Paris.

I took a weekend trip to France once.

It made me realize that I don’t think life is about achieving impressive goals. I think it’s about creating honest stories.

I took the trip during my sophomore year of college when I was studying abroad in Florence, Italy. I had never been to France prior to the trip, or out of the country for that matter, but I always wanted to go.

Most of what I knew about France, I knew from watching Beauty and the Beast. I had no idea what to expect. Like most girls my age, I was attracted to Paris because of the fashion and the romance and the shimmering lights.

I never knew how much I adored traveling before my semester abroad either. To be fair, I imagine traveling is much different when you’re relying on your own finances and trying to navigate the real-world responsibilities of adulthood – a full-time job, bills and housing situations. But at twenty years old with a scholarship, financial aid from my parents, no apartment and no responsibilities, it felt too good to be true.

I am a goal-oriented person. I am always working toward a future something. I am never satisfied unless I am achieving a goal or on a path that is pointing directly to one. I have always looked at life as a series of destinations, all strung together to achieve one final outcome. When I look back on my life, I’ll feel fulfilled knowing I accomplished what I set out to accomplish.

Maybe that’s true in some respect. But I read a book one time written by this guy who wrote down all of his memories. Every day, he would sit at a computer and write as much as he could remember from the day, in as much detail as possible. They all began to come together to form tiny stories, and he eventually compiled them into the book I was reading.

You would think reading a book about someone’s life would be boring. After all, you’re living life, so why would you want to also read about it?

By writing down all of the memories that were meaningful to him, the author of this book was somehow able to compile a story that was relatable and held my attention. It was a book full of his most engaging memories, some big and some small, but none meaningless. There was no ultimate conclusion, or plot, really. But I felt oddly fulfilled after reading it.

It sounds silly, but after I read that book, my perspective changed. I don’t think life is so much about reaching destinations and achieving goals. I think it’s more accurately a series of moments, all strung together to create a story.

Maybe that story could be put together in a book or a movie. Or maybe not. It doesn’t have to reach some groundbreaking conclusion or solve a problem or achieve a goal. You could say the story itself is the destination, or the goal, but I don’t think that’s the point.

I think fulfillment comes in the search for meaning. And you find it in moments that are significant to you, big or small.

It’s strange which moments stand out as significant, though. Usually the moments in which I’m standing there thinking, “I have to register everything that’s happening right now. This is an important moment,” aren’t the ones I remember most vividly.

I’m sad to say I don’t remember much about my first kiss.

I remember where it took place and when. But I don’t remember how I was feeling or what I was thinking. I was over-thinking it, and because of that, the details of the moment just sort of didn’t register.

Then, there are moments that seem small and insignificant at the time.  Instead of thinking about how I need to soak it all in, I am just living in them.

Those are the ones I usually remember the most clearly in hindsight. Sometimes I don’t know why I remember certain things. Sometimes it becomes obvious after a while, and sometimes it remains a mystery.

In either case, those are the kind of moments the author of the book I was reading would write down in the most detail. The big moments were the most exciting, of course, but the small, seemingly insignificant moments somehow were the most moving. I think they’re the kind of things most people don’t think about.

When I visited Paris for the first time, the whole weekend felt like a dream come true. I was determined not to miss a single second.  Consequently, I don’t remember most of the exciting things that happened in any detail.

Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 11.42.08 AM

Me in front of Notre Dame!

I know we went to the Louvre for free with our student IDs. We went to mass on Sunday at Notre Dame, and we visited the Palace of Versailles.

I took the cliché selfie in front of the Mona Lisa. I wandered through the vast palace and gardens at Versailles wondering what it would be like to own so much land and so much gold. I ate a crepe on a street corner as Nutella ran down my hands. I put a snail in my mouth and promptly spit it back out, and I paid way too much for the season’s first pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks.

I moved through the motions as I checked goals off of my list of destinations I felt obligated to reach.

There is one moment that stands out above the rest whenever I think about that weekend.

Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 11.41.22 AM

A peek through the window at the Versailles Palace gardens

For the longest time, I could not for the life of me figure out why I remembered this, of all things, so vividly. But the feeling of it has not left me.

My five roommates and I had just arrived in France and were taking the bus from the airport to our hostel in the city center of Paris. It was about an hour trip.

It was late in the evening, and we were exhausted from traveling all day after missing our connecting flight. We each had a backpack with a change of clothes that was feeling heavier by the minute, and we boarded the shuttle in a blur of excitement, stress and fatigue. There weren’t any seats left together on the bus, so we split up. I had been traveling with my roommates all day, so this was secretly fine with me.

I chose a seat by myself near a big window. I noticed the bus had WiFi. I began to fiddle with the settings on my phone before deciding I should enjoy the French scenery, and I could survive without WiFi for the hour. I decided to listen to music instead. I flipped through song after song and couldn’t decide on anything I wanted to listen to. I turned my phone off but left my headphones in my ears so no one would talk to me. I leaned my head against the window and decided maybe I should sleep. I couldn’t get to sleep because of the overhead announcements and finally settled on simply looking out the big window as the engine rumbled to a start.

At first, the scenery was mostly highway. I questioned whether we were in Europe or America as we rolled past familiar sights: gas stations, fast food restaurants, grocery stores and factories. We eventually left the highway and began bumping along down a two-lane road as vineyards and farmland and foliage moved past the window, making it more apparent that we were, in fact, in Europe.

The bus was moving at break-neck speed, but the scenes shifted slowly and lazily. Two girls, about my age, who were also studying abroad sat behind me chatting the whole way. I contemplated whether their chatting was going to annoy me and if I should turn music back on to drown it out. But there was something oddly soothing about their conversation.

They weren’t talking about anything significant. It was early October, and they mentioned they were excited to see their families again at Christmas once the semester came to an end. They discussed the souvenirs they would bring back, laughing about how their siblings didn’t deserve souvenirs. They planned what they were going to do the following day in Paris. They spoke contentedly about how this was their first time outside of the U.S. and how much they have enjoyed traveling around Europe so far.

I felt a weird sense of peace enjoying their conversation from an outside perspective without having to actually engage in it. It felt like life was moving all around me, but I was just observing rather than participating, which strangely took a lot of the pressure off.

