Sunday, February 19, 2012


So I know I promised to post when our Spring Break plans were decided, and here there are!! A week in a house on the beach in Lagos, Portugal!!! We have the house from Saturday to Saturday, so from Thursday to Saturday we're going to go to Barcelona. Then from Barcelona we'll be flying into Lisbon, Portugal and taking a 4ish hour bus ride from Lisbon to Lagos (because we haven't had enough of buses after Scotland). There are 10 of us going from our program, myself, Gracie, Katie, Paige, Nicole, Ben, Bo, Alec, Josh and Joe. Absolutely no words for how excited everyone is, it's going to be one of the best weeks ever! Here's the link to the house and a couple pictures that are posted on the website!

 The Villa!!!

 Heated pool!

 Dining room and Kitchen

 Living room

Outside eating area! Oh hey oceannn!!

The City of Lights!

Once again, super late on the post...but here it is, PARIS! We went with our study abroad program, so I think in total there were about 70 people from AIFS with us. We rode the Eurostar from London to Paris, and compared to our 9 hour bus ride to Edinburgh, it was a breeze. Our hotel was right outside of the train station, and we had a metro station about two feet from us, so it was very convenient. 

View from the Hotel

We got there on Friday afternoon and had time to explore the city for the whole day and night. We headed out on the metro to the Latin District and grabbed dinner. Then we headed to a piano bar for some champagne and music! Finally, we stopped at the most amazing crepe shop ever! I could never live in Paris solely for the fact that all I would eat would be crepes. Everyone was pretty tired, and we had to be up early in the morning for a bus tour, so we headed back fairly early. 

Champagne with Gracie, Katie and Lindsey at the Piano Bar

The next morning we had a 9am bus tour around the city, hitting all the highlights like Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tour. It lasted two or three hours and then we were given tickets to the Louvre! We split off from everyone and did our own things in the museum for about three hours. This was by far one of my favorite places. There were soooo many pieces of art, you could easily stay the entire day and not get through all of it. I would have loved to have more time, so if I ever go back to Paris I know I'll be designating a day solely for the Louvre. One thing I'm learning about myself while being abroad is that I love wandering art galleries; nothing better than putting your iPod in and aimlessly roaming for five hours. 

 Delaney, Lindsey, Emily, Katie, Gracie, Shea, myself and Claire with the Eiffel Tower

 Entrance to the Louvre

Mona Lisa!

After the Louvre, Katie, Gracie and I walked around Paris, making a stop to tour Notre Dame. It was extremely cold and windy that day, so we weren't allowed to go up into the actual towers of the cathedral. We headed back to the hotel on the metro and took a nap before heading to dinner down the street (where I had some of the best creme brulee everrrr), then back on the metro to a bar for some drinks. Once again we called it a pretty early night, being a tourist is exhausting!

Walking along the Seine to Notre Dame

 Notre Dame de Paris

Inside view of the Cathedral

Our last day was Sunday, and we had to meet for the train at 3:30pm. Gracie, Katie and our friends Josh and Alec made the decision to take a train out to Versailles for the day. It was about a 45 minute to hour train ride, but we got to see what it was like a little bit outside the city, which I really enjoyed. We had a couple hours to wander around. 

Walking up to the Palace

Hands down, Versailles was my favorite part of the trip. There really aren't words to describe that palace. It is the most astounding "home" I could ever even imagine. I remember learning about the French Revolution in school and hearing others describe how ornate the palace is, but there is no way to comprehend it unless you walk through it. 

Alec, Katie, Gracie, myself and Josh outside the Gates of Versailles

Gracie, Katie and I paid to walk through the inside. By far, the Hall of Mirrors was my favorite room in the entire place. It is a massive hallway, chandelier after chandelier hanging, with floor to ceiling windows on one side, showing off the famous Versailles gardens, and floor to ceiling mirrors on the other. The entire palace is just completely unnecessary, and seeing it certainly helps put the French Revolution into perspective (if I had nothing to my name and knew that was where my king was living, I might be revolting too....), but it doesn't change how completely incredible the architecture and decoration are. 

 Entrance to the Hall of Mirrors 


 Windows looking out into the gardens

Marie Antoinette's bedroom

Garden view from the Palace. They were closed due to the snow and cold weather

We headed back to Paris on the train, and made it just in time to meet up with the group and head back to London on the Eurostar. Overall, we definitely didn't have enough time in the city. It all felt a little rushed trying to fit in as much as possible in just about two days, but it was still beautiful and I am so glad I got to go. I had heard horror stories about the people there, but I never really experienced anyone being blatantly rude, and in all actuality most people were very friendly. Not what I was expecting, but certainly appreciated! And after being there for just over two days, I am IN LOVE with the French language. It is absolutely gorgeous, and even though I had zero idea what anyone was saying, I loved sitting and listening to people around speaking. Kendrick, I get why you studied it for so long, I'm jealous I don't know it. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Trips Trips Trips!

