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I am back in the States now (as of two weeks ago) but I’ve been actively avoiding writing my concluding posts because that means it’s really over! But it’s about that time….

So, the weekend before leaving I, along with 50 of my floor mates and SRAs, traveled on a DFDS cruise to Oslo. The cruise left at around 4:30 pm on Friday afternoon from Copenhagen’s main harbor. We sat on the top of the boat for the takeoff and watched the coastline disappear. Soon the wind and rain started and we were forced inside for the rest of the night, which ended up being very rocky (I’m surprised I wasn’t sea sick!). We had an amazing buffet dinner on the cruise with any type of cuisine you could imagine, fresh fish and warm bread. The cruise ship had about 3-4 different restaurants, a wine bar and a night club! After hanging out and reminiscing about the semester, we retired to our tiny cabins below deck.

In the morning, we got off the boat in Oslo! Our SRA Christian, who comes from Norway and organized the cruise for us, was our official guide for the weekend. He took us first to the Opera House, which is an architectural gem that sits on the water, where we took lots of group photos.

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Later, we broke off from the group and explored on our own. We only had about 6 hours so we stayed pretty close but managed to find a really cute shopping street that was booming on this beautiful Saturday afternoon:

 

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My friends and I had lunch at a restaurant on the water (pricey, but very tasty) and even had the authentic experience of a Norwegian buying us a beer! Unfortunately, when he realized we could not speak Norwegian and he could not speak English well, he sheepishly returned to his table where his friends heckled him. But this didn’t stop them from continuously yelling “skål” across the restaurant.

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We got back on the boat around 4:30 pm and took of for Copenhagen. It was a beautiful day and we sat on the top of the ship as we sailed through the fjords. Unfortunately my camera had died at this point so I couldn’t capture any of these views but they were truly breathtaking. We sailed all night- it was slightly less rocky than the night before but I was glad to be back on solid ground when we landed in the morning!

I’m a little late on this update but its a good one! Not this past weekend, but the one before I went on an adventure trip through my school to a Danish island called Bornholm. We left on Friday night at midnight and took the overnight ferry getting in at 6am. It was an uncomfortable sleep but when we arrived we got to nap in the hostel until 9am when we could start renting bikes. My friend, Hannah and I set out to explore. It turned out to be a lot hillier than we thought and we got quite the workout biking over 50 km the first day. Some of the highlights:

Døndalen– Denmark’s highest waterfall

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Hammerhus- Largest medieval fortress ruin in Northern Europe. Believed to have been constructed around 1250 AD.

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And the view from the top:

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By nightfall on Saturday we were exhausted and gobbled up the hostel dinner, which looking back probably wasn’t as good as at seemed at the time. Everyone was famished coming into the dining hall with freshly sun burnt faces. We fell asleep early and slept like babies.

On Sunday, we set out again and biked 30 km across the entire island from Gudhjem to Rønne which is the capitol and largest city on Bornholm dating back to around 1000 AD as a small fishing village. On the way we stopped in Østerlars where we saw the largest of the round churches on Bornholm dating back to the middle of the 12th century:

ImageUnfortunately it was an extremely windy day and while the wind was at our backs on the way to RØnne, it was pretty impossible to try and bike back. We took our bikes on the bus back and found that most of the other students on the trip had found it too difficult to bike as well and were hanging out at the hostel. Luckily, our hostel was located on the ocean front with some beautiful views, so we didn’t mind relaxing a little before we took off again and headed back to Denmark. We stopped in some glass shops which Bornholm is noted for and each got a little souvenir necklace. Our final stop was at a local pancake house where we devoured a banana, almond and ice cream pancake:

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Tomorrow we leave for a ‘booze cruise’ to Oslo with our floor. It’s my last weekend abroad… One more final on Tuesday and I head back to the States on Saturday. Can’t believe its almost over! 😦

Hello all,

Sorry for the delay, I’ve been quite busy traveling around Europe! The past two weeks I have had school off for travel break. The first week, I stayed in Copenhagen and explored to some places I hadn’t been yet. On Good Friday, I left for Rome early in the morning.

ROMA

FRIDAY. Getting off the plane in Rome I felt like I was in Florida. It was a beautiful day in the upper 60’s and SUN. I wore shorts for the first time all year. During the day we saw some of the big sights:

the Vatican Museum, including the Sistine Chapel;

the Spanish Steps;

the Trevi Fountain;

and the Pantheon.

SATURDAY, we continued to hit the big spots….. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it can’t be experienced in a day either! Luckily the 20 minutes during the day that it was down pouring, we were under as shelter waiting to get tickets. Right when we got up to the front of the line the sun came out and we walked right into the Colosseum. It was incredible that the Romans built such an enormous structure almost 2,000 years ago and it has lasted this long. It also gave a little context to what the Roman Empire looked like and I couldn’t help but compare it to “The Gladiator”.

Then we saw a little more of ancient Rome in the Forum. This was one of my favorite spots in Rome and I think a little over looked by tourists. There were so many beautiful sights inside I could have spent all day there. We spent a few hours and still didn’t get to see everything.

