Waffle Weekend (Brussels, Belgium)

Well, before I cut to the chase and tell you all about my trip to Belgium, I feel that I should give you a brief update about life here at the John Felice Rome Center. My classes are going well, I’m learning to love Mensa meals (and savor every bite, since they’re already paid for), I sang at mass with the rest of the voice students last night (though I didn’t really care for the formality of the mass, as I have been raised as an Apostolic Lutheran) and I’ve been playing calcio (or soccer) every Wednesday night.

Let me give you a brief overview of calcio. There are about 12 teams of students with some faculty and staff members that play each other on small turf fields every Wednesday night. Three games are played at once on three fields that are fenced in and covered by nets. To give you some idea of what we play on, the fields are also used as tennis courts and are therefore not very padded. I’m on the orange team. We lost our first game and last week we tied with the pink team. It’s really fun, though some people take it a little bit too seriously. I almost didn’t sign up to play, but I’m really glad I did. I haven’t played soccer since seventh grade. It feels good to be back.

Now, on to Brussels. Ashley, Erica and I boarded the plane for our flight to Belgium at Ciampino Airport, just 30 minutes from the center of Rome. Everything went smoothly on the flight until I realized that half of my upper lip and gums were numb. I still don’t know why my mouth went numb, as I hadn’t eaten or done anything different that morning. I was chewing gum at the time, so I made sure to spit that out and eventually the numbness subsided. It was really strange. I didn’t have any other incidents the rest of the weekend, thankfully.

We landed outside of Brussels at Charleroi Airport. I was immediately aware of the French being spoken around me and automatically felt vulnerable, but not threatened. It was definitely an interesting experience being in a country that touts two native languages (French, as aforementioned, as well as Dutch). Luckily, most people spoke some English.

We checked into our hostel on Friday and decided to walk around and find somewhere to eat lunch. We picked a street that looked like it could be promising. We ended up walking for longer than we had planned, but we ended up in the center of Brussels in about 20 minute’s time. Instead of a sitdown restaurant, we opted for waffles. I mean, who wouldn’t want a Belgian waffle?

Waffle #1: dipped in Belgian chocolate

After enjoying our first waffle, we walked around for a while longer and went into a mall to get warm, as it was definitely colder in Brussels than in our beloved Rome.

We saw Manneken Pis. That is indeed the real statue. I wasn't exactly inspired by the sight, to say the least.

Eventually, we got hungry again, so we decided to try another of Brussel’s delicacies: french fries.

Served with my favorite condiment... Ketchup! They even had Heinz!

We learned from a helpful map given to us by the hostel receptionist that Belgians don’t eat “tourist waffles.” They simply eat “street waffles,” which are generally cheaper, plain waffles. We decided to indulge ourselves anway:

Waffle #2: Tourist waffle (Belgian waffle with strawberries, bananas, whipped cream and chocolate)

The strawberries and bananas were perfect, the whipped cream was fresh and light and the waffle was the perfect balance between soft and crunchy. While the tourist waffle was absolutely delicious, none of us were capable of finishing it.

We referred to this as the "Waffle Graveyard." Unfortunately, we had to throw away what was left.

We returned to our hostel early that night, exhausted from traveling, walking and eating our weight in waffles.

We woke up the next morning and decided to explore the park that was right down the street from our hostel. It was called Elisabethpark. I thought that the fog was an added bonus in the photos I took. 

We then took the Metro into town and decided to embark on one of the walking routes drawn for us in our maps. The European Walk was supposed to take 55 minutes, but it ended up taking us about three hours. It was a nice time, though.

The walk took us though parts of Brussels that we would otherwise not have visited. It took us through the Art Nouveau Area, which was really nice. There was a duck pond that was surrounded by beautiful homes.

Apparently, King Leopold II required all of the homes in that area to be ornate, an effort to keep out the poor.

The map then took us to one of my favorite spots in the whole city: Parc du Cinquantenaire.

Ashley, Erica and me in front of the triumph arch, which was built for the National Exhibition of 1880 to celebrate Belgium's 50th anniversary as an independent state.

We then went into the army museum that is located in the building attached to the arch. After we left, we stumbled upon a waffle cart. We decided to start our morning off with a street waffle, or plain waffle.

Waffle #3: Street waffle. We all decided that this was our favorite waffle. The batter was more like a dough than a liquid and had clumps of sugar in it that dissolved in your mouth. Yum!

