A Travellerspoint blog

Thanksgiving in Venezia!

Don't worry, we didn't see Aschenbach and we didn't eat the strawberries.

Unless you've read Thomas Mann's Death in Venice, you're probably wondering who Aschenbach is and what are these darn strawberries I'm talking about. No worries, I can give you a brief run down of this one of a kind novel. Death in Venice is basically a story of this old, German author, Aschenbach, who goes to Venice for inspiration in his writing. Oh he finds it alright, in the form of this teenager named Tadzio who he falls in love with. The title, Death in Venice, goes on to foreshadow Aschenbach's death because of the spreading cholera in the city. Everyone is warned not to eat the fruit, but Aschenbach over here gives into temptation and indulges with the strawberries. Which is why he dies-shocker.

Creepy, weird, twisted- I know. We had to read this pleasant novel in our literature class this semester. So naturally, anyone who went to Venice after reading the book looked for some sort of symbolism in their travels.

Moving on to the trip-it was nothing like this book. LOL Venice is probably my favorite Italian city that I've been to. I guess I just really like the whole city on water idea. The trip in particular was great because Theresa's parents came to visit for Thanksgiving! It was nice to see some familiar faces from the dirty 630-a nice touch for the holidays.

The first day there, we walked around Venice and got a really good gist of what the city-feel was like. We wandered in some churches, walked over a few of the many bridges Venice had, and of course, took plenty of day pics. Afterwards, we checked into the hotel about midday and all agreed that it was time for a nice long nap. Theresa, Christine and I walked into our room and found that we had one really large bed. Upon seeing this, my first instinct was to come clean and tell them I have the been known to Starfish (the act of sleeping sprawled across the bed, in the form of a Starfish,) but I would try my hardest not to. In high school, I had an incident where I didn't come clean about this sleeping form, and it came as quite the surprise to my roommates. From that moment on, I promised to myself to always tell the truth about by Star-fishing habits. Glad I got that off my chest.

Our second day in Venice was the best day ever. We went on the best Gondola boat ride with an awesome Gondolier, saw the Grand Canal, had the most peaceful boat ride while we saw the beauty of Venice, and did it all with the best company. We went on to buy matching hats, which are the best hats ever. And yes, it would have to be my favorite purchase while being abroad (Yes-I like the hat more than all of the chocolate I have eaten.) These probably seem like really small things, but in actuality it was these small things put together that made up the biggest best thing-my trip to Venice. I can't really pinpoint why Venice was the "best" Italian city for me, it just kind of was. It's like that feeling you get when you find the right pair of pants--you really like them because they fit. For me, Venice was that perfect pair of pants, it just fit.

Posted by kbali 04.12.2013 12:39 Archived in Italy Tagged venice gondola thanksgiving Comments (0)

YOLO-You Only London Once

The Americans are coming! The Americans are coming!

Destination: London, England. As you can imagine, I was extremely excited on that Thursday afternoon when my friend Kendyl and I left the JFORCE because I knew I was going on what would probably be the most magical trip while studying abroad. (Magical refers to my Harry Potter reference, since London by default, is a Harry Potter reference.)

It all started on the plane ride over, when I found myself sitting next to an Italian criminal justice professor who taught at the University of Oxford. I know right? This absolutely blew my mind and I tried to keep my cool while having this conversation about my travels abroad and his fascinating research about criminal behavior and Mafia groups. After the two-hour long conversation, I felt really good when this professor was "impressed by the Jesuit values that Loyola instilled in its students" and that he was "glad that I took on the opportunity to study abroad at such a young age to learn more about the world." Not a bad start to London, right?

The next day, Kendyl and I pretty much did a mad dash and covered the main touristy things you expect to do in London. Oh, but to start off, we saw the guard change at Buckingham Palace. Hands down, one of the coolest thing I have ever witnessed. They had not one, but TWO bands marching into the gates and they had those cool hats you always see on TV. Yea, it was pretty casual. And after, the queen invited us in for tea and pastries, it was no big deal. Just kidding-but being in front of the palace basically made us royalty.

