The GoGlobal Blog

Category: John Felice Rome Center

London Calling

London Calling

When my best friend and I decided to go abroad at the same time, I was ecstatic. I’d imagined we’d meet in Paris for brunch or go to Ireland and explore the cliffs each weekend. It wasn’t until move-in got closer that i had to start being a bit more realistic. She was going to live in London, and I’d be in Rome. People always tell you that everything in Europe is so much more accessible than back in the States, but they tend to oversell it a bit, especially when you’re as far south as Rome. When I finally booked my tickets to London, a good month and a half into the semester, I was understandably excited. London would be my first flight in Europe, and I’d get to spend the weekend with my best friend. What more could you ask for?

I have to say, seeing a friendly face, especially your best friend’s, after months away really does live up to the hype. Although I’ve been loving my time here, the further I get into the semester, the more I start to miss family and friends from back home and the comfort of a familiar culture in the city. In that respect, London was exactly what I needed.

London is a big city and the first I’ve been to in Europe. The atmosphere, while completely different from Chicago, reminded me more of my home city than Rome or Venice. It was, admittedly, nice to see some chains and stores I was familiar with; never has walking into a Starbucks been so therapeutic. Even the food – burgers, fries, tacos – was a nice call back to my life in the US.

The comfort of familiar things aside, London was a fascinating city in its own right. Travelling with a Londoner had its perks; she knew all of the best spots, foods we had to try, and how to get around on the Tube. We took a whirlwind tour, passing the Globe, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and countless double-decker buses in a matter of hours. The whole weekend was a balance of sightseeing and spending time doing the things my friend would usually do – going to pubs, the Borough market, hanging out around Soho. I couldn’t have asked for a better trip – something to cheer me up with the dread of midterms looming around the corner.

While London was a beautiful city that I’d wanted to experience since reading Harry Potter and listening One Direction as a child, by far the best part of the trip was seeing someone I loved and had missed since we went away. Even seeing Platform 9 ¾ couldn’t compare to laughing with her over pork sandwiches on the street. Being separated from loved ones can make studying abroad difficult, but it also makes the reunions that much sweeter.

Solo Travel in Ljubljana

Solo Travel in Ljubljana

The prospect of travelling alone both excited me and terrified me. Back home, the closest thing I’d done to a ‘solo trip’ was taking the train from Chicago to the suburbs alone. Still, it was something I’d wanted to try. When I’d decided to take a trip to Ljubljana, Slovenia, I knew I’d be going alone.

It was important to me to experience the country that my family is from, hear the language my last name comes from, and eat the food we only have at holidays back home. Needless to say, however, Ljubljana isn’t on most people’s European bucket list. After experiencing this city for only three days, I can say with certainty that it’s a great trip for anyone looking to be immersed in nature, architecture, and the culture of a capital city that lacks political statues, instead favoring to memorialize their national poet.

Ljubljana was the perfect place to explore on my own. The city’s center is extremely walk-able, and there’s always a cultural event or a castle to explore. Travelling alone gave me the opportunity to talk to locals about their love for the city, great places to eat, and about our shared Slovenian roots. I learned that my last name is spelled Jurjevčič – it was Americanized when my family moved to America. I also had the opportunity to learn more about the country’s history, and the people’s pride in their relatively new independence.

(The famous pink church in the center square of Ljubljana)

The food was comforting to say the least. Sausages and cabbages were all over every menu, along with some of my favorite desserts like potiča, a sweet nut bread. Eating alone was an interesting experience; it’s not as lonely as one might suspect, especially with the anonymity of a crowd. It was an opportunity to take in my surroundings and listen the language more than an embarrassing or rushed event.

Ljubljana was also a sort of spiritual experience for me; one I’m not sure I would’ve had if I’d been with a group of people. Little things, like the accordion players in the town square, brought me back to memories with my grandfather. It was bitter sweet to be in the place he’d wanted to visit without him, and, I’ll admit, I was a bit emotional at times. I don’t know if I’d be able to work through and appreciate the weight of the experience if I’d felt the pressure to move along to the next thing that accompanies group trips.

Solo travel allowed me to do what I wanted without regard for the group’s idea, which was a nice change. While I love travelling in groups and don’t have a strong desire to do many more solo trips, being alone and deciding things for myself was what I needed after weeks of being surrounded by other people.

