Cruising through Spring Break

Cruising through Spring Break

 

I have never been on a typical “spring break” during my college career. Granted, I am only a sophomore so this was really only my second Spring Break. Last year, I decided to stay at home with my family in the cold New England weather. It was definitely a nice break from my academic schedule, but I did feel like the cold weather was never-ending. This year, I was lucky enough to go on a cruise to the Cayman Islands and Cozumel, Mexico… with my mom. I know you’re probably thinking it’s strange that a college student would want to go on Spring Break with her mom, but I honestly loved it! My mom is so much fun and I love doing things with her. So, I counted down the days until we would set sail on Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas.

By the time March 2 rolled around, I was ready to get on that plane and head to Tampa, FL for a five-day sun-filled vacation. Unfortunately, the weather in the East was not ready to let me go. By the time I got home from school, most of my friends’ flights had been cancelled due to the nor’easter, so my mom and I were crossing our fingers that our flight would leave as scheduled. I guess we didn’t cross them tight enough, though, because our 6:55 flight was canceled at 2:30. Now, we were a little worried because the cruise set sail from Tampa the next day and if we couldn’t fly there, we would miss it.

Luckily, my dad is a fast thinker and a very smart man, and he suggested that since we were only about 30 minutes from the airport we should just drive there to find another flight. This turned out to be the perfect idea because, although my mom had called the airport/airline and was told there was nothing they could do other than refund out ticket, we eventually found another flight to Tampa early the next morning. (Shout out to Miranda at the Southwest terminal at Bradley Airport because you were fantastic and helped us make our cruise!)

*Flying Tip: If your flight is cancelled and you are close to an airport, I suggest you go to that airport and speak with the people at the airline. Face-to-face contact is more likely to get you booked on another flight than simply calling on the phone because they get tons of calls from frantic flyers. Plus, if you are friendly while at the same time asking if there’s “anything at all they can do,” they will be more willing to try to accommodate you.*

Day 1- Travel and Ship Day

So, early Saturday morning my mom and I set off for Tampa and boarded our cruise. It was so amazing to be on board the ship because there was so much to explore and it was so sunny and warm. We started by looking around and centered on the beautiful atrium in the center of the ship. We sat on a beautiful couch at a little bar and just admired all the details of the boat. Then we decided we should take advantage of the sun, so we changed into the swimsuits we packed in our carry-ons (since you don’t get your luggage until after the ship is about to leave), and lay on the deck chairs. After an hour or so, we realized how hungry we were, so we headed to the buffet and gawked at all the options we could choose from. There was so much food that I think we may have over-indulged that first meal. But it was all too good to pass up.

Around 3:00 we decided to rest for a little bit to recover from our travels and to digest all the food we had just consumed. My mom had decided to get us a room with a balcony, which we’d never done before, and when we entered out cabin we immediately knew it would be worth the extra money. Even thought the balcony was small, it made the room seem so much bigger and added a less claustrophobic feel to the room. Plus, it was nice to sit out there and feel the breeze brush through my hair as I watched the water. Since, we were tired, though, we decided to wait to try out the balcony and instead took a nice little nap. We were awoken by the loudspeaker declaring that everyone needed to head to their prescribed deck for the safety practice. This took no more than 20 minutes, and then we walked around exploring the ship some more.

By the time we were ready for our dinner reservation, our hunger had returned. We opted for the sit-down dinner every night because it was nice to get a bit more dressed up and to be in a restaurant environment for our last meal of the day. My mom requested a window table, and the host graciously accommodated us. So as we ate our food, we were able to watch the sun set over the crashing waves. Overall, it was a perfect atmosphere. After we ate, my mom and I went to a show at the ship’s theater. The performer was a stand up comic, and he was pretty funny. By the time the show was over at around 10:30pm, both my mom and I were ready to turn in. This first day was a long and active one. The beds in the cabin are pretty comfortable and I could not really feel the rocking of the ship as I lay down. I would say Day 1 was a success!

Day 2- Ship Day

Sunday was a day at sea and a very relaxing one at that. The day started with my mom bringing me a cup of tea and a banana to eat on the balcony. Not a bad way to wake up! Then we went for a hearty breakfast at the buffet. We brought our food to a table near one of the huge windows and ate while we watched the sea go by. I have to say, this is my new favorite way to enjoy food. Then we walked around and came across a clothing sale the ship was having and picked out some cute T-shirts and an adorable beach cover-up.  Then we decided to take advantage of the sunny day and went to the front of the ship to catch some rays. I was a bit burned from the day before, so I found a chair in the shade.

After a while, we went back to the buffet for lunch, then tried out the adult-only pool area. This area was covered with huge windows above so that it was warmer but also incredibly bright with sunlight. The pool itself was pretty warm surprisingly and not very  crowded- the perfect swimming atmosphere. By the time I dried off a couple hours later, my mom and I decided that it was tea time. Luckily, right there in the adult area was a little cafe where we ordered some pastries and then made ourselves a cup of tea each. We took our afternoon treat over to the little tables and sat facing the sea as we sipped and snacked. Then we retired to the room for a post-tea rest. I ended up on the balcony just watching water and listening to music. It really was a perfect afternoon.

Before we knew it, it was time for dinner: 7:00. That night was fancy night, so we dressed up more than we normally would- dresses, jewelry, and bright lipstick. The food was delicious as usual, and we took our time to fully enjoy the meal. Around 9:00, we went to see another show at the theater; this time it was a cabaret-style musical. The performers were very good and they all had beautiful voices. After the show, we decided to go to bed early because the next day we had to wake up early. We only had from 8:00 am to 3:00pm at Grand Cayman and we wanted to make the most of it.

Day 3- Grand Cayman Island

The day started early as I sat on the balcony enjoying the tea my mother had brought me and watched as the sun rose over the horizon. Then we got a quick buffet breakfast and got ready to disembark into the Cayman Islands. We took a smaller boat to the shore and then found a taxi to take us to the Calico Jack’s at the Seven Mile Beach (which, fun fact, is NOT 7 miles). We then rented 2 beach chairs with umbrellas for $20 and set up our little slice of heaven. I have to say, I have never seen water so clear and so blue before. It was astonishing! So as I dipped my toes into the crystal clear water, my mom set up the mini speaker we had brought and played some chill beach tunes.

After a little while, I ventured into the gorgeous water for a refreshingly cool swim. My mom had gotten us both snorkel gear (from Amazon) before our trip, so I got to try out snorkeling for the first time and I was not disappointed. I saw tiny little fish and lovely sea life. After a while, I went back to the chairs and it was my mom’s turn to venture into the water. By the time noon rolled around, we were ready for food. My mom went to Calico Jack’s and came back with yummy snacks and some margaritas. It was a fantastic lunch not only because of the food and drinks but because of the absolutely amazing atmosphere which we ate in.

When we finished eating, we stayed at the beach for another half an hour and then decided to head back to the main area. We took a taxi from the beach to the town area and walked around all the shops for a bit. On the cruise, we had gone to a jewelry show the day before and Amanda, the shopping cruise director, had given everyone a huge coupon book and flyers for a bunch of free/ discounted jewelry at each location. So, mom and I went to Effie to collect our free necklace, upgraded to a necklace and earrings set for $10, and then went to Diamonds International to claim our free charm bracelet and charms. One of the cool things about cruises is the free stuff you can claim, and I definitely came back laden with more jewelry than I boarded with. We went into other cute touristy stores as well and got a couple of tee shirts and hats. While we were wandering, we came across a rogue rooster just casually walking alongside us. What a strange and comical sight.

At 2:00, we headed back to the ship so we wouldn’t get left behind when the boat left at 3:00. Back on board, we rested until dinner time. I read more of my book from the beach that day (The Help by Kathryn Stockett if anyone is wondering). We had dinner as usual and then frequented another show. There’s a pattern in our nighttime activities, if you’ve noticed haha.

