20 February, 2017

My Adventures in London by Irene Case

Upon arriving in London, I was extremely excited for the adventure of a lifetime. I’d lived in a foreign country before, but this was different because a) London is very different from South Korea, and b) I was doing it without parents breathing down my back. I finally felt like I was an adult – living on my own, exploring the world on my own – and I couldn’t wait to get started.

My adventures in London so far have been great, and I’ve found that the most valuable experiences come from visiting ordinary places. Every weekend, I’ve gotten on the tube and gone somewhere I hadn’t seen before, and so far, my adventures have mostly consisted of going to parks and markets. However, doing this has been a lot of fun, and I’ve learned many things about the area.

As far as markets go, I’ve been to Borough Market and Brixton Market. Comparing and contrasting, I think I like Borough Market better, but both are wonderful in very different ways.

The first market I went to was Brixton Market, and it totally reminded me of the market I went to with my Mom while living in South Korea. There was a mostly immigrant population there, selling their produce, and I was amazed at how cheaply I could buy a bag of potatoes for. In a sense, I was grateful, but in another sense, I felt bad for the people who worked so hard and made so little.

This was reflected in an experience I had buying strawberries there. Out of curiosity, I asked the price, and the man said £1.20. I thought that was very reasonable, and decided to buy them, but when I was fishing through my pocket for exact change, the man assumed I didn’t have the money and said I could have them for £1. After arguing with him for a bit about this, I tried to pay him the full amount, but when he kept saying ‘no, no, it’s really fine,’ I felt too embarrassed to argue back and left him with the £1. This experience really struck me at how poor some people must be, as they might not have a few extra pence for a box of strawberries. In hindsight, he might have been one of those people, which made me feel very guilty about not forcing him to take the full price, especially because I could easily afford it.

Borough Market is slightly more expensive, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the food is much better, and that it’s worth the price. There are a lot of small, organic farms that sell their fresh vegetables there, and there are also bakeries, cheesemakers, butchers, and street food vendors. So far, I’ve bought some delicious veggies, homemade bread, apple strawberry juice, and a venison apple burger which claimed to be fresh from the field. All of the food tasted amazing, and now I know where I am going to do most of my grocery shopping while I’m here.



The parks I’ve been to include Hyde Park and St. James’ Park. I have yet to explore these areas in full, but from what I’ve seen so far, I’ve been nothing but impressed. I went to Hyde Park during my first weekend in London, and was amazed at how big it was. There I was, in the middle of a busy city, and I’d entered into a natural area that I couldn’t see the end of. It was breath-taking! I adventurously explored its paths, enjoying the birds and squirrels going about their daily lives, as well as the trees whispering in the wind.

I also got a look at the Italian Gardens and the Princess Diana memorial playground. Two things I learned: that the English can do gardens right, and that the English can do playgrounds right. Despite it being winter, the Italian Gardens were beautiful (especially the fountains), and I wished I could have stayed longer sitting in them to get inspired (the weather was a bit cold for that). From what I could conceive of the playground, it was set up in this natural area with complex wooden play structures that kids could actually have fun on. Seeing all this, I wondered, ‘when will Americans ever learn?’

St. James’ Park was also beautiful. I went there briefly one day between classes, and managed to see some ducks, geese, pigeons, and other cool birds, and walked halfway around the pond. This park wasn’t near as big as Hyde Park, and it was much more crowded, but it was still a joy to take time off during my work day and enjoy the outdoor sunshine.


What amazed me most about both parks was the fact that they existed, and the fact that there are so many other parks like them that I have yet to explore. Since London is a big city, it’s wonderful how there are so many large, open areas for wildlife. Granted, city parks are not the most natural habitat, but the fact that people make the effort to make spaces for plants and animals is beautiful. Additionally, the parks are some of the nicest places to go to because you can get some fresh air, and are free to explore whatever you want at your own pace.

So, parks and markets sum up my travels in London thus far. However, my thirst for adventure has not been stilled, and I can’t wait to go and explore more of this amazing city.

01 February, 2017

Since Arriving In London by Edward Passero

             

                                     Since arriving in London, it has been a roller coaster in the matter of 2 weeks. From some of the best nights I’ve had to times where I question whether I am cut out to be this far away from home, I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world. Being in a different country, even one that still speaks your first language, is a journey that is unlike anything I could’ve ever imagined.

