Girls Day

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Today was a girls day in Kyiv! Celebrating the last day of January right. Sasha and I woke up early to get ready and go to our manicure appointment at G Bar Mini. The last time I got my nails done was just days before my flight out of JFK. If you want to get a thorough, cheap ($13), gel manicure, Kyiv is the place to be! We spent an hour and a half being pampered by two, young Ukrainian women. My cuticles have never looked better! We watched Ukrainian women come in and get their daily hair and make up done. It was quite the scene.




We brunched at Milk Bar after our manis. Another really cool café with hipster vibes! Kyiv is filled with them, but they were all opened fairly recently. I got a quinoa bowl, yogurt with granola, and large cappuccino for only $9. What a deal! The dollar runs very strong here. 


We popped into a modern mall and scoped out some of the stores. I was determined to buy postcards in Kyiv, because Sasha raves about their appealing designs and cheap price tags. I got several unique cards to add to my postcard/stationery collection!


We walked around Kyiv some more and ate another snack at a Turkish restaurant. It’s the first time I’ve seen a lot of Arabic people during my months in Europe. We haven’t seen any American or Asian tourists here which does and doesn’t surprise me. Sasha says it’s not a huge tourist destination (especially in January), but I bet it will be over time. 


We ordered Chinese delivery for dinner tonight and are in bed at 8:30 PM to watch “Eat Pray Love.” Sasha and I both love our early nights and early mornings! We are going to do some sightseeing as soon as the temp increases a bit. 

January flew by with so many travels. Can’t wait to see what February has in store! xo ~ e.

Привет from Kiev!

Monday, January 30, 2017

View from Sasha’s apartment


After a long day of traveling yesterday, I reunited with Sasha at the Kiev airport at 1 AM! We took a taxi to her apartment, caught up briefly, and fell asleep. This morning we had a very cold walk in the center of Kiev. Our first stop was Blue Cup Coffee Shop. Sasha and Jill rave about this place, so I was really excited to enjoy a coffee and eggs. It lives up to its positive reviews! I love the decor and hipster vibes.



We went to Maidan Square after, and it wasn’t until this afternoon that I realized how significant this landmark is. This is where the Ukrainian Revolution mainly took place in 2014. We watched a documentary on it called “Winter on Fire”, and I highly suggest this eye opening and graphic movie (check your Netflix for availability). It helped me understand some of Kiev’s and Ukraine’s most recent politics. 




We popped into some stores on the main street, and Sasha took me to a popular candy store to buy her favorite peppermints.


We took the crowded metro towards the United States Embassay. We had to walk through a park to get there, careful not to slip on the packed, icy snow.


The U.S. Embassay was really cool to see. There’s a mix of professional looking American and Ukrainian employees. Both of Sasha’s parents work there, and I got a visitor’s badge. We ate lunch with her mom in the cafeteria and bought Cheezits (priorities) in the commissary.

We took the streetcar and metro back to the apartment. The escalators to the metro are very long and steep! It really feels like a ride. For dinner, we had tasty pork carnitas.

Sasha was forgiving by not planning too much today which is good since I am still tired from my travels yesterday! I can easily spend a week here 🙂 xo ~ e.

Ho Viaggiare a Kiev

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Today I’m heading from Florence to Kiev! I’m flying out of Bologna and have a layover in Amsterdam. People have warned me that Amsterdam’s airport is huge, so I hope I can make my one hour connection! I’m packing light this trip– my backpack and tote bag. Luckily, Sasha is letting me borrow some winter apparel so I don’t have to pack as much!

I’m really excited to see Kiev, since it will be unlike any of the cities I’ve been to thus far. Sasha and Jill told me that it’s very different than Western European cities. It also has a very Soviet feel (more so than Prague and Budapest). I’m all for experiencing a new culture and exploring a new place, so I’m sure I’ll love it! Sasha is a coffee shop nerd like me, so you can expect we will spend lots of time at her favorites (and places I researched) with coffee and our journals.