After the show, around 10:15, there was a really entertaining music and dance in the atrium area. It was 70s night so they played a bunch of ABBA songs and 70s music while simultaneously doing old-school dances. Everyone was crowded around the dance floor and up above in the seating areas on every floor overlooking the atrium. Mom and I were on the 8th floor looking down and singing and dancing along. It was such a lively atmosphere that we were pretty sad when it ended. But we were also tired, so we went back to the cabin for a good night’s rest.

Day 4- Cozumel, Mexico

As usual, the day began with a big buffet breakfast, but since we docked a bit later I got to sleep in for a little longer and was able to see as we pulled into the dock. Mom and I had decided the night before that we were going to begin our adventure in Cozumel with the shopping tour headed by Amanda. This allowed us to go with a group in a free taxi to the center of the city where we were dropped off at Diamond’s International. Here, we received another free charm for our bracelets.

Then we again went to Effie and got another free necklace, this time in a different color, and my mom bought herself a nice birthday present from there. What was nice about going with Amanda, though, was that we could purchase nice jewelry, leave it at the store with our name and cabin number, and then Amanda would come and pick up everyone’s jewelry to deliver it safely back aboard ship. This was great because mom and I did not want to bring the nice new jewelry to the beach with us just in case something were to happen to it. Because of this perk, we didn’t have to worry about anything. After the jewelry stores, we went to the typical tourist stores and bought a couple more T-shirts and souvenirs. At Viva Mexico! they had a free tequila tasting which was something fun mom and I tried.

When shopping had tired us out, we decided to take a taxi to Chankanaab, the beach. Once there, we had to pay to get in, and then we went to lunch at one of the restaurants. What’s cool about Chankanaab is that there are so many things to do; you can go swimming with turtles, snorkeling, and so much more. We were pretty boring people so we just went to the beach and snorkeled on our own. Even just doing this was a lot of fun though! I found a hammock to lie in and read while mom went snorkeling and vice versa. At this beach, there were a lot more fish and a much deeper area of water to explore. There were constantly waiters coming around asking if we wanted anything to drink, so at one point we each ordered a local beer. We left after a couple of hours and headed back to the port.

However, there was so much to do at the port that we ended up staying there for another hour. We got a couple of knick knacks at a touristy shop and then, oh and THEN, we came across the most fun place I’ve experienced: Senor Frog’s Cozumel! (From what I hear, they have these in many locations.) Let me tell you, this was an atmosphere fit for college students on Spring Break, which is probably why there were so many college kids there. They had great music playing, wild waiters, and lots of drinks to choose from. Mom and I ended up ordering 2 Bahama Mamas and while we were waiting for them to arrive, a  waitress came around with shots 2 for $5 so of course we indulged.

Then our drinks came… in the tallest thinnest cup I’ve ever seen. We got to keep both the shot glasses and the tall glass as souvenirs. Our table was right next to water and overall, the atmosphere in this place was so much fun! After we went back to the ship, we got ready for dinner, ate, and then went back to the room to watch a movie and call it an early night.

Day 5- Sea Day

Because this was our last full day, mom and I decided to take advantage of some of the amenities on the ship. We woke up late and had a calm and filling breakfast from, you guessed it, the buffet. At 11:00, we had an appointment at the spa. I had never had a massage before, so I was excited. I got the 75 minute full body massage and facial; both were amazing. The spa service on Royal Caribbean was excellent- the people were friendly and the atmosphere was so calming.

By the time we were done, it was almost 1:00, and it had started to rain. This meant we were pretty much confined to inside activities unless we wanted to get soaked. So, instead of laying out in the sun as we had planned, we went for lunch. After, we walked around the ship a bit and happened upon a Billy Joel “impersonator” in the atrium area. I absolutely LOVE Billy Joel so I was eager to stay and listen. I got some water and stood up top on one of the balconies as I listened to this guy play the piano and sing like Billy Joel, and I softly sang along.

When this was over, mom and I met up and we went back to the room to rest, because doing nothing all day really tires a girl out. It stopped raining late in the afternoon, so we went out on the balcony for a bit and enjoyed our last night on the water. Then we went for dinner and I enjoyed every morsel of food. I do have to say the food on board the ship was excellent every time I ate… which was a lot!

When dinner was over, we went to the 7:00 final show at the theater. It was a fun performance, and the end was very much ABBA heavy. The performers dressed up as the iconic group and the band played a bunch of their songs as the singers belted out a mixture of Dancing Queen, Mama Mia, and more. At the end, all of the performers came out on stage, took a bow, and said what country they were from. Then, almost the whole staff of the ship, or representatives from each department, came onstage to applause from the audience to show our gratitude. One thing that’s neat about Royal Caribbean is that its staff are from all over the world. After the show, we packed up and went to bed.

The next, and last, day on the cruise mom and I set out to enjoy the buffet and the sun for one last time. By the time it was our time to disembark, we had taken our last stroll around the ship and said farewell to our Caribbean cruise. It was a wonderful five days that I wish would never end.

Ciao for now!

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Snapshot of Summer – Italy 2017

Snapshot of Summer – Italy 2017

As a college student, I love Spring Break! It is a nice respite from all the midterms that pop up and the usual stresses of academic life. Plus it’s always fun to get away and leave the cold winter weather behind. I am currently away on a cruise, floating away in the sun and heat. I’m writing this post in advance because I will not have internet while on the ship, which will be a nice change. Of course I will be writing a blog post on my adventures in the Cayman Islands and Cozumel, but for now I thought I would take a look back on my favorite photos from this past summer when I was in Italy. I know it’s random, but I’ve been thinking about the heat and I just miss Italy a lot, plus I thought some of you might like to take a look at my pics. (If you like these, maybe check out my travel Instagram account!) Without further ado, I present to you: Italy summer 2017.

 

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Milan
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Milan
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Milan
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Milan
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Venice
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Venice
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Venice
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Venice
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Venice
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Venice
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Verona
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Ischia
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Ischia
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Ischia
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Ischia

Hope you enjoyed the photos, ciao for now!

Musings at the Boston Science Museum

Musings at the Boston Science Museum

I have always had a love-hate relationship with science. The love part comes in the form of curiosity at the many amazing things science has done, especially in terms of space exploration and ancient earth. I’ve never been very into the academic type of science, though, which is where the hate part comes in. It’s not that I necessarily “hate” academic science; it’s more that I just cannot appreciate and understand it the way I can science that I look at for my own enjoyment. And I feel like that is the case for most people in life: You enjoy what excites and intrigues you, while you simply tolerate the rest.

Museums, however, have a way of turning even the most boring and inane things into a world of curiosities. Luckily, as a college student, I can usually get into museums for free with a valid student ID. A couple weekends ago, a group of friends and I decided to hit up the Museum of Science in Boston. This is a museum that I used to go to as a kid with my family and on field trips, so this was my first venture there as an adult and I was a little nervous that it wouldn’t live up to my memories. Luckily it did. Now that may have been because the group of friends I was with consistently make me feel like a child, but whatever the reason it was a great time.

Natural Science

We started off on the green section which is the natural science, aka not my favorite science. But I was pleasantly surprised by the exhibits they had in this section. There were neat sections on the body with interactive activities. Some of my favorites included a table with a computer screen and above it a long tray with plastic foods encased in plastic glass, and a walking activity. The food one was cool because you would pick which of the encased plastic foods and subsequent portions you would eat for a meal. Next, the table would flip over with an even greater selection of fake food and you would choose again. Then, the computer would tell you where you range amongst other people of your age and different ages, as well as gender. It’s way cooler than I’m describing it, trust me. The walking section was interesting because you would just walk along a certain pathway and when you get to the end, there is a computer generated image of your walk/ gait that you get to see, along with how many calories you burned during that 5 second walk. Again, my description does not do this justice.

