MENU

Athens

My glorious dream of a spring break trip came to an end with a final stop in Athens. Lori and I met up with the fam, Holden and Dafni. Dafni is from Athens, and graciously offered the three of us housing for our visit. While we used Airbnb to get more of an authentic feel, rather than a touristy vibe, for the whole of our trip, it was incredible to be able to stay in a place that actually felt like family.

IMG_5504

IMG_5507

IMG_5569

During our     stay, we didn’t actually do too much. The first day was us three Americans going to the mandatory ancient sites like the Acropolis and the Parthenon. The next day we went to the market, and in the evening did our first Escape Room. I had never heard of them before this trip (even though there are a couple in KC), but basically you’re locked in a room with a group of your friends and you have an hour to figure out the puzzle that will open the door. Sounds fun, except for the fact that the clues were in Greek and only three of the six of us knew more than two words.

IMG_5597

IMG_5599

We spent a lot of time at Dafni’s house interacting with her family. We ate so much home-cooked food it made me miss my own. We learned a new card game, Tichu, which I bought to take home and have since taught my family. It was a great end to an amazing trip and I will forever treasure the memories.

While the entire study abroad experience as a whole was incredible, the memories I made and the things I got to see and experience throughout the trips I took elevated it. I am so thankful to be able to have these pictures and posts to look back on. Thank you for everything, and I still have a couple more posts to conclude with, so stay tuned!

Xx Jessica

Naples

After Rome, Lori and I headed to Naples. We were unsure of what to expect, we really only booked it in order to take a trip to Pompeii. It ended up possibly being one of my favorite stops on the trip, if not my favorite.

IMG_5062

Our Airbnb host was named Ester, who had the most incredible flat, with a balcony. I almost died when I opened the door and saw Mount Vesuvius from our room. Ester didn’t speak English very well, but was happy to help with recommendations for what to do. She even made a lemon cake for us to have with tea for breakfast!

IMG_5101

Our first full day, Lori and I booked a last-minute tour down to the Amalfi Coast. This, hands-down, was the best decision we made on the entire trip. We managed to get a small, private tour, with just two other couples and their babies. We made multiple stops, with main stays in the towns of Positano and Amalfi. Words cannot describe how breathtaking the views were.

IMG_5175
IMG_5203

IMG_5211

The final day we went to Pompeii, again on a tour. It was so cool to walk through the ruins of this ancient city, with Mt. Vesuvius ominously in the background. There was also a modern art gallery scattered throughout the site, which juxtaposed the ruins coolly.

IMG_5405

IMG_5398

This portion of the trip is something I will always remember for the sights alone. Naples and our detour to the Amalfi coast was the most beautiful place I have ever been in my life, and I hope to make a return trip again some day.

Thanks for keeping up; stay tuned for my final post from my spring break trip coming up next!

Xx Jessica

Rome

After catching our final water taxi at three in the morning, we arrived at the airport for our second Italian destination: Rome. I know I’m not alone when I say Rome has always been on my bucket list of places to visit. We made it to our Airbnb, which was not quite what we had been promised, but all that aside, we were in Rome, who could complain about that?

IMG_4709

 

All we did the first day was walk to the Coliseum and grab food. The second day was when we bought our tickets to enter the amphitheatre, as well as the Roman Forum. I was immediately overwhelmed by the size of everything, and the intricacy of detail throughout the ancient city. I was incredible to see places I had only read about or seen pictures of come to life.

IMG_4740

IMG_4803

IMG_4829

The next day, Lori and I did yet another bus tour, with a main stop at Vatican City. Opulence and wonder coats every street and corridor. The amount of artwork left me in awe, each piece stealing my breath. This day was a particular favorite of mine from our time in Rome.

IMG_4901

IMG_5002

IMG_5015

IMG_5019

Sorry this one isn’t as wordy as my previous posts, but hopefully the pictures suffice! Thanks for reading/viewing; stay tuned for my next post!

