Last but not least

Today, I woke up in my bed, in my home, in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.  I was a bit disoriented when I woke up the first time at 4:30am.  I wondered why Jacqui wasn’t in the room, why everything was so quiet, why the tram was not shaking our room, or why I didn’t hear the Italians talking on the streets.  All I could think about is: I did it.  I have completed studying abroad in another country for a semester.  That’s another check off of the graduation requirements for St. Mike’s.

I cannot believe my life in Rome is done.  It feels like a dream.  I have learned so many life lessons and skills that I will use for the rest of my life.  Thank you Rome for an INCREDIBLE four months.  Thank you for showing me the world.  Thank you for all of the memories you gave me, all your ruins I took pictures with, and most importantly, thank you for letting me call you home.  You’ll always have a special place in my heart.  Thank you to my parents and the rest of my family and friends for all the support and encouraging me throughout my entire study abroad experience.  Thank you to Jacqui for not only being my best friend and my roommate, but traveling the world with me.  Not many people can say they traveled the world with their best friend.

Thank you to SMC’s study abroad department for letting me blog.  Thank you to my followers and everyone who read JennaRoma.  It was a lot of fun reflecting on my adventures and sharing my travels with you!

If anyone has any questions on Rome itself, studying abroad, St. Michael’s College, or ANYTHING, please feel free to contact me.

Arrivederci e grazie per la lettura!
Jenna

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Top 3’s of my experience

Hi everyone!

Instead of making a post for single thing, I chose my favorite 3’s in the categories below (it was hard choosing!).  These were all the categories I could think of for now.  Enjoy!


TRAVEL

Places:

  1. Paris
  2. London
  3. Tie between Venice and Santorini!

Airlines:

  1. Aer Lingus: nice staff, decent food, roomy
  2. Aegean Air: boarded early, okay food (more than I expected), flight attendants always had smiles on their faces
  3. RyanAir: cheap, affordable, basic, they get you there and back safely

Cities with the best food:

  1. Rome: pizza, pasta, all Italian food is delicious
  2. Athens: gyros, Greek platters
  3. Paris: baguettes, pastries, sandwiches

Favorite foods people eat on the streets:

  1. Waffles: Brussels
  2. Rice balls and cannolis: Catania
  3. Churros: Spain

ROME

Restaurants in Rome & my favorite dishes at each place:

  1. Pizzeria Ai Marmi: either margherita or Italian sausage pizza… Mmm
  2. Bucatino’s: spaghetti al pomodoro (perfectly cooked spaghetti with tomato and basil) OR gnocchi (especially if you go there on a Thursday night.  Gnocchi is made fresh on Thursdays!)
  3. Grazie and Graziella: cacio e pepe (homemade pasta in cheese and pepper sauce)

GELATO: <–There is a gelato place on every corner like Dunkin’ Donuts back home.  I only listed one as this place is my ultimate favorite!

  1. Antica del Viale di Trastevere: that is all.  I might miss this place the most.

Forms of public transportation:

  1. Trains: comfortable ride, good experiences, and most importantly, WiFi
  2. Tram (cable car): much smoother ride than a bus, more on schedule
  3. Bus: there’s a lot of them, but they are just grimy and gross and everyone smells on it.

Professors I had at John Cabot:

  1. Prof. Rosamaria Mancini: Photojournalism
  2. Prof. Elena Grillo: Italian 101
  3. Prof. Ingrid Hansen: Ancient Rome and its Monuments

Classes I took:

  1. Ancient Rome and its Monuments: my on-site class was super fun!  I definitely recommend taking on if you have the option to while studying abroad.  I had the most work in this class like 3 tests, a presentation, and a research paper (yes that’s the most work I put into a class here… LOL), but I learned so much about the city I studied in and fell more in love with it.
  2. Photojournalism: I realized I like taking pictures for a reason more than for art.  Telling stories with pictures in Rome was super fun!
  3. Digital Photography: I do enjoy editing pictures and had a lot of fun creating my own portfolio for this class.

PACKING

Things I packed that were the most useful:

  1. My camera.  Duh.  Between two photography classes and seeing all the cool places I saw, I always had a camera around my neck.
  2. An adapter.  It would be hard to charge electronics without one.  Make sure you get one that has both a Europe and U.K. port as the U.K. uses a different head.
  3. My iPad.  Without it, plane rides would have been boring and I wouldn’t have been able to (re)start the Harry Potter series!

Things I WISH I packed:

  1. Light rain boots if that exists.  It rains a lot during the fall and winter here… and wearing sneakers in the rain was not the most ideal footwear.
  2. Light peacoat.  My peacoat is really heavy and bulky… Impossible to pack.  Would have been a good investment!  Instead I looked American with my black North Face.  Oh well.
  3. Another pair of bootcut jeans.  I only brought one pair, which was super inconvenient if I wanted to wear sneakers.  LOL we all know skinny jeans + sneakers is a big no-no.

Things I could’ve left at home: <–Hard section as I think I used everything I packed!

  1. I think I could have gotten through the semester without my laptop.  I’m still mad that all my files got deleted (remember that?) when I tried updated to Yosemite, but that could have happened anywhere.  It would have been hard to blog without my laptop, but my iPad would’ve sufficed.  Also I only wrote maybe two essays this semester, so if I knew that I wouldn’t have brought it.

Only a couple more posts to go!
Thanks for reading,
Jenna

STUDY ABROAD!!

For dinner last night, Jacqui and I went to restaurant we ate at our first night in Rome, Grazia and Graziella.  They have traditional Roman food that is out of this world.  We ordered french fries with feta cheese and pepper crumbled on top as our appetizer (like what a genius idea?).  Our usual!  We asked for a bottle of their house wine and toasted to studying abroad.  While eating Cacio e Pepe (cheese and pepper sauce on homemade pasta… a Roman specialty!), I may or may not have cried three times during my meal.  Jacqui also cried while eating homemade bolognese lasagna.  We cried for not only the reason that our strictly carb diet will end in four days, but mostly because our study abroad journey is coming to a close.  I’m SO sad that in only 3 days, I will have to say bye to this place I’ve called home for 4 months.