“I’ve travelled a lot within the States, but this is my first time to Europe,” one of the girls said.

“I’ve never left the East Coast!” the other girl responded, slightly ashamed and slightly amused. “What is your favorite place to travel to in the States?”

“I love Maine. It’s just beautiful. Everything seems perfect. Straight out of a postcard.”

I don’t know why this surprised me. I had never thought about Maine.  I had no idea what it would be like, but it sounded like I had to go.  There were places on my bucket list in the U.S. to visit – places like California, Hawaii and Texas. Maine had never once crossed my mind. I remember feeling oddly comforted by the idea of traveling there. I don’t know why. I made a mental note to mention it to my parents and see what they had to say. The girl said something about sailboats and rocky shores. I decided to add it to my bucket list and do some research once we got to the hostel and into better WiFi.

They continued to chat about Maine, and it became background noise as I looked out the window and wondered what Maine is like. I heard my roommates wake up from their sleep and begin talking loudly and excitedly as we neared the center of Paris. A seat opened next to them, and I thought about joining their conversation but decided to continue pretending to listen to music instead.

The bus seats were made of scratchy blue material with hard cushions underneath, but they felt comfortable compared to the airplane seats we had spent so much time in that day. The whole bus smelled a little musty. There were pull-down trays, and for a moment, I thought about how wonderful it would be if there were snacks. Or even better -coffee. I searched my purse, but I didn’t find any snacks.

I felt kind of sad that the bus ride was only an hour and a little overwhelmed by the idea of having to haul myself off of the bus and use the mental energy to check into our hostel. What was my name again? Where was my passport? I made a mental note to dig that up in a few minutes.

As we inched closer to our destination, I secretly wished there was more time to sit there contemplating whatever I was contemplating.

Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 11.40.42 AM“There’s the Eiffel Tower!” my roommates squealed. “You can see it out the window!”

I couldn’t actually see the Eiffel Tower out my window, but the bus became chaos as study abroad students climbed to the windows where you could. I stayed in my seat looking out the big window and felt this strong sense of peace. That’s what I remember most above everything else: the feeling of peace and contentment.

I don’t know why it felt so nice to be going somewhere new, surrounded by strangers and chaos and enjoying things as they passed from an outside perspective. There are few other times in my life I remember feeling so undeniably peaceful.

I don’t remember much that happened after we reached Paris that night. Although I do have a picture of the tiny street corner, illuminated by an overhead store lamp, and the sidewalks glittering with fresh rain. It’s a pretty picture, but I don’t remember taking it.

I still can’t figure out exactly why that moment on the bus registers with any significance in my brain five years later, or why it’s the first thought that pops into my mind when I think about my first trip to Paris.

I wasn’t overthinking it, but it was still important to me. There’s no ultimate conclusion or lesson behind it. It’s just a nice memory.

I did end up going to Maine almost every summer after that. It is just as beautiful as the girl described, complete with postcard-esque sailboats and rocky shores.

And, I got married in Maine last year. So maybe that memory was foreshadowing something. After all, I met the boy I married on that trip abroad.

Getting married wasn’t a goal of mine, or a destination I felt I had to reach. It was just something that happened because the timing was right.

The day I got married is such a big, impressive memory that stands out compared to that small, honest moment on the bus.

But together, they’re both part of a meaningful story. I think this is what I will look back on in my life one day and feel the most fulfilled.

What memories stand out as most meaningful to you?

What do the stories you’re writing sound like?

#RealTalk

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Thoughts from the exit row.

bce01-403599_4209002221439_1585668444_nThis is a follow up to my previous post, thoughts from the airplane. Because, traveling.

  1. Lady at front desk: If I seat you in an exit row, are you willing and able to help out in the event of an emergency?
  2. Me: Sorry, I kind of spaced out for a second because you speak with the monotony of a teenage girl giving a speech in English class, but if you asked if I want lots of extra leg room, the answer is yes.
  3. Flight attendant: Are you willing and able to help out in the event of an emergency?
  4. Me: Am I willing? No. But am I ABLE? ……..no.
  5. Yessss. I scored the exit row! I am so crafty and just straight up fooled those people about my ability to save lives. I should be a spy.
  6. I call the window seat!
  7. ohhhh I have to sit next to the air marshal. This just got less fun.
  8. Excuse me, scary looking man? Are you going to kick me off the plane if I annoy you? Because I feel like there’s a significantly high chance of that happening.
  9. *puts heavy suitcase in overhead bin like a champ*
  10. *immediately gets big head about it*
  11. Psh. Am I able. I can’t think of anyone more able!
  12. *looks around to see who is admiring my superhuman powers* Everyone: staring at phones.
  13. Am I even allowed to listen to music in the exit row? Or do I have to be aware of my surroundings and alert at all times? Goodness, this is a drag already.
  14. Excuse me, scary looking man? ….oh. That was not a good look. Nevermind.
  15. Wow my phone is about to die. Is there a USB port around here? I mean, this is the 21st century. I’m not asking for much.
  16. We get to watch movies on this plane! yay!
  17. Wait how do I work this screen thingy? I don’t know how to use anything that’s not a touch screen. What are buttons?
  18. I can’t believe they’re making me touch buttons. What am I, a peasant?
  19. I give up on technology. I’m just going to stare out the window.
  20. I tried to look out the window and accidentally made eye contact with the air marshall, so now I’m going to pretend I’m texting.
  21. Wait. We’re in the air, and he knows I’m not texting. I need a backup plan. Backup plan!!
  22. Wow. If I was talking out loud, I would be the most annoying person on this plane.
  23. On second thought, I think I’m the most annoying person on this plane anyway.
  24. My head is a crazy place sometimes.
  25. What if the air marshall could hear my thoughts?
  26. Flight attendant: *does exit row spiel* Do you have any questions?
  27. Me: Yes did you get that tie at Macy’s because my husband has the same one I picked it out for him.
  28. Me in real life: No.

Firenze updates.

Hi everyone!

It’s a beautiful day here in Firenze. It is sunny and about 70 degrees, which is nice since it’s been chilly and rainy for the past couple of days. I wanted to fill you in on what we’ve been up to.

