Spring Break

Nice is Nice

The South of France was nothing like I imagined. I guess you could say it is almost equivalent to what the Hamptons are for New Yorkers. It is very sophisticated and posh. The area itself is a little retro looking. When you walk around the promenade they have all the restaurants and hotels on one side and a beautiful beach on the other end. The place that my friends and I stayed was right on the water and was absolutely stunning.IMG_8267-2

The view we had from our balcony was breathtaking. In the evenings I sat outside and watched the sunset and in the morning I woke up from the beaming sun that rippled into our apartment.

The first day I was there my friends and I walked around Nice and went to Castle Hill to see the big waterfall. We walked around the area and took in the views of the entire city. Later that night we walked back to our apartment and saw the beautiful sunset along the beach. It was actually the most perfect day. The second day I was there I traveled to Monaco for the day.

There, I went Monte Carlo which is a beautiful casino located in the town. The area was very high end and consisted of so many upscale stores and restaurants with very sophisticated people. I gambled 20 Euros and unfortunately walked out with nothing. At least I can say the first I gambled was at the Monte Carlo.

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When in Roma 

As sad I was to leave Sunday, I was really excited to go to Rome for the second time and stay with one of my best friends from Miami. That trip basically consisted of eating, shopping and more eating. Because I was spending a full four days there and had already done a lot of the touristy things with my family in 2011, I felt no obligation to wake up early every day and run around the city. However, I did have a few restaurant recommendations in mind that I wanted to make sure I hit.

IMG_8463-2The first being Dar Poeta, an amazing pizzeria that I was lucky enough to go to twice during the week. They are known for their nutella ricotta calzone. Sounds kind of weird eh? It was possibly the most scrumptious thing I have ever tasted. It is located in a cute area called Trastevere where there are a lot of shops and restaurants.

I was also lucky enough to go to Frigidarium, a very good gelato place that everyone Instagrams when they visit Rome. IMG_8471My first day my friend took me to Campo de Fiori to shop around and see the outdoor markets. I bought a few things for my older sister not only because she has been harassing me to but also because she studied abroad in Rome when she was my age. Later, we went to Piazza Navona, a famous square with a beautiful center. Our third stop was an area called Prati. It was super trendy and reminded me a lot of the Upper West side in New York City. For dinner my friend surprised me by taking me to a kosher restaurant in the Jewish quarter, Ba Ghetto. I was possibly the happiest person in the world.

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My second day I went to the Spanish Steps. I remembered a lot of this area because I still have a lot of family pictures that I keep in a Facebook album. For lunch we went to Restaurant 34 and I tried the famous pumpkin gnocchi that everyone raves about. In my opinion… a tad bit overrated. After walking around the streets and listening to the musicians, I went into a few cute stores where I made some purchases. It’s a good thing I’m not abroad in Italy; otherwise I would go completely broke. For dinner, my friend and I went to Da Remo, another pizza place that was probably the best pizza I will ever have in my entire life.

Day three we went to Largo Di Torre Argentina which is a cat sanctuary that has all the roman ruins. I was so excited to see this because I have a sick obsession with cats. I got my sister a cute souvenir knowing that she would absolutely want something from there.

Later we walked by the famous Victor Emmanuel building, and after went shopping in Monti. That area was fun to walk around and had a bunch of vintage shops on every corner—however definitely not a must if you are only visiting Rome for a day or two.   We ended our day at Castel St. Angelo to watch the sunset. To celebrate my roommate’s birthday in Barcelona who happened to be in Rome for the night, we went to infamous Tony’s. It is an American Italian restaurant that all study abroad kids go to just so they can get some chicken parme and unlimited wine. I can see why people hype about it because they give great deals for a lot of food, but again, if you are looking for an authentic Italian meal it probably isn’t the best place to hit.

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My last day I walked around the colosseum and had a relaxing day just enjoying the city. I am so glad I was able to go back to Rome this trip because it was harder to appreciate it when I was younger. It is such an incredible city and I could absolutely see myself studying there if I was not in Barcelona.

Amalfi Coast

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Our last stop for our Spring Break journey was Sorrento. I have never been to the Amalfi Coast before but it was absolutely stunning. I would do anything to go back there! We did an organized trip and stayed in Sorrento for three nights but took day trips to other islands. Our first trip was to Positano and we lucked out with the weather because all of my friends and I managed to get a bit of sunburn after lying outside all day long.

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Our second day we went to Capri, which was a totally different feel than Positano but still, had a nice vibe. We were lucky enough to take a boat ride around the coast and make it in the Blue Grotto before the bad weather hit. Even though the rest of the day we had to stay inside, I was so happy that the weather held up for a few hours to make it in the water.

