My grandparents (my dad’s parents) have gone to Prague many times and if they happened to be there the same time I was in Europe, I would gladly visit them. With that, Emily and I hopped on a plane to do so this last weekend.

Saturday, 21 November: We got in late Friday night and went to bed after a quick dinner. We started off our trip by visiting the Prague Castle. It actually isn’t a traditional castle per say, but rather a gathering of government buildings with an impressive cathedral (the St. Vitus Cathedral) in the center of the complex. After that, we took the long way back to the flat and walked across the Charles Bridge for the first time (little did I know we would be crossing it several more times during our time in Prague). Once we got back on the other side of the river, we had what was my favorite meal in Prague: an appetizer of baked goat cheese with fig jam and an entree of tortellini. We then visited the Lennon Wall. The area was incredible: with an area of candles presumably in solidarity for the events in Paris, as well as related paintings on the wall. I even made my own addition: “We are one,” a lyric from a song about international unity I felt appropriate. To end our day, all four of us went to the opera. The opera was Carmen and I’m glad I had the experience to see such a popular opera with such great seats.

Sunday, 22 November: The four of us walked through Old Town. A lot like Nice, it was a series of narrow streets with unique shops and equally unique eateries. Emily and I even got a famous Czech pastry: the trdelník, a hollow treat with your choice of goodies inside. We walked through the streets and across Old Town Square to the Municipal House, where we had lunch. After that, we went our separate ways, where Emily and I got fish pedicures; a treatment where fish eat the dead skin off your feet. It tickled at first, but I soon learned how to relax and not think about it. My feet turned out surprisingly smooth!

We left early this morning and now it’s back to real life, and by real life I mean my mountain of coursework. I really enjoyed this weekend and it was nice to get a taste of my home life by seeing my grandparents.

I have combined all my Great Britain adventures into one post here and have updated it with my London daytrip last week to see The Book of Mormon and Kinky Boots.

My next adventure: Paris, France!

Photo by Wiktor Karkocha.

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A piece of advice that really resonated with me before I left was “explore a lot of your home country.” With that in mind, I made time to do so. I took time to explore Southampton, Bath, Eastbourne, Kingston, Lewes, Lancaster, Manchester, Glasgow and, of course, London.

Wednesday, 15 October: I went to Southampton for a Senses Fail show. I arrived at Southampton Central and walked through town (including a quick pop into a Lord of the Rings themed pub, The Hobbit) to meet up with my long-time friend, Alex. We are both huge Senses Fail fans and it was surreal to see them together after years of half-joking, half-fantasizing about it for so long. The show itself wasn’t the best; they were an opening band so the crowd was really low energy, but they sounded great and I got a drumstick! I wasn’t overwhelmed with Southampton, but it was nice to spend time with Alex.

Saturday, 17 October: My friend, Chris, goes to university in Bath and was always on about how beautiful it is. When I made my way up there, he showed me around the city. The architecture was really unique and the rolling hills and the fall foliage were beautiful. After that, we hung out with his roommates by playing board games, watching movies and taking random online quizzes. It’s awesome having friends all around England, it makes the experience much more personal when they know all the worthwhile places to see and you can retire to a comforting place rather than a noisy hostel.

Tuesday, 27 October: I had a “reading week,” I use the quotations because like a lot like other students, only one of my classes observed it so I ended up getting only two days off, but I made the most of it by spending one of them in Eastbourne, about half an hour away from my university by train. I’ve been wanting to visit ever since I found out a famous hiking landmark, Beachy Head, was nearby. The park in which it lies (South Downs) was about half an hour away from the centrally located train station and the rest of the hike through the park was beautiful, with views of the sea and city surrounded by hills. This beautiful park extends through a lot of the south of England, in fact, the University of Sussex lies within it, as well, and it’s stunning. There were about half a dozen buses full of tourists, which really took me by surprise. I knew it was popular, but not this popular! The city itself was underwhelming, but I’d definitely like to visit Beachy Head again in the spring.

