Venezia!

veniceThis 26-hour trip was organized by the fantastic QM Travel Society, a small group of third-years with lovely personalities. They were so welcoming and funny, a perfect combination for our “mothers and fathers” who led us around all day. Not to mention good-looking! I was so impressed by how BEAUTIFUL the group was, overall! Not just outwardly, but also (yes, brace yourself for the cliche) inwardly 🙂

yup, I went there.

But for real, these kids were a treasure chest of loveliness. I was so glad that they were my companions for the day. The lack of sleep and magic of the trip allowed us to all talk to one another freely, connecting in ways that I usually feel after multiple hang-outs or a semester of club meetings.

A challenge of Venice was the unfortunate lack of respect from others who slowed down the group by taking triple the time allotted for lunch and getting lost without good cell service. Maybe that’s why my opinion of Venice isn’t shiny and happy; I didn’t get to see too much, the usual structure of my trips. Yes, I love talking with people, but when I’m in Venice, I’m there to SEE it, not hang around tacky souvenir stands while waiting for all 30 of us to finish whatever and move on.

So yeah, Venice didn’t blow my mind. Having recently departed from Amsterdam, perhaps I was still used to the widespread waterways that mystified everyone else. Didn’t get to check out some of the major sites either, only getting to the Rialto bridge (not that great), pizza and gelato (the latter severely disappointing), and a gondola ride (WORTH IT!) We did a lot of walking, which was great, but the group was slow and complained a lot towards the end.

A schedule of the trip:

Midnight-2 am: “Social”

2-6:30: Transport to and in the airport

6:30-8:30ish: Flight to Trevisio

8:30-11ish: Getting to Venice

11ish-7: In Venice

7-8: Bus to airport

8-midnight: Waiting for and being on flight back

midnight to 1:15ish: Waiting at immigration

1:15ish-2: Bus back to campus

Yes, it was QUITE the long day!

And now, the moment you’ve been awaiting: Photos!

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And because you can’t see it too well in the slideshow, this artwork gets extra attention because it’s just AWESOME

LOVE THIS SIGN

LOVE THIS SIGN!

Prague + Amsterdam: Part One

“You win some, you lose a lot.”

That quote is a gem of miss Erica, one of my lovely tripmates. It’s not meant to be taken too heavily- just a way of humourously validating that travel can lead to situations involving unfortunate losses, like unpredictable ATM fees and astonishingly rude packs of college boys (>= 9) who think that an easyjet flight is a great excuse to plug up the aisles while drunk off of smuggled alcohol and upset everyone around them. But that’s not to say that obstacles always overpower the magic of travel! Indeed, we had a wonderful trip. Prague was definitely more fun than Amsterdam for some reasons I’ll list soon, but overall, Erica, Beth and I enjoyed the companies of each other and the cities we speed-dated over reading week.

I learned so much over the course of this one week trip. Lemme sum it up Buzzfeed-style:

4^01 Secrets All Twentysomethings Only Learn While Travelling Abroad

  1. Just like the title of this absurd list, be vigilant of advertisements and offers. For example, while walking around the Charles Bridge in Prague, we were inundated with at least 4 Thai massage shops advertising 9,99 euro massages. The next day we happily popped inside, our sore feet and knotted backs aching, only to discover that that rate applied for 2 hours in the morning for a 15 minute foot massage. Also, we knew this before, but worth noting that on our table once laid an unassuming bag of peanuts that cost money if you ate them. We made sure to always indicate tap water when ordering drinks.
  2. Even if you do feel ripped off at such massage place in Prague, GET ONE ANYWAY. Or, in the case of us, get two. That’s right. Prague was so inexpensive that it was completely worth it. I could justify our decision with mentions of birthdays and body aches and low prices and such but I won’t. Two massages in two days = YES.
  3. If you want time to shower and brush your teeth in a hostel room with eight people and one bathroom stall, you either sprint out of bed after your alarm clock wakes everybody up, or you go at a strange hour when no one is up. This is harder to accomplish, though, since the hostellers we met slept at all hours (more about that below: See N&R)
  4. Great strategy for experiencing the day sights and nightlife with limited energy and time: the Nap and Rally (N&R). This genius idea also originated with Erica. Basically, do stuff all day, slog back to your hostel around dinnertime, sleep like a log for an hour (Nap), and then use all of your newfound energy to wake yourself up and go out for another 6-8 hours at night (Rally). This may include a trip to an 80’s/90’s music video disco club with a fellow Chilean hosteller where you dance all night and absolutely do. your. thang.
Erica, me, Beth just after arriving in PRAGUE!

Erica, me, Beth just after arriving in PRAGUE!

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pre-departure excitement

Even though I strove to leave much of the cities in their physical locations and resist from trying to capture every detail in photographs (i.e. I *only* took 250 pics in 8 days), I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed by the task to tell you all about the trip in sufficient detail, so I’m gonna start with a slideshow of some pictures and will provide narratives in the next post(s?). Enjoy! (Alert to EVERYBODY who told me to take lots and lots of pictures: This is your moment!!)

Here and happy!

So I made it to my flat!

Total transit time from my Saratoga house to Queen Mary: 22.5 hours. Whew, glad that’s over!

Total sleep: About 1 hour. (As of 3 pm London time (or should I say 15:00), the jet lag hasn’t quite harassed me yet! A nice surprise.

Travel days usually aren’t that interesting or fun so I’ll keep it brief. Two really cool parts about the trip were

1. I flew via Virgin Atlantic, which was a lot of fun. I claimed a seat on the upper level- that’s right, there was a STAIRCASE in the airplane- and it ended up being very enjoyable! It reduces the landing shock and there was a good lot of full bed/first class people on the floor, so fewer economy seats = fewer crying babies (zero, to be exact) and a quieter flight.

2. Virgin Atlantic, as well as many other airlines, now offer a very diverse selection of airplane meals. I’m not talking about low-fat and kosher- the couple next to me was served Hindi meals, while I opted for the Asian Vegetarian meal (which was actually sort of yummy.) You get served first, too. Just make sure to reserve at least 2 days in advance.

Orientation starts tomorrow and there’s a welcome dinner tonight.

My building and flat couldn’t be closer to everything: it’s on the ground floor in a location that’s with the other dorms but closest to the other campus buildings.

I might also add that Queen Mary is the only London university with a campus.

Here’s a slideshow of pictures of the campus– too tired to pick and choose, plus haven’t really seen it much yet. I promise, pictures will come with adventures!