Monday, May 23, 2011

As Lenny Kravitz once told me, "It Ain't Over Till It's Over"

it just happened. unexpectedly out of no where. i was looking through all of my tagged facebook pictures and went all the way back to our first night at peter pan. it FINALLY just hit me that we are not there anymore. i dont know if i was in denial that the whole semester ever happened, or was so much forwarned that i was going to be depressed about coming back that i told myself not to be, but all of those thoughts just let go.... and were released.... and it hit me. like a sack full of stolen glasses of beer from mimo.

i want to scream right now like macaulay culkin in home alone...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5CSBZz3eOI

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What I've Learned

It's not where you are, it's who you're with.

Be positive.

Resilience is a virtue.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mom & D Come to Visit!!!

Mom and D just left.... big sad face.  Just had the most wonderful week ever with them in Lugano and Venice!  I LOVE YOU MOM!  I LOVE YOU AUNT D!  Can't wait to reunite again in 4 days.

Feeling expressive and going to write a little more...

I am so excited to be reunited with my home country.... AMERICA.  You don't know how many times over the past 4 months I've told people I'm from DC and have them say OOH AMERICA!  Now I'm the one "ooh-ing."  I land in Dulles at 3:08 pm and I am ecstatic!  Hopefully the whole fam will be there to pick me up (I want to see them all at once and cannot wait).  It has been too longg!  I can never leave them again for that long... ever.  My body is going to feel like it is 10 o'clock at night when I pull into the driveway of 2803 Winter Oaks Way, and I am probably going to feel like passing out after traveling for 15 hours, but I'm going to need to grab a Starbucks and stay up.  I can't decide where I'm most excited to go first.  I will definitely explore my house for a while and play the "what is different since the last time I was here" game (always fun on Thanksgiving and winter breaks).  Then I will probably enjoy a nice delicious home cooked meal.  In my warm cozy house.

I am so happy that I arrive on a Friday and will have the whole weekend to hang with the fam!  Tuesday I'm planning on heading down to tech to visit my favorite friends in the world.  I'm stopping by JMU on the way down to grab lunch at e-hall with Nats...yay!!

Red, white, and blue baby.  Ohhhh say can you see.

Alicante

Valencia

Barcelona

Monday, March 14, 2011

Budapest

Praha

Second stop - Prague!  I didn't know too much about Prague before visiting, other than it was one of Casey's favorite cities and they have a 5 story club.

Our hostel was soo nice, the nicest one we stayed in.  So clean and new and more like a hotel.  They had a fancy bar right off of the reception with guitars on the walls that had signs next to them saying you could play.  There was a huuuge projection screen TV

Berlin

Our second 10 day break we decided to travel throughout Eastern Europe.  Our three locations were Berlin, Prague, and Budapest - the capitals of Germany, the Czech Republic, and Hungary.


First stop March 5... Berlin!


We got there Friday night around dinner time, grabbed some kebobs/falafels and then played flip cup in our hostel bar all night.


Saturday morning we got a relatively early start and headed to the Pariser Platz to begin our 4 hour walking tour.  Luckily, there was a Starbuck's in the square... heaven!  Also in the square was Hotel Adlon, the hotel where Michael Jackson precariously dangled his baby out the window in 2002.


The first building we saw on our tour was the Brandenburg Gate, which was the former city gate and one of the main symbols of Berlin and Germany.  It is the only remaining gate of a series through which Berlin was once entered.  We walked past the Reichstag buildling, historical edifice constructed to house the Reichstag parliament of the German Empire, and then went to see the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.  It was a very different memorial, designed by an architect and engineer, Peter Eisenman and Buro Happold.  It consisted of 4.7 acres of 2,711 concrete slabs arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field.  The slabs all vary in height, designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere - representing the ordered system that has lost touch with human reason.  This was one theory our tour guide told us regarding the reason behind the design, but Eisenman stated that his memorial represents a radical approach to the traditional concept of a memorial, by not including any symbolism.  Below the memorial is an Information Center that holds the names of all the known Jewish Holocaust victims, obtained from the Israeli museum Yad Vashem.

We saw the site of Hitler's Former Bunker, and walked down the street where he once lived... creepy.  The Famous Berlin Wall was next.  It was a dirty graffiti filled never ending concrete slab with chunks breaking off and internal metal rods showing through.  It's crazy how new the history is in this city - the wall began being constructed in 1961 and fell in 1989, just one year before I was born.

We saw the former SS Headquarters, Checkpoint Charlie (the name given by the Western Allies to the best known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War), the gorgeous Gendarmenmarkt square where the French and German Cathedrals lie, and the Bebelplatz - site of the infamous Nazi book burning ceremony in 1933 where around 20,000 books, including works by Thomas Mann, Erich Maria Remarque, Geinrich Heine, Karl Mark and many other authors, were cremated.  Today, there is a memorial consisting of a glass window set into the cobblestone ground, giving a view of underground empty bookcases, commemorating the event.  Engraved into the ground in front of it says "Dort, wo man Bucher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen,"- "Where they burn books, they ultimately burn people."