Thursday, 29 October: The same week, I also went to Kingston for a band signing. I have been there before with Tom before our day trip to London, but we didn’t get much time there and now I understand why: there isn’t much to do. I walked along the river and enjoyed the fall colors, but didn’t know what to do with myself after that. Before I knew it, the signing came. The band is called Enter Shikari and it was at the record store I visited in September and bought their second album. Coincidentally, I also bought their most recent album in Philadelphia and when I found out about the signing, I ordered one additional album, showing up with three items for them to sign. They were really great guys and seemed genuinely grateful of their fans. I didn’t think it was possible, but now I’m even more excited to see them in February!

Thursday, 5 November: Bonfire Night signifies the events of 5 November 1605, when Guy Fawkes arrested while guarding explosives the plotters had placed beneath the House of Lords. To celebrate the fact that King James I had survived the attempt on his life, people lit bonfires around London. It is now celebrated all around the nation, with one of the most critically acclaimed ones in the small town of Lewes, which is mere miles away from my university. My friends Ben, Andy, Dan and I planned to walk there with the Walking Society as the trains and buses from Brighton were going to be packed. It started raining (of course), but we were still determined to go, The Walking Society, however, not so much. They cancelled the guided walk so we were left to our own devices and we decided to take a gamble on the train. It was still pretty early in the evening (although you never would have known as the sun sets well before 16:30 here), so there wasn’t many people on the train. We got into Lewes and the festivities had already begun; with several bonfire societies parading the streets. We walked around and miraculously stumbled upon the infamous David Cameron pig effigy. The topic had made Facebook trends earlier the day because of its controversial nature. I’ll give a brief crash course for those who may not know about what has come it call itself Piggate: a while ago, a rumor arose that the United Kingdom prime minister, David Cameron, stuck his penis inside of a dead pig’s mouth for a university initiation. Unsurprisingly, the public got carried away and started saying he has sex with pigs. This effigy has David Cameron holding a pig and wearing nothing but a thong with the United Kingdom flag on it and reads, “Dave + Piggy” on the back. After grabbing a few drinks and observing the real parade (all while it’s still raining), we headed over to one of the many bonfires that night. Naturally, we chose the one with the David Cameron effigy. It was in a field and although we got there early, they had already started the large bonfire. We chose a spot to watch the bonfire and fireworks, but we were pretty far away from the bonfire, so we got none of its warmth. A woman beside us insisted it’s the best spot for fireworks, so we persisted. Through the rain, mud and smoke, it’s safe to say my trainers are facing permanent damage and my clothes will never smell the same again. However, the view really was worth it. I imagined they would set off fireworks from a distance, but right there in the field from the Guy Fawkes and David Cameron effigies, they set of nearly full-sized fireworks right in front of my eyes.

Friday, 6 November: The next morning, I took a bus up to Lancaster University, about 300 miles north of Brighton, to visit Tom. Once I arrived, he gave me a small tour of the campus. It’s a lot larger and up-to-date than University of Sussex. We spent the evening chilling and catching up before I turned in early after a long day of traveling.

Saturday, 7 November: We spent Saturday in Manchester, which is about an hour away from Lancaster by train. There wasn’t much to do there but walk around, but I was perfectly content with that. We found some cool vintage shops and an amazing pizza place.

Sunday, 8 November: We were originally going to go to the Lake District, but due to the rainy weather all weekend, we decided a city would be better. We were between Liverpool and Glasgow and ended up settling for Glasgow. It was about two hours away by train from Lancaster and when we arrived it was raining, so we decided to eat first. Luckily, one of the best burger places in the city was only a few blocks away from the station. After that, we walked around and went to the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art. The exhibits were interesting, but the most interesting thing was the statue in front of the museum: an equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington that always has a traffic cone on its head. Even if the cone is removed, it’s always replaced. To end our day, we took a walk along the river before heading back to Lancaster. I loved Glasgow, it’s been one of my favorite British cities and I hope to return soon on better weather conditions.

