The End

I’ve been putting off this post since forever. Or at least since I got back. I want to synthesize all the experiences and feel ready for it to be over and feel totally settled in my life back in the US. But you know what? Life doesn’t work quite like that. Though the semester has started, and with it, good things and bad, a new place to live, revisiting an old city of mine, old friends, old places, it feels new and like a return at the same time.

I did so much in Europe, and now that I’m back, I’m not going to say that I feel like a whole new person, but I do feel like I’ve entered a new part of my life. In which I’m more of an adult, a little more confident, a little more sure of what I want. An emphasis on “a little” but still, it makes a difference. I understand more about how I want to be treated, what kinds of people I want to meet, and what kinds of people I can laugh about and not take too seriously. I learned a hell of a lot about people on this trip.

And also about places. I’ll never watch a movie set in Paris or Rome or wherever and not look for the places I’ve been. How it feels to walk on the street alone in London and how it’s different from Copenhagen or Barcelona. How I love cities but I love countries too. The crisp air in Bath, the dampness of the Czech mountains and caves, and riding my bike in the driving rain or wind or sun or dark in Fredensborg. And I’ll try my best to cherish it all.

And before I do a photomontage, I just wanted to thank my loyal readers and my drop-by-once-in-a-while readers. This blog made me feel really good about my writing, made me want to put off this last post. Which is why soon enough I’ll be starting another blog. Because Wanderlust was only ever going to be my abroad journal, for me and for you. Here’s a little map of where my readers come from– this map makes me happy. Thanks to my abroad friends for helping this map be a little more colorful. And thanks also to the abroad strangers who did the same thing. And thanks to my non-abroad friends and family for making the US such a standout.

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START THE PHOTO MONTAGE: The best of Wanderlust! (stay tuned, there’s a little something at the end)

IMG_1989Grafton, MA, USA

IMG_2211Humlebaek, Denmark

IMG_2532Odense, Denmark

IMG_2742Fredensborg, Denmark

IMG_2755Ugerloese, Denmark

IMG_3259Rome, Italy

IMG_3284Barcelona, Spain

IMG_3375Barcelona, Spain

IMG_3783Wiltshire, England

IMG_4252Cesky Raj, Czech Republic

IMG_4430Hilleroed, Denmark

IMG_4537Fredensborg, Denmark

IMG_4628Fredensborg, Denmark

IMG_4653Berlin, Germany

IMG_4796Berlin, Germany

IMG_4842Essen, Germany

IMG_4909Dortmund, Germany

IMG_4914Paris, France

IMG_5234Paris, France

Thank you to everyone I met, everyone I re-met, everyone who gave me a chance or taught me something or extended a hand or supported me. Thanks to people who smiled, who were concerned, who were patient, who played cards, who shared a beer or a laugh, who asked me for directions or who gave me directions or who showed me something wonderful. Thank you to people who ate the food I made, who made food for me, or who shared their company over a meal or who shared their company on a train or plane or platform or waiting room or airport terminal or theatre or their home. Thank you to the people who shared their children, their parents, their brothers and sisters and their grandchildren and grandparents or their friends. Thank you to the people who I visited, the people who I’ll revisit, the people who will come visit me, and to the people who I met who I’ll never meet again.

It was one hell of a ride. Thank you.

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Paris: Sacre Coeur, Moulin Rouge, Picasso, et moi.

Paris. It was a long time ago now. Even though I got back just over a week ago, so much has happened. But let’s leave that for another post. It’s PARIS TIME. C’EST LE TEMPS DE PARIS. (Oui, je parle un peu français.)

So Paris began with an overnight bus trip from Dortmund, which wasn’t nearly as horrific as I’d expected. Sleep didn’t really happen, but it meant that I arrived at my hostel at 6am. A little too early to go sightseeing and WAY too early to check in. Day one I spent all by myself, mostly wandering. I went to Sacre Coeur, a beautiful (but not Europe’s most beautiful) cathedral, which was delightfully close to my hostel. Wandering down a lot of streets full of semi-sketchy formal-wear boutiques (it was weird), I ended up feeling overwhelmed and hungry in Le Galleries Lafayette, which is a big big big department store. I even cracked and went to a Starbucks in the store (my first American chain restaurant since going to Europe).

The view from my hostel room!

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The rest of the day was a bit of a blur. I had hoped to meet up with my friend Nancy but it’s hard to meet up with people when you’re just kind of hoping to run into them. So I saw La Place de la Concord, the jardin du Tuilieres (a big garden in front of the Louvre), walked along the Seine, saw Notre Dame, bought a book at Shakespeare and Company, and went to the Pompidou Center. It ended up being about 11 hours of walking with few breaks.

