced.  Best steak I’ve ever had.  And thank goodness Riyaz spoke French, otherwise Alex and I would’ve been so lost.  Normally, touristy restaurants offer English menus, but this place was strictly French.  Bless you, Riyaz.IMG_4696

I still dream about this meal.

After dinner we waddled back to Riyaz’s apartment and got ready to go out.  We went to what we thought was a bar but ended up being a crazy nightclub called Le Mix.  Expensive cover but hey, when in Paris, right?  The club played all American music so I felt like I had an advantage, despite not being able to communicate with a single person in the club besides Alex and Riyaz.  Alex had a super early flight the next morning so he went straight to the airport after the club.  I, on the other hand, went to sleep. 🙂

The next day Riyaz and I walked around and went to Champs-Élysées, a famous street filled with luxury shops and the Arc de Triomphe at the end of it.  Before we trekked through the street, I bought another crepe, of course, and then proceeded to see all the things I couldn’t afford.  We went to probably the world’s largest and most ridiculous Abercrombie & Fitch.  It was a gated property, and you had to walk through a GARDEN to get to the store.  The store had various floors and terrible lighting.  Apparently A&F is huge in Paris.  For me it felt like middle school all over again.  After choking on enough cologne, we made our way out, and were faced with shirtless models telling us “au revoir”.  I didn’t hate that part.IMG_4709 IMG_4710

Then we ventured over to the famous macaron shop, Laduree, where I spent an unnecessary amount of money on macarons.  And I had no idea what any of the flavors were so I literally just pointed at different colors and hoped for the best.IMG_4715 IMG_4751

After that we went to the Louis Vuitton store and I’ve never felt more poor.  It was one of those places where if you had to ask how much something costs, you probably couldn’t afford it.  Riyaz and I went to the Arc de Triomphe and were touristy just one more time before I left for the airport.

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Overall, I really loved Paris.  It is such a nice city with plenty of places to see, I just wish I understood the language.  The accent is so attractive.  I expected Spanish, Italian, and French, to be pretty similar since they’re all romance languages but boy was I wrong.  I am so thankful we met up with Riyaz so he could show us the ins and outs of the city, as well as communicate with everyone.  After this trip I now know how to say “bonjour, au revoir, fromage, je t’aime, merci beaucoup, and excusez-moi” but I had to look up the spelling on those last two.  Hopefully I can make it back to Paris in the future, so I can finally see the Eiffel Tower at night and maybe have some emotional connection to it.  If anything, I’m definitely coming back for the food.

Sidenote: The Sunday I traveled back to Sevilla my diet solely consisted of a crepe and a ridiculous amount of macarons.  Such a balanced diet.

That’s all I have for now! Until next time . . . Au revoir ❤

No I do NOT want a selfie stick (Roma)

CiaoOoOo!  And congratulations because you just read 1 of the 4 things I know how to say in Italian (the others are bella, grazie, & buongiorno).  Apologies for the late blog post but last weekend I visited mi mejor amiga, Eryn, en Italia!  She’s studying in Rome this semester, and 2 months apart was too long.

I arrived in Rome Friday afternoon and after dropping my things off Eryn took me immediately to get a cappuccino.  Apparently a must when in Rome.  Trust me it did NOT disappoint.  It was a white chocolate cappuccino with a layer of melted white chocolate on the bottom. Ah-maz-ing.IMG_3573

Then of course we had to go to the pizza place that everyone who has ever visited Rome recommends.  Dar Poeta.  The great thing about Italy is it is expected – no – ENCOURAGED that you eat an entire pizza.  None of that “1 or 2 slices” stuff like in the states.  Since Eryn and I know barely any Italian, we lucked out with the menu having an English section.  We ordered one with buffalo mozzarella and the other with pesto and sliced potatoes (yes, potatoes) on top.  And yes, we finished both.  Along with a liter of white wine… (when in Rome, right?)