(The Dragon Bridge –  the dragon is Ljubljana’s city symbol)

In my opinion, everyone taking their time abroad should plan at least one trip alone. Whether it’s a day trip to Florence or the eight hour hike to Ljubljana (worth it, by the way), a solo trip is a breath of fresh air between the chaos of school life back at the JFRC. If you are considering Ljubljana, between the art at places like Metelkova, the food, and the beautiful hikes both in and just out of the city, it’s the perfect getaway.

Life Update

Life Update

It feels like I’ve been here for over a year, but it’s only been a little over a month. I’m still homesick, but my mom told me I’m “Alec sick.” I’ve been traveling a bit since we last talked, which has been a major distraction. My classes are going well but I have little motivation to do much during the week. Let’s not talk about that, though. The fun part: where have I been these last few weeks?

As mentioned in my last post, I went to Naples the last weekend of January. This was a school run trip for our orientation, but it was still fun because I met a bunch of cool people. We did a bunch of history museums and such, which is not my favorite, but I made the most out of it. Next stop: Florence, Italy.

Florence has been my favorite city by far. It was a girl’s trip so, of course, we shopped and ate! We went to Gucci, Zara and the leather market and bought some fun things. We saw two different wineries’ in Tuscany on Saturday, which was so fun and interesting. We ate so much pasta and bruschetta that I am ready for some American food (definitely Chipotle and Canes). It rained most of the time while we were there, but my friends and I made the most of it. Next stop: Berlin, Germany.

I traveled to Berlin with a bunch of my friends from Loyola & Dayton during the second weekend of February. We ate some German sausage and drank German beer, which if you know me, I was not a fan of (check out my featured photo). We saw the Holocaust memorial and it was extremely eye opening. We also went to the Berlin Wall, which was full of super cool graffiti. It rained most of the time in Berlin as well, so we weren’t able to see as many sites as we wanted to. The main reason we went to Berlin was for the Louis the Child concert. It was so fun, but extremely overwhelming for someone who is 4”11. The highlight of my trip was definitely eating at a fake Chipotle. Next stop: Barcelona, Spain.

Maddy, Maddie and I traveled to Barcelona this past weekend. Barcelona is definitely my 2nd favorite city. We did some shopping (of course), saw the Sagrada Familia and Gaudi’s House and watched the Barcelona soccer match at a restaurant outside the stadium (mostly to send pictures to my dad). The views were gorgeous, and I slept a lot, which was much needed. The Cheetah Girls movie was definitely one of my favorites when I was a little girl, so I loved seeing all the spots they were at. Barcelona reminded me of Chicago, and it made me smile. Next stop: Milan Fashion Week.

My four friends and I are traveling to Milan this Thursday for fashion week, which is totally up my fashion alley. I get to shop for an outfit, which is even more exciting. I have been doing a lot in Rome during the weeks as well. I see a different Church every Wednesday for my theology class. My friends and I go to restaurants in the city center to get off campus for a little bit at least once a week. We went to dinner on Valentine’s Day and my family sent me flowers, which was definitely a happy! Midterms are coming up and FOMO is a major issue in my life right now, but I’m powering through.

I hope you all enjoyed my little life update. Alec is coming in early March and my parents are coming in late March, so I am really looking forward to seeing some familiar faces and getting hugs! Before I know it, I will be back in the states, but I am really enjoying myself (and my homesickness). Thank you for reading this long, long post!

Talk soon xoxo.

Feeling at Home in Rome

Feeling at Home in Rome

I’d decided I was going to study abroad during my senior year of high school when the decision was, arguably, easy. I was leaving for college the following year, so I didn’t have any ties to life at Loyola’s Chicago campus yet. Even as I applied for the John Felice Rome Center my sophomore year, my nerves were at a low in anticipation of all the new experiences to come. When it came time to actually board my flight to Rome, however, my faith in the decision began to fumble. I was worried that I wouldn’t love Rome the same way I loved Chicago or that I wouldn’t make any new friends to travel with. My relief was palpable when, in just the first few weeks of my JFRC experience, both of my doubts were set aside.
Orientation was pleasantly exhausting. We spent most of the first week venturing around Rome, seeing everything from the Colosseum to a whole in the wall restaurant that served authentic pasta for four euro. The near constant immersion in the city made me fall in love with Rome and its contradictions; I’ve always loved Chicago, but even when I moved there for university, I never felt quite as at home as I did dodging puddles in the cobblestone streets near the Forum.