Because I had such a great experience studying abroad, I want YOU to study abroad and have the same experience I did (if not, better!)

Everyone who I’ve talked who’s studied abroad says that studying abroad was the best experience of their life.  I never understood why until I actually did it…  Why would you leave such a great college for 4 months of your life?  Why would you ever leave your friends and family???

When I found out that the Media Studies, Journalism, and Digital Arts department at St. Mike’s REQUIRES you to study abroad/away for an entire semester, I was SOOOO nervous.  You mean, I have to study in another place in the world for an entire semester?  It’s not exactly the most comforting feeling leaving your everyday life…leaving your norms…leaving your personal bubble.  I am so attached to my friends and family, that I was so scared to leave.

So why did I pick Rome, Italy?………. It’s in a completely different continent, never mind country!

My friends and family would know that The Lizzie McGuire Movie kinda maybe sorta influenced my decision on Rome.  LOL.  Like how cool would it to be Lizzie for four months and flip a coin into the Trevi Fountain and POOF, there’s your Paolo???

Two things, Lizzie:

  1. The Trevi Fountain is under restoration – therefore, there’s no water in the fountain.  So I can’t flip a coin into it.
  2. I did not meet my Paolo (maybe for the reason the Trevi is not working, but we’ll never know!).

So after not realizing these two things were going to happen, I gave up on having my Lizzie McGuire moment…*
*Sorry friends, you are not friends with Lizzie McGuire.
*Sorry family, I will not be bringing back a beautiful Italian guy.
I know you are disappointed.

Now, I don’t want you to think I picked Rome because of this movie.  THIS CITY IS MASSIVE.  There are endless amounts of things to do here.  You’re never bored.  You casually walk by the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica on your way to class.  Or you have an on-site class and meet at some of the coolest monuments in the world, like the Colosseum or the Trevi Fountain or even the Pantheon (how awesome is that????).  Who wouldn’t want to see these sites on a daily basis?

Besides the greatness of seeing all the sites, I did not think about the obvious things I would expect in Rome.  I forgot it would be loud and non-stop because I’m used to my suburb life.  This city never sleeps.  My apartment is right on the main street in Trastevere.  A cable car travels down the middle lane on this street.  It SHAKES my entire apartment… And Jacqui and I have the closest room to the street so we get the full effect.  But guess what???  It’s part of our experience.  I knew they spoke Italian, but I didn’t realize that EVERYONE would speak it and EVERYTHING would have Italian on it (I know, pretty dumb of me).  The first time grocery shopping here and seeing that every single product was in Italian was when culture shock hit me the hardest.  I did not take language into account while choosing a country.  Language did not matter to me.  If you want a major culture shock, choose somewhere that speaks a completely different language.  Luckily, taking an Italian class helped me get through the language difference.

In terms of traveling, make sure you pick your study abroad location strategically, especially if you want to travel.  Rome is in such a great location to travel to other countries.  Italy is just a great country to study in because there are so many cool destinations within this country (Sicily, Amalfi Coast, Tuscany, Florence, etc).  I didn’t even hit all of them, like Cinque Terre!

My favorite part of studying abroad might’ve been traveling.  It is just amazing to say, “I went to Brussels, Belgium for the weekend,” or “I spent the weekend in Paris with my parents.”  I have seen so many countries I thought I’d never have the opportunity to see.  Traveling has made me see the world in entirely different way.  There’s more than the United States!  There’s more out there than just New England!  I am so lucky to have visited:

  • Sorrento/Capri, Italy
  • Montepulciano/Siena, Italy
  • Sicily/Catania, Italy
  • Brussels, Belgium
  • Florence, Italy
  • Venice, Italy
  • Paris, France
  • Seville, Spain
  • Athens, Greece
  • Santorini, Greece
  • London, England

4 months.  6 countries.  That’s not too shabby.  Quite exhausting but who cares!!  I’m very fortunate and I appreciate the little things much more now!  I also feel like I have mastered traveling, a great skill to accomplish.  If you choose to study abroad, you can travel as much as I did!!

I was a bit homesick here, but traveling helped me not think about it.  I did not let being homesick ruin my experience!  I would FaceTime my parents once a week to help.  It was weird only seeing them for only two weeks… Normally because of softball I would see them a lot more as they would come to fall games on the weekends.  At home, there’s also Thanksgiving break and the option of them coming up to VT or me driving down to MA.  The thought of not having the ability to drive and see them made me homesick (I mean, I could’ve hopped on a plane and surprised them, but that’s a lot of money…).  Not spending a holiday at home was tough.  I miss my gram, my cousins, the rest of my family, my friends, and my team.  I have a new level of appreciation for everyone and I’ve learned that it’s very important to keep in touch with them.

Studying abroad is a period in my life I will never forget.  If you have time to go abroad and it won’t set you behind in classes, do it.  You might get homesick, but you will see the world.  You have the option to travel to any countries you want.  You will realize that there’s a lot of people in the world that aren’t as fortunate and it will make you appreciate everyone and everything a lot more.

I am very excited to go home, but I think after a couple of weeks, I will want to go back to Rome.  It doesn’t feel real.  I cannot believe I am going home for good.  Rome will always have a special place in my heart and I couldn’t have picked a better place to study in.

I will only be publishing a couple more posts on JennaRoma.  It’s been so much fun writing about my travels and sharing my adventures with my followers!
Thanks for reading,
Jenna

Last trip: London!

Hello everyone!

