Posts Tagged ‘travel’

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Sarah: Cabaña en las montañas

October 7, 2011

Cabin in the mountains.

That is where 7 of my friends and I headed last Saturday for an overnight stay in “la culata” or the valley of the chilly Andes. It is about an hour away from our homes here in Mérida, a perfect weekend getaway.

I found a bench and a good book…the only thing missing was my coffee (I DID ask at the front desk, it just wasn’t exactly a luxury hotel…)

Blue Skies.

Hotel Princesa (the Princess Hotel) that owns the cabins.

Last weekend’s cabin adventure was beautiful and relaxing, but now that I’m on my semester break (as of today) I’m getting excited for a 5 day trip to the beach on the beautiful Caribbean! We leave tonight for Choroní, a town on the coast of Venezuela, and have an overnight busride that takes something like 16 hours. The buses here are notoriously cold, so I’m planning to pack my northface and wool socks so hopefully I can get some sleep. WIsh me luck!

The five day trip probably means soaking up a lot of sun, reading by the beach, eating fresh seafood, and maybe taking a boat ride or two to the neighboring islands…but it also may mean that there won’t be another blog post for a while. However, I assure you all that I’ll be documenting my adventures diligently with my camera and my journal, so I’ll have something good to post when I get home!

See you in 5 days, world!

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Anna: Trip to Czech Republic

April 1, 2011
Last weekend I took an overnight bus to Prague, Czech Republic with a friend from high school, Elizabeth Mountain. It was so so nice to catch up with her, we had a long bus ride to do so too! Butt was a little sore, but it wasn’t too horrible and definitely the cheaper option.

On our first day we did a free walking tour, which was a little slow and we ended up leaving and went to go try our first steins of Czech beer. It was super affordable for quite a bit of beer. We were really full for the rest of the day then. I am not exactly a huge beer drinker, but it was fun to try their local beer. For dinner we went to a traditional Czech restaurant. We each had beef with a traditional sauce (tasted like a gravy) and potato dumplings. It was really heavy! And even more filling with a stein of beer. Our stomachs felt like we wanted to explode after, but hey you gotta try the local cuisine!

Some other sites we saw were the Charles Bridge, which is beautiful. We also saw the John Lennon Wall, which since the 1980’s has been an average wall, but it is covered in graffiti. In the late 80’s the wall was a source of letting out irritation for the Communist Regime. You can’t see the picture of John Lennon that used to be there, but it is covered with plenty of lyrics and Beatles memorabilia. I really liked this and was happy to be informed of the history behind it. We also saw the Prague Castle with is a huge area made up of palaces and a cathedral. It almost looks like its own little town. Elizabeth and I were picturing a castle from Shrek, but it was really interesting to see how different this was from a typical castle. We checked out the Old Jewish Cemetery, which was incredible. There are over 100,000 burials within the cemetery with 12,000 tombstones showing. They are all crooked and stacked amongst each other it’s really quite a site to see.

Prague nightlife is usually pretty popular. We were able to “Czech” out the 5 story club as well as a 80’s themed club that I really loved. The 5 story club had a different music theme on each floor and it is a pretty big tourist attraction. The 80’s club not only played 80’s music, but used every wall to play the music videos too. Never heard so much ABBA in my life!

I really loved Prague. The architecture was incredible, and the city was so unique and very historical. I love Florence but it is really nice to go to places that are so different from Italian culture. I am at the only 3 weeks left mark. It makes me a little sad but I am definitely anxious to get back home to see people that I have been missing. I need to enjoy my cappuccinos and gelato while it lasts. My parents have been tempting me by skyping during their dinner time. My mom made stir fry with peanut sauce! Italy has beyond amazing food but I definitely want some variation in my life!

This weekend I will be going to Barcelona for 4 nights with 10 girls. It will be an adventure! I am excited though for the Gaudi, food, and finally being able to somewhat speak a language. Only things I am nervous about are what I have heard about pickpockets and speaking Spanish when I arrive back in Italy! Should be an exciting weekend.
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Anna: La Vita e Meravigliosa!