                This is my first time travelling to Europe, so naturally I want to take in as much as I can in these 4 short months. Planning trips is expensive, and always be prepared to spend more than you expected because even if you think you find a cheap flight and/or hotel, there will always be costs thrown at you that you hadn’t anticipated. For example, I spent the weekend after my first week of classes in Paris. We found a relatively cheap flight for Paris and a hostel to stay in for a very cheap rate. One thing I know I hadn’t accounted for was travel to and from the airport, and when the airport is an hour from your hostel, it’s a decently steep rate. Additionally, travel within Paris (when I managed to lose my metro card three times in 2 days) and getting fined 35 euros put a little dent in my budget. But to be honest, it was the experience of a lifetime and you can’t let something as trivial as money bring you down. I mean, how many times am I going to get to stand on the top of the Arc de Triomphe and watch the sunset over the Eiffel Tower?




                Although the process of doing so is extremely stressful and time consuming, planning trips around Europe and having those to look forward to makes the time here much more exciting. I recommend booking trips ASAP. Right now, I have trips to Barcelona, Rome, Florence, Pisa, Siena, and Iceland confirmed and booked. This may seem like a lot, but there is still so much more I want to be able to do. Although it may seem like a lot of money is flying out of your pocket at once, having that stress off your shoulders and having it all paid for so far in advance may actually help you budget your funds more efficiently.

                Other than Paris, I haven’t done too many exciting activities since I’ve arrived in London. I’ve gone out on the weekends with my friends a few times and it certainly is a treat to be of the legal drinking age in this country. Having an internship is stressful, but I can already tell that it is going to be one of an extremely rewarding experience, so I highly recommend obtaining one if you are considering studying abroad in London. The Ithaca College London Centre (ICLC) will basically find the internship for you, and although the process of obtaining a visa is a pain, it is well worth the effort. If you do decide to get an internship, also seriously consider cramming work study into your schedule. You’ve got some of the nicest people here at the ICLC and I am not hyperbolizing when I say that I actually look forward to coming into work here and getting to work with these 4 amazing women.

                 Finding a flat also wasn’t as difficult as it may sound. We found ours very early into the process, and although it may take others longer to find their flat, you will not be without housing, that’s for sure. Just like housing back at IC, it can be stressful and scary, but it all works out in the end. Our flat has had its fair share of issues already, from our washing machine leaking water all over our kitchen to our drying rack breaking, but no place you pick is going to be perfect.


                The message I’m trying to convey is that this is not an easy experience, but being a foreigner is not meant to be an easy experience. For the first time for me, and for many others as well I would wager, I am the outsider. I am the one who showed up to a country that is not my homeland and instead of making people adjust to my culture and behaviours, I am the one that needs to be adjusted. It’s hard. It’s scary not being able to have my closest friends or my family next to me when I need them. Every day is a challenge, but it is a challenge you have to be willing to meet. Live every day to its fullest, especially while you are here, because before you know it, you’ll be back home, wishing you had more time in London. If someone tells you this is easy, they’re lying. But trust me when I say that if you have even a slight urge to study abroad, then you need to do it. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I plan to have this experience be among the stories I tell my children one day.

21 November, 2016

Stepping Out of Central London by Arham Muneer

While living in London, it can become easy to stick to your daily routine of home to school and back home followed occasionally by a play or concert you have to go to for class. I think I usually stay within Zones 1 and 2 of the Tube but the few times I have been gone further gave me a chance to see London the way locals see their city. I have gone to some of these places for a couple of classes to learn more about the area’s history and to others just for fun. Enjoy!

Brixton (Zone 2)



Okay so Brixton is still in Zone 2 but I’ve been there twice for two different classes and I really like the area and its history. Brixton is in the Lambeth borough of London and has a long and interesting political history. Some cool places to visit are the Brixton Market for food and cafes, the murals, including a David Bowie mural (he was born there), and the Bohemian art scene. 

Cool fact: Brixton has one of the oldest windmills still in operation (kinda). Yes, a 19th century windmill! I actually got to go in and get to the top because you know, when in London, you just gotta go to a windmill.

Wimbledon (Zone 3)

This trip was also for class and we walked from the Southfields tube station to the All England Lawn Tennis Club a.k.a Wimbledon. Being a tennis fan, I felt like I was in heaven. We got a tour of the tennis grounds, the players’ lounge, the press room, and other amazing things. We also spent some time at the museum and the shop. The tour costs a bit of money (£21) but it’s worth it if you love tennis. The general area was very suburban and truly gave a different perspective from what we see in central London. Far less people and traffic and yet still London.  