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We left from Naples the next day to head back to Barcelona. I was sad how fast this trip flew by but I promised myself I would make a trip back there again!

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Feels like home to me

I was lucky enough to have a friend visiting this past weekend so I had the perfect excuse to not travel. There is nothing better than being in your own city. As much as I love all of the trips that I take, it’s so nice to sit back and relax once and a while and enjoy all the amazing things to do in Barcelona.

Here are some recommendations of a few of my favorite places to eat, drink, see, and shop.

11013304_10152655536391451_1302699970131770375_nFood Coma: If you are looking for a yummy breakfast, Milk has delicious eggs Florentine! 10492582_10152655536431451_1510510191979502131_nIt’s a small place so make sure to give yourself a little bit of time incase the place is at full capacity when you plan on eating. Brunch & Cake is another “must.” They also have a sister restaurant with the exact same menu a few blocks away called Travel & Cake which seems to not be as popular for some reason but I still can’t understand why when they serve the same food. If you are looking for something a little more quant, Mama’s Café is a cute place in Gracia that serves brunch all day long. So if you sleep in late and are looking for somewhere yummy to eat, my advice is getting to Gracia. Be My Bagel is a little bagel shop that has different toppings you can add like eggs, cream cheese, salmon it’s also in Gracia but I would only go there if you are craving a breakfast sandwich or need something that’s a bit faster.

10906083_10152582303666451_8322476539555078907_nFor lunch, I once went to a cute place Elsa y Fred that was a little hard to find but was worth the hunt. If you make it there, check out the tuna tar tar, it has almost a raspberry taste-YUM! Bo de B is another “must go” but I never really was able to understand why…if you ask me it’s super overrated. Flax & Kale is a little bit more on the healthy side but there salmon sliders are pretty good and I personally loved the pink buns that they came on. Still on the healthy side, Quinoa Bar is located in Gracia and is a small place but great if you need something light to eat, and don’t let the name confuse you…they have more than just quinoa.

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Dinner is my favorite meal of the day, so I am saving the best for last. La Luna is a romantic delicious restaurant in the Gothic area and I suggest you try the salmon carpaccio, goat cheese salad, nachos, and ravioli with spinach. I went two times this week if that can convince anyone to go. Da Greco is another “must.” This Italian restaurant is fine dining and offers you a taste of every pasta dish that each person you go with has. You will be falling off your chair with a food baby by the time you leave. I can’t even recommend anything in specific because every single thing is exquisite. However, if you are not a truffle lover try to stay clear of those dishes because they are really heavy and strong. Café Camelia is a cute café that turns into a restaurant only Thursday-Saturday. So if you have a weekend free and are willing to go to Gracia, get the quinoa burger and goat cheese salad. A Gianni is another Italian restaurant that I go to at least once a week. It’s a nice place to order a glass of wine, have some risotto and call it a night. If you are looking for fresh sushi, Monster Sushi is a little bit pricey but will most likely have what you are looking for. My favorite tapas bar is Timeline. Make sure to ask for extra cheese if you get the nachos, the waiter will most likely smile at you and know that I recommended you to go.

10928190_10152606870836451_7577801331898434741_nPlaces to Pregame: I’ve learned since I’ve been here that “pregaming” is an American term and places in Europe not only do not do this in their homes but they think we are crazy for thinking that is acceptable. After most students studying abroad here were threatened to get evicted from their apartments, people started to discover places outside of their homes to pregame before heading to nightclubs. Pippermint is one of the most popular; they serve extremely large drinks, which is great for girls who always love to share. Chupitos is a very interesting shot bar that offers so many varieties of fun shots that all have very sugary tastes, some of which light on fire. Shôko sometimes offers free sushi dinners if anyone likes sushi, furthermore a lot of people like going here to pregame because it’s right on the beach and a five step walk to Opium. Dow Jones is another place, one of which I haven’t had the chance to go to yet but I heard that their shot prices fluctuate depending on how the stock market is doing…pretty cool if you ask me.

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Party: But what to do with yourself after you pregame? Even though pregaming starts at a ridiculous time here in Barcelona, that still gives you no excuse to call it a night. Barcelona is known for its insane nightlife, some of which I’ve had the chance to go to since I’ve been here. I went to the bar/lounge in the W hotel; Eclipse for the first time this past weekend when I was staying there. It’s a very cool atmosphere-definitely a little bit of an older, more sophisticated crowd. Its on the 26th floor of the building and offers a panoramic view of the city. If you are more interested in being on the beach lower down, Opium, Pacha, and CDLC is the perfect spot. Sutton and Bling Bling are not on the beach but in a great location, which is the upper area on Carrer Tuset. Otto Zutz is a fun place that is not far from Gracia, which is great for those who are in walking distance.