Jacqui and I traveled to London this past weekend.  Before going, we purchased Big Bus tickets since London is so big and we only had 3 days to see everything.  We also bought Terravision tickets to and from Stansted airport.

I had a really bad cough this past week and the night before we left for London, I did not sleep at all.  It was Thanksgiving night and I was coughing so much I kept Jacqui awake the whole night as well!  I felt so bad!  So around 3:30am, we rolled out of our beds and got ready to go to the airport.  This was the last time we had to wake up at that absurd hour and go to Ciampino!  After going through security, we had to get our passports stamped because we were leaving the European Union.  Normally we do not have to get our passports checked because we always fly within the European Union… I wish my passport was filled with stamps with all the countries I’ve gone to, but unfortunately it’s not.  The only one before I got this one stamped was me getting to Rome on August 26th (WOW, seems like forever ago!).  We waited a little for boarding and then got on the plane.  During my time abroad, I had started reading the Harry Potter series again (don’t worry I didn’t bring the books with me… I’ve been reading them on my iPad!), so I finished the third book on the plane ride to London (how perfect).  The flight took about two hours.

The airport reminded me a lot like Orlando’s because you had to take a tram to get to the gates.  It was so nice seeing English signs EVERYWHERE in the airport.  I was already in love.  We had to go through another passport check.  I filled out my first landing card!  Lol.  Just to let you know, if you have a connecting flight or some connection from London Stansted and are not from the European Union, plan on an HOUR to go through this line.  It depends how many guards are working, how many people are in front of you, etc.  It took us an hour to get through the line.  After making it through the passport check, I took money out of the ATM in order to get pounds!!  What a cool looking currency.  Queen Elizabeth is THE GIRL.  She’s on every single pound.  I would love to be her!

After getting money, we found the Terravision station.  Terravision was much more organized in London, than in Italy… People don’t cut you in line and the workers are actually helpful and answer questions.  Terravision in London was also nice because they had a lot of buses that ran to different stations in London (like Liverpool St. Station, Victoria Station, and a couple others), whereas Terravision in Rome only runs to Termini.  Originally we booked our Terravision tickets for Victoria Station (right near Buckingham Palace), and we did not know it went to Liverpool St.  We asked if it would be a problem if we changed our arrival location, and they were very flexible.  We took the bus to Liverpool St. Station because our AirBnB apartment was located right near there!  From Stansted to Liverpool, it took about an hour.

Liverpool St. Station was only 10 minutes away walking distance from our apartment.  The apartment was in a very convenient location!  We met the AirBnB lady at noon.  The apartment and the neighborhood it was in was so cute!

Building of our AirBnB
Building of our AirBnB
Street our AirBnB was on
Street our AirBnB was on
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More of the street

London’s streets are BIZARRE.  As you may know, they drive on the opposite sides of the road so they have these helpful tips before you cross the street.

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Jacqui and I then walked to the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge… Only 20 minutes away from our apartment.

Me and the Tower Bridge!
Me and the Tower Bridge!

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It's kind of massive
It’s kind of massive

We crossed the bridge and went for lunch because we were STARVED.  Those croissants you get at the airport only hold you over for so long!  I never thought I’d say this, but it was so nice not having pizza or pasta for once.  I’m getting extremely sick of it!  LOL.  I was so excited to have a pulled pork sandwich with french fries!

After lunch, we found a stop for the Big Bus and hopped on.  Big Bus in London was nice because their red line has an English live commentator, so we got to learn all about the city and the history behind it.  The red line does a short cut and is a bit shorter than the blue line.  Their blue line has a recorded commentary in a bunch of different languages.  If you remember, we took the Big Bus in Paris and it was not as good as the service we got in London.  Because we didn’t get on the bus till 3pm, we decided to take the bus around the whole loop of central London instead of getting off so we could scope out where we wanted to go on Saturday.  Here’s some pretty cool places we saw from the bus:

New apartments (not opened yet) overlooking the Tower Bridge... aka my future home
New apartments (not opened yet) overlooking the Tower Bridge… aka my future home
Cleopatra's Needle
Cleopatra’s Needle
My good friend Ben!
My good friend Ben!

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It was nice having the Big Bus tour us around…  It saved us a lot of walking!  We got off the bus at the Tower of London and walked back to the apartment.  On our way back, we stopped at a pharmacy for cough medicine for myself.  It was nice buying medicine with English instructions and ingredients, considering I’m allergic to motrin.  We also stopped at Poppie’s Fish & Chips for well, some fish and chips.  After talking to our friends studying in London, they told us that we went to the best fish and chips place in London.  Cool!  After mowing down our dinner, we hit the hay early after not sleeping the night before!

On Saturday, Jacqui and I got up early because we had a big day ahead of us!  Our Big Bus tickets were good for two days (we paid for only one day and got the other day free) and we also got a free boat cruise (and we had also had the option of taking a free walking tour, but we didn’t have time for that)… So we walked to the Tower Bridge and took the boat cruise from there to Westminster Pier over by Westminster Abbey.

On the boat cruise
On the boat cruise

We took pictures with our friend Ben first.  To be honest, I thought Big Ben was going to be taller than he was… He was a bit stubby!  LOL.

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We saw Westminster Abbey, but did not go inside for a couple of reasons.  1. Not enough time.  2. The line wrapped around the Westminster district.  3. I refuse to pay money to go into a church!  But it was beautiful.

Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey

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More of Westminster Abbey... Looks a lot like Notre Dame!
More of Westminster Abbey… Looks a lot like Notre Dame!

Jacqui and I spotted a telephone booth right near Westminster Abbey and obviously had to take pictures in it.

Me inside the telephone booth
Me inside the telephone booth
Got a bit artsy with Jacqui's picture
Got a bit artsy with Jacqui’s picture

We took the Big Bus from Westminster Abbey to the Buckingham Palace.  I’m happy we didn’t get lunch before Buckingham Palace because we would have missed the changing of the guards!  Super cool to see.  Like how many people can say they saw the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace????????

