Venice

I really have to say, the Italians have a beautiful appreciation for balconies. All of Italy were balconies, that just added to the beauty of the landscape. Venice was no exception, and it was mt favorite. If I had to choose one place to get back to, it would be Venice, with out a doubt, I would go to Venice again in a

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Mollie and I were finally able to find clothing that we both liked! There was a store that said 10 euro everything so we just had to go in to check it out! Mollie got herself a dress, and I got myself a pretty little skirt.

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Venice

Pictures don’t do Venice justice. It stole my heart.

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We decided to splurge a bit and go on a gondola our first night there. It was perfect. It was chiller than the rest of Italy, but it makes sense because its always chillier on the water. It does smell like dead sea food in some areas, but for the most part the canal smell wasn’t bad. There were water taxis to take you around, because cars are banned, and buses only go into the right before the city, where you take a modern bridge (but it doesn’t stand out that much), over to the islands.

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Venice is made up of something like 100 islands that are all connected by bridges.

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Our gondola driver(?), was very nice, and give us some history during our ride. Mollie was terrified of the rocky boat, and the entire time was clutching on to me.

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The next day we made it to Piazza di Sant Marco, where the Saint Mark Basilica is. It was free to enter the main part ( a nice change from everything that charges for breathing), and it was beautiful. Probably one of the most if not the most beautiful basilica I saw.

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Perhaps the most pleasent little surprise I came across in all the churches when a simple modest church, that held the remains of St. Lucy! Once again there are no pictures for respectful reasons but it was a nice surprise! However I also went to this church Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari , but Mollie stayed outside time.

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

After wandering some finding a place for Gelato and a pizzeria for lunch it became time to settle down for dinner. We knew a few things. We wanted calamari, and we wanted to eat by the water.  We saw a place the other night on our gondola ride, so we decided to go on a hunt and find it. We did…  but we also found another place that looked better so we decided to try it. So I sat down with my glass of wine, and Mollie with her rum and coke, and we agreed that we should splurge on the Calamari….

Venice

Well we thought that Calamari was battered… and this wasn’t. Mollie tried it I didn’t. That concluded our adventures in Italy! The next day bright and early we caught a train to the airport and jetted off to the UK! Venice my love I will be back.

Cathedral Count: 11

Castle Count: 12

 

 

The Vatican

Since the Vatican is technically it’s own country it gets its own post. Plus I feel like if I do the post of Rome would have been way too long, and I like to keep these semi short and sweet. Just outside the walls of the Vatican are tons of people trying to sell you things, however Mollie and I started to get worried when we saw the line that would take a minimum of 2 hours to get through.

Rome

We ran into this guy who worked for a tourist company and and told us that for 35 euro we can have a guided tour, and skip the never ending line, so we took the opportunity. As Mollie said I was a bit of a teachers pet during the tour, and every time he would ask something about Catholicism or Catholic history I would answer. I got excited actually knowing something in a country that I constantly felt lost!

Rome

Rome

Everything was beautiful and intricate, and the ceilings were 2D designs made to look like 3D which in itself blew my mind. I wish I could have spent more time taking things in, the tour itself took over 4 hours… if you ever go to the Vatican I recommend setting aside a good part of your day so you don’t feel rushed.

Rome

This is an Armenian saint, that brought Christianity to Armenia, we were told to take a picture of it if we know anyone Armenian and I know quite a few so this is for all of you!

In the Sistine chapel we weren’t allowed to talk, although there was a lot of talking.For some reason I though the Sistine chapel was more of a dome, than a box. We weren’t allowed to take obvious pictures as our tour guide said, so we would turn our cameras to selfie to take a picture of the ceiling, which lets be real is the only thing anyone really wants a picture of anyways.

Rome

Rome

We exited through St. Peters basilica, which is where St. Peter himself is buried. There were also remains of another saint, that freaked out Mollie. Out of respect I didn’t take pictures of it. The basilica although grand was built to be inviting and built not to make you feel small, and I think it worked. You didn’t realize how massive it was until you were up close to certain things, and until how long it took to walk around it. The only thing that disappointed me was I wanted to sit and pray in quiet for a bit, but I couldn’t because there were too many people walking around, and talking.  So I said a few prayers to myself while walking around and taking it all in instead.

Rome

 

I took a picture of the Swiss Guard because I thought they were funny.

Castle Count: 12

Cathedral count: 10

Northern Ireland

I’m guilty of  a lot of things. I’m guilty of traveling, and spending too much money. Most of all I’m guilty of neglecting this blog! After my Easter break travels, I went right into exam mode, and when exams ended my lovely friend Leanna came, and after decompressing for a few days I’m back!