It will be really nice staying with a family on this trip. I’ve heard a lot about Sasha’s family, so I’m looking forward to meeting them!

Here’s what’s on the agenda for my week in Ukraine:

Landmarks

  • St. Sophia Cathedral
  • Kiev Cave Monastery
  • St. Michael’s Monastery
  • St. Andrew’s Church
  • Mother Monument
  • WWII Museum
  • Babi Yar
  • Mariinsky Park

Cafés

  • Blue Cup Coffee Shop
  • Honey Cafe
  • One Love Espresso Bar
  • Whitebeard Blackbird
  • Fair Finch
  • Druzi Cafe
  • Milk Bar

Activities

  • Riding the metro
  • Checking out flea markets/bazaars
  • Getting our nails done (it’s vacation after all)

If you have traveled to Kiev or know anything about it, please comment tips below! I will try my best to blog every day! xo ~ e.

Preparing for Spring Semester

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A big shoutout to my Granny and cousin Bonnie today, because they are both celebrating birthdays! I am so lucky to be inspired by such independent and empowering women in my family.

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Today was my last full day in Florence before spring semester starts. I updated my planner (that I haven’t used in a month), bought a 5 subject notebook at Tiger and decorated it with stickers, cleaned the apartment and my room, and caught up with friends. Isabel, Louis, Megan, Alex, and I all had a snack at the Mercato before hiking up to Piazzale Michelangelo. The view is very different at night– even more peaceful than during the day.

I received my grades this morning and am thoroughly satisfied! My hard work paid off, and it’s a rewarding feeling. I am quite positive heading into spring semester!

Tomorrow I’m embarking on my final adventure of winter break. I am excited and a bit anxious to fly internationally on my own! I know Kiev has lots in store, and I cannot wait to see Sasha. Ciao for now, Florence! xo ~ e.

* I have considerably cut down on my coffee consumption in the past week! Check out one of my latest posts about coffee addiction here.

Io Non Parlo Italiano

Friday, January 27, 2017

Is it the last Friday in January already?! Not sure how that happened so quickly! Today’s blog post features two funny stories involving the language barrier between English and Italian. Typically it’s not an issue, since most Florentines speak English (kudos to many Europeans who are bilingual)! However, two experiences in the past twenty-four hours have created some challenges for me. Take a look…

Thursday night @ 8:30 PM

Isabel, Olivia, and I landed in Florence from Paris around 7:30 last night. I told them while we were waiting for Isabel’s bag at baggage claim how excited I was to tell the cab driver “Andiamo a (our address) per favore.” We exited the airport and headed to the taxi line. For some reason, there was not a long line of taxis waiting for us like there normally is! So we waited in the long line and anxiously looked towards the entrance for arriving taxis. We finally got to first in line and walked right up to the car. The driver put our bags in the back, and the three of us squished into the backseat. He said, “Dimmi” which means “tell me.” I proudly said my Italian line in an embarrassingly obvious American accent. He nodded his head, repeated the address, and off we went on our scary ride to our apartment (crazy Italian drivers).

About twenty minutes later the car came to a halt. We were on the right street but not at the right number. Instead of the number I said, he was thinking +100 to that number! We corrected him in both Italian and English before he muttered swear words in Italian and slammed on the gas. He was not happy. Olivia and Isabel couldn’t help but make fun of me since I was the one who told him the address. I clearly didn’t say 1– though; I said –. It was stressful and amusing simultaneously. We made it to the right building, and he appeared to have calmed down within the five minutes of his angry phase. We tried to let him keep the 5 euro since we were honestly too scared to wait and get change, but he insisted that we keep it and was polite in our goodbye. And this is why I prefer to not take cabs in Italy (I’m partially kidding, but being on the road really is kinda terrifying).

This morning at 9:30 PM

With only two full days in Florence before classes start, I had several errands to run today. I got off to an early start this morning, and one of my stops included my stationery store on the street where LdM is located. The woman who runs the store is an older and somewhat cranky lady. She doesn’t speak very good English, and she isn’t particularly kind to me whenever I’m there (even though I think I’m one of the few people who provides her with business). This morning she reached a whole new level.