The first day here was sort of a blur since we had been up for almost a full 24 hours. After we arrived in Firenze at 11 a.m., we set out to walk around the city a little bit and headed to the market to grab food!

photo 1

The Sant’Ambrogio market is probably one of my favorite things in the entire world.  It is where all of the local farmers come to sell fruits, veggies, meat, cheese and all kinds of other things from 9 a.m. to about 1 p.m. every day in Piazza Sant’Ambrogio. The vegetables and fruit are so fresh that they’re still covered in soil! We asked one of the farmers how old the vegetables were so that we knew how long we could keep them, and he said they had just been picked that morning. Amazing! My favorites are the red peppers and tomatoes. They’re so juicy and rich that they taste creamy! But seriously, everything is so good. One of the farmers is nice and knows us well because we come to his stand every day, so he always gives us free rosemary, spinach, carrots, basil and a bunch of other herbs just because he likes us! After we stocked up on all kinds of colorful things, we made some delicious salads for lunch.

photo 2That evening, we headed to our favorite restaurant for dinner (I just realized this post has been all about food so far! …When in Italia, right?)

It’s a restaurant called Il Gato e il Volpe, which means: The Cat and the Fox. It’s by far the best restaurant in Firenze, in my little opinion, and it’s really local and authentic too. The owner is this guy named Fabio, and he has known Vince for almost ten years.  He calls him Chuck Norris because of his beard and the fact that he does martial arts.  But because of his accent, he says “Chuck Norrees” …so funny! Because he and Vince are such good friends, he gives “the Vince discount” to us and everyone who knows us.  He usually takes 15% off of every meal and just gives us pizza and all kinds of things for free. Anyway, they have the most amazing food, and if you’re ever there, ask for Fabio and tell him that you know Chuck Norrees.

The next day, we hung out with our friend Jason for a little bit!  Jason is an amazing sculptor from Michigan and the first person my roommates and I met in Florence when we studied abroad a couple of years ago. More importantly, he has THE cutest kitten in the entire world! She is the most playful, lovable thing on this earth, and I don’t even like cats. Her name is Ombretta, which translates to: little shadow.

After that, we had aperitivo with our goodfriend Emanuele, his girlfriend Lindsay, and Vince’s student Margeaux. I met Emanuele at the same time that I met Vince, and he is such a great friend!  He even came to visit us in Boston over the summer, and it was so fun! His girlfriend, Lindsay, is from Rhode Island, but she lives in Florence and teaches English as a second language at a preschool here.

Aperitivo means appetizers, and it’s an italian tradition that you usually have before dinner.  Most bars, cafes and restaurants will have aperitivo from around 7-9 p.m., and you can buy one drink for 5-10 euro depending on where you go. Then, there is a whole buffet full of appetizers and finger food, and you can eat as much as you want! It’s pretty amazing.  We used to just do that for dinner because it was so cheap and such a good deal! Anyway, it was so great to catch up with old friends, laugh about inside jokes and have so much fun for a couple of hours. I didn’t realize how much I missed everyone!

On Sunday, we headed to St. Mark’s for church, which is where Vince and I met!  It was so amazing being back at church there.  The people are just so incredible, and I feel so connected to that church. I wish I could pick it up and take it with me wherever I go, because I can’t imagine going to church anywhere else.

photo 4

This is the terrace where we met!

Tonight, it is Notte Bianca in Firenze, which means “white night.” This is a big festival throughout all of Florence where everything is white and everyone is supposed to dress in all white. There are also concerts, tons of things to do and all of the museums and nightclubs are free. It goes all night until 6 a.m. They also have all kinds of light displays and fog machines throughout the whole city…it’s pretty crazy.  Emanuele, Lindsay, Margeaux, Vince and I are going to go later tonight, and I’m really excited. I love how there is so much going on here every single day.  There’s always something fun to do! And I swear italians just make up their own holidays and shut everything down whenever they want. We’ve been here for exactly a week and there have already been TWO holidays where everything is closed.

Everyone is like, “Oh, everything is closed today.  It is a holiday.”

But….it was a holiday yesterday….and the day before! Basically, Italy just does whatever it wants.  And I love it.

Anyway, there is so much more to tell you, but it is beautiful outside and I need to go explore. There will be more posts coming soon. Thanks for reading! For now, arrivederci!

xoxo Lizzie xoxo

Where to next?

Ciao amici!

Guess where I am?

Well, you probably guessed right since its only like my mom who reads this….but I am back in Firenze! And I decided to dust off the blog for some NEW travel updates because, well, my life is somewhat exciting again!

Long story short…I came back to Florence with Vince (Vince is a handsome guy that I met last time I was here for four months in 2012…..for full details, check out my story about how we met in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game)

Vince is an awesome artist who owns his own jewelry business (vwhjewelry.com) where he designs and fabricates all of his work by hand using florentine styles of engraving (hence, here we are in Florence).

Last time he was here to create some work (check THIS brooch out), and this time, he is teaching a two-week intensive engraving workshop at an art school here in Florence. I am here with him to blog (if I actually do it) and work on some writing. However, both of us are absolutely in love with this city and our lives here. We can’t help but feel like there is a bigger reason why we’re actually here and can’t imagine life without moving back someday, at least for a longer period of time than a few months. There are some things in the works….but…..we’ll save those details for later. Right now, nothing is set in stone yet, but I will keep you posted!

So…here are a few updates about what we’ve been up to so far! We left Ohio and all of its snowy/rainy glory on Tuesday (good riddance) and arrived here Wednesday morning. We have been here for a little less than a week. We took a LOT of planes to get here, with the first one leaving from Akron/Canton airport and landing in Atlanta, Georgia. Somehow, I always end up having a connecting flight in Atlanta even though I HATE the Atlanta airport. You would think they would take me into consideration when deciding which route to take, honestly.

I also think it’s dumb that no matter where you’re going, you always have to fly to Atlanta, which seems to always be totally out of the way.  I also think its dumb that they board planes from front to back. I also think its dumb that they always, ALWAYS overbook so you have to check your bag at the gate and be without all the food you snuck in for the entire flight.

Okay, before this post turns into me just lamenting about planes (I think it already has), let’s get back to our trip!

