Wednesday night, after quickly putting our lives back together from Paris on Sunday, Lauren, Emma, Rachel, Arielle and I jetted off to bella Austria for the Vienna Christmas markets! We had seen the amazing ornaments and light displays online beforehand and basically, we were sold! It literally looks and feels like the North Pole. I’m actually quite surprised that we never ran into Santa Claus while we were there (not even an impersonator)…hmm odd. Needless to say, I knew we were heading to the Alps and being the wimpy California girl that I am, I knew I was going to freeze my butt off. So I averaged wearing about 4-5 layers per day, plus scarves, gloves and warm furry hats. (Before you judge..) At least I wasn’t cold! :) The weather was actually not too cold (considering I was expecting to catch a wee bit of frostbite). It was equivalent to New York at Christmastime or so.
Our hostel, The Wombat at the Naschmarkt, was UNBELIEVABLE. For $40 for two nights, we had our own private room and bathroom, unlimited towels and free drinks at the Wombar (in the hostel!) The man at the reception desk told us towels were free and it took a few tries for us to believe him. He probably thought we were living in the shantytowns of Naples, rather than Rome. (In short, Europe has made me appreciate anything and EVERYTHING free…because nothing is free.) Anyways, our hostel was magnificent and this only started our trip off in Vienna on the jolliest of notes!
After a fun-filled night in the Wombar, we woke up in the morning to Lauren’s 21st birthday! (Yay! :) ) We ventured to a cute little breakfast place where the waiters only spoke German (shoot). For example, when we ordered bagels, they said “No, we are only serving breakfast right now.” (?!) We were a little befuddled. Plus, I forgot that the Austrian language was German. The Sound of Music ‘tends to leave out these things… From there, we happily skipped, in our peacoats and Christmas attire, to our first destination: the Schonbrunn Castle Market. This market was small and very quaint, but adorable with a huge Christmas tree in front of the Castle. In front of the tree, a small orchestral band was playing Christmas songs…The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.
From there, we went to my favorite market, Wiener Christkindlmarkt at Rathausplatz. It was by far the largest and most elaborately decorated of the markets, with hundreds of cute booths selling ornaments, nativity sets, scarves, freshly roasted pretzels and hot dogs, and punsch. Now, the Austrian punsch at the Christmas markets is absolutely amazing. The punsches are hot teas, chocolates or punches, with a little bit of alcohol, schnopps, or rum. Everyone walks around glued to these mugs, either sipping apple cider, hot chocolate, or strawberry wine punch (and more!) all with a hint of spike. What a lovely way to tour a Christmas market! As for the vendor items, each and every ornament and trinket is absolutely gorgeous and intricate, so unique to anything you see in America. I wanted to buy EVERYTHING. Trust me, there is nowhere on Earth more Christmas-savvy than the beautiful Vienna Christmas markets.
After Rathausplatz, we quickly measled around the Spittelberg market, and then celebrated Lauren’s lovely birth with all-you-can-eat sushi. I know, I know, we should’ve eaten Austrian food, but this deal was too hard to pass. Plus, in all fairness, I had consumed an Austrian pizza pretzel, sausage dog, gingerbread cookies, Apple punsche and schnitzel all day. From there, we made our way to more Christmas markets to see the beautiful lights and eventually snuggled up in bed watching the Grinch. Classic.
The next day, we rose and made our way to the Belvedere Castle Christmas market and the Advent market, which was considered the arts and crafts market. (There was also a petting zoo…wee!) Every booth, every figurine was so delightful and so full of holiday spirit. It was the perfect last trip and such a magical beginning to my Christmas season! As for Austria itself, I truly wished I could’ve also experienced Vienna from a historical and tourist standpoint because every building, every bit of scenery was absolutely stunning. Out of all the places I’ve traveled to these last few months, I would have to say Austria is the most naturally beautiful. Salzburg, Vienna, and the immaculate Alps are at the TOP of my list for my next travel adventures in Europe someday. Ready, Mom? :) Even without the entrancing Christmas spirit of the Christmas markets, I cannot wait to learn about the beauty of Austria because it is a wonder in itself!