Entrance to the Buckingham Palace grounds
Entrance to the Buckingham Palace grounds
Extravagant gates
Extravagant gates
There it is!
There it is!

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Changing of the guards
Changing of the guards

After Buckingham Palace, we took the Big Bus to the Ritz.

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Front of the Ritz
Front of the Ritz

We walked from the Ritz to Piccadilly Circus and saw the Christmas lights!  It wasn’t totally dark out yet but you could tell they were lit.

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Piccadilly Circus
Piccadilly Circus

We took the Big Bus to Covent Garden… We were going to take the bus to Kings Cross and get a picture with Platform 9 and 3/4s (for all you Harry Potter fans, you know what that is), but unfortunately we could not make it.  There was not enough time in the day, the Big Bus stopped running at 7pm, we were meeting our friend Paige (SMCer studying abroad in London this semester) at 6:30pm, and Kings Cross was out of our way.  So Jacqui and I had a quick sandwich each at 4pm… And then walked around Covent Garden.  I’m so happy we decided to do Covent Garden instead of Kings Cross because Covent Garden was BEAUTIFULLY lit for Christmas.  Very festive, and even had a Christmas market!

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Covent Garden

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Jacqui and I took the Big Bus back to the Tower of London and walked back to our apartment.  We met Paige and her friend Colleen for dinner at the Old Bell Tavern.  I had a hamburger and it was good!  Much better than the rubber hamburgers you get in Italy.  I also tried a cider and LOVED it. 🙂  It was nice catching up with Paige and we are so lucky to have seen her two times during our study abroad adventures as the other time was in Paris!!

On Sunday, Jacqui and I went to “The Breakfast Club” for an actual English breakfast.  It was nice having more than a croissant or toast!

My hot chocolate... Mmmm
My hot chocolate… Mmmm
Scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, pesto potatoes and blueberry pancakes with syrup. Delicious!
Scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, pesto potatoes and blueberry pancakes with syrup. Delicious!

After breakfast, we walked around our neighborhood and found Brick Lane, a very artsy part of London with a bunch of markets.  There was also a ton of graffiti that I used for my photojournalism Pinterest project!  (If you would like to see this, follow me on Pinterest)

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We went back to the apartment and grabbed our stuff before going to Liverpool St. Station to catch the Terravision bus at 12:30pm.  Our flight left London around 4ish and we got to our apartment by 9:30pm.

London was so worth the trip.  After living in Italy for so long, going back to an English speaking culture was a bit of a culture shock (surprisingly).  It was weird seeing signs and everything in English, as well as hearing people on the streets speak English.  But don’t get me wrong, it was such a comforting feeling.  I could actually order food in ENGLISH and not Italian!  Also, I found that the English are very nice and well-mannered, whereas sometimes Italians tend to be a little rude and inconsiderate.  For example, in London, they actually stop for you at a crosswalk compared to Italy where they would not stop for you and would be okay with running you over.  London was also very clean… Rome can be a bit dirty.  I found that London was like an old-fashioned United States but a little backwards in terms of their roads!  I absolutely loved London and I’m so happy we had the chance to make it there!  I did not want to leave!!!

I cannot believe our last trip is done.  I can’t believe it’s December.  I COME HOME IN 9 DAYS.  How unbelievable is that?!  I am going to miss Rome very much, but I am so excited to come home!

Check back this week for another post on my blog!
As always, thanks for reading,
Jenna

Happy Thanksgiving!

This past weekend, Maya and her roommates came with her API group to visit Rome!!!  It was so nice for them to finally visit.  I think they really enjoyed Rome!

Just like when Caroline and Meghan came, showing Maya around Rome has made me appreciate living here so much more.  When their faces saw the Colosseum, or the Pantheon, or the Vatican, or the Altar of the Fatherland, it wakes me up and reminds me that, “WOW JENNA, YOU’RE ACTUALLY STUDYING IN ROME, THE ETERNAL CITY, ONE OF THE MOST ANCIENT CITIES IN THE WORLD.”  I live 20 minutes walking distance from the Colosseum.  I live 30 minutes from the Vatican and pass the view of St. Peter’s everyday during my 10 minute walk to school.  I live right next to the best pizza in Rome and a block away from my favorite gelato place.  HOW MANY PEOPLE GET THIS OPPORTUNITY?  I am so blessed and fortunate to be given this amazing experience.  I’m SO thankful for my friends and family encouraging me throughout the entire process—before coming and during my time here!  Thank you to the most awesome parents in the world for coming out here and visiting me!!!  I love you guys with all my heart.

I am definitely missing my friends and family on Thanksgiving today.  I miss everyone SO much and am feeling extra homesick today.  It’s weird not being able to mow down turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, and my mom’s homemade whipped sweet potatoes.  Instead, I will be having a spaghetti dinner at Bucatino’s, my favorite restaurant in Rome, with Jacqui, her parents, and her brother.  A big thank you to Jacqui and her family for making today feel a little bit more like Thanksgiving!

I’m looking forward to coming home and having my turkey dinner in 16 days!  I cannot believe our last trip before going home is this weekend… We are heading to LONDON! 🙂 Will be posting sometime next week.

Have a great turkey day, enjoy Black Friday, and have a safe rest of the weekend.

Thanks for reading!
Jenna

Greece

Almost all caught up with my blog!  On Thursday (the day after we got home from Florence), Jacqui’s parents arrived in Rome!!!  It’s so nice to see them.  That same day they got here, we flew over to Athens, Greece.  Our flight was at 7pm, which was our first evening departure during the whole trip.  We flew Aegean Airlines and let me say, they were awesome!!!  Before take-off, we got mints.  During our flight, we got dinner and it wasn’t bad!  I was not expecting any food on a 2 hour flight.  They also came around with coffee.  Wow!  Great service too.  The flight attendants were very nice and always had a smile on their face.

