Monthly Archives: December 2010

I Spent a Semester in Rome… Now What?

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My sister Jaclyn and I thought it would be a good idea to stay in Rome one week after the study abroad program ended.  At the time when we booked the flights, we didn’t know where we’d want to go, or if we’d even have any money to do so, but we thought it wouldn’t be too hard to figure all that out at least if we were still in Rome.

Last visit to the Colosseum

So we spent our last Thursday Friday with all of our new friends, saying our good-byes, having our last moments in Rome together.  In four months we formed a family, and for me it was harder saying good-bye to all of my friends in Rome (who I will see most of them in Philadelphia back at Temple anyway) than it was to say good-bye to my parents when we left for our semester in Rome in late August!

Jaclyn and I headed for Brussels and Bruges for the weekend, so we spent Saturday to Tuesday morning in Belgium, which left us all of Tuesday and Wednesday as our last two days in Rome.  Our flight home was early Thursday morning.

Jaclyn and I inside the Colosseum for our first time

Because we were studying in Rome for almost four months, we thought it would be smart to save some of the best for last.  Jaclyn and I managed to wait all semester to do things like go inside the Colosseum and go to the top of the dome at Saint Peter’s Basilica.  We wanted to have something to look forward to in our last days in Rome, and we’re so glad we waited until the end.

When we got back to Rome from Belgium we really hit the ground running.  There was so much we felt we still wanted to see and do, not to mention we had to have all of our “lasts.”  Our last cappuccino, last pizza, last pasta, last wine, last gelato, and last wonderful days in the Eternal City.  We also still had some shopping left to do, so we made a list and we started moving.

The top of St. Peter’s on a beautiful day

We thoroughly enjoyed our last two days in Rome.  Not to mention, we couldn’t have asked for better weather.  It was seasonably warm like Rome usually is, and the sun was shining bright.  When we went to sleep Wednesday night after packing all of our things, we were both really sad for the first time all semester.  We were both excited to get home for the holiday’s, but neither of us truly wanted to go home.  We were kicking ourselves for not deciding to do an entire year abroad.

The ten hour flight back to Philadelphia wasn’t so bad.  We watched movies, slept a fair amount, met some nice people, and tried not to be sad.  Mom and Dad were so excited to see their girls when we came through customs at the airport, and the first thing we did when we got back was head to Chicki and Pete’s for some American food and beer.

Jaclyn and I at the top of the dome of St. Peter’s for our last view of all of Rome

It is great to see my family and friends but being back home has been a bit hard for me.  Is it so wrong that I really just loved my life in Rome?  Studying abroad at Temple Rome was the best decision I’ve ever made.  In talking to a friend who graduated from Temple and spent a semester abroad in Rome as well told me, “You’re thinking of it the wrong way,” when I told him I was having the post study abroad blues.  He reminded me that I should enjoy the fact that this past semester happened, and with my sister nonetheless, because not many people get to say they spent four months living in Rome, learning incredible new things, making friends to last a lifetime, traveling to exciting new places, and having the time of their life.

I know I certainly did.

The Venice of Belgium

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People weren’t kidding when they said Bruges is like the Venice of Belgium.  Jaclyn and I had heard such good things about Bruges, so we knew we wanted to spend at least a day exploring the place.  Our Couch Surfing host gave us two really great maps, hooked us up with discounted train tickets to and from Bruges, and pointed us on our way to explore another amazing Belgian city.

Bruges was a magical place

We arrived in Bruges at about 10 a.m. and after about a ten minute walk from the train station into the actual town, Jaclyn and I knew we made the right choice by deciding to take a day trip.  We had spent the entire day before exploring Brussels and felt that we truly had seen just about every part of the city and all the major sites we wanted to see, so that we were ready to take on a new town.

Sure, we only really spent about eight hours in Bruges, but this town will always hold a special place in my heart.  I would certainly go back to Bruges one day.  The town is very quaint with the most adorable streets and houses and restaurants and pubs and a ton of massive and beautiful churches and the nicest and most friendly people.  Not to mention, there are these incredible little bridges everywhere and a river that runs all the way around and throughout the town.  In that respect, it felt like Venice, but Bruges is a very special place all in its own.