We then followed our map for a time and decided to get french fries again (if you couldn’t tell, we committed to eating only waffles and french fries. I eat healthily (usually) otherwise, so why not?. Our trusty map suggested Antoine’s, a fritkot not far from where we were. There was a long line, but we waited and were definitely satisfied.

French fries in a cone... With ketchup!

The map then instructed us to go to a nearby park to eat our fries. It described Leopold Park as a former zoo that closed “because all the animals had died.” How’s that for a bit of history? The park was across from the European Parliament (Brussels is the capital of Belgium AND the European Union, which was kind of cool to learn about).

After finishing the first walk, we decided to do a second walk because we had time. This walk was less exciting. It brought us through “Little Africa” and to Stefania Square, the high-end shopping area in Brussels. It did guide us to this spot that overlooked the city, which was nice.

It was so much more beautiful in person... Pictures don't do it justice!

Conveniently, there was another waffle truck right by where this photo was taken. We opted for a waffle break.

Waffle #4: chocolate sauce.

We ended our walk and moseyed over to the main part of the city. We walked around some more and passed by the tourist shops again. Then, Ashley and I bought another waffle (I guarantee you there was a good two hours between this waffle and the previous waffle). It was alright.

Waffle #5: Street waffle. This one wasn't quite as good as the first of the day, but still good enough to enjoy!

We did some shopping and then ended our night with (you guessed it) another waffle before heading back to our hostel to catch some shuteye before our early flight back to Rome the next morning.

Waffle #6: Waffle with Nutella. This one was really, really good.

The next morning, we got up and were on our way to the airport by 4:00 AM. Nothing like an early flight to start the day. I was hungry at the airport, so I decided to peruse the vending machine for some sustenance. What I found was…

...another waffle! Waffle #7: vending machine waffle. It actually tasted more like a donut, but was still good.

We arrived safely at Ciumpino (without any numbness of the mouth this time around) and it felt like we were at home. It’s funny how living somewhere for a month can start to feel like home, even when you are consciously aware that your home is thousands of miles away.

All in all, the weekend was relaxing and delicious. I don’t know if I will ever be able to eat waffles at home again.

That’s a lie. But those waffles were so good. I recommend that everyone stop in Brussels at some point in their lives and try one. They’re definitely worth it.

This weekend I’m taking a day trip to Pompeii on Friday and staying in Rome for the remainder. Next week is midterm week and then it’s spring break! Time sure flies when you’re having fun (and traveling throughout Europe)!

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Barcelona!

Sorry for the hiatus… It’s been a busy couple of days.

I went to BARCELONA last weekend! It was absolutely amazing. It was our first trip out of Italy since coming here, so it was a new experience for all of us. I went with my friends Sarah, Caitlin, Emily, Saiena, Christina, James and Erica. It was so strange hopping on a plane for an hour and a half and ending up in another country.

So when we got to Barcelona, we had to navigate our way through the labyrinth of the public transit system. It took us a while, but we finally arrived at Plaça Universitat, which was a plaza close to where we stayed. We set our stuff down and got settled in to our hostel and then decided to grab lunch. We went to a cafe down the street and I got a cheeseburger. I have been dying for a good, juicy beef burger. The burger I got was some sort of pork patty, and as most of you know, I don’t like pork. I just put a lot of ketchup on it and ate it anyway.

Our hostel!

Barcelona is located in the Cataluña region of Spain. In Cataluña they speak Spanish and Catalan, a dialect. Some people in Cataluña intentionally speak with a lisp. Most signs were in both languages. Some even had English. It was fun to use the Spanish I learned in high school, though I was a little rusty. Taking Italian this semester didn’t really help matters, especially because the two languages are so similar. I was still able to communicate with Spanish people though!

After lunch, we decided to do some shopping. Our hostel was only a few minutes away from the main shopping area. The street was called “La Rambla. ” We went in a bunch of stores, mostly international stores that we had heard of (but we weren’t complaining). We then stumbled upon a market and decided to stop and take a look.

Look at all of the fresh fruit!

Though we had already eaten lunch an hour or two before, I was feeling a little hungry. I decided to buy some fruit.

I tried Dragonfruit! Emily and I each bought one of these. Sarah bought a smaller one.