January 28, 2011

This week I had my first Italian quiz, hence the “la vita e mervigliosa” which means “it’s a wonderful life.” I am trying to speak as much Italian as I can! Very different than Spanish I must say but it isn’t too horrible. Some people in my class have awful pronunciation from the East Coast so I don’t sound too bad. This is a short post but I thought I would mention a few fun things I did this week!

First, my art history professor took us to Santa Croce church which was beautiful. Michelangelo and Galileo are both buried there. We are learning about frescos, which are layers of paint that even though many have been chipped and distressed over the years you can still see how much work went into them. They remind me of textural wall murals—very pretty. I am excited to get out into the city for this class! The class is 3 hours long and my professor can talk the whole time and can still hold our attention.

We ate at restaurant called Il gatto e la volpe which means the cat and the fox. It is from the story of Pinocchio, which was written by an Italian author. When reading that back in the day I definitely didn’t connect the dots to that one. Anyways, it was delicious! The balsamic was chunky, different than usual but sooo good. I order the Spaghetti Nonna Rosa which is made with green tomatoes, a bit of cream, spicy, and little pieces of ham. It was so delicious. Anyone who visits me I am taking you there! Besides, the waiter was soo nice and looked like Ray Romano which I loved. He even gave us a 10 percent discount card! I also tried white chocolate gelato with nutella in it, so delish!

I finally met up with a friend from high school, Elizabeth Mountain. We got lunch, well I ate she watched because she is fed at her school and it was great to catch up. I got margherita pizza and the lady was not liking me because I asked for tap water and if I could pay with a credit card. If you want something to drink here, you have to pay for a huge thing of water or order something else. So everyone savor your free water! And basically everywhere you go you need cash, definitely going to take some getting used to. Elizabeth and I are planning a trip to Prague at the end of March. I have heard only great things about it! If you have any suggestions please let me know. Can’t wait!

I haven’t bought anything yet except for a sweater which involves a long story, but I was in need of one. And it was cheap! Coin is a great place to shop, cheap and a department store. Plus sale season is ending soon so if I want anything I need to buy anything in stores I need to do it soon. I have a very limited wardrobe being one of the very few people who brought only 1 suitcase. But I am still resisting the temptation and have not bought anything yet! Still need to make it to San Lorenzo market to barter.

I am going to Rome this weekend! Hopefully I will be able to meet up with both friends and family. I am in contact with my dad’s cousin named Fernando. His wife speaks a little English but I am mainly going to try to speak to his daughter in law who is Canadian and will help me communicate. I heard Fernando has a fever so hopefully he will feel well enough to give me a tour or get a bite to eat. Looking forward to this crazy city. It will be interesting to compare it to Florence since I contemplated going there earlier…but I think I will be happy with my decision anyways!

Lately everyone has been stressing and talking about traveling. I too have been struggling with trying to decide where to travel outside of Italy! I have ruled out Paris recently because it’s difficult to fly there cheaply and will be pricey once I am there. I also ruled out London even though I’d love to go but again, its a lot for a weekend trip.

Here is my list so far: Spain, Prague, Switzerland (maybe next weekend), Greece for Spring Break, and possibly the French Riviera. And my main focus is traveling ALL over Italy! My roommates and I want to do Cinque Terre for my birthday and French Riviera at the very end in April!

p.s. people don’t pick the dog poop up on the cobblestone streets ever. and italians do not know how to drive! I will post a picture explaining the driving next time because again, the internet won’t let me!
In the meantime enjoy this link my cross cultural psych teacher gave me.

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Emma: Hanging with the kiwis

March 23, 2010

I don’t even know where to begin with my New Zealand Adventures. It all started on Thursday night when I arrived at the airport and entered the Duty Free Shop in the international terminal. HEAVEN on EARTH. After my little bit of excitement over some of the cheapest things I have seen since coming here, my flight took off to Auckland, New Zealand—the City of Sails.

