Travel Diary: Spring 2017

Spring 2017

Reflecting back on my first season living abroad, I am so thankful for the opportunities I had to explore old and new destinations with my family. Spring was a time of growth both literally, as the weather warmed and the leaves returned to the trees, and figuratively, as I navigated a new stage of life in a foreign country. My entrance into this new and exhilarating phase of life gave me fresh challenges and adventures but all while accompanied by familiar faces. Get ready y’all – this post is a massive roundup of everywhere I went during the spring.

Prague:

After a crazy month of studying and teaching at The Language House, I graduated on a Friday, moved into my new apartment on a Saturday, and met my family for their week in Prague on Sunday. The TEFL course was intense and kept me busy, so I was almost as much a stranger to Prague as my family. I learned the 22 route on the tram well, traveling back and forth between my side of Prague and their’s. Their AirBnb was situated right off of Charles Bridge and on, in my option, the most picturesque street in Prague.

I got to play tourist in my own city while slowly introducing myself to my new home. I had plenty of time to explore off the beaten path in the coming months, so we focused on the “big spots” of Prague, such as Prague Castle, Old Town Square and Charles Bridge. I was familiar with the most popular spots already, but it was so interesting to see them from a new perspective.


We took a day trip to a smaller Czech town, Karlovy Vary. If you’ve seen the movie Last Holiday, you’ll recognize Grandhotel Pupp! This town is famous for hosting one of the oldest film festivals in the world, The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. It’s also the perfect for a day trip or weekend getaway because of its 16 mineral springs spread throughout the town. Buy one of the small, funny-looking cups from any of the stands, stroll down the riverside, and taste your way to better health! For lunch, take the funicular up to the hill, take in the views, and get a little lost (like we did) making your way back down.



On your way in or out of the town, take a tour of the Moser glass factory to see some true glass-blowing masters in action.

Paris:

Saying goodbye to my dad and brother was sad, but my mom, sister and I were off to Paris! I couldn’t stay bummed for long. Our AirBnB was a tiny studio near Notre Dame, and we felt like locals in our little street. It wasn’t prime weather, but wandering around such an iconic city with my gals was everything I could wish for. 

Without the boys in tow, we were able to spend an hour taking photos in front of the Eiffel Tower, wait in line for Laduree macaroons on Champs-Élysées, and stop for coffee in Shakespeare and Company Cafe. We spent one afternoon in Montmartre climbing the Sacre Coeur for panoramic views of Paris and another admiring the art in the Museé d’Orsay. We even spent a haunting evening in the Catacombs…

(Side note: if you’re ever looking for an English cafe in any European city, just google “Shakespeare” and you’ll probably find an option or two. My two favorite bookstores in Prague are both Shakespeare-themed!)


As beautiful as Paris was, my heart was overflowing in anticipation for my return to Florence. I studied abroad there in the summer of 2015, living in Italy for that short time was what planted the dream of living abroad in my heart.

Florence:

Y’all. There’s just something about Italian culture that has my heart.  It’s the emphasis on family, the love of their country, the passion for food and wine, and even the fact that nothing is open in the middle of the day because they’re eating lunch. It’s a work-to-live and not live-to-work mindset that a lot of people back home could learn from. As soon as we touched down in Italy, I felt like I was returning home.

Haley flew back to Prague for study abroad exams for the first two nights, so my mom was the only witness to my off-the-wall crazy tour through the streets of my favorite city in the world. Our AirBnB was less than a block from the apartments I lived in, so I knew our little neighborhood like the back of my hand. 

We got huge scoops of Edoardo’s gelato (the BEST gelato you’ll ever consume, might I add) and enjoyed them under the shadow of the Duomo, ate paninis from my favorite little hole-in-the-wall shop, strolled along the Arno for views of the Ponte Vecchio, watched the sunset from Piazzale Michaelangelo twice, and had my favorite meal – truffle gnocchi from Osteria Santo Spirito.

I wasn’t only reliving the “glory days” though. My mom and I explored the famous Boboli Gardens for the first time, and we were both imagining ourselves as the heroines in our favorite historical romance books. Mr. Darcy, where you at??


We also took a half day trip to the sleepy town of Fiesole with a hilltop view of Florence. All it takes is 5 minutes up there to remind me how much of the city is still left to be explored. I could return to Florence again and again and never tire of its charm. Needless to say, I’m waiting for the next opportunity to once again stroll along the streets of my first European home.

Cinque Terre:

Translated as “five lands,” Cinque Terre is a centuries-old gem on the Italian coastline combating a fairly recent explosion in popularity. The small fishing villages are a haphazard collection of colorful villas nestled into the coastline. The seafood is a stark and welcome contrast to the microwaved, frozen calamari we ate the week before in the Czech Republic (we were desperate), and of course, gelato was consumed daily.

