12/29/2017

Amsterdam
















When my friends and I first decided to go to Amsterdam for a weekend, I was initially reluctant. It had never topped the places that I wanted to visit because I honestly didn't think that it was worth visiting. My thoughts included things along the lines of what the heck is Holland? What language do they even speak there? Where even is the Netherlands? On top of that I knew Amsterdam was a popular destination for college weekend travelers like myself, so therefore I thought it was overhyped. 

Ladies and gentlemen, the classic story of don't judge a book by its cover. Amsterdam was one of the coolest places that I have visited to date. It was a bunch of friendly (English speaking!!) young people, not a lot of tourists, super amazing food and of course beautiful canals. One of my favorite part of Northern European countries is that a 6foot gal like myself is almost average height ... the biggest thing I noticed about Amsterdam that I could easily tell who was Dutch (by the way I learned that's what language they speak and I don't think that I'm going to be picking it up anytime soon because it seems quite complicated) because they all were so tall! 

We were fortunate enough to have the most beautiful weather in Amsterdam (compared to Copenhagen that isn't difficult) but the sun was shining and it was about 65 degrees which was perfect for a long day of wandering around the busy streets. We started off at the Van Gogh Museum which was super interesting to see a large collection of work from one of the most influential artists of all time. I like Van Gogh because of the bright colors he uses and how the paint sticks to the canvas in blobs. I have this weird thing where every time I am in an art museum I just want to touch the paintings and because of Van Gogh's unique technique there was no exception here. There were no photographs allowed in the museum but somehow I managed to get one before getting yelled at ... which in my opinion was worth it. 

Between our early entrance to the Van Gogh Museum we had some time to spare before our time slot at the Anne Frank House, so my friends and I wandered our way to the heart of the city. We passed the infamous "I AMSTERDAM" sign, the Rijksmuseum (which we didn't have the chance to go in but I definitely want to someday), Dam Square where my friend Julia and I took a Ferris Wheel ride, people watching on the shopping street and not to mention a thorough Google search to find the exact bench where Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters had their iconic kiss in "The Fault in Our Stars" - my favorite book and movie of all time. 

In my humble opinion, no trip to Amsterdam is complete without a visit to the Anne Frank House. I took no pictures while I was here because touring this place overwhelmed me with emotions - humility, sadness, fear, hope. I've read her diary countless times but seeing it in its original form and seeing and walking through the place where she was confined and wrote in these pages set all of these emotions into place. Honestly, no words can describe my experience there, I wish I could find a way to connect our hearts together so that you could feel what I felt while I was there. The atmosphere was heavy and quite overpowering, but completely necessary. I leave you with an inspiring quote from a wise young girl which I have taken to heart (especially relevant today), 

"Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart" - Anne Frank 

If she can believe this, so can I. 
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12/28/2017

Louvre, Tuileries, L'Orangerie

 










Exactly ten years ago this past October was the first time I ever went to Europe. My parents took me out of school for a week in the third grade and we went to London and Paris - I had lava cake on the top of the Eiffel Tower for my ninth birthday. Since then I have been to Europe every summer and since then Paris has had a special place engraved in my heart. I have been to Paris another time after that first - it was during the summer and I saw the parade on the Champs-Élysées for Bastille Day. I spent my Thanksgiving travel break this year in Paris with my friends. This time going to Paris was different - the first time being there as an adult and going to the places I went with my parents and seeing my friends (who had never been to Paris before) fall in love with the city just like I did.

Paris is one of those cities that I could visit over and over again and each time feel overwhelmed by how beautiful it is. I've been lucky enough to see handfuls of European capitals and to be honest Copenhagen does not have the power to make me marvel at the architectural and historical beauty like I do when I'm in cities like Paris (or Vienna, or Rome). 

One of my favorite part about traveling to places that I have been to before is seeing how my perspective changes - how what I have learned in high school or in college so far has shaped how I see the world. I especially think that living in Europe has changed my experience in cities like Paris as well. No longer do I feel like a tourist: besides from the fact that I dress like a European and can manage my way pretty well in French, being a college student has my mind constantly wondering and asking questions about the world around me, not to mention the fact that my favorite part of traveling (especially now) is seeing what I have learned in the classroom come to life.

After arriving late Tuesday night, my friends and I woke up early and took the Metro to the Louvre. It was freezing but since we are from Copenhagen it didn't matter since the bite of the cold was neutralized by the rays of sun on our faces (like we actually needed sunglasses!!).  Because we live in Europe and are between the ages of 18 and 26, by showing any museum our Danish visa we could get into it for free. We spent the early hours at the nearly empty Louvre wandering around from Ancient Greece to a special exhibit on French King Francis I, pausing especially when we saw something that we had learned about in our Art History class.