While I was discovering that Rome was the place I’d been looking for, I was surrounded by people who felt the same, the majority of whom had not come to the JFRC with a pre-established group of friends. I expected making friends to be the most difficult part of the journey, but everyone at the JFRC is there to meet people who share this same desire to see the world. During a scavenger hunt wherein we ran around the city taking pictures of all of the quintessential Roman sites, I made friends with a wonderfully positive group that shared my traveling desires and a few of my classes.
There have been nights where I miss my family and friends back home immensely, but the experiences that I’m having during the day make it much easier to cope with. As the days go on, I find myself reflecting on the cappuccino that blew my mind or the breathtaking view from the top of the Spanish Steps instead of how badly I miss Chicago. There are so many things to love about Rome; the hills are nothing like I’ve seen in the suburbs, pasta here is never overdone, and historic churches and ruins are always a few steps away, offering an insight into the city’s history, present, and future. When I do connect with my family and friends, they’re always anticipating stories about my life here and encouraging me to continue chasing personal growth in the eternal city. Connecting with a time change is easier than I’d thought, and the distance has made hearing about life back home is even more entertaining than before I left. I will never not miss my life in Chicago, but I’ll be back within four months. I’ll only have a life here in Rome once, and I can’t wait to live it to the fullest.

Head in the Clouds

Head in the Clouds

A quarter of the way through my time here abroad and I am all emotions. On one spectrum, I am happy and exhilarated of all that I have seen and done thus far. On the other end, I am exhausted, physically, mentally, and socially. I have traveled to the southern part of Italy to Campania, and I have traveled up to the northern part of Italy to Florence and Pisa. I have marveled at the history of the past, whether it is walking through a museum with centuries old art, or strolling through Paestum as if I can relive the past of so many people who came before me, my imagination has sparked in all forms. The other day, my class and I traveled to the Roman National Museum where we saw a fresco of Augustus’s wife, Livia Drusilla. It is a beautifully detailed garden scene that wraps around all four walls. It is believed to have been a part of their villa as their dining room decor. In my wildest imaginations, I can only dream about what those walls may have seen and heard. Yes, walls may not have a heartbeat, but they can still hold the memories of people, dead and alive. It reminds me how much of our lives, and our stories can become intertwined in art. It is able to keep alive pieces of us after we are gone, and connects us in all sorts of ways. I found the creativity and imagination of art again in Florence and Pisa. The architecture of the buildings breathe so much history while reminding me of a fragile card house, and a tilt-

ing jenga tower, about to be toppled down with one big blow of air. My friends and I filled our stomachs with warm paninos, carbonara, and chocolate souffles that were heaven on earth. We headed to Pisa for a day to see the famous leaning tower and we found it as cool as everyone says it is in all of its falling glory. On our last day in Florence, we stumbled upon a parade of renaissance dressed men walking along the cobblestone streets, marching towards a reenactment of some sort. Yet again, I found myself drifting into my childhood imagination of what the past might have looked like. These past few weeks have clearly reminded me to keep my imagination alive to retell the past, paint the present, and connect with others in the future. Let the dreaming and imagining continue…

Most Of Us

Most Of Us

Since I was a child, the idea of traveling has always excited me, whether it was trying flaky pastries in a small village in Paris, or walking through the historical entrances of Pompeii, I have always been fascinated by the world and all of the distance that separates us as human beings, and yet, all of the everyday commonalities that unite us. However, I am a deep dreamer, and thinker, constantly wondering, and often doubting, about the next move, step, or leap. Although this may be useful for planning and organizing, I have found that this state of mind can get me into trouble. You see, overthinking can turn your wildest, happiest dreams into a prison of fear, anxiety, and doubt. It can lead to a place of certainty, safety, and comfort, but what I have found over the past couple of years is that there is no room for growth, nor learning when set in a box of sameness. See, I enjoy a well rounded routine with a schedule that is almost set to the tee, but I am constantly faced with the decision to break free bit by bit from my comfort zone and face everything that scares me. This includes leaving behind a magical fall school semester, a beautiful city that I call home, and family and friends who have carried me through a tumultuous couple of years.

