First trip together! We decided to leave immediately after finals. We drove to Princeton, Illinois early to take the Amtrak train into Chicago. The train was so comfortable...the seats were bigger than an airplane. I fell asleep against him as we rode into the city :) Union Station was decorated so cute for Christmas with a giant tree decorated in the middle. We decided to go to our hotel first to drop off our bag. We stayed at the Staypineapple hotel right across from Millennium Park. It was the perfect location because we were so close to everything! Our hotel was adorable. For starters, dogs are allowed in this hotel. Secondly, it's pineapple themed so we got pineapple water and pineapple cookie refreshments.
For lunch we went to a delicious sandwich place, Potbellys, for a quick inexpensive bite to eat. The sandwiches were still really good, warm, and fresh. We then decided to shop around! Nate was so patient while I indulged in a little shopping...had to cop a fit for our fancy dinner. I had never seen Chicago in the winter time but I was obsessed. Pretty lights and decorations stood on every corner and within every store. I felt so happy to be there with him. I couldn't stop smiling the entire time. He's such a warm, happy person. We both skipped down the streets like little kids, memorized by the city and being there together. We saw the largest Starbucks in the world (had to). It had four floors and had coffee from all over the world. I don't know if I would go here to buy my morning cup of Joe because the line outside was so long and a bouncer had to gradually let groups of people inside. But, this Starbucks even had its own cocktail bar...(so maybe its worth it?)
We then got ready for dinner and went to the Christkindlmarket at the Daley Plaza, which happened to be right across from our hotel. Little market shops were lit up all around the Plaza selling hot beverages and warm German food. We bought hot chocolate that came in these little booties and tried the German potato pancakes. We then headed over to Harry Caray's Italian Steakhouse for a fancy dinner. This restaurant is iconic in Chicago mainly because it is named after the famous Chicago Cub's announcer, Harry Caray, who kept the crowd vibrant back in the days when a World Series win was wayyyy out of the question. Most of the waiters have worked here for a very long time and know the ins and outs of the food like the back of their hand. They will even bring out all the different cuts of steak and explain to you the differences. There even is an official restroom attendant who will spray you with cologne and send you out with a mint for the road. But the steaks were also closer to fifty dollars...so we decided pasta it was! The pasta was still so rich and creamy. I loved it (and that's saying a lot saying I indulged on authentic Italian pasta in Italy all summer). We then took an Uber to the Lincoln Park Zoo which hosts a free light show all night. We wandered around and saw all the beautiful lights, lit up at almost every exhibit. Thankfully most of the animals weren't out in the cold. Zoos honestly make me sad....but I still was happy to see the lights. We then headed back to Staypineapple to sleep.
In the morning we put ourselves on the waitlist for the Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe breakfast place on East Randolph Street. This breakfast place is one of the most widely reviewed places in Chicago with almost five stars and over 5,000 positive reviews. While we waited to get in to eat, we went to Millennium Park and watched ice skaters perform down on the ice. We went into Macey's and even saw the iconic huge Christmas Tree that's decorated at the top floor. At the cafe, we ordered the Eggs Benedict and Berry Bliss pancakes which where were both absolutely amazing and well worth the wait. Our food was brought out to us so quick (probably because of the amount of people that want in) but it was so delicious. I will be back here next time I'm in Chicago.
We had such a fun time in the Windy City :) We took the train back in the afternoon back to Princeton, Illinois. 10/10 recommend traveling by train to the city because it is so expensive and difficult to find good parking (not to mention stressful). Nate and I plan on making this an annual tradition! We loved loved the city around Christmas time!!
As a student here at CIMBA in Paderno del Grappa, I feel very grateful to have been blessed with two insightful and empowering professors. These classes in Italy can be rigorous, considering we are taking two semester long courses in the time span of less than a month. But during these last four weeks my professors have inspired me. My law professor's intelligence and passion for the law engaged me day in and day out. She really made me consider what sort of career I want to pursue and my interest in being a lawyer myself has only climbed to new heights. I saw a future for myself within her words and I began to anticipate a future where I did more than just sit in a typical 8-5 office job. She went beyond the scope of the law as she explained that we will often come across decisions in the business world that are legal but yet unethical and we have to decide what type of professionals we want to be. She emphasized that we must not be afraid to ask more for ourselves (just maybe don't go to another interview at a public lunch because it is possible your current boss will be there lol). She explained we have to be bold because we are the only ones who are going to be able to advocate for ourselves. Talk about a strong, independent woman....