Whew, finally done traveling! Next stop: Claremont, CA. T-minus 5 days, 13 hours and 48 minutes!! :D
This is the kind of Christmas tree I would LOVE to have!!! ..Especially during finals right now.
COUNTDOWN: 6 more days til HOME! :)
Ever since I went to Paris senior year with my mother, I had been itching to go back to Paris! Paris swept me away with its elaborate buildings, classic aura and its graceful elegance. It is EXACTLY how you would picture the city, for it is exactly as romantic and picture-perfect as how you see in the movies. Even after visiting this dream of a city again, I still stand by the declaration that Paris is PERFECT!!
We began our day waltzing through the city, heading straight to the Louvre. Spending two and a half hours in the labyrinth of a museum, I believe we saw, or at least glanced at, everything in sight. The Louvre is astounding, blending the modern pyramids with the intricate oil paintings. I love looking at art, particularly impressionism. It was a nice change of pace gazing at landscape paintings, after only seeing primarily religious art for the last few months. We also paid a quick trip to see Mona, and she was as quizzical as ever.
Then, we ventured over the Seine on the way to see Notre Dame. Notre Dame is so gorgeous, but was even better with a huge, ornamentful Christmas tree in front! It really put everyone in the Christmas spirit. :)
The rest of the evening, we browsed in an out of little French boutiques and shops, and finally had dinner near the Eiffel Tower. We tried some escargots (not too shabby) and paid a visit to the immaculate Eiffel Tower. It is so overwhelming in person, particularly at night, and it was, again, even better than I had originally remembered. Oh, the splendor of Paris!
The next morning, we woke up bright and early to hop on the train to Versailles. Mind you, in the POURING rain. Not my most ideal weather choice. Struggling all day with my floral, slightly broken Target umbrella was quite the experience. Needless to say, it’s time for a new umbrella. Versailles, on the other hand, was so intricate and beautiful. You could easily close your eyes and picture Marie Antoinette commanding around the enormous palace grounds. Though her bedroom was so carefully decorated with elegant draperies and furniture, I would have to say my favorite part of Versailles was the unbelievable gardens, surrounding the palace. They seriously go on for miles and miles, with courtyards and fountains and carefully manicured shrubbery everywhere you look. I really wish it hadn’t been raining so I could frolick in every garden, every field of grass. The palace itself was constructed under Louis XIV (two monarchies before Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI). Lauren and I got audio guides, so we were basically experts on Versailles, after traveling in and out of the 50+ rooms and corridors. It was truly a beautiful palace, but I have to say that I think British Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace are more immaculate and rich in design. Versailles is gorgeous, don’t get me wrong, but you don’t always feel the royalty in every single room. This is confusing, seeing as Marie Antoinette spent all of the French tax money on her clothes and possessions…hmm? But, we learned that Versailles was later sacked by the people out of rebellion, so much of the original grandeur has been lost or taken. Luckily, it wasn’t burnt to the ground! Versailles was truly all I really wanted to see in Paris and I am SO glad we had the opportunity to visit it. It adds to the grace of Paris and of France as a whole!
Later that night, we wandered along the Champ d’Elysses, in and out of every single store on the block, admired the Arc de Triomphe and wandered through the Louvre park near the Ferris wheel. We also may have consumed a few macarones along the way, too. Macarones are tiny stuffed cookies that taste like little cookie sandwiches, filled with a hint of jelly. They are the definition of the word scrumptious and my favorite flavor was rose! If gorgeous, perfect Paris had a taste, it would taste like this.Overall, it was a beautiful Parisian evening!
Our last day in Paris, we ate delicious croque monsieurs and did a lengthy (but rainy) photo shoot at the Eiffel Tower. It was a little wet, but still so wonderful!
Paris, more than any other city in Europe, is the easiest city to fall in love with. It is stunning and entrancing and captivating, and basically every beautiful adjective you can think of! I cannot wait to come back here someday with my husband (most likely Leonardo DiCaprio), as it is HEAVEN for lovers of the world. Until then, au revoir belle Paris!