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Love at first bite ❤IMG_3584

One incredible thing about Rome is everywhere you go, there are ruins.  Every time you look around, you just have a feeling that something incredible happened there. For instance, we took a walk that night and passed the place where Julius Caesar was killed.  It was at that moment that I realized how incredible the idea of travel is.  Here I was, standing in a place that I read about in high school.  At the time I figured that was some far away place I would never see…and 5 years later, here I was.  We obviously ended the night with gelato, which was difficult because I had no idea what any of the flavors were, so I just made a spontaneous decision and ended up discovering my new favorite gelato flavor – hazelnut!  SO GOOD.  Unfortunately I didn’t take a picture because I ate it too fast. Oops.

The next day we ventured off to the coliseum, and I’ve never felt more like a tourist.  The streets all around the coliseum are filllllled with street vendors and tacky souvenirs and countless men trying to sell you selfie sticks.  I swear if I had a nickel for every time I was offered a selfie stick, I’d have enough money to supply all of northern Europe with selfie sticks.  I hate selfie sticks.  If you don’t know what they are, check out the tragic picture below.1016969

Overall, after spending an absurd amount of money to cut the ridiculously long line to get into the coliseum, Eryn and I had tons of fun running around the ruins and having our own photo shoot.  If it wasn’t for this crazy gal, the coliseum would’ve been sub par.  That’s the problem with tourist destinations, they aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.  But here are some artsy pictures along with some fun pictures of us in a super historic place…IMG_3606 IMG_3638 IMG_3648 IMG_3663 IMG_3686

After the coliseum we explored around and saw a bunch of other ruins, and then got some pasta of course.  The pasta was fabulous and I wish it never ended.  We both got carbonara, but one of my biggest regrets from Rome is not trying real penne vodka (I would’ve ordered it in addition to the carbonara, of course).  Either way, it was great.  We obviously got gelato afterwards.IMG_3701 IMG_3712

Little did I know this gelato would cost me 13.50 euros, equivalent to over 15 USD.  That’s what I get for ordering the “fancy cone”.  Oh well. Rome 1 Jackie 0.  We also visited the Spanish Steps.  Later on that night we explored Rome nightlife, and let’s just say it ended with us eating pizza at 6am. No complaints.  I am not even surprised that happened seeing as Eryn never sleeps.  When in Rome, right?

The next day we were off to Vatican City. But first, we stopped by a breakfast place that served American breakfast.  I know that’s not really what you’re supposed to do when you’re abroad, but it had been 7 weeks since I had eggs for breakfast (eggs in the morning are a strange concept in Europe) so I jumped at the chance…

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Not a super exciting photo, but it made my soul happy 🙂

FYI for people planning on visiting Rome: make sure you plan the big stuff ahead of time.  Buy tickets in advance.  Otherwise you’ll end up waiting in line for an hour and a half like we did….either way we didn’t mind because Eryn and I got to catch up and talk about our lives.  I am so grateful study abroad has given me the opportunity to explore incredible places, but also do so with such incredible people.  We snagged some more gelato during our wait, obviously, and it started melting before I took the picture.  And of course I forgot to grab napkins so I got gelato all over my hands, jacket, and phone.  It was slight chaos.  So the reason this photo is so bad is because there is literally gelato smudged on the camera lens.  Sorry.IMG_3752

Finally, we went inside St. Peter’s Basilica.  There were 2 ticket options: 1 for the stairs and 1 for the elevator.  We thought, how many stairs could it be?  If you were curious, the answer is around 560.  I must have burned off half of the gelato.  After the first 300 or so steps, you are able to look down at the basilica and admire the beauty of the church.IMG_3768

Unfortunately I had to take this picture through a gate, so I couldn’t capture the whole view.  When we ventured up to the top of the dome, it opened up into a 360 degree panoramic view of Rome.  I was in awe.  No picture could do it justice.  I could’ve stayed up there for hours (if I didn’t have a flight to catch).  It was breathtaking.IMG_3789 IMG_3803 IMG_3811 IMG_3817

That dome is officially one of my new favorite spots in the world.  After that, Eryn and I took a long walk back to her apartment so we could savor the last few hours we had together.  Dramatic, I know, but she’s my roommate for goodness sake.  So we spent our last few moments together the only way we know how: by blasting music out loud and singing it at the top of our lungs. On the street. In the middle of Rome.  Gosh I missed her.