In addition to these activities, there was also a section on reproduction (aka the growth of babies), so there was a live chick exhibit where you could watch chicks incubate and hatch. There was also a wall with the sizes and images of fetuses in the womb at certain times during pregnancy. It was kind of weird, but in an intriguing way. There was a station where you could measure the length of your ear, where you could guess how many stuffed animals were inside a tube, and many more. As I said, this museum takes the mundane science and turns it into exciting experiences. Up another level was a section on mountaineering and climbing which to be quite honest was not that thrilling. The coolest part of that section was the microscope you could look into and see an aerial view of some of the most famous mountains in the world, including Everest and the Grand Canyon (which, yes I know, is not a mountain).

4D Movie Experience

After the green section, we were going to venture over to the blue area which had things like outer space, inertia, lightning, etc. But as we were crossing the carpeted glass bridge, we stumbled upon a 4D movie on sharks showing in exactly 10 minutes. We decided to quickly buy tickets and were then subsequently seated in the blue-lighted area. It was a really neat experience because not only were we squirted with water when the shark thrashed its tail, but our feet were softly whipped as the fish moved their tails back and forth across the sea floor, and we were jabbed in the back when the sharks devoured their prey. I’m not going to lie, there were moments that I was genuinely freaked out, not only because of the 4D experience, but also because of the pure power of the sharks and their awesome (in the purest sense of the word) existence. It was probably only a fifteen minute movie, but it was definitely worth it.

Outer Space and Electricity

Our next stop was the blue area! This is the section I remember from my childhood. We went to the room where you can capture your shadow and stand in a rainbow of light. To capture a shadow, you stand in the (relative) dark and then someone presses the button and a camera-like flash goes off. When its over and you move back, the wall holds the form that your made. It’s my favorite part of the museum. The rainbow room is fun too because you can take such weird pictures in it and they always come out looking cool. Moving through this area, we got to the playground. There was a swing that teaches you why it moves the way it does, a pulley that you can try and tug on to move a 500 lb bag off the ground, and there is a gazebo with a spinner inside it where you will get incredibly dizzy. It truly is an indoor park, but it is also a classroom to learn all about the science behind everyday activities. I felt like a little kid again.

We also gravitated towards my other favorite area: the space section. Now, this is more of a corner than a section because there’s not a whole lot. But boy is it interesting. There is a replica spaceship that kids can go inside and look at, there’s a replica rocket, and an entire display to inform your space knowledge. Another favorite of mine is the lightning experience. It’s actually a show that goes on a few times during the day. It’s in a huge room spanning 3 floors with a bunch of metal object and machines to demonstrate lightning and electricity. A couple of times throughout the show, the person working the machines will actually generate electricity/lightning and use the different electric sounds to go to the beat of a song (at my show it was the Jurassic Park theme). It really is a fascinating sight to see and I would recommend it to anyone who goes to this museum.

Other Sections

Other exhibits we visited include the mental health section where there were artworks and videos of and by people with mental illnesses, the dinosaur section with dino skeletons, and the environment section. By the time we were finished looking at everything, it was ten minutes to closing time. So of course we headed to the gift shop and looked at all the fun science gifts and toys. It was pure joy. We were only at the Boston Science Museum for about four hours, but we saw and experienced so much and had such an amazing time. Well worth my Saturday.

Here are some neat photos I took, enjoy.

Ciao for now!

My Favorite Beauty Products for Travel

My Favorite Beauty Products for Travel

I’m going to be honest, I’m not a beauty guru so my knowledge about makeup and beauty is limited. But I know enough to know what’s good and what’s bad (at least in my own terms). These are all inexpensive beauty products, with most of them coming from CVS or Target, but some are nicer pricier products I’ve received as gifts. Now that that is out of the way, here we go!

I tend to go for lighter makeup when I’m traveling just because my skin is sensitive and adjusts weirdly to new places that I go. And, a lot of the places I go are beachy, so I don’t wear a lot of makeup anyways. But, when I do like to get all glam for a night out or a nice dinner, these are some of my travel go to products (FYI the links go directly to the product I’ve listed if you want to check it out):

CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion AM for normal to dry skin ($16.49 at Ulta)

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My skin varies from normal to dry and this moisturizer definitely makes me feel like my skin is being nourished. It is a little heavy but it’s not that noticeable and it helps my makeup go on easily. I love that there is sunscreen in this moisturizer because on vacation I am usually outside in sunny places and I have very pale skin so it’s good to know I’m protected. There is also a version without SPF 30 if you don’t want the sunscreen. I’m not going to lie, it does smell a bit like sunscreen, but it’ll go away after a few minutes, and I think the benefits outweigh the cons for this product. I’m left with soft protected skin.

Maybelline BB Cream in shade 110 Light/Medium (($6.69 at Target)

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I love this product for beauty vacays because it’s incredibly light and is essentially a tinted moisturizer. I have problem skin and this BB Cream does a nice job of getting rid of the redness and problem spots for a few hours. It also has SPF 30 so I don’t have to worry about my very pale skin getting damaged by the sun.

Maybelline Master Conceal concealer in shade 20 Light ($7.99 at Target)

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As I’ve previously said, I have issues with my skin so it’s nice to know that I can rely on this concealer to help me manage my blemishes. I’ve gotten more confidant in my skin as I’ve grown older, but there are times, especially on vacation when I’m taking a lot of photos, when I get self-conscious of my skin. Master Conceal helps me cover up some of these blemishes so I look stellar in my vacation photos.

Smith’s Rosebud Salve ($7.58 at Amazon)

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I. Love. This. So. Much. I started using this product as simply a lip balm but soon realized it is so much more. It can be used for almost any beauty need. If you’re interested in this product and want to know a few of the many ways it can be used (like eyebrow tamer and eye makeup remover) check out this article from Bustle. Needless to say, it is the perfect travel beauty product because of its many uses.

Mary Kay Kind Heart baked cheek powder ($18 at Mary Kay)

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This is such a beautiful not only because of the presentation, but also because it has a bit of a shimmer when applied. A shimmery blush is perfect for a vacation where I want to give the appearance of a summery glow even if I don’t actually have one. Plus, it’s a light coral that doesn’t stand out too much, giving me just a subtle rosiness to my cheeks. Overall, it’s a lovely look for a sunny vacay.

Sephora colorful wink-it felt liner – waterproof ($14 at Sephora)

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I like this eyeliner because it is really easy to apply and make eyeliner look good when applied. We all know how hard it is to get that perfect winged look, but this felt tip liner is essentially a pen, so it’s so simple to get a nice eye look. In addition, it’s waterproof meaning that during your vacation you can take a dip in the water without worrying about your makeup running. It also lasts a long time and stays looking amazing even after an hour siesta (speaking from experience).

Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara (sample) ($12 at Too Faced)

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I know everyone has been raving about this mascara for a while so I’m here to concur with them! This mascara really does make my lashes look super long and voluminous without feeling extra heavy. I like the sample size for travel because it lasts long enough for a trip about 2 weeks and is the perfect packing size.

Lotus Elixir No.4 perfume ($12 at Anthropologie)

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This rollerball perfume is about the size of my palm and smells amazing. According to its description on the Anthropologie website it is “a focus-inducing blend of hawthorn greens, mint, white lily, rose and violet (FLORAL).” I love it mainly for the strong impression it gives off without being overpowering. It’s not your typical floral scent, it’s almost dark (if that makes sense). It lasts a while and is the perfect size for traveling since it’s only 0.2 oz.

Bed Head ROCKAHOLIC Dirty Secret dry shampoo 2.5 oz ($10 at Ulta)

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I got this as a giveaway from the club HerCampus that I am a part of at college, so I did not pay for this product. (I write for the HerCampus site if you want to check out any of my articles- sorry, shameless plug.) But, I like Bed Head products and I got it for free so I decided to try it out. I ended up loving it because it a) smells good and b) makes my hair look good as new. Those are basically the only criteria I have for dry shampoo. Some others that I’ve tried do not get rid of my greasy hair which, ya know, is a pretty important factor of a good dry shampoo. This is a nice travel size as well so I’ve taken to bringing it on trips so that after an especially hot day, I just spray this in my hair and I’m ready for a night out.