We got to Greece around 9pm.  In order to plan their Europe trip, Jacqui’s parents went to a travel agency.  The travel agency set up rides from the airport to their hotel for every place they visited, which is very nice!  The guy who drove us to the hotel had our names on a sheet of paper when we got out of the terminal.  You could say, I felt like a celebrity!

We stayed in the Plaka district in Athens and it was a great location.  You could see the Acropolis from the rooftop terrace at our hotel.  The Acropolis is gorgeous lit up at night!

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We got a late bite to eat Thursday night.  Thanks to being Armenian, I knew a lot of the stuff on the menu!!!  We ended up getting 2 platters of different Greek foods-one was a meat platter and the other was a spreads platter (like hummus!).  Yum!  I missed having food like what I have at home.  In Italy, we overload on pasta and pizza, so Greece was a nice change!

We got up really early Friday morning to cover all of Athens in one day.  We got a little lost walking to the Acropolis from our hotel (I don’t know how we did because we were 10-20 minutes walking distance from it!), but we found it!

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The ticket for the Acropolis is good for 4-5 other sites too.  Students are free, but have to show proof.  We thought that our student Visas from the US GOVERNMENT were official enough but the ticket guy gave us a hard time and didn’t believe that our visas were real.  Um… Like it was issued by the United States government???????  How much real could you get?  He asked for our student card, so we gave him our student ID for John Cabot.  He didn’t believe we were students there because it said “Visiting” on the card…. Because we are study abroad kids… So eventually he gave up and we won and got free tickets.  Very unofficial tickets.  Every site we went to, we had to show our ticket and they didn’t believe we got it from them.  Ok.  So the Acropolis workers were a little difficult.  To this day, I have no idea what a “student card” means, so I cannot help anyone there.

The Acropolis was cool!

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Whole lot of ruins!

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Like Rome!

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After the Acropolis and the other sites, we decided to go in the Acropolis museum because it started raining.  I have been in so many museums between living in Rome and for my Ancient Rome class, that I think I am museum-ed out (if that’s even possible).  It’s cool if you like Greek history though!

Acropolis Museum taken from on top of the Acropolis
Acropolis Museum taken from on top of the Acropolis

After the Acropolis Museum, we went to go see the changing of the guards at Greece’s Parliament.  There was no official changing of the guards like at Arlington National Cemetery back in the States, but we did see a protest.  Have you ever seen the movie Argo?  You need to watch it, because I felt like I was in that.

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We went back to the hotel before dinner after a long day of looking at ruins.  For dinner, we went to a different place and shared a platter of delicious foods again.

Saturday morning we woke up early again, but that’s okay because we were headed to SANTORINI!!!!!!  Ever since watching Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and admiring every picture after that, it has been the one place I’ve always wanted to go to in my entire life.  My dream came true.  See, I encourage everyone to study abroad because YOUR DREAMS DO COME TRUE.  You will travel to places you’d never thought you’d go.  It’s amazing.  Anyways, a future post will hopefully convince you to study abroad.

So the Santorini Airport was a shack.  Lol it was so tiny.  But our driver picked us up and took us to our hotel in Thira (their big city).  We could not check in yet so we left all of our luggage there and walked around Santorini.  The entire island was DEAD but it was still beautiful.

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We decided to take their city bus to the Red Beach, which we learned is not really a beach and is just red rocks.

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Santorini’s city buses…
Coach bus
Coach bus
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Red rock beach

As we waited and waited for the bus to come around again, I walked up the road a little to find this:

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Armo proud!!!
Thought this was cool too
Thought this was cool too

Instead of the bus, we took their form of a taxi over to our hotel since it was time to check in.  Our room was very nice, especially our terrace and view.

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We walked around Santorini some more and had a gyro on the go.  Yum!

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We climbed down 588 steps to see the harbor and the ocean close-up.  Santorini reminded me a lot like the Amalfi Coast with its cliffs!

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During the summer and peak season, you have the option to ride a donkey down to the harbor (and back up).  So we did not get this opportunity, but that’s okay!

Not something you normally see!
Not something you normally see!
Harbor
Harbor
Homes in the walls of the cliff! Super cool.
Homes in the walls of the cliff! Super cool.

There is no way we walked back up the 588 steps, so luckily there was a cable car (like a ski lift) to bring us back up.  We then got drinks and watched the sun set.

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Beautiful sunset. Did you know that island in the picture is actually a volcano?!
HOW GORGEOUS??????
HOW GORGEOUS??????

After the sunset, we got dinner at a place the receptionist at the hotel recommended.  It was delicious!  I got moussaka, which is like a Greek lasagna with eggplant!

Moussaka
Moussaka

Jacqui and I left Sunday morning because unfortunately we had class on Monday 😦  I woke up early and went gallivanting around our hotel because I was just taken away by Santorini’s beauty.  I’m obsessed with the white buildings and blue domes.

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I did not want to leave.  I actually CRIED as our plane took off.  We had a few hour layover in Athens and to kill time, we finally tried McDonalds in Europe.  We both had chicken nuggets and they were made of ACTUAL CHICKEN.  Much better than the McDonalds in the United States!  We had to go through security again and let me say, the security in Athen’s Airport was VERY strict.

I would definitely rank Greece as one of my top trips.  However, I wasn’t too impressed with Athens.  There wasn’t much to do besides the Acropolis and its sites/museum.  Maybe I wasn’t impressed with it because I live in Rome and I see ruins everyday.  Santorini, on the other hand, was beautiful.  I would definitely go back in the summer and not in November, because there’s much more to do.  I would love to honeymoon there!  LOL.