Xx Jessica

Solo Travel P. II

Upon arriving in Krakow, I checked my bags and headed into town to make one of two guided tours of the day. The first was of the Jewish Quarter and lasted for nearly three hours. We visited many historic sites, including many locations from the movie Schindler’s List. We ended the tour at the actual factory and were invited to walk through the museum, but because I only had one free day in Krakow, I chose to walk back to the Old Town and start another tour. The Old Town tour I took in the afternoon was interesting and intimate, being only three people and the guide. We walked throughout the Main Market Square and listened to the guide tell us different facts, some of which were about Pope John Paul II. We concluded the trip at Wawel Castle, which is one of the most captivating buildings I’ve seen, architecturally speaking because of the noticeable varied influences and designs throughout the castle. I spent the rest of the evening talking with a group of people staying at the hostel. We all managed to book different trips to Auschwitz the following day.

img_6197

img_6171

My trip to the concentration camp was the only thing I planned for that day, and I could probably write an entire post on that experience alone. This is the second Nazi camp I’ve been to, but Dachau was a work camp as opposed to a death camp. Auschwitz I was our first stop; many of the barracks have been turned into exhibits. After visiting a few, our mini bus took us to Birkenau. The sheer size of the camp was overwhelming and intimidating, with the infamous train tracks leading through the gate. Being in a Nazi camp is like nothing I have ever experienced before and I full-heartedly think everyone should once in their lifetime.

img_6269

After an incredible, but exhausting two days in Poland, I left early to catch a flight to Copenhagen. Meandering around the city the first day, my full day was spent on more guided tours. By this point in the trip, my feet had blisters upon blisters and I was sort of tired of traveling alone. But there really isn’t a better place to cheer yourself up than Copenhagen. The people truly are as friendly as they are stereotyped to be. The city is beautiful, so picturesque and vibrant. One thing I suggest anyone who visits is to walk, or enter, Tivoli Gardens at night and experience the magic that prompted Walt Disney to create his empire.

img_6348

img_6408

My final stop was Amsterdam in the Netherlands. I only had one afternoon here before catching a flight back to London. I walked through the canals from the hostel to Museumplein, the art district of Amsterdam. I made my way through the beautiful Rijksmuseum and had lunch in the park before visiting the Van Gogh museum. Afterwards, I walked through a street market, as recommended by the receptionist at the hostel and through the city center, making a stop at Anne Frank’s house before heading in for the night.

img_6494

When I started my study abroad experience, I never though I would have traveled on my own. Looking back now, this is the best thing I could have ever done, and is definitely one of the highlights of my whole experience. For anyone considering making a solo-travel trip, I could not suggest it highly enough. If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

Thank you so much for keeping up with me, and I really hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about my travels as much as I’ve enjoyed reliving them.

Xx Jessica

Solo Travel P. I

After my Once In A Lifetime spring break trip, I landed back at Heathrow with my three incredible friends. Feeling happy, despite the shock of the disgustingly cold English weather. However, there was one more trip we planned to take, our “family vacation”. But, due to circumstances beyond my control, it suddenly looked like that trip wasn’t going to happen. So, in-between my finishing my final assignments, I planned a ten-day stint starting the day after I was due to submit them. The thing was, none of my friends wanted to go with me, and I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my time and insatiable desire to see the world. So I finalized the details of my solo trip and booked everything within five days of returning to the UK. Now, I just had to tell my mom.

Leaving early on a Tuesday morning, I headed to Gatwick airport to catch a flight to Budapest, Hungary. Never in my life did I think I would have the chance to end up here, or any of the places I visited really. My plan was to spend about two days in each city, visiting a total of five countries. I booked airfare, bus and train tickets, and a guided tour, simply banking on the hostels I was to stay at to provide any other information I might need.

img_5823

I remember the sense of freedom I had as I walked through the streets of Budapest that first night (god, how crazy does that sentence sound?). I’ve been lucky to visit so many different places and see incredible sights, but the first time I have ever felt truly free was that night. The following day, was a dreary one, filled with grey skies and rain, perfect company for the walking tour I had planned. I visited so many different sights and learned so much about the beautiful city of Budapest, and even met someone from Missouri!

img_5887

The next morning, I left for the bus station which would get me to Prague by mid-afternoon. Prague is one of my favorite cities in the world, and I am so glad I had the chance to return. I revisited some old sites, the Old Town Square in particular, before making my way to some new ones, like the John Lennon wall. I fit in two tours during my only full day there, one focused on art and modern Prague, the other on the effects of the Nazi Regime. One mandatory site I planned when deciding to go to Prague was to see the St. Cyril and Methodius Cathedral, which was prompted by a book I read a few weeks prior, called “HHhH”. This book details the assassination of Nazi leader Reinhart Heydrich and the Czech and Slovak paratroopers Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabčík who carried out the attack, and in turn were killed, along with a few other allies, in an attempt by the Nazi police to take them. The small cathedral is the site of the altercation between the paratroopers and the SS and houses a memorial and museum dedicated to the soldiers. It was a story I hadn’t heard prior to reading the book, which by the way is a favorite of one of my tour guides, and I was honored to see it in person.

img_6016

img_6087

That night I went to the train station to catch my pre-booked train to Poland. However, I seemed to have booked the wrong ticket. So, having to purchase a new ticket last minute, which ended up cheaper than the original ticket I’d bought, I managed to finally board my train and arrived in Krakow as the sun rose.

