OPA!

Yamas and opa were the only things I learned how to say in Greek. Yamas is “cheers” and opa was..

Well I’m not quite sure, but we yelled it a lot and everyone was always happy when we did so we just rolled with it.

From Italy we took our bus to the port and hopped on an overnight ferry. Our group will take advantage of any situation to have fun, probably to the dismay of the people around us.

The next morning we woke up to the beautiful coast line of Greece

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In a few short hours we were off the boat and onto a new bus that took us to the smallest boat taxi I think I’ve ever seen. It miraculously fit all 40 of us and all of our bags and took us to our hotel in Poros.

Our hotel was secluded, on the water, and just what we needed after constantly moving around and traveling. That evening we had dinner on the terrace and looked over the harbor, tinted gold and pink from the sunset. After a run in with a rude French-man, all forty of us “loud, young Americans” (according to him) enjoyed our amazing Greek dinner.

The next day we left to the island of Hydra – AKA heaven and where my soul will go when I die. There were no cars on the island, people got around by horses, donkeys, or mules, and there were friendly stray cats EVERYWHERE. 

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Yes, I know, I’m sorry. Too many cat pictures, we’ll move on. But we spent the whole day relaxing, swimming in the deep blue ocean, drinking Greek coffee, and then meeting up in the evening for a tapas-style dinner. From dinner we went and watched the sun set from a hill-top bar overlooking the ocean. Not a bad way to end our amazing trip to Hydra.

It would’ve been if that had been how it actually ended.

On our way home in our water taxi, the driver pulled out plastic bottles of ouzo for us.

I’ll leave it there.

The next morning we left to spend the day doing water sports. I went parasailing for the first time and it was incredible! Once I was up, I was amazing at how quiet it was. Just myself, up in the sky overlooking the harbor, the mountains surrounding it, and the ocean. All I could hear was the wind. It was complete therapy – I could’ve stayed up there all day if they had let me.

That evening we finished up our stay in Poros with a toga party on the beach. I can’t think of a more American thing to do in Greece but I enjoyed every second of it.

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From Poros we left for Athens – after a long ferry ride, we finally arrived and hopped on a bus to take us on a city tour. We saw the Acropolis and Parthenon and afterwards saw many of the sights around the city that I ultimately did not see because I napped hard-core through all of it. I wasn’t even upset. It was a great nap.

What I had wanted to see, I did see. The parthenon was something I had always learned about in class and really was a wonder to see in person.

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You know, one of Athena’s most defining characteristics was her grey eyes, kinda like mine… interesting.

Anyways, after our city tour we went to a restaurant that my professor had recommended called “Savvas”, we ate our hearts out with the best gyros I had ever eaten, caused chaos at a nearby toy store like a bunch of children, then returned for our last evening as a group.

Going into that evening there was such a heavy feeling, knowing that after 24 days we would not wake up with each other any more, wouldn’t eat dinner or breakfast together, wouldn’t spend long hours on a bus anymore with one another, and wouldn’t go on adventures like we had. It was sad.

Despite that though, we had the best dinner and enjoyed the authentic Greek music and dancing, laughed at each other, ate the amazing food, and enjoyed each others company one last time. I felt light hearted to see everyone laughing, to hear the upbeat music and embrace this awesome part of the Greek culture, and yell “OPA!” nearly a thousand times and it never get old.

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After dinner we went back to the hotel, went to the terrace which had the perfect view of the parthenon all lit up for the night, and tried to hold back emotions that inevitably came. We were all sad to leave each other but were happy that we were able to share our memories, laugh at the many stupid things we did, and planned to see each other again soon.

Many commented how funny it was that 24 days prior we were complete strangers.

It is funny how fast you can connect with people. How quickly you can make bonds with people. In 24 days I felt like I made friends that I have had for years.

Out of all the amazing sights I saw, that fact is something that is irreplaceable to this trip.

I wish I could express how much these aggies meant to me, but that might be for another time.

Cheers to the memories, the unforgettable (or sometimes forgettable) stories we can tell, and to going on this trip of a lifetime with each other.

I’m ready for the reunion.

T

 

 

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Prego, Grazie

We went from the hills being alive with the sound of music to the land of pizza and pasta.