We then turned down a side street. It seemed a little deserted, but there was a cluster of people farther up, so we decided to keep walking. I’m glad we did. We ended up finding some really cool stores. One of my favorites was called Vaho. Basically, they take old billboards and make them into bags, purses, wallets, and keychains. They were really tempting, but I already bought myself a leather bag in Florence, so I just settled for a keychain. I wanted to buy one for someone as a gift, but I just couldn’t make up my mind. If you want to check out their website, click here.

The Spanish flag and the flag of Barcelona!

We then walked around for a while more and decided to get dinner. We got paella. I got the chicken along with Christina and James, while the rest of our group got the mixed seafood paella.

The next day we woke up, got ready and then went on a search for breakfast. We ended up at Casa Batlló, one of the many buildings designed by Gaudí in Barcelona.

Casa Batlló!

We continued down the same road and saw Casa Milá as well.

Casa Milá!

Then we finally found a cafe and got churros and hot chocolate for breakfast (apparently something very typical of Spain that I did not know before).

Soooo good. So much better than the churros at Six Flags. Hah!

Then we hopped on the metro and went to see Sagrada Família, an unfinished cathedral designed by Gaudí.

Sagrada Familia! And construction...

We didn’t go inside because we didn’t have enough time. Then We hopped back on the metro and parted ways with Sarah, Caitlin and Christina. The rest of us went to the Picasso Museum. Luckily for us, the museum was free on Saturday! It was a really nice surprise. Seeing the transition between the different stages of Picasso’s work was really interesting. I was so happy to be there and get to experience it, especially because he spent so much time in Barcelona. My face hurt from smiling so much.

Pictures weren't allowed in the museum... But they didn't say anything about taking pictures of the sign!

Then we split ways yet again. This time, Emily and I decided to continue exploring while Erica, James, and Saiena got lunch. We happened upon the gothic district and found Barcelona Cathedral. It was really beautiful inside and our. Pictures simply do not do it justice.

Barcelona Cathedral... And more construction.

We continued to wander and ended up back on La Rambla. Emily and I broke down and got some Starbucks. Starbucks isn’t present in Italy. I read up on it; apparently Starbucks doesn’t think that Italy would be profitable. I agree.

Grande White Mocha, anyone?

We shopped a bit more and ran into Saiena, Erica and James. Erica and James went back to the hostel while Saiena came with us. We found some vintage shops by accident. There were a ton of vintage designer clothes for really cheap. It was really neat. One shop was even owned by an English man.

Then we met up to decided what we were doing for the rest of the night. Christina and Erica joined us and we walked to find somewhere to eat dinner. We ended up at a fast food sandwich restaurant that was actually pretty good. Saiena bought some postcards, and then we headed back to our hostel.

La Rambla at night.

We had a really early flight the next morning, so I went to bed when we got back to the hostel.

I don’t feel like I spent enough time in Barcelona. I guess I’ll just have to visit again someday. It was much more modern than Rome and had a much more efficient public transit system. There were many lines that brought you all over the city, similar to the el in Chicago. It was also really, really clean. I wish that I could have seen the ocean as well while I was there, but I know that I’ll be back someday. Barcelona was well worth the time that I spent there.

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Thoughts Part II

If you’re reading this, I apologize in advance for my mindless rambling with a sappy ending. Read at your own risk!

Since coming to Rome, I’ve done a lot of thinking about where I want to travel. This has spurred other thoughts, thoughts about the things I want to do and see in my lifetime. I started making a bucket list the other day in a notebook given to me by a friend before I left for the semester.

I am so thankful for every opportunity that I have had thus far. I mean, I’ve done a lot of things and visited a lot of places in my 20 years on this planet. I’ve witnessed a presidential inauguration, had a celebrity encounter, traveled out of the country, gone swimming in the ocean, visited both Disney World and Disney Land, ridden a roller coaster, ran up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (just like Rocky did), and seen Coldplay in concert. There are probably thousands of other things that I’m forgetting to mention, but you get the idea.

While I have done a lot of things, there will always be more that I want to see and do. Some things that I have wanted to do (but have never written down) are to take the high speed train under the English Channel (which will be happening this spring break) and to go to Finland (which will hopefully happen while I am here in Rome). Some other things are pretty typical, like wanting to start a family or own a home. Some are even a little crazy, like wanting to run a marathon and qualify for Boston.