After Atlanta, we took a nine hour flight to PARIS! As soon as we stepped off the plane, I commented on the fact that I love the way Paris smells like potpourri and perfume all the time. It smells exactly the way you would expect.

We got to experience it for a split second at least as we were sprinting through the airport in typical Charles de Gaulle fashion. The Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris is HUGE, and nobody is ever walking, or acting humane in any way.  No matter how long of a layover you have, you are doomed to never, ever make your next flight; so everyone is sprinting, and pushing, and shoving, and yelling in French, and, with about 40 minutes to get to the other side of the airport, we joined them as soon as our feet hit the ground.  Although, it did feel good to run about twelve miles with heavy suitcases after sitting on a plane for nine hours.  We can check exercising off the list for that day.

We DID make our flight, however, (first people ever!) and we got our first taste of French coffee and croissants on the plane, which made everything better. Typically, plane food, and ESPECIALLY plane coffee, does not appeal to me at all, but in Europe, even plane bread and coffee taste like a piece of heaven.

We got to see the Swiss Alps out the window again, which take my breath away every time.  As we were flying closer and closer to Florence, I kept getting this peaceful feeling that I wasn’t going somewhere new and exciting, but instead, that I was returning to somewhere comforting and familiar. It felt like I was coming home!

We made it to Florence, and we have the cutest little apartment while we’re here!

photo 3

I’ll fill you in on everything we have already done so far next time!
 Right now, there is an entire city full of places to explore. The only question is: Dove?

photo 4

Where to next?

Talk to you soon!

-Lizzie

Welcome back to my little life.

Hey everyone!

I’ve been incredibly busy this semester (surprise, surprise), and this is probably not a good idea whatsoever, but hey! I’m okay with it.

I’ve been thinking that I really miss just writing about daily life and the awesome, fun, usually ridiculous things that sometimes (often) happen to me, so I decided to try keeping up with this blog post-Florence! We’ll see how it goes….

I originally started this blog as an easy way to keep in touch with family and friends during my amazing four-month study abroad experience in Florence, Italy (see previous posts for the coolest my life has probably ever sounded written down).

But now that I’m back, I really miss writing for fun….not to be confused with the painful, gag-me-with-a-shrimp-fork essay writing I constantly have to do for school.

More importantly, Ohio is honestly such an odd place all around…full of crazy people, places and situations, and ridiculous things happen to me almost daily that I just feel should be written down somewhere, at least for my own amusement. Plus, I still travel a little now and then; so, there are those experiences.

Also, I have been suffering deeply from post-Europe depression. (I googled it, guys. It’s a real epidemic.) So, I thought this blog might be useful as an outlet and also consistent with its original theme.

Post Europe Depression: A harsh reminder that reality does indeed blow. A strong yearning to relive the amazing times from your trip. This condition is definitely not helped by the [crappy Ohio] weather…” (edited)

“I just tried to drink some coffee and ended up in tears again because nothing in the world is as good as an italian cappuccino.” (this made me laugh out loud at the thought of someone trying desperately to drink coffee without shedding tears hahaha!)

These thoughts cross my mind almost daily. I was at Panera with a friend of mine a while ago, and she was grossed out by having to lay her backpack on the ground in the bathroom because there was no little hook to hang it on.

I responded, “Normally, that would bother me too, but this backpack has seen everything. Trust me.”

Then I burst into tears….just thinking about my backpack and all the wonderful, crazy places it has been.

Okay, I didn’t really burst into tears, but I just want you to know something.

No panera restroom will ever compare to laying your backpack on the floor of a public restroom that cost three whole euros inside a train station at 4 a.m. waiting to catch the first train to anywhere in Europe.

Or a sketchy hostel bathroom that you are sharing with approximately 30 people from every walk of life, everywhere in the world.

Or the streets of Paris because you are so worn-out and cannot figure that city out for the life of you even with the map containing detailed directions from a kind stranger, and all you want to do is find the subway so you can go sleep on your cardboard bed with your styrofoam pillow for a few hours until you have to be up again at 7 a.m. to go see the Louvre as soon as it opens.

Or the ancient dust on the steps of the city of Pompeii.

Or on the floor of the Academia while taking copious notes for Art History right in front of the breathtaking statue of David.

Anyway…..as I was saying…I’ve been slightly depressed/dramatic about the whole leaving Europe thing. However, It is absolutely BEAUTIFUL outside today, so… there is that. Maybe that is the source of my motivation to continue blogging. We’ll see how long it lasts! Probably as long as this sunshine will last. It is Ohio, after all.

I’ll try to update this blog with things I find interesting, including all of my new adventures/experiences here in ‘merica!

It is definitely a new chapter of my life, and that offers some excitement in itself, whether it’s comparable to last semester or not. So I hope you find these excerpts from my little life useful, interesting, entertaining, or at least a way to procrastinate from whatever you’re really supposed to be doing for a few minutes. I know it’s definitely all of those things for me.

Have a wonderful day!

-Lizzie

Writing Playlist:
Ours-T. Swift
If this was a movie – T. Swizzle
Our Song – The Spill Canvas
Mayberry – Rascal Flatts (love this song)
Will Reagan and the United Pursuit Band

Adventures around Venice and London! …and Christmas!

Hello!

It’s been almost a month since I’ve written on here…yikes!

Things have just been super busy. We’ve been doing a lot of awesome traveling, and I have some pretty cool adventures to fill you in on. My least favorite part about all of this is the fact that there are only 9 days until I have to come home.

Leaving is not something I’m looking forward to.

Don’t get me wrong, I miss all of my family and friends and can’t wait to be home for Christmas. But the thought of what comes after: school, work, freezing cold weather, that period of extreme boredom that comes every year right after Christmas, and Ohio, is less than thrilling.

However, I just keep telling myself this isn’t the last time I’ll be in Europe, and the thought of coming back one day (hopefully soon!) is comforting in this dark time of depression and empty despair (just kidding). I am really going to miss it though…it does feel just like home now!

