Monday, July 20, 2015

Venice and the Italian Life

In June, I went on a trip to Europe with a group from EF College Break, which was amazing to say the least. I had my expectations high as I had been to Europe before and loved every second of it, so when I got here this time, I had hoped to feel the same as before.

Despite the seemingly endless downpours in Germany and the long bus rides at times, I did feel the same magic that I had my very first trip there. I love Europe and it's diverse cultures traveling from one country to the next. It's inspiring and motivating for me, quite honestly, it's what I want my life to be.
So when I got to go back to Italy, my favorite place I've ever been, I was pretty darn excited. Now, I didn't get to go to the same place, traveling from Germany and Austria, we landed in the Northern (East) side of Italy. It's definitely still gorgeous and I wouldn't have left if I had had a choice. Venice was our main spot to visit here, but we stayed in a small town near there called Cavallino (which I said countless times during the trip because it just rolls of your tongue and means little horse, we stayed here).

In Cavallino we stayed at a nice hotel near a few good restaurants and shops, as well as, having a nice beach right down the street from us, we could see it from our balconies, which wasn't bad at all!

The first night there we basically just settled in with our stuff and went to eat at the restaurant next door, which had delicious pasta (I got carbonara and some white wine, which was also lovely).

The next morning we took our bus to meet our boat into the city, which took us about a half hour to 40 minutes or so to get there.
But once we did, we saw the reasons why everyone wanted to come here. It was beautiful, the architecture, the colors, the ups and downs of the bridges and the alley ways of canals. It was great to get there earlier in the morning so there weren't as many tourists to bump into along the way.

We met our tour guide and he took us through Saint Marks Basilica quickly and showed us down some paths to the Murano glass blowery, where they gave us a quick demonstration and let us see what else they had made in their shop. Venetian glass is not cheap, but I did end up buying two tumbler glasses for my mom, which were very pretty and durable.

We then had a chance to go off on our own to explore, which we wandered more paths, got lost a couple times, at lunch (had amazing linguini and clams!) and saw the Rialto Bridge! Sadly, they were doing construction on half of it, but it was still very pretty.

We met up with our group again and got to take a gondola ride! Checked that off my bucket list.
It was a nice time, although apparently gondoliers don't sing to you that early in the day, remember that!

Again we had free time for walking, exploring, art gallery looking, and gelato eating. Eventually our feet got tired and we had to rest, but we met up with our group again, had more gelato and headed back out to head home.

It;s definitely a tourist city, where all the locals know how to work it, setting up art, souvenir, and other trinket booths. It was nice to be able to see it as our guide kept telling us to, "come back before it sinks and is gone."

Our boat ride back seemed quicker and we headed out to the beach to see what was there, which was beautiful! The water was a bit cold but the view couldn't be beat. We had fun walking on the sand and taking pictures.

Another pizza and pasta dinner and we were done with Venice.

The next day we headed out and on our way to our next country, we stopped in Verona! A smaller, yet still somewhat modernized city full of pop up booths for food and souvenirs. We ate lots of fruit that day, which we hadn't eaten all trip it seemed!

We got to see the statue of Juliet as well as her balcony. It's nice to be able to say I've been there. It was a very hot day and we didn't stay long, but enough to have seen what was needed.

Our next stop would be Switzerland. I'll write about my travels there later.

For now, cheers and safe travels!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Bucket List

Hey all!

I recently discovered that posting about my recent and past trips, that I hadn't ever posted my bucket list of what I want to do within my lifetime!
So right now, I thought I would put that down.
As of this moment, this is what is on my bucket list:

1. Fall in love
2. Travel the world
-One country at a time (Thailand next year)
3. Ride in a hot air balloon
4. Meet elephants face to face (updated because riding elephants is not good for them and I will not be doing that to magnificent animals)
5. Travel entirely alone to at least one place
6. Work and live in another country
7. Try out surfing, even if I'm not good at it
8. Travel to Australia to see kangaroos and visit Hobbiton in New Zealand
-Also meet a quokka the happiest animal!
9. See the Northern Lights from Iceland
10. Stand under a waterfall
11. Visit with giant pandas is China
12. Go to the lantern festival in Thailand
13. Help at a wildlife refuge
14. Visit South Africa and go to a lion sanctuary and go on a safari!
15. Wine taste in Tuscany
16. Go on a luxurious tropical vacation
17. Swim near manatees
-Also dolphins
18. Visit the Galapagos Islands before they disappear
19. Zip line in Costa Rica
20. Go to a Hawaiian luau
21. Visit Bali - Indonesia
22. Housesit for someone in another country
23. Offer up my home to stay on somewhere like Airbnb or Couchsurfing
24. Learn at least a decent amount of another language
25. Go to the rain room in Bali (when it's done)
26. Dine in the dark
27. See a show on Broadway
28. Go to a fancy cocktail party
29. Own a dog
30. Ride on a dog sled
31. Go to Disney and take pictures with all my favorite characters
32. Party with a favorite band of mine
33. See the New Years fireworks from Sydney
34. Visit Morocco
35. See the Pyramids in Egypt
36. Ride a camel (and hope they don't bite or spit at me)
37. Parasail
38. Take my mom on a trip with me
39. Get my dream job (which could be a lot of things - travel or animal related, or a mix)
40. Be happy, not just content
41. Swim with jellyfish (the non stinging ones) in Palau.
42. Buy a round the world ticket and go!

It may not seem like a lot, but I will be constantly thinking up more all the time, even if I don't always write them down.
The world is out there, go explore it!
Thanks everyone.

Cheers and safe travels!