Kristin comes to Rome! :)
While trying to get a few hours of homework done on the plane from Dublin to London, we finally arrived in England! Now, I had been to London with my mom for a week during my senior year in high school. So, generally, I felt like I could really navigate around London with ease, remembering all the sites and the mastering the tube. Our hostel was located right next to Victoria station, just a bit south of Buckingham Palace, which ended up being an extremely central location. Once we got settled in our hostel and got changed for dinner, we wandered to a famous fish and chips pub. Everyone was pretty much dying to have English fish and chips. Personally, I am more of a fan of New England (more specifically, Nancy’s in Martha’s Vineyard) fish and chips, but I tried them anyways. It was a fun first meal.
Then, we took the tube to Piccadilly Circus, which is essentially the Time Square of London. There are enormous lights and signs everywhere, with crowds of people from all over the world. Piccadilly Circus really makes me miss New York (my mom and dad are there right now…so jealous!). We headed into Chinatown where we stumbled into a really popular bar, O’Neill’s. It was a three story Irish bars, filled mostly with English and Americans, so it was a little confusing as to why it was smack dab in the middle of Chinatown. It’s a mystery… There I met up with Scott, one of Alex’s fraternity brothers at UCLA, who was also visiting London. He studies in Rome, too! It was a really fun night and it’s always great to see friends from home. Even though, however, sometimes it feels like seeing a fish out of water! How are you in London, too, when I normally see you walking by Royce Hall in LA? Strange…but too cool. London nightlife was truly one of my favorites. Everything is so vibrant and mixed and energetic, but not too crazy, all at once! Being in London with friends in the nightscene, London feels more like a city, the center of the world, than it previously had when I originally visited. It made me love it a thousand times more.
After our rockin first night, we made sure to rise and shine bright and early! Afterall, we had all of London to see in 36 hours! As officially tour guide (they called me Captain Cait), I led the troops the city. We started at Buckingham Palace, worked our way towards Westminster Abbey and Parliament, over the bridge past the London Eye and perfect Shakespeare’s Globe. (eeek!) I really, really wanted to see a play at the globe, but inconveniently, Shakespeare play season doesn’t begin til the Spring. Boo. On the bright side, this means I just get to go back to London someday! :) From there, we crossed over Tower Bridge, flashed a quick Spice Girls photo (so necessary), and made our way to the most important place of all…Chipotle.
Shortly after discovering that there was a Chipotle in London, we hopped on the nearest metro stop and literally SPRINTED to the burrito joint. It was SO worth it…my oh my how I miss mexican food!
After an extremely long, but rather enjoyable food coma, we continued our speedy sight-seeing through London. We meandered around Trafalgar Square, playing on the lion statues and admiring the 2012 London Olympics countdown. Finally, as beautiful darkness in London approached, we made our way back to the London Eye. This time, however, we sought to ride it and see the stunning city from an illuminated bird’s eye view! I normally am not the hugest fan of ferris wheels, but this one went really slow and I got some solid pics out of it, so hey, I could work with it. Finally, passing by immaculate Harrods, covered head to toe in white shimmering Christmas lights, we headed back to the hostel for some serious sleep.
In the morning, after getting, once again, my peppermint mocha (Christmas in a cup…duh), the girls headed to Tower of London simply because I insisted it was the ONE thing in London we absolutely HAD to do. This goes for you too, reader…the Tower of London is unbeatable. It is filled with mysteries of scandal, beheadings, secrets, history and more history! The Tower of London was the former residence of the Royal family in the time of the Tudors. However, it is most widely known for being the holding towers and scaffolds of execution for famous prisoners, such as Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, and other unfortunate residents accused of treason. By this, I mean, basically anyone Henry VIII didn’t like because he ruled the roost. London tourist attractions LOVE to highlight Henry VIII because he’s just so gosh darn scandalous! The Tower of London also has forever been and still is home to the crown jewels, dating back several centuries. The Crown Jewels are remarkable, almost a bit overwhelming in grandeur. Needless to say, it did trigger some ideas for my Christmas list…just kidding (kinda).
Overall, London was even more dazzling and vibrant as I had remembered it, especially during the holiday season. London has so much to offer, from the history to the million attractions and sites to the nightlife, and I am so glad I got to experience the city in such a different light for my second visit. I have decided that Beeda has to study here…he could be such a Londoner! Plus, that means I can “mind the gap” and come visit! :)
Merry Christmas from Room Four!