Here is a bit of what I’m going through:

When people ask if I’m happy to be home from studying abroad:

study abroad no

When I have to leave Europe:

everything sucks

I found these on other blogs about studying abroad, and I thought they were really funny and relatable. There are some other good ones too. Here’s the link to those blogs:

thetimeistudiedabroad.tumblr.com
thestudyabroadlife.tumblr.com

Okay okay, I’ll stop lamenting and tell you about our adventures instead! Yay adventures!

Our first stop was Venice. What a crazy experience. It rained the entire time we were there, which led to extreme flooding. Venice is known for its water transportation system (they use water taxis instead of land taxis), since all of the roads are basically sidewalks and canals. No driving allowed. It’s a pretty interesting way of life, but I don’t think it’s something I could ever put up with for an extended period of time. I’m sure it’s really pretty in the summertime when it’s sunny and the light is reflecting on the water.

Honestly, I thought Venice would be a lot cooler. It wasn’t my favorite city. Because there is so much stagnant water everywhere, it smells really bad all. the. time…especially in small side streets. That’s definitely something I could not deal with. On the plus side, it is incredibly cheap! I don’t think we had a meal over 4 euros the entire time we were there. They had sandwiches for lunch for only 1 euro and 50 cents…. Unheard of!  And definitely a plus for our rapidly dwindling bank accounts.

The first day in Venice seemed like a fun adventure because they are so prepared for the rain. I was very impressed. It’s like Ohio during October through May when it snows. Faint-hearted southerners may freak out and shut down all of their school systems, but us Ohioans are prepared.

During the flood, they brought out these platforms that they spread through the whole city for people to walk on, and they were selling industrial rain boots on every corner. People had pipes running through their homes and were using big buckets to filter out all of the water. The ground level of almost every building was just a big empty room in case of flooding, so nothing would be damaged. Of course, the locals were all equipped with hard-core fishing boots; the kind that you strap around your waist because they come up to your hip and are made of heavy duty plastic:
fishing boots

Can you say stylish? It’s definitely not the time for being vain about the way you look.

So, at first we thought it was so fun, and we were running around in the flood waters. Some people even took off their shoes to run around, but that ended when we saw a HUGE dead rat floating by. SO gross! There are monstrous rat type things called Coypu in Italy:

huge italian rat

There are some ducks there in case you need to do a size comparison.

Anyway, we were all pretty worn out by day two, not to mention getting kind of sick due to the fact that it was freezing (it snowed a little on the last day!)  So, we didn’t do much. We took some pictures with gondolas (it’s about 75 euros for a short ride, so we opted out), visited some museums and palazzos, and made some funny music videos in the hotel room. All in all, it was definitely a memorable experience!

After Venice, we visited…..LONDON! One of my absolute favorite cities so far in all the land. I can’t even describe it…I just had the best time there! We went to London for Thanksgiving break, so we had about 5 days and 4 nights there. Surprisingly, we found a hostel for just 7 euros a night. So, about 30 euros total. We also found a cheap, Easyjet flight for about 60 euros. Minus sightseeing and food consumption, we only spent about 100 Euro traveling to London. *pats self on back*

The city of London is ENORMOUS. We didn’t even know where to begin! Thankfully, the people are incredibly friendly, and a sweet, old english lady walked us all the way from the train station to our hostel when we asked her for directions. Our hostel was specifically for study abroad students, so it was a lot like a typical college dorm, which actually made it more fun than I thought, and a bit like home! (oddly enough) I stayed in an all-girls room, so I didn’t have to worry about any creepy men in my room either, which was even better!

The first day started off amazing! We headed to the London Eye (the giant ferris wheel) to get a breathtaking view of the whole city from the top.  Then, we explored a cute little Christmas market and walked around the city. At night, we went back to the London Eye to go ice skating! It was magical and completely decorated for Christmas (In my favorite Christmas color scheme: silver and blue). They also played Christmas music the entire time, and it was one of my favorite days ever.

The following day, Sarah and I splurged a little and visited the Harry Potter Studio Tour! We had to. It was on my bucket list, and I would have forever regretted it if I didn’t go. In the beginning of the tour, they have you sit in a giant movie theater and talk to you about the tour. Then, they play a clip from the first movie where Dumbledore says, “Welcome to Hogwarts,” and opens the doors to the Great Hall. At the same time, the movie screen lifted up, and the doors opened to reveal that we were sitting in The Great Hall movie set! The ACTUAL one! It was SO cool, as if he was actually welcoming us to Hogwarts. I couldn’t even handle my excitement.

We toured all of the sets after. Walking through Diagon Alley, and Privet Drive, and the bridge connecting Hogwarts to Hagrid’s Hut was just so awesome. I felt like Hermione the whole time. I mean, I basically am. Let’s face it. We spent about two hours touring the sets, then a couple hours in the gift shop.

After the tour, we went to this place called Piccadilly Circus, which is basically the Times Square of London. We were STARVING, so we went to Thai Town and had a buffet! It was amazing and delicious. Piccadilly Circus was also decorated for Christmas, and it was absolutely wonderful.

The next day, we went to the Camden Markets and did some shopping/walking around because we couldn’t really afford anything. Then we went to Harrod’s (a fancy schmancy department store in Westminster) and saw some expensive cars, clothing and houses. They were also playing Christmas music! yay! Everywhere was playing Christmas music!

We also visited the Disney Store and….guess. what?! Outside of the Disney store, there were bubble machines to make it look like it was snowing on the whole street! Just like at Magic Kingdom in Disney World! There was also a huge tree! My happiness was overflowing. I love Christmas!

Alright, I’ll fill you in on days four and five in London next time, and also Ireland! (sooo gorgeous!) Right now, we’re heading to the Christmas market and out to dinner! Maybe I’ll purchase some souvenirs there. I hope you’re having an amazing day/week! (yay! finals are almost over!)

Miss you and love you lots and lots! 9 more days! 🙂 😦

xoxo Elizabeth xoxo

Writing Playlist:
Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Hanging around Europe.

Ciao everyone!

Mi dispiace per la mancanza di aggiornamenti!

We’ve been doing so much lately that I’ve barely had time for insignificant things like sleeping and breathing, let alone blogging! It’s all been really exciting though, and we’re trying to do as much as we possibly can over the next month before we have to, unfortunately……*sniffle*…*tear*…..leave.