Wednesday, 18 November: My roommates, James and Ben, and I went to London to see a play. James has always been a huge fan of Broadway musicals like myself and Ben has taken an interest after seeing the Les Misérables movie. The three of us saw The Book of Mormon together. We all liked it and had a good laugh (as it was a more comedy-inclined musical), but I felt it was a little overrated. Some critics were saying it’s “the best two hours of your life,” and I’m not sure if I agree with that. But the play was fantastic nonetheless and our seats were a great value. James and Ben went their separate ways after we ate and I proceeded to see Kinky Boots by myself. Ever since I saw the play when it was at Gammage over a year ago, I’ve been looking forward to seeing it again. It’s definitely one of my favorite plays and seeing it in London made it all the more special.

Sunday, 29 November: Ben, our friend Ryan and myself went to London for march demanding  the government take action against climate change. We went with a society from our university, where they provided us with affordable transportation by bus (I would have hated to see what the trains looked like). It started at Hyde Park corner, where several activists (including the recently elected Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn) spoke before the march began. It ended about a mile and a half away at Parliament, where there were several more speakers. This was one of the largest marches in history clocking about 50,000 heads and it was a great feeling to be a part of that.

Sunday, 6 December: I had tickets to see Marina and the Diamonds and London and since it was on a Sunday, I decided to make a day out of it. I started my day in London by visiting my friend Emily (a different Emily than the one who I have been traveling with). We’ve known each other since high school and both happen to be studying abroad in England this semester. She showed me parts of her campus at the University of Westminster in Harrow and we grabbed a bite to eat before I had to leave her so she could finish up some coursework. I made my way to central London to do a few tourist-y things I’ve missed before. First, I walked the Tower Bridge and explored the London Bridge Christmas Market. After that, I walked around Covent Garden and its many shops. My last stop of the day was in Camden, an area which I’m familiar with, for a bite to eat. I made my way to the venue in SoHo where I met another American in the queue. He has been following Marina around the United Kingdom and on her United States tour, as well. And I thought I was a big fan! The show was amazing. It had three acts, one for each of her albums. Although it was a seated show, the crowd was still lively and fun.

I had a great time from serene spots by the sea in Eastbourne to bustling cities like Manchester, but I’m glad I chose to live in Brighton. It’s hard to believe my first term is coming to a close so quickly, but I know second term will be even better and I’ll have more time to explore more of Great Britain.

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I can’t remember exactly when my infatuation started, but I know I’ve wanted to visit the small country of Monaco for a long time. Monaco is so small (less than one square mile), it doesn’t have an airport, so I begrudgingly looked at flights into Nice (pronounced “niece”), France, about a half hour’s drive from Monaco. As it turns out, Nice has several critically acclaimed beaches and after looking into it more (“it” being the outrageous room prices in Monaco), I decided to spend some time there, as well.

Friday, 9 October: After arriving in the early evening, I walked around for a bit. My hostel was a stone’s throw away from the beach and near a lot of shops and restaurants. I had a delicious crepe for dinner to start off my time in France the right way.

Saturday, 10 October: On my way to the port, I went up Castle Hill to get amazing panoramic views of the city. From the port, I took a bus to Monaco. First, I visited the casino and the casino square. I didn’t go in because I wasn’t bothered to pay ten Euros to probably lose even more than that. After that, I enjoyed a walk around the harbor and admired all the yachts. A boat taxi took me to the other side, where I visited the Oceanography Museum before heading back to Nice for the evening.

Sunday, 11 October: I welcomed a (somewhat) lazy Sunday with reading and relaxing on the beach. I dipped my feet in the water, but the crude pebble beach makes it difficult to enjoy the shoreline. After that, I went on a walk through Old Town, a series of thin alleyways and unique buildings with an atmosphere to match. North of Old Town, I stumbled upon the European Masters’ Games village square, where there were festivities celebrating the event. When I got back to my hostel, I met someone else from the United States, Lucas, who has been traveling Europe alone for five months. We shared about our traveling experiences and got to know each other better over (another) long walk through Old Town and around the port before watching the sun set over the hills.