~*Personal thanks to Jacqui’s family for taking me to Greece and checking Santorini off my bucket list!*~

A second time in Florence

Jacqui and I decided to go on a spontaneous trip to Florence to visit Maya on the Tuesday after my parents left (November 11th)!  I literally just love how you can make last minute decisions and just up and go on a train somewhere.  Well, I guess you can do that in America.  But it just sounds cooler here.

We left on Tuesday after our Marketing class (yes, we actually go to class).  Our train was at 7pm so we had to go back and grab our stuff from the apartment.  We got on the H bus because that’s the bus that runs to the Termini train station and there was SO much traffic.  We were kinda dumb and forgot that rush hour exists… We were at Piazza Venezia (the piazza with the big white building) which is about half way to Termini and were just stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic.  We were so nervous that we were not going to make our train, so we get off the H bus at the next stope and start running (BUT OF COURSE, when we get off and run, there’s no more traffic).  So now it’s Jacqui and I.  Two Americans.  Running with our backpacks.  In the middle of Rome.  I’m wearing my riding boots.  Jacqui is wearing her boat shows.  Really, it was just comical.  I felt like I was on Candid Camera or something.  We hop on the next bus going to Termini and our train is pulling up as we are getting to the platform.  Whew.

I forgot to mention, I had a 10 page paper due on Thursday for my Ancient Rome class, which I wrote practically all of Monday and had 6 pages.  I edited it on the train and finished it Wednesday night.  I don’t know how I finished it in time.

Between running to the train station and doing that essay in almost one day…the things we do for Maya!!!

It was so worth going to Florence though.  When we got there on Tuesday night, Jac, Maya and I went for aperitivo (I’m not sure if I explained aperitivo before, but you pay a price for one drink and unlimited appetizers… It’s a good deal if you are going for drinks with friends).  We went to her apartment and really just hung out and shared a liter of wine between the three of us (and some of her roommates).  It was so nice catching up with her.

Maya and Daniela (one of her roommates) showed us the Secret Bakery in Florence.  It’s literally a hole in the wall.  If you go to this place after 12pm, they give you freshly made croissants or whatever you want for only a euro… Mmmmm.

On Wednesday, I woke up a little early and got some of my essay done.  Maya had to take an Italian test in the morning so Jacqui and I wandered around Florence for a little while.  When Maya was out, we um well, decided to go get haircuts.  LOL.  So the three of us got haircuts. 10411136_1005293526163180_259453963332887902_nAfter our haircuts, we went to the Oil Shoppe for lunch.  It was better than All’Antico Vinaio (#2 on TripAdvisor and went there with my parents!).  It was just this guy and his wife who own the place.  He makes the sandwiches and she takes everyone’s order.  So cool… I love small businesses.

After downing our sandwiches, we decided to go shopping.  Which is never good.  Lol.  We went to the leather market right outside Maya’s apartment.  The leather sold at the stands look all the same.  I just was not loving anything I was seeing and I wanted a nice black leather bag.  Behind all the leather stands are the leather stores.  We were told not to go in the leather stores because you cannot barter with them and they are significantly more expensive.  Maya said, “Why don’t we go into this leather store?”  So we went in.  Jacqui said, “Jenna, is this something you’re looking for?”  IT WAS.  Literally the most simple black leather crossover bag.  And it was buffalo leather, which is much sturdier than regular leather.  Expect poor quality from the outdoor stands for cheap prices… If you are willing to pay a little more for a much higher quality product, go into the shops.  I absolutely love my bag.  I want to use it so bad, but I’m saving it for when I get home.  I am so happy I went back to Florence and got a leather bag.  I think I definitely would have regretted not getting anything leather from Florence!

We went into a bunch of other shops like H&M and Zara.  After a successful day of shopping, we got gelato, of course!  We even visited my dad’s mozzarella guy in the Central Market before we left. Lol.  It was such a perfect day with my best friends.  Our train left around 8pm.  It was sad leaving Florence!

Seville

Sadly, my parents left on November 8th.  The last week they were here, they stayed at the Marriott near Villa Borghese and definitely enjoyed Rome (especially the gelato).  On Wednesday (Nov. 5th), we visited the Vatican (I know, FINALLY I went inside!!!).  We went to the Vatican museum, which has some pretty old stuff inside but was a bit boring for me.  We saw the Sistene Chapel… Magnificent (not allowed to take pictures there 😦 ) and went in St. Peter’s Basilica.  Even though I am not Catholic, the inside of St. Peter’s was just so impressive and it was an incredible feeling to say you visited the Vatican.  Like Papa Francis lives there?!  HOW COOL is it that I live in the same city as the pope! (Technically, it’s not the same city since the Vatican has its own city, but it makes me feel better LOL).  And my, what a house he has!

Dome
St. Peter’s Dome

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Mom and Dad in St. Peter's!
Mom and Dad in St. Peter’s!

It was so nice having my parents visit.  They made me more home sick though!  It was super sad saying bye to them.

On the Saturday they left, Jacqui and I flew to Seville to visit her friend Meghan from home.  Originally, Jacqui and I had booked a 9am flight from Ciampino to Seville way back when.  Unfortunately, the flight was rescheduled till 3pm.  We didn’t end up boarding until 3… And our flight took off around 3:30pm.  We landed in Seville at around 6pm as it is a 2.5 hour flight.  From the airport, we took the city bus to the downtown area and Jacqui’s friend Meghan and her roommate Hallie met us there!  I really liked how Seville had some form of public transportation that went to the airport.  Rome only has that to their Fiumicino airport, not Ciampino.  It was nice to see Meghan and Hallie again!  (Remember, they visited us in Rome a few weeks ago).  Jacqui and I had rented a AirBnB, so we checked into that first.  The host met us at the apartment and was super nice.  She provided us three beers and a liter of water.  The apartment was perfect for what we needed.  We really just needed somewhere to sleep and store our luggage.  The apartment was in a great location as well… It was a 5 minute walk to Seville’s Cathedral in the city center.  Seville was so cute… Definitely much smaller than Rome, but much more quaint.  It was a very clean city too, whereas Rome is kinda sorta dirty.  Jacqui and Meghan’s friend from high school, Javier, was also visiting Seville, so we all went out for dinner by the river.  As we were walking to dinner, we passed many religious ceremonies in the streets.  It was so cool to see!