Sacre Coeur before climbing the stairs

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The view from the top– the highest point in the city is Sacre Coeur

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Dome at the Lafayette Galleries

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Tapestry at the Pompidou Center

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Robert and Sonia Delaunay pieces

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Start day 2. Taking it slow in the morning, I met up with Nancy and Deena at the start of a free walking tour (can’t speak highly enough of New Europe free walking tours), and we went on a long walk with a lot of other tourists, then sat and had a long lunch, before meeting up with the tour guide again and doing a walking tour of Montmartre, the trendy, arty neighborhood which is home to Sacre Coeur, Moulin Rouge, Picasso, et moi (it’s where my hostel was). Deena and I got a nice dinner in the artist’s square (a really cool square full of portraitists) and I went to bed.

Le Louvre est mon chapeau.

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Le lock bridge

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Nicole Kidman’s place of work

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Picasso’s apartment (above “The Laundry Boat”)

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Jour trois. I took another stroll through Montmartre in the daylight before heading into the city, the LONG way, stopping along the way to eat my apple watching old men do tai chi in a park, and and another to eat the best pain au chocolat the world has ever known (fresh and still warm). Then I saw the Arc de Triomphe, walked some more down back roads, and came upon the Eiffel Tower. It’s still way too surreal, but there was a lot of ear-to-ear smiling. Nancy and Deena and I had planned to meet at a McCafe near the Louvre before going, but we missed each other and none of us got to go to the museum. So we met up for dinner and then climbed the stairs up the Arc de Triomphe! It was a great view of Paris without the lines that the Eiffel Tower had. We walked down the Christmas market on the Champs d’Elysees, which was great and we had potato pancakes (when in France?)

It’s a little smaller than a typical Parisian lamppost.

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Is it just me, or is it a little crooked?

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Champs D’Elysees lit up like a French flag

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Day four, clearly time is getting away from us– it’s the last day of 2013! We met up in the morning south of the downtown part of the city, and waited in what we thought would be an hour long line for the Catacombs. The day crawled by as it rained and we waited for QUATRE HEURES, and I still managed to get a pretty substantial sunburn. Then we got into the tunnels under the city full of millions of human skeletons which was mad creepy but definitely really cool (except for the fact it was about 70 and humid down there).

Flash photography was forbidden.

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Then Nancy left to try to go to Hotel d’Invalides, and Deena and I walked to the Jardins du Luxembourg (SO PREETTTYY) which quickly became one of my favorite spots in the city. It had statues of ONLY women– French queens and influential French women (sadly not Eleanor of Aquitaine though). Tres cool. We walked through the Latin Quarter and met up with Nancy, and ate some foodstuffs served by a really rude French lady (when in France!) and walked over to the Eiffel Tower, where crowds had begun to gather– there are no official fireworks in Paris, but the Eiffel Tower sparkles on the hour every hour in the winter , so this night was no different. We did a lot of posing as Nancy struggled with some nasty food poisoning. At midnight, we shared a group hug at the base of the Eiffel Tower while eating Nutella-drizzled churros. It was quite the night.

#SparkleTime

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In the morning, I went back to the Luxembourg Gardens, did some reading and drank some expensive hot chocolate. We met up a final time in the afternoon and ate some tasty tasty crepes (mine was egg and cheese :)), walked around the Montmartre Christmas markets, then we- went to the metro Trocadero stop to go to the Christmas markets over there (last day!), I bought some final souvenirs before we said goodbye.

I was over it.

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In the morning I said goodbye to Paris as I headed to Orly airport, after which I went to London, and because British Airways wasn’t flying to Boston because of the storm, I was rerouted to Montreal, where I spent the night trying to to adjust to the time zone and relishing being an adult (first time in a hotel by myself). My flight wasn’t until the evening, so I sat around, packed again, and hung out at the crowded airport (everyone trying to get home). I luckily hopped on an earlier flight, and before I knew it, I was back in America.

So there’s good news and bad news. They’re the same. My adventure has come to an end, and this marks my second to last post. See you soon.

Christmas Markets and Kebabs: Berlin

So after I fled Denmark, I went to Berlin! Here’s how it went.

My last view of Denmark.