I’ll give you a brief overview of my list. Someday I plan to live in New York City, write a book, and open my own photo studio. I would like to become proficient in another language, visit a rain forest, and go to the Olympic Games. I will someday visit the Yukla 27 memorial in Alaska on September 22nd, the date of my uncle’s death. I hope to do this with the rest of my family.

There are other things, though. Things that are more abstract. Things like finding a job that I love doing. Things like learning for bargain as well as my dad and how to be as compassionate as my mom.

But where do these ideas come from? I can guarantee that if I had written a list a year ago, or a month ago for that matter, it would have been much different.

I am constantly amazed by the impact that others have on our lives. From the music you like to the food you eat, somebody or their influence prompted you to try it out. We are all a combination of everyone we have ever met. This combination will continue to change with each passing day, as we meet new people and try new things.

Some things on my list are easier to accomplish than others. I registered for my first marathon a few weeks ago and couldn’t be more scared. It will take place on October 16 in Des Moines, Iowa. Some things on my list will take a lifetime to achieve, like making new friends wherever I go and devising my own recipe for baking a dessert. Taking risks and stepping out of your comfort zone are the only ways to really live your life. I am up for this challenge.

I know that my list will never be complete. I am perfectly content knowing that my interests will change and that I will never be able to do everything that I want to do. The funny thing about life is that there are some things that you never even realized you wanted to do until you were already doing them. I think that the whole purpose of making a bucket list is to find things that you have never dreamt of doing. After all, I’ve surprised myself quite a bit in the past few years. I never anticipated going to school in a big city or studying abroad in a foreign country.

But you know what? I wouldn’t change anything that has happened so far. Life is precious. Cherish every moment and don’t waste time trying to be something you’re not.

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Firenze!

So, this weekend turned out to be much different than I had expected. But it was different in nothing but good ways!

On Friday, I woke up, worked out, and waited for Mensa to open. I ate with some friends (a lot of my other friends were already on the train to Florence at this point… I’ll explain). Then my friend Emily and I decided that we were going to go exploring. We took the 913 bus to Via del Corso and decided that we would start with shopping. We walked up and down the majority of the street. We also walked down Via del Condotti, the street where all of the designer stores are. There are always so many interesting people there! We decided that we were going to try some new stores this time. We went in this store called Mango, which we both really liked.

We saw a group of kids being led by a teacher(?). They'll definitely never get lost wearing those hats!

We then stopped at Giolitti for some gelato and ran into our friend Erica. If you can’t tell by now, I really like gelato. This time, I got chocolate, bacio, and decided to try the Tiramisu. The Tiramisu was… interesting. It didn’t taste very good at all, actually. But I guess that’s part of trying new flavors? I will stick to real Tiramisu from now on.

We walk right past the Parliament building on our way to Giolittli. Neat, right?

Then we stayed with Erica and decided to walk a new way. We stumbled upon St. Ignatius church. St. Ignatius of Loyola is whom our school is named after.

St. Ignatius cathedral!

The church is known for having a “fake” dome. Inside, there is a spot on the ceiling where the artist painted a circle to look like a dome when you walk in. Once you stand underneath it, though, you can tell that it is painted. It was too dark in the church to take a picture, unfortunately.

Then we caught the 913 back to campus, had Mensa dinner, and just relaxed. I went to bed early so that I could catch the train to Florence the next morning.

My friends that left for Florence on Friday morning made a pit stop at Pisa. They stayed the night in Florence. I chose not to so that I could save some money. I already have a picture with the Leaning Tower from my last trip.

I definitely look different now, but it's still a good picture!

I had to get up at 4:00 A.M. so that I could catch my train. In Italy, you choose your train by speed. The faster trains cost more money, so I opted for the slower train. Unfortunately, because my train left at 5:58 A.M., public transportation wasn’t running yet and I had to take a cab. I ended up at the station really early, which was fine. I got on my train and headed for Florence.

After my four hour train ride, I finally arrived. My friend Elizabeth studies in Florence, so I met up with her. I met her through my friend Carolyn. The two of them met last year at Marquette and are still really good friends. My other friends did their own thing, which was fine.

Elizabeth took me to all of the places that tourists go in Florence. She also took me to some places that people generally don’t know about (one of the many perks of having a friend that lives in an unfamiliar city). She took me up this hill that overlooks the whole city.

Isn't it gorgeous?

Then, we walked some more and went to the Chocolate Festival. Words can’t describe how excited I was. I mean, chocolate is one of my absolute favorite things. Side note: KitKats here in Italy are made by Nestle, so they taste different than the ones made by Hershey’s. Anyway, the chocolate festival had pretty much any hand made chocolate you could want.