Since this post is already incredibly wordy, I’m going to split it up and post the second half in the following days. Thanks for reading; please stay tuned!

Xx Jessica

Venice

IMG_4524

 

The next morning, Lori and I woke up bright and early once again to being the next leg of our trip: Italy. The first stop was Venice. However, we had a minor (major) set back. When booking our Airbnb, I managed to somehow book a room in a completely different city, about an hour away from the actual island of Venice. Luckily, at this point in the term, we had enough money to get a hotel on the island, deeming it much more worthy of our time and money than trying to make daily trips from Treviso to Venice and back. So we ordered a land taxi to catch a water taxi to get to our new destination.

IMG_4580

IMG_4625

IMG_4628

While I’m sure there are many who will disagree, there isn’t a ton to see in Venice, as far as sites go. Venice is much more of a “take in your surroundings” than a “go-see-do!” city. Wandering the canals and winding through cobblestoned streets was how we spent most of our time. We dedicated a whole day to getting lost in the city, while in actuality we only needed a few hours because the island is so small. Venice was our relaxed stop of the tour, since every other one was jam-packed with too much to do in too little time. The photos shown in this post are mostly from the leisurely stroll we took that day.

 

IMG_4636

 

IMG_4659

Thanks for reading, stay tuned, and I hope you’re enjoying my catch up!

Xx Jessica

Barcelona

The next leg of our trip was our final city in Spain. We flew into the city center as the sun was coming up and took time to get settled in. A short train ride later we were in the city center. The Cathedral of Barcelona became our recognition point as it was near Las Ramblas and the beach, amongst other notable attractions. We met up with a few classmates from Roehampton who recommended us doing a bus tour, which is exactly what we did the following day.

IMG_4385

As I mentioned in the previous post, many major cities offer bus tours, stopping at a majority of the main tourist sites. A few from Barcelona’s included the Olympic stadium as well as many of the notorious Gaudi sites.
IMG_4309

The next day, we explored Park Guell, another on of Gaudi’s masterpieces. From here we took in the most breath-taking views of Barcelona.

IMG_4493

 

IMG_4455

One thing we did on our last day in Spain was visit one of Barcelona’s market, La Boqueria, directly off Las Ramblas. We browsed the stalls filled with everything from animal heads to alcoholic popcicles to luxury chocolates. Despite spending the previous days being as touristy as a tourist can get, it was refreshing to see a different side to Barcelona, a more local, realistic view, and a perfect round-up of our time in Spain.

IMG_4411

Thanks for reading; stay tuned for our next stop!

IMG_4399

Xx Jessica

Madrid

From the moment I knew I was actually going to get to study abroad, I started planning my spring break trip. Lori and I brainstormed a list of a few countries and narrowed them down to cities. Since the UK splits their term differently than universities in the States, we had nearly an entire month off to explore as much as possible. We took advantage of this and booked a 19-day, 6-city adventure, starting with Madrid.
The night before melded into our first travel day, as we stayed up in order to catch a cab at 2 AM to catch our 6 o’clock flight. When we landed in Madrid, the brutality of a nearly 48-hour day kicked us in the face. We took it easy, meandering around the city center and the neighborhood our AirBnb was in, and planned the rest of our stay.

IMG_4192
Our second day we planned to walk a bit further, visiting different monuments and gardens on the agenda. Our first stop was Templo de Debod, a gorgeous site overlooking the eastern part of the city. By early evening, we managed to walk to the opposite side of town to visit la Reina Sofia National Museum, which houses one of my favorite Picasso paintings, La Guernica. This was a particularly special stop for me because I studied this painting my senior year of high school. While Picasso’s style isn’t to everyone’s particular taste, the painting and the story behind it is heartbreaking and emotional. I fully encourage you to do some research if you’re unaware of the massacre of Guernica (or feel free to shoot me message/comment).
IMG_4066
Our next day was spent at another museum, el Prado. Despite the elaborate works of art from which the building derives its’ sole purpose, my favorite thing was seeing other artists painting their interpretations of famous works live. I actually got told off by a security guard for taking a picture of a man (she didn’t seem to get I didn’t care too much for the priceless frame on the wall). We ended our day near Puerta del Sol, a main square of Madrid, near the shopping district and grabbed gelato across from our flat before heading in for the night.