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Sunday I had a beautiful breakfast with the host fam, said my goodbyes, and went to the airport, where I said my goodbyes again, and boarded a short, spacious flight headed for Tegel Airport. From there I took a bus and the metro into Berlin, where I found my hostel, checked in, and went to a cute Christmas market nearby at Alexanderplatz. After the Christmas market, I went back to the hostel, which has a sports bar in the downstairs and met some cool people– 3 Swiss boys and 2 Australian girls. We sat and talked and played foosball and then walked to a club. Mind you, this was 1:30am on a Sunday night, so it was totally dead. The boys and one of the girls ended up just chain-smoking in the lounge at the club, so I got home smelling like smoke, but they were fun, so I forgave them for smelling like an ashtray.

Monday, I managed to pull myself out of bed pretty early and set out to discover Berlin. I wandered into the Topography of Terror Museum, which is on the site where the SS and Gestapo headquarters were before they were destroyed in 1945. It was kind of a hard, emotional start to the trip, but it was still really a great museum. Then I wandered over to Potsdammer Platz and had a chai latte and a sandwich while I read my book for an hour. I’m reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and it’s wonderful. Then I went on a free tour, which was long but relatively fun and very informative and I got some good pics and learned stuff about Berlin.

Brandenburg Gate on a clear day.

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Memorial of 1933 book burnings at Babelplatz. (It’s an empty library you look down into, which shelf space to hold the 20,000ish books burned that day)

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Christmas market at Gendarmenplatz

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Then I went back to the hostel, and met a Canadian girl studying in Glasgow, Hanna, and we got some baked apples at Alexanderplatz. Later, I hung out with the same group– staying in and playing card games. One of the Swiss guys was really good at card tricks, and told us that he was a dancer and entertainer, somewhat like a cruise ship staff member, which was funny for me. He was quite the character.

Tuesday, I got up early for an appointment at the US Embassy to get a document notarized, which was an experience, and I was yelled at in German more than once before I got in. German is possibly the ugliest language to be yelled at in. Horribly angry language. Because of Tobey (the Swiss guy) doing card tricks the night before, I was really tired because I went to bed so late watching the tricks. So after I got some lunch and took a walk, I took a nap back at the hostel. After the nap, I met up with Hanna, who introduced me to three guys she’d met, one Taiwanese and two Aussie, and we hung out at the hostel bar for a long time.

Wednesday, after a terrible night of sleep, possibly the worst in my entire life, I finally got up and walked over to the Brandenburg Gate with Hannah for our “Alternative Berlin” tour, which was looking at street art in the Mitte and Kreuzberg neighborhoods of Berlin. We got to go to the East Side Gallery, which was something I’d been wanting to see.

In both the realms of street art and memorial, these are “stumbling stones” and they’re all over the city. They are slightly raised cobblestones (so you trip) with the names and a little information about the people killed in the Holocaust who lived or worked at the building the stones are placed in front of.

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A piece of the wall near Checkpoint Charlie.

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Hanna and I met two other fun  women on the trip, one an Australian woman, Renee, the other a Brit, Monica. Monica is a professional travel blogger, which was so cool! She’s living the dream– her blog is http://thetravelhack.com/. The group of us had some dinner, and then I sat down for some chill me-time starting this post, writing in my journal, and reading my book. I never realized how important taking chill time is on a vacation. Since I’m traveling alone, I should be able to do whatever I want, but not pressuring myself to go all out all the time is not easy.

Thursday, I was back up to my regular self, for the most part, as it seems as I’d acquired a cold somewhere along the way. Hanna and Renee and I had breakfast at the hostel, and then went to the Jewish Museum, which I had learned a lot about in my divided cities class of last spring. It’s an architectural wonder, truly, and a quite good museum too.

The museum from above.

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I expected it to be a Holocaust Museum, but in fact it paid tribute to Jews through the history of Germany, which of course included World War II.  There was a room in the building called the Holocaust Tower (I think that’s what it’s called) which is a door at the end of a hallway, and you walk in, and you’re in a tall, dark, metal room with only a small light in the corner of an upper wall– it’s just a crack of light from a window. And the door slams shut with the most horrible sound, and it’s cold– the room is not heated. And you can hear the street noise and the museum noise but you’re cold and it’s so dark. And if you look around, you realize that there’s a ladder, going from about midway up the wall to the ceiling, but there’s no way to get to the ladder, and it doesn’t really go anywhere anyway. Obviously a really powerful and unique room.

The Holocaust tower from the inside.

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This is a ground-up view of the Garden of Exile, another part of the museum.

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After the museum, we went for some doner kabab, (which was invented in Berlin) and I got some falafel, but the bread was actually the best part (oh, Germany). Then we pulled a total tourist move and went to the Reichstag building, but we didn’t have tickets to go in, so we just were completely obnoxious in the front part (totally sober, I promise).

Nothing screams “I’m American!” like this move in this place.