I took my time picking out some cute cards and a nice pen. When she gruffly slapped the receipt down on the table, I realized I didn’t have enough money on me to buy everything. So I put the pen back in its little cup. She said “2 euros.” I didn’t know how to communicate in Italian that I didn’t want the pen because I didn’t have enough money. As a result, she started mumbling and laughing to herself in Italian. She proceeded to throw away the receipt, put my stationery back to where I found it, and open the door before saying “Prego” and shooing me out. Did I seriously just get kicked out of a stationery store? Yes. Yes I did.

The whole situation left me feeling completely baffled. I was bummed that I couldn’t buy my notecards, envelopes, and pen. That’s the place where I can buy the cheapest stationery for my letters back home!! Now I don’t feel very welcomed to return. My mom told me at this rate, she doesn’t deserve my business; my mom is typically right about these kinds of things. But I’m stubborn, and I shouldn’t let one bad experience affect my stationery purchases. Now I’m stuck in the position as to whether I go back in a month (with a friend or two) and pray she doesn’t remember me, or find a new stationery place. Any advice/input would be greatly appreciated.

These two examples demonstrate that even in a place where English is very common, there is a language barrier. This was certainly a learning experience including a good laugh. xo ~ e.

Month #5

Thursday, January 26, 2017

I write my Month #5 post on my iPhone during my flight from Paris to Florence. I honestly don’t feel like I can write much about my month in Florence, for I was traveling practically the entire month! To recap, a month ago from today I flew from Budapest to Pisa. Then I had a week in Florence to myself which included a day trip to Verona and Juliet’s house. My parents arrived in Florence on January 3, and we spent four incredible days together in my temporary city and Rome & the Vatican for one day. Starting January 7 we were on the constant move. Munich, Athens, Crete, and Milan. I didn’t get back from our exquisite European vacation until January 19, and next thing I knew I was on a plane to Prague four days later. I didn’t book Prague until the day my parents arrived– spontaneity! On Sunday, I take a train to Bologna and fly to Kiev after a quick layover in Amsterdam. Classes start the day after I return to Florence! Can you keep up with my January itinerary? I’m having a hard time doing so!

Month #5 was clearly my month to travel. On top of academics, traveling in Europe was my second priority. And after this month, I feel like my desire has been fulfilled. It’s been one adventure after another. It’s crazy getting texts from my friends saying, “You’re going where in mid January while I’m in class?” or “Where are you now?” My interactions with my friends and family via technology remind me to stay humble throughout this experience yet to take full advantage of the opportunity. Not everyone gets this chance in their lifetime, and it’s important to keep that in mind. Walking around in all these different cities and being in the presence of historical landmarks is the ultimate traveler’s dream. I have several epiphanies on every adventure as I remind myself to “Take a look around and think about where you are right now.” Being well traveled as a young person is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. The experiences I have will stay with me for the rest of my life.

I am grateful I squeezed as much possible travel as I could into this month, for I didn’t have any classes or work. No commitments, no deadlines, no stress. As a result, it made sense to take the time and travel. I know I want to travel spring semester, but it’s challenging to travel on the weekends during classes because of homework and other school obligations. I’m hopeful that I will feel more comfortable planning my time and weekends away after already studying abroad for a semester. Traveling is a constant learning experience. Booking your own transportation and accommodation, figuring out how to get from the airport to the city center, converting money, dealing with the language barrier, and budgeting. I will admit, I feel guilty that I couldn’t even say “hello” or “thank you” in the native language of some of the destinations I traveled to. I, along with many other people, rely so much on others to speak English when really I should be making the effort because they are (by speaking a second language). That’s something I want to improve on next semester. Some key, simple phrases can go a long way.

Meeting one of Sasha’s dad’s coworkers on the train to the summit of Zugspitze, seeing Lauren at the airport in Milan, and finding Isabel at our gate in Charles de Gaulle were all small world moments during my travels. The world appears to be big, but in some ways, it’s small. You never know who you’re going to run into or what you’re going to see halfway across the globe.

