Tuesday, April 28, 2015

When in Rome.

After two planes, countless bus rides, a bajillion and one trains, fourteen days, three countries, and eight cities, I am finally back.  Looking back at my trip, even though it was just a few days ago, I'm still in awe.  I still can't believe I got to climb up the Alps, take a gondola ride in Venice, explore the rich culture in Florence, and eat in total twenty-seven scoops of gelato.  Yes, that is right.  27 whole scoops of gelato.  Needless to say I walked A LOT, and I'm working out now that I'm back. Ha!

When I was traveling, I was trying to think of a way to share my trip with you all.  I took well over a thousand photos, and it's just so hard to pick through all of them!  With that being said, I decided I'm going to share my trip one city at a time.  This way I can fully explain what happened, how long I was there, and how I felt about it!  

My first stop on my long excursion was Rome.  Ever since I was little, I remember dreaming about Italy.  Vespas everywhere, gelato on every corner, fresh pasta, and ancient ruins are just the start to what this amazing city has to offer.  The first time I really realized I was about to go on a life changing adventure was actually when I was in the plane.  I looked out the window, and lo and behold were the Alps.  For miles and miles they seemed to go on, and I literally couldn't stop looking.  After that moment, the trip only got better!  When I arrived, I made it to my place and got settled in.  Since we were in Rome, we decided what better way to start it out then to get gelato?!  This was the first of many and my greatest downfall.  The first day was spent exploring Rome!  Whether it was admiring the giant Colosseum, seeing the construction going on at the Trevi Fountain (Boo!), or simply enjoying the Italian culture, the first day was a total success.  One funny tid bit of the first day was enjoying home made pizza at a place called O'Sole e Napule.  When I was waiting on my pizza, a waiter seemed pretty focused on my hair (I happened to wear my hair down that day).  Basically he now plans on visiting me in Chicago.  Oh Flavio.


 Day 2 in Rome:

For some odd reason I didn't pack my good tennis shoes with me on this trip.  I seriously brought Converse and another fake pair of tennis shoes.  After the second day, my feet were going to fall off.  And yes, it was the second day.  Regardless of what shoes I wore, I saw a lot!  This morning I walked to the Colosseum and got a tour of it!  It is beyond amazing.  I got a nice history lesson and got to see Palatine Hill with that ticket too.  The whole area with the hill, Roman Forum, and the Colosseum is just amazing.  It's crazy thinking of how long the ruins have been there, how much time has passed, and that today I got to tour everything thousands of years later.  Out of everything on the second day, I think Palatine Hill might be my favorite.  On the hill, you get an amazing view of Rome.  The ruins, the modern buildings, and the beautiful purple flowers just created a picture perfect spot.  After being a major tourist, we got some gelato, ate dessert, and got more gelato.  I'm seriously not kidding with the amount of gelato I ate!

Camera bag + jacket tied around my waist + tennis shoes = 1 major tourist

Day 3 in Rome:

Just when I thought my feet couldn't hurt anymore, I was wrong.  In the morning we took the metro to the Spanish Steps!  Doesn't that just sound so romantic?  Getting wisked away to the romantic city of Rome, viewing the Spanish steps, and enjoying life.  But do you want to know what's not romantic?  It's getting asked a million times if I wanted to buy a selfie stick.  For the millionth time: NO!  Sorry, just a little anger there.  After the steps, we saw the Pantheon!  In between the Pantheon and the Vatican, we picked up some gelato... of course!  This was my favorite place hands down.  It's called Frigidarium, and it was life changing.  At the Vatican, we got to walk through part of it and see the Sistine Chapel!  To be honest, that was why I paid the fee to go in.  As you all know, I'm not Catholic, but it's just something you have to do.  I am so happy I did because it was incredible.  I might have snuck a picture in there, but I'm not going to share it.  The last thing I need is to be chased down by some Italian police.  From the Vatican, we walked all the way back to our place and picked up some dinner on the way!  Very great, but very tiring day!

One last picture of the Colosseum!
In total I only had about three days in Rome!  I left the next morning for Florence, and I'll pick that up on my next blog post!

To be completely honest, I never thought I would be able to go to Italy at only nineteen.  Thankfully my parents helped me fund this trip, and to them I am eternally thankful.  The reason I never thought I could leave at such a young age was just because it's me.  Ever since I was little I have been a home body.  I hated being away, I never left my mom's side, and I was the shiest girl in the room.  As the years have passed by, even as these past few months have passed by, I have noticed something different about myself.  I'm free, I'm happy, and I'm letting go of this set plan in my head.  The more I travel, I realize that I'm a little more adventurous than I thought.  I love trying new food, I love talking to random people on trains, and I love being myself no matter who I'm with.  I guess the point of me saying all of this is to tell you to travel.  Whether it's a state away, a city away, or even a country away, just go.  I would have never learned as much, seen as much, or grown as a person like I have without traveling.  I can't wait to share more of my trip, and I would love to share tips for Rome if you ever go there!