We stumbled upon some really beautiful things in Bruges

Jaclyn and I took our map and decided just to walk the entire perimiter of the town and zigzag back and forth within the town when we knew there was something we wanted to see.  We went inside every chuch we came across, took pictures on all the scenic little bridges, ate some of the most incredible Belgian chocolate, shopped for our family and friends, enjoyed food from the Christmas market, watched people ice skate in the town square that was all decked out for Christmas, and truly just enjoyed the day.  Belgium is known to be a rainy sort of place, but we had nothing but sunshine all day long.  In fact, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

Throughout mine and Jaclyn’s semester abroad I was sort of the travel planner.  I had an idea of all the places we’d want to see, and I really just wanted to show Jaclyn and amazing time.  I’m pretty certain she had a phenomenal time in all the places we traveled to, but there was a sense of pressure for this last trip to Belgium.  I really wanted her to like Brussels and Bruge and for us to have a good time, since it would be our last travel within Europe and our last weekend adventure before going back to the States.

The Belgian chocolate was delicious

Thankfully, Jaclyn and I both agreed that Brussels was a rather incredible city, and though Barcelona is still in the lead as far as being our favorite city, Bruges definitely comes in at a very close second.  There are some places we visited that I wouldn’t bother going back to, but if the opportunity to go back to Bruges ever presents itself, I would pay good money to go back there.  It was everything I had heard it would be, and so much more.  There’s nothing quite like Christmas time in Bruges.

Christmas time in Bruges

Couch Surfing Take Two: Brussels

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I couldn’t have asked for a better Couch Surfing experience the first time my friend Matt and I tried it out during a weekend in Florence (Florence Could Not Have Been Stranger).  My sister Jaclyn and I decided to stay in Rome one week past the end of the program, so we knew we wanted to take one last trip.  Though both EasyJet and Ryanair are probably the cheapest flights you’ll ever find, I did wait until the very last-minute to book a flight, so our options were limited.

Brussels is known for its incredible Christmas markets

There just so happened to be a 6 euro flight to Brussels and a 12 euro flight for the return to and from Rome.  There would have to be something seriously wrong with me to pass up this opportunity to fly to the major city and the headquarters of the European Union.  Alltogether with taxes and fees I paid 51 euro for Jaclyn and I to spend our last weekend drinking Belgian beer, eating waffles and chocolate, and enjoying the Christmas markets that I kept hearing were so fabulous.

I was having trouble finding someone for us to Couch Surf with until Friday afternoon (we were set to leave Saturday morning) I received an e-mail back from one of the people I had sent a request to.  Turns out we had a last-minute place to stay that happened to be right outside the city center.  I call it luck, and it seemed as though another great Couch Surfing experience was about to happen and that Jaclyn and I really could enjoy our last weekened abroad.

Brussels (and I suppose even Belgium in general) is known to be a rainy kind of place.  Jaclyn and I were sure to pack our rain boots and coats and plenty of warm clothes to wear for the weekend.  When we arrived Saturday afternoon it was raining like we had prepared for it to be, and it was also really cold.  We had some trouble trying to figure out the train and metro system but eventually we ended up at our Couch Surfing host’s flat.

The view from the kitchen of the incredible flat we stayed at in Brussels

Our host lives in an incredible flat in an adorable part of Brussels.  He moved to Brussels for work from Russia.  His one roommate is from France, and the other from Estonia.  It was neat being welcomed into a flat of three complete strangers, all from very different places, and we all instantly got along (and everyone could speak English!).

Saturday night our host created a Couch Surfing event.  If you’ll remember what I said about Couch Surfing in the post about Florence, it is not just a site where you contact strangers and stay on their couch for free.  It is also a place for you to meet people, go out for coffee, host events for other couch surfers in that area to attend, make new friends, or even just learn “insider” information about a new place.  Couch Surfing truly is quite an incredible thing, and I really recommend it to anyone who has plans of traveling.