My decision to study abroad in Rome, Italy was surrounded

with months of contemplation and discussion with family, friends, advisers, and even strangers at the grocery stores who would jump at the chance to relive, or do over, their study abroad experience in college. However, my decision came only clearly to me through writing, specifically when overlooking the waters of Lake Michigan, watching the sailboats pass back and forth, and the sun hitting the water just right. One day, when I was sitting by the water, I turned to the left of me and found a lonely grasshopper. Now, I am known to believe in signs, and I, of course, took this as one. After researching the meaning of grasshoppers, I found that they are representative of jumping forward into the unknown, without jumping backward into the past. Believer or not in signs, I took this grasshopper as a symbol to not be afraid, and to jump as a means of moving forward, of moving towards my greater self.

Now, as I sit here writing this at the library in Rome, I look back on that decision making process with sheer joy and gratitude of the journey that got me right here. It has only been two weeks, but over the course of them, I have experienced so much already. The staff of the John Felice Rome Center do an amazing job organizing a jam packed schedule of events for the two weeks of orientation that include four course meals, city walking tours, and even a weekend trip down to the south of Italy full of wine and cheese tastings, and historical site adventures. Of course it has been overwhelming with the amount of new people, new places, new sites, new sounds, new food, new everything, but I have enjoyed the moments of sameness that stretches throughout continents, and cultures.

Most of us get stuck in traffic. Most of get caught up at the grocery store deciding which cookies to buy. Most of us run late to work on a Monday. Most of us get irritated when the bus does not come on time. Most of us love the smell of homemade food. Most of us love the comforts of people who love us as much as we do them. As human beings, most of us just want the same things. We all want to be seen, heard, recognized, and loved. A traditional, and universal message I have already found in the short two weeks I have been here. We are all trying to figure it out. We are all trying to make our way. Rome you have already taught me so much and I cannot wait to see what is next. 

Expect the Unexpected

Expect the Unexpected

I arrived at the John Felice Rome Center a little less than a week ago and it has been a whirlwind of a journey to say the least. After traveling for almost 20 hours, I was thrown into more orientation activities than I could count. I was extremely overwhelmed by all of the information and the culture and the foreign language and so much more. I mean, I couldn’t even read the blurbs on the shampoo or conditioner bottles, yet alone adapt to a new life in such a short period of time.

When I mentioned to people that I was considering studying abroad, I got the same answer from almost everyone: that it would be the most amazing, life changing experience and that I would never want to leave. No one told me I was going to be homesick. People mentioned it a few times here and there, but no one told me I was going to be THAT homesick. I have so many wonderful, caring people in my life that it was extremely challenging to adapt to a life with them so far away.

The thought of wanting to jump on a plane back to the states has definitely crossed my mind more than a few times. However, I know that would be a mistake. I am so blessed to even have the option to study in a different country with so many new and exciting opportunities right in front of me. My friends and I have started to make lists of all the places we want to travel to in the next 13 weeks, which makes my stomach turn (in a good way, of course).

Expect the unexpected. Like I said, homesickness was barely discussed in any conversation before I left. So, expect to be homesick. Expect to not be able to understand the Italians and their culture. Expect to cry a few times while you are adjusting. Expect for the homesickness to be gone with time. I have full confidence that mine will be because I have one of the best support systems at home. Life takes a few minutes to kick in.

Please continue to keep up with my journey here in Europe. Next stop: Naples!

Baklava and Baskets- My Weekend in Athens

Baklava and Baskets- My Weekend in Athens

Countless Aspects of Beauty
On top of Athens
Vegan Beat!

My final trip of my semester abroad (or shall I call it, my 3 1/2 month long dream) was to Athens!

My expectations of the city were very minimal– I had absolutely no idea what Athens had in store for me. But boy, was it amazing.