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Then, we went over to Charlottenburg Schloss (palace– so similar to Danish) for a Christmas market, as recommended by Patrick, a friend from AU who spent the semester in Berlin and told me about what I should see. It was a great call, and even though it wasn’t as good as Alexanderplatz market for shopping, the ambiance was much better. But then we went back to Alexanderplatz so I could fulfill my dream of buying paper stars and we had some dessert.

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On Friday morning, the triumphant trio (not sure if that’s going to catch on, but whatever) parted ways– me for Dortmund, Hanna to Cologne, and Renee to Prague. It is entirely possible that our paths will meet again. Why not?

Anyway, that was my week in Berlin! I’m writing this from Dortmund, where I’ve spent the weekend, and will be having Christmas. You’ll hear about it soon, I’m sure.

All Roads Lead to Rome

I thought I’d start you off with a soundtrack to my trip to Rome. First, this song, An Evening in Roma, which was featured in the Lizzie McGuire Movie, my inspiration for wanting to visit Rome, which came out 10 years ago (I know because I saw it for my 10th birthday party)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gi1Hq_41kUQ

Also, this song, Hungry Eyes, was featured in Dirty Dancing. The movie has nothing to do with my trip, but it was playing in a store in Rome, and it encompassed my and Bonnie’s insatiable sweet tooth appetite when in Rome.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oKUTOLSeMM

I highly recommend watching both films in full. You will not regret it. But at the very least, listen to those awesomely cheesy songs as you read my blog.

Saturday, Sept 28: Bonnie and I left for the airport rather early, but then enjoyed the decadence that was the Copenhagen airport. It’s basically a mall– a very good mall. When we got into Rome, I was all smiles and full of anxiety about pickpocketing. This anxiety took several days to cease. 6 to be exact, the length of the trips. We took the train and metro into the city, admiring the Italian men and stopping for a meal of pasta in a cute piazza. Pasta in a piazza. When we arrived at where the hostel was supposed to be, and could not find it for the life of us. Bonnie suggested maybe we were the victims of a hostel Ponzee scheme, which seemed unlikely, but we were a little shaken until we went across the street and they told us that the door we were looking at was the correct door. Oops. We got inside, found that it was clean and wood-paneled, and the girls who worked there were hilarious. I highly recommend this hostel, Pensione Ottaviano, if you ever go to Rome, reader. It may not have been the most beautiful place, but is located right next to Vatican City, a truly fantastic area to live for a few nights. The hostel had character and characters. Also, look at the art in our room, and the view.

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Come on, you can’t pass that up.

Rome Day 1:

So, the Vatican Museums are free on the last Sunday of the month for only three hours, and the Pope was giving a mass, so there were nuns singing on the street starting around 5am (not a joke.) Bonnie and I got up and got pastries and got in line, not too far back, and we got into the museum by 9:30. I’m not sure if I’ve ever been to a museum so big, and because of the thousands of people, we couldn’t exactly pick and choose what rooms we saw. We just went with the crush of people towards the Sistine Chapel. Unfortunately, there were no pictures in the chapel, but you can google it 🙂 The art was very impressive and old  but I thought that the architectural elements were more interesting.

The entrance to the Vatican Museums

IMG_2921A beautiful Vatican courtyard

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I will never not be impressed by mosaic floors. Seriously. I WALKED on this.

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Ceilings can be coolIMG_2949

Even windows that have scaffoldings. Pinching myself alwaysIMG_2963

Another life-changing ceiling. No biggie.IMG_2973

I don’t even know what this was. Amazing though. One of my best shots from the Vatican. A lot are very blurry b/c no flash

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Don’t die, you’re about to be at the Sistine Chapel!IMG_2985

After the Vatican we realized we had the WHOLE CITY OF ROME at our fingertips. We wandered and wandered and wandered some more. People always say that everywhere you turn in Rome is a cute little alley or a tourist site. Accurate. We saw a lot of Americans and ate gelato. Also, I saw the Trevi Fountain, which is where my dream of going to Rome started. Or more accurately, Lizzie McGuire meeting Paolo at the Trevi Fountain in 2003.

This is the Pantheon. Just chillin’ somewhere in Rome. We were in no way looking for it.