So Saturday night our host had an event where a group of about 15 people (all Couch Surfers, living in Brussels, from around the world, but all speaking English) got together at a metro stop where our host brought out these Chinese Flying Lanterns that we all got together and wrote a wish on and then took them to this spot with an incredible view of Brussels, lit them together, and then watched them fly (Example on YouTube)!

Jaclyn and I with one of our Couch Surfing friends and the fabulous dinner we made together

Following that amazing experience we walked all around Brussels through Christmas markets, saw tons of lights, nativity scences, and Christmas light show at the city center, and stopped at a bar for everyone to sit down together and have a drink and get to know one another.

During our weekend with our CS host we mad fabulous dinners together, had great conversation, learned how to Tango (yes, I leanred how to Tango!), were given great maps and directions and advice of places to go, and most importantly, we made three new friends.  There’s something amazing about how Couch Surfing works, but I don’t think I’ve done it enough to figure out quite what it is yet.  I just wish this hadn’t been our last weekend in Europe, otherwise I’d continue the Couch Surfing experience in all the other places I wanted to travel to!

My Couch Surfing host and I after my last Tango lesson.

All Good Things.

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Well this is it folks.  I’ve reached the end of the Temple Rome program.  Lots of bittersweet feelings are flooding my emotions today because I can literally count the HOURS left here in this beautiful country and eternal city.

Last night there was a farewell pizza party for the students and it was weird to say goodbye to some faces in the same lounge where I said hello to them as strangers during the welcome pizza party.  After the pizza party I went to my friend’s apartment to have a low key evening watching movies and spending time with a group of new friends.

This past week I’ve been trying to balance out fitting in last minute things along with studying and taking finals.  I feel like I succeeded pretty well because I saw the Christmas tree in St. Peters Square, got some gelato one last time at my favorite place “Old Bridge”, had nice out-to-eat meals with friends, and much more as well as studying for exams.  For me, this semester in Rome is my LAST semester EVER as an undergrad.  So these exams were not only extremely important for me to do well on, but also my last grades I’ll ever work for as an undergrad.  Spending my last semester in Rome was one of the best choices I made for my college career.

I made more friends these past few months here than I have during my past semesters in Temple in Philadelphia.  What makes it really hard is that everyone gets to go home and see each other during the spring semester, but I will not be around.  I know we will all keep in touch via Facebook and email but it’s still hard to say goodbye.

This past semester has had its shares of ups and downs, however it has taught me so much about myself and my morals as a person.  I had to learn to live in conditions that were not necessarily “perfect” in my eyes and learn to get along with people that I wouldn’t necessarily converse with in normal life.  I had some trials to endure, one being the loss of my grandfather back home, and dealing with those emotions of feeling stuck here because I wasn’t able to go home to be with my family.  However, as I already mentioned, I have made great friends here and they were all there for me and helped me cope the best they could.

On that note, I want to take a quick break to give a shout out thank you to one individual here who has helped me in numerous ways.  She’s a fellow student and great friend – Betsy.  Bets – I wouldn’t have made it through these past four months without your support, kindness, and caring ways.  When I had “off” moments you were there to listen and prop me back up.  I couldn’t have asked for a better person to share this experience with.  Thank you so much!  I can only hope that people who do this program in the future are able to form a special bond like we have.  You’re truly an amazing person with a big heart…thanks for being my shining light and never leaving me in the dark.

Betsy and I on top of St. Peter's dome.

Well, there you go!  I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about some of my thoughts and experiences here in Rome.  Unlike many people here on the program I am actually really ready to head home.  This experience has shown me how important home is to me and how much I value America and being an American.  We are a lucky country and I’m a blessed person to have such great friends and family to go home too.  I’m also ready to celebrate the holiday season!  I’ve loved seeing all the sights in Rome and being able to travel to other foreign countries, and I hope to travel abroad again someday in the near future…but until then…you know what they say – All good things must come to an end.  Ciao!

Rome Re-Cap

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So I know you’ve been reading my posts all semester, keeping up with my fabulous adventures, laughing at all my witty jokes, tearing up when I get sentimental about how awesome this trip has been, and totally wishing you were me.  Understandable.