Cool fact: There is a man from Yorkshire (I think) who comes down every year to count every single blade of grass (which by the way, no one from the public can ever touch) before the tournament. Literally, his job title would grass-counter. #goals 



Southall (Zone 4)

Southall is located in the borough of Ealing. Also rich in history, today Southall is primarily a South Asian residential area. It was also the main location for the film Bend It Like Beckham. There is not much touristy stuff to do there but it’s still a cool place to visit to check out another side of London. 

These are just three out of a handful of places I’ve been to but I will hopefully get to see some more. If you are done traveling around Europe, I would suggest going to new places within London. It’s a huge city and while none of us can probably see it all, it’s worth it to get out of central or inner London. Worried about travel costs? Remember buses don’t operate on a zone based fare so you can essentially go anywhere in London on a bus (which might not be as slow as they are in central London).



07 November, 2016

Places To Eat In London! by Patty Quijada Salazar

I would say that I love food.  My Instagram probably has more photos of food than anything else.  With that being said, I’m going to let you know of the places I’ve been able to try in London so far, and also the places I have planned before the end of the semester. 

One of the first places I went to when I first came London was My Old Dutch.  I’ve been to the one near the High Street Kensington Station, and I’m glad I found it.  This place makes Dutch pancakes that vary from the savory to the sweet.  They also have other foods if you want to try them, but since I’m gluten free I stick with the pancakes.  The pancakes are pretty big and filling and they remind me of crepes more than American pancakes.  I’ve been here a couple more times after my first week in London, especially on Monday’s because they have a deal where the pancakes are £5.25 and I’m totally down to have pancakes when they are almost at half price. 

Another place I went to in the 2nd or 3rd week of the semester was Arepa & Co. This restaurant serves Venezuelan food.  I was very excited to go here because I had been wanting some home-like foods and you can’t get more Venezuelan then some 'Arepas'.  I had some 'Tajadas' and two 'Arepas'.  Tajadas are ripe plantains that are fried and usually come with some cheese sprinkled on top.  Arepas are basically cornbread that is filled with whatever you want.  

I had a Pabellón arepa and a Mariana arepa.  Pabellón which is a combination of shredded beef, cheese, black beans, and plantains.  The Mariana had chicken with mayo, avocado, cheese, and plantains. To drink, I had what my mom calls' Papelón con Limón', which is sugar cane lemonade – not what the British call lemonade – and it reminded me of my summer while growing up because my mom would make it during really hot days to help my siblings and I stay cool.   I would definitely recommend going here if you haven’t tried Venezuelan food because they have a lot of different Venezuelan foods that you can try that are still very traditional and at a decent price.  The dishes ranged from £3.75 – £12, which for dinner isn’t horrible for London.  They are in Haggerston area and open until 10:30 every day but Sunday

Another place I’ve gotten a treat from is Cookies and Scream in Camden Market.  Cookies and Scream vegan cookie bar that doesn’t use any dairy, egg, wheat, and gluten-free in their products.  Their location in Camden Market is tucked away in a stall area, and they are cozied up next to a couple of other food venders.  I originally found them last year on Buzzfeed and

Instagram after I found out I was going to London, and was super happy to finally go and try their stuff out.  I got their Cookie Dough Shake, which was super good! In the future I would just get something salty to go with it because I was super sweet and cookie doughy.  I also got a Peanut Butter Choco Locos to go for a treat after dinner that night.  If you’re ever in the Camden Market and are curious to try some vegan and gluten-free sweets, then I would definitely recommend trying this place out. They’ve also opened up another shop in Holloway Rd if you want to check that site out as well.  

I’ve also been to Gourmet Burger Kitchen.  I went once with my dad and again with some friends.  This place has, as the name says, gourmet burgers and it’s at a somewhat reasonable price.  They have a gluten-free menu for those of you that also need gluten-free foods.  I’ve gotten the Salvador Burger and the Avocado Bacon Burger.  They were both very good.  The only thing that wasn’t super great was the gluten-free bread is very dry and crumbly, which makes eating it hard.  I also got their Caramel Brownie that comes with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and it was delicious

With only a little over a month left in London, I still have some many food places I want to go and try.  I want to explore new markets along with some I’ve already been to.  Some of the one’s I really want to go to is Borough Market, Pimlico Road Farmers’ Market, Old Spitalfields Market, and Maltby Street Market. 

