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 ūüôā

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!

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Prague & Amsterdam: Part Three (last one!)

I’m going on a one-day trip to Venice Wednesday and wanna write a post about my mom’s lovely visit here this past weekend so I’m aiming to write about Amsterdam today, my mom tomorrow, and Venice after I get back after Thursday. Marathon blogging starts NOW!

So, Amsterdam. You are a cool city, for sure. Your government and social structure is very enviable, your insanely coordinated multitasking bikers impressive, and your canals a pretty sight. But compared to Prague, I’m sorry to inform you that according to a recent trio of travellers, you didn’t measure up. Why? Well, for one, your weather was dastardly and it felt like you wanted us out. Yes, you provided us with a one-of-a-kind tour guide replete with history and free cheese, but a surprising number of your residents made us feel unwelcome thanks to various rude and obnoxious interactions.¬†It’s funny you say that you love us, because we didn’t really feel is too much. Maybe the winter wasn’t the right time to visit. I’d love to return to see your tulips blooming all over your country another time. Maybe then I’ll change my decision on you, but until then, Prague was much better.

Eh don't be so aloof then, Amsterdam!

Then don’t be so aloof, Amsterdam!

The night we arrived, we diligently (and arguably maddeningly) made a two day itinerary that covered tons of attractions: Museumplein (Van Gogh and Stedelijk (modern art) museums), the Albert Cuypmarket, Anne Frank House, flower market, sexmuseum (this is¬†Amsterdam,¬†home of the–>), Red Light District, Jordaan neighborhood, canal ride, walking tour… so much!!

The food: Pretty good. From what I saw, Amsterdam didn’t push as much of a uniquely regional cuisine than did Prague. I tried stroopwafel, a chocolate/caramel/cookie sort of concoction that was yummy and almost overdosed on gouda cheese. Expecting three euro to fetch me a sliver similar to that from London’s Neal’s Yard Dairy stilton I’d enjoyed previously, I was shocked when I was handed enough cheese to last a baguette-and-cheese tourist half a week!

If you’ve ever even heard of my existence,¬†you¬†probably know of my intense appreciation for food (consisting of both¬†flavor and the biological side), so here is a market slideshow!

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As I said above, the weather wasn’t very nice. Worse than London, even. But the architecture aided our eyes, especially the curious sights of leaning buildings and tiny houses!

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MINISCULE house! Back in the day, owners were taxed according to how many windows they possessed, so this house is a cheeky response to the taxman.

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EVERYBODY BIKES! If I return, I’d like to take a cycling tour of the city.

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Such a hopeless houseboat romantic. Wouldn’t that be a good prompt for a movie?

DSC01450Our hostel was positively adequate. We were given beds, heat, safety, and a one-minute walk to Dam Square, the historic and current center of Amsterdam. There was one bathroom for eight people and no common room. I, the hotel booker, didn’t actually realize this until a week before we left but it was also situated in the Red Light District! Ha ha! Turns out this area is one of the safest places in the city because it’s so heavily policed. We strolled around one night, taking in the sight of¬†women selling themselves in the windows. In the canal swum waterfowl that, as my friends said, must’ve wondered why our species was so obsessed with¬†sex while they handled it¬†without much fuss.

Can’t finish this post without a shoutout to THE FAULT IN OUR STARS¬†(a major part of this movie relates to Amsterdam)

(only click this link if you know the end because it’s is a SPOILER¬†joke)

and now I can’t end without showing you all more from a great well of laughter: Remix and autotune videos!!! AAA SO GOOD k done. (jk never done with these)

The Anne Frank House was phenomenal.  This was the actual house where the family hid for two years, outfitted as a living museum. Absolutely incredible.

Here are some last photos:

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Prague & Amsterdam: Part Two

Prague was incredible. After taking the tube, train, plane, bus, metro, tram, and a steep walk uphill, we finally arrived at our hostel. We stayed in Old Prague in a great hostel ten minutes away from the Charles Bridge. Everywhere we looked, we were surrounded by age-old buildings covered with abundant ornamentation. Although later they harassed our feet, the ubiquitous cobblestones paved ways to feelings of wonder and awe. For much of our time in Prague, it felt like we were in a fairytale village (albeit one overrun with tacky souvenir shops and Thai massage joints.)

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view down a street near our hostel

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p r a g u e !

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this city was such eye candy to gaze at all day long

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We saw a restaurant overlooking the city near Petrin Hill and without thinking, I dashed past the bushes to this point and just went to town (taking pictures, not literally! P-unintended!). This was probably trespassing but you can tell it was worth it!