I’m looking forward to coming home for a few reasons involving family, friends, church and Christmas! Besides those things, I would much rather live here all the days of my life. It just feels so much like my home away from home now. I’ve never felt so connected to a place before…it’s the craziest thing! I get really sad about leaving every time I think about it. So I have to stop. Basta. Enough.

Unfortunately, I don’t think my posts about all of our travels are going to be quite as detailed as they have been, because I have so much catching up to do! But I’ll try to fill you in on as much as I can.  It’s hard to even know where to begin.

Milan was one of the places I was really excited about visiting, because of The Last Supper and the fact that it’s one of the fashion capitals of the world.  But.. it was actually not that great! I don’t know if it was because we only stayed for 2 days, so we didn’t get a chance to experience it as fully as we could have, but it just didn’t seem to be as exciting as it originally sounded on the internet and in books. There was definitely some good shopping, and I got a couple of cute, new dresses at a hip store called Bershka! Obviously, The Last Supper and the Duomo were both amazing. Other than that, there wasn’t much to do and the people seemed kind of….boring and robotic. It was a lot more modern than Florence. It actually reminded me a lot of New York City without all the hustle and bustle and excitement.

I thought I would enjoy the more modern atmosphere of the city because it would remind me of home, but I actually found myself missing the historical quaintness of Firenze. A. Lot. Italy makes me smile though, because even in the middle of all the tall, glass buildings and modern architecture, there would be little glimpses of frescos or ancient statues here and there that just proved even though you try to cover them up with new, fashionable things, the history and culture that basically encompass Italy still shine through…which I think is amazing.

Rome, on the other hand, was absolutely amazing! I fell in love with Roma! In preparation, ovviamente, my roommates and I watched the Lizzie Mcguire movie the night before, and it was really fun watching it while we’re actually in Italy!

While we were there, we visited the Roman Forum – ruins of the ancient city of Rome – Caesar’s grave, the Pantheon, the Colosseum, and tons of museums, churches and palazzos, as well as a fun park! It’s so amazing how there are just ancient ruins everywhere in Rome. We were eating lunch on the first day, and there were some dilapidated pillars from hundreds of years ago chilling next to our chairs.

Like, “Oh, just typical, daily Roman life. No big deal.”

The longer I’m here, the more annoyed I am by the lack of history in America. Although it’s not really our fault because we haven’t been around for as long. So I GUESS I’ll have to accept it.

Anyway, Roma was so beautiful! I definitely would have loved to spend more time there, but three days was good enough….for now. We were also there during a student protest, so that was very interesting! We tried to steer clear of that area, because if the police decided to arrest anyone, they could arrest you for just being in the area and not necessarily participating in the protest. Crazy!

Then….there’s Paris! aaaahhhh. This wasn’t a field trip for school; it was just a weekend trip we decided to take on our own.

I think the entire time we were there, I didn’t stop smiling! I really think I was just walking down the sidewalks with a huge smile on my face. It’s not creepy. Don’t worry.

I just couldn’t get rid of the feeling that we were in a movie or something, because it didn’t feel real that we were in France! It was definitely one of the places I was most excited about seeing, and it didn’t disappoint me. It was actually a lot like how I pictured it.

We flew to Paris with a local airline called RyanAir, which my friend Vince likes to nickname ‘ghetto air’ because it’s really cheap and apparently, also really sketchy. It’s for people who are traveling on a budget, but everything actually went really smoothly for us! Woo! We didn’t have any problems. The only part that concerned me was that when we landed and the plane stopped on the runway, the pilot blew a trumpet sound and everyone applauded…..ummmm…call me crazy, but that makes me think they were a little too excited about the plane landing safely….which is slightly concerning. So, we’ll try to limit the amount of times we fly with RyanAir….to that one time.

It rained pretty much the entire time we were in Paris, which normally would annoy me, but I think it added to the atmosphere of the city. It was just a gentle rain, not a downpour, and it was a little chilly and the leaves were changing, so it made it so beautiful!

We sang songs from Beauty and the Beast, of course, the entire weekend. Also, being a ballerina and all, France was especially exciting for me! There were posters for ballet concerts everywhere, and it made me really happy. I wanted to pique turn down all the sidewalks! But…I refrained.

Side note: Nutella crepes. That’s all I have to say.

Besides the overall classiness of the city, Starbucks on every corner (finally!), and the giant cups of coffee rather than teeny italian cups of espresso, I think what I loved most about Paris is that it felt so inspiring! I could definitely feel my creativity flowing. I think I could easily do some awesome writing in Paris, and if I spent a year there, I would probably be a famous novelist by now, let’s be honest. We even had the chance to see the cafe where Ernest Hemingway used to write a lot of his work. Maybe that’s only exciting for a journalism major…..but still….so cool!

We also visited The Louvre and took pictures by Mona Lisa (her eyes are extra creepy in the real painting. it feels like she’s staring directly into your soul), the Arc De Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower at night (it SPARKLES!), Moulin Rouge, the palace of Versailles (we had tea and eclairs there too!), Notre Dame (we went there for a beautiful French Mass on Sunday), the art district and the Jewish ghetto. The Jewish ghetto was super cool! We went to the best cafe there, which had 90 cent, huge baguettes! Fun fact: ‘ghetto’ in Europe just means neighborhood…so it doesn’t have the creepy, thug-life connotation like it does in the U.S. No worries.

One of my favorite moments was on the last night we were there, because it was just so funny!

My friend Sarah was asking where the train station is, and my friend Maggie said, “I think it’s on the next street just past this palace.”

I definitely had one of those moments where you’re just like “I can’t believe I’m here! aahhh!”

I mean, how often do you get to say that sentence??! And we just throw it around so non-chalently.

“Hey do you happen to know where Home Depot is?”
“Yeah, it’s on the next street, right past this enormous, ancient, golden French palace.”
“Okay cool, thanks. I need to pick up some gas for my lawnmower.”

I think after being here for a while, you just get used to things like that, and it becomes sort of normal. You have to frequently stop and remind yourself that it’s not actually normal to be surrounded by ancient palaces, and sculptures by Michelangelo and buildings from the 1200s and 1300s! Even in Florence, every time I’m walking past the Duomo on my way to class or the train station, I have to stop and remind myself that it was designed by Brunelleschi in the 15th century, so don’t take walking by it every day for granted. It’s the craziest thing and definitely something I’ll never be able to forget or adjust back from.