Chocolate Salami!

They had Chocolate Salami, which is a log of chocolate with nuts and bits of white chocolate in it. These bits make it look like salami. Thankfully, it doesn’t taste like salami.

I had some chocolate covered strawberries... Yum!

I also got some chocolate to take home with me. I ended up eating it on the train. I got a cereal bark and hazelnut bark. Both were delicious. We then went to Florence’s famous leather market. There was so much leather there. They had pretty much anything you could want. I was tempted to get a leather jacket, but didn’t really see any that I liked. I got a leather messenger bag instead. It’s so nice!

We also went to the fruit and meat market right next to the leather market. The smell of the butchered meat was kind of overpowering and nauseating, but it was worth it. We found a booth selling baked goods. Elizabeth and I each bought a muffin.

Chocolate chips on top and Nutella in the middle? Yes, please!

We also saw the Duomo, of course!

Unfortunately, we didn’t go up into the Duomo. We got confused when looking for the price and the woman selling tickets spoke no English. We were content with just looking, though.

Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral.

We also saw part of a protest, which was scary. I was trying to understand what their banners said, but I couldn’t figure out whether they were for or against Fascism. It scary because of everything happening in Egypt and Tunisia right now. I really hope that nothing happens in Italy or another country that I travel to while I am there.

It translates to "Remember the strength of yesterday fighting fascism today."

It was a quick protest, though, so I was greatly relieved. Then we just walked around and did some shopping (again). I didn’t buy anything else, but I finally found an H&M. It was really crowded, like, as crowded as stores the day after Christmas.

Before I left, I had a salami, pesto, mozzarella, and tomato panini. It was sooo good. The panini here are absolutely delicious. I then met up with my friends and said goodbye to Elizabeth before returning to Rome.

Elizabeth and me. Notice the leather bag!

It was a fun weekend. Today, I walked to the store to get dish soap because my water bottle is in dire need of a good washing. I forgot that stores here are closed on Sundays. Other than that, I just worked out and did homework. It was a relaxing day.

Well, that’s all for now! If I don’t update before Friday, I hope everyone has a good week. Expect a length post about my trip to Barcelona next weekend!

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Thoughts

I guess I’ll give you a general update about my life. This week has been pretty uneventful. I’ve had class… and that’s about it. Last night the SLAs organized a viewing of Roman Holiday and pizza. I went and ate, but didn’t stick around for much of the movie. It was too hard to hear the words in Rinaldo’s.

I miss my family a lot here. I mean, I didn’t really talk to them as often as I should have while I was home anyway. Knowing that I can’t just hop on the Metra and see them in an hour’s time is definitely different. I miss the company of my dog, too.

Now on to the title of this post. These are just some thoughts that I felt the need to put into writing. Feel free to stop reading at any time.

To start, tomorrow I have the opportunity to do a meet-and-greet of sorts with the Pope. Now, I am not Catholic, so the Pope is about as important to me as the tooth fairy is to an adult that has lost all of their baby teeth. Most people that I know are leaving here around 6:30 A.M. to be the first ones in line. They also have the opportunity to have the Pop bless a religious item or two. I am going to exercise my right to NOT go. I mean, the Pope has a Papal audience every Wednesday, so if I truly feel compelled to see him, I can go another day. Loyola, being the Jesuit university that it is, cancelled classes for tomorrow so that everyone would have t opportunity to go. I only have one class on Wednesdays, so it isn’t really that big of a deal for me. I plan on going exploring tomorrow instead.

Another thing that I’ve been thinking about is what we have been discussing in my Italian Immigrant Experience class. Today, we watched part of a movie about the living conditions of Italians in the 1880’s. One major part of the plot involved the decision whether or not to send the eldest son to school. If the family chose to send the son to school, they would lose one person that would otherwise help work the fields. The only reason the family decided to send him was because the village priest basically told the family that they had to, because the son had an intellectual gift.

That probably wouldn’t happen today. I mean, we have a great education system in the United States, and I’m sure Italy does too. We cut the film short so that we could cover other things during class. But it really got me thinking about all of the opportunities that we have today that simply would never have been possible in the 1800’s, or even the early 1900’s.