01 November, 2016

Traveling within the British Isles

While studying abroad in London, traveling becomes an essential for everyone. Every weekend, a bunch of people pack up a small bag to venture out into Europe or go somewhere within the UK. Well, a couple of weeks ago, some friends and I decided to go on a small tour of the British Isles, and by British Isles, I just mean Liverpool, Manchester, and Belfast. And it was loads of fun, so keep reading.

We set out for Liverpool, our first stop, via bus for a 6-hour journey. Yes, it was very long and tiring! We got to Liverpool’s bus station around a little after midnight and then found a local bus to get us to our Airbnb – which to say the least, was not in the most prime location of Liverpool. Our host, a Mr. Jordy, was very hospitable but did manage to make us want to lock the door to the room. Just kidding. Or not.

The next morning, I set out to go on a tour of the beautiful Anfield stadium, home of the Liverpool Football Club. The tour guide was amazingly knowledgeable on the history of the club and gave an incredible tour to a very pleased crowd. And as a football fan, I just had to touch the actual turf and I will admit that I employed the oh-my-shoelace-is-untied-so-I-need-to-stand-right-next-to-the-little-barrier-and-tie-it-so-I-can-sneakily-grab-a-blade-or-two-or-three-of-the-turf gimmick. I stand by my decision. Following the tour, I joined my friends. The rest of the day was spent going to a few of the museums, including the Museum of Liverpool with its very interesting contemporary art and the Tate Liverpool where I got to see Tracy Emin’s “My Bed” (all the Art in London people should know what I’m talking about). We then spent some time at the beautiful Albert Dock followed by my three companions going off to the Beatles’ Story, which I did not go to because I’m not a fan (please don’t kill me). On an impulse, we decided to go on a ferris wheel ride, which gave us beautiful sights of the city and the Mersey River. At last we ended up in the city centre where we had dinner and spent some time walking around before making our way back to the Airbnb. Overall, I’d give Liverpool a 7.5/10.




The 45-minute train ride to Manchester went by incredibly quickly the following morning. We then got an Uber to get to our Airbnb which turned out to be in Bolton, about 40 minutes away from Manchester. However, our house was incredibly beautiful and in a great neighbourhood – a big jump from our last place. The city of Manchester was incredible. Our first stop was the John Rylands Library, a beautiful structure housing many rare books and artefacts. We then went to a cathedral (I can’t remember the name, sorry). We couldn’t visit it anyway as there was a grand wedding going on inside. But right in front of it, in the Albert Square, the Manchester Food and Drink Festival was happening where we got really delicious lunch. Our next stop was the Museum of Science and Industry which was very cool and interactive. We then went to the Manchester Central Library which was closing soon. Unfortunately, due to it being a weekend, most places closed early and we could not visit all the places we wanted to. Nonetheless, we enjoyed our time in Manchester a lot. The city has an incredible vibe and was lot of fun, and had some very good Pakistani food as well. We bid farewell to one of our companions here as he headed back to London. I’d give Manchester a 9/10. Can’t wait to go back!



The next morning we flew to Belfast, which to say the least, was stunningly beautiful even just getting to our Airbnb in an Uber. After a delayed flight (thanks, EasyJet), seeing such a beautiful place made it worth it. After settling in, we went for a walk around the area in search of food and found a not-so-decent Chinese place. After going to bed early, we set off the next day and walked to the city centre. We had lunch at an amazing, and very very cheap sandwich shop called Sandwich Station. After walking around a bit, we set out for the Titanic Belfast where we spent a good deal of time walking around enjoying the sights. On our return to the city centre, we decided to hike up to Cavehill Country Park and see an actual cave up there. It was a long and tiring hike but it was worth it once we saw the view from up at the (almost) top. We then had dinner at Lavery’s which was an amazing place with great food. It had a beer garden, a huge room with pool tables, outdoor seating on the roof, and the menu had a wide range of options. On top of all, it was very decently priced so I would definitely recommend it to anyone. After the long tiring day, we returned to our Airbnb. The following day, packed our bags and set out to the city centre to visit the City Hall. Tips for anyone going to Belfast, if you’re a Game of Thrones fan, please book the tour in advance. And definitely go to Giant’s Causeway which we missed because we did not have enough time. Overall, we had a great time in Belfast. I’d give the city and 8.5/10.