The day got even cooler (yes, both weather and in terms of awesomeness) when we stumbled upon Big Ben and Westminster Abbey!! That has to be my favorite thing about traveling--even though you have an idea of where you want to go, you always get turned around by seeing amazing sights.

To finish off the day, we went to the Christmas Market, the Borough Market, and the Piccadilly circus. The Christmas Market made us feel right at home, the homemade fudge was a nice little touch to the jolly Christmas Music, glittery lights and overall happy English folk strolling along! I bet you're wondering what is the Borough Market and why did I go there? I went there because one of the Diagon Alley's from Harry Potter was based off of it! Boy did I see why, I felt as if I stepped into the movies and I, too was the chosen one. Okay, I'll snap out of it. Our final destination that night was, as mentioned before, the Piccadilly Circus! It was hoppin' that night--so many talented street performers attracted crowds from all around, and the twinkling Christmas lights gave you that warm holiday spirit. Not to mention, we saw the Hunger Games that night!-I only saw about half of the first so I wasn't too excited for the next one, but man were my eyes glued to that screen throughout the movie. So much intensity, that I heavily perspired through my sweatshirt when it was about 20 degrees outside. (I seriously haven't sweat that much in the winter since my driving test back in winter break of 2011.)

I don't mean to pick favorites, but it just kind of happens. My second day in London was probably one of my favorite days while being abroad. To start off the morning, I got to take a picture that I have been dying to take ever since I can remember-the signature Platform 9 3/4 pic at Kings Cross Station! I had the Gryffindor Scarf, the high jump, my Hogwarts trolley and the facial expression of pure happiness and enthusiasm.

But then, I got to see the best thing: Wimbledon Tennis Grounds. I got to look over CENTRE COURT, (eeep!!!) walk through the players' dressing rooms, come within inches to the Wimbledon Trophy, and sit in the very same chair that Andy Murray sat in while he had his press conference this past July. Tennis has been the one extra-curricular that I have such fond memories of from high school and it is probably because I have made some of my best friends from it. I owe it all to my dad for helping me pick out my first Prince racket in 6th grade and for practicing with me when I couldn't manage to hit a ball over the net (yikes!) Being at Wimbledon is something my dad always wanted to go and he was absolutely ecstatic that I was able to tour the "holy grail" of tennis. Even though nothing I can ever do will compare to what my parents have given me, I can probably take them to see the Wimbledon Championships one day. I guess it's just another incentive to be successful in the future. :)

Posted by kbali 27.11.2013 13:11 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london england big ben wimbledon Comments (0)