I want to do something that allows me to see more of the world in an attempt to leave bigger footprints throughout all aspects of my life. My Italian professor is evident of this. She is fluent in English and Italian (and even knows a lot of French and Spanish). She attempts to connect with so many cultures and understand where they are coming from by partaking in their experiences. I sat in one of the local Gelateria's as I ate my ice-cream cone, as she explained how she met her husband. He was a professor from America teaching here in Paderno and he courted her by writing her letters, taking her on dates, and immersing himself into her culture. They commuted back and forth from Colorado to Italy for six years, but this year he finally moved to Italy to be with her at all times :) Their story touched me and her words inspired me to look deeper into cultures other than my own. By doing so, I have been able to conduct an enriched and profound awareness of the world around me. I have a greater respect for how other countries choose to live and I have a greater appreciation for my own country back home. When I ordered in Italian at the local cafe and the Italian woman beamed back at me, acknowledging my efforts, it felt as if I had just bridged a gap between us. Language connects us and when we dip our toes into another we are lucky enough to create a bond, even if it's just for a few seconds.
I love the relaxed style of the Italians where everything is much slower paced but more valued and cherished. I love how wine is water and dinners run far into the evenings because everyone is too absorbed in their olive oil, fresh tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, or bottles of wine. I have discovered the three main food groups here: pizza, pasta, and pastries. This is not an exaggeration. The Italians love their carbs but I love them even more for that. I learned that it is NOT common to have pasta with bread because that is essentially having bread with bread. This is actually a thing the Americans started because we watched them eat bread and watched them have pasta and thought why not have it all go together (hate to be the bearer of bad news Olive Garden). I learned that every meal begins with the white wines and ends with the red, usually closing with a sweet dessert wine. In Italy, cappuccinos are for the early mornings but coffee is rarely sipped at any other time throughout the day. An afternoon snack typically consists of uno cono con due palline (homemade, fresh gelato in a tiny cone). My favorite flavors have been fragola, cioccolato, e stracciatella (which is vanilla with fine shavings of chocolate layered throughout). The evening is followed by its typical bloating...I don't know how much longer I can continue on a diet primarily focused around sugar and carbs (but I love it none the less).
Paderno del Grappa is located in the Veneto region of Italy which is also the Presecco region of this country. I had this wine every time we ate at a local restaurant. To be able to say I drank wine from the region it originates from is a surreal statement. I leave for home in a few days and I'm not quite sure if I'm ready to go back to fast paced America where dinner occurs around 6 p.m, where ice-cream is closer to five dollars, where unfortunately there are no coffee vending machines to spit out a dainty cappuccino, and where I sadly have to say goodbye to having wine with every meal. La vita dolce has been too good to me. I haven't laughed harder (not yet at least), smiled more, and felt such passion within my own heart and lungs as I have on this trip. My friends have also pushed me as a person here. Along with my professors I have also met two of the strongest and kindest friends along this trip. Kayla and Sydney's strength and strong will have inspired me to be more confident, independent, and sure of myself. :)
Thank you Italy for reminding me of who I am and showing me everything you are. You are beautiful, your people are even more so, and you will forever be loved. Ciao.
If you're going to travel across the world with nothing but a suitcase, it helps to find people that feel like home along the way. I have been blessed to meet some pretty remarkable people upon this journey and it really started with this trip. We will forever be bonded by the self-growth we experienced as we inspired one another to be open to any situation, reminded one another it's okay to be vulnerable, and sought out the beauty in everything we encountered.