My plane landed in Athens late on Thursday night, and as a result of a semi-persevered taxi scam, a migraine, and a mile long walk to exit the Athens airport (thank goodness for moving walkways), my group and I were rather tired. As a result, we decided to order some take out and in the mean time I left to find a pharmacy for some Ibuprofen. Considering it was 11pm, no pharmacies were open, but as I was walking back I stumbled across our airbnb’s next door neighbor: a small restaurant with Christmas lights and high ceilings. I called my pals to cancel the take out and they met me at the back corner table. My ‘welcome to Greece’ dinner consisted of:

  • Fried Fish and Herb Balls
  • Beetroot Tzatziki
  • Spicy Cheese Dip
  • Saganaki
  • Greek Salad
  • Fried Peppers
  • Spicy Chicken Wings

And, the pièce de résistance, mushrooms carmelized with thyme and balsamic.

(we returned every night to get these mushrooms)

While I returned sans medicine, my stomach was full and my anticipation for a morning in Athens was high.

My friends and I woke up late on Friday morning and drank coffee together on a pull out couch while we planned our weekend adventures. Here’s how our planning played out:

Friday/Saturday

Friday consisted of walking around the Athens flea market, buying street corn, old comics, and olive branch jewelry.

Food recommendation: If you are vegan or vegetarian, or even if you aren’t, the Vegan Beat (Pandrossou 7-15, Athens, Greece, 10556) is a must. It’s a small, attic-like restaurant perched above a shopping area in downtown Athens. It consists of pillows on the floor, a christmas light lit window, house plants, and super friendly staff. I ordered a mushroom gyro and it was absolutely amazing. Paired with house-made lemon, agave, ginger juice (sipped through a PASTA STRAW, we love environmentally friendly alternatives), you can’t (vegan) beat it.

Saturday followed a similar sequence- we wandered around the city, finding hidden nooks and artistic shops and overpriced cappuccinos (living in Italy has truly spoiled me). We found a plethora of stray cats sitting in shops, street corners, and ancient artifacts (they own the place). Athens is truly unreal.

A breathtaking experience we had was sitting under a heat lamp on the roof of a restaurant, drinking red wine, and gazing at the lit up Acropolis. This experience is offered at many restaurants around the city, the higher you climb the better the view, and I strongly suggest you do it if you visit.

Sunday 

Starting Saturday, we became short term regulars at Harvest Coffee and Wine  (Aiolou 64 & Evripidou Athens, Greece 10559), eating eggs and pancakes for the first time in (what seems like) forever. Sunday started the same way as well.

After brunch, we walked to the National Archeological Museum.

*tip- First Sunday of the month museums have free entry!

This museum was PHENOMENAL, I’m gushing just writing about it. There is so much packed around every corner and around every shelf, ranging from Cycladic mini sculptures (with a super interesting, super sexist history), ancient pots and pans, and hundred of stone and bronze sculptures found underground and underwater. The exhibition that was on display at the time I visited was called “The Countless Aspects of Beauty.” I was so mesmerized by this exhibition. Here’s an excerpt from a statement that was at the beginning of the it:

“Enigmatic and charming, beauty as a concept captivates the human mind and accompanies it through the century. Appealing and pleasing to the senses, beauty is perceptible in the art of all periods, sealing with its constant alternations and its countless aspects the human creation.”

It consisted of four parts in attempts to unravel beauty; aesthetics aeterna, the beautiful and the desirable, focusing on the body, and the endless quest. It included sensual statues, vats of perfume form the antiquity period (apparently, they smelled like sweet, red wine), and pottery and paintings embellished with gold.

We then ventured to the Acropolis area and sat on a cliff perched above all of Athens, it was exactly how it sounds like it would be.

Moral of the blog: go to Athens, you will not be disappointed, you will feel like your life is a movie.

Thank you Athens, for making my last weekend trip one to blog (and dream) about.

Je ne parle pas français

Je ne parle pas français

For this weekend, I did not know enough French to say even the title. In fact, to write the title, I had to ask my friend to type out “I do not speak any French” in French (on that note, any complaints about translation can be directed to Laney Miller). Yet – while I may not have known a lick of French – I felt so much at home in Paris.

I spent this trip with two of my close friends: Morgan and Amanda. Inspired mostly by Beyonce’s hit song “Love on Top,” but also by a desire to visit one of the most magnificent cities in Europe, we set out to enjoy a weekend of adventures and crepes together in Paris.