After visiting the Louvre we strolled through the Tuileries Gardens eventually stopping for a salad and making our way to the Musée de l'Orangerie. I had never been to this museum before but it had two rooms full of Monet's Water Lilies which were on my bucket list and even more beautiful in real life than I could have possibly imagined. The white walls contrasted with his deep colors helped to create the atmosphere like I was floating along his sketched water lilies.

Paris, vous savez que je t'aime. 
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12/27/2017

Papirøen





When I return to Copenhagen, it is with actually a slight tear rolling down my cheek because one of my favorite places will have been recently closed. Papirøen was located on the small island of Christianshavn; which is in my opinion the cutest part of all of Copenhagen. Passed the colorful houses on the canal, the part of Christianshavn which Papirøen could have been found was in a more industrial area right next to Freetown Christiania. 

Translated to "Paper Island" or more commonly known as "Copenhagen Street Food", this old industrial warehouse was filled with food trucks specializing in different kinds of food from all over the world. There was barbecue, Moroccan, Indian, French, Chinese, Italian, Mexican, Juice Bars - and my personal favorite a Brazilian truck that had the most amazing veggie burgers that I had ever had. With all of these options I was such a creature of habit and the five or so times I went to Paper Island I got the exact same veggie burger because it was that good. 

While the food found at Paper Island was amazing I think my favorite part of the whole experience was the atmosphere. I've always said that Europeans really understand how to be social, but I think this is especially true in Denmark especially with their concept of hygge (something I will definitely do a blog post all about). The social environment was created through old industrial elements like shipping containers creating an infrastructure for more seating (see photograph above) and the long picnic tables that at night were filled with candles. For me, the best part of the social environment was the fact that wherever I looked I could spot the tourist or non-Dane because they were the ones on their phones. Europeans, or at least the ones that I have been around, are more conscious of their phone use than Americans. When I've spent time with a European phones are usually out of sight, and at Paper Island the atmosphere created a welcoming ambiance that made people want to linger, relax and talk with the people that they are with and be truly present in the moment over a few drinks and samplings of good food. From Europe, I have learned to disconnect to be present with the people I am interacting with and is something I definitely want to be a part of my life back in America.

I have spent many hours at Paper Island with my friends and have spent more money on veggie burgers and mulled wine than I would even care to admit - I'm blaming the fact that I still don't understand how the Danish kroner works! But the memories I have made and the people that I have made them with have made this a place that will be impossible to forget.

If you want to see what this place was like and oogle over the food selection and maybe cry a little at the countdown that has ran out click the link here :)

Jeg skal til at savne dig Papirøen. 
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12/21/2017

Positano, Italia












Honestly the only reason that I even survived the month of October was the fact that fall break would be the reward at the finish line. As a not so typical college gal in Copenhagen, my fall break was specifically designed as a period of time off in order for us to have an extended period of time to travel. October (especially towards the end) was without a doubt the hardest month of being in college by far. I had been on my own for two months at this point - socially, academically, emotionally I was drained. 

For my travel break I jetted from cold, rainy Copenhagen down to the sunny west coast of southern Italy to see my parents for the first time since August. We stayed in Sorrento, but one day was spent driving along the Amalfi Coast. I had heard time and time again how incredibly beautiful this drive would be and to be frank with all the hype around it I was expecting to be slightly disappointed. Let's just say I was very much happily proved wrong.

The Amalfi Coast is incredible. 

Ok, side note: I have this thing where in the past I couldn't stand when people would talk about the weather. I became irritable when someone filled a void in conversation with what I considered trivial comments about something that was given. However now, after living in Copenhagen where it is literally dark and rainy and windy and cold about 90% of the time, talking about the weather was such an important part of connecting with people to understand that I am not alone in how the environment effected my mood.

The Amalfi Coast was such an amazing contrast to what I had been experiencing in Copenhagen. Sun. Glittering sun on the Mediterranean Sea. Heat on my skin. Warm sea breeze. Crystal clear blue sky. I wish it could have been possible to capture the sea air in a bottle and bring it with me back to Copenhagen to remember what this kind of serenity felt like.

One place that I had always wanted to see in real life and one place that is thankfully a highlight of any road trip along the Amalfi Coast was the seaside village of Positano. Since it was the end of October, high tourist season in Positano was long long gone. The narrow streets were quiet and the beach was nearly empty - with the exception of a few brave nude European sunbathers (I say brave, please refer to my outfit above). I can't even begin to imagine the traffic or even how crowded the narrow strip of beach would be during the summer. But conversely, I would love to see how lively this sleepy little seaside town would be during this time as well.