Buckle up, everyone. I’m about to run you through my whole trip to Italy fast and furiously.

Our long bus ride took us first to Venice where we spent the afternoon seeing hand-made glass creations, riding gondolas, and relaxing in the city center. We were only there for a short 3 hours or so but I did manage to get my movie star shot. Changing my name to Audrey Hepburn now incase anyone wants to know.

We then left for Florence and in the morning we went to Tuscany to do a wine tasting and Tuscan food tour. Tuscan vineyards have an amazing reputation for a reason, they were so beautiful. Back Im Florence, upon arriving I had some of the best gelato flavors I have ever had – lavender with brownie and Moscow mule to be exact. If you’re in the city, here’s the place. It doesn’t disappoint

I also tried tortello, not to be mistaken with tortellini. It was a grilled pasta filled with potato and had me wondering where it had been my whole life. The rest of my time in Florence was spent wandering the city and marveling at the old art and architecture, taking the friends on interesting shopping trips, and watching the sun set over the city.

From Florence we left for Roma. When we arrived to our hotel, it became clear to all of us that we were staying in the creepiest hotel we had ever seen. Padded walls, mirrors lining the room, old armoires next to the beds, and long hallways leading to deserted rooms made us ready to leave our own weird version of The Shining. We toured the city, saw the beauty of the ancient city of Rome, watched a dance festival in front of the Pantheon, and I attended my very first mass at St. Peter’s basilica. Not a bad place to attend their first mass, am I right? I am not catholic but went with my friends who were and they guided me through it. It was also in Latin, but even though I did not understand all of the language, I will say – when the choir started to sing and I sat looking up at the enormous beauty of St. Peter’s, the biggest church in the world and one of the most important places for the catholic faith, I felt chills down my whole body and got a tear in my eye. It was beautiful.

From Rome we left for a quick tour of Pompeii. I had never been and was immediately taken by how beautiful this area of Italy was – the mountains merged with the sea and Pompeii looked over it all from its spot high up on the hill. It was easy to imagine just how beautiful the place was during its time.

Whew – are you tired? I think back on these parts of the trip where we travel often and spend long hours driving to see all these places. Many times we were completely delirious with lack of sleep and spending too much time with each other on that bus.

A comment was made on a particular drive in Italy though, that while many people fly or travel by train to get to these places, it was a unique privilege to road trip through Europe.

How true that was.

More time to spend time with (and annoy) 40 or so of some of my best friends.

See you in Greece,

Opa!

T

The Hills are Alive With the Sound of Music

You sang that title, don’t lie.

I most anticipated my trip to Austria and it did not disappoint – it was infact my favorite place I’ve visited so far.

After we left Munich, we took a drive through the alps and stopped at the salt mines to take a tour of the mines and see how salt was harvested. It was super interesting and the jump suits were even better

We took trains deep into the mountain, got to see salt lakes, amazing caverns, and even got to go down a slide

Next we left for our hotel, which was beautifully cradled in the side of a mountain. We had the hugest hotel room, complete with two balconies overlooking the mountains, and an even bigger shower – it was a huge improvement to what we had in the other countries.

We also left the doors open the whole time we were there – it was a great change to the hot summer air we have been used to on this trip.

This hotel also had an indoor swimming pool, a sauna, a game room, and an outdoor patio that the whole group put to good use. Many times. Sometimes all of us at once, to the dismay of the hotel staff.

That evening, we sat outside and played card games and laughed and talked for most of the evening. When we got too rowdy, we were asked to go to the game room and continue our shenanigans down stairs. Unfortunately, we planned to hike early the next morning and needless to say, we got four or so hours of sleep, max. The next morning, at five in the morning, we took off up the mountain and saw some of the most beautiful sights I have seen. I don’t wake up before the sun often, but when I do I never regret it

It was a brutal hike; completely uphill to the point of almost having to run to get momentum upwards for almost fifteen minutes straight before getting any sort of break in the incline – my legs were sore the next day. To be honest, it was one of the best activities I had done all trip and was good for the soul. I do love the mountains.

We also made a friend along the way. We named we Daisy.