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So there was this outdoor art display outside of the really big famous art museum in Rome. The artist’s statement is below in Italian, English, and French. It was sooo good. See next picture. IMG_3073

This is the artist and one of his pieces, The Boxer. He made me a sketch while he was standing there. it was GREAT. Made my day, an already awesome day.IMG_3078

A cool and somewhat creepy statue on a bridge.IMG_3000

The Trevi Fountain!IMG_3056

A statue in front of the Tomb of the Unknown SoldierIMG_3029

The Tomb of the Unknown SoldierIMG_3020

In the evening, after a solid 14 hours walking around, we went back to the hostel to play cards, and we met a very nice Dutch guy named Barnabus (he went by Bus) who taught us a new way to play Uno (yes, the card game from my childhood) and shared a beer with us. It was very hospitable and not hostile at all (get it? hostile? hostel? Oh well.)

Day 2:

We had plans to meet another girl from DIS, Breanna, at the Spanish Steps for lunch, so we had a leisurely morning which included really amazing pastries and espresso (when in Rome!) standing up (cheaper) at a quaint cafe on the river. We walked for about an hour before we realized we were headed north instead of south, and then turned around and walked south for way too long. We got really lost, ended up walking for about 2 hours in the most torrential rain of my life, and we didn’t even find Breanna. We did however, remain damp for the next 8 hours (cotton IS rotten.)

Because we were cold and wet, we took this picture for Breanna

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Because we were in Rome, we actually felt like thisIMG_3117

The rain finally cleared, and we headed over to the Colosseum because we figured the rain would have scared away a lot of people. It was amazing, and I couldn’t help think about all the movies I’d seen set at the Colosseum. Bonnie had taken a film class about movies set in Ancient Rome, so I can only imagine it may have been more awesome for her. In Latin II my senior year of high school, my Latin teacher told us if we ever go to the Colosseum to lick it, which is what she did when she went. I was totally prepared to do it, but then. EW. Wow, I saw it and COULD NOT IMAGINE DOING SOMETHING SO GROSS. Over a thousand years of history also means a whole lot of who knows what. We did see cats, who I obviously also did not lick (or touch). Colosseum cats seem really happy and cute.

Oh hey there, Colosseum…

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A lovely afternoon at the place of gladiators.IMG_3162

Oh hey, that cool basement part (no floor anymore) and a cat.IMG_3137

There are no stands as there were in ancient Rome, only the base of the building, the marble is thought to have been stolen in the Middle Ages
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Cats of the Colosseum. Part dos.IMG_3176

We had a really cheap dinner that night in a park overlooking the Colosseum and then walked around the streets for several more hours, and my search for boots continued and Bonnie stopped to read many menus at cafes, something I have never done, but she does kind of like window shopping for me. It’s not necessarily meaningful, just something interesting to look at. We also drank Italian hot chocolate, which is made by pouring hot cream over chocolate. So incredibly rich. It was calorically dinner and breakfast, I’m sure.

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We got back to the hostel and played cards again with Bus, and went for a walk with him around St. Peter’s Cathedral, approximately 2 blocks from the hostel. Really, could not ask for a better location.

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Day 3:

We checked out of the hostel and enjoyed breakfast gelato with Bus and both gave him a hug goodbye. He was going to work on a wine farm in France after this trip to Rome and Paris.

A sight from our walk in the morning

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We walked along the river and got latte machiatto, which in true Italian style was pretty much just steamed milk with a tiny bit o’ espresso and headed over to Circus Maximus(!) and thought about chariot races and Ben Hurr and then went to the Roman Forum. I went pretty zonked by then, just solid DAYS of walking and seeing things, so I definitely didn’t appreciate it enough.

I’m at the circus!IMG_3219

Palatine Hill/Roman ForumIMG_3226

The she-wolf and Romulus and Remus. Not the original, but something I was dying to see in Rome.IMG_3230

We didn’t spend a ton of time there, and went to meet Rachael (was going to say who this is, but if you don’t know… read the blog) who was also in Rome, on a school trip. We had a great lunch, walk, gelato, and a quick trip to the Trevi Fountain on our way to the train station, because Bonnie and I had to catch a flight to Barcelona! Rachael and I are the cheesiest and realized that the day our friend Caitlin introduced us (HI CAITLIN!) we watched two great Rome-themed movies together: The Lizzie McGuire Movie (see above) and Roman Holiday. Actually, I left while the others were watching Roman Holiday because sleep. But let’s just say, all roads lead to Rome.

Nice gelato places give you whipped cream and a tiny cone on top. This cone of canteloupe and cherries and cream only had the tiny cone.

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The gang in front of the Trevi Fountain. This is what dreams are made of.IMG_3259

Rome was absolutely all I imagined, hoped, and expected it to be. I would go back again, I’m a little in love. Not like, want to live there or anything, but there’s so much to see and do, and. Go. That’s my advice.

Barcelona in my next post. In the meantime, Arrivederci!