Lastly… Aside from ringing in 2017 in Florence and traveling all over Europe, this month’s biggest highlight was spending two and a half weeks with my parents. I can’t even describe what it felt like seeing them walking off platform #9 at Firenze Santa Maria Novella. Having them in Florence felt like my study abroad experience was complete. They are the ones who have supported me on my journey long before August 26, 2016. They not only got to see where I’ve spent the past five months, but they also embarked on a well deserved and long overdue vacation. My dad finally visited Europe, something he wasn’t sure he would ever get to do, and my mom checked Greece off her bucket list. I felt like a big piece of home was with me in these foreign places which made our vacation even more special. We are quite the dynamic travel trio. Thank you Mom and Dad. For everything.

So this month was certainly filled with adventure, planes, and various traditional dishes. I don’t regret not going home over this long winter break, because I had the chance to see parts of the world I probably never would have at this point in my life. It’s been nothing short of wonderful having time off school. With that said, the driven student in me is very excited to get back in the classroom and on the study grind. Danke, ευχαριστώ, grazie, díky, January. This month’s travels and travails won’t be forgotten. I feel so lucky to be able to return to Florence after each adventure! xo ~ e.

Prague Days 3 & 4

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Another fab day in Praha! We had breakfast again in the hotel this morning. I had tea, lots of fruit & veggies, and toast. We started the day off with a tour of the Jewish quarters. Our tour guide was very knowledgable, and he made me think hard about what the city went through during WWII. We saw the very world’s oldest and active synagogue in the world and Prague’s Jewish cemetery. It’s hard to believe it’s been just over 70 years since such a horrific period in world history. I’m really glad we got to see this historic area of Prague.

We warmed up with tea again at an old fashioned café. Fresh ginger and mint tea is huge here! We can’t complain about that!

We took pictures in the Old Town Square. The buildings are simply incredible. Pictures don’t do it justice.

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We walked across the famous Charles Bridge after to go to Bohemia Bagel. Our waiter was hysterical. It was a very entertaining snack.

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Olivia and I said goodbye to Jill, Donna, and Amelia in the afternoon. The three of them are headed off to Budapest and Berlin! Olivia and I went to our Air BnB via metro. Really cozy place in a different part of town. We relaxed for a bit before going out to dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant! We shared a summer roll and each ate a delicious bowl of chicken pho. It was her first time trying Vietnamese, and I think I got her hooked.

We took the street car to a cat café. It’s literally a café with cats in it! They were running around, sleeping in the chairs at the table, playing with each other. It was quite the experience. Definitely one of the most memorable things about Prague. I don’t particularly love cats, but it was very fun hanging out at their café.

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We have tomorrow morning left in Praha before flying back to Firenze. And then there were two FFEs in Prague! xo ~ e.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Olivia and I had a very restful sleep in our Air BnB. We left the apartment at 9 to see the Lennon Wall one more time and walk across the Charles Bridge. The view of Prague Castle from the bridge is unreal. Liv got some souvenirs around the center. She collects snow globes for her little cousin (basically the cutest thing ever). We hopped on the subway to get breakfast at Místo (found it online), and it was one of the best breakfasts I’ve had. It has such a cool interior. The wooden walls made you feel as though you are in a comfortable box or maze. And the wallpaper was really fun to look at.img_4699

Liv got an English breakfast, and I got a cappuccino (first one in several days!) with poached eggs on toast with ham and horseradish sauce in addition to a bowl of yogurt with fruit & granola (yes, I was still hungry after my egg dish). It was such a relaxing meal, not to mention absolutely scrumptious.

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We somehow took the metro and bus to the airport (thank you, Google Maps) and made it to Paris then Florence. Isabel happened to be on the same flight from Paris to Florence! I just learned that before our flight. The three of us took a cab from Florence back to our apartments. It sure does feel good to be back. I’m gearing up for Kiev in the next couple of days! Thank you Prague for your beauty, history, and memories made. I hope to see you again real soon. xo ~ e.