We started planning our Spring Break trip tonight! 10 of us in a house in Lagos, Portugal for a week!! There are no words for how excited I am!!! We have one house that we really want, so hopefully tomorrow we can call and book it! Once we find out what house we actually have I'll make sure to post a picture of it. All of them are absolutely gorgeous, and splitting it ten ways ends up making it fairly inexpensive.

We also just booked a flight and hostel to Munich, Germany for April. We're going the weekend of Springfest, and as of now there are about 18 of us going (mostly the same people who were in Edinburgh), so it's pretty much a guaranteed amazing time. Springfest is apparently considered to be a smaller version of Oktoberfest, so we tried to book everything as early as possible to save money and make sure we had a hostel. It will be one of our last weekends in Europe so I'm sure we're all going to have an ridiculous time!

We're headed to Paris on Friday, so expect a post with lots of pictures coming very soon!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A 9 Hour Bus Ride Later....

Ok so I know I have not been doing a very good job of keeping everyone back home up to date on everything (mom has already scolded me). Promise I'll be better from now on! 

We got back from Edinburgh, Scotland yesterday around 7:30am. We rode the Megabus, which was definitely an experience. 9ish hours stuck on a bus is not necessarily ideal, but I'm sure it could have been worse so I won't complain. 18 or 19 of us from the AIFS London program planned the trip together, and we headed out on Thursday night. We got there Friday morning and fortunately were able to lock up our stuff in the hostel before we could check in. Some of us split off and went touring around the city. We did a walking tour of Edinburgh that lasted about 3 hours. It was pretty cold, but the tour was interesting and considering I know next to nothing about Scotland, I learned a lot! 

 Edinburgh Castle, in Old Town Edinburgh
View of New Town Edinburgh

We headed back to our hostel afterwards to take a little break. If you ever go to Edinburgh and are looking for a hostel, definitely stay in the Caledonian Backpackers Hostel, it was super nice. We stayed in a room of 6, all from our program. There was also a room of 8 from the program and then some others scattered in rooms with other people. So I guess we might not have gotten the complete hostel experience by living with random people, but it was sooo much fun!

Five of us headed to a pub to eat dinner that night. It was super tiny and filled with pretty much all locals, not a touristy place. Gracie and I decided to split Haggis, the national dish of Scotland, which is pretty much sheep heart, lung, and liver all minced. I was expecting the worst but surprisingly it was actually really good! Definitely had to do it while in Scotland, as well as drink a beer brewed in Edinburgh. 

That night all of us went on a guided pub crawl around Edinburgh, which was a lot of fun and helped us decide where we wanted to go the next night. 

On Saturday, Gracie, Katie and I went to Edinburgh Castle to do some sight seeing. It was gorgeous, but I definitely liked Stirling Castle better (we visited it on Sunday). That night we went to one of the local pubs we had visited the night before. With a mix of live music, some dj'ing and a lot of Scottish natives, it made for an extremely entertaining night!

 View from Edinburgh Castle 

The next day, I think it was about 12 of us, took a bus tour up to the Highlands. We visited Loch Lomond, Stirling Castle and some other areas around. Literally one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. It was so picturesque, I can only describe it as looking like a postcard. Overall just one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. That tour lasted from 9am to 6pm, so it was a full day of sightseeing. We headed back to the hostel (they let us hang out in the common room even though we had already checked out). Katie, Gracie, Paige and I went to a little Italian restaurant where everything was half of the best meals I've had here! We headed to the bus station around 9:30pm, and headed back to London at 10:30pm. It had snowed in London that weekend, but it didn't cause any delays driving back. We were on the bus during the Super Bowl, so I missed being able to bask in the glory of Tom Brady's defeat, but that's ok, watching the highlights and knowing the money that will be coming my way from Mr. Gardner back at home was enough for me. 

 Loch Lomond

 Doune Castle, where part of Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed (thought you would appreciate this Dad)
 Stirling Castle

Overall, it was an amazing experience and such a gorgeous country, I absolutely loved it. We're headed to Paris this weekend, and we're planning on scheduling our Spring Break trip sometime in the next couple of days. The plan is a Villa in Portugal with 10 of us from the program. WOOOWOOO!! Like I said, promise to keep more up to date on the blog from now on!