We stayed in La Spezia, right outside of Cinque Terre. We took the long five hour bus ride there from Paderno del Grappa and arrived at our Airbnb by late afternoon. This gave us time to check in, by a local sweet Italian man, and get ready for the night. We decided to look around the town for dinner and we stumbled upon a local place that only spoke Italian. The restaurant was supposed to be reservations only but they let us in anyways and THANK God for that. The pizza was crisp and full of flavor. We had bruschetta with fresh cherry tomatoes as an appetizer and pizza coated in olive oil, buffalo cheese, and the same sweet tomatoes. We all shared a bottle of Prosecco. Our dinner ran very late, as dinners so often do in Italy, but it gave us time to soak up our delicious food. Afterwards we decided to go to an Irish Pub. Despite the pub being Irish, a lot of locals gathered there. We drank Irish Car Bombs and danced to live music while an Italian woman sweetly sang into the night. I held onto my new friends as we sang along, twirling one another around in each others' arms. We later played foosball with some of the locals. While we spoke different languages, we were still able to come together as we put forth our best efforts to win. Italians may be a lot better at foosball than they let on...
I've jumped into new waters here (literally). Cinque Terre has consisted of some of the greatest memories of my life. Whether it was walking along the five towns lined with colorful, vibrant buildings, watching the sunset along the Mediterranean, having a glass of Prosecco along the sea, indulging in cookie gelato, or shopping for linen clothing, I savored every second I was there.
One night, as we were watching the sun set along the Mediterranean Sea, my friend Kayla decided to jump inside the sea in her clothes. She climbed down the rocks and began floating in the water. I followed her down and jumped in after her and Sydney soon joined us. Everyone from the top of the rocks stared down at us in disbelief in our soaking dresses, but as I looked around at the two wonderful people in front of me, I realized I could have cared less. We began to splash around and sing, "Isn't She Lovely" by Stevie Wonder as we watched the sun dip below the clouds. The next day we cliff jumped and it was one of the most exhilarating feelings I have experienced. I drifted in the water before coming back to land to dry off. While I may have had to ride for five hours in dripping wet clothes, it was 100% worth it.
Thanks for not failing to be effortlessly beautiful, delicious, and thrilling. Heaven's reflection shines of the waters of Cinque Terre and I can say I basked in all its glory.
1.) Always start with water.
2.) Never pass up the opportunity to get gelato and if you're ordering you might as well get the second scoop.
3.) Hold a wine glass in your left hand from the end (no bear clawing it in the middle because it fogs the glass, hides the color, and is a clear red flag that you are an American lol)
4.) Wine during meals is always white to red.
5.) Journal-be persistent with your goals and life.
6.) Love yourself enough to always want to improve and by doing so that means holding onto the ones that invite and cultivate growth. Surround yourself with people just as passionate about life as you are.
7.) While Americans are fun we are typically more loud...
8.) We are greatly judged and analyzed by our politicians back home so choose wisely because their choices and actions reflect us throughout the world.
9.) Don't be afraid to jump into new situations (literally). Worst comes to worst clothes always dry :)
10.) Self care matters. Indulge in the little things in life and take the time to do the things that make you happy each day. Don't deprive yourself of life's simple pleasures (but also maybe appreciate the colorful plates back home that don't consist of all carbs...all I can say is it helps that we walk here but it doesn't help enough).
We went to a local pizzeria to get a lesson on how to make real, authentic Italian pizza. The chef was an animated man, very passionate about his business and making pizza. His English was a little shaky, as can be expected considering we were in his country, so the interpreter helped us understand one another a little better. We learned that good pizza dough must sit for at least a day for the yeast to rise. Dough made "fresh" the day of is not necessary what we should be looking for as consumers. A good pizza has the same color crust throughout the entire bottom of the pizza. We were able to roll out the dough and he graciously stepped in when we couldn't get it as thin as he wanted. He told us that Americans always over do their sauce (can you imagine that-Americans being extra) and that less is always more… which can be a hard concept for foreigners to wrap their minds around when it comes to cooking. All we needed was a small spoonful scoop of tomatoe sauce and a couple handfuls of fresh mozzarella. I added zucchini, onions, fresh basil, pepperoni, and parmesan to my pizza. After a few minutes in the steaming wooden oven, our pizza was done and ready to be served. Pizza tastes way more rewarding when you make it yourself, let me tell you. We then were led upstairs where we sipped our wine and marveled at the pizza we had just created. We drizzled some olive oil and fresh parmesan over the pizza for the finishing touch. Everything tastes better when made with passion and heart (and if you are starving from sightseeing all afternoon). Molto bene :)
London, all I can say is wow- I love you rain and all. This is my new favorite city out of everywhere that I have traveled. I could sit and listen to the Brits talk all day long. They seemed to be surprised at how quick Americans are to speak (without taking the time to think prior) and how much louder we always seem to carry ourselves. I even witnessed a lot people choosing to read as they rode the Tube. I am completely drawn to how fast paced and business minded the city is. It is bubbling with opportunities. There was always something new to do or try whether it be Thai food, Indian food, or their afternoon tea. I appreciated their charming personalities and deliberate actions. I was always addressed as, "love" and I'm pretty sure my heart melted when I was told, "I love your accent love." I was so taken back I don't even know if he heard me say, "Wait.. I'm actually obsessed with yours." <3
We ended up seeing the Queen, Prince William, and Kate on the Queen's official birthday by complete chance and luck. We had no clue there was a celebration even going on but we just so happened to be walking through Green Park at the right time and place. As we baffled over why the park was so overly crowded, soldiers on horses began to run through the park. We sprinted after them, all the way to Buckingham Palace. The Palace was swarming with people and because of this, there wasn't enough room to get through the gate. We stuck our heads through the gate to see all three of the royals appear...I think I hit my peak.
