One Week

I cannot even believe that in one week, I will be back home in St. Charles. The past three months have absolutely flown by, and I am having so many mixed emotions about returning to the states. I’m anxiously awaiting being reunited with all of my friends and family, but will also miss Prague every day until I (hopefully) return.

I, unexpectedly, fell in love with Prague. I knew that I would love the experience of studying abroad and traveling all over Europe, but I did not think I would get so emotionally attached to any city or country. Well, once again, I was wrong. That seems to have been a theme over the past 3 months. But, being wrong has helped me to grow so much, and I am so grateful for that.

Without getting too mushy-gushy, I will just say that being in Prague this semester has been the highlight of my life and I am so grateful for the opportunity to see so much of the world. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

Now, someone get me home!


Vienna, Vienna

Vienna was absolutely beautiful and picturesque. Like most places, I wish we could have stayed there longer, but we had 24 hours to conquer Vienna and try to see all it had to offer. As we rolled into town, we began with a walking tour of the city provided by ISA and it many of the “hot spots”. First stop was Stephanplatz and Stephansdom or Stephen’s Square/Cathedral.

The church was absolutely stunning and at first I hated the lights they had glowing on the walls, but then they started to grow on me. I think my time in Europe has solidified that my gothic architecture is my favorite. Who knew! We continued around the city and saw many, many other sites, but I think we were all particularly interested in the Hofburg Palace since we have been learning about the Habsburg Dynasty for the past three months.

We concluded our tour at the Christmas Markets, which I think everyone enjoyed. The markets were huge and there was so much to see. A few girls and I continued walking around grabbing food and drink along the way. My personal favorite was the hot chocolate made from chocolate fountain. Best idea of my life.

The rest of the night’s schedule was eat and drink, the Vienna way: Weinerschnitzel, wine, coffee, sachertorte and more chocolate. It was the perfect girls night out on the town. Sunday, our program took us to the Opera House which was absolutely fantastic and beautifully captured here.  All in all a perfect last excursion!

Javoricko Caves

This past weekend, we had our last excursion with ISA to the Javoricko Caves, Olomouc and Vienna. It must be like they say, “save the best for last”, because it was my favorite excursion this semester. We hopped on the bus Friday morning and headed out to the caves. The closest thing to caves I have ever seen were the silver mines in Kutna Hora for our first trip, so I was quite excited to get to experience these famous caves.

Needless to say, I was not disappointed. The caves were fantastic, I have never seen anything quite like it. We kept walking into new openings, bringing us to something different. Different colors, different shapes, different sizes of stalagmites, it was so cool. We even had a few visitors down there…

Seeing this many black beauties inches above my head would normal give me some goosebumps with a touch of hyperventilation, but since they were hibernating for the winter, I deemed it save to get up close and personal. They’re not so bad afterall! I’ve been scared of bats ever since a field trip to the Brookfield Zoo in elementary school where I was tricked into entering the “bat cave” and came out crying. Glad it only took 10+ years to get over that fear…

There isn’t much I can say or do to show how neat the caves were, but hopefully some snapshots will at least give you an idea:

Markets, markets and more markets

As you have all probably caught on, I have an unhealthy obsession with markets. I absolutely cannot walk past one without stopping and checking out every stall. I couldn’t even tell you the number of times I have found myself walking to the market here in Prague, I’m surprised they don’t know me by name. Anyway, it was only natural that I check out some markets in London while I was there last week. On the top of my list were Borough Market, Camden Market and Portobello Market. That’s a lot of ground to cover, but you bet your bottom dollar I made it to all three.

Round one was Borough Market aka the best food market that I have ever seen. This market had anything you could imagine from pheasant to shark to apple cider to fresh vegetables. I just wandered around taste-testing everything from cheese to fudge, enjoying every minute of it. I also stopped to get some cider and didn’t realize it had alcohol in it until my tummy was warm and my legs were tingly. Thanks for the warning people!

Long story short, this market was fantastic. Not only was the food absolutely delicious and just waiting to be devoured, but the chalk boards, the green wood and people made the environment so enjoyable. I probably could have spent all of my day and all of my dollars just wandering around that place, but my waistline is glad that I didn’t.

Round two: Camden Town/Market. Oh my word. I want to live here and I’m not even exaggerating. This part of town was so funky and neat and there was something unique to see almost every step of the way. Really, Camden Town is a compilation of many different markets, my favorite (and the most impressive) being the Stables.

The Stables were actually old horse stables, and a lot of the little stalls are actually housed in stables, which was so neat. On top of that, many of the products are antiques, hand made or just really out of this world. I did walk out of the Stables empty-handed, but it wasn’t for lack of interest or things to buy, that’s for sure. I just had my heart sent on some Banksy products and I was holding out for them.

The market was absolutely HUGE! There were so many little alleys to wind and get lost in and I made sure I covered every square inch of that place. Of course, it took up the better half of my day but I definitely wasn’t complaining. I also had some of the greatest pizza there for lunch – they make it right in front of you and sprinkle the top with fresh basil leaves. Perfection.