I then flew back to London as my other two friends made their way down to Dublin and Cork. I had an incredible time traveling within England and Northern Ireland. I got to see some amazing places and learned more about the culture of this country. While you’re in London, definitely go visit other cities here and not just in Europe. It will enhance your experience a lot and you will learn a lot more about the culture and history.      


26 October, 2016

Fall Break Part II by Jessica Saideman

Back in Ithaca, fall break is a long weekend break to go back home and relax for a few days after midterms. For Ithaca students in London, fall break is often a week long travel adventure in a cram to see as much of Europe as possible. For a lot of students this means Italy, Spain, or Greece, warm places that are just a little too far to do a weekend trip to.

This break I went to Venice, Florence, and Rome in Italy with my flatmates, and then I went to Barcelona, Spain on my own. I spent about 2 and a half days in each, except for Florence, which we only spent a day and night in.

Boy was it a whirlwind of ancient Roman ruins, Venetian Canals, huge cathedrals, Gaudi architecture, pizza, pasta, ham, wine and cheese.

Here is some advice specific to the cities but I think can also apply for general Europe travelling.

Also if you have student ID with an expiration date on it, USE IT. It will give you great discounts to seeing the big stuff so you can save money for great food! (Or like souvenirs or whatever but I prefer to spend it on good food)

Venice:
1.       The city is just so freaking beautiful I can’t put it into words. The first day I was there, while my flatmates went to Verona, I let myself get lost, wandering through the little streets and bridges over the canals, not looking at a map on my phone. I simply looked which way looked the coolest and walked that way. I found so many beautiful little bridges and alleyways this way.
2.       This for all of Italy, not just Venice, but Venice tended to be more expensive. Many sit down restaurants will have a cover charge that would kind of be like the service charge but these restaurants tend to be more expensive anyway, so try to go for the places that advertise no cover charge.
3.       Also for all of Italy and Spain, they will not serve you tap water at restaurants, even if you ask because they don’t drink their tap water. You will have to pay for bottled water so make sure to look at the prices of water on the menu compared to their size. My first night in Venice I had a 750mL bottle for 4 euros, which often costs more around £1.50 at a grocery store.
4.       A lot of the main tourist areas aren’t as exciting as wandering around. The Rialto Bridge is super crowded with tourists taking pictures and most of the shops on the bridge itself are touristy and not super interesting. Try wandering just a little past the bridge.
5.       Get a take away sandwich, pastry or mini pizza and sit by one of the smaller canals and just the water. It is so relaxing.

Florence:
1.       All the main sights are pretty close together. It is probably one of the most walkable cities I’ve ever been to.
2.       A lot of places close around or before sunset, so make sure to get in earlier. We made the mistake of waiting to the last minute to go to the Boboli Gardens and couldn’t get in.
3.       If you decide to go see the gardens, you’ll have to walk up a surmountable hill but it is worth it. You get to see a beautiful neighbourhood of Florence as well as a fantastic view.
4.       The Duomo is free but it gets crowded so get there when it opens.
5.       You will end up walking through leather markets full of vendors calling out to you to buy their stuff. Ignore them, and don’t feel bad about it, if you engage them they’ll want you to buy something you really don’t want.
6.       Also general rule for Italy: Get Gelato. Always get some gelato. It is delicious and often not expensive and when are you going to get gelato in Italy again?

Rome:
1.       Again, eat all the gelato.
2.       If you go to Vatican, there will be a bunch of people from tour companies trying to sell you expensive tours that they will try to convince you is cheaper and more worth the time than just buying tickets from the Vatican to the Sistine Chapel and just waiting to go into the Basilica. Their tours are not worth it. I spent 8 euros to get in to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel versus the 36 euros for the tour a guy offered us. They will try to get into your face so just keep walking to the entrance and keep saying no firmly.
3.       There is a tourist pass called the Roma pass, which gives you free public transport for the time allotted and free entrance to the first archaeological site you go to, and reduced rates for the next one. We didn’t end up using public transport a lot and we only went to the Colosseum/Roman Forum/Palantine Hill so I’m not sure it was worth it, though we got to skip the long lines for those two and that felt great. So get it if you plan on trying to see a bunch of the archaeological stuff. Otherwise, just buy colosseum tickets in advance to skip the line.
4.       Definitely go to the Colosseum which is the same ticket for the Roman Forum and Palantine Hill where you can get a stunning view of Rome and see just how much Rome has preserved its ancient history. You can even see the Senate where Caesar got murdered! As a former history and Shakespeare nerd, I was pretty excited.
5.       Go to the Trevi fountain and throw a coin in. Yeah it’s cheesy and it’s crowded, but the fountain is truly beautiful and you get to have your Lizzie Maguire moment.
6.       Look for deals on wine you can often get a third or half a bottle of wine for a cheaper price than two glasses.