We continued on to visit the Old Royal Boulevard, Neue Wache memorial, the TV Tower, and ended at Museum Island, named because of the five internationally renowned museums that occupy the island.  After a very informative tour through the cold, I ate a delicious bratwurst, and walked through the market where vendors were selling various types of artwork, clothing, hats, pictures, paintings, and sculptures.

Later in the evening we went to the coolest club called White Trash.  When you walked down the second set of stairs into the basement there was a dark underground smoky cave that had a DJ playing at the back and bright colored lights flashing everywhere.  The bartenders were behind a cage, and the place was packed.  Definitely one of my favorite nights abroad thus far.

Sunday morning a small group of us went to revisit the "cool" part of the Berlin Wall and see all of the artwork painted recently on top of it.  Our next stop was the Berlin Zoo, another one of my favorite stops so far.  They had every animal!  It was fun to see a German version of an American childhood favorite.  We walked next door to the Aquarium after and saw some legit underwater critters.

Other than the cold, Berlin was a great place to tour, visit, and go out.  Rich with so much relevant history that I could relate to, having occurred within my parents and grandparents generations.  I had a blast and would definitely go back.

Roma

Rome Rome Rome.  I loved Rome.

It was such a pleasant surprise to walk off the train and have beaaaautiful warm weather upon our arrival.  Our last visit to Italy (Florence) was quite the rain filled weekend, so it was nice to see a warmer side of the country.

Our first stop was the famous Sistine Chapel.  Located in the Vatican City, we trained over right after checking into our hostel.  The inside consisted of incredible architecture and wall paintings frescoed throughout by the greatest Renaissance artists.  We walked through the entire building which was more like a museum making our way to Michelangelo's famous ceiling painting, completed in 1512.  It was incredible.  All of the colors and detail put into the painting - it is hard to believe it was completed in only four years.

That night we had fun in the bar in our hostel, then decided to head across the street to grab some dinner.  Ashley and I walked in then decided we just really wanted pizza so we went back out and across the street to a pizza place we had gone to earlier in the day.  We had some fun making pizza with the chefs in the back and things got pretty aggressive.  The night ended shortly after and we went back to our Yellow Hostel next door to call it a night.

In the morning we woke up and went to see the Colosseum.  We got off the train, walked up from under ground and BAM it was right there, the huge, semi circle, stone, fortress.  We were attacked by faux gladiators on our way in and then decided to join a tour group to see the inside.  It was huuuge!  Everything seems so much bigger in real life.  I really enjoyed the Colosseum.  We learned that back in the day when the gladiator fights used to go on there they would let huge lions, tigers, cheetahs, rhinos, and other large animals loose within the colosseum to run around and kill people for the upper class's entertainment.  Scary to imagine.  Palatine Hill, Roman ruins, Trevi Fountain, Roman Forum, and Spanish Steps were next.  We had lunch at a cute little cafe.  Shared a moment with our waiter, got gelato, and went home to get ready for the night.

After wandering the Roman streets we stumbled upon a Colosseum Crawl and partook in the events.  We began with some sketchy shots in an alley... then went to two dance clubs.

Sunday morning we enjoyed lunch outside with a surprise visit from some Sig Eps from home, Brian, Judd, and Broughten, in the Campo De Fiore, then hopped on train back to Lugano.  Successful weekend, and Rome might be my favorite Italian city!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Paree

Paris!  The City of Lights and the City of Love.  And a lot of it.  Especially Valentine's Day weekend.  Upon our arrival to the dirty yet classy Parisian city, we made our way to a little cafe for a real parlez-vous francais dinner.  I split the the best appetizer, or shall I say hors d'oeuvre, and salad with Megan.  The platter consisted of a bunch of different kinds of meats and cheeses, olives (which I now love), tomatoes, and some other mystery items which were delicious.  After dinner it was dark out, and we decided to go see the Eiffel!  We took a train and got off at about 11:53.  Right when we got out we could see the tip of the 1,000 foot tall Tower.  It was beautiful!  I could not believe that I was standing right there, in Paris, and the Eiffel Tower was right in front of me before my eyes.  We started walking closer and more and more of the Tower began to unveil.  When the clock struck midnight, right on cue, the entire building began to sparkle.  It was almost as if the Tower knew we were coming and was greeting us with a big show.  We later found out that it lights up every hour on the hour at night...

Friday we woke up around 10 and went with everyone on the walking tour.  This was the day where I ate everything French in sight.  It began with 3 croissants by the fountain at St. Michel.  I love the french accent.  The way everyone said "Meeshell" and "bonshjjjour!"  Anyway, three croissants and three minutes later, we made our way to the Notre Dame.  After Ashley got a picture of me hunching my back over in front of it and dodging people pretending to be deaf trying to get us to sign their petitions saying that we would give them 20 euro, we went inside.

The Catholic Cathedral, considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, had flying buttresses on the outside, and beautiful stained glass on the inside.  Ashley and I blessed ourselves with holy water upon departure.