Advanced Clinicals Tea Tree Oil 1.8 fl. oz ($11.55 Amazon)
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I’m not going to lie, I found this at Marshall’s for about $5 when trying to find a cheaper replacement for my other tea tree oil. I got this by chance because I liked how big the size was for the price it was. I use tea tree oil on my blemishes after I take my makeup off, cleanse, and tone my face because I have found that it will diminish or prevent acne. I absolutely live by tea tree oil since it essentially saves my face which is why I need to have it when I travel. After a day of my face full of sunscreen and makeup, tea tree oil does wonders. Luckily, this is a nice size and it comes with a dropper so I don’t end up using too much or pouring half the bottle out when I’m just trying to get a tiny dot. Highly highly recommend tea tree oil to anyone with blemish prone skin.

I hope you enjoyed this beauty review and if you want more just let me know in the comments. Question of the week: What is your favorite beauty/ makeup product for travel and why?

Ciao for now!

Tips for Packing the Perfect Suitcase

Tips for Packing the Perfect Suitcase

Figuring out how to pack everything you want on a trip can be difficult. There are probably so many things you want to bring and very little suitcase space. Believe me, I know the struggle. I’ve traveled quite a bit in my life, so I think I’ve finally figured out how to make it all work. If you’re interested to find out how I do it, check out this post!

Optimize Suitcase Space

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I have been lucky enough to travel a lot in my young life, but what’s always been hard is trying to fit everything I want to bring on my trip into a suitcase. Over the years, I’ve tried various techniques to stuff my bag to the brim. A couple of years ago however, I stumbled upon the perfect packing trick that helps me fit WAY more clothes into my small suitcase than I ever could in the past. Want to know what it was?

ROLLING! Yes, by rolling my clothes instead of folding them I am able to fit twice as many outfit options for my trip. This is incredibly helpful because I always want to bring more clothes than I know I could ever wear. All you have to do is fold your shirts in half and then roll from the top going down into a tight cylindrical shape then place it into the corner of your bag. Repeat this all the way across your suitcase and then add more levels as you begin to stack the clothes on top of one another. It’s also great because it doesn’t really wrinkle your clothes the way folding them does.

For shoes, I like to make them fit in like a puzzle which mostly means placing them at opposite angles from each other. For longer boots, try tucking one of the boots inside the other so that once its in, it looks like one boot with heels at each end. For sneakers, if you places them shoelace size down, you won’t get your clothes dirty.

Want this duffel bag? Find it here for a great price!

Toiletries

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When packing toiletries like shampoo, conditioner, face wash, makeup, lotion etc. you don’t have to splurge on buying new travel size products. Instead, head over to your local dollar store or Amazon and pick up a couple small travel size bottles. Then you can fill them up with the products you already have at home. Some bottles even come with a suction on the side so that you can stick it to the wall of your shower. They’re useful not only because you don’t have to buy a bunch of new products, but you can also reuse the bottles for any and all trips in the future, making them a sound investment.

Jewelry

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We all know the struggle of tangled jewelry on trips, so instead of putting all of your necklaces and bracelets together, put them in plastic wrap to avoid them moving around. This is easy and you probably have plastic wrap in your home anyways. You can also use tissue paper, putting a piece around each piece of jewelry.

You can also put rings inside of old pill boxes. In fact, pill boxes are great for a lot of things, like any generic medicine (ibuprofen) or actual medications you take, as well as pairs of earrings, hair ties, and any other small necessities you want to bring.

Carry-On

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My carry-on is my life-line when I travel, and I usually use something like a Longchamp bag because it is big enough to fit my belongings but small enough to put under my seat. I pack what I think I’ll need if my suitcase is lost or doesn’t arrive for some reason. So, with this in mind, I always make sure to pack an extra pair of underwear, socks, and some leggings. Along with these necessities I like to have a book, my chargers, a notebook and pen, some face wipes, a bit of travel sized makeup (mascara, lip balm, and BB Cream), and an empty water bottle.

Because this is a bunch of stuff, I like to use some different things to organize my bag. For the clothing items, I try to pick a cute little makeup bag because the clothing items are small enough that they’ll fit and they will be discreet in a bag seemingly for makeup. Chargers can go into either a plastic bag or another makeup type bag depending on how big they are. The face wipes and travel size makeup I like to put into a smaller makeup bag that can fit in the pocket of my carry on. This gives me easy access to lip balm and moisturizer when the flight dries out my skin. The empty water bottle is useful because, as most people know, you’re not allowed to bring liquids more than 3 fluid ounces through security. But, if you have an empty water bottle, you can fill it up in the water fountains once past security and won’t have to buy the pricey airport plastic water bottles.

I hope these tips helped, and if you have any other suggestions please leave them in the comment section. I’m always looking for new travel hacks!

Ciao for now!

Hangin at the Langham

Hangin at the Langham

December

For the past two years, my mom and I have taken a yearly trip into Boston the week before my finals at college. It’s a really nice tradition that we’ve started and very generous of my mom to do this for me. Last year, we stayed at The Taj in Boston which was lovely and beautiful. This year, however my mom booked us a night at The Langham in Boston. Because it was around Christmas time everything was decorated in such a festive way, with Christmas trees and lights everywhere. The room was quite spacious as well, with two queen beds, a little sitting area, and a nice sized bathroom. The window was on of my favorite parts of the room because it was slightly slanted and had a gorgeous velvet curtain to cover it.

After we checked in, put our belongings in the room and rested a bit, my mom and I decided we should venture out into the 13 degree Boston weather and explore the city on out way to dinner. But, while I may live in Boston most of the year, I am not the best at navigating the city. I was able to take us from the hotel to Quincy Market, which we looked around at, but from there I was lost. We eventually just started walking in the direction that we believed the North End to be in. My mom had found a nice restaurant for us to eat at in the North and this is where our adventure began. It was a chilly walk in heels for both of us, but we were so excited to be hanging out to care that the wind was whipping our hair all around our faces. A twenty minute walk later and some sore feet and we had made it to the restaurant, Antico Forno.

After walking through the door, there was a velvet curtain we had to walk through to get into the restaurant and once through we were greeted with a rush of warm air and a smile from one of the hostesses. It was pretty busy in there, but since there were only two of us we were seated within ten minutes, which is very quick for a popular North End restaurant on a Friday night. At our table, we looked around and admired the crackling fireplace and warm lighting that surrounded us. Once our server came over, we ordered some drinks (wine for mom, water with lemon for me), and were given complimentary bread that was amazing. We ordered some calamari for an appetizer which was delicious and we ended up finishing all of it before our meals even arrived, as well as all the bread we were given. For dinner, I ordered the Linguini al Frutti di Mare which is essentially pasta with seafood (clams, mussels, shrimp, calamari). My mom ordered the Linguini con Puttanesca. We eat devoured as much of our pasta as we could because it was delicious! I unfortunately could not finish all of it since I’d eaten all that bread and calamari, so I got the rest of it wrapped up to go and brought it back to the hotel.

Once we finished dinner, my mom and I took the scenic route back to the hotel, stopping by the winter market outside Government Center. It’s essentially a little circle of wooden stalls that sell all sorts of homemade things. For example, some sell homemade hats and scarves, others sell soaps and perfumes, more sell handcrafted jewelry, and others sell food. It’s a cute little place to look around spend some time listening to live music. Although, since it was around 8 o’clock by this point and pretty cold out, we didn’t stay long. From the market, we walked back to the Langham where we put on our bathing suits and headed to the pool and hot tub for a nice relaxing night dip. The pool closed at 10, so we stayed from 9:00-9:30, during which time there were only two other people there and the hot tub really warmed me up from the cold winter air. After we left the pool area, we went into the sauna to dry off for about five minutes, and then we walked back to our room.