EASTER SUNDAY. We woke up bright and early and walked over to the Vatican to get in line for mass by 8 am. After waiting in line for about an hour and a half we got in and were able to grab some of the last seats. The mass was held in St. Peter’s Square in front of the Basilica. Some of the people in line must have started waiting the night before because it was a mob! The service lasted from 10:15 to about 12:30pm and I was lucky enough to see the Pope! It was a little hard to stay awake because the service was in Italian but at the end the Pope blessed us in about 50 different languages.

In the afternoon, we hopped on a train to Florence………….

FIRENZE

Florence is BEAUTIFUL. We arrived around dinner time and got an amazing Italian meal with wine and had an early night.

MONDAY, we wandered around Florence. It was nice not having the pressure to see so many things like in Rome and we were able to just walk around and check out the local street venders. There is so much leather in Florence! We got some leather bracelets as keepsakes but if I ever go back I’m going to invest in some nice leather. Luckily, Florence is a lot smaller than Rome and we were able to walk around most of the city in a day. There were a lot of amazing artists on the streets doing their work with crowds of people watching.

We went to an incredible dinner at a restaurant called “La Giostra” which was recommended by people who have studied in Florence. It was a bit pricy but they gave us free champagne and appetizers so it was well worth it!

TUESDAY, we hung out in Florence until the afternoon train to Venice. There is not much to write about this leg of the journey because we did a lot of relaxing and sitting outside eating ice cream and pizza. We made a trip up to Piazza Michelangelo which was a bit of a hike up the side of a ‘mountain’. When we made it to the top we sat on the stairs and could see across the whole city. It was breathtaking and possibly my favorite part of the trip. I got a postcard of the view as well to help me remember.

VENEZIA

Our journey then led us to the mysterious sinking city of Venice. We decided to only stay one night in Venice (less than 24 hours before I got back on the train) and I’m glad we did. We had really nice weather on Tuesday night and were able to walk around and get dinner and some pictures. Wednesday, all day, it poured. My shoes were soaked all the way through and we had only 1 umbrella for 4 girls. Needless to say, we spent a good part of the day in coffee shops.

We got to check out some really cool glass shops and we despite the rain, we got our gondola ride! None of us really wanted to be on the boat for an hour during a rainstorm so we talked a gondola driver into taking us for a little spin around the main harbor for half price so we could get our pictures.

Another thing- nothing in Venice is where google maps said it should be. We spent hours wandering trying to find addresses that didn’t exist and running into dead ends and canals. The city is chaos! Walking across town dragging a suitcase in the rain across a million bridges= not fun. But overall, it was a very interesting experience and I’m glad I got to see Venice before its underwater!

AMSTERDAM

WEDNESDAY EVENING, I took the train back to Florence to meet up with my highschool friend who studies there. I slept at her apartment and we took a flight to Amsterdam on THURSDAY AFTERNOON.

When we got into Amsterdam it was about 8pm after a 3 hour bus ride in traffic from the Eidenhoven airport. But we were greeted by our other friends from high school and checked into our hostel with no problems. Our hostel, which was more like a hotel was located right in the center of everything and had a really nice lobby with a bar and a ‘beer garden’. We ended up hanging out at the hotel a lot because there always seemed to be something going on (not to mention the 2 for 1 drinks every night). We wandered around the town for a bit at night grabbing a beer at a few different pubs. We even ran into our other friends from high school on the street and ended spending the rest of the night together with all our friends.

FRIDAY, we started the day around noon at the Heineken Brewery. It was a really cool experience- very hands on and interactive. I answered one of the trivia questions correctly and got handed a free beer midway through the tour. We got wristbands with our tickets that got us two more free bars at the end of the tour. One of my favorite parts was when the tour guide was describing why girls don’t like beer. He told us the foamy top part of the beer tastes bitter from the ‘hops’ and because girls take girly little sips, that is the only taste they get. He said we needed to take big manly swigs to drink beer the right way! Then we all cheers-ed and took our manly sips together.

We explored Amsterdam by foot, hung out and caught up. The evening once again led us to a few bars where we sipped on our Heineken and Amstel (I preferred the Amstel….).

SATURDAY, we rented bikes. Now, I have a bike in Copenhagen but the roads in Amsterdam are much more crowded with tourists, not to mention there are trams, cars, buses and people to watch out for. But it was nice to get rolling and be able to see more of the city. We spent some time at the “IAMSTERDAM” sign and watched about 200 tourists climbing all over the letters. It was funny to watch actually because people had no problem climbing up but once they had to slide down, it was a different story and there was a lot of awkward landings. There was never a point in which the letters were empty for a full picture. I got my picture in the ‘d’ though!

SUNDAY, we said our goodbyes to the beautiful city and to each other. We spent the morning wandering into shops and getting souvenirs and then I was off to the airport by 3pm. I’ll leave you with a picture of the canals that dominate Amsterdam!

This past weekend I traveled to Belgium! A few girls from Vanderbilt and I flew to Brussels