We continued on to see the Pont Neuf bridge, the Latin Quarter, the Louvre, Palais Royal (which was like an architectural fun zone with giant silver balls, black and white striped stumps coming out of the ground), the Tuileries Gardens, Les Invalides, the Academie Francaise, Opera Garnier, Pont Alexandre III, the Assemble Nationale, Champs-Elysees, the Place de la Concorde, my favorite to pronouce - Zi Arccccc de TriOMPHEEE, and ended at the Grand and Petit Palais.  So many cool buildings and statues everywhere.

After the tour Ashley and I were exhausted and ran to the Esplanade des Invalides (French for, really green field) and passed out.  It was so nice to just drop all of our bags, purses, jackets, glasses, and just lay for a second looking at the sky and remember where we were.

Oh I didn't finish telling you guys what I ate.  Quiche for lunch, ham and cheese crepe for snack, fried donut stuffed with chocolate for another snack.

Our next stop was the ferris wheel at the end of Champs-Elysees.  I don't remember the last time I rode one, but it was definitely nothing comparable to the view of Paris surrounding me.

We headed back over to the Louvre to go see the Mona Lisa.  The Louvre has definitely been my favorite architectural building so far in Europe.  It is so unusual and modern looking like something out of the movie Inception.  Or like a glass office building fell and crashed and is half under ground.  I saw Mona!!  And the Venus de Milo (famous ancient Greek statue).

Croque-monsieur for dinner and a chocolate crepe to wash it down.

Saturday morning we got to sleep in, then went to see the Musee d'Orsay.  I saw original paintings from two of my favorite artists; Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet.  This was my favorite museum in Europe!  I enjoyed being able to recognize work from artists that I was already familiar with and love.

Later in the evening Ashley and I went to go see an act by Olivier Giraud titled "How to Become Parisian in One Hour," at the Theatre de la Main d'Or.  It was a suggestion made by our tour guide, but I guess we were the only two interested in going, because within the audience of almost 300 people, we were the only two Americans.  I anticipated the act being a semi-tourist type of deal where they taught American's how to act more Parisian while visiting the city.  However, the skit was the complete opposite of a touristy event.  A little hole in the wall place located in a little hidden alley, Ashley and I walked back and forth past the street the theatre was on a couple of times trying to find it.  We felt like such fancy locals.  Giraud was hilarious and literally had me cracking up in my seat, dying laughing.  He was semi mocking people from all over, both the tourists who come to visit Paris, and the stereotype snobby French themselves.  At the end I was called up on stage, completely caught off guard, to perform a few of the lessons he taught us.  It was such a fun experience and I'm so so glad we went.

As if the night couldn't get any better, we went back to the Eiffel Tower, but this time to go up!  We waited in line for forever surrounded by couples smooching, then took the elevator up to the halfway point and got out to check a looksy.  We then proceeded to go alllll the way to the tippy top.  It was incredible!  I looked down on the baby ferris wheel I had rode the day before, thinking I had such a great view of the city, and that was nothing.  It looked tiny!  We were so so high up.

Overall, first ten day break was a success.  We visited some amazing cities.  It's hard to say between Dublin and Paris which was my favorite - Paris there was so many famous sights to see, Dublin there were so many drinks to be drank.  And London had a little bit of both.

Since then, I've been to Rome and Venice.  I cannot believe that we already leave for our second ten day break in two days!

I dyed my hair yesterday.  It's really dark right now, so I'm hoping it will fade a little.  But my roots are gone!  Wahoo.  Oh yeah, and Madeline and I gave Jillian a haircut today.  About halfway through with our trip - time for a little maintenance.

Love and miss everyone back home SOO MUCH!

Shout out to you Anna Klele - Happy 22nd!

xoxo

What I looked like in Paris: (copy & paste)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4T7b5mxniU

London

So Monday morning we woke up and hopped on another flight to our next destination, London.  Our first stop upon arrival in the UK was Chipotle.  The Londoners have Chipotle and they might even do it better than we do.  They had the option of brown rice.  Yum.

After getting our Chipotle fix we explored the area and wondered around trying to find tickets to see Wicked!  We navigated our way to the Apollo Victoria Theatre circa 7:00 and watched a great performance.  I had no idea what the musical was about going into it, so I was on the edge of my seat the entire time.  The cast was amazing, the songs were perfect, the lighting and scenery really came alive.  Everything was so green, magical, and wicked.

That night was Tyler's 21st so everyone met up at O'Neills in the Covent Garden area.  There was a live band who played some great tunes and we all sung and danced in the VIP band groupie section until it was  time to head home.

Tuesday Ash and took the tube to the Wellington Arch to explore and take a walking tour of the city.  We went to Buckingham Palace where the changing of the guard takes place, took some pictures with them, saw the the House of Parliament, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster Abbey (where Prince William and Kate Middleton will be wed April 29), Trafalgar Square (my favorite), the one-eyed, one-armed, one-testicled, Nelson's Column, and finally, Big Ben!

We stayed out all day and went back to Trafalgar Square at night.  It is a huge square with fountains, where Nelson's Column is found surrounded by four huge lion statues.  I tried to climb up on one of them (saw people doing it earlier in the day) but was not completely successful.  We walked over a bridge that overlooked some river and it was beautiful.  There were turquoise lights coming from a building in the distance reflecting down onto the water.