Upon arrival, we all went straight to the most busy site in the city – the Eiffel Tower – so we could get our bearings and enjoy a crisp morning in the park. I always knew the Eiffel Tower was massive and imposingly beautiful, but I did not expect to be so stunned when we emerged from the Trocaderó stop of the Paris metro and saw the impressive building. We waited a little while underneath the structure and then made our ascent and peered out in wonder over our new home for the next three days. It seemed like Paris never ended, and we knew there was no way to explore all of its secrets but we decided to try our hardest.

That evening, knowing that the Louvre offers free entry to young European residents (for which, thanks to our staying in Rome, we qualified), we went to my new favorite museum. The Mona Lisa and Winged Victory were impressive, yes, but what struck me the most was how the Louvre was like an exhibit itself. The museum’s halls had been designed by countless different geniuses throughout the ages and thus even its ceilings and walls began to merge with the art it hosted. With the sound of Lorde in my head, I was mesmerized by what I saw. Afterwards, we sat down for some sweet crepes in the Latin quarter and walked past Notre Dame on our way home. Totally casual.

Saturday morning, we made our way outside of the city to Versailles. Or, at least, we tried to. Turns out the three of us were not as good at navigating as we thought. Nevertheless, despite hours of confusion and chaos, we ended up at Versailles and ate our baguette and brie while waiting in line to the humor of all those around us. The Hall of Mirrors, Louis XIV’s bedroom, and the Gardens at Versailles were tremendous and gorgeous, but in truth its grandeur did not at all compare to the laughter we shared tucked away in the gardens over a bottle of Merlot.

After Versailles, we returned to Paris and journeyed to a Digital Art gallery that I had heard about – L’Atelier des Lumières. While normally hosting an exhibit on Klimt, L’Atelier was instead showing an exhibit on nature and society on Earth called Terra Magnifica. In truth, it ended up being much more stirring than Klimt’s artwork would have been. We discussed our thoughts as well as our favorite moments of the trip so far that night over escargot and other French cuisine. I had realized finally that, after years of making fun of the French language, Paris was one of the most comfortable and yet exciting places I had ever visited. I simultaneously felt at home and constantly driven to explore more of the city.

We had purposefully planned very little for Sunday and soon found ourselves wandering through the streets of Paris in search of its gems. We eventually found a few truly hidden ones (like Breakfast in America – look it up!) as well as some better known ones (Shakespeare in Company, Les Catacombes). All of Sunday’s adventuring was fun and relaxing (at least, our pit-stop in Luxembourg Gardens was), but my favorite moment was when we were sitting in a small – A. Lacroix – with Amanda and Morgan and listening to the ringing bells of Notre Dame over macaroons and coffee. Paris felt like mine in that moment; it felt like Paris had decided to share those aforementioned secrets with me.

Fall Break 2018 Recap- A Beginners Guide To Country Hopping (& Spontaneous Finds)

Fall Break 2018 Recap- A Beginners Guide To Country Hopping (& Spontaneous Finds)

Ciao, Hello, Hallo, Ahoj!

Fall break was an overwhelmingly amazing 10 day spread of European travel– and I’m here to dive into ALL of it (or as much of it as I can):

1st Stop- 4 days in London

London, London, London! What to say about London! One of the gloomiest autumn cities, but also one of the most gorgeous autumn cities I’ve ever seen in my LIFE. My first day in London was dedicated to no other than the classics: London Eye, Big Ben (although my view of Big Ben was his clock peering through construction pipes, but I saw him nonetheless), palaces, parks, oh my! I recommend skipping entry fees and just observing the feeling of the areas (unless your a Royal family fanatic, then by all means)– the London eye/bridge was hustling and bustling and, in my opinion, drinking mulled wine from a food truck and walking around was almost better than waiting in insanely long lines to get on the eye.

While all of the touristy stuff is good fun, London is GIANT, and there’s so many things to do all over the city.

What to definitely NOT miss in London is the markets. They’re phenomenal. And while I didn’t get a chance to visit all of them, the one’s I did visit were instantly some of my favorite spots. Here’s my top 2:

  1. Camden Market (CAMDEN LOCK PLACE, LONDON NW1 8AF)

Camden Market has over 1,000 shops ranging from dried fruit earrings to killer Chinese food. My venture to Camden Market was on a rainy morning- and I think it made my experience better. The market is both indoors and outdoors, with the best handmade goods, thrift shops, and food vendors. The market surrounds a canal that gives boat rides which makes it unbelievably picturesque, and regardless what spot you reside in Camden Market, you’re going to have an amazing time.