Before heading to the airport Eryn told me I just HAD to try suppli before I left.  Which brings us back to my new found obsession with deep fried foods that can kill me (see: croquetas in a previous blog post).  Suppli is a ball of risotto with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, along with other things, that has been deep fried.  Yes. So much yes.  I won’t tell you how many I ate — just know it was more than 2…..IMG_3855 IMG_3859

So after long bonding sessions with Eryn, 6am pizza, tons of gelato and fried things, and probably 10 pounds later, I survived my trip to Italy!  I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to visit. Shoutout to mom & dad for being so great ❤

And for the record I will never ever purchase a selfie stick.

*~*ciao*~*

Morocco

Helllllllo internet! I apologize for my blogging hiatus but I am backkkkkk.  These past few weeks have merely consisted of starting classes and figuring out school-related things, nothing worth blogging about.  But this is my disclaimer that study abroad does, in fact, involve going to school.  Anyways, this past weekend I went to Morocco!  Now I can officially say I’ve been to Africa, so that’s pretty cool. On Friday we took a bus to Gibraltar, famous for the giant rock that resides there.  It is actually British territory so the people there spoke a mix of Spanish and English which was a nice change.  We went on a tour and saw St. Michaels cave, a natural grotto that was prepared as a hospital during WWII, but currently exists as an auditorium.  It was completely baffling to walk through here and see the amazing things nature can do.IMG_3043

Rock of GibraltarIMG_3089St. Michael’s Cave

After that we got to hang out with the MONKEYS! Our tour guide said Winston Churchill brought the monkeys to Gibraltar during WWII to entertain the military.  They’re kind of cute, but they’re sneaky little guys.

IMG_3124To my surprise they actually DO pick bugs off each other and eat them…

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And here’s a baby monkey trying to rob my friend Karishma (caught in the act)

After some more monkey business (ha), we had some free time to explore Gibraltar.  It was so nice hearing British accents everywhere, and actually know what was going on for once (kidding, sort of).  The weather was actually perfect and I will always remember the city of Gibraltar for the beautiful weather and the most incredible ice cream…IMG_3172

Fun fact Gibraltar has an airport with a runway that also serves as a highway and a walkway.  Have you ever walked across a plane runway? Pretty coooool.  Traffic stops when planes have to take off.

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 At the end of the day we were pretty exhausted so we just stayed at our hotel and enjoyed the wifi after over 12 hours without it — how terrifying right?   (kidding).

The next morning we got up early and headed toward the beach for sightseeing and camel rides weeeee.  We saw the spot where the Mediterranean Sea collides with the Atlantic Ocean, but it was cloudy and cold so there wasn’t much to see. The concept is cool though.  Here is me pretending to be comfortable on top of a camel…

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Then we boarded the buses and began the two hour drive to the city of Chefchaouen, which is located at the top of the Rif mountains in northeastern Morocco.  Everyone was napping during the bus ride, but since I am terrible when it comes to sleeping on buses, trains, planes, etc, I was looking out the window the entire time.  Believe it or not, that bus ride might have been my favorite part of my trip to Morocco.  Driving through the mountains was absolutely incredible.  I got a glimpse into the lifestyle of the people that live there.  Every once in a while, we’d pass wild goats and sheep and little kids walking with donkeys, and there were mules carrying heavy loads up the mountain, it was completely surreal.  There were women carrying huge parcels (that must’ve been over 50 pounds) of wood or plants on their backs.  They must have had to walk for miles.  There were a  bunch of wild dogs running around, too.  And when there were no living things in sight, the views of the mountains left me in awe.  I don’t know what it was, but I was so amazed at how beautiful nature could be.  Miami is completely flat, and New Jersey doesn’t have too many mountain ranges (none to be exact) so the scenery in Morocco was a whole new sight for me.  I hopelessly tried to capture the beauty of the mountains with my fancy iPhone 5 camera, but no picture could do it justice. IMG_3272

When we finally arrived in Chefchaouen, once again I was blown away.  The entire city is painted blue.  The tour guide said the blue color repels mosquitoes and keeps them far away from the city.  I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but either way, it was sooo beautiful.  This city had every different shade of blue.  50 shades of Chefchaouen ha ha ha.  We went on a tour of the city and went to a shop where they weave quilts and blankets and scarves.  Every single one is made by hand.IMG_3313 IMG_3365 IMG_3371

Everyone told me that when I buy things in Morocco, don’t be afraid to bargain.  I am absolutely terrible at bargaining (learned that in Israel when I ended up paying MORE for a pair of earrings than he originally asked for…) but my friends forced me to have a backbone and not settle for high prices.  Who knew I could bargain in Spanish hehe.  I bought a bunch of handmade scarves and a huge sweatshirt/sweater type thing made out of a super heavy material.  Pretty sure I could wear it during a polar vortex and be totally comfortable.