Rooftop breakfast with a view of the entire city-I think yes. So worth getting up at 6 am to be there for a 7:30 breakfast reservation. We were surrounded by business professionals in their suits and ties, which gave us a hint that this place was a local CEO's favorite. We weren't wrong...the brekkie was so good. Despite the mimosa being 15 pounds (that hurt a little) and our entire meal being close to 50 pounds, it was evidently worth it. I ordered the duck and waffle, as one should at a place that is named Duck and Waffle. I was a little hesitant as to if the meal was going to actually live up to the hype (because at first thought duck and waffle does not sound like the most appetizing combination) but thankfully I was proven very wrong. If I could have that meal, view of the city, and breakfast companions for every morning for the rest of my life I would.
Celebrating my 19th birthday in Rome was a dream. At the hotel, I woke to a knock at the door as the hotel staff surprised me with a birthday cake and champagne. We explored Rome throughout the day, before getting ready for a night out on the town. Wearing heels in Rome is maybe not the greatest idea I have ever had...because the pavement is extremely uneven and full of loose stones (thankfully Kayla switched me shoes halfway through the night-what a real one). We went to a fancy dinner next to the Trevi Fountain where we sipped our wine and indulged in all sorts of appetizers and pasta. Afterwards, we headed to the Trevi to throw coins into the fountain and make some wishes. Rome certainly has this special spark to it. There is so much history, mastery, art, and culture buried deep within its roots that it's hard not to be memorized with everything and everyone. To think how the Roman Empire used to rule the world and now two thousand years later a few American girls could stroll the very same streets as those very same intellects, military masterminds, and architects once did, was a surreal feeling. We then headed to Shari Vari Club next to the Pantheon. Once security let us through, we had the choice of entering three different floors which each had its own theme, music, and D.J. Every room was like entering a completely different party. We danced until sunrise before, luckily, finding a taxi to take us back to our hotel.
The Ice Club in Rome was one of the coolest (no pun intended) places I've ever been. In order to go into the club, we were given thick blankets that strapped around our bodies. Once we entered inside, temperatures quickly dropped to -5 degrees. Our drinks were served to us in glasses completely made out of ice and you could even eat the cup as you sipped your drink. The club was very tight quarters as loud music blared and everyone lined up to refill their ice cups from the single bar. The bartender wore gloves, a winter coat, and a hat...in the middle of the summer in Rome. This place gave us a significant change of scenery from the afternoon's wild heat which was much appreciated :)
We finally landed in Paderno del Grappa and had our first real day of classes. This quaint little mountain town is surrounded by rolling hilltops and luscious fields. I woke to the sound of chirping birds and opened the huge wooden window in my room to pear out at the mountains draped in a faint layer of fog. During my break within classes, I wandered to the cafe across from my university where I ordered my first un capuchino, per favore. I sipped my foamy drink while I watched the Italian children race around in the neighboring courtyard. The following night we strolled to the local pizza ristorante, Al Sole, where we ordered a pizza each to ourself. Italian pizza is a whole new level....so excited to call this place home for the next month :)