IMG_4110
Detour: Let me just say, the best gelato in the entire world is in Madrid. A bold claim to make, I know, but after being to quite a few gelaterias across the world, nothing comes close to Sani Sapori. It was so good, Lori and I went multiple times a day for the duration of our trip in Madrid because we have absolutely no shame. When in Europe, right?
Our final day we took our first of many bus tours. If you’re planning a trip (anyway, not just to Madrid), I highly recommend taking a bus tour (but my first recommendation is a walking tour, if you’re able-bodied). We saw many of the sites we had already seen on previous days, but we saw loads of new places and learned much more than we ever could have if we had done it on our own. In the evening we walked to Buen Retiro Park. As we were walking through, we came across a small lake where you could rent a paddle boat for a few Euro. While you might think both Lori and I have extensive boating experience, you’d be wrong. Despite our slight hesitation, we recited our mantra “when in Europe” once again, and headed out onto the water. There were only a few minor collisions before we (finally) got the hang of it and were rewarded with a view of the sunset from our little boat.
The next morning we headed to Barcelona, which will be the next post. Thanks for reading and stay tuned!
Xx Jessica

Updates and Apologies

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

I’m on the last leg of my study abroad experience, currently on a ferry from Ireland to Wales to make my way back Londontown (*EDIT: this was a few days ago, now I’m homeward bound!). I leave to go home in less than a week (*EDIT: today), and the last time I’ve updated you was mid-March. Since then, I’ve traveled with my best friend, crushed (and was crushed by) my exams, and embarked on my first ever solo trip.

I wanted to make this quick post to let you know, if anyone is exclusively following this blog, that I am, in fact, alive. I’ll be updating this blog pretty frequently with a different post for each city I’ve visited:

– Madrid, Spain
– Barcelona, Spain
– Venice, Italy
– Rome, Italy
– Naples, Italy
– Athens, Greece
– Budapest, Hungary
– Prague, Czech Republic
– Krakow, Poland
– Copenhagen, Denmark
– Amsterdam, Netherlands
– Edinburgh, Scotland
– Dublin, Ireland
– Leeds, England
– Dover, England
– Brighton, England

Hopefully you’re more excited than overwhelmed by the amount of posts coming your way. Again, I’m truly sorry it’s taken me so long to write this post, any post. I appreciate you keeping up with me!
Xx Jessica

A Weekend in Sheffield

IMG_3585
Warning: This blog post contains loads of sick panoramas and a bit of fangirling
There are only a handful of reasons I occasionally break my motto “I’m not up unless the sun is”. I’m talking, like an infant’s hand-handful. One of these exceptions is traveling. This past Saturday, after about three or four hours of sleep, due to my excitement and my flatmates’ Bop-ing, Lori and I headed off to Victoria Coach Station to catch the National Express to Sheffield. Sheffield is near the center of Great Britain, and about the three-hour bus ride north from London.

IMG_3589

IMG_3617

IMG_3587
We arrived just after noon, and spent the next few hours wandering aimlessly throughout the city center. I fell in love with the Peace Garden, a courtyard of beautiful colors and fountains. It reminded me of home and the fountains in Crown Center. Sheffield is very much a bustling city, without the suffocation and exhaustion. As much as I love living in London, it isn’t until I leave the city that I realize how much I needed a city-break.
IMG_3602
IMG_3586
We walked through the museum’s Winter Garden before heading back to the hotel to rest and re-energize for the evening.

IMG_3591
The entire reason I booked the trip to Sheffield in the first place was to see a play. Now, you might be thinking, ‘Jess, really? You’re leaving London, one of the entertainment capitals of the world, to go see a play.” Hell yeah I did. It was an impulse decision of sorts, as I only found out about the show, The Nap, a few days before. The Nap is a ‘comedy thriller’ about snooker, which, for my fellow Americans, is similar to pool. The Nap isn’t a show I would normally be drawn to, and despite not getting all of the jokes, due to my lack of knowledge on UK culture, I really enjoyed the production. The reason I booked the tickets was to see one man in particular: Jack O’Connell.

IMG_3630 *Shoutout to Chummy for this hysterical picture of the final bow

Jack is a relatively new face in American film, with his ‘breakout’ being the 2014 film Unbroken. As someone who has been impacted profoundly by the story of Louis Zamperini and Jack’s portrayal, I was excited to find out one of my new favorite actors was performing on stage.
Although it doesn’t happen too often, getting to experience new things is exciting and inspiring, for me personally. I was so incredibly happy this weekend in Sheffield, whether that was because of the presence of the Sun or managing to meet my favorite actor, or a concoction of other variables. I am looking forward eagerly to the next few weeks as I’m rounding out the term and getting to go on more adventures.

Thank you so much for reading, and I can’t wait to share it all with you!
Xx Jessica