Rewinding over a month ago, my mom came for a week and we went to Ireland. This post is on the northern part. We spent time in a lovely airbnb, however we didn’t spend much time in Belfast, we did spend plenty of time along the coast. We originally signed up for a castle tour, but it was busy, so we got put on a Game of Thrones tour instead. I’m not complaining.

We went around and saw sights in Northern Ireland where Game of Thrones was filmed, and some other cool places.

Easter break

Such as this obscure little place where there was a few seconds filmed, but it’s in Ireland so hey!

Easter break

This cave was also used for filming but seeing as it’s a cave and dark I couldn’t take that many pictures.

Easter break

Easter break

The coast was one of the most breath taking places I have ever seen.

Easter break

Easter break

Everything looks like it belongs on a post card.

Easter break

Easter break

Moms trip

Easter break

Additionally we made it to giants causeway which is one of the wonders of Ireland, as all the rocks are massive, and block shaped.

Easter break

Easter break

Easter break

We went to this rope bridge called ‘Carrick a rede’ rope bridge which was closed due to the wind, and kinda grateful because it looked like it would be hell to cross.

Easter break

Would I have really gone to Ireland unless I saw a rainbow?? Don’t think so!

Easter break

So this next place is called Dark hedges, and it was bright outside so the name is ironic. However it was hauntingly beautiful.

Moms trip

Easter break

Easter break

That was the end of our trip! It may not seem like much but trust me it was about 12 hours and well worth it. The next day we made a quick trip to a botanical garden (I should have made a count for those but it doesn’t have alteration so I don’t like it), before we headed to Dublin.

Castle and Cathedral count remain the same… for now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When in Rome

 

Rome was the twilight zone I promise you. The last night we were there we walked around for 30 minutes to get to a place that was only 5 minutes away.  From start to finish Rome was insane. First we got off at the wrong station, and then had to take a taxi to our hostel, only to figure out that the hostel that was 5 minutes from Roma Termini (the main train station.) We dropped our stuff and began our walk, where we discovered that maybe this time instead of walking everywhere we could just buy a 24 hour metro pass. So thats what we did.

Rome

Our hostel had a nice little roof top bar where we enjoyed some drinks on our first night there. Maybe a few more than we should have..

Rome

We originally planned to do the Vatican our first night, but it started raining and the line was long, we went to a little cafe for refuge before retreating back to our hostel after getting on the wrong line, and luckily after our troubles in Florence finding food there was a nice little place right across from us where I ordered a nice big glass of red wine and spaghetti and meatballs ( I had to and it was worth it.) It ended up as our saving grace and we went there the next night and for breakfast, but don’t worry we got something different every time.

Rome

The most amazing thing about Italy to me, is that everything looks exactly like the pictures if you google it. Thats the Trevi Fountain, and it was our first stop, on a long day.

Rome

Directly across from it was this beautiful little church, and of course I went in.

Rome

Here I lit a candle for everyone at the CCM.

Now this church may not look like much from the outside but it was one of my favorite places I went in Rome. After we went to the Vatican (which gets it own post) , I got to fulfill a pilgrimage of mine while here. St. Monica is one of my favorite saints, and my confirmation saint. Splurging(it actually wasn’t that expensive) on a taxi I looked up where her remains were kept. From the inside this simple Basilica di Sant Agostino, was beautiful, not to mention what relics it held.

Rome

Rome

 

Rome

Here I lit a candle for everyone back in RCIA! I’m so proud of those that received sacraments this Easter!

And lastly would I have really gone to Rome if I didn’t go to the Colosseum? By the time we made our way to it, it was closed to visitors but we saw the outside, and that was impressive itself. I remember being so excited about the Roman ruins in Chester, and then I got to Italy and Chester felt small.

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If you ever want to feel small and insignificant go to Rome. If you ever want to see some of the best architecture of your life, go to Rome. If you go to Rome give yourself more time than I did (I think 4 days should suffice.)

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Castle Count: 12

Cathedral Count: 9

Lost in Florence

Does everyone know I’m Catholic? I feel like it’s fairly obvious, and being in a Italy I had no excuse to not go to mass on Sunday. So I did, I went to Basilica Di Sant’Ambrogio. I could follow a bit during mass, but still struggled, because I don’t know the language. However knowing the order of mass helped a ton, and it was a wholesome experience and I wouldn’t mind repeating it.