London and Paris posts to come soon! Finals in Rome, with Vienna on the way just doesn’t seem to mesh very well…oops :)
Stuffing our bags full of clothes, sweaters, and scarfs, we jetted off from Ciampino Airport to begin our Thanksgiving weekend adventure in Dublin and London. When we arrived in Dublin (after some productive reading and highlighting on the plane…she does it all!), we boarded a bus to the city center that had Edward and Bella on the back of the bus in a Breaking Dawn advertisement. This was when I first knew I would love Dublin haha. Upon arrivaL, we painfully dragged our suitcases through the city. However, this was exciting and enjoyable, seeing as we passed multiple Starbucks, burger joints, pubs, and more. Mmm America. The seven of us (Lauren, Rachel, Emma, Rachel, Andrew, Connor and I) knew that we would want to be in an English-speaking country for Thanksgiving and boy, oh boy, were we right! It was so refreshing to be in a country so similar to home…it was almost as if we had forgotten the true glory of American civilization. Anyways, we checked into our hostel, which was conveniently located right in the center of the Temple Bar district (the center of nightlife in Dublin) and left to track down some grub. Afterall, this was our first 2 hour flight and we were a hungry pack of kids here. We found a night burger joint right next to Eddie Rocket’s (brother of Johnny?) Diner and quickly consumed these huge, juicy burgers complete with a massive order of fries. It was heavenly.
The next morning we got up nice and early in order to prepare ourselves for our cumulative three-hour Dublin walking tour that was FREE. We were just plain stoked. Once we all were finished grooming and bundling up, we rushed to the nearest Starbucks and i giddily received my Peppermint Mocha aka Christmas in a cup. We then walked over to the tour meeting spot and ate two yummy gingerbread cookies (!!) freshly made. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…
Our tour was unbelievable and the tour guide was perfect, so knowledgeable about all of Dublin’s sites, histories and secrets. We began at Dublin City Hall, where we learned about St. Patrick and the history of Ireland in a nutshell. He explained that the Irish don’t really understand the phrase, “the luck of the Irish” because just when a war begins to turn in the favor of the Irish, they end up getting slaughtered. Bitter luck. He also explicated the origin of St. Patrick’s Day (my birthday! :)), which initially began in Ireland as a day of worship, church-going, and feasting. However, the Irish in America ‘tended to celebrate the holiday in a rather different manner…so naturally, Ireland began to adopt these traditions instead haha.
From there, we ventured on to the Dublin Castle, numerous cathedrals, over the river (and through the woods…just kidding), past the government offices, museums, through Trinity College and finally to St. Stephen’s green. St. Stephen’s great was my favorite, I’d say. It’s a huge lush park in the middle of the city, very similar to Central Park in New York, but much more greener, full of beautiful nature.
After our long walking tour, we went to the highly anticipated Guinness Factory. We learned the steps necessary to brew the beer, learned how to properly identify the taste, and finally, enjoyed a nice pitcher at the top of the Sky bar. From the sky bar, you could see a 360 degree view of wonderful Dublin. It was so chic and just plain awesome.
For our unbelievable Thanksgiving meal, Lauren had found an Australian bar that served turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, vegetables, yams and pie all for 12.50 euro! The bar felt like home in America, like BJ’s or Barney’s Brewery, as there were tvs EVERYWHERE showing the football games. It was literally heaven. I basically inhaled my meal so quickly that I ended up ordering an additional serving of mashed potatoes (my favorite food…duh) and Andrew’s mashed potatoes. I also helped some stragglers finish their ice cream and pie. Needless to say, it was a very high caloric day for Caitlin. But hey, it was Thanksgiving, right?