We hiked for almost four hours and then went back to the hotel to prepare for our white water rafting excursion. Another one of my favorites; we poured ourselves into extremely tight wet suits, put on even more flattering helmets, and dove into the Jade green river through the alps. There were three different rafts with our group on the trip – ours was filled with all the former student athletes and needless to say, we won the apparent “race” to the end of the river. Jokes aside, we did have an easy time with rafting and the guide told us we were his best group he’s ever had. I had a blast. I’d do it again in a heart beat. When we were done, we swam in the icy cold river, I saw Jaci completely face plant in the river trying to run and jump into the water, and sore from laughter, went back to the hotel grateful for the mountains, the cool fresh air, Austria’s beautiful sights, and for a place that was the best for my soul and mind.

I thank you, Austria.

Blossom of snow, bloom and grow forever.

Next stop, Italy.

Ciao, Bella.

T

Deutschland in German Means the Land of Fantasy Towns and Giant Beers

It’s hard to believe how many places in Germany we actually went to – in order to keep this blog post from turning into a novel, I’ll keep it short.

We are on route to Austria currently. It is the place I’m looking most forward to visiting and I’m watching the mountains grow in my window. It’s getting me more and more excited.

From Holland, we made our way into Germany and visited the Cologne Cathedral, an iconic gothic cathedral. It was insanely beautiful with history surviving World War II, making me appreciate it so much more. I have decided that man made beauty can hold so much meaning when you realize what stories it tells, what is has survived through, and what it means to certain groups of people. Wow, my architecture professor made his way into my blog.

After a quick coffee we hopped back on the bus further down the county and took a ride on the Rhine River, saw our fair share of castles, and took a quick break before going to our next location

We made it to Heidelberg and saw another beautiful castle before returning to our hotel for the night. It’s still hard for me to believe this is all in the same day. We ate some of the best German food that evening, found an amazing gelato place walking back to the hotel, and prepared to make our way to our next cities in the morning. Here is a view from the Heidelberg Castle –

In the morning we made our way to Rothenburg, the most amazing fantasyland town I have ever seen. Epcot got its inspiration from this place, I’m sure.

We bought some cheap Birkenstocks in the area, stuffed our faces with more amazing German food, then got back on the bus and jetted over to Munich.

I have to say Munich really grew on me. That evening we went to the English gardens, went to a beer garden to eat amazing food and listened to the oompa band, and drank a beer that was literally bigger than my head

I loved how people could swim in the river running through the park, lay out on the grass, play music, and even surf in one area of the river. It was so relaxed and I wanted to spend my whole evening there. I dipped my feet into the cold river water then made my way back to the hotel to do laundry and get some sleep. The next day was uneventful, as we spent the majority of the day shopping. In the evening we went as a whole group to eat authentic Bavarian food and prepare for our drive to Austria today.

You made it through my long Germany post, congrats! I’d spill all the fun I’m going to have in Austria, but I’d be spoiling all the fun.

The mountains are calling me, I must go

T

What do Tulips, Cheese, and Ice Bars all Have in Common?

At this leg of the trip, things are getting fast and furious and this post may be as well, as I’m trying to catch up on all that we’ve done – after two short days in Paris, we jetted over to Belgium for a quick hour lunch then made our way to Amsterdam.

It was a long twelve hour bus ride but I can definitely say that time spent in the Netherlands was amazing and is one of my favorite places to far.

Day one we had a free evening and went to one of the most popular bars in Amsterdam, the Ice Bar. Like it sounds, everything was ice- the bar, the walls, and the cups. Before we went in they played a video kinda setting the scene and then sent us in with jackets and gloves. It was cold and we only lasted about ten minutes before we left

It was really cool though

See what I did there? Sorry, moving on.

The next day we left in the morning to go on a cheese tour and see how they make wooden shoes. I even got to try on a pair

After our tour we left for the Dutch countryside for a biking tour. This is one of my favorite activities so far, I loved being able to bike through the quiet town, see the rolling pastures, and end by the ocean.

The evening was spent eating authentic Indonesian food, taking a river boat tour, walking around the city, and of course we took a photo with the infamous “I am Amsterdam” sign. A perfect trip to The Netherlands, if I do say so myself.

The traveling is not slowing down by any means, as I am currently in Germany writing this. We are making our way to Munich this evening and as always, I will let y’all know about all I’ve seen so far.

Auf wiedersehen!