Milan

Milan

 

After mass, Mollie flew into Milan, where shortly after we ventured into Florence! When we got to the hostel the first thing we did was go out and eat, however that’s easier said than done. A lot of places were closed, it being a Sunday and Italy being a heavily Catholic country after all. We wandered in a circle until we finally found a place, and where I had to use my basic Spanish because I don’t speak Italian and the closest I could get was Spanish. Once we sat down I put our hostel into a map only to find out that what we thought was going to be a 30 minute walk was a three minute walk. That would not the first nor last time we got lost in Florence.

Florence

Florence

Florence

Florence was beautiful and the only thing we didn’t get to do there that I wish we did was see the David statue but it wasn’t opened to the public that day.  So instead we wandered the streets intensifying the blisters I had already acquired from Milan.

Florence

Florence

Florence

I was informed by Richelle and friends that Florence is the place to buy leather, so I went about popping in and out of every leather shop I found determined to find one of three things I was looking for (tan leather tote, tan leather jacket, some sort of leather shoe), they try to trick you by telling you that they have a ‘special deal for you’, however I wasn’t convinced. At one place though I found a leather tote bag, which came with a smaller bag for a total for 35 euro. What can I say I love finding deals.

Florence

Unfortunately we didn’t make it two things I wanted to see in Milan, one the Milan Cathedral the line was way too long so we got pictures outside where you can see the how impressive it was, and the scale of how large it was, nor were we able to see the David statue as it was for some reason was closed to the public that day. We did however go inside Basilica di Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross) which has robes that St. Francis of Assisi wore.

At the end of long day after having another Gelato (it’s worth noting that Mollie had her first Gelato in Florence), we were walking back to hostel when all of sudden we wondered why were following a group of Chinese tourists?

Florence

Florence

We ended the night looking up places to eat so we wouldn’t have the same problem as the night before, and we found somewhere on google that got good reviews. As we were walking towards it we came across this other place that had an outside seating area with pixi lights, and said that we would go there if we couldn’t find our place. After 15 minutes of walking in circles and getting frustrated we retreated to our back up plan, which ended up being the place we couldn’t find anyways.

Castle Count: 12

Cathedral count: 9

Lago Di Garda

“I’d pay five euro for a water castle,” Richelle said.

“Yeah I’d pay a fiver,” I replied.

Milan

This was the conversation Friday night before we walked two hours to a water castle. The term ‘fiver’ drives Richelle crazy, but it’s ok she made me walk 2 hours to get to a castle. I should start from the beginning though so it makes sense how it came to be.

Milan

We took two trains to Lago Di Garda (Lake Garda), which is the largest lake in Italy and was formed by glaciers around the last ice age (so kind of like the great lakes except great lake singular). In town of Sirmione, lays a medieval Scaliger castle, which dates back to the 13th century.

Milan

 

It’s situated on the water and picturesque in every way possible. It was beautiful, and a little chilly and beside it sat a town. We’ll get to that part later—we got off the trains and right there was a bus stop to the castle, however Richelle wasn’t positive that it was the right bus soooo we missed it, and ended up walking over two hours.

Milan

At one point I got cranky and my feet started to hurt, and blisters could be felt forming, and we went for Gelato, which I have to say once you have Gelato in Italy you’ll never want to have it anywhere else again. We found a bus stop, and decided to keep walking, found another two hours later and stopped. It was a fiver for the castle for non EU citizens, however I argued that I go to University in the UK, and Richelle goes to University in Italy, so we got the discounted price.

Like I’ve said the castle was wonderful, and the town surrounding it, although touristy, was quaint and wonderful. Me being me, of course found this little medevial chapel and decided to go inside say a prayer, and take some pictures.

Milan

Needless to say I slept like a baby that night.

Castle Count: 12

Cathedral Count: 7

Milan

They say there’s no time like the present and I write this in the present on a bus heading towards Dublin, after a crazy 48 hours in Belfast with my mom. However this isn’t about Ireland it’s about another country that starts with an “I”, and that country is Italy. More specifically in Italy Milan. I think it’s been stated but I can’t be bothered to go back and look, but I have no classes on Friday which makes traveling that much easier.

Milan
It was a long day to start with I got up around 5 am to catch the train at 6 and arrived at the airport around 9. My plan was delayed an hour and I didn’t arrive into Milan until around 2 pm, around 3:30/4 I met up with Richelle. We took a quick tour through a castle (yes another castle) that Di Vinci would work in and was once owned by the Sforza’s. No idea what the name of the castle was but it was beautiful and had a big court yard.