Barcelona:
1.       If you want to go to all the Gaudi wonders, you should buy your tickets online first. Unfortunately, these sites are so popular that they can sell out, particularly La Sagrada Familia, the famous unfinished church that Gaudi designed. It is very cool from the outside, but if you want to see the inside you have to book tickets 3 days in advance. For Parc Guell, you can buy tickets there but know that you will be waiting 2 hours in the public park around the monumental centre. It is still a cool park but if you don’t want to wait long, again, get tickets in advance.
2.       Despite what people tell you about Barcelona being full of thieves, and certainly pickpockets exist, don’t let it prevent you from getting lost and wandering down side streets. Barcelona is actually pretty safe and these little areas are so beautiful and full of interesting artisan shops. I ran into Barcelona’s only women’s bookstore that way and had a nice chat with the owner.
3.       Tapas is probably the best meal invention. Why get stuffed on three separate meals when you can just snack all day long? With wine!! Also, be careful when looking at tapas bars, some are more expensive than others and add up. Also, definitely try Pinxtos, the Catalan version of tapas. They tend to be smaller and on pieces of bread but that means they are cheaper, and they are often quite delicious. I recommend Txapela, it is touristy but it is delicious and cheap.
4.       Tomato bread. Eat it. It’s like pizza but without cheese and lighter. It’s so good.
5.       Be careful with Spanish cocktails because they tend to put a lot of alcohol in them so maybe opt for a glass of wine or cava, the area’s specialty champagne, instead.  Especially since wine and champagne in Spain is much cheaper than in the UK. Though do try sangria while you’re there. It’s the best. But get a pitcher to share with a bunch of people rather than an individual cup.
6.       If you find yourself short on cash and hungry, go to La Boqueria, a lively covered market. Sure, it’s full of tourists, but I got breakfast there for 4 euros. They have everything from delicious cream pastries, lots of fruit juice, pinxtos and tapas, and empanadas galore.
7.       Here is one of the few places you’ll visit where a 2 or 3 day public transport pass is worth it. Barcelona is a big city and you’ll be using the metro a lot, which is highly efficient by the way. It was only 20 euros for a three day pass which was worth it since a one trip pass is 2.15 and I definitely made more than 10 trips in my three days. It also counts for the airport where otherwise, to enter from the metro, you have to pay another ticket fee.

All of these places are lovely to visit, so please remember not to stress too much and have fun!















20 October, 2016

Italy, Fall Break 2016 - by Ashley Wolf

Over the fall break, two of my roommates and I traveled to Italy for carbs, cultural exploration and the beauty of the country. We succeeded in all three of these categories, plus more. I traveled to Verona, Venice, Florence, Rome and Naples.


Verona: Thursday-Friday
I left a day earlier than my roommates and flew to Venice. I took a train to Verona, the city of love. My travel experiences challenged me as not many people seemed to speak English.
For my first dinner in Italy, I ordered salmon sauce and pasta, a glass of red wine and strawberries for dessert. This dish in my top three meals for the trip. I spoke to some of the Italians about studying abroad, America and Italy. There, many seemed to know better English.
One of my roommates came to Verona the next day. Both of us loved the movie Letters to Juliet and wanted to go to Juliet’s House. It cost 6 euro to go inside, they had a student discount, but neither of us had remembered our student cards that day. Juliet’s House was a museum of the real story, Shakespeare’s story and Hollywood’s story as there were many clothes and props used in the movies.
Lovers signed a wall outside the house, left stickers that were probably symbolic and gum. Lots of gum. At first, I was offended by the gum, “why would someone decide to be gross and stick gum on this wall?!” Then, I watched a couple. One chewed the gum, the other chewed the gum, and they both stuck it to the wall. At that point, I was no longer offended, I was just slightly disgusted.
Food called to us after this and we found a cheap and tasty restaurant in the middle of the city. I read through the menu and paused, “HORSE?!” I remembered my years of horseback riding and needless to say, did not order the horse… nor the donkey. We walked around, ate gelato, bumped into a fancy red carpet event for ice skating and boarded a train to Venice where we met up with another one of our roommates.