We walked past Buckingham Palace all lit up, did some cartwheels to the tube, and headed back to our hostel.  We went back out shortly after with our German roomie, Nico, and after struggling to find a place to grab a drink, finally found Shakespeare's Head near Westminster in Soho.

Wednesday we went to see the Tower of London; Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress.  The Tower has served variously as an armory, treasury, menagerie, the home of the Royal Mint, a public records office, and currently the home of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.  Executions were more commonly held in the notorious Tower Hill; 112 occurring there over a 400 year period.  It was really neat to see where all these crazy royal things went down back in the day.  When we walked out from inside the Tower, which was more of a castle, we saw the gorgeous Tower Bridge.  Much more artsy and aesthetically pleasing to look at than any bridges that I have seen in the U.S.  Across from that was the very anti climatic London Bridge.  I guess it's history represents more than it's looks, because it was not all the songs make it up to be.

Ashley and I stopped by the British Museum that was right around the corner from where we were staying on our way back.  It was HUGE, containing more than 7,000,000 objects.  We checked out exhibits on Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Ancient Rome.  Next we went to a delish Indian restaurant and ordered samosas, naan, raita, and chicken masala (Natalie - I smelt great after).  We club crawled with Lugano friends after din.  Went to Oxygen and then a club that we could not afford where Keira Knightley made an appearance right before our arrival.

Thursday morning, another city here and gone.  Next stop, Paris...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dublin

Hey y'all!

Betcha missed me.  Just lounging in the Montarina currently and have to update you all about our first 10 day trip.

We started with a nice flight to Dublin.  When we arrived it was unexpectedly windy and a little rainy but so Ireland.  Our first stop was the Guinness Factory.  We did a taste testing of a variety of different types of Guinness.  I was not expecting to enjoy the thick black beer, but I did!  It was so good.  We learned from professional Guinness pourers how to pour the perfect glass of Guinness, and then toured the museum to see exactly how the brew is made.  When we were done we went up to the Gravity Bar on the top floor and enjoyed a glass on the house.  Oh!  And I just found out the Guinness factory is a seven floor building shaped like a giant pint of Guinness...neato.  After a few more drinks we were STARVING so we headed to dinner.  I got fish & chips and they were out of this world.

Saturday morning we woke up and went on our standard free tour of the city.  We saw the Dublin Castle, Dubh Linn, Viking remains, Christ Church Cathedral, National Library, Temple Bar Area, Ha'Penny Bridge, Trinity College, Leinster House, and ended at St. Stephen's Green.  During the tour Ashley and I ran into a pub at the Temple Bar to check out what this Dublin pub scene was all about.  We were quickly acquainted with a bachelor party and told the boys we'd be back to Gogarty's (name of the bar) after our tour.  We got irish coffees at a coffee shop, had a disgusting chinese lunch, and then headed back.  When we arrived, Diana, Carla, Jess, Katie, and Madeline had met our friends and were there with them.  We spent the remainder of our day in that bar, listening to live music, drinking Guinness and baby Guinness shots (Kahlua and Bailey's Irish cream), singing, laughing, and dancing.  Five hours later we went on a little pub crawl of our own, met up with Tyler, and heard some live music playing from inside another bar.  We went in to go check it out and it was the perfect way to end the night.

Sunday morning we woke up at the bright early hour of 6:30 am to take a day trip to Galway.  Four hours later we were finally there.  Our bus driver was hilarious, and managed to make the bus ride from hell a little entertaining.  We spent the day frolicking around the rolling green hills of Ireland and looking for leprechauns and fairies.  The Cliffs of Moher were awesome, huuge huge cliffs overlooking the Atlantic.  I got a claddagh ring in the gift shop, and then we headed home.

We watched Superbowl Sunday in yet another pub and then called it a night.

Pretending to study for 2 tests we have tomorrow so I'll update ya on the rest later!

Ciao!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Just Another Day in Paradise

Currently working on our first group final project for Consumer Behavior, due tomorrow.  This first class flewww by.  We also had our first exam for Italian this morning.  It consisted of a 1 page fill in the blank questionnaire and then we each had a conversation in Italian with our Professor, Magda.  My kind of exam!

Walked back from class today with Ashley and stopped by Migros and Manor to get some goodies for the weekend and ate the most delicious lunch.  We stopped at our usual balcony to look over and see the sparkling Lake Lugano, huge mountains, palm trees, little houses, and the whole charming city.  Whenever we pass it Ashley says "wait, can we just stop for a minute to take this all in?" and then usually follows it with "I still don't feel like we're in Europe."  A month later, still hard to believe we are actually here.

Yesterday I took a different route home than normal and ran up the BIG stairs that start down by the lake.  I counted them, naturally (265).

It's 50 and sunny right now.  Enjoying this beautiful weather, going to finish this group proj, then packing for our first 10 day break!

See you soon leprechauns, Kate Middleton, and Eiffel Tower!