*Tip– If you walk to Camden Market, theres a block of touristy shops that say “Camden Market’ above them- but that is NOT the market. You will see the canal and the black sign saying “CAMDEN MARKET COME IN WE’RE OPEN.” It clearly looks like a structured building and it’s hard to miss!

2.   Borough Market (8 Southwark St, London SE1 1TL)

Borough Market- oh my god. If you’re not hungry when you walk in here, you instantly will be. This is a food market with both hot, prepared food and packaged food to take home (I came for lunch and was not disappointed). An amazing part about Borough is that almost every vendor wants you to try their product- It’s like, fancy London Costco. I was handed seafood paella, a steamed mussel, copious amounts of cheese, truffle honey, etc. It was a dream. My lunch was toast topped with sautéed mushrooms (simmering in a giant vat of butter) with herbs and parmesan cheese and a piece of roasted cheese- I’m drooling thinking about it.

My motto for London, and every other place I visit, is to walk EVERYWHERE and honestly, not plan a dang thing. Of course, if you have spots you can’t miss, make a note to visit (reference to touristy London spots/markets- because it’s almost necessary to go), but not having a crazy scheduled day leaves you with the best gift you can have while traveling: the opportunity to stumble upon amazing things.

AMAZING THINGS I STUMBLED UPON IN LONDON-

  1. Steve Carell and Timothy Chalamet (you heard me)

Upon the realization that I was in London the same as the BFI London Film Festival (contact jbenkelman@luc.edu if you ever need research on a city), I made loose plans to be in the same area and possibly see a film. Long story short- I was standing about 2 feet from the Beautiful Boy red carpet and got stand by tickets to the premier. Truly didn’t feel like real life. Truly proved my motto to be true.

2. Crazy good breakfast spots-

Staying in Bloomsbury gifted me with some stellar spots to start my day (easily accessible if you aren’t in Bloomsbury!)-

  • Ginger Jules (Gordon Square Garden Kiosk, London WC1H 0PD, England) $

Ginger Jules reminds me of a little woodland fairy house with the best gingerbread coconut chai i’ve ever tasted in my life.  It’s a little garden kiosk in Gordon Sqaure, an old spot for famous writers, and when you walk up to the counter early in the morning you get smells of baked goods and sights of pre-lunch homemade soup preparation. It is vegetarian and vegan friendly and has a large supply of alt. milks (being a coconut milk enthusiast, I was over the moon). Due to the feeling of sipping a coffee and eating carrot cake in a leafy, earthy area, I became a short-lived regular. Let’s just say I will be dreaming of Ginger Jules.

  • Half Cup (100-102 Judd st, London WC1H 9NT, United Kingdom) $$

Half Cup is nestled on a side street near Tavistock Square, and usually has a line out the door. However, have no fear, because while you wait for breakfast you can sip something warm from the coffee bar (charcoal latte, maple chai, or caffe americano anyone?). Both the indoor and outdoor seating is unbelievably cozy, and the food matches the mood. You can feast on traditional english breakfast or, my new favorite, parma ham pancakes (a short-stack of ham, pancake, and gooey cheese topped with a sunny side up egg). A little pricey, but worth it.

3. Primark

Primark is just, simply, the place to be.

Overall, London was jam-packed with good food, long walks, and amazing finds. I cannot wait to return.

2nd Stop- 2 days in Amsterdam 

*Tip- to save money, book overnight busses to different countries (one less night in a hotel/hostel, no plane costs). It may result in a sore back, but hey, it gets you there.

After 14 hours on bus, I arrived to sunny, smiling Amsterdam. Amsterdam is probably the most crazy beautiful place I’ve ever been. Even the best pictures of Amsterdam don’t do it justice. It was a tucked away haven of bikes, bridges, and leafy plants all rolled into one breathtaking city.