When we got to the room, it was a nice surprise to see some chocolates on the pillow along with the weather forecast for the next day on a pretty little card under the chocolates. After each taking a shower in the spacious bathroom, we spent the rest of the night watching Hallmark Christmas movies on TV and chatting. The next morning, we decided to have afternoon tea as a brunch. So at noon, we walked down to the lobby and into the dining area where we were seated on a couch and presented with a tea menu and our options. I had the peach tea which was nice and refreshing, while my mom went with the classic Earl Grey. There were three courses: tiny sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, and mini desserts. Everything was so good and filling that I had to take the rest of the little cakes to go. Below I’ll show some photos of the different foods we were served, along with the tea (although the scones were so tempting that I didn’t get to take a photo before devouring them). While we sat and enjoyed this amazing experience, it was snowing outside, so we watched out of the large window as the snowflakes drifted down from the sky and landed heavily in the street. The snow covered the city in a blanket of quiet and white. It was quite a pretty sight to see as I sat sipping tea and eating  tiny cucumber sandwiches.

Unfortunately, after tea it was time to leave my beautiful respite from school work. We checked out of the hotel and my mom drove me back to school. I brought a piece of my night with me though in the form of the leftover pasta and the tiny tea desserts. Overall, I have to say that the staff at the Langham were quite friendly and the atmosphere was very nice and festive. The only issue we  had was that we were told we did not need to make a reservation for afternoon tea when we asked at check-in, but the next day when we arrived all the tables had been booked, so we were seated on the couch. It worked out well since we liked sitting at the couch, but we would have made a reservation had we known. Also, if anyone out there loves chocolate as much as I do and has the time that I did not have, there is a chocolate buffet at the Langham where you can eat as much chocolate as you like. And if you’re worried about all those extra calories, they have a nice gym to workout in. I thoroughly enjoyed my little vacation with my mom out in Boston and at the Langham, and I would recommend the hotel for those with a sweet tooth and a liking for nice atmospheres.

 

Leave a comment of your favorite spot in Boston!

Ciao for now!

 

Ischia, Italy: An Island Like No Other

Ischia, Italy: An Island Like No Other

I love the island of Ischia because it holds so many memories for me. Situated next to Capri, this island of Ischia is a beautiful Italian haven filled with lots of color, beautiful sea views, and friendly people. I’ve stayed on the island maybe3 or 4 times and I love it more each time I go. This past summer, I was lucky enough to continue my Italian exploration after Venice by going to Ischia for another 2 weeks. The big occasion for this was that my grandparents, who live on the island for half of the year, were celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary! (I know, that is a LONG time.)

My mom, the clever woman she is, booked us an apartment right on the water. This meant that our large terrace looked out onto the beach and across the Mediterranean. We could see Mount Vesuvius, hear the crashing of the waves, and as soon as we arrived, we could see all our family down on the beach. So of course, my brother and I put our suitcases on our respective bunks (because our room had a bunk bed), changed into our bathing suits, and met everyone down on the beach.

That night all 15 or so of us met for dinner at a lovely restaurant and everyone ordered pizza. It was really nice to see all of my family and laugh with my younger cousins. And, that’s basically what we did for most of the week: went to the beach for the day then went for dinner at night. There’s nothing better than living in a bathing suit every day and swimming in the cool Mediterranean Sea looking at the beautiful views all around you. It’s convenient too, because the beach has a restaurant if ever I got hungry or thirsty.

Friday July 7 was the day of my grandparents’ 50th Wedding party. We went to the beach as normal in the morning, but we left earlier than usual so we could all get ready. We had to be at the church around 18:00. I wore a white sleeveless dress with a cinched waist that went down to just above my knees, silver dangling earrings, and black heeled sandals. Once we got to the church, we watched the renewal of vows and I got to participate in the ceremony along with some other members of my family. It was lovely.

After the church ceremony, we all walked to the restaurant where the reception was being held. It was right across from the beach and had an amazing view of the sea just as the sun was setting. There was a musician who played beautiful Italian songs, people gave speeches and toasts, we ate too much, we laughed too much. It was a fantastic night filled with lots of love and the best family I could ask for. Per Italian style, we didn’t leave until 1 or 2 in the morning, by which point I was exhausted.

For the next week, we did pretty much the same as the week before: beach and swim every day. Although night time varied; we explored the island. We got gelato every night of course, but not always from the same place; we ate at different restaurants, saw different musicians, walked different streets. For an island, there is so much to do. One night we walked to my grandparent’s house on the other side of the island and ate a fabulous meal prepared by my Nonna. One of our last days on the island, we changed up our routine and went to the spa beach. It’s pretty expensive which is why we only go one day, but it is worth it. It has various levels of outdoor lounging, along with heated pools with waterfalls, a restaurant with a view to die for, and stairs that walk right into the sea. And once in the sea, there are floating chairs to lay in and docks to jump off of. It’s one of my favorite places on the island.

Unfortunately, our time on Ischia couldn’t last forever. So after doing some last minute shopping at the island’s many stores, we finally arrived at our last day. Weirdly enough, there was a fire in Napoli which we could see from our terrace, but the smoke made it seem like Vesuvius was smoking. That was an exciting 5 minutes where we thought perhaps we’d be the next Pompeii. Luckily, our flight wasn’t until noon the next day though, so we stayed the night in Napoli and got to experience the joys of the city where my family is from. We ate delicious food at a restaurant right on the marina, so that I twirled my pasta with one hand and tried not to touch the boat next to me with the other. After dinner, we walked around the streets of the busy city simply people watching and getting gelato before heading back to get a good night’s rest.

The next day, we packed up and ate our last meal at a restaurant a few feet from our hotel. It was a great way to leave Italy, with a view of a castle on the water and pasta in my mouth.

Here are some of the photos from Ischia and Napoli:

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View from our terrace
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Just a casual walk down the street
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View as we walked to my grandparent’s house

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View from the street
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This was taken from my table at the restaurant reception
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At the spa beach
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When we thought the smoke was coming from Vesuvius (you can see it in the distance)
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This is the view of Naples from the boat to get there
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View from our hotel room in Naples (this is one of my favorite photos)
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Another view from our hotel room (and also another fave photo)
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Me and my bro taking a sibling pic
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The boat(s) right next to me at dinner- taken at the dinner table
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View of Naples at night from the sidewalk near the Castle

If you have any thoughts or comments, feel free to leave them below!

Ciao for now!

 

Venice Week 4: Torcello Tower, Murano Glass, & Padua Chapel

Venice Week 4: Torcello Tower, Murano Glass, & Padua Chapel

June 26, 2017 Monday

Today was a fun day because it was excursion day! I had class as usual from nine to twelve, and then had lunch on the island. But around 1:30, the whole class met up to go to Torcello. It was a bit hectic because we had to walk pretty fast in order to make the vaporetto stop we needed to be at, and one of the girls from my class had missed the first vaporetto. We were worried she wouldn’t make it, but at the last minute she came huffing and puffing towards us and got on just in time. It was a somewhat long vaporetto ride to the island of Torcello because we made a lot of stops in places like Murano and Burano. Once in Torcello, we walked towards the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. Once close to it, we sat in the grass in the shade since it was incredibly hot and sunny outside. Rachel gave a presentation on the history of Torcello which is very interesting and I recommend looking up at least a summary of the history. After the presentation, we went inside the Cathedral, which is one of the oldest religious edifices in Veneto, and which houses some of the earliest mosaics in Venice. It isn’t too aesthetically amazing because it is falling apart and pretty plain in terms of the usual majesty of cathedrals. However, it is still amazing to be standing inside something clearly very old, and it does have some unique mosaic artwork. The mosaic on the west wall is a floor to ceiling mosaic of the Last Judgement. That was the main reason my class visited; this mosaic was referenced in one of our readings. It is mostly gold with a bunch of other colors put in, and it is breathtaking. After looking around for a bit at the other mosaics, paintings, and possible tombs of dead priests, we walked up the campanile. It was a long walk up slanted stairs and low ceilings, but the view from the top was so worth the climb. I could see essentially the whole island and even other parts of Venice. We stayed up there awhile, just changing positions and going around. As we were looking at everything, we saw a man jump off of his boat into the water to cool off, which was pretty funny. There wasn’t a lot to do in Torcello besides these two activities, and the island is pretty much devoid of people (at least in my experience), but it is still a beautiful place that I recommend visiting if you’re ever in Venice. It’s filled with history and natural beauty.