Milan

Milan

Milan
We later met up with Richelles flat mates and friends where had lunch admired the view and talked. We agreed to meet them later as she showed me around Milan, like the Duomo and some of the stores.Milan is one of the fashion capitals of the world and it shows. There were children dressed better than I was. The flag ship stores for Prada, LV and others were in their shopping center, and even though I know they have the same stores as high street stores in the UK everything just seemed… well better. I stood out like a sore thumb. If you think you have a great sense of fashion just go to Milan, you’ll most likely be proven wrong.

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We ended the night at a lovely place for dinner with her flat mates where I split a bottle of wine with Richelle, it took forever to get the check. Italians have no sense of urgency and it drives me INSANE.

Castle Count:11

Cathedral Count: 7

Italy

 

 

\Long time no post and I apologize! I’ve been relaxing and catching up on work since my world wind adventure to the Netherlands, Germany and then Scotland right after. Now I’m resting in a lovely airbnb with my mom as we adventure through Ireland. But before there was the great Ireland adventure there was Italy. I’ll post more on each post specifically, however I will mention that as beautiful as Italy was this was my most stressful trip. It probably didn’t make sense in the order I went in, but I started in Milan, went to Florence where we got lost, next was Rome, and then Venice probably my favorite.

 

Navigating your way through a foreign country with only your friends who don’t speak (or in the case of Richelle speak a bit of) is tiring. By the end of the trip I was done, this picture above was only in Florence but it sums out how my trip was.

Milan

I landed in Milan where I met up with Richelle who is another study abroad student from UMW, shes spending her semester in Milan, which was beautiful and she showed me around. We went to a water castle.

Florence

Mollie flew in to Milan where I met up with her and we finished out our week taking the trip to Florence, Rome, and Venice. Where we enjoyed gelato, pizza, and pasta.

Edinburgh

I love the Scottish accent there I said it. I think it’s wonderful, and just as I adjusted to the other British accents I heard, being in Scotland required a certain turning of the ear when listening to the natives. However apparently Edinburgh is considered the “posh” area of Scotland so the accents there for the most part were very easy.

Scotland

Anna being Anna, and me being me, just happened to drag ourselves to the Scottish Museum. It was big and interesting and not at all what I expected. However it was free, and that is an universal favorite word of University students.

For all you Harry Potter fans out there, Anna and I did the free Harry Potter tour where you can see direct places that JK Rowling got her influence from. Such as theres a school, that has four houses that the houses of Hogwarts mirror. However sadly there is no sorting hat, and students are placed randomly into the houses.

Scotland

This is the Elephant House cafe which is where most of the third and fourth books were written. JK Rowling wrote in back room where she could see the grave yard, that inspired a scene from the fourth book, and Edinburgh castle which was an inspiration for Hogwarts Castle.

Scotland

A really cool thing is inside the bathrooms almost every inch of it is covered with graffiti, from book quotes, to what Harry Potter means to people, thank you notes to JK Rowling, and the unofficial official sign up place for Dumbledores Army.

Scotland

It may not look like much but this is the inspiration for Diagon Alley! We know this because JK Rowling has said so herself.

As much as Elephant Cafe may call themselves the birth place of Harry Potter, it was more likely this place called Spoon, which is where she wrote the entire first book, and provides much more of a friendly writing environment than Elephant House Cafe.

Scotland

Anna and I settled down for some tea and ginger beer after our tour so we could relax before going back into the cold and rain. It was a perfect place to relax and the next day we went for brunch we liked it THAT much.

Scotland

Edinburgh castle was just as magnificent as you would expect from a proper medieval castle. It was  like a little town once you entered the gates, and I don’t mean because of gift shops, I mean because you could tell that people worked and lived in the same area.

Scotland

Scotland

The view from the castle was the perfect view of the entire city it was for fear of being too repetitive in these posts, breath taking.

Scotland

I laughed out loud at this cafe… I just could not pass up an opportunity to get a picture of this sign.

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

The queen like with Stirling castle is required to visit here once a year at least. There’s three official royal castles (not places) I think and two are in Scotland if I remember/ heard correctly.

Scotland

Scotland

You see how green that grass it? That’s because it rains folks. A lot. It rained even at the end of our only sunny day. I wore rain boots the entire time I was there.  Fun fact though, whenever I would bring up I’m going to Uni in North Wales, they would say stuff like “it rains more there than it does here!” So I guess I get the worst of it, and it just follows me wherever.

Scotland

A beautiful stain glass window, from St. Margaret’s Chapel which is the oldest part of the castle. I had to take a picture.

Scotland

And as always my odds and ends to tie up this post. We were able to see the Scottish crown jewels but pictures were unfortunately not allowed. We wandered a lot when went shopping on the Royal Mile, which is a street leading up (or away depending on which direction you’re going), from the castle.