My time in Amsterdam was very museum-heavy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I visited the Anne Frank House, the Van Gogh museum, and the museum of prostitution in the red light light district. If you can only squeeze in one of the three, I recommend the Van Gogh museum, due to the fact that it’s so big, so worth the entrance fee, and located in a museum campus (the museum lives right next to the modern art museum, so if you have a free moment and are in the area, you can check that out too!). It’s all around a wonderful area to walk around in after you visit. Also, the Van Gogh museum cafe provided me with zucchini, pea, and leek soup, and it most definitely changed the game of soup for me.

WHAT I RECOMMEND YOU TRY IF YOU STUMBLE ACROSS IT IN AMSTERDAM- 

  1. Boat cruise! Boat cruise! Boat cruise!

20 euros for over an hour drinking wine and cruising around Amsterdam- you truly can’t beat it. Amazing for architecture, amazing for meeting people, amazing for feeling like you are the royalty of Amsterdam.

2. Mini dutch pancakes w/ nutella

I don’t care where you get them. Find them. Devour them. They’re delicious.

3. Omelegg (Ferdinand Bolstraat 143, 1072 LH Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

The perfect breakfast spot. It’s nestled on a cobblestone street minutes from the city center and has the coziest feel inside. Build your own omelets are the thing to get; they’re soft and fluffy and come with salad and a huge piece of toast.

4. Try some sort of lemonade or iced tea

It looks like water, it’s weirdly clear, but it’s so good? How do they do it?

My biggest tip for Amsterdam is to explore outside the city center. Dam Square and it’s surroundings are sights to see for sure, but the outskirts are easily just as charming and are laced with beautiful parks and cutely curated shops. Don’t limit yourself just to the main part of the city!

3rd stop- 2 days in Prague

13 hours in a bus go by and I arrive in Prague, or should I call it, Christmas town. Prague was seriously a magical wonderland. You could look out from any point on St. Charles bridge an see the most breathtaking landscape of warm orange trees. It was a pleasure just to look around in Prague– the air was crisp, there was an old, charming man playing accordion basically everywhere you went, and little street vendors with homemade art and jewelry decorated the town. It was the coziest place in the world without even trying; it was naturally warm and fuzzy. If you stay in the city center you are bound to find a plethora of things to do: boat rides that give you gingerbread and hot chocolate (I told you, Christmas town), gorgeous chapels that give organ concerts, market places galore (market place = chimney donuts = the place to be), weird museums (there is both a torture museum AND a medical torture museum, in case ‘torture museum’ wasn’t specific enough) and tucked away coffee shops. It’s just, a dream. I’m almost convinced Prague isn’t even real and I created it in my mind.

MY FAVORITE MOMENTS IN PRAGUE-

  1. Swans

SWANS. ALL OVER THE PLACE. There’s a spot on the water where swans and other birds just flock to greet you (or eat your food). It’s absolutely wild- bring some bread or veggies if you go.

*Quick info on the Czech swans- they are so comfortable with humans due to their displacement and the destruction of their homes. They now rely on humans to sustain them, they don’t have natural resources for food or living space. While this is an exciting attraction, it also brings light to the anthropogenic impact we have on wildlife. If you go, bring food for them because they now rely on it (no processed goods, please) and remain conscious that these birds no longer have permanent homes because of us.

2. Gingerbread houses

There are little huts of baked goods hiding all over Prague– they have mulled wine, hot chocolate, and gingerbread and coconut and chocolate treats! Quite possibly the best snack to have in Christmas town.

3. “Fun Explosive”

This is a brand that is sold in many stores in Prague. It has the cutest, funkiest prints. If you are looking for souvenirs or something cool to remember your trip, I highly recommend. Buy a t-shirt, tote bag, stickers, or all of the above!

4. Look around you!

I cannot stress this enough. Stick your head around, snoop a little, find breathtaking spots to take in for a moment. There is a boat dock near St. Charles bridge that you can’t get to, but there’s a lookout perched above it, and it looks like a painting. There is so much architectural and natural peace in Prague. I highly suggest you find it.

 

Fall break, London, Amsterdam, Prague,  you will be missed. Beans for breakfast and 14 hour bus rides, you will not be missed.

Borough Market in the fall, London
St. Charles bridge, Prague
Bikes&boats, Amsterdam
Boat cruise (aka living the height of luxury), Amsterdam
Ginger Jules, London!
Hidden gingerbread hut in Prague!
Timothee Chalamet, London
Amsterdam, looking stunning as always.
Sweet swans, Prague