The weekend was off to a great start when we got on the ferry to Waiheke Island right off the coast of Auckland. When we arrived on the island, we hiked around for a few hours and saw some of the beautiful landscapes. We then rented a mini-bus and learned to drive on the “other side of the road.”

We made our way to U-Save Car and Truck rentals to pick up our 10 person mini-bus. The old man who gave us the keys warned us of people getting killed and bad car accidents and you know pretty much everything you ever wanted to hear before driving for the first time in a foreign country. He then ended with “make sure you put the club on the wheel whenever you leave the car.” HA! (One of the those red things you people used to lock their steering wheels with about 15 years ago in the States). We were then off taking “short lefts and wide rights.” For about the next 4 hours.

When we arrived in Turangi, we drove to the campsite, only to find the office closed… So what do we do!? Pitch our tents, stay the night, and head off in the morning without saying a word. Yes that meant free camping for night number 1. After finding out we missed the bus to Mt. Doom that day and also that there were 55 MPH winds at the top of the mountain we had a huge change of plans. We headed into Taupo and went on a hike to Huka Falls.

The next day, we caught a bus to Mount Nguaruhoe, AKA Mt. Doom (from Lord of the Rings) and started out on the most strenuous trek of my life. We hiked for about 5 K and then came upon the bottom of the mountain. Now as the bus driver said “Mount Doom…it’s between you and God,” we started up the mountain with no trail just rocks and sand everywhere. I was literally crawling on all fours up this thing with my limbs flailing in every direction. If this was not a sight for sore eyes I literally do not know what is. There were numerous times I was asking myself what the hell I was thinking but eventually I made it all the way to the summit of the volcano and looked straight into the crater. SO AMAZING and the view was not all that bad either—lakes, hot springs, mountains. Miles of the most beautiful landscape I had ever seen.

Finally after we made it down (we skied on the dirt the whole way) we continued our trek for another 15 K. All in all we hiked a total of 15 miles that day, and man was I tired. Most people train for things like this… New Zealand is gorgeous, and there is so so much more that I would love to see. I guess I will just have to go back some day.

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Veronica: Travels and more

March 9, 2010
Travel is a really important thing when you’re studying abroad, and I think I should tell you about my experiences (in a practical way). For the Montpellier integrated track, there is a week long winter break. So, three friends and I went to Italy. Weekend trips are easy to plan, but a week long trip is harder than you would expect. It got kind of stressful for more than one reason. There is a lot to think about and take into consideration. How are you going to get to the airport from the train station; do all of your flight/train times harmonize, or do you need to find somewhere to stay, do you need to rush…things like that. Also, an important thing that I learned is that the way people plan is the way they travel. If they are kind of hard-headed when they plan, they will be worse when you travel. If they are laid back planners, they will be flexible travellers. If they are illogical when planning, travelling will be a mess. Pay attention to the way people plan because those qualities will be amplified when you’re out there doing what you organized. I wish I didn’t have to learn this the hard way, but I did. Also, my trip ended up costing between $300-$400 more than planned. So be ready to spend more money than you anticipate. Things just don’t go exactly as you think. Be prepared to traveling to go wrong. We didn’t have any issues (except we ended up having to go a day early to Lyon because our flight was at 7am; this was minor), but a lot of people we talked to after getting back missed flights and cabs cost ridiculous amounts, and had to buy new tickets for planes and trains and things like that. One thing I advise, is if you fly out of Lyon, DO NOT use the train station–airport shuttle bus. It’s expensive, and the most ridiculous thing ever. It was such a joke. Awful service. Seriously, do not use it. Take a cab. Walk. Something. Just not that.

So, traveling is not as easy as it seems. You’ll run into problems no matter what. Be flexible. Understand that things aren’t as structured as they seem they should be. Flexibility is key.