Sorry for the crappy quality, it's from my phone... But check out the left side of the picture!
Sorry for the crappy quality, it’s from my phone… But check out the left side of the picture!

For dinner, I had a spanish tortilla which is kind of like an egg and potato omelette! Yum! It started to rain while we were at dinner so we ran to the nearest churro station.  And let me tell you, they were delish!!  Especially when you dipped them in hot chocolate.  MMMM.  So yummy.  After mowing down the churros, we moved on to Meghan and Hallie’s favorite place to get ice cream… I didn’t get any because I was too full from dinner and the churros!  We went to a bar after our desserts to end the night.  Between saying bye to my parents and the 2.5 hour flight to Seville, it was an exhausting day.

On Sunday, Jacqui and I wandered around Seville for a couple of hours and admired the architecture of the buildings.  Much different than Rome’s.

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But most importantly, we stumbled upon this beautiful thing.

HEAVEN ON EARTH
HEAVEN ON EARTH
FRENCH VANILLA ICED COFFEES WITH DONUTS YUM
FRENCH VANILLA ICED COFFEES WITH DONUTS YUM

And we got delicious rolls at the pastry shop down the street.  We met up with Meghan, Hallie and Javier in front of the Cathedral and headed towards the famous gardens.

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Really don’t know what this building is but it’s in the gardens
Jacqui and I in front of this beautiful building (I really don't know what it is?)
Jacqui and I in front of this beautiful building
View from second floor inside the building
View from second floor inside the building

They were beautiful and crowded because there was a bicycling and rollerblading event happening.  We went to the Alcazar, the royal palace of Seville, which was really cool and had beautiful gardens in the back.

Inside the Alcazar
Inside the Alcazar

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Don’t you just love all these palm trees?!

After the Alcazar, Jacqui and I checked out of our AirBnB and grabbed our bags since we had to leave for the airport soon.  We were crunched for time so we ran to Seville’s last day of their International Festival… Food and goodies from all over the world!  I ended up getting a Mexican burrito.  Luckily the International Festival was right near the bus station to the airport, so it worked out well.  This time, we flew Vueling Airlines and it was a pleasant experience (much better than EasyJet lol). Our flight left around 6pm and we got to Rome around 8:30pm.

Our trip to Seville was a nice relaxing getaway from Rome.  It’s such a pretty little city and I’m happy we went!

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PARIS

Yeah, so I didn’t end up posting a week ago like I said I was.  I’M SORRY.  Y’all should be used to this by now!! Weekend of Halloween On Friday, my parents, Jac, and I left for Paris!!! We woke up at the crack of dawn (3am to be exact) and flew out of the Fiumicino airport (not normally the airport we fly out of). We flew out of Fiumicino because we flew EasyJet… RyanAir has a few limited flights that fly out of Fiumicino, because their main airport is Ciampino. EasyJet was THE WORST airline I have ever flown. When we were boarding, we found out that we are only allowed to have ONE carry-on. This includes a handbag. So my mom, who had a carry-on suitcase and a handbag, had to stuff her handbag into her suitcase. My dad, who had a carry-on suitcase and a backpack, had to stuff his backpack in his suitcase! They had to rearrange everything right in front of everyone. It was ridiculous.  AND, we had to take the backpack/handbag out of the suitcase before putting it in the above compartment on the plane since it wouldn’t fit.  So stupid.  You will read about future difficulties with EasyJet further into the post. ANYWAYS, our flight left around 7am and we landed at Paris Orly around 10. OK… So flying out was stressful enough (and it shouldn’t be). When we arrived in Paris, we went to the tourist information booth in the airport because we had no idea how to get to the Palace of Versailles, our first stop. After traveling on the metro and bus forever, we realized that the kid told us how to get to the Versailles CONVENTION CENTER. Lol. This is about 45 minutes away from the Palace of Versailles. Ok. So we take a taxi from the convention center to the Palace. It was one of the prettiest places! The gold of the Palace is just extravagant.

Gate to the Palace
Gate to the Palace
Stunning.
Can this be my house?

It’s MASSIVE.

Palace of Versailles
Palace of Versailles

If you have a student visa, you can get in for free, which is nice.  ALSO, if you ever plan to visit the Palace, they will hold all of your luggage and bags for FREE (so that’s where our luggage went).  There are also gardens in the back. IMG_4686

They are so cute
They are so cute

IMG_4725 It reminded me a lot like Villa D’Este, but much bigger. Although, I think I liked the gardens of Villa D’Este more. Villa D’Este seems to be underestimated and Hadrian just did a wonderful job with his landscaping. The gardens at Versailles were so bug that we rented a golf cart and drove around them for an hour! It was so fun.

Selfie in the golf cart... Nice driving dad
Selfie in the golf cart… Nice driving dad
Tried to take a pic of us through the mirror... But failed
Tried to take a pic of us through the mirror… But failed

After the Palace of Versailles, we figured out how to get to our hotel by stopping at a tourist information booth near the palace. We took the city bus and the metro to our hotel and walked a little. After checking in to our hotel, we chilled out and relaxed in our rooms as we were exhausted from all these modes of transportation. Our hotel was not located right in downtown Paris as hotels there are EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE. You are better off staying in the outskirts of Paris, and then taking public transportation into the city since they have a great transportation system. After relaxing at the hotel, we ventured out to the many shops and restaurants near our hotel. We stopped at maybe three bakeries on our way to dinner and um well got a few baguettes that we almost finished before dinner. French restaurants near our hotel were extremely expensive, maybe 24€ for one plate, and the French food just did not look good. They don’t really specialize in any specific plates besides croque monsieurs, baguettes and pastries (but let me tell you, they master in bread and pastry… Aka all I need to be happy). SOOOO YA we ended up going to a Mexican restaurant since we were starving and my parents and I cannot make a decision. LOL. Don’t get Mexican in Paris. On Saturday, we woke up early again and went to the Eiffel Tower for 9. Our hotel was 15 or so bus stops away from it. Ticket booths opened at 9:30. Just seeing it face to face was breathtaking.