The sunny pastel color palette of Positano reminds me of Charleston in a way. It was cheery, welcoming but at the same time rich enough to make me feel like I needed to take a load off and sit in the sun with a glass of wine and just listen to the waves crash against the rocky shore. I did just that - except for the wine part since it was 10AM so it was replaced with a cappuccino but honestly in my opinion its never too early for Italian wine.

From living in Europe - but especially since traveling to Italy several times - I can fairly say that one of the biggest things that I have learned is how important and necessary it is to take some time in our lives to just chill the f*ck out. We do so much. Always traveling, thinking, planning, seeking, working, worrying. Sometimes all we really need is sunshine, a good cup of coffee and the sound of ocean waves and of course people you love.

 LA DOLCE VITA. 


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12/10/2017

Copenhagen Lately


After four months of non-stop traveling, studying, going to class, finding my way around my (still new to me) city, I finally feel as if though I have a chance to breathe and reflect upon my first semester here in Copenhagen - and definitely plan on taking some time during my month long (!!!) Christmas break to continue to blog about this absolutely life changing experience. 

Yesterday, I took my last final (it was for my Danish Language & Culture class) and as I was walking after meeting in Christianshavn, I was overcome with a feeling of gratitude for this experience, to travel, to learn, for having the chance to study at an incredible university like Wake Forest, for all the people who I have met, for all of the lifelong friends that I have made and surprisingly to have a country like the United States of America to call my home, for this life. 

More on all of this to come but right now I just wanted a chance to share some of the photos I have taken these past two weeks in Copenhagen. Don't let the first photo fool you, the weather in Copenhagen is something that I don't think that I will ever get used to - we are lucky if we see the sun, it rains awkwardly and sporadically, the wind howls at all hours of the day and oh we cant forget about the darkness - the sun sets at 3:30! That's ok though, the Danes really do know how to deal with the unpredictability of their Nordic weather: coffee shops are extra cozy (my favorite in Denmark is chai lattes they are so good here!!), there are candles in every shop and restaurant and blankets can be found everywhere if you know where to look. :)

As the college gal that I am, I have been dealing with the cold and the dark by booking lots of hours in the library. After classes I literally could not return to my apartment because all I would want to do is sleep! I searched long and hard for my favorite place to study, and surprisingly my favorite place is Copenhagen Main Library; a public library (pictured below) used by everyone from students at the University of Copenhagen to groups old Danish men who sit in pods reading the newspaper. Many times I have sat down at this library and have been in full productive mode and haven't realized that 6 or more hours have passed! But I have to say, the best part about this library is the fact that once you walk in the revolving doors you are hit with the smell of freshly baked croissants and coffee from the coffee bar inside - like the whole library smells like a bakery ... my heart. 

Tomorrow is my last day in Copenhagen until January 16th 2018, which is crazy to wrap my head around. Time literally flew. I am so excited to go home and I have been packed for three days now, so my final day will probably be spent with coffee from my favorite cafe and at my favorite library putting the finishing touches on my research paper. Oh and of course hygge with my seventeen new friends, after four months of literally doing everything together (not even exaggerating) we go our separate ways for a month!

So now that I have had a chance to breathe and things are winding down, as I type this I am thinking about how much little moments like this mean to me - The cold, dark night outside, me in my pajamas with my (fake) candles lit snuggled in my bed surrounded by my christmas lights and poetry books with Christmas music playing, oh and of course my roomies (hi Myah, hi Emma) who I love more than they know. 

what a life. i am greatful. for everything - every challenge, every happiness. each day. alll of it. 


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10/02/2017

On Being Fearless


Today I woke up to news of the deadly shooting in Las Vegas. I felt my insides melt. It was the same gut wrenching, heart twisting feeling I had when I read about the attack in London, Barcelona, Paris, Stockholm, Berlin, Nice, Brussels, the bombing in Manchester and many others over the past few years. My heart belongs to the world and I keep wondering when will the time finally come that I will not feel this physical pain in my heart or the burning sadness running my my blood. Sensations flare up, but when they subside they never go away completely - a constant reminder of the sad, broken facade of the world that is highlighted in times like this. 

In times like this when the pain of the world is still raw, we have two choices: to hide or to be fearless. We could choose to see the world as a dark, isolated place plagued by a the flares of hatred, a place with a fatal fate. 

Change does not come from retreat. Those who change the world are those who are fearless with manifestations originating from the heart.