Thanks Ash :)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Firenze

Too many laughs.  Fell asleep cracking up with Ashley last night and plan on doing so again tonight.

Florence, Firenze, Florencia (what I called it all weekend).  Cool. COOL!  I loved it.  Our adventure began on Friday when we arrived at the Milan train station.  We finally learned that when the website says you need to make a train reservation, you should.  We thought that we could pretend we didn't know we needed one and that would be okay.  It wasn't :/ Jillian, Wes, Whitney, David, and I sat in the little connector lobby between the two trains for the duration of our ride enjoying a nice aperitivo (box wine & pringles).  Right before getting off at our stop, the ticket checker/flight attendant asked to see our train reservations.  When we told him we didn't have any, he charged us 18 Euro each.  BLAH!  And we thought we were sly foxes...

Anyway, we next arrived at our hostel, Plus, and did the usual check in thing.  When we were all ready we headed to Kitsch for another aperitivo.  When we walked in they had the most exotic looking buffet that looked so delicious and I secretly hoped that's what we were getting.  When we sat down and ordered a drink, we were informed that the buffet came with it... :-D This guy/bar promoter we met when we checked in to our hostel somehow ended up at the same place as us and told us of this bar crawl he knew about going on, so we decided to check it out.

Out first stop was the House of Sizzle.  It was so fun.  Free champagne was flowin', familiar music was playing, friends were everywhere.  We even ran into some Tech friends who were studying abroad in Florence.  A little later in the bar area where we were Barbra Streisand, by Duck Sauce, Ashley and I's favorite song, came on.  I HAD to find her so we could scream WOOO I LOVE THIS SONG!!! together and listen to it so I started looking around but she was no where in sight.  I ran into the other area of the House, where huge jugs of bright colored drinks with 4 foot long straws stood, and saw Ashley on stage singing karaoke ...o... When she was done I jumped on stage and joined her to sing Party in the USA - but we changed the words to Party in Florence It-a-ly.  We bar hopped to a few more stops until we were exhausted and decided to head home.

Saturday morning we woke up bright and early to tour the city.  We saw the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore - their Duomo, and walked to the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge).  It was so Italian - really felt like I was in Italy!  On the bridge there were shops and houses all lined up in a row.  Yellow, tan, pink, gold, salmon, cream buildings with turquoise and dark brown shutters.  I love all of the colors!  We stopped by one shop and got some gorgeous bracelets (thanks Anna!).  And then I got a belgium waffle with nutella spread on top.  It was magnifico!  I feel like I am Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love just trying and eating everything I want.  Ashley tell me if I get fat.  :-X

After walking around and seeing the market with tons of leather, purses, boots, jackets, a carousel (which I really wanted to ride on, but just took a picture of instead), a million statues, the gorgeous Arno River that the Ponte Vecchio sits over, venders on the streets trying to sell you anything and everything, and funny human statues, we went to The Galleria dell' Accademia where Michelangelo's David stands. We first walked in and saw original paintings dating all the way back to the 1400s.  It was incredible to see artwork from that long ago!  CREW: I ran into BEN CERNY (from Crossfield) in this section of the museum.  Crazy.  When we turned the corner low and behold there he was - THE DAVID!  So bright and pure with lights shining on him, the huge statue was amazing!

Saturday night we got ready, and headed downstairs to the hostel bar.  Ashley spilled a cup of wine on her lap and disappeared to go clean it up :-O *never to be seen again*

We made our way to Space Electronic Night Club and it was pretty futuristic.  The bar counter was a fish tank.  But that's all I will mention about that (Ashley was a little sad she didn't quite make it :/ )

Sunday morning we had quite the ordeal checking out of our hostel, walking to the train station, trying to get train reservations, realizing I left my Eurail pass and Passport in the hostel, going back to get it, going back to make the reservation, and finally, hopping on the train to go home, all before 1 pm.

I really loved Florence!  My 2nd favorite city so far.

The daily countdown for dinner has officially ended... buon appetito for us!

Pictures to come...love and miss you all!!!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

München



Wow!  What an incredible weekend!!!!!

Almost all 43 of us left on Friday to take over Munich, Germany.  We left Lugano at 4:30 pm and had a nice 6 1/2 hour train ride ahead of us with 2 transfers.  When we were finally on our last third of the trip, Caroline suggested some games for us to play and they turned into competitions, and then eventually "Carolympics."  We had the whole train watching, laughing, and even participating with us.  Smize.

When we arrived at our hostel, Wombats, it turned out that everyone, except for Ashley and I, had accidently booked their rooms for the weekend before.  Wombats was completely filled for the night, so they all decided to go check to see if there was any room at the place next door, while Ashley and I went up to our room, 101 (dalmations) to get ready for the night.  Our room was a "mixed co-ed 6 person dorm," and when we walked in there was a bunch of boy stuff everywhere but no one in site.  We got ready and made our way down to the Wombar.

We heard the girls had gotten a room at the place right next to ours so we ran over there, just in time to celebrate Carla's 21st at midnight!  We were told by locals to go to the "Milchbar" and that is exactly what we did.  Beer in Germany is cheaper than water in Switzerland.  We made friends with everyone we met and it was a great first night to the best weekend!