With Gianni from the TU Rome staff on the Todi trip

The past three months have honestly just been non-stop, and if it weren’t for all the photos and the journal I keep, I’d have a hard time remembering all the things we’ve done!  Since the end of my time here in Rome is fast-approaching, I’ll do a quick re-cap of some of the major things I’ve seen and done throughout the best three months of my life.

At Home in Rome
I now have the ability to say that for a period of time, I lived in Rome.  Not that I just visited for a couple days, saw the Colosseum and the Vatican, had some awesome food and wine and then went home.  No, instead I lived in an apartment in the heart of Rome.  I’ve studied Dante’s language, learned a great deal of art history, got to know this city like the back of my hand, enjoyed the food, the culture, the nightlife, and all this ancient and amazing city has to offer.  I’d have to say running in Rome has been my favorite thing to do.  There’s nothing like the the motivation you get from seeing the Colosseum, Circus Maximus, and Foro Italico.  And I am really going to miss watching the sunset on the vatican from my eighth story terrace.  Sigh.

Todi and Titignano
Our first weekend in Rome, everyone from the program hopped a bus to Todi to check out this beautiful medeval hill town and head next to Titignano for a 15-course meal at a castle with the most incredible views of Umbria.  Todi was where most of us formed our first friendships here at Temple Rome, and it was a trip that brought us all together as a study abroad program for one incredible experience that we all got to enjoy together.

Streets of Venice

Venice, Pordenone, and Sacile
Being in the Air Force has the perk of having friends all over the world, so going to Venice had the added bonus of visiting the small northern Italian towns, Pordenone and Sacile.  Whenever my sister and I tell Italians that we visited those places (45 minutes north of Venice), they are so surprised, but all three places were fabulous, and I’m really glad I got the experience of a true Italian town.  I certainly wouldn’t have minded being based at Aviano Air Force Base!

Tivoli
It’s awesome that we’ve had the opportunity to hop on a bus on any given weekend and to anywhere we choose.  One weekend we decided to head to the town of Tivoli to see the Villa d’Este and Villa Adriana (Hadrian’s Village).  We walked around and explored the town, did some shopping, ate a fabulous lunch, had some great gelato, toured the ruins of Hadrian’s incredible villa, and hopped the bus back to Rome to be back in time for dinner.

Oktoberfest in Munich
I still can’t believe that I was able to attend the real Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany.  I know Oktoberfest is something Jaclyn has always wanted to do, so we absolutely made the most out of the weekend and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  I think it goes without saying that I enjoyed the beer in Munich more than I have in any other city I’ve been to in Europe (yes, even more so than the Guinness in Dublin!).

Kicking off Fall Break in Dublin

Fall Break in London, Dublin, and Paris
London, Dublin, and Paris are the three cities that I have always dreamed of visiting.  Who would have thought that I’d see all three of them over the course of ten days, and all with my sister!  I would have to say that I enjoyed myself the most in Dublin, I could definitely live for a few years in London, and Paris, though I don’t think I’d enjoy living there, is a city that I’d definitely go back to.

Roma v. Lecce and Halloween in Rome
I have always wanted to see a European soccer game, and so it couldn’t be more convenient that the Olympic Stadium in Rome is just a five minute walk from my apartment!  Even better, Rome has two teams, and we got a deal of just 25 euro to see Roma (the Rome team that I like most) win at the Olympic Stadium against Lecce.  It was an incredible weekend in Rome with our Air Force friends coming to visit for the game followed by celebrating Halloween in Rome.

Beaches of Barcelona

Weekend vacation in Barcelona
In the States I can’t say I’ve ever had the luxury of hopping a ridiculously cheap flight and heading to another country for a weekend!  Barcelona is such a beautiful city, and though I would have loved to see Ibiza and Madrid as well, we couldn’t have asked for a better weekend with more beautiful weather for our time in Barcelona.  I saw tons of cool sites, ate really great food, drank  in really cool bars and clubs, and met the most phenomenal people.