Bonjour, Paris

It was so French

Oui , oui I went to Paris!
I’ll have to admit, before agreeing to go to Paris I wasn’t really that excited. My attitude more or less was “Eh, it’s in a lot of movies and has the Eiffel Tower, I bet it’s cool.” Yea, I was dumb.
I wouldn’t describe myself as having a lovey-dovey attitude towards places, but to my shock--I fell in love.
I fell in love with Paris. I fell in love with every macaroon and crepe I indulged in. I fell in love with the ambiance of the city, and I, needless to say, fell in love with myself.
Boy, did we cover all of the love (city.) My group and I walked all over the city. (Now I’m not exaggerating when I say this, but the average person is supposed to walk about 10,000 steps per day. According to our pedometer, we walked about 22,000.) We started off with the Notre Dame our first morning. After seeing it, I didn’t think anything else could possibly capture the beauty that the cathedral embodied. While all the churches I have seen abroad have been beautiful, the Notre Dame has been one of a kind. Walking in, I took a step back and it truly amazed me as I tried to understand that people have been praying in this very place since (roughly) 1300.
The day just kept getting better when we stumbled upon the original Shakespeare and Company. Imagine a little kid going into a candy shop-all jolly, excited, and to simply put it; happy. That was me. So many books, so many genres, I seriously was the happiest person in that bookstore. (P.s. Barnes and Noble ain’t got nothing over Shakespeare and Company.) The bookstore was like its own little world, it engulfed you and brought your inner reader and reminded you how much you really do appreciate learning. That bookstore was hands down, one of my favorite places I’ve been to while being abroad. After all, Dr. Seuss did once say “the more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go!”
Oh also while in Paris, I got a little taste of home when I went to CHIPOTLE. When that warm tortilla filled with pinto beans, sour cream, fresh shredded cheese, iceberg lettuce and zesty salsa hit my taste buds, it felt that nothing could disturb my peace of mind. And it didn’t.
This blog post would simply not be complete if I didn’t talk about the Eiffel tower. Had I been in any other place, I would’ve complained about the line and the weather at night. But even that in Paris was magical. Something about being in front of one of the most amazing wonders of the world completely made me forget about everything. I’ve been to the top of the Willis Tower and I’ve seen New York City from the top of the Rockefeller Point, but words can’t even come close to describe how I felt as I overlooked the city of Paris once I got to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Saying the view was breath-taking would be an understatement and I will just leave it at that.
I could go on to say how beautiful the city was, describe how cool it was to see the real Mona Lisa at Le Louvre, and how glamorous Coco Chanel’s apartment was, but it simply would not do justice. What I will do is this; tell you readers out there to go to Paris. Not now, not tomorrow, but before you die. Experience the magnificence, experience the vivaciousness, and experience that ditzy love. I was lucky enough to have my “pointy picture of holding the Eiffel Tower,” buy my copy of Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame from Shakespeare and Company, and fall in love. I hope that all you readers out there can experience what I did, and more. :)

Posted by kbali 23.11.2013 12:40 Archived in France Tagged paris Comments (0)

Firenze e Pisa

Saw the real David and leaned with the Pisa

Ahh Firenze. Next to Pompeii, I would have to say this is one of the raunchiest Italian cities I have been to. (The Italians seemed to have a lot fun with making souvenirs based off of the David.) It was pretty cool to see the real and fake David, do some leather shopping (I purchased a brand new black belt of authentic leather that I’m excited to wear!), take pictures with the famous Pig, and of course, have a diva photo-shoot on what is probably the most scenic bridge I have seen in Italy with two of my fellow JFRC pals! Florence was a city where it seemed whichever street we walked, we always encountered flawless beauty-whether it was scenic or just architecture.
As beautiful as it was, however, I found Florence to be comparable to the nit-picks of Rome that I am not a fan of. 1-Pushy street vendors all up in your face. Yo, if I like something you’re selling and you get all up in ma’ grill I’m not going to buy it. Sucks to suck. And 2-While I love being Indian/Brown and all, I strongly dislike the confidence these Indian men have when they see tourists. While I probably am the most obvious tourist in the EU and I have an extremely above-average tolerance for people, my feistiness can and has come out in these prime time situations. (Okay fine, you can laugh now but it is true!)
My hostel experience in Florence was the most interesting and probably the shadiest that I have ever stayed in. It was called Dance Hostel Dance-don’t worry the title is very misleading. (But I’ll leave it to you readers out there to interpret it how you want LOL.) My friend Vaiva and I approached this old building that required a buzzer to enter the hostel. While we were trying to figure out how to get in, a man came out to greet us and told us to follow him inside once we told him the name of the hostel we were staying in. Just as featured in the YouTube clip “Shit Brown Girls Say”- this hostel was SHAADY. But it gets better, the hostel itself was just an apartment rented out and the rooms had stacked bunk beds and Wallah!-It was a hostel. Okay so maybe my descriptions don’t convince you, but in all honesty it was sketch. Other than that, the location was prime! About a five minute walk to the train station and central to the leather markets and such.
Oh and I brushed my teeth with a complete stranger. It was almost magical, a nice bond of some sort, as if for a second we understood each other. The hostel life didn’t choose me, I chose it. Well, it’s all about that college student study-abroad experience! Dance Hostel Dance yo.
But the weekend wasn’t just in Florence-we made a stop to Pisa before our journey to Home Sweet Rome! This small town was nice and quaint. It was the type of town you would expect from coming to Italy, narrow streets, old architecture, musicians playing in the piazzas, and of course, absolutely beautiful scenery. I wish I could write more about Pisa, but in all honesty we were in town for an hour and a half; we basically only went see the tower and take those notorious pictures you see on the internet. Might I say, it was soo worth it. I loved being a part of another photo-shoot and embracing my silliness. Also, the whole time I was there I kept saying “I can’t believe I’m at the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Holy Cow. Vaiva we’re here.” So there’s that too.