When I woke up at 7 am to go to the bathroom, I heard Ashley saying "Michelle.....Michelle...Shelly,"  and saw four unknown males in our room.  Surprise!  I went over to Ashley's bunk and she informed me that she hadn't fallen asleep yet and didn't know what to do.  I told her to count sheep and her breaths and hopped back in bed for another 3 hours.  When I woke up again, there she was, still awake.  Our roommates were so funny, three from Whales and one from some part of northern Germany I could never understand him saying.  The room was full of accents and was hilarious.  Ashley was delirious, I was starving, so I went downstairs to get breakfast with the boys while she tried to sleep some more.

When we came back up Ashley was STILL awake, but we decided she had to push through it and we had to get up and tour Munich.  Robin, our German roommate decided to come with us and we all left to head to the Marienplatz, main square, where the New and Old Town Halls both stand.  Sure enough we found a free tour group and jumped right in to explore the city.  Our tour guide was amazing.  She had the perfect way of engaging everyone in all of her knowledge about the the extremely historic city we walked through.  We saw the Rathaus-Glockenspiel which performs at 11 am and 12 noon daily.  Our tour was at 1 so we didn't get to see it, but Stacey, the tour guide, gave us a pretty authentic acted out version of her interpretation of the whole thing.

We next saw the Munich Church, Hofbrähaus, many statues, the concrete wall where Hitler's plaque used to be nailed to, memorials to the Holocaust, stopped to buy a thicker pair of socks, ate a bratwurst, and found a Starbuck's!  Everything was so rich with history and information that I had only ever read in high school textbooks.  It was so cool to see everything first hand; the actual memorials, churches, and buildings.  It makes it so much more memorable and meaningful.  I'm so interested in everything and want to know more and learn about everything I possibly can.  I LOVE HISTORY!

We went back to our hostel after with Robin and napped.  Ashley's first sleep since Thursday night.  We woke back up and knew it was time to further check out the Hofbrähaus, a 400 year old beer hall - location Mozart used to go to back in the day, and where Hitler made a bunch of his infamous speeches.  It was just what you are picturing.  A huge hall with high ceilings, a live band playing German music, little German men and women all dressed up in official German dresses carrying boxes of pretzels and liters of beer everywhere, all around the HUGE haus.  It was a fun experience and good taste of German night life.

On Sunday morning we woke up and went to visit the Dachau Concentration Camp.  The entrance gate to this concentration camp carries the words "Arbeit macht frei," meaning "through work one will be free."  It was a pretty incredible and astonishing experience to learn so much about what actually happened there.  It was sicking yet eye opening and very informing to learn and see all of the horrific details.  Definitely an important site to visit, and something to be acknowledged and learned from.

When we got back we got lunch at a different beer haus and walked around enjoying the city.   The buildings and scenery have such a strong feel to them.  Everything looks so sturdy and powerful with tall gothic architecture.  All of the different shades of grey and brown buildings during the day, magically lit up at night.  Munich has definitely been my favorite city so far!

I went for the most epic run again yesterday.  Made it up the hill this time!

Back to Italy this weekend to visit Florence!  Trying to get through this hectic week.  We started Italian today.  Quiz tomorrow, midterm Thursday, then more travels!

Mi chiamo Michelle.  Buona notte.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Milano

Yesterday we went on a "field trip" to Milan, Italy!  Living in the southern most tip of Switzerland, Italy is just a short train ride away.  When we arrived, we walked up the steps of the metro and into piazza where the Duomo stood.  It was unbelievable.  Unlike any of the architecture I have seen so far in Europe, which makes sense considering it took 6 centuries to complete.  It is the largest Gothic cathedral and the second largest Catholic cathedral in the world!

Julien arranged for a local friend to give us a tour around the city.  We went to see a few famous statues, a huge castle, and then stopped for lunch at the most delicious place.  They served hot donut like pockets stuffed with tomato sauce and cheese and another with spinach and ricotta....YUM.  It melted in my mouth...and then I got another.  We walked down all the streets and saw the most high class fashion stores.  Ash and I used the bathroom in Armani.  We passed Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Michael Kors, Prada, Ferrari, Burberry, Versace, Marc Jacobs... no wonder it is called the "Fashion Capital of the World."

We split up and walked around for a little after, and a few of us found a dessert stand.  I tried a Nutella Crepe and the best gelato ever.  It was quite the experience ordering again.  I didn't know where to order, where to pay, where to eat after I had ordered and paid, and got told in Italian all of this not so nicely.  I'm still learning!  The boys got Heinekens and then we all met back up with the rest of the group.

Took a nice train ride home and called it a day!  I love this place.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Interlaken

Interlaken has come and gone!  Everything seems to be flying by so fast here.  It feels like I have been here for months, but it has only been less than 2 weeks!