After the Stables, I carried on to the Camden Lock Market and the Camden Village Market and also hopped into almost every touristy shop on the street, I just couldn’t help myself! But when the market looks like that, can you really blame me? Camden Market definitely takes the cake as my favorite European Market that I have seen so far. There was just something about the atmosphere that really took a hold of me. Hopefully I’ll make it back one day!

Round three: Portobello Market. After spending almost all day in Camden Town, I just hit the very tail-end of the Portobello Market when all the stands were beginning to close up shop. However, I did get a brief glimpse at the market and I wish I had more time to spend there. Portobello reminded me more of a flea market if anything, with antiques and collectors items stationed up in the streets.

Basically, I had an amazing couple of days attacking the markets and wandering mindlessly through the twists and turns of the different marketplaces. I don’t remember seeing any of these places from our trip to London ten years ago, so I’m definitely glad that I was able to make it to all of them! Of course, I would have never even known about them if it weren’t for my lovely pal, Alex who studied in London last semester. I owe almost all of my trip’s successes to this lovely lady, couldn’t have conquered the city without her guidance. One of these days we will manage to get in a trip together!

Thank-Full of Turkey

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Although I am sad to be missing the holidays with my family, I am very grateful to have the opportunity to live in the amazing city of Prague and travel all over Europe. I am truly blessed!

There are so many things to be thankful for – on this day, and every day. But the number one thing I am thankful for in my life is these cutie patooties right there, my rocks, my best friends and my support system. My family. Each of them bring something to my life and I don’t know where I would be without them.

My mom is the greatest person on the entire Earth and is the smartest lady I have ever met. That tall girl is sarcastic, witty, has great fashion sense and keeps me in line. That goof ball on the right is my protector, Arrested Development quoter and wrestling buddy. And last but not least, that little blonde boy in the middle always makes my day with his hilarious catch phrases, his adorable smile and ridiculous smarts. All in all, I am one lucky gal and could not be more thankful for all of them!

I am also oh so thankful for my extended family who might as well be my immediate family. Also, my incredible friends who have been there for me since day one – I am thankful for each and every one of you nerds. Of course, the list could go on for days, but I will cut it the mushy stuff off there. I hope you all enjoy your Thanksgiving and eat an extra slice of pumpkin pie for me!

Bloody Brilliant

Day two was a day packed to the absolute brim with touristy activities I had wanted to check off the list. Due to money and time constraints, I kept it pretty simple and ended up not going inside any museums or big tourist sites. Plus, I had been lucky enough to see them ten years ago so I figured seeing them would suffice. I also was clearing some time to hit up all the markets the next day. Due to my laziness at the moment and my anxiety for our ISA Thanksgiving dinner, this will be more of a photo-journal of my day… Enjoy!

Up first: Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. I’m sorry to report that Prince Harry was not in the building, for if he was, we would currently be engaged.

Next stop on the self-guided tour: Bird Cage Walk. A glorious stroll through the park with dozens of different birds and very needy squirrels.

Next up, the Westminster sites: Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the London eye, etc.

Then, I enjoyed a nice walk down the Thames Path and saw everything from the beginning of holiday markets, skate parks, carnivals, book sales, tug boats, street performers and more! I even stopped at Borough Market – but that deserves a post in and of itself.

After that lovely pit stop, I continued to the Tower of London, the London Bridge and the Tower Bridge.

Last stop on the tour was St. Pauls (happened upon Occupy London) and Millenium Bridge.

Overall it was a very successful and exhausting day in Londontown. It has been awhile since my feet have been that tired and sore! I feel as though I walked all over the city and conquered almost all of the touristy sites in one day. Phew! Sorry for the laziness, but the turkey is calling my name. Our program is off to Vienna for the weekend, so unfortunately you will all have to wait to hear about the rest of my trip. Off to stuff my face, quite literally.

London at Night

I do not think you can truly say you have seen a city until you have seen it at night when it is all litup. Since seeing the beautiful Budapest at night, I have made it a point to see every city after dark. What better way to see London at night than starting at Picadilly Circus?

The streets were lined with festive holiday decorations, neon lights and plenty of stores to get yourself lost in. My favorite part were all of the theaters lining the streets and seeing all the different shows that were playing. I would be a happy, happy girl if I could see a broadway show every weekend until the day I die.

There’s just something about the theater that gets me every time. After Picadilly Circus, I headed to Westminster to see all the “big” sites at night as well. This included Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, the London Eye, etc. The city was, as expected, gorgeous at night, especially with the different colors of lights.

Isn’t it beautiful? I loved walking around the city and across the Westminster Bridge, checking out the local hot spots and smelling the delicious roasted nuts being sold. After I got my fill of the night-life I headed back home and crashed. I had a busy day ahead of me full of all the London “must-see”s.