We walked in and out of quite a few free museums and galleries, and neither Anna or tried Haggis. I did however find a cathedral so my cathedral and castle count both increase by 1. With castle still very much so in the lead. I would love to travel to other parts of Scotland it’s such a wonderful place.

Castle Count: 10

Cathedral Count: 6

The Highlands

I traveled to the lands of kilts and bagpipes this week, (and no I don’t mean ALL of Scotland I mean the highlands). Much like how Bavarian tradition is what most people attribute to Germany, the highlands, ie kilts, bagpipes, ect is what has been attributed to all of Scotland. Anna and I booked a tour for a day, it was called Rabbies highland tours, or something like that and it was amazing, and I recommend it to everyone! We choose the trip in the west highlands, and after waking up at the wee crack of dawn we were off. Our tour guide asked us where everyone was from, and I panicked and said Costa Rica… not a complete lie. From then on I alternated telling people I was from Wales (for ease) and from DC.

For all you Game of Thrones, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and/or Outlander fans out there, we went to Doune Castle, which has been featured in all of them.

Scotland

The electronic tour was given by the guys from Monty Python with special interruptions from the actor that plays Jamie Fraser.

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The gift shop was benefiting from being the sight of Castle Leoch, and Winterfell for sure, I myself picked up a few post cards and shot glass.

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From there we went to our first Loch of many, it was stunning as the water was incredibly clear.

Scotland

You can tell when once you enter into the highlands, there’s a shift of scenery, and theres a ton mo

re cattle, and sheep.

Panoramas

I’m pleased to announce we didn’t find any monsters.

Scotland

From this lake is also where the first photo in this post was taken… just in case anyone couldn’t tell.

So lets think from just one hour in the highlands my castle count has already increased by one. Keep an eye because that’s going to keep increasing.

Scotland

There was this quaint little town that we traveled to, and was instructed by our tour guide to NOT go into the gift shop or he would leave us. It was around here we stopped for lunch.

Scotland

There were these rapids that reminded me a lot of great falls, and surprise surprise they were just magnificent.

Scotland

Scotland

There was a point in the tour where the guide was showing us a map of the highlands with all the clans charted out (he’s from clan Gordon in case anyone was wondering), and we heard this nose and it was a farmer calling his sheep to feed them. Anna freaked out.

Scotland

Our day in the highlands was perfect weather… well actually it could of been a tab bit warmer, but it was still sunny. I’m pretty sure it was the only day Anna was here that it was truly sunny.

Scotland

Castle count is up by one. Keep track. This was a medieval  fortress on a loch, that had a grizzly scene where one clan beheaded around 13 members of another clan. Soon after it was abandoned.

Scotland

The history of the highland clans is a lot of fighting between each other, the predominate cause being that some of them were for the Protestant cause, and others were Catholic. This caused a lot of turmoil in the lands.

Scotland

Surprise surprise another castle! Guess what? The owner of this Castle is from the clan Campell (fairly certain could be wrong,) and is a friend of Prince Charles.

Scotland

Scotland

Below the castle was a town, with a cute little street, and it was on the Atlantic ocean. There were so many birds I thought I was going to be attacked Anna liked it a lot.

Scotland

I did like the ducks though, I love ducks they’re great. I don’t like swans very much they’re evil, and I don’t like seagulls at all.

Scotland

This is another place that Outlander was filmed. I only know this because the tour guide told us that he saw all the buses out and the filming.

Scotland

The pass has a name, I think it was called pray and be thankful, because the roads to it were quite turbulent, and I’m sure that the poor horses were almost dead after doing this.

Scotland

Or maybe it was rest and be thankful. Either way I was thankful to be there. However as you can tell the weather started taking a turn by the end of the tour, I mean it is the UK after all I wouldn’t expect anything less.

Scotland

The last castle we saw was Stirling castle, and the queen visits it once a year. The pictures are a little bad because it was getting dark at this point. But you can see how it’s built on a hill, and in some spots even into the hill. It was the key to controlling Scotland. It’s what Bonnie Prince Charlie failed to capture to put a Stuart back on the throne of the UK.  Quite cool. That makes four castles in highlands, that we stopped out but if I’m being honest there was a lot more.

 

We weren’t able to get to Inverness or isle of Skye which is way up in the highlands but I very much want to. I heard it’s beautiful and I have to make it there. It’s also where the battle of Culloden happened, which is where the Jacobite forces were defeated, and the English ransacked the highlands, creating it what it is now, which is a much reduced population from what it once was.

Castle Count: 9

Cathedral Count: 5