I am currently a sophomore at Loyola and I am one of the first in my family to go to college. I don’t know that many people that chose not to go to college after graduation. This is recent development, though. In the 1800’s, it was almost a threat to send your children to school. Not only would the children be smarter than you (educated people often weren’t trusted, as their education made it easier to take advantage of uneducated people), but you would essentially lose them forever. Education allowed people to move up in social class. This is still (usually) true today.

When you stop and think about it, the way that things are today is pretty amazing. I mean, I am in college. I have traveled abroad and I am currently spending an entire semester in Rome. My parents have never been out of the country, though they really don’t have any desire to anyway. My parents have always told me about the benefits of attending school, and now that I’m finally here, it is all so mind blowing. I really can do anything that I set my mind to. It’s just a matter of putting in the time and effort.

I guess the purpose of this post is to recognize the way that things have changed. This post is also meant to serve as a reminder that I should not take anything offered to me for granted. While I don’t really have any interest in seeing the Pope, I’m going to spend tomorrow exploring this beautiful, historical city and truly seizing the day.

Carpe diem!

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It’s the Weekend!

I love the feeling on Friday when you realize that it’s the weekend. For me, this feeling comes a day early, as we don’t have class here on Fridays.

I’m not complaining.

On Thursday night, my friends Caitlin, Christina, and I decided to go exploring. We started out at Il Vittoriano (or the “Wedding Cake” building, as it looks like an extravagant wedding cake).

Side view of the "Wedding Cake."

Then we walked down Via del Corso for a while. Everything was pretty much closed, since we didn’t get there until around 8:30. There were some people (mostly in their 20’s, I’m guessing) walking around, probably going to dinner or out for a drink or two.

We discovered that they have a Shape-Ups store here in Italy...

We decided to get gelato at Giolitti (one of our favorite places). I decided to try Mora (blackberry), Fragola (strawberry), and Arancia (orange). The Fragola was my favorite.  Then we walked down the street past the Parliament Building, and found ourselves in front of one of the scariest/coolest Zara stores I have ever seen. I should have taken a picture. It was closed, of course, but it was brightly lit and interesting to look at. Then we decided to walk across the Tiber River to Trastevere, since the three of us had never been there. It was fun to just walk around looking at things. We ended up at Piazza di Santa Maria at one point. It was really neat to see at night. I also failed to take pictures there… Whoops! Then we headed back and caught the last 990 bus of the night. Score. I think I’m finally starting to become more comfortable with the Italian transit system. I guess only time will tell…

Then, on Friday (yesterday) I started the day off by looking for internships to apply for. I’m not going to disclose any specific details at the current time, as I don’t want to get my hopes up. I’m not really worried though. There are a lot of options out there for anyone willing to work for free. Who knows? I might even find a paid internship for this summer. Only time will tell.

Then a group of us (Caitlin, Christina, Sarah, and James) all went shopping on Via del Corso near Piazza del Popolo. Our goal was to find H&M. We found it, but they only carried women’s clothes at that location. Bummer!

I wanted to find a relatively cheap jacket... Oh well!

It was fun to just walk around. We realized that the night before (Thursday) we had been so close to where all of the shops were. We decided to walk to the end of Via del Corso to get a glimpse of Piazza del Popolo:

There was so much open space! It's just hard to tell from the picture.

It's hard to tell, but through the two buildings you can see the "Wedding Cake!"

We walked down Via del Corso and made another stop at Giolitti. I got Stracciatella (chocolate chip), Bacio (chocolate with hazelnut pieces), and Oreo. They were all great. Then we shopped for a while more and caught the 913 bus back to Monte Mario. It had started raining anyway. I walked to the market and bought 1 kg of Nutella, just because I felt like it.

I mean, it was only €4,99. I couldn't pass it up!

We decided that we didn’t want MENSA food, so we thought it would be a good night to try the Chinese restaurant down the street.

I got pineapple fried rice and Sweet and Sour chicken.

The Chinese food was a little different than Chinese food in the U.S. I didn’t feel as disgusting as I usually do after getting Chinese. Then we had the best desert ever…

Fried Nutella is now my favorite desert. YUM!

Then we came back to campus and I felt pretty drowsy. I took myself to bed and slept full and happy, excited for the days ahead.