June 27, 2017 Tuesday

Today was an early day because instead of having class as usual, we travelled to the island of Murano. We had to be there for around 10:00 which meant I had to get up around 7:30. That was so hard! But I did it, and I met the class at the vaporetto stop in main Venice around 8:30. When we got to Murano, it was so quiet and empty because of the early hour. It was kind of eery but also really neat to be the only people walking around. It was peaceful. The reason for our early trip to Murano, the island famous for its glass works, was because we were going to be given a private tour of the Seguso glass factory. They don’t normally give tours, but for the past couple years the Seguso family and my college have set up tours for the students. When we arrived, we were introduced to Gianluca Seguso, the son of Giampaulo Seguso who our class had read about in John Berendt’s Glass Warfare. Gianluca was incredibly kind, asking each of our names about three people at a time so that he could address us directly. He showed us first the history of the Seguso family legacy which began in 1397. He then walked us outside to an area with various glass making objects and glass designs themselves that decorated the fenced in area. Through this area, we entered the workshop part of the building in which the glassblowers were crafting beautiful creations. We saw the drawn out initial designs for a project, were able to watch some of the pieces being made, and hanging from the ceiling we saw completed intricate chandeliers. Everything was amazing to behold. The amount of detail that went into everything was astounding. I’ve never thought about how the beautiful glass that I see in stores is made, but being in that work environment I now recognize how much time, effort, and skill goes into it all. We walked through the workshop, careful of the heat and the dangerous objects that were burning hot, and made our way into what I believe was the showroom. Once inside, we were given the opportunity to meet Giampaolo himself. He was a very funny man, who told us about his life and how he started glassmaking. He even went and got the book of poetry he had written (in Italian of course) and read some poems to us. He had one of the boys from my class who knew a little Italian translate the poems so that we could get the full message. When he was done reading, he offered us the chance to ask him any questions we had. After that, we were guided back downstairs and each person was given a beautiful piece of circular dark blue Seguso glass with the Seguso emblem on it. And we were handed it by name from Gianluca who remembered everyone’s name. Overall, it was an amazing experience, the Seguso family was incredibly kind and generous, and I am beyond glad that I was able to have this once in a lifetime experience.

After the tour, we were all hungry so our professor took us to a great restaurant where he knew the owner. We each had a salad, spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams), and a dessert. The food was delicious as was usually the case in Italy, but there were birds constantly surrounding us since we were sitting outside. At the end of the meal, we were offered coffee in the normal Italian way, and then we all headed off to do our own things. I went with a couple of my friends to look around and do some (window) shopping. I did buy one souvenir from Murano because I wanted something to remember it by (although I did have the gorgeous Seguso glass- which I think is a paperweight). I found a very pretty (and inexpensive) glass ring from one of the shops that said Master glassmaker on it, which I’m pretty sure means it is legitimate Murano glass. I put the ring on and then headed back with my friends.

June 28, Wednesday

Today was another no class day, because we were headed to Padua to the Scrovegni Chapel! It was also an early day again because we had to catch an early train. It was a fun journey, and I got to eat at the yummy train station cafe again. Once in Padua, we went to the museum where the chapel is located and got our tickets. We were then taken to the waiting area for the chapel, and we had to watch a video before going inside to learn about its history. We of course already knew some of its history because the main reason we were visiting the Chapel was because of its reference in one of Henry James’s writings . After watching the video along with all the other tourists, we were taken through an air sealed (I think) area because of the sensitivity of the Chapel and its art to the air. It was smaller than I thought it would be but stunning. The whole place was covered in artwork depicting various scenes from the Bible. The ceiling was a beautiful blue with yellow stars painted on. The back wall was amazing and depicted what would happen to the saved and the damned. Everything had so much detail and color and was so well preserved that it felt like the artist had just left. Because of the sensitivity of the art though, each session (aka group) was only allowed twenty minutes to look around. Because we were a school and some provision had been made, we were allowed to stay for two sessions.

After we left the Scrovegni Chapel, we gathered outside to meet with our tour guide. She walked us towards the center of the city and talked about the history of the city. We walked through the Università degli Studi di Padova and looked at the crests of all the people who had attended, and there were quite a few famous names from history included. We walked around the city as we made our way towards the Basilica of Saint Anthony. This was an incredibly elaborate and intricately decorated church, and probably one of my favorites from my visit to Italy. There were different sections of the Basilica that had various artworks, some in marble, some painted, others carved. There was one section, the Chapel of the Relics, where parts of St. Anthony’s body were on display, that was really neat to see. There were a set of small stairs that we could walk up to look up close at parts of his body, most notably his famous tongue. Everything about the Basilica was absolutely stunning and something I would love to go back and spend more time in because there is just so much to see.

By this point, we were all very hungry and tired, so we headed towards a restaurant to eat. We were seated at a bunch of tables placed together outside in the back garden area. It was a lovely area surrounded by trees and greenery, but by this point in the day it had become overcast and we knew the rain would fall any minute. But, I enjoyed the meal immensely because it was risotto, and I love risotto! We all talked and laughed and ate. It was a really nice afternoon… but then we heard the thunder. It was a surprise when the first sound struck our ears, but not totally unexpected. Luckily, we were all pretty much finished with our food. We decided to split up, and I went (in the rain) with some friends to go shopping because we had spotted some stores as we were walking around. It was a nice rainy afternoon activity and who can say no to shopping in Italy? By the time we were ready to head back on the train, it had stopped raining and the sun came out. The four of us went to the train station utterly exhausted from everything we had done today, and enjoyed a quiet ride back to Venice.

June 30, 2017 Friday

I didn’t do much Thursday except go to class and we visited the Academia. Friday, however, was our very last day of class and it was bittersweet. We watched a movie, Pane e Tulipani (2000), which was a beautiful film, and then talked about it in relation to our time in Venice. After this, we went to the Museo Fortuny, where I gave a presentation on the history of the museum and the man who lived there. Museo Fortuny was once the home of the man Fortuny who was a man of many talents but probably most notably as a dressmaker. His home was nicely decorated with art and clothing designs. There was one room that was showing a very strange film that was simply images and video of things like x-rays of people kissing or writing, etc. The upstairs had a diorama for one of his theaters. At the very top of the museum was an interactive art piece with balls of clay on a table that one could add to. Past this was the book shop, which I enjoyed looking at.

I decided to head back with a couple of the guys from my class, and in order to catch the vaporetto on time and not have to wait another hour, we had to run all the way from Fortuny to the vaporetto stop. While I was running, who should I literally bump into but my parents and brother. It was just like a scene from a movie: I’m running through Venice and I hear “Alexandra?” and I turn around to see my brother. I told the other guys to go on without me, and I chat with my family for a bit outside their apartment. I knew that they would be arriving today, I just didn’t know when. I offered to come and hang out with them for a little bit, but they said they were tired after the long flight and just wanted to rest. So, I hugged them goodbye and sprinted off again towards the vaporetto stop. I caught up with the boys and we made it to the vaporetto with about a minute to spare. I was red in the face and sweating, but man I had a fun time running through Venice.

That night was the farewell dinner for everyone studying in Venice from my college. We all got dressed up and went to a nice restaurant where we had amazing food buffet style. After we ate, and toasted, and reminisced, we were all brought to the gondola stops. There was enough money left over from the program that we could all have gondola rides, which was so exciting. I got to go around a small part of Venice dressed up in a gondola with five of my friends. If that’s not the perfect ending to an amazing month in Venice, I don’t know what is.

