Florence, Italy

About a month ago, I took a trip to visit the beautiful little town of Florence, Italy. I was extremely excited to go here considering I almost studied abroad in Florence. A majority of my closest friends from school in Arizona are studying in Florence, so I was so happy I got to take a trip to visit them. Truth be told, I was a little worried that I was going to end up liking Florence more than Barcelona and regret my decision to not study there. However, I proved myself wrong and I’ll explain to you why.

First off, I learned very quickly that Florence is TINY. I repeat to you, TINY. It was much different from what I’m used to here in Barcelona. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved it though. I just feel like it was the perfect place to visit for a weekend, not to stay for a whole semester. At the end of the weekend, I had felt as though I got to see the whole town in just the three short days I was there. Whereas in Barcelona, I have been here for almost four months and still feel like there is so much more for me to see. If I studied in Florence for the whole semester I could see myself getting bored very quickly which would be a big issue for me. I am the kind of person who likes to constantly explore new things, which is why I enjoy Barcelona so much because I am constantly discovering new places. Although, I have to say that Ponte Vecchio in Florence was one of my favorite places I have found to just sit and relax.

Even though Barcelona has Florence beat city wise, Florence takes the cake for better food…and I’m talking by a landslide. I don’t think I have ever eaten better food in my whole entire life than I did in Florence. I ate everything from pizza, to pasta, to gelato, to panini’s, to salads and no where in Barcelona can even compare to that quality of food. I’m typically a very healthy eater, but I let myself splurge in Florence and I couldn’t be more happy that I did. What truly amazed me was that it wasn’t only the Italian food that was better in Florence, even the salads were better. The salads I ate there contained the most fresh ingredients I have ever tasted. BUT DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED ABOUT THE GELATO. Now, I know I mentioned that I am a pretty healthy eater, but when it comes to sweets I have absolutely no self control. I had gelato three times a day, everyday when I was in Florence. I don’t regret one bite of that gelato, it was amazing. I even learned a trick about picking the right place to buy gelato from while I was there. I was told that the gelato shops where the the gelato looks like a mountain and is super big, is not authentic gelato. You always want to make sure the gelato is flat because that means it is authentic. I was so glad my friends told me this because being the tourist I am, I would totally go to the places where the gelato looks the most extravagant.

I of course visited the two most talked about food places while I was in Florence as well. I had to try the famous panini from All’antico Vinaio. I can confirm that people aren’t lying when they say it is the best panini you will ever have in your life. Keep in mind this panini is also the biggest one you will ever see, it was bigger than my head to put it into perspective. Then, I tried “Gusta Pizza” where they make your pizza in the shape of a heart. I had high hopes for this place, and it was definitely good, however I didn’t necessarily think it lived up to the hype.

I found florence to be an absolutely charming little town and would definitely visit again one day in the future. I am so thankful I had the opportunity to visit the place I almost called home this semester, but I’m even more thankful I ended up getting to call Barcelona my home.

Switzerland

Last weekend I traveled to Interlaken, Switzerland and absolutely fell in love with this tiny town. First off, all of Switzerland is beyond gorgeous. We flew into the Geneva airport, and took a charter bus from there to Interlaken. I’m really glad we decided to do this because we got to see all different parts of Switzerland aside from Interlaken. Lake Geneva is most definitely a site to see for anyone that makes their way to Switzerland. It is truly beautiful and unlike any lake I have ever seen before. Once we made it to Interlaken, I fell in love with the vibes of this tiny little town. Everyone there was very mellow and relaxed. It was almost as if the people of Switzerland didn’t have a care or worry in the world. They were all friendly, inviting, and fun to be around.

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Interlaken has beautiful lakes throughout the town as well. Sitting and staring out at the lake was probably one of the most relaxing and soothing things I have done this entire time I’ve been abroad. I was amazed by how much time I could spend just sitting their and feel completely at ease, not thinking about anything at all. After we spent our morning at the lake, we went to the “Funky Chocolate Factory” for a chocolate making class. I must say, there’s a whole lot more that going into the chocolate making process than I ever thought. I also learned that there are many benefits to eating dark chocolate, so for all you chocolate lovers out there like me, this is good news for us! Unfortunately, if you’re a fan of white chocolate, it just so happens that it is the worst kind of chocolate for you. We got to choose if we wanted to make milk chocolate or dark chocolate, I chose milk, of course. Once we made it, they let us draw designs and decorate the chocolate, so I decided to make it for my mom and friend, Shae back home. Shae had been begging me to send her Swiss chocolate from the moment she found out I was going to Switzerland, so I thought she’d enjoy the nice surprise. Once we were done, we had to let it sit and harden in the fridge for three hours before we could pick it up to eat. I can honestly say this was the best chocolate I’ve ever eaten in my entire life.