Shop till you drop: If you take the metro to Jaume 1 you will be right outside of the Gothic area. This area consists of a church as your center marker and they have so many cute boutiques and stores in this neighborhood. Sometimes I just walk around and window-shop and get a delicious nutella crepe at one of the gelato places. If you are looking for something a little more upscale, Passeig de Gracia is almost like 5th avenue in New York City. It’s a huge street of high-end stores and is a beautiful place to walk around even if you aren’t planning on buying anything. Gracia also has more authentic Spanish shopping if you are looking for something funky. My favorite store is on Verdi Street, Clink. Make sure to check it out if you have any free time.

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Activities: As you know, Catalans love their football. If you are visiting Barcelona I highly suggest checking out the game schedule and seeing a Barca game. Just make sure to get some drinks before you go into the stadium because they do not serve alcohol in there. Las Ramblas is another place that is always popping throughout all hours of the day. Watch your belongings because it’s a little bit of a tourist trap. On Las Ramblas you will see a market called “La Boqueria.” It is a huge food market that has delicious fresh fruit, meat, fish, candy and could be a great place to pick up for lunch.

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The Port is also a very beautiful area. It is not far from the beach and just walking along the “boardwalk” is relaxing. I recently visited the Aquarium, which is in that same region. If you have some extra time it’s a good place to see some beautiful ocean creatures. Last but certainly not least, Gaudí’s works of art are all around the city. Park Güell, La Segrada Família, La Pedrera, and Casa Batlló are all exquisite Spanish sites.

Hopefully this gives you a little peak inside my everyday life and some recommendations if you ever get the chance to come to this amazing city!

Madrid y Seville

This weekend my two roommates and I traveled to Madrid and Seville.  We left on Thursday evening by taking a train to Madrid.  Upon arrival, we checked into our first Airbnb apartment.  The apartment was located in the center of the City and was in an ideal location for tourists.  Friday, we woke up as the sun was rising so that we could get an early start on the day.   Our first stop was the Botanical Gardens.  Most of the flowers and beautiful gardens have not yet blossomed because of the winter season.  It was still very pleasant to be able to walk around and to imagine what it would look like during the warmer season.  We only stayed for a little while because we still wanted to cover a lot of other sites and we didn’t have too much time to do so.

After the gardens we had some breakfast and chocolate milk, which helped to energize us and provide some warmth before venturing outside again.  After breakfast, we went to the Prado Museum, which is one of the most famous museums in all of Spain.  The museum consisted of collections of European art dating back to the 12th century.  I enjoyed leisurely walking around and seeing some of the Spanish sculptures and paintings because I am more familiar with Italian works but this is the first time I have ever visited Spain or a famous Spanish museum.

As afternoon approached, my friends and I went to Parque del Retiro.  There, we saw musicians playing American music and each turn took us down a different path.  On one side we saw a fountain that got us a little wet as we stopped to take pictures.  After casually roaming around for a bit of time, my friends wanted to go to the Chueca area to shop and see what else it had to offer.

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By the time we got there it looked like a lot of the stores and restaurants were closed because it was the siesta.  It was nice to still get a feel for the area.  It reminded me of the area in New York City called Soho.  All the streets were cobblestone, and it was very trendy and young.  If we had an extra day in Madrid I would have enjoyed going back to try one of the restaurants for dinner.  After walking around for an hour we saw a market that was also on our itinerary.  We walked through Mercado de San Antón and looked at all the fresh food.

Late afternoon, we did our last tourist stop of the day and went to the Palacio Real.  This was the famous palace of the royal king.  It was so beautiful and reminded me a lot of other palaces I have visited with my family from previous European trips we have taken.  Every time I visit a place like this I always find it so remarkable that so much gold was used throughout the ceiling and walls of each room.  It is mind boggling to imagine how much time and money was used on each palace.

That evening for dinner we went to a delicious Italian dinner at Grazie Mille.  Our waiter was an adorable man from a beautiful small area in Italy that attracts a lot of tourists during the summer seasons.  I would recommend this restaurant to anyone who travels to Madrid, if only I could go back each week!

On Saturday morning, we woke up to visit our last tourist attraction.  We went to the Center of Spain which is a really busy area surrounded by stores and restaurants.  There we took a few pictures and headed to the train station to go to Seville.

10991194_10152655527591451_314254411342789458_nAfter a three-hour train ride we arrived.  Seville looked exactly how I always pictured it to be; colorful, authentic and quant.  We arrived at another Airbnb apartment and this sweet woman named Barbara greeted us with open arms.  She was the first local person we met in Seville and she left a positive and lasting impression.  She even got my roommates and me a bottle of champagne to celebrate our first night in Seville.  After unpacking some of our things we went to a place that Barbara suggested.  The place is a great looking dock where you can see the entire city and enjoy a remarkable sunset.  We called them “the mushrooms” but it is really called Metropol Parasol.