Cinque Terre has a couple of pristine beaches, but its true gem is the hiking. Our hikes took around 2.5 hours each, and since we were pretty early in the season, we had the routes almost to ourselves. We made our way between villages, and every once in a while, we were rewarded with sweeping views of Corniglia or Vernazza. 

Manarola was our home base, and our AirBnB was essentially one tall, narrow, 3-story view of the ocean. Early one morning, we walked out onto the waterfront to experience the town as a local would – tourist-free. We also had the advantage of being a 5 minute walk from the best sunset view of the town at the local hilltop bar. Sangria, my mom and sister, the Italian coastline, and sunset…..my personal heaven on earth.


It was a bittersweet feeling to fly back to Prague after the girls’ trip of a lifetime. I hadn’t really had time to explore my new home yet, and I was excited to settle into my new life abroad, make new friends, and plan my next trip! 

Greece:

One thing you should know about my family is that we are cruise people. So when my sister asked me if I want to do a Greek Islands cruise, we hopped on that deal faster than you can say ”yammas!” With the Czech Republic being a landlocked country, I was seriously craving some sun and vitamin sea.

We started out in the historical city of Athens. With stars in our eyes and our blood pumping, we arrived at…… the sketchiest hostel in the sketchiest neighborhood. The number one rule I’ve learned in travel is to trust your gut, so we booked an AirBnB near the Acropolis and got the heck outta there. (Note to self: don’t stay at hostels where the accommodation comes free with the discount flight.) Our host met us an hour later, and his recommendations for what to eat and do were worth booking alone!

We didn’t have much time in Athens, so we did a “Rick Steves” audio tour of the Acropolis, basked in the glory of the Parthenon, and baked in the Grecian heat. As one does on vacation, we took it easy with some shopping, coffee and sightseeing before bailing on the pub crawl and watching Mama Mia! in bed.

Anchors away! Our 3-day cruise stopped in Mykonos, Crete, Patmos, Kuşadası (Turkey), and Santorini, so we only had a few precious hours at each stop. It was just enough for a taste of the town and a glass of wine, but that was all we could afford anyway. Mykonos ended up being our favorite stop because it was just a short walk from the ship to a small beach town. Watching the sun set over the ocean in Greece with my best friend had me feeling blessed and thankful.


Each afternoon sailing between islands, we took full advantage of the unlimited drinks package included in our ticket, and we made friends with our waiter Hassan each night at dinner. Our ship didn’t have all the perks and benefits of the mega-cruises we’ve done before, but it had sun, beach chairs and snacks. We were more than content.

Santorini was the grand finale that didn’t disappoint. We sailed into Fira and quickly hailed a taxi across the island to picturesque Oía. We had just enough time to roam the streets, take some photos, and catch the sunset, and I think we were both secretly scoping out our future honeymoon destinations. Although I’m trying not to repeat destinations, I promised Santorini I’d be back.

On our trip back home to Prague, we were surprised with upgrades to Business Class, so we tried to play it cool lounging in chairs that reclined all the way back and were most likely larger than our cruise ship beds. Overall, Greece was a win.

London:

I was back on a plane headed to London less than 48 hours later because of complicated visa reasons. Long story short, spending a few days in the U.K. was keeping me legal. Luckily, my best friend Rebecca’s parents live in London and graciously hosted me in their flat, and they treated me as if I was their own. I had my first fish & chips at a local pub with her dad and went vintage shopping in the different markets of London with her mom.

I also spent a lot of the trip exploring on my own, and by far, my favorite spot is the Sky Garden! Located at the top of the Walkie Talkie, this cafe/bar is THE spot for coffee in the morning/afternoon or drinks at night while taking in views of the city! I saw Tower Bridge from afar, and even after 2 trips to London, this is as close as I’ve gotten to it. Whoops.

One of my favorite memories from my little getaway was meandering through Notting Hill on market day! Street after street filled with antique vendors, music and food stalls. I chose the stall with the longest line (figuring it was the best), bought a heaping bowl of paella, and listened to a street musician while I people-watched. At this point, I hadn’t done much solo-traveling, and this moment was when I thought I might give it a real go in the future. 

The vintage shop Mary lives over in “About Time”

I signed up for a Parliament and Westminster Abbey tour, but unfortunately it was canceled. I did some other sightseeing around the city, but none compared to the magically average “Muggle Tour” Rebecca and I indulged in on my last visit. What can I say? I live for the magic, y’all.

Prague & Karlštejn:

As spring became summer, I went on one last day trip with some other Language House alum, including my roommate/best friend Caitlin. We biked 30km from Prague to Karlštejn, explored the castle, and took the train back home. After a few months, it still blows my mind that castles are just a common thing over here.

As for life in Prague, life was good. I made some flippin’ sweet friends, ate all of the treats at the Easter Markets, and was generally settling into life abroad. It blows my mind how quickly something so different can become the new normal. 

Let’s do this, summertime. 

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