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Skydiving is another thing that has always been a dream of mine. As soon as I decided to go to Switzerland, I chose to make this the place I would skydive for the first time. Think about it, where else could possibly be better than skydiving over the Swiss Alps? A friend of mine did it when she was studying here last year and told me it was one of her best experiences abroad. She is part of the reason I decided to skydive in Switzerland, and I’m so grateful she encouraged me to do it. I can completely relate to her now and say this was my absolute best experience I’ve had abroad. In fact, skydiving in Switzerland was probably the best experience I’ve had thus far in my life.

My advice to anyone visiting Interlaken: GO SKYDIVING, YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT!

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Luck of the Irish

Two weekends ago I had the pleasure of taking a trip to Dublin, Ireland. Being Irish, this was a trip I was very excited for as I got to see where some of my family comes from. I was a little skeptical of the timing I chose to go because a majority of my friends were waiting to go to Ireland for St. Patricks Day weekend. However, after going on this trip I know that I absolutely made the right choice to go a separate weekend. While I was there, I learned that all the Dublin locals leave the city for St. Patricks Day because it is strictly a tourist spot. They all said they prefer to get away for that weekend because the streets get far to crowded with tourists roaming around.

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I must say the local Irish people I met were the best part of the whole entire trip. Out of all the places I’ve been and people I’ve met, the Irish are without a doubt, the nicest and most welcoming people I have ever encountered. They were all very helpful when we were asking questions about places we should see and good places to eat. In other countries I have been to, the locals aren’t nearly as kind to the tourists as the Irish were. I am so thankful that I chose to come on a weekend other than St. Patricks Day because I would not have met all the amazing people that I did.

The first full day we had in Ireland we spent touring all of Dublin. As you can see in the photo above, we hopped on one of those city tour busses that took as all around Dublin. This tour bus was very helpful because we got to see parts of Dublin that we would not have found walking around on our own.

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The next full day we had we took a day trip to Doolin, Ireland to visit the Cliffs of Moher. This bus ride there took about three and a half hours, but it was a scenic drive so it did not seem nearly as long. As a matter of fact, it was a beautiful bus ride because we got to see the country side of Ireland. It was so green, I couldn’t even imagine how much more beautiful it is in the summer time! Once we arrived at the Cliffs, I was amazed at how unreal the view was. My breath was taken away by the natural beauty of the Cliffs of Moher. I can hoenstly say I had never seen anything more gorgeous in my life.

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Ireland is a place I feel that just about anyone would enjoy visiting. From the breath taking scenery, to the lively night life, there is something for all types of people to do. After this trip I realized that Ireland is a place I would love to come back to and explore with my family one day. I wish I had more time there because one weekend was simply not long enough. I will be back for you, Ireland!

Amsterdam

About a month ago, I took my first trip while studying abroad to Amsterdam, Netherlands. For as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamed about visiting Amsterdam at some point in my life. If I’m being completely honest, I never really thought that dream would become a reality. I had BIG expectations for this place, and I can most definitely say Amsterdam lived up to them. I was a little surprised at how cold and windy it was compared to Barcelona, but then I remembered it’s still winter! I was truly amazed by the beauty of all the bridges and dams scattered throughout the city. I must say one of my favorite surprises in Amsterdam was all the pancake houses. I am not kidding you when I say there was a pancake shop on every corner, but I’m not complaining, who doesn’t love pancakes?!

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The “IAMsterdam” letters were certainly a site to see. You could tell this was probably one of the biggest tourist spots in all of Amsterdam. Everyone was fighting over letters waiting in line to get their perfect picture. Not going to lie, my friends and I were definitely guilty of this. We must have spent two hours taking pictures on these letters. It’s safe to say that everyone around could tell we were Americans with all the touristy things we were doing.

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The main reason I was so excited to go to Amsterdam was to visit the Anne Frank house. Visiting the Anne Frank house has been on my bucket-list from the moment I learned about her in seventh grade. I remember being so amazed after hearing her story, which never really left my mind. We waited in line for about an hour and a half to enter the Anne Frank museum and I can definitely say it was worth the wait. I would have waited six hours to get inside if I had to. I was even more amazed and inspired by Anne Frank after the tour than I was before. I had the chills the whole time walking through the hidden annex and was heartbroken being able to see what their family went through. I’ve visited a lot of museums while abroad and this without a doubt is the best one I think I will ever go to in my life. I strongly encourage anyone who is considering visiting the Anne Frank house to do so.

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Amsterdam was a great first trip to take while abroad and it definitely met my high expectations.