Friday, April 10, 2015

The Lovely Ireland

The last time I saw my parents was at O'hare airport in Chicago.  Tears streamed down my face, my parents' faces, and my sisters' faces.  I remember waving goodbye to them as I got through security, and the next thing you know I was alone.  Fast forward exactly three months, and I found myself anxiously awaiting the moment when I was finally able to see my parents again, but this time at the Dublin airport.  This blog post might be a little longer than most just because I did so much this past week!  Sorry in advance!

No matter how old I get, I've come to terms with the fact that I need my parents.  I even find myself calling my mom every day just to see how everything is back at home.  When I landed in Dublin, I literally rushed to get my luggage because that brought me one step closer to them.  I finally got my bag, and the next thing you know I'm standing in front of homemade signs with "Glad you're home" and "Welcome back" written all over them.  As I maneuvered around the mass of people, I finally saw my mom waiting for me at arrivals.  I'm pretty sure she thinks I cry all of the time because the last time she saw me I was crying, and this time tears were in my eyes AGAIN.  Except this time, they were of happiness.  After I pulled myself together, I found my dad waiting in the rental car.  I think it's implied that I had an abundance of hugs at that airport.  Our first stop on the Stanfield road trip was to the Bunratty Castle Hotel.  In between my dad trying to figure out how to drive on the opposite side of the road and my mom dozing off in the back seat, I got to tell them stories of the past few months.  For dinner we ate at a local restaurant and had fish and chips!  The rest of the night was spent sleeping and enjoying a queen sized bed all to myself.

On Friday morning, we all slept in.  We slept in so much that we missed breakfast and were left to fend for ourselves.  We were basically in the middle of nowhere which means no cafes were in sight, so we found ourselves wandering around a mall to find coffee.  Thankfully we found a place, and all was well.  After we were satisfied, we drove to the Burren.  The Burren is basically a ton of rocks over acres and acres of land, and no one really knows why they are there.  If you want to see mysterious rocks in a field, go to the Burren, not Stonehenge.  This place is a lot more interesting, trust me.  The roads are so narrow in the Burren, I thought I was going to run into the rock walls forming the road.  I got some pretty hysterical videos of my mom freaking out, my dad laughing, and myself contemplating on if I'll make it out alive.  Thankfully, we did and we found ourselves at the Cliffs of Moher.  GORGEOUS, BEAUTIFUL, AMAZING, and SPECTACULAR all describe this wonderful, but windy place.  We asked some locals where the best view was, and we were not disappointed.  We got to enjoy a secluded side of the cliffs, take a ton of pictures, and just take it all in.  If you ever want to feel small in your life, visit the cliffs.  After we were done there, we drove back to our hotel and had dinner there.  Dinner ended up being several hours long due to chatting with our waitresses.  If one thing is true about the Irish, it's that they love to talk.  All in all, it was great first whole day of our trip!

Saturday morning quickly approached, and we found ourselves at the Bunratty Castle.  The castle was really cool, and my dad literally looked like a little boy on Christmas morning.  That was my favorite part.  The not so fun part was getting pooped on... again.  People wonder why I hate birds so much, well that's why!  After we viewed the castle, we drove to Killarney.  The drive was so beautiful, and we even stopped in a cute little town called Adare.  Adare is forever in my mind because I had the BEST seafood chowder I have ever had.  Pieces of shrimp, salmon, cad, and crab were all mixed into a creamy white base, and it was pure heaven.  After we finished walking around Adare, we drove to our new place of stay called the Ardree house.  This was downtown Killarney and just a few minutes walk away from downtown.  By this time it was dinner, so we found a place and ate there.  Our waitress at this restaurant was the most timid and frightful lady I had ever seen.  I tried to order my food nicely and felt super uncomfortable the whole time.  That restaurant was a no go, but nevertheless it made for a funny story.  For dessert we got the famous (in Ireland) Murphy's ice cream, and it was delicious!  The rest of the night was spent in our B&B, and resting!

This Easter was a little different for my family.  Instead of being all together, we were literally in different countries.  My mom planned for all of us to go to the Dingle Peninsula on Sunday, and her planning was on point.  The Dingle Peninsula was one of my favorite parts of Ireland and is surrounded by mountains with breathtaking views.  The weather was perfect, the water was blue, the seafood was excellent, and I was with my parents.  One thing about Dingle that may not be broadcasted on tourist websites are the size of the roads.  I can't count the number of times I heard my mom freak out, which I of course got on video.  She'll thank me later for them, right?  One thing I never knew about Ireland was that the beaches were beyond gorgeous.  Inch beach was fabulous and had a cute little cafe on the shore, mountains in sight, and we even got to park on the beach!  If you ever go to Ireland, you have to go to Dingle.  It's just my favorite.