Venice: Friday–Sunday
            If you decide to go to Venice, I highly recommend staying at The Generator Hostel. Aside from their breakfasts, it was an awesome place to stay with a bar for food and drinks, events going on nightly and a nice place for people to come together and lounge. The rooms had 16 people — bunk bed style. The bunks were really nice! Each had their own light, electric outlets and shelf.
Saturday, I had a fantastic and massive slice of margherita pizza for lunch. Delicious! Cheesy, but not too cheesy, thicker crust and what must have been homemade sauce. I needed my roommates’ help to finish it. In Venice, we explored the Piazza San Marco, Saint Mark’s Basilica and took many, many photos of the Grand Canal. At dinner, I learned some Italian fish is not deboned. Keep that in mind if you decide to go and order fish in Italy! The water made the sights, particular the sunset, better. Sunset scenes were best seen on the water taxis.
  

                                               
                                                                           Venice Street// Ashley Wolf                   


Florence: Sunday–Monday
            Sunday, we traveled to Florence. I tried to find my roommates in the afternoon, but became very lost. Thanks a lot, Apple Maps! I saw a lot of Florence, even parts that were run down and probably not where most tourists ventured to. Monday morning, we visited the Florence Cathedral.



Florence Cathedral// Ashley Wolf


Rome: Monday–Wednesday
            In Rome, we visited the Trevi Fountain and had our Lizzie McGuire moment when we tossed a coin behind our backs and into the water (Reference: Watch ‘The Lizzie McGuire Movie’ for more information — it’s a nice throwback. We watched it our second night in Rome!)


Trevi Fountain//Ashley Wolf


            We visited the Colosseum. The Colosseum was huge and well preserved. I continuously thought about how this huge arena was built such a long time ago and for such a brutal sport. We took a walk and went to a rooftop garden that looked over Rome. The sky turned grey and it started to downpour. I was the only one with an umbrella. We waited out the storm a bit and then went to eat.



Colosseum//Ashley Wolf


Wednesday, we went to the Vatican. The pope was there! We didn’t seem him. There was so much beautiful art. Hallways and rooms were filled on the walls and ceiling with art. Some of the art we saw was by artists we learned about in Art in London. It’s interesting to see how you can connect your experiences and travels with some of the ICLC classes. The Vatican was our last day in Rome. Hecklers at the Vatican were quite intense. They were everywhere! One of my roommates left to spend the weekend in Barcelona.

*Tip: We bought Rome Passes. Do not buy these unless you plan to do a lot of traveling to places not central to Rome. Even then, it’s iffy. The pass gave us free access to the Colosseum, but it cost us more than a Colosseum entrance ticket.


Naples: Wednesday–Friday
My roommate and I took a train to Naples, where we stayed for two nights. Naples was the least tourist-y place of our Italy journey. The city is graffitied over, not many speak English and it was a very big residential area. We knew not many spoke English when we went to a bar and tried to order a cheeseburger — they did not understand, two waiters were at our table trying to figure out what we wanted to order. It took a bit, but everyone eventually got on the same page. However, all of that said, it was still a great cultural experience.
            We traveled to Naples because we wanted to go to Pompeii. Pompeii impressed me. Artists at the time used such advanced techniques for sculptures, paintings inside the houses were also very impressive. When we got back, we went for pizza. Ironically, the best place for pizza was not where pizza was invented on this trip! We surely did not get the best pizza in Naples, however.
            Friday, we walked around Naples and explored. We walked to what we thought would be a food market like that of a fair, but it was actually like that of a grocery store.



Pompeii// Ashley Wolf


Note: If you want to go to Pompeii, purchase your train ticket in the tobacco shop and take one of the local trains. Trenitalia has a trip from Naples to Pompeii, but its 16 euros more.

I hope everyone enjoyed their break, had safe travels and made memories and stories that can last a lifetime. Embrace the last half of your time in London and be sure to make as many memories as possible! Before we know it, we’ll be flying back to the states!