July 1/ July 2, 2017 Saturday and Sunday (and a little bit of Monday July 3)

These were the last couple days that we all had together, and some people were already leaving. They were two days packed with goodbyes, hugs, and promises for reunion back at school in the fall. One of my favorite parts of the weekend was going back to the nice and green park overlooking the water and just sitting and reading with Iulia. It was a simple and calm way to end the weekend. My family was coming to meet me on Sunday morning, so I got to say goodbye to everyone who left before I did. When my parents came, I showed them around San Servolo, my room, and then we got my suitcase and headed back to their apartment/ hotel. I took a nap, and then my family and I walked around the city together, reminiscing about the last time we had been there. Except this time, I could show them around the place I had called home for a month. We went to dinner on the water because my mom loves the view, and then explored the city at night. Of course we had to get gelato, and then we went back to the apartment around midnight. Monday, we traveled the city even more, and ended out day with a visit to Saint Mark’s Square at Florian’s Cafe, somewhere I had wanted to go for so long but never got the opportunity to. This iconic cafe has been in countless movies about Venice and is an essential part of the tourist experience. (It is also quite expensive, so if that’s a factor in your trip, I wouldn’t recommend.) We sat in the piazza as the sun was low in the sky and the air was getting a little cooler. We stayed until dark and listened to the band play songs that we only partially knew. And then we went back to the hotel for our very last night in Venice, before we took the train to Napoli in the morning.

Where is some place you have always wanted to visit for an extended period of time? Leave a comment below.

Ciao for now!

Venice Week 3: Scuola & Squid Ink, and Burano & Bellinis

Venice Week 3: Scuola & Squid Ink, and Burano & Bellinis

June 19, 2017 Monday

Because of the hectic nature of the Milan trip, I took Monday to just rest and relax. I had class as usual at nine, and became a little smarter because of it. After class, I had lunch on San Servolo while reading a bit. Most of the day until dinner was spent in the sun on the island reading. When it was time for dinner, a group of us took a vaporetto to the main part of Venice and ate at our favorite good ol’ Rossopomodoro. The night was not that eventful, just like the day, but it was nice to have some time to just chill.

 

June 20, 2017 Tuesday

In class, we discussed some writings that referenced the Scuola. After talking about the comparison in the writings, we all headed out for lunch. I went with some friends to the main island and ate some delicious pizza per usual. We decided to just wander around the city because we had to meet up with our class around 4 to visit the actual Scuola. When we arrived, I was surprised to see how small and dark it was inside. While it was smaller and darker than I’d imagined, it was no less interesting to see. To get inside, I had to walk through a big red curtain, and as soon as I was in, my eyes had to adjust to the darker light. It was a medium sized room with dark wood walls and a series of paintings lining the top of the wall all the way around the room. There were a series of pews, like in a church, and some chairs for people to sit in while they observed the paintings. The reason my class was there was because we had to look at the paintings and write down descriptions of what we saw and how they connected to one another. I spent a bit longer than most others in the class mainly because I was trying to really take in the beauty of it all while capturing the artist’s intentions. When I finished, I went into the little room on the side and looked around at the religious memorabilia. Then, I went up the stairs into the large room at the top. It was very open but much more elaborate than the room below. There were amazing paintings all over the room and ceiling, along with golden designs everywhere and a reddish glow all around. It was beautiful. When I left the Scuola, I went and got some dinner with friends, and then we headed back to San Servolo to work on our writing about our observations.

June 21, 2017 Wednesday

During the night, the ceiling of our room started leaking on my roommates head and pillow, which was obviously gross. Luckily, the hotel gave us a new room in the corner of the hotel overlooking the water. The room was much bigger too, since it was meant for four people instead of three, and it had two bathrooms as well which was nice. Anyways, I had class as usual, and immediately after, our whole class went to lunch in San Polo courtesy of our Professor (aka the school). The restaurant was called Trattoria Antiche Carampane. It was a small and cozy restaurant, and our group took up much of the space. We were placed in two rows of many tables pushed together so that could all talk to one another. What was exciting about this lunch though was that we would all be getting the sam thing: Sepia pasta aka Squid ink pasta. It was a major part of one of our readings in class and we were about to experience it for ourselves together. Before the meal, we were given a paper spiral of tiny fried fish which were really good. The main course, the squid ink pasta,  was quite tasty. It had a strange taste at first, but it wasn’t a bad strange, just different. It made my teeth black until I drank water and it was funny to see everyone smile like that. The reactions from the others in my class were mixed, some liked it while others did not. We were also given white wine with our meal that went very well with the pasta. For dessert we were all given a few options and I chose the fruit parfait. By the time we finished everything, it was almost three o’clock, and we were all so stuffed. A couple of my friends and I decided to walk around and explore a bit (plus walk off all the delicious food we just ate). We went back to San Servolo around six to rest ourselves before our big night.

That night, all three of the classes from my college were going to meet up in Piazza San Marco to have a private tour of Saint Mark’s Basilica (how amazing, right?!). I and a couple other people got there around 8:30 and watched the sun fade. We grabbed a piece of pizza to eat while we were waiting for the other groups, and just sat on some steps people watching. It was neat to be there as the sun was fading because we got to see all the lights in the Piazza switch on. It was beautiful. At 9:30, we were all let into the Basilica. We had to use the back entrance because the front area, along with many parts of the Piazza, were flooded about 6 inches with water. When we entered the main church area, it was almost completely dark with just enough light for us to find our seats. After we were all seated, they turned the lights on and we got to see the glory of Saint Mark’s Basilica. The ceiling was gold and mosaic along with most of the front area. In the center of the altar there was a gorgeous ornately decorated rectangular object. After hearing about the history of the Basilica, we were allowed to walk up to this elaborately decorated artifact. Before we got there though, we were surprised by the fact that it spins around so that the other side can be visible to the congregation. The other side is a painting on what looked like separate wood blocks, of the various apostles and Jesus in the middle. We were told all about the history of the bejeweled side, including how it had been stolen from Constantinople (if I remember correctly) and had to be guarded incredibly closely because of how valuable all the jewels on it are. It was absolutely astonishing the amount of detail and design was on it as I looked up close. We then were taken to the basement area where people can have mass sometimes, and for those interested, people can get married there. It was very small and a little creepy but still a neat experience. From there, we went back up and were told a few more facts about the Basilica before we thanked the tour guide and left. After the tour, a couple of my friends and I went and got some gelato before heading back to San Servolo and calling it a night.

 

June 22, 2017 Thursday

As usual, I had class from nine to twelve. Because this was the last day of class for the week, a group of us from the class decided to explore more of Venice while we still had the chance. The end of this week meant that we only had one more left and we wanted to make the most of it. So, we hopped on a vaporetto and headed to the island of Burano to look at the famous colorful houses. When we got there, we were not disappointed. Everything was full of bright colors surrounded by the waterways so typical of Venetian cities. It was around 2 o’clock when we arrived which was the resting time so it was pretty quiet. We were hungry by this point because it was a long vaporetto ride, so we decided to find someplace to eat. As, we were going along, we decided to take some photos and shop around a bit. It was fun to take photos in such an iconic place and everything was just so pretty. Eventually, we found a cute little restaurant with an ocean theme that served us some delicious food. I ordered seafood risotto because it’s one of my favorites, and I was not disappointed. After lunch, we walked around some more, splitting up to do some shopping. Incidentally, we all ran into one another again at a gelato shop where we all indulged in the delicacy. Along that same calle, I found a little cookie shop and bought a bag of fantastic looking cookies to take back with me. By this point, we were all tired and were making our way back to the vaporetto stop. It was right outside the vaporetto stop that I found an art shop with paintings selling for not too much and the artist was there painting more as people looked around. So of course I bought a lovely print of a Venetian canal full of blues and greens. I then got on the vaporetto with the others and we headed back.