Take one
Take six.  The rest of the interrupted ones are not shown.

Wind in hair.  Enough said.

Monday was spent exploring the Ring of Kerry.  I never knew this, but I guess the Ring of Kerry is really hyped up and super popular in Ireland.  For the first part we were inland and got to explore the mountains.  There was this beautiful waterfall surrounded by green moss and super tall trees.  It really reminded me of Scotland, which I absolutely loved.  After we explored the forest, we went into the mountains and got this beautiful view!  I'm pretty sure that was all of Ireland though.  I was SUPER impressed by everything I saw.  Everyone I know who goes to Ireland absolutely loves it, but I guess you could say I was a little disappointed when I only went to Dublin last time.  However, this time I know exactly what they are talking about, and they aren't crazy.  The rest of the day was spent exploring the Ring of Kerry, taking ridiculous videos of my parents chasing sheep, and enjoying the beautiful weather!

 Tuesday was amazing.  I got to stay in a castle.  That's right, A CASTLE!  When my mom asked me where I wanted to go in Ireland, I literally had one request.  I said I wanted to stay in a castle for a night, and I was not disappointed at all.  In the morning, we ate the best breakfast any B&B could offer, then we headed to the Blarney Castle.  We explored there for a bit, and guess who kissed the Blarney stone?  Yep, I definitely did.  Lip and rock were made one.  After that, we headed to Waterford.  We toured the Waterford Crystal factory, and it was so pretty.  Crystal cups, vases, and statues everywhere!

The next stop was the Waterford Castle Hotel and Golf Resort.  AMAZING.  We had to take a ferry because it was on a little island, then we checked in.  I took pictures of everything.  From a door knob to my bathtub, I have it all.  We walked around the island for a bit before we got the most luxurious, gourmet dinner of my life.  I'm pretty sure there were six or seven courses, but I lost track!  First it was bread, then an appetizer, then another appetizer, then sorbet (to cleanse the pallet of course), the list just goes on!  After dinner, I got to enjoy my beautiful own room complete with my own (and ginormous) bathroom.  I took a nice long bath, wore a plush white robe, and cute little slippers.  Life is just grande.  Oh, and did I mention I had my own fruit bowl?

Wednesday morning I golfed.  Ya, I definitely golfed.  Between my dad trying to find his ball in the huge trees and me trying to actually hit the ball, we had an excellent time.  I'm actually surprised at how well I did!  New sport for me maybe?  I could get used to wearing cute clothes and being sporty at the same time!  After golfing, our time was spent driving in a car and touring the little town of Kilkenny.  Ireland has so many little towns, it's so hard to keep track of all of them!  In between all of the driving, I was working on school work... Ya.  It stunk.  I got to make up a whole paper about how my photography class changed my life!  So. Much. Fun.  When we got to Kilkenny, we ate at a lovely vintage tea shop!  They had so many different kinds of scones and baked goods, but I just went for a chicken bagel!  Of course I got tea too.  We explored the little town for a bit, picked up some more souvenirs (like we needed more), and got in the car headed to our last B&B.  My mom did an excellent job planning this whole trip!

Thursday morning was unfortunately spent in the airport.  Thankfully I got to have breakfast with my parents before we left, but the time went by so fast.  Even though we did so much this past week, I can't believe it's over already.  As I get older, I realize just how much I love and appreciate my parents.  There are so many kids out there who don't have a mom or dad to reach out to, or even a friend to talk to.  I am fortunate to say that I have two, very loving parents that traveled across the world to see me.  Not many people can say that, and this week just showed me how great they really are.

As the weeks go by, I am realizing how little time I have left in London.  Last night and today are my only days here for another two weeks.  My backpacking, not elegant, sleeping in other people's homes, exhausting trip starts tomorrow!  The trip goes something like this: Rome, Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terre, Milan, Venice, Salzburg, and Munich.  All within two weeks this will all take place, and I'm a little nervous not going to lie.  When I was growing up, I remember dreaming of Italy.  Taking a stroll through Rome, eating gelato, singing on a stage with my doppelganger.  Oh wait, that's just the Lizzie McGuire movie!  However,  I actually did dream of that.  (Thanks Lizzie)  For the next couple of weeks I won't have my laptop or be able to post on my blog, so I will try to keep everyone updated on social media.  Be on the lookout for my IG posts, tweets, and FB posts!  I look forward to sharing my upcoming trip with you all!