We left for Interlaken right after class Friday and took a 4 1/2 hour train to our first hostel, Balmer's.  The ride was gorgeous!  Mountains, lakes, and a purple pink orange yellow sunset.  When we first got there we checked into our room and it was pretty much just what I expected...little beds everywhere in all angles and directions.  Our hostel had a club downstairs and that was our next stop.  Great happy hour... buy one get one free!  We met some hilarious Summer Heights High Australians and people from all over.  The night ended with the girls making our way back upstairs to our little German hostel and laughing with the 10 of us in the room and passing out.

Saturday we woke up and spent the day with our new Aussie friends.  We got lunch at a little cafe that had the best looking salad bar, but I couldn't afford it.  I got soup instead.  The Australians were so funny, I loved them so much...I hope I see them again later in life.  I'm going to go visit them in Australia.

After lunch we split off and Ashley, Jillian, and I went paragliding!  We were picked up from our hostel by a van filled with 7 German men.  Interlaken is in the German part of Switzerland so "Swiss-German" was the language spoken by mostly everyone.  We drove up a huge mountain and then got out and walked over to a grassy hill where they set up the parachutes and strapped us in.  Once I was strapped in with my "pilot" Tom, we ran down a hill and just jumped right off...into the air.  The parachute caught the wind and up we went, just floating around town.  The quote in the brochure says it perfectly "the proof of pure life."  Flying 4,400 feet above Interlaken was unreal!



Our day didn't end there.  Right after getting back our entire group decided to go night sledding.  When we got to the slopes I had no idea what to expect, but it was nothing like what I actually experienced.  We literally went soaring down the Alpiglen hills of the Swiss Alps.  It was Mario Kart 64's Flowercup second race, Frappe Snowland.  You could fall off the edges at any moment, into the dark deep unknown woods, but unlike Mario Kart, you would not be rescued right away and placed back on the course by a helicopter.  You were speeding down at star power going through anything that stood in your way, beneath the stars and mountains, down a windy slick narrow raceway.  The race ended at a restaurant and we were served authentic Swiss cheese fondue.  They gave us bread and potatoes to dip in it and it was kind of a disgusting dinner.  I basically ate a basket of bread and 4 potatoes.  Ashley got creative with her potatoes towards the end and started pouring sugar all over them and things got messy, but she ate them all.

Sunday we traveled home all day hopping from one train station to the next delirious and exhausted.  Interlaken was such a cool city.  It's unreal how you can travel just 4 hours north in Switzerland and move from a luxurious, wealthy, flashy, Swiss-Italian city, to a quiant, quiet, Hansel and Gretel, old-fashioned, Swiss-German city.  They are completely different but both part of the same small country of Switzerland.  It felt good when we finally got home and went out to our regular dining spot, Manora.


The wind is currently blowing our green shutters back and forth in room 13, in and out against our glass window...SPOOKY!  I just leaned out and screamed GOODNIGHT LUGANO!

We went to Milan today... I'll have to tell you about it later!

Bedtime now...

Goodnight Moon

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Monte San Salvatore

Hi!

Wow what a day.  The "hike" we went on was more of a treck up Mount Everest.  It was literally the most exhausting but exhilarating journey I've ever been on.  I couldn't feel my feet, I couldn't breath.  I was freezing and hot both at the same time.  We hiked for 7 hours... SEVEN!  When we finally got to the top it was overlooking all of Lugano and part of Italy and was beautiful!  Completely worth it.





Last night was a blast.  Our entire group walked down to the lake together after dinner to drink and play and Ashley and I split a bottle of wine.  We discovered that the clubs didn't open until midnight, so we had some time to kill, and Ashley and I spotted a Wine Bar across the way.  We snuck off together and walked inside and it was a much fancier restaurant than we thought!  They brought out appetizers and a basket of olive and tomato bread for us with our vodka tonics.  We ate anchovies.

The whole group went to a bar called New Orleans after and we salsa danced in the basement, then made our way to a discoteca, Tito's Place.  Ashley ran downstairs and jumped behind the DJ booth and started DJing with a big afro man.  The walls were made out of a couch.  There were glass cutouts in the ceiling where you could look up and see the people dancing upstairs.  There was a bathtub on the dance floor.  Mixed drinks were $19 francs.  It was so fun.  We pushed the birthday girl home in a shopping cart.





INTERLAKEN TOMORROW!

I miss all my deltas.  Can't believe I won't be there for recruitment!  Have so much fun!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Happy Hump Day

Well the first half of the week of classes is done and done!  We started Consumer Behavior on Monday and will continue with it for two weeks.

Yesterday we had class in the morning from 9-12.  We had stayed up pretty late the night before so I was exhausted after class and took a two hour nap.  We had a mini Italian lesson at 4, where Julien taught us some simple phrases to help us get around for the next couple of days.  Afterwards we went to the Irish Pub about a 20 minute walk away for a little "apperitivo".  I had the best beer ever, it was called Leffe and tasted like pumpkin pie.

The weather here is beautiful now!  Today during class we told Brinberg we were going out tonight to celebrate Caroline's birthday, and since the sun finally has come out, he decided to replace tomorrows class with a hike up San Salvatore in Lugano!