Couch Surfing in Florence
I almost don’t ever want to couch surf again because of how incredible my first experience was in Florence.  My friend Matt and I couldn’t have been luckier to meet and stay with three of the most genuine, hospitable, friendly, and fun group of guys.  My Couch Surfing weekend in Florence is one of my favorite experiences I’ve had during my time here, and it is certainly a weekend that I will never forget!

Thanksgiving in Athens
It was so surreal to climb the hills of the Acropolis and stand in front of the Parthenon.  Thinking about ancient Greece and its rich history and culture alone was really quite fascinating for me, not to mention we were lucky to have really great weather even if we did visit Greece in the off-season.

Looking out over Athens

Ending up in Brussels
I am not happy that this semester is coming to an end, so with that I am glad I booked an extra week for Jaclyn and I to stay.  We decided as our last hoorah that we’re going to travel to Brussels.  It is impossible to see and do everything in just three and a half months, and there are still a ton of places that we would have traveled to.  But the flight to Brussels was cheap (can you believe it, 50 euro round-trip for the two of us!) so there wasn’t even a second thought about going to enjoy a weekend of waffles and Belgium beer.

This is just a quick summary of the major places I have been to during my semester abroad.  It would literally take volumes for me to recount, in detail, all the things we’ve seen and done in our time here.  I feel so blessed to have had this opportunity, and I know that for the rest of my life, this trip –the places I went, the experiences I had, the friends I made, the things I saw and learned– is going to stay with me.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, because I am thoroughly convinced that it is true.  I am the luckiest girl in all of the world.

Odds and Ends.

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As the semester comes to an end, bittersweet feelings are beginning to set in amongst us students here at Temple Rome. Some of us are excited to get back to our lives in America while others are yearning for more time to live here in the Eternal city. On top of the feelings of going home, we are in the midst of final exam period, which definitely puts a damper on everything. Even though its getting down to crunch time, there are still many exciting events that have recently taken place.  Here is a bit about a few of them:

1.  Thanksgiving was a great 4-day weekend for us students. Although the holiday doesn’t exist in Italy, we all had our own ways of making it happen here with what we had. Lots of students took advantage of the extra time to travel, while others like myself, stayed behind and enjoyed the company of my new friends. A bunch of us got together and decided to have a Thanksgiving feast – including a turkey that one of my friends found at the local market. We all made and/or purchased some dishes and came together with a buffet of food. I was in charge of drinks and dessert – which was perfect for me because I’m not the greatest cook and I was able to buy pre-made dishes. I got soda and wine along with apple pie, chocolate pie, and some gelato.  It was a great time spent being thankful for everything we have and are experiencing as well as some good eatin’!

2.  Temple Rome hosted a Jam Session which was basically a talent show featuring our fellow classmates. The student lounge was transformed into a rock star stage and I enjoyed seeing the many talents that my classmates shared. There was everything from singing to poetry to dancing to playing instruments to even someone who performed a Chinese-dialect rap. It was lots of fun!

3.  Another event that has happened recently is Salsa Dancing night. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to participate due to my schedule, but I talked to a few people who said it was a lot of fun. I was able to snag some pictures of the event to share here on the blog. I think the pictures show the excitement and fun that everyone had!

4.  Another loose end that I wanted to write about is the Porta Portese Market. This is an extremely long block of market stands that sell everything imaginable from shoes to boots to clothes to…well, you name it and I’m sure you can find it there. I didn’t buy anything but I’m glad I got to experience the Roman way of bargain buying.

5.  Finally, we just had the end of the semester student art show. It was really neat to see everyone’s artwork that they have been working so hard on all semester long. Some of the pieces I have had the pleasure of seeing as works in progress throughout the semester. The only studio course I had this semester was printmaking, so I was fortunate to have three of my prints featured in the show. All of the work showed everyone’s artistic talents and it was a great success.

Now we have one more week left and there Is lots to do before the end comes! I have some finals to get through but after that I hope to soak up the last bits of Rome before heading home!