Well…I’ll have to fill you in on the crazy experience in Venice next time! I can definitely understand why it’s called the city of water. I’ll also tell you about some of the fun things we’ve been doing around Florence! I miss everyone so much! Just a little over a month until I’m home. 😦 🙂 << There’s a sad face and a happy face because it’ll be bittersweet.

Lots of love!!

xoxo Elizabeth xoxo

Writing Playlist:

Relient K – Christmas Album (Let it Snow, Let it Reindeer)

Part 2!

Part 2! yay!

So…that night while we were out, we also met some very cute italian boys who bought us roses! So that was fun.

The one who bought me roses was Peter (in Italian, it’s Pietra), and he bought me a red and a pink one. He also told me I had the most beautiful eyes in all of Florence!  I’m sure that was 100% true and not a line at all.

When we got home, we put our roses in a vase on the center of our kitchen table to admire for the next couple of days. Because we are girls, and that’s how we roll. They smelled really good.

On Sunday, it rained all morning, which was much, MUCH needed.  It cooled things off so much! Sometimes, I have to actually cover up with my sheet when I go to sleep now.  Huge improvement.

Although the small side streets were a tad flooded, we still set out in the morning for church and a few museums later. It was actually really pretty! The rain felt so good on my skin, and the air was still warm. It wasn’t storming badly or anything, just a nice end of summer rain. We stopped at an American-style diner (they have American-style restaurants here, just like we have Italian ones at home) for a nice taste of home for brunch. I got scrambled eggs, toast, hashbrowns and a cappuccino, and it was so delicious!

The school gave us museum passes to get into most of the museums for free AND skip the long lines (woo!), so we attempted to visit the national history museum and the museum of modern art, but you need your student ID, and a few of the girls forgot theirs. So we saved it for another rainy or sunny day, and visited the Gucci museum instead.

Some of the stuff in there was ridiculous! Did you know they make Gucci cars, golf clubs, bicycles, sleds and silverware? How rich do you have to be to afford those things? I mean, obviously I will be able to afford them because my husband and I will have very successful careers. I just worry for everyone else….just kidding. I’m planning on going into public relations for non-profits, so I don’t think that will be an issue. However, if I win the lottery or marry a doctor, don’t ever let me own something as pointless as a GUCCI sled. or bicycle. Don’t ever let it get to the point where I have so much money, I buy things like that. okay? okay. thanks. glad we took care of that.

On Monday, we started class at Kent! My classes seem interesting, but a little difficult. I’m sure once we get into them, I will enjoy them though. It’s such a huge transition because we have our classes back-to-back and all in the same building. In one way, it’s kind of nice because we don’t have huge breaks with nothing to do in between classes.  But in another way, it kind of reminds me of middle school. And most people know how I felt about middle school.

We had italian homework that night, and one thing I quickly realized is that it’s ten times harder to concentrate on doing homework with all of Florence just outside your window! I’m really enjoying learning though! My favorite classes so far are Italian and Art History.  Plus, the people who work at the school, including all of the professors, are pretty much the most wonderful people I have met. They’re the kind of professors who are passionate about what they do and want you to learn and experience as much as you can! Those are the best kind. They have this way of making you feel like you can do anything you’re passionate about, if you set your mind to it!

The first day of orientation, we ended up talking to one of the fashion professors, who sat down with us for about an hour and showed us every single place on the map that we should go. He told us to start traveling right away, and travel as much as we can every weekend, because it’s cheap, and the best way to learn. He explained to us the importance of being a traveler, not a tourist, and trying to immerse ourselves in the culture and lifestyle of the locals as much as we can wherever we are! It was really encouraging. Then he was like, “Alright, what other questions do you have? What else can I help you with?” I just love when professors are so eager to help outside of class like that, because I feel like I’m actually learning something worthwhile.

Also, we’ve been having some issues with the people at the travel agency, such as not being the friendliest and wanting to rip us off.  But thankfully, we spoke to some of our kind professors, and they helped us figure out the best and cheapest solution for traveling this weekend! One of our professors actually spent half the class period just talking to us about how and where to travel instead of teaching the class. So that was fun.  It looks like we’ll be heading to Croatia this weekend by train, if everything goes according to our plans! Which, coincidentally or not so coincidentally, is on my bucket list of places to go before I die. Yes, I have one of those. And next weekend, we’ll be spending 3 days and 3 nights on the Amalfi Coast (which is also on the list! actually, most places are on the list haha), visiting Pompeii and Capri and lots of other fun places.

Just casually checking things off my bucket list daily. You know how I do.

I’ll keep you updated on how school and everything here is going! I hope everything is great wherever you are. Love you lots and lots!

xoxo Lizzie xoxo

“Be a traveler, not a tourist. Try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what’s right in front of you. Those are the keys to understanding this amazing world we live in.” -Andrew Zimmern

Italians are beautiful.

Can we just talk about something?

Can we just talk about how I have not seen one unattractive Italian since we got here?

They all look like they stepped straight off the pages of a magazine. And they’re just so effortlessly beautiful. We’re walking around in this 100 degree heat, sweating from every location on our bodies, and these people just walk around wearing dark pants, long sleeve dresses and heels. And their hair and makeup is perfectly intact. I don’t understand. Are they mutants? What is this nonsense?

Furthermore, they’re all so skinny and muscular, even though there is tons of delicious food everywhere and gelato around every corner (Gelato is italian ice cream, but it’s more like a mixture of frozen yogurt and sherbert. Except better. Way better. It’s like eating a delicious cloud from heaven!)

And I’m pretty sure I have not seen one gym. Although, on my gym finder app for my smart phone (I have a gym finder app and an exercise fetish. Don’t worry about it) it says there are a bunch around here. But I think the Italians like to keep them secretly hidden from sight so they can all remain much more attractive than we are. That’s my theory.

I don’t even know where to begin with all the attractive Italian men so I won’t.