After class today, Jillian, Katie, and I decided to go for a run.  Little did I know, the path they chose to run on was straight up a hill.  When I could no longer breathe, they kept running, and I started walking, until I stumbled upon a playground full of babies and kids.  When I saw it I ran to this rope netted ladder and climbed to the top then jumped down.  By this point Jillian and Katie were ahead laughing and then got lost in the distance.  I roamed around a little neighborhood for a while and then went down to the main street and started walking home.  I used the lake and mountains as a guide to get me back, until I bumped into Ashley and a few other girls on a walk.  Ashley and I split off from the group and walked down a flight of about 100 stairs, and when we got to the bottom a little Louis Vuitton was waiting for us.  There was also Lake Lugano, and I went down to take a closer look and fell in.  My running shoes were soaking wet with algae all over them.

Looking forward to celebrating the first Lugano birthday tonight, Caroline Giaimo's 21st!  I'm hopping in the shower now, then dinner and drinking a bottle of wine down by the lake.

PS I tried Swiss chocolate and gelato...yum.

Ashley ate half a container of Nutella.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Bellinzona

Today we decided to take the train 30 minutes north to a city called Bellinzona.  It is filled with massive castles and cobblestone roads.  We ate lunch at a pizzeria and had a funny waiter.  He was obviously annoyed that 20 "foreign" girls came in all at once not knowing how to read or order anything off the menu.  We decided to all get the Margherita Pizza (I wanted something a little more adventurous but when I asked the waiter what three toppings I didn't know were he informed me they were anchovies, tuna fish, and onions and I got scared).


After lunch we went to tour the castles.  "Today, its rich historical heritage, left from the Middle Ages, still lives on behind the austere charm of this Lombard town in the foothills of the Alps."  We climbed all the way to the top of two of the three big castles!  We walked through the town a little and visited a beautiful church.  It was the perfect way to end our first weekend.


Class starts tomorrow!  Heading to bed early to be ready to get up at 8.


Ciao!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Day 2!

Getting ready to go out to dinner at Manora.  First night out in Lugano...wahooo!!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Goodbye America, Helloooooo Switzerland!

We have finally officially arrived to Lugano, Switzerland, and are here in our new home for the next four months, The Montarina.  It was quite the adventure getting over here and went a little something like this:
  • Arrived at Dulles 3:16 pm and realized I forgot my hiking backpack filled with important belongings
  • Went through check in, realized both my bags were 7 pounds over weight and had to shuffle items around and take out a few things which I had to leave behind :(
  • Went through security and took one of the new trains over to the terminal - all by myself! (first time ever)
  • Waited for our flight and sort of lost track of time from then until now... but we all got settled on the plane, took an 8 hour flight over and landed in Zurich, Switzerland!  This had to have been at around 4 am, but it was 10 am Euro time and we had a full day ahead.
When we were still in the airport waiting for the bus to be loaded with all 86 of our bags, a few of us went to order esspresso at a little restaurant in the airport.  It probably had something to do with the fact that I felt like it was 4 in the morning, I had barely gotten any sleep in the past 24 hours, and was delirious, but it was a funny first experience in Europe.  I watched all of the people in line in front of me order in Italian effortlessly what they wanted and thought about what exactly I was going to say when it was my turn.  Ashley and I both grabbed what we assumed to be bottles of water off the shelf, and I ordered in spanglish an espresso.  The lady must have understood the only word that mattered in that sentence, rung me up, I paid in Euro, and drank the cute little thing in 5 sips.

We next took a 3 hour bus ride from Zurich to Lugano - and were here!

We had the best lasagna I've ever had in my life for lunch soon after arriving.  What a great taste of what is to come.  Bringberg decided to give us a tour of the city after lunch, and we made our way to the L'Universita della Svizzera Italiana, our school for the next four months.  We were then instructed to find our way home, which we did pretty easily (walk straight ahead until you see the lake, then turn right and keep going until you're home).

There are no words to describe how beautiful this city is.  The town right by where we live is so "charming" as Ashley described it, with the cutest little restaurants, shops, and stands you have ever seen.  There are white Christmas lights everywhere.  Everything looks so homemade and organic.  Nothing manufactured, or standardized by a machine.  Fresh tomato and mozzarella panini's, bright, colorful fruit stands, meat hanging in stores from ceilings, flower shops, upscale fashion stores, palm trees everywhere - looks like the opening scene of Beauty and the Beast (minus the palm trees).  It is all unique and unlike anything I have ever experienced.  I am so lucky to be here.

The weather today was nice with a raining mist spritzing ever so slightly,  and it is gorgeous - I cannot even imagine what it will be like on a sunny day.  I am in love.

Ashley and I got the best room in the house - lucky #13.  Really though, we are the only ones with our own bathroom and shower - just for the two of us!  Our view is nothing but palm trees and other little pink surrounding Montarina buildings.

We are all settled in and unpacked and looking forward for what tomorrow will bring!

As for now, we will lay in our cozy twin beds, with our twin Macbooks, figuring out how to change everything back to English, until we fall fast asleep.  Listening to "Once In A Lifetime" by Talking Heads.

Night!