June 23, 2017 Friday

This was a chill day to sleep in and enjoy the city. I woke up around 10 o’clock and met up with my friends Iulia and Adriana at the vaporetto stop on San Servolo so that we could go into main Venice. We wandered around trying to find this cute teahouse that Adriana had heard of in Dorsoduro called Fujiyama Tea Room Beatrice. (I believe it is also a bed and breakfast.) After much roaming, we finally happened upon it, and it was so quaint that we almost missed it. We stepped inside the cafe and walked straight through to the back garden area. This is probably one of my favorite places in Venice because it is so eclectic, quiet, and quaint. There were about six or seven metal tables placed in a small area surrounded by plants with odd objects like an old sink and broken terra-cotta pots in the plants. It was about 11:30 in the morning and very quiet and removed from the touristy activity of the other parts of Venice. We each ordered a tea and snack. I chose a black tea and some fruit. Adriana ordered a green tea and some chocolate torte; Iulia chose to go with a strange dark tea that tasted almost like a bonfire (we each tried each other’s selections) along with a cheese and tomato toasted sandwich. I liked the sandwich so much that I ordered one for myself after. We spent about 2 1/2 house in this garden area, me reading Proust, Iulia writing in her journal, and Adriana writing some poetry with intermittent sparks of conversation. It was one of the most relaxing afternoons I’ve had in a long time. There was almost no one there the entire time and everything about the place was soothing. The tea was delicious as was the food, and it wasn’t expensive. The waitress was very friendly and knew exactly when to come over and they were very nice when Adriana made an enquiry about the food in English. I highly recommend visiting this little oasis if you’re ever in Venice because it is so peaceful and a nice respite from all the activity of everywhere else in the city. After we left the teahouse, we walked around for a bit and found a bookstore that, as English majors, we had to go into. It was almost empty except for the people working there. We looked around for a bit and it was fun to see books that we knew in English translated into Italian. I found a copy of the Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare and while I could have gotten it for cheaper on Amazon, I knew I just had to buy it while in Venice. Another neat aspect of the book that convinced me I needed to purchase it was that the pages were split from English to Italian. The left side was in Italian while the right page was in the classic Shakespearean english. We left the store after my purchase and window shopped as we made our way back to the island. It was a calm night with dinner on the island and conversation with friends.

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June 24/25, 2017 Saturday and Sunday

This weekend was relaxed because there was no big excursion planned. I spent most of the weekend reading in the sun on San Servolo and just walking around and exploring Venice on the last weekend I had there with friends. I got a lot of reading done and I also indulged in some Netflix because it had been a while since I simply sat down and turned my brain off. It was nice not to have any major plans and just go with the flow during the day. On Saturday night, three friends and I went out to dinner at a pizzeria and sat outside in the fresh summer air as a musician played tables away at another restaurant. After dinner we walked around and took pictures near the Rialto Bridge as typical tourists do. We also ventured to Harry’s, home of the original Bellini. In order to get in, we had to be dressed nicely and luckily we were wearing dresses (albeit much more casual than the clientele that were already there). It was extremely crowded so we ended up basically crouching in a corner near the cash register and holding our drinks. They were scrumptious, but they were not that big and they were VERY expensive. It’s all part of the experience of Harry’s though, so we had to indulge. After a little while, a spot at the counter cleared and we grabbed the spot quickly. We drank our sweet Bellini’s and looked around at all the people in there who were so nicely dressed. We knew it was crowded and people were vying for spots, so after we finished our drinks we paid and left. While waiting for the vaporetto back, we sat on the steps in Piazza San Marco and looked at the reflection of the light on the water that flooded the square, along with the little children that were splashing in it. Overall, it was a very nice night.

I’d love to hear your comments on what you thought of this post!

Ciao for now!

Venice Diary- Meeting Milan for the Weekend

Venice Diary- Meeting Milan for the Weekend

June 17, 2017 Saturday

A group of us decided to go to Milan for the weekend. So we had booked our bus tickets the week before and found an inexpensive airbnb that was a two minute walk to the famous Cathedral and could fit the seven of us. At 7am, we all took the vaporetto to the bus station, except we got off a stop early because we were concerned we would miss the bus since the vaporetto was going pretty slowly. We had to walk along the road with our suitcases in tow and the sun beating down on us, but we arrived in time to get on the bus. It left at 8:15 and we got there at 8:06. It was a four hour bus ride, but luckily it was air conditioned and I had brought some reading to do. By the time we made it to Milan, we were all ready to get off and explore. But, we still had to take the subway to the center of the city where our accommodations were. As we were waiting, Iulia decided to buy a coffee out of the coffee vending machines that seem to be everywhere in Italy. The subway arrived and we got on…except for Iulia. We called out to her to hurry on, but the doors closed and we sped away right as she started towards us. So, when we got to the stop we had to get off at, we waited around for Iulia. Finally, when she found us we all walked towards our hotel. Once we got there, we had to wait since our room wasn’t ready yet, so we went out and got some coffee and food. By the time we finished, our room was ready.It was a nice apartment-type place with a loft above the living room and kitchen. There were some problems with the place, like the handle to the bathroom door falling off, but overall it was a good place for seven college students to spend the night. \

After everyone had put their stuff down and claimed their sleeping spots, they went out to either explore or shop. My back was hurting from some mysterious illness that had plagued me the entire day and made it difficult for me to walk, so I stayed in and FaceTimed my parents. When everyone came back around 20:00, we got dressed up and went out to dinner. We walked to a restaurant about 15 minutes away from us called Salsamenteria di Parma. Because there were so many of us, we were seated downstairs at a long table. What they are known for however, is serving wine in a bowl. So, I and a couple other girls had Lambrusco in a bowl with our meal. I ordered eggplant parmesan which was good but too much for me to finish. After dinner, we sat around the Cathedral, which was beautifully lit up, and listened to some street musicians play. By that point, I was tired after the long day so most of us went back to the room, while a couple girls decided to try to find a club to go to. We all ended up going to sleep around 1am.

June 18, 2017 Sunday

We woke up around 8am so that we could make it to the Cathedral before we had to check out. It is the largest church in Italy (since the Vatican is in the state of Vatican City) and the third largest in the world. There is a very strict dress code to get in, and some girls had to go and buy a shawl for about 2 euro from the shop where they sell the tickets to enter. Luckily, my outfit was appropriate so I was able to right in after I bought my ticket. There is security that checks your ticket and belongings before you go in, but after that you get to enter this gorgeous church. It was so open and elaborate, although nothing like the outside facade. There were lovely stained glass windows, tombs to dead bishops, and a list of all the bishops that had presided over the church for the past 1,000 or so years. Because it was a Sunday, there was a Mass at 9:00, which we unfortunately could not stay for because we had to check out of our hotel. So we left the Duomo di Milano to do that.

We were able to leave our luggage for the day, so after we checked out we went to the Castello Sforzesco just to look around. It was really nice to see, and if you walk through it, there is a park right behind it. We spent a lot of the day at Sempione Park. We split off and walked through it on our own. Everything was so green and alive. There were tons of flowers, some ducks in a pond, and people playing sports in the grass. Plus, it was a gorgeous day, sunny and hot. I really enjoyed just looking around at the beauty of nature. Eventually we met up at the Napoleon arch where we took some photos. As we were walking back through the park, we stopped to get some refreshments. I got pineapple juice which was delicious and refreshing. We sat in the grass in the shade and just chatted for about half an hour. It was a really enjoyable moment.

We made our way back to the Cathedral area where we again split off, and I went shopping with some friends. I didn’t buy much, but it was fun just to look at all the shops and see what was inside. By the time dinner time rolled around, I was so tired. We met up at a nice restaurant on a busy side street and all shared some meats, cheeses, and bread for dinner. With some wine of course. After we had finished our meal, we had to hurry to make it back to the bus station on time. (Can you see the trend in our inability to be on time?) Luckily we did make it to the bus, after a heated and packed subway ride. Unfortunately, this bus was not air conditioned and the ride back seemed much longer than the ride there. But make it back we did, and with memories that will last a lifetime.

IMG_2589Me filled with excitement upon arrival

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These are the (slightly eaten) sauces we had to dip our bread into with our meal

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The famous bowl of Lambrusco

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Ciao for now!