"Travel light. Live light. Spread the light. Be the light" - Yogi Bhajan

In times where the world seems like a black abyss, it is imperative that we take action based upon the light that we know is shrouded by the seemingly unending darkness. In doing this we must continue to live boldly and not retreat into the shadows and hide from reality. Continue to travel and explore our beautiful (yet broken in this moment) world, continue to smile, continue to learn. Call your senators. Each person matters in the fight for the peace, survival, vitality of our Mother. This world no mater how tainted she may appear is the only one that we have, so fight for her. Never ever give up: on our world, on our home, but most importantly never give up on yourself and the search for the light in this dark world that we all know is there. We just have to find it. Be fearless. 

I am with you world, I love you.

- One in 7 billion
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10/01/2017

Malmö, Sweden












These are my girlies who I have only known a month but it has seemed like so much longer than that and I love them all so much :)

One of the coolest parts about living in Europe is the ability to hop on a plane or train and be in a new country in under an hour. Back in the beginning of September my friends and I booked train tickets to go to Malmö, Sweden. Our day started bright and early, mostly from the fact that this was our first time taking a train since being in Europe and we had no idea how to navigate the train system. For example, we took the metro from Amagerbro to Nørreport and then walked (actually more like ran so we wouldn't miss our train) 20 minutes to Copenhagen Central Station. A few weeks later I basically cringe every time I think about this because our 20 minute walk could have been replaced by just walking up a flight of stairs at Nørreport station to the train line that would have taken us to Copenhagen Central Station in under 5 minutes. 

After our sprint from the metro station at 08:30 we just barely made our train to Sweden, note we also had to run up and down several train platforms because we had no idea which end destination to look for for the train ride to Malmö. We settled in for a 50 minute journey, my friends were studious and read for class, but I was way too excited so I looked out the window the entire ride - again I'm constantly amazed that just a metal bridge connects Copenhagen to Malmö. Upon arriving at the beautiful train station in Malmö at around 10 we realized that this was still a pretty sleepy city, the streets were so still and so quiet even in the midmorning. Nothing was open so we wandered around until we found some really beautiful gardens at the foothill of Malmö Castle. We have been talking a lot in my Sense of Place in European Literature class about place and space and the combination of metropolis and nature. Concepts that (sorryy) kind of glaze over my head during our discussion in class, but here in Sweden it was surprisingly easy to notice this change. The gardens were barely a 15 minute walk outside the main part of the city but I noticed how my mood and my emotions changed just from that quick transition from the cramped urban space to the open nature. This garden we explored had all kinds of flowers that I had never seen before. But definitely my favorite part was the grassy area around the old-fashioned windmill. There was a garden here with swings hanging from an apple tree: like how freaking European is that?? We spent a good hour in this garden exploring, taking pictures and swinging until we all collectively agreed on the next thing we wanted to do. 

Brunch ladies and gentlemen, I'm talking about brunching in Malmö, Sweden! If that is not the most American thing you've ever heard than I don't know what is! My friend Sam had just looked up brunch on the Maps app and the place that we all agreed to go to was a 30 minute walk away, but mid walk I was so hungry that I was thinking this better be the best brunch I've ever eaten I hope we aren't walking all this way for nothing. My girl Sam did not disappoint with her brunch location because it definitely was one of the best brunch places that I have ever been to, no doubt about it. We went to a place called Boulebar. One thing that I have noticed here in Scandinavia is a tendency to convert any space into a social space. Boulebar in Malmö is a huge, old industrial building with tons of tables outside of the bright yellow building as well as many booths lining the inside as well. The focal point of this restaurant was a game that resembled Bocce ball. It just so happened that this place to play a game of Bocce ball was coupled with a restaurant to create a very hygge social atmosphere. We decided just to stick to brunch which was in and of itself a social experience. We ordered a fixed brunch for the table which included Swedish yogurt, all kinds of breads and pastries, cheese and Eggs Benedict. My personal favorite part of this experience was the fruit and the waffle bar. The waffles here are different than those in America: they are thinner, crispier and sweeter and my friends and I all agree that the homemade blueberry jam completed the waffle experience. Brunch lasted around three hours because of the amount of food that we wanted to sample but also because the atmosphere was so quaint and so cozy. 

We did overestimate how much time we wanted to spend in Malmö, it was around 13:00 when we were finally finished with our time at Boulebar and our train didn't leave until 21:00. We spent the rest of our day walking around the streets of Malmö popping into all kinds of stores from Zara to local artisan shops like ones where they sold the cute handmade clogs and pottery. 

Our trip to Malmö is the first of many weekend trips that we have planned. I'm so excited to continue to travel with such an amazing and adventurous group of gals! 

Next weekend trip: Amsterdam!
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