We were all so thankful to be in Dublin, eating a typical Thanksgiving meal, watching football, and for all of our adventures in Europe. It was just what we all needed. (minus my mommy’s cranberry bread which is the greatest) However, Mom…this still means I want a Thanksgiving repeat when I get home. :)
As if you couldn’t already tell enough from my Shakespeare blabbing and quoting and such, I am a Shakespeare-worshipping English major, through and through. I can’t begin to tell you how much I miss studying poems, word by word, making arguments about enjambment and syllable inconsistentency…basically, crazy-people talk. I feel like such a weirdo, but I really do love being challenged and pushing myself to think in an abstract manner. Such an overachiever, I know. Definitely missing Ucla…but I will be there soon enough!
Anyways, the point of this intro was supposed to be to lead me to my weekend adventure…(oops, tangent) This past weekend, Lauren, Michelle and I went to perfect Verona in il Veneto region of Italy. I had been BEGGING Lauren to go to Verona with me. Romeo and Juliet is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays (behind Othello) and I just couldn’t leave Italy without seeing my initial idea of Italy. After doing my hair in a french braid headband (aka Renaissance hair brilliance…but seriously, see below), we boarded our plane and jetted off to Verona!
Side note: My hair is actually growing here! This is confusing, seeing as I haven’t had a haircut in months, the shower water is non buono, and I’m using terrible shampoo. Maybe after 20 years of existence…this is finally the trick? Who knows.
Anyways, Verona is exactly my idea of Italy, perfect Italy, with the small cobblestone roads, cute iron balconies and adobe buildings around a quaint, but artsy piazza. Verona is set on this really cute river (much cleaner than the Roman Tiber) and has a large hill with a castle and vineyard vines running down it. This is the beautiful Italy that not everyone sees, the adorable, small towns with dancing couples and men playing accordions. It was so romantic and aesthetic, just in the way the town inspires you to take a picnic by the river or enjoy a huge pizza, just because that is the beauty of life and of Verona. Verona is the type of town you want to stroll around on bikes or hold hands with a lover, the perfect place for two lovers to fall madly in love, two lovers like Romeo and Juliet.
Visiting la Casa di Guilietta was so adorable and truly filled my Shakespeare-hungry hopes and wishes. Now remember, Romeo and Juliet were not actual people as far as history tell us, which for the average person, might take the fun out of a lot of this tourism. But I ADORED it…Romeo and Juliet are real in my heart, of course! :) Inside the house, there are all the rooms that correspond to the scenes in the play that take place in the Capulet estate: the party where Romeo and Juliet meet, Juliet’s bedroom where her and Romeo spend their wedding night and where she is found “dead,” etc. In each room, there were small book stands with famous lines from the scenes, which I loved to read, even though they are practically memorized in my head. There were also the costumes of Romeo and Juliet from the 1968 classic movie. I instantly recognized these particular costumes and they are so Renaissance-inspired in person.
There is also a room where sad lovers can “email” Juliet to tell her their tragic stories. Cheesy cheesy, but hey, the place has to make money somehow. After going through the rest of the house, I made Lauren take a solo balcony shot of me, waiting for my Romeo. (Poor Lauren, she’s such a trooper) I even began reciting, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose…” Just kidding, guys, I promise. I’m not THAT strange.
After that dreamy few minutes, I wrote Alex and I’s names on the Wall of Lovers, the walls that line Juliet’s house, filled with millions of lovers names and hearts from years and years. The Wall of Lovers is absolutely amazing and really, a work of art! It is so cool to look at the wall and think about how many lovers have been here in the presence of these famous literary soulmates. It is so beautiful! I wish Alex was there with me to write it, but he was definitely there in spirit. (slash tagged in the pictures on facebook…hehe) :) Hopefully someday we can go back and see it! I wrote our names in red sharpie with a big heart in the corner. Yay! Che romantico! But seriously, the wall of lovers is so intricate like a labryinth of lovers and yet so modern and simple at the same time. It is just plain awesome…definitely better than the John Lennon wall in Prague.
Overall, it was such a magical day in Verona and I am so thankful that I was able to see the place I wanted to go since I first came to Italy! It is such a dream and I really could imagine Romeo and Juliet running through the streets of this beautiful little Italian town. Shakespeare just makes everything better :)
Therefore, love moderately. Long love doth so/ Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow. — Friar Lawrence, Romeo and Juliet, Act Two, Scene Six (so excited for Verona this weekend!!!)