Saturday, May 18, 2019

My London Favorites

While living in London for four months I had the opportunity to have somewhat of a routine and find a few places that truly became my favorites. These are places I genuinely wish were in Los Angeles or at least close enough for me to still visit on a regular basis! 
Favorite View: Sky Garden
Favorite Coffee Shop: Gail's
Favorite Restaurant: Dishoom
Favorite Cocktails: The Alchemist
Favorite Exercise: Psycle Shoreditch 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Living in London

 After living in London for the past four months I wanted to share my personal experience of studying and exploring in the city! First and foremost I am so glad I chose to study abroad in London because there was little to no language barrier, it has delicious food, easy transportation, and the shopping here cannot be beaten! 
My school was located in beautiful Bedford Square in Bloomsbury. I loved my school's location because it was near a ton of restaurants/shops and Oxford Street. This made adventuring after or in between classes super convenient. Also, the building is so charming and had the best view of the square!
The neighborhood I lived in was a thirty to forty-minute walk from my school and is known as Shoreditch. I would consider Shoreditch as a larger version of the arts district of Los Angeles. Not only is there street art on every corner, but there are also the most charming coffee shops and fun nightlife (shoutout Dinerama)!  
I also loved that there is always something to do or to see in London! You honestly cannot be bored when there is so much history to learn on endless tours or simply exciting places to explore and just walk around for fun. 
And when the hustle of the city got to be too stressful my favorite thing to do would be to take a break in one of London's parks or squares. Not only was a lot sunnier than I expected, but the parks genuinely feel like an escape.  
Lastly, my biggest worry when moving to London for a few months was how large and intimidated it would be to get around. However, I quickly realized that the buses and tube system was super easy to navigate thanks to the app called City Mapper! I took both the bus and the tube almost everywhere (sometimes called an Uber)! Overall, I loved living in London and I hope to return in the near future. 

Monday, April 29, 2019

Easter in Rome, Italy

WOW. This was one of my favorite trips from abroad. Not only did I spend Easter Sunday with Pope Francis, but we also did so much sightseeing and eating that we never had a dull moment. Rome is for sure one of those cities that you will always be on the go and you can never see it all in one trip! Because I had been there before, it was really cool to see most things for a second time. See my first trip to Rome here.
The Colosseum
Underground Colosseum Tour 
One of the many tours we took was The Coliseum. Funny enough we purchased tickets for the basic 25 tour and was upgraded to the underground tour, which is by far the best! While I did not have to pay for it, I would argue it is worth the money to get the full experience.
The Vatican
The Vatican is a must-do tour while in Rome. Again, we did the basic tour and it is perfect for someone who wants to know the basics and is okay with being in a very large group. If you want a more in-depth or personalized tour I highly recommend hiring a private tour. I did a private tour with my family on my last trip to Rome and highly preferred it over the large group!
Roman Ruins
The ruins are right next to The Coliseum and our upgraded underground tour came with an additional tour of the ruins. It is really interesting to see and if you are interested I would recommend it. To be honest, if I did not get it for free I would probably prefer spending my money on a bowl of pasta and glass of wine, but I am just not a huge history kind of girl (lol).
Spanish Steps
Trevi Fountain 
The Pantheon, Spanish Steps, and Trevi Fountain are all a fifteen minute or less walk from each other, so I recommend walking to each of them at once, so you can check them off your list! I would say all three are worth seeing and you cannot leave Rome without making a wish at the Trevi! 

Pope Francis in the Popemobile
Easter Mass at the Vatican
The once-in-a-lifetime experience I had on this trip was attending Easter Mass at The Vatican. To attend one of my friends wrote The Vatican requesting tickets and then received a letter back the Thursday before. After that, we had to accept the tickets at The Vatican on that Friday before Easter. We got to the actual mass several hours early and accidentally got the best seats! The seating is unassigned and so if you want to see the Pope up close and personal make sure you sit along the very center aisle that is blocked off. It should be fairly obvious and you can use the photos for reference. HIGHLY recommend going to this!!!

Pizzeria L'Archetto 
Safe to say we ate our way through Rome and I do regret one second of it!!! My older sister (shoutout Miranda) studied abroad in Rome and lived right around the corner from this pizza place. Not only is it delicious and authentic, but it is also SO inexpensive. This whole jug of wine cost us 8 ! I highly recommend you go for dinner before a night out and sit outside if you can. 
Dolce Maniera
This bakery is one of the best places to get a cannoli in Rome. It has steps leading down to it so it might be a little hard to find, but do not overlook it! They also have these adorable Pope cookies. 
Another great pizza place is Pizzarium where you order everything to-go and you can stand outside. This was our first stop after arriving in Rome and it really hit the spot. They also had spaghetti balls, which I could not pass up.
La Zanzara
This restaurant was another recommendation from my sister and for sure felt like a place that was mostly locals. It had this adorable patio, but also an indoor restaurant. It was delicious!
Pasta Imperiale 
We went to this casual restaurant on Easter after Mass. It was recommended to one of my friends as an inexpensive, casual meal. Even though it was casual it was delicious and we saw plenty of American students here. I think it is well-known for a cheap and quick pasta fix and it did the job. 
Piazza Navona
I strongly recommend staying away from restaurants in big Piazzas if you want a truly authentic, Italian meal! However, I loved sitting in Piazza Navona and people watching so I opted for an Aperol Spritz because you can't really mess that up (lol)! Getting a drink and resting your feet is an essential part of a touristy trip, so doing so in a popular Piazza is my favorite way to relax.
Lemongrass Gelato
Of course, you must get gelato while in Italy! Don't be fooled...I had way more than just this one and I tried a bunch of different places as well. Lemongrass was my personal favorite and I do not know if it is "the place" to go, but it for sure hit the spot!