T

Row Row Row Your Boat, Gently Down Champs Élysées

After traveling for almost 12 hours by bus and ferry, we finally made it to Paris. The first night consisted of just dinner and heading back to the hotel early for some much needed shut eye – it seems I need a lot of that on this trip.

I will take a moment to appreciate the beauty of this restaurant though

Beautiful art nouveau design. And the food was just as wonderful.

Day 2 we woke up in the morning to go to the Fragonard perfume museum, which ended up being very interesting and took a big chunk out of my wallet. Mom, if you’re reading this, know that I at least bought you some really nice perfume from Paris!!

We then, smelling very nice at this point, went on a tour of the city with the funniest tour guide from England. At one point she was telling us that she moved to France thirty five years ago when she married her husband and said, “I came for the man but stayed for the food.” Among many other funny things. We got this picture of me and the Eiffel Tower, which might be one of my favorites ever taken of me. Definitely shows my love of Paris.

After our tour we visited Notre Dame, went to the Concergerie (where Marie Antoinette spent two months in jail before she took a trip to the good ole guillotine), and Saint Chapelle. Can we just take a moment..

These floor to ceiling stained glass windows always get me. They’re insanely beautiful.

At this point the day took an interesting turn, as things usually do. We saw rain in the forecast but thought we could deal with it. We planned on going to Champs Èlysèes and go shopping but on our way out of the subway, we passed masses of people in the hallways at the exit. We soon realized they were soaked. It was pouring down rain and pieces of hail were bouncing down the steps of the metro. After waiting it out for about 15 minutes and seeing and hearing lighting strike not even a mile away, saw the rain start to pour even harder, and then saw the lights go out in the metro, we decided to just head back to the hotel.

Later that night, we took an interesting river boat tour. 40 ags on a river boat, each of us having a bottle of wine, and enjoying everything that entails made for some awesome memories.

Some of them I can’t remember.

The next day we left for the Palace of Versailles, stood in line for almost 2 hours to get in, and took a tour of one of the most extravagant places I’ve ever seen. My favorite part of the whole place was probably the gardens though. I hadn’t spent much time touring around them before and really enjoyed the beauty and serenity of them (and the lack of flocking tourists).

For our last evening in Paris, we walked around the Champs Èlysèes and shopped, bought some delicious macarons from the Lauderee, gazed upon all the beautiful people there, and said au revoir to the City of Lights.

Tomorrow we leave for Brussels, Belgium and then in the evening arrive in Amsterdam, two new places I’ve never been to before!

I’m very excited for a new day and new places with these now familiar and friendly faces.

T

Hello, Darling. Welcome to London

I know you probably won’t believe me when I say this, but we somehow managed to get into Windsor and see Megan and Harry’s wedding. Wedding crashers got nothing on us.

We did no such thing. We did crash a wedding watching party in a cute little British pub so that kinda counts for something. Here’s a very exhausted Taylor, right before a glorious cup of coffee.

Coming into London, I didn’t sleep on the flight – my chair was broken and wouldn’t recline, I was caught up in the good movies on board, and just didn’t get the sleep I needed to spend the whole day in London. By the end of the day, I was a walking zombie but slept a full and wonderful nine hours that night and was ready to go in the morning.

Day 1 we spent most of the afternoon at Camden Market, a really stylish market where they have just about everything you can possible imagine. We picked up some awesome vintage rock-band T shirts then went on a pub crawl with the rest of the group from Traveling Aggies the rest of the evening. I didn’t last long. Not because I couldn’t hang with the rest of them, but solely because after 30 long hours of no sleep, I was ready to tap out at 9pm.

The next day we first stopped to eat breakfast at a place called The Muffin Man. After endless references to Gingy and Lord Farquaad’s “muffin man” dialogue from Shrek, we realized we had probably had the best tea and food since we arrived Afterwards we left for Warner Brothers Tour for Harry Potter.

DREAM. COME. TRUE.

It was incredible. 10 out of 10 would recommend for any Potter die-hard. It was an incredible 5 hours of wizarding excitement and like a toddler at Disneyland I was totally overwhelmed and exhausted when Jaci finally dragged me out.

It was a fast and furious two days in London, tomorrow in the wee hours of the morning we leave for one of my favorite places in the world,

Paris.

A plús tard,

T