And Italy was so much fun. I went to Rome, Florence, and Venice. Rome is the best city out of the three. The drivers are crazy, which is interesting. And there is something old/famous no matter where you go or if you’re looking for it. They build around ancient pillars and stuff, so they’ll just be anywhere. Next to a building, in a parking lot, etc. It’s really cool. Venice was pretty, but I wasn’t a huge fan, actually. It was really cold because of the water, and it’s really hard to get around unless you take boats, which costs a ton of money. We only saw one monument/place in 2.5 days because it was so hard to find anything. Also, there are parts of the city that feel really sketchy and dirty and unsafe, and there is no indication that the area is changing until you are already there. If Venice is something you want to see, do it, but I didn’t think it was that great.

Rome

Florence

Venice

Also, the program organized an excursion this past Saturday to Saint Guilhem-le-Desert. It is such a beautiful village. It was actually voted one of the most beautiful towns in France. Such a nice place. And we went to the Clamouse cave. That was cool too. Short tour, small cave, but definitely the prettiest cave I’ve been too, and I’ve been to quite a few. If this is an excursion option when you are in Montpellier, do go. It’s really nice.
It snowed here last night. And when I say snowed, I don’t mean flurried like you would expect here. I mean really snowed. I felt like I was back in Minnesota. Nimes, a town nearby, got 10 inches. It hasn’t snowed that much here since 1974, I was told. I got stuck in it for two hours and it was cold, and wet, and terrible. It was gorgeous snow though. And snow on palm trees is quite an interesting sight. I would add an image of it, but it seems I’ve reached my quota.

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Veronica: Plane Ticket

December 9, 2009

Thinking about how you want to arrive in France is kind of big, though not quite as important as some other things you have to consider. You can either fly on your own or take the group flight.

The group flight is nice. You can fly with people in your program so you aren’t so alone. It’s coordinated, so you get picked up at the airport. It’s a good little support group and way to make friends before you arrive.

I’m flying alone. I found a ticket that cost half as much as the group flight. My ticket is also flexible, unlike the group flight. If you want to travel after the program is over, the group flight probably is not a good idea. I know people who booked their flights separately but on the same ones as the group flight. Cheaper.

It’s up to you. I wanted to go to France a week early before the program starts, so that’s what I’m doing. I may stay longer. I can change my ticket. The group flight is a committment. It all depends on how much independence you want in your travelling. Both are good options. Keep in mind the cost. If you want to travel lots when you’re abroad, you might want to spend less on your round-trip ticket. Unless you’re filthy rich, it’s something you should take into account.

The most important thing for you to know, no matter what you choose to do, is that your ticket MUST be round-trip in order to be granted a visa. You cannot only buy one way and then buy your return ticket later. I made this mistake (before doing my visa) and the travel company I used told me this.

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Danielle: Marseille

November 14, 2009

I went to Marseille yesterday. And I really liked it. These last weekends have been some of the best ive spent here. I went to Geneva last weekend. And I liked it because of a mixture of the feeling of actually being content and just because the places were just amazing. I loved the train ride to Geneva and the trees and how everything is turning red. I loved looking across the lake to the mountains. I like the old streets and the big gardens. I like the cloudy sky. I liked the quiet the cold and I really liked the people I was with. And yesterday. We climbed an island and up a really big hill to see the city yesterday with sherry and kristen. I loved climbing on the rocks of the island. I liked how strong the wind was. I liked the clouds here too. And the way they looked with the water. And sea.

Next weekend im going to London. I just bought my tickets yesterday. So Friday at seven in the morning (gross) im going to be sitting on a train to paris and then from paris to London. Don’t know really what im going to do there. A weekend with English is going to be both kinda uncomfortable and comfortable at the same time. I think. I was thinking about it. and expect with some of my friends. Ive been speaking French to the general population for almost three months. Im kinda attached to it. Im starting to feel more comfortable talking to people and reading things and writing things. Which btw. Five pages into my Moliere paper. Ten points to that. And just. Hmm. Comfortable.

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