Four of us staying in an Airbnb on Via Tommaso Campanella, which was right around the corner from the Vatican. The location was great and really out of the touristy area, which I liked. I would also recommend staying in Via Germanico, which is where my sister lived. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Santorini, Greece

All I have to say is Santorini superseded my expectations and I will be back! I did not realize until I was there that there are two main towns for tourists on the island. The first is the one that is the most popular, Oía and the second, Thía. We spend a day in each because we stayed right outside the main town of Thíra (see below for our oasis of a hotel)!
Meteor Cafe
Unfortunately, I never went to this cafe, but I had to get a picture of it when I saw it because I know it is super popular among locals! I will be trying it next time. 
Walking around Oía honestly felt like it was out of a dream. Everywhere you look is another beautiful view or a charming store. I have a love for evil eyes & I actually got a bracelet from one of the little boutiques.
Atlantic Books
We stopped in this world-renowned bookstore and every wall was completely full. I know during the summer months it has a rooftop with a beautiful view, but unfortunately, it was not open in April.
Melenio Cafe
This cafe is a must when in Santorini! Not only does it have this unreal view, but it also had amazing pastries including super traditional baklava. If you are too full from all of the gyros you can always just get a drink (or two) and enjoy the view. 
Three Blue Domes
Of course, you must get a glimpse at the Three Blue Domes that Santorini is known for. Since the streets are narrow it can be very confusing on how to get to the best viewing spot, so I used this website with photos to guide the way: It helped a ton!
For dinner, we walked all the way down to Amoundi Bay and saw donkeys along the way. I was very against riding the donkeys for comfort and animal abuse reasons, but if you want to this is the place to go! At sunset, these steps and Amoundi Bay are amongst the best places to enjoy the best part of the day (in my opinion)!
Thíra is a little less recognizable amongst tourists, but it has great shopping and there's not a bad view in Santorini. I loved walking around here and shopping for souvenirs.
There were plenty of boutiques and these fish pedicure places in the little streets along with plenty of restaurants and rooftop bars. 
V Lounge
To watch the famous Santorini sunset we went to V Lounge where they had blankets and delicious drinks for us to take in the world-renown views!
Not only was the sunset beautiful, but it also lit up the white buildings and made them glow. 
Nea Kameni Volcano
I highly recommend this rooftop bar because of their incomparable view of the volcano. When booking a trip to Santorini you will slowly recognize how much the people of Santorini value volcano views.
Amoundi Fish Tavern
This was by far my favorite meal in Santorini! Not only were we right on the water, but it also tasted delicious and fresh. I honestly expected this place to be a tourist trap, but it was reasonably priced and to be honest the other places in the bay looked like they attracted more tourists and were not as good. It might be intimidating to go down all of the steps and down to the bay, but it is 100% worth the trek!
Theonis Kitchen
This place is in Thíra and does not have a view, but I promise it is delicious. We went to another place in Thíra with a breath-taking view and it was one of the worst meals I had in Europe, so make sure to check photos of the food before eating somewhere and try hole in the walls like this one!
Pito Gyros
You cannot go to Greece without trying a gyro! My advice is to only get gyros from to-go places where you receive them like this and not at a sit-down restaurant. I found two places that are musts for gyros through my research and those were this one in Oía and Lucky's in Thíra. 
Lilium Hotel Santorini
 Like I said above we stayed just outside of Thíra at Lilium Hotel! It was the perfect place to get away from the busy little towns but was close enough to be able to go to into town whenever we wanted. 
The small restaurant at the hotel provided us with a huge, traditional breakfast buffet every day, which was very convenient. There was also no part of the property that does not have a view!
This is what a majority of the rooms look like and then some overlook the pool!
One of the best parts about this hotel is that they provided a shuttle to take us to the city center of Thíra. The staff was also super welcoming and open to sharing their love of Santorini with us! They gave us Santorini tourist books as a gift for staying with them, too. I'm so grateful my friend found this hotel for us to stay in because we were really unsure where to stay at first, but this could not have been more perfect!

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