Today, I woke up, worked out in the gym, got lunch, and booked some flights. I am going to Barcelona two weeks from now, and Brussels the weekend after that. It was so strange to be booking flights to places like that. My friend Sarah and I counted, and so far I will be traveling to five countries for sure (Italy, Vatican City (it is a country, after all), Spain, Belgium, and Czech Republic). I also started planning my spring break with my friend Emily. We’re planning on starting in Paris, taking the train under the English Channel (one of my life goals), staying in London for a few days, and finally ending in Dublin. At some point I am also planning on going to Finland.

I guess you’ll just have to stay tuned for further travel developments!

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My weekend…

So, you were all probably wondering how my weekend went, right?

A boy can hope, I guess.

We left the Rome Center at 6:45 A.M. on Friday morning. You’d have thought that we were at summer camp. The SLAs (Student Life Assistants, similar in nature to RAs, but with less paperwork) used a megaphone to announce the time every five minutes from 6:00 A.M. until we walked out the door. I found this a little unnecessary, as we’re all college students here. But that’s just my opinion.

We then departed for Herculaneum, which is Pompeii’s better-preserved neighbor. I realized once we got there that I forgot my umbrella (it was raining), so I had to buy a new one for €5. I was not very pleased. Anyway, apparently the phase of the eruption that Pompeii missed (the lava phase) preserved everything, even the wood, at Herculaneum. Pompeii was instead buried in ash, which is why the wood crumbled. It was cool to see all of the buildings with their original wood parts (now covered and protected by plexiglass).

preserved Herculaneum, present day Herculaneum, and Mt. Vesuvius!

It was kind of scary to think of that volcano erupting again. They have no clue when it will next erupt and people are known to live higher than legally allowed on the mountain. I’d rather not take my chances.

We then had lunch. We had antipasti, which was delicious. There was a variety of fried dough and and a delicious bruscetta. We then had margarita pizza as our main dish. Margarita pizza is your basic bough, sauce and cheese. My friends thought that it was the greatest pizza they had ever tasted. Personally, I am pretty sure I had better pizza in Rome once upon a time… Then, for desert, we had a decadent lemon cake.

After that, we went on our merry little way to our hotel. I crashed upon impact with my bed, while my friends went to explore Salerno. I wasn’t feeling too hot and it had been raining on and off… Not a good combination. We had dinner at the hotel that night. The dinner wasn’t the best. We were served a pasta and eggplant dish for starters, then a pork roast (yuck) and roasted potatoes for our main dish. For desert we had another cake (the cheapest way to give 200+ people desert, I suppose). Then I went back to bed and slept like a baby. The beds there were ridiculously comfortable, especially when compared to our beds at the Rome Center.

The next day drove to Paestum, which has some of the best preserved Greek ruins. It would have been great if we wouldn’t have had to traipse through grass and mud while it was raining. At least I had my umbrella?

this was one of the temples that we saw.

Unfortunately, my Sperry Topsiders are now ruined. 😦

Then, we ate at a beautiful hotel near Paestum. They served us pasta, then more meat and potatoes, and then this beautiful fruit and gelato parfait. It was soo good.

Sooo good. The heart tasted just like an ice cream cone!

Then we went back to the hotel. On the way back, a girl on my bus vomited. Too much alcohol (they typically serve wine with lunch/dinner here. Many people don’t know how to control themselves…). We all had to stop and get off the bus so that it could be cleaned up. It wasn’t fun.

When we got back to the hotel, we had some time before dinner, so we went exploring. Salerno was absolutely beautiful. They had a ton of small little boutiques which were fun to explore. They are also currently hosting this space festival, so they had lights strung up representing the different planets and our galaxy. The sun was my favorite.

The Sun!

The next day we ate breakfast and stopped in Sorrento for lunch before returning to Rome. We walked around for a while in the rain (I was thrilled, you can be sure), before stopping at a bar (that’s what they call the coffee shops here) and ordering a hot chocolate. We then ate lunch at a nice restaurant overlooking the sea. We had stuffed pasta (the cheese was a little much), chicken (which was DELICIOUS), potatoes, and more… cake. Then we started our four hour drive back to Rome.

When we were about 20 minutes outside of the city, one of the buses blew a tire, so we had to pull over. The drivers were (thankfully) able to fix it, but we got back an hour later than we were supposed to.

Overall, I’m glad I went on the trip. It was just terribly annoying to be required to walk around in the rain all day, especially while sick.

Thus concludes the last of my “orientation” here at the Rome Center. Now I am free to spend the weekends however I choose. Stay tuned for updates!

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