That night we ate dinner at a palace, which was pretty cool.  And we had some live entertainment consisting of loud instruments and strange Moroccan dancing, but the food was fabuloso.  We had salad, little meatballs (so so so so good), and enough couscous to feed all of Africa — funny because I always use that expression and this time I was actually in Africa.  After that we had a fake Moroccan wedding and I didn’t really know what was going on but it was enjoyable.  Then I pretended to be royalty for 2 minutes…IMG_3433

On Sunday we explored the city of Tetouan and visited a pharmacy where we learned all about Moroccan herbs and spices.  There were so many different herbs that all served a purpose.  There was something for insomnia, hangovers, seasickness, dry skin, tea, oil to make your hair shiny, cream to clear acne, etc.  Obviously I bought almost everything.IMG_3466Don’t ask me what any of these do, couldn’t tell ya

Then we took a bus, a boat, and another bus back to Sevilla.  Home sweet Sevilla.

Overall it was an awesome trip and I’m really really glad I went.  I got to see so many different aspects of the Moroccan lifestyle and it was such an incredible learning experience.  If you ever have the opportunity to go, DO IT 🙂

I’m off to Rome this weekend to visit one of my best friends, Eryn.  It was a spur of the moment decision and I literally booked it two days before the trip soooo Italy here I come!

Besos ❤

Wait a second, this isn’t SunLife?

Yesterday I officially converted to Spaniard-ism because I went to my first professional soccer game!  I mean fútbol.  If you say soccer here they look at you like you have 3 heads.  I’ve always loved soccer so I was super excited for this game.  It was the Copa del Rey Quarterfinal against Espanyol (a Barcelona team).  Thankfully I live down the street from the stadium so it was a nice little walk and I was in the middle of it all.  Unlike UM games where you take a 40 minute bus ride and then tailgate in the blazing sun for 4 hours (not saying I don’t love it…).  Before going into the game my friends Ashley and Lauren and I checked out the apparel they were selling.  Me and my indecisive nature went back and forth on whether or not to buy something, and I contemplated getting a scarf for a solid 5 minutes, but I figured it would warm up soon enough and I wouldn’t need it.  ROOKIE MISTAKE.  Lauren and Ashley bought scarves and upon walking into the stadium every single human was swinging their scarves around and chanting.  I immediately looked like a bandwagon soccer fan.  Next time, I’m buying a scarf.

As soon as I walked into the stadium, I was in awe.  It was filllllled with Sevillanos all bursting with pride for their city.  Everyone was chanting and singing and clapping (note to self: learn the Sevilla fight songs) and the atmosphere was contagious.IMG_2718

Other things I have to learn: how to say the positions in Spanish, how to say all the calls in Spanish, how to say anything sports related in Spanish besides “vámonos!!!” (shoutout to Dora the Explorer for that one), and more.  Overall it was amazing.  I am so glad I got to experience the equivalent of American football.  Spaniards are die hards when it comes to soccer and it was even more exciting for me because I actually knew what was going on.  As much as I claim I understand American football, I will never fully understand it.  But soccer, that I can do.

Even from the stands I could see the differences between southern Spain (Sevilla) and northern Spain (Barcelona).  Often, when the Espanyol players got knocked down, they would try to start fights with the Sevilla players.  But I would always notice that the Sevillanos would try to help up the players and always showed good sportsmanship and camaraderie.  That’s just how they were raised down here.  Add one more line to the “reasons I’m glad I chose to study in Sevilla” list.  There’s not much else to say about the game except that it was such an awesome experience and I can’t wait for the next one!! IMG_2730

*FYI: I tried adding videos of the fight songs but I am technologically inept and it didn’t work*