I’m T- Thankful for Temple U Rome

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For most of us here at Temple Rome, this Thanksgiving holiday was our first away from home.  For some of us, we couldn’t be more thankful, but for most of us, we might have been feeling a bit home sick for the holiday.  Fortunately, in the past three months we’ve formed a new big family, so we didn’t have to spend this Thanksgiving alone.

Hand turkey!

The same group of students who held our little Halloween bash back in October hosted a Temple Rome Thanksgiving dinner party at the Residence Medaglie d’oro where most of the Temple students live.  Dinner was at 8, and anyone who wanted to come just had to bring some type of dish.

Our hosts did their best to decorate the room and make it fesitve for the holiday.  Like Halloween, we retreated to acting like a bunch of children and each of us made a silly hand turkey.  We talked a lot about what we typically do with our families each year for thanksgiving, and we all wished we’d thought to bring a football so we could put a quick game of two hand touch together.

Some of our Roman Thanksgiving feast

Thanksgiving dinner was kind of last minute for all of us since most everyone was traveling for the long weekend, so a turkey was out of the question.  Instead we had a huge spread of chicken, sausage, pasta, salad, vegetables, fruit, bread, dessert, and tons of other random dishes.  Of course there was plenty of wine to go around, and though it was mentioned a few times that it definitely wasn’t the Thanksgiving dinner we’re all used to, we all agreed that celebrating Thanksgiving as a Temple Rome family was still just as wonderful.

We probably had about 20 people show up for dinner, and we really did have some wonderful food.  Before dinner, we all went around the room and talked about what we were thankful for.  Most everyone talked about how thankful we were just to be together since we couldn’t be home for the holiday.

I love my Rome family like my own

Listening to everyone go around and talk about how thankful they are just to have one another was really just bittersweet for me.  We have only a few weeks left in this semester, and it is really quite amazing how many true and lasting friendships have been formed in the past few months.  This is an experience that we were all able to share together, and one that can never really be repeated.  We’re really a part of something special, something that most people in their lifetime never have the chance to do.  So for that, we are all very thankful, and it showed as we celebrated the eve of Thanksgiving together.

At this point in our semester abroad, I think some of us are ready to go home.  With classes ending and finals coming up, and the holiday season in full swing, everyone seems excited to get home to the fam.  Don’t get me wrong, I am excited to see my family and friends and pets and spend the holiday at home, but I’m kicking myself for not choosing to spend an entire year abroad.  If I had it my way, I’d go home for a week or two for the holiday’s and hop a flight right back here for another semester to do this all over again.

I'm thankful for you, and you, and you, and you...

I have to say I am extremely thankful for Temple University and the most amazing study abroad program.  This has been quite possibly the best three and a half months of my entire life.  I’m just glad there’s still a couple weeks left!  You can bet I’ll be taking full advantage of the remainder of my semester here in Rome.

And with that, I am off to Piazza Navona to check out the Christmas tree and Christmas village shopping they’ve set up for the holiday.

Happy Holiday’s from Roma!

Study Abroad Sweets and Eats

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What’s that?  You’re starving?  Can’t think of what to eat?  No worries.  My friends and I have eaten enough in Europe to overwhelm you with ideas.  If your mouth isn’t already watering, it will be by the time you’re done reading this post.  Plus, you’ll be ready to make a mad dash to the nearest (insert place where you can get the type of food you’re now craving).

The very first pizza Jaclyn and I had in Rome.

Each time we head to a new city, there’s always a discussion about our level of excitement for the type of food that we are going to be able to eat once we get there.  So naturally, one of the first things we do when we arrive at that city, is head for the first restaurant we can find that makes authentic food of that particular place.  For example:

Rome
We eat like it’s our job in Rome.  My sister Jaclyn can’t get enough of Italian pizza and pasta (literally, she even eats it for breakfast!) and I have seriously been getting my fill of all the fresh fruits and vegetables that are sold at either the grocery store or at little street markets.  I would say 3 to 4 times a week, Jaclyn and I head to a café to enjoy a cappuccino, and every so often we stop at a new place for some gelato.  Wine is almost cheaper than water, and we’ve had our fair share in Rome, but I am also a big fan of Borghetti, a coffee liqueur that a lot of Italians tend to drink at cafés before going out at night.