I had a wonderful weekend of enjoying the sunny weather and beach atmosphere. Nice has been my favorite single city thus far, although my Ireland trip remains my favorite as a whole. My next international trip isn’t for another month and a half, so I’m going to take this time to explore parts of England, starting with Bath and Southampton this week.

My next adventure: Prague, Czech Republic!

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While I was talking with Pat (my friend from Philadelphia) about Rise Against’s upcoming U.S. fall tour, he mentioned a Europe tour I was previously unaware about. Although they’re not coming to the United Kingdom, I thought it would be fun to see my all-time favorite band abroad. I compared flights with my university timetable and came to the conclusion that seeing them in Milan was the most economic choice that won’t interfere with classes. I was originally going to go alone, but in a matter of a few weeks, I got my roommate, Ben,  into them and convinced him to go with me to see them!

Wednesday, September 30: I arrived just in time to grab a bite to eat before heading over to the venue. After grabbing a few drinks once we got inside the venue, we watched the opening band, Raised Fist. They were pretty different from Rise Against, but I liked them nonetheless. When Rise Against came on, the room exploded and the next hour was an awesome mess of pushing (and being pushed), crowd surfing and singing. I lost Ben for a while, but found him just in time for my favorite song of the set: “Black Masks and Gasoline.” It was a great show and I appreciate them carrying on with the tour even when their front man (Tim) broke his wrist. Afterwards, we waited outside to meet them and sure enough, they came out. First, Brandon (the drummer) appeared alone, but we didn’t get a chance to talk to him until the other three came out and he retired. I first talked to Zach (the guitarist) and once I told him I’m from Arizona, he recognized me from when I met them in April and gave them a painting. After that, I got to talk to Joe (the bassist) and Tim before we had to head back to the hostel. I’m upset I didn’t get to meet Brandon again, but meeting the three of them and getting my ticket signed was overwhelming.

Thursday, October 1: We didn’t have a lot of time before we had to head to the airport, but we got the quick tour of Milan by having quality pizza, gelato and exploring the Duomo. The view of the plaza from the terrace and the architecture of the building was especially impressive.

It was a bad stroke of luck that the concert was on a school night, further minimizing my time there, but I’m excited to explore the rest of Italy this spring.

My next adventure: Nice, France!

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During the spring semester, the study abroad office at my home university held a pre-departure orientation, where the highlight was meeting four other girls going to the University of Sussex. One of these girls, Emily, and I were in touch often and were talking about our travel aspirations. As it turns out, we shared a mutual priority of visiting Amsterdam. Without further ado, we booked a trip together and started getting excited. Soon after. Another girl from Arizona State, Jessica, asked to join us. I’m all for “the more, the merrier” policy, so with that, the three of us set off!

Friday, 25 September: We didn’t arrive at our hostel until early evening, so we didn’t do much for our first night aside from dining out and bar hopping around our hostel.

Saturday, 26 September: We had a really busy first day, starting off with a visit to Dam Square; the town square with shops and landmarks like the Royal Palace and National Monument. After that, we went on an hour-long canal tour. On our way to the other side of town, we walked through the floating Flower Market. We weren’t bothered to buy anything, but it’s a neat place nonetheless. Then, we visited the Van Gogh Museum before walking around a nearby park to end our day.

Sunday, 27 September: Although we weren’t bothered to wait in line on Saturday, we returned to the Anne Frank House Sunday morning, determined to get in this time. We waited in the queue for about an hour, but it was worth it, the history behind the home is really interesting. After that, we grabbed a bite to eat at a pancake, which was (what I think) the best meal we had. Emily and I shared two crepes; one sweet with Nutella, bananas and coconut and one savory with cheese, onions and mushrooms. They were both very good, but you can never go wrong with sweet. We then visited the Tulip Museum, which was probably the biggest surprise. I had no idea the flower had such a history. Lastly, we rented bikes for a few hours without any real direction and ended up in the Red Light District. It was pretty weird, I’m just glad I didn’t go at night.

The three of us are in consensus that it was a fun, but tiring trip. I had a great time with the two of them and can’t wait to travel with them again.

My next adventure: Milan, Italy!

Photo by Autumn Studio.

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