It's kinda big.
It’s kinda tall.

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Bottom looking up
Bottom looking up

My mom, Jacqui and I conquered the Eiffel Tower… Dad did not go as he has already been and is afraid of heights anyway. We were on the the first elevator that went up that day. We chose to go to the second floor, not the third as we read that you can get a better view on the second floor. IMG_4757

Mom and I on the Eiffel Tower!
Mom and I on the Eiffel Tower!

It was so worth it and going up was an experience I will never forget. Before coming on their Europe vacation, my parents had bought hop-on hop-off Big Bus tickets for the four of us. After the Eiffel Tower, we started our hop-on hop-off tour. Our first stop on the bus was Notre Dame. My good friends, Erin (a fellow SMC study abroad blogger) and Paige, were also in Paris for the weekend with their London roommates. We had a plan to meet at 12 in front of Notre Dame and sure enough, we found them/ran up behind them and scared Erin who shrieked as Paige ran away because she thought Erin was being attacked.

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Mom successfully captured the moment. Nice job mom!

My parents let us be and went inside the cathedral by themselves. Jac and I went inside the cathedral with Erin, Paige and their friends. One of my favorite churches. Blew me away. Mass was actually happening so it added to the experience inside. After Notre Dame, Erin, Paige, their roommates, Jac and I all got lunch together. Ham and cheese on a baguette did the trick. We went to some dandy little park and ate our sandwiches. Then we obviously got pastries after and enjoyed them on our walk back to Notre Dame as we had to meet my parents at 3.  We stumbled upon The Lock Bridge, which was so cool to see! IMG_4869 It was sad saying bye to Erin because we will not see her again until winter break when we are back in the States… Erin will not be in London the weekend we visit, but Paige will!

Me, Erin, and Jacqui (L to R) in front of Notre Dame
St. Mike’s takes on Paris

Let’s see after we said our goodbyes, my parents, Jac and I went back on the Big Bus to Champs Elysees, Paris’ major shopping street and home to the Arc de Triomph.

Champs Elysees and the Arc de Triomph at the end
Champs Elysees and the Arc de Triomph at the end

It’s a massive street of high end shops… For example, Abercrombie and Fitch, interesting because it’s a store that is not considered “high end” in the US. Back home, you were considered “cool” and “popular” in middle and high school if you had a moose on your clothing, but that trend faded as we got older. There were lines of people outside the GATE waiting to go in… It was weird to see people waiting in line to go in Abercrombie.

Line for Abercrombie
Line for Abercrombie
Entrance to Abercrombie.....
Entrance to Abercrombie…..

Many car dealers were located on this street too. In the US, car dealers are massive and freestanding. Over here, they are actually within a strip of buildings. It is definitely different window shopping at clothes and then all of a sudden seeing cars in the windows. After Champs Elysees, we rode on the Big Bus for awhile. A hop on hop off bus is definitely a great way to see all of Paris. It will also save your feet as many things are far away from each other in Paris! At 8pm, we took a boat tour along the Seine River. It was beautiful, although I am not sure if I would do the boat tour again. You should pick either boat tour or the Big Bus, but not both.

Like how beautiful my friend Eiffel is at night!
Like how beautiful my friend Eiffel is at night!

Dinner after the boat tour was hard to find. We were riding the bus back to our hotel and got off at a street that was lit up and had a few restaurants on it. We walked in to a pub-like restaurant and got stared at by the locals like we were aliens… Lol. My mom and I ordered a steak each and my dad and Jacqui ordered a chicken burger each. Let’s just say it wasn’t the best meal as the chef was the bartender, who was walking back and forth serving drinks and making our dinner. Lol too funny. Honestly, the things I experience anywhere I go is hysterical. On Sunday, we went back into the city, and rode around on the Big Bus again.  For some reason, the driver on Sunday wasn’t as good as the one on Saturday, as the one on Saturday was whipping around the streets of Paris.  For lunch, we munched on some crepes and departed for the airport at around 5pm.  This is when we had the awful experience with EasyJet (besides the first time).  My dad’s backpack and my mom’s handbag were already packed in their suitcase.  No problem.  Now, the gate lady is actually checking everyone’s bag in the measurement bag box (who knows what it’s called?? / WHO ACTUALLY CHECKS THE SIZE OF THE BAGS??)  And of course, my parents’ bags were too big because their personal bags were in there…  So the worker was making fun of us and saying it doesn’t fit every time my parents adjusted the bag.  She would not let us have personal items!  It was ridiculous because everyone else in line had three extra bags!  So my dad was getting really mad because now it’s like she’s discriminating us since we are Americans.  He starts throwing clothes out of the suitcase, gives a sweater to Jacqui and I each.  I am fuming too because the entire situation was ABSURD.  Jacqui and I start wearing the sweaters around our neck…

The new style!
The new style!

I was dancing with the sweater around my neck and the boarding line was laughing and clapping at me.  #celebrity.  For all you future study abroaders, DO NOT FLY EASYJET.  You are MUCH better off with RyanAir.  They could care less about personal items and such. Besides having trouble finding actual food (and not baguettes for dinner), Paris has become one of my favorite cities.  I am absolutely in love with it and definitely want to go back at some point in my life.  What a gorgeous place!