We saw many of the touristy sights while on a 2.5 hour walking tour and on our own: Astronomical clock (previous post), Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, Jewish Quarter, Kafka’s stomping grounds, Old Town Square… The tour really helped skyrocket our opinions of Prague, ¬†compared with¬†Amsterdam, where we¬†ended up taking a tour on our last full day there (were only there for 2 full days though) because of some confusion. Understanding the city through a mixture of history,¬†landmarks, and modern customs is essential to appreciating a city and to everyone planning trips during their times abroad, I stress the significance of walking tours soon after you arrive.

Food: Mmmmmmmm. Tried curly, sugared bread cooked on rotating sticks called¬†trdelnik (thanks to the suggestion of a fellow blogger studying abroad in Prague!) Hot wine is also common, and we jumped on that bandwagon quickly. It was so bitter that even with a generous honeying, it was still too dry for my taste. Goulash was delectable, the bread dumplings hearty, onion soup scrumptious. My only negative food experience was the lack of vegetables (common in far too many places, I know. ūüė• ) When presented red cabbage, I sorrowfully strove to collect¬†every measly vitamin K molecule available.

One night, we got all dolled up, fetched our Chilean hostelmate, got a cab for 300 Kr (was about $3 per person for 20 min! So cheap!) and went to an amazing nightclub that played 80’s and 90’s music all night. The music videos plastered the walls and created an atmosphere I’d never previously experienced: many “older” people (late 20s to early 40s) dotted the large dancefloor, shamelessly grooving to the cheesy songs. As a young adult whose majority of “going out” experiences have been disappointing and full of¬†desensitizing,¬†uninspiring music, this felt like an epiphany. Finally, I’d found a club that seemed FUN and full of people I could actually relate to! In short, it was a great time and we danced for hours. I don’t have any pics of this night but Erica and Beth do, so if you want to see pics, I’ll show them whenever they share them with me.

blackswan

This is dedicated to my DAD: Look, a black swan! (for everyone else reading this, the bird refers to how commonplace coincidences actually are, e.g. a black swan. It’s also the title of a book he loves)

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Couldn’t resist snapping a pic of this funny kid decked out in blue. (Elior I gotchu)

The Prague Castle was a joy to meander around. The highlight was the St. Vitus Cathedral, an edifice so massive that I barely tried photographing it before surrendering my camera in order to absorb its formidable presence.

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My favorite stained glass of the cathedral


We also found the John Lennon wall, a memorial to the legend who never actually visited the city but remained a symbol of peace¬†and resistance for the youth during a time of particular political turmoil. We were surprised when we learned that Prague has only been opened up as a major tourist destination in the past 25ish years, owing to the government changing at that time (don’t ask me any more about political history than that! Not my forte.) Read about the wall here.

I’ve loved JL for a long time. I even dressed up like him, memorized his life story, and donned a costume for a sixth grade biography project! I bought a wonderful book of his artwork a while ago too. So this excursion was especially fun.

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Strawberry Fields Forever

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the wall (notice 3 JL heads up top)

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3 Johns

Whoooh, this is a long post! Grab a swig of gatorade and a granola bar to replenish those electrolytes cuz we ain’t finished yet! Nearing the end, though. I applaud your tenacity.

good job, you reader you!


One of the best parts of Prague was going to a monastery whose resident monks produced, wait for it, beer! Some proclaim it to be the best beer in Europe. Not long after hearing of this, you can imagine how, in my head, the puns flowed: How the monks turned water into beer, brewing happiness, etc.

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Love that monk!

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It was a gas. Each table lit by candles, a restaurant underground where Charles IV used to hang out…

Inside the restaurant

Inside the restaurant

We had a great time. The food was incredible as well! None of us were/are beer people, so it tasted like almost any other beer to us. Maybe the magic wasn’t in the taste, but the effects/benefits? Should’ve asked the monks!

On our way out, we stumbled upon a cute Czech cat and Erica was smitten. The first picture really says it all.

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TRUE. LOVE. Look at those faces!!!

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I gotta say, what an adorable cat.

The day we left, we explored the Jewish Quarter’s museum and cemetery area. Really interesting and worth it.

As I said in the previous post, we indulged in massages. Our bodies thanked us by staying able enough to take on much of Amsterdam’s sights in two full days. STAY TUNED: More of that in the next post!

Seen at Prague Castle. Reminds me of my wonderful sister Emily (brown hair on left) and me on right! <3

Seen at Prague Castle. Reminded me of my wonderful sister Emily (brown hair on left) and me on right! ‚̧

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!!)