Sunday was an action packed day to explore the City.  We started at Plaza de España, which was by far my favorite part of the entire trip.  It was a beautiful park where a lot of movies are filmed.  I had never seen a park this beautiful in my entire life.  It was so colorful and full of beautiful Spanish tiles and had a very authentic look to it.  We took a lot of pictures and enjoyed just walking around and up and down the many pedestrian bridges.

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Then we went to the Triana, and walked across the bridge and went inside the market at the end.  There, I bought a beautiful hand woven leather bracelet for my older brother.  They had a bunch of food and goods to purchase.  However, the market was not fully open yet so we decided to walk across the bridge to the other side to try the amazing churros that we heard about.  Those were certainly not overrated and were the most delicious pastries coated with chocolate.  I am also a big fan of churros!

Next, we took a visit to Cathedral de Seville.  It was a stunning church that had beautiful stained glass in the inside.  It also had a lot of designs on the exterior, making it one of the most magnificent churches I have ever seen.  I learned while I was there that it is the third largest church in the world!

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Because we still had a small amount of time before we had to leave for the airport, we heard that the Alcazar Palace was a nice place to see and happened to be right next to the Church.  We walked around inside and because of how big the palace was it took up a few hours to walk the entire Palace. It was very interesting to see because most of the palaces I have visited were not as old as this one.  It included a beautiful section of Spanish tiles that date back to the time of the Renaissance.

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While we were leaving for the airport I could not stop looking out the window to see the rest of the amazing city. I hope to visit both Madrid and Seville again in the future!

Ciao Bella

Last week I took the first trip alone since I have been abroad.  I visited a few of my closest friends who are also studying abroad in Florence, Italy.  It was such an amazing trip and just reflecting back upon the time I spent in Italy, brings a smile to my face.

When I arrived Wednesday evening I was able to see the nightlife because it was one of my friend’s 21st birthday.  On Thursday we went to the Duomo, the famous church.  It is a close walk to their apartment and the architecture is absolutely stunning.  We took some pictures on the outside and I must have passed the Church at least 10 times throughout the weekend because of its central and visible location.  For the rest of the day I shopped my way through the leather market.  Because their apartment is directly upstairs from this market that is filled with soft and beautiful leather, it would be a dangerous thing for me to live there since I am a bit of a shopaholic.  After making a few too many purchases (sorry mom) we finished our day at the Mercato Centrale and I was able to satiate my hunger with a delicious homemade pizza.

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On Friday we woke up early to head over to the other side of the city.  We walked across the Ponte Vecchio, the famous bridge in Florence.  Doing this, we were able to take our time, take pictures and see all the beautiful jewelry that was sold on stores all along the bridge.  After, I was able to go to the Gucci Museum, which was really exciting for me since I have a strong passion for high-end designer brands.  The museum was interesting, however, I do not know if it was a “must do”  if I return to Florence, but because it was starting to rain, it was nice to have some time indoors.  For lunch we went to a place that many friends recommended and I had to try something called “Gusta Pizza”.  I enjoyed another margarita and the waitress even treated me to a heart shaped pie.  Even though I love American food that was probably the best pizza I will ever have in my lifetime.

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As we made our way back to their apartment, we stopped at Piazza della Repubblica, a large square in the center of Florence surrounded by cafes and nice restaurants. It even had an adorable carousel in the center.  My friends explained to me that on Sundays the square is always full of children and families who enjoy listening to street artists and play with men who blow bubbles all over the square.

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Saturday, we woke up early to catch a bus that drove us to Venice, Italy for Carnival.  The first time I had visited Venice, it was during Carnival as well and I still believe that Venice is absolutely stunning and I would always be willing to return.  Besides the cold, it was a perfect day that ended with a romantic gondola ride that my friends and I took all around the canals.

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On the last day we woke up early to climb Michael Angelo which, to my surprise, turned into a beautiful day.  I must admit, the 50 steps or so were well worth the effort.  The city view was breathtaking.  I was able to appreciate things that I never was able to when I was younger.  Even the architecture on the buildings was remarkable.  Italy offers art in so many ways,  that cannot be seen elsewhere.  We treated ourselves to some mouthwatering gelato.  It was the perfect end to a perfect weekend.

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Before coming abroad I was nervous about traveling alone and studying in a different city from my best friends.  This trip made me appreciate our friendships much more and the benefits of traveling and visiting friends in different cities.  This trip reassured me that I made the right decision and that no matter where my travels take me, there is no better place for me to be studying than Barcelona.