I think what I love most about Italy though, and I know it sounds cheesy and lame, is Italians are just beautiful people. On the inside too. I love how much they value relationships and community and investing in each other. It really is beautiful. For example, people say hi when they pass by each other. It reminds me of how America used to be in the old days. When you’re sitting on the porch and people walk by, waving and saying hi to each other…that’s what it’s like here! And when you accidentally brush against somebody on the crowded sidewalks, nobody says excuse me or I’m sorry or glares at you, because contact with other human beings isn’t actually considered an invasion of personal space. I don’t think personal space really exists here very much at all. People talk very close together, and they greet you with a kiss and a hug!
You don’t even have to talk to an Italian to notice how important relationships are to them though, because it’s evident in their culture. All of the cafes and restaurants are small and crowded, but hardly any places give you anything to-go. Some of the American, touristy areas will, but usually if you ask for coffee to-go at a local place, they just stare at you and say “I don’t understand.” Because people aren’t on-the-go. They sit down and eat meals and drink coffee together…that’s just what they do here. It’s so foreign!
In American restaurants, I always get annoyed when I don’t have enough room because everything is usually so spread out. But in restaurants here, the tables and seats are so small and really, really close together. The first time we went out to lunch at one of the cafes, I felt so incredibly awkward. We were sitting at this tiny table on these tiny stools that felt like a little kid’s tea table or something, and I kept trying to move my stool around so I wasn’t in anybody’s way.  I figured people would be annoyed. But people here aren’t so closed off to other people, and I think it’s awesome. I love America, and I don’t think it’s just us who are closed off sometimes. There are people who are like that all over the world. I’m sure there are Italians who are like that too, but I do think our culture is a lot different from European culture in a lot of ways.
In general, I just think italians are on the right track, and we could learn a lot from how they love each other! And also how everyone is so chill and laid-back. The culture here is so much more relaxed and focused on people and relationships, rather than machines and products.  It’s hard to get used to at first when you’re accustomed to being in a rush all the time, but once you finally start to get accustomed to it, you just can’t help but feel like that’s how it’s supposed to be! All the time.

Also, I want to live here.

That’s all! I’m not sure what we’re up to today, but I’ll keep you posted.

xoxo Lizzie xoxo

Writing Playlist:
Bon Iver

Viareggio, classes, rainy days and new friends! Part 1.

Ciao Belle!

A lot has been going on around here, so I’ve been super busy! We decided to venture out on our first weekend excursion, and it was mildly successful. We didn’t go out of the country or anything, but we were all in desperate need of a beach, so we decided to travel a couple hours to the coast and spend the day at Viareggio!

We went with a huge group of people, so things were slightly stressful like they always are with big groups, but eventually we got it under control and had a really good time. We took a train, which was awesome, by the way. I forgot how much I love trains! Mostly because I haven’t ridden one in years.  They are just so peaceful!

And unlike airplanes (cough cough) they have HUGE windows. Which are good for: viewing the gorgeous tuscan scenery, avoiding eye contact with homeless creepers inviting you to play soccer, being in complete adoration of God and everything He makes, contemplating your life, re-thinking your life, being in shock that this is actually your life….etc.

Trains are also better than airplanes, in my humble opinion, because the temperature is consistently normal, the seats are bigger and less close together so you don’t have to make awkward conversation with the people next to you, and they are 100% more comfortable for sleeping.

Whoever invented trains knew what they were doing. Those airplane brothers needed to get on board. It would be awesome if one day in the future, I could have a career and live somewhere that I could commute to work by train everyday. Italy, perhaps? I am also very proud of us for navigating the train station so well, even though there were no English translations for anything. Two other British people asked us for directions! Either we look like we know exactly what we’re doing all the time, or British people are just completely clueless. But I choose to believe that we rock at this whole Italy thing, basically.

Anyway, I listened to a lot of John Mayer and Michael Buble and just stared out the window. I couldn’t even comprehend how beautiful it was! And I just kept thinking how grateful I am for my life. I never thought I would be traveling all over Europe. Ever! It feels like a dream, and I’m absolutely in love with it. I just want to spend the rest of my short little life traveling the whole world, because being surrounded by different cultures, and different people and languages and lifestyles, is the best learning experience I’ve ever had!

The beach was pretty awesome too! It was a typical public beach, but I mean, a public beach in Italy, so….still better. It was soooo nice to be in the cool water with how hot it’s been. We spent the whole day there! We left at 7 a.m. and returned around 7 p.m., so needless to say, we were all exhausted.  However, we still managed to find the energy to go out on the town later! It was the last weekend before classes, so it was pretty mandatory that we live it up.

We headed out to The Gallery, which is a local cocktail bar down the street from us. We go there pretty much any time we want to hang out, because we like the atmosphere. They play relaxing music, and it’s just a chill place. Some of the sports bars are a little too crazy for us, because we just like to hang out and talk. But we’ve gotten to know some of the regulars and workers there, so it’s actually been helping us learn too! The one guy who works there told us he’s giving us a break since we just got here, so he’s been speaking in fluent English to us all the time.  But in a couple of weeks, he’s going to start integrating Italian, and halfway through the semester, he said he is cutting us off from English.  So anytime we go in after that, we are only allowed to speak with him in Italian! I thought that was extremely nice of him, because he knows that we’re here to learn. Plus, he never makes us pay when we go there, just because he thinks we’re awesome! So, that’s a plus.

We also became friends with the owner of the gelato shop down the street from us (isn’t our diet superb?), and he gives us a brief Italian lesson every time we go there.  It sounds silly, but today we had our first Italian class for Kent, and I actually knew a lot of the phrases we covered because he taught them to us! It’s a whole lot easier to learn a language when you are surrounded by it, and I was really surprised by how eager so many people here are to help you learn!

Well, there is a lot more to say about the rest of our weekend, and the first day of school today. I split this post into two parts because so much has been happening! So stay tuned for part 2!

Thanks so much for reading my blog….I love you and miss you and I can’t wait to move here! hahaha. but seriously.

xoxo Lizzie xoxo

Writing playlist:
Something in the Water – Brooke Fraser
Sleepyhead – Passion Pit
Little Secrets – Passion Pit
Midsummer Station Album – Owl City