My friend eating white sausage in Munich... eww.

Munich
I was in Munich for Oktoberfest, so obviously the only thing I consumed in Munich was beer.  Actually, we stayed at a four-star hotel, so every morning I ate a breakfast fit for a king- fresh eggs, salmon, cheese, fruit and vegetables, bread, juice and coffee.  I don’t eat meat, but my friends really enjoyed the white sausage.  Apparently, it is so fresh each morning that whatever is not consumed by about noon, has to be thrown out.  For me that’s only a good reminder as to why I don’t eat it in the first place.

Dublin
I would say Dublin is up there on my list of cities with the best food.  Stew is a traditional type of dish in Ireland, and Jaclyn and I had enough seafood stew in our weekend in Dublin to feed several large families.  It was also my 23rd birthday while we were in Dublin, so we enjoyed some really great desserts as well.  My favorite was a banana bread, served warm and topped with fresh bananas, ice cream and a Bailey’s Irish Cream sauce.

A delicious seafood stew in Dublin

London
Jaclyn and I were really excited to eat fish n’ chips in London, so we waited until we found a place that we both agreed would be the best place to enjoy it.  The Anchor is a restaurant right on the River Thames, and we seriously hit the fish n’ chips jackpot.  We got a huge bowl of broccoli and cheddar soup, and the most massive plate of fish n’ chips I have ever seen.  I believe we waddled out of The Anchor, feeling disgustingly full yet completely satisfied.

A magnificent mound of fish n' chips

Paris
I am almost always open to trying new things, but frogs and snails are where I draw the line, so no escargot or frog legs in Paris for me.  At home, I am a big fan of breakfast at any time of the day, and so I was really excited that I could order an omelet in any restaurant at any time in Paris.  We were there for 3 full days, and you can bet I had a crepe each of the three days.  I think the crepe truck at Temple back in Philly just lost my business, I don’t think I can ever go back.

A cheese omelet for dinner in Paris? Fabulous!

Barcelona
In Barcelona we stopped at this really great little tapas restaurant for the whole tapas experience, but my favorite meal in Barcelona was a seafood rice dish my sister and I split at this great little restaurant on the beach.  We ordered a decent bottle of wine, and realized we’d made the right choice in deciding to split the meal because this dish was huge!  Full of rice and vegetables and all different types of seafood, we seriously didn’t –couldn’t– eat for the rest of the day!

Seemed fishy, but this rice plate was delicious!

Athens
This year was the first time I was away from home for Thanksgiving, and we happened to be in Athens for my favorite holiday.   Thankfully (no pun intended) we were all in agreement that Greece was our favorite place to eat of all the places we’ve all been to in Europe.  Gyros, Greek salad, tzatziki and pita bread, olives, fresh feta… the works!  I was hyped up all weekend on Greek Coffee, and we enjoyed our fair share of sangria and ouzo throughout the weekend.

An incredibly fresh salad in Athens

Brussels
Jaclyn and I are taking one last trip together to Brussels the last weekend that we are in Europe.  You can bet Belgium beer and waffles are on my mind.  I can’t wait.

Now ladies, if you’re planning to study abroad for a semester (or even a full year) and you’re worried about gaining weight, stop worrying.  So long as you’re conscious of how much incredible food you’re shoving into your face, you’ll be totally fine.  Don’t leave your workout clothes at home!  There are plenty of options for joining a gym, and the weather is nice enough that you can definitely work out outside even in the winter months!

Every day is a great day for gelato

Fortunately for me, an Air Force ROTC fitness test awaits me when I return home from my semester abroad, so though I’ve definitely been enjoying myself and eating more than I normally would at home, I might have put on a proud three or four pounds (proud because it’s totally worth it for all the incredible food I’ve eaten) instead of the 15 pounds I surely woud have gained had I not been working out.

Did someone just say it’s time to go get gelato?  Count me in!