P.S. If you have any suggestions or if you have any cool things that are on your bucket list, let me know in the comments section below!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Traveling in Deutchland

Germany in itself, is a great place to travel to due to it's rich culture and copious amounts of beer gardens. There's something about it that keeps you wanting to stay or travel around to neighboring countries because it's close to lots.
I had a great time starting off my EF College Break trip in Munich, although it happened to be a rough start for us. Two bus drivers we were supposed to have from the airport decided to jump ship and not show up (the bus was there for one, but the driver was nowhere to be found).
We also had the luck to be there when it was rainiest. Downpours and thunder storms were the brunt of what we got during our time walking around the city and staying in at our hostel.

Despite the weather, the city was great. With the character of a German village, but the big buildings of a bustling city, it was an interesting mixture between decades. It seems as though I noticed that a lot being in Germany and some other places within Europe, but it doesn't make the experience any less memorable.

Our first night there, mind you this was after a little over 11 hours of flying time, we were so tired! We stayed at the nice A&O Hostel there, a little ways out of downtown, but close enough in proximity and we walked around to see what was there and how to get around.

Anyways, we spent the rest of the night, well...resting. Sleeping mostly to get ready for the next day, where we walked around the actual city of Munich, getting drenched by rain and trying our best to find cool places to see. We ended up not finding our larger group in time to get a walking tour of the city, but our organization hadn't really been great up to this point.

Our welcome mixer was held at a local beer garden AugustineKeller (yes, I did drink beer!) and the food they provided was delicious, light fare but hit the spot nonetheless. It was nice to just be there, to be surrounded by people you could get to know that were there for the same reasons. Getting away, having a good time, making new friends, and to be in EUROPE. Yes, I love Europe, so sue me. It's amazing the amount of countries bundled up and ready to visit.

We also took a nice little day trip over to visit Neuschwanstein Castle, a gloriously huge castle outside of Munich that was used in Sleeping Beauty? (Don't quote me on that). It's a cool castle in the architecture and the views. We had a nice tour followed by the gift shop and the trek back down to the small city below. It was a nice site to see along our way!

The next day was full of traveling, on our way to Italy but stopping in Austria for a quick stop in Innsbruck to do a little shopping and to take a break. It was a nice break, a lovely city really. The same kind of charm of Germany in a way and the people were nice.
We got to visit a huge and luxurious Swarovski crystal store before lunch and then we were on our way.

Jumping to the end of our trip! We got back to Germany, this time via traveling through the Black Forest where we given a cuckoo clock demonstration and we ate black forest cake!
We also took pictures in the Black Forest, just to say we had been in it.

Our last place to stay on the trip was Frankfurt (here), same German feel, but more to take in and see, especially since the rain held up for us in this city.
We enjoyed walking around here, taking in the city and enjoying the food. We even stopped off at a local club for some late night dancing (Club Gibson), which was a blast!
Heidelberg was where our journey took us on our day trip from Frankfurt, where we surveyed the town, bought souvenirs and ate crepes. We strolled up to the ruined castle to take pictures and to taste some wine, where we got to see the largest wine barrel in the world! This was a fun day trip for us and we had a good time together, as newly found friends at the end of their journey.

Our last dinner, which was delicious and so much food, was at a nice restaurant in the city called Binding - DerGasthof. Delicious food served in 3 courses: soup, meat, and dessert!

It was a nice way to end the trip, lots of food and sleep before waking up extremely early in the morning to catch my first plane to Paris and then wait for my next back home.

Germany had a lot of great things going on for it, the food, the culture and the sites.

More to come from the rest of the trip soon!

Cheers and safe travels!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Germany, Italy, Switzerland - My Time Away

It's easy enough to say that "I had a great trip" and when people ask that's usually my response. They really don't know the half of it though. Whenever I seem to get to Europe I feel like I'm in a different place, a different world altogether. Europe is where my heart is and I'm constantly looking for ways to go back.

This trip I went with a tour group called EF College Break, which when I researched seemed harmless enough. All the other people going along were around my age and the trip itinerary fit where I was wanting to go. Signing up was easy, waiting the year to go was the hard part.
Yes, I signed up a year in advance, mostly so that I would have time to pay off the trip (because they offer that kind of thing for you, to pay monthly or all at once) which was a perfect amount of time for me to afford the payments and save more for the trip as well.

I was going alone, hoping to meet people I could connect and make friends with, but if not, I was good with that too. I was just looking forward to getting away from my day to day, having a break.

To recap my trip quickly (I'll post more about my experiences in each place in other posts), the trip was just what I needed.
We arrived in Germany, spent a day or so getting accustomed to the time change, exploring and eating our way through Munich.
Traveling by bus didn't seem very exciting at first, but air-conditioning and comfy seats weren't so bad. Venice was a dream for everyone and we ate more gelato than we thought we could in a day.
Switzerland was my favorite (more on that later) and we had a great time enjoying the fresh air and lovely scenery, cows included!
Back to Germany, where Frankfurt helped end our trip with a good bit of fun, meaning dancing at a local club and sharing our last dinner all together at a great local place.

The flights, despite being long and hard to sleep on, we're so bad especially when the airline was very courteous and gave us all we could hope for in food and drinks along the way (Delta airlines, by the way).

The trip had some shortcomings, lack of communication and organization in the beginning, but all in all, it got straightened out pretty quickly and we had a great time. Our tour director, while stressed at first, was funny and was glad to share with us what he knew of the different places we were going.

Making new friends and memories along a 10 day trip through parts of Europe, even through the rain, is always great in my book.
I would recommend this to anyone, especially since there are so many trips to choose from.

I will have more detailed posts soon about the different places I went, but for now that is all!

Cheers and safe travels!