Posted by kbali 13.11.2013 04:31 Archived in Italy Tagged pisa firenze Comments (0)

What Happens in Barcelona, Stays in Barcelona

Except for this blog entry

Barcelona, mi amor.
So this was my first flight flying Ryan Air. For all those readers out there who aren’t familiar with this airline, it is the cheapest and sneakiest European Airline out there, dangerously comparable to our very own Spirit Airlines in the good old United States. Following the small print, Michelle and I were fine and ran into no troubles at all! We were also surprised and excited to know that 3 other groups from our JFORCE clan were headed into Barcelona that same weekend! Seriously though, it blows my mind how small of a population us JFORCE kids are compared to the relatively large population in Europe, and how we seem to run into each other everywhere!
My favorite part of the flight had to be the ending, when they had this lovely trumpeter-tune, congratulating us to our timely arrival in Barcelona (end sarcasm.) No but for real, they had the music and everything.
Sitting in the taxi on our way to our hostel, I was pleased at the fact that I could still make small talk with Spanish. Looks like those 6 years of classes didn’t go to waste (I’m glad to say that because I still plan on minorning-yikes!)
Onto the actual trip, we literally walked all over Barcelona-end to end. Venturing off with a plan, we ended up running into the famous Arc, this beautiful park with a badass fountain with spitting dragons, and a ton of statues and monuments. After seeing all of that, we made our way down the famous La Rambla which was filled with street performers, souvenir shops, and visible tourists (glad we weren't alone.) This led us to Travel Bar (anyone going to Barcelona in the future-I highly recommend going on their free walking tour and then signing up for their cocktail class which gets you into one of Barcelona’s finest nightclubs!) Well that pretty much sums up what we did that day, moving on LOL.
Our final day in Barcelona was a relaxed day at the beach, which to our surprise was rather chilly even though weather.com said otherwise. What would have been my usual nap on a hot sunny day with me sweating profusely turned into me napping under a blanket of sand and my towel. Ah well, when life gives you lemons you make lemonade. I think that goes in context here, right?
Our trip wouldn’t be a trip to Barcelona without seeing the famous La Sagrada Famila. So, apparently La Sagrada Familia has been under construction for quite some time now (like 1900s lol) I was in for a surprise to see the cathedral surrounded by all those trucks and such!
Regardless, it was beautiful. It’s crazy to think I read about it in high school Spanish Class (probably should have paid a bit more attention) but now I actually saw it! Mind blown again.
Our last night in Barcelona, we met up with fellow J-FORCE’rs to see the Barcelona-Madrid futbol game back on La Rambla. Barcelona won!! But it did get a bit close.
And then…we went to the MAGIC FOUNTAIN!!! This fountain did it all, it sang, it changed colors, and we had a really really really good time. It was the coolest thing ever, oh and we had a solid photoshoot. Seeing as I really enjoy photo-bombing pictures, I literally did every possible pose I could think of while displaying the beauty of the fountain. It was kind of like modern art, in its own little way with all the experimentation.
Barcelona was amazing. It was by far one of the coolest cities I have been to and I hope to return sooner than later. But for now, Adios Barcelona and hello to the remainder of my trips in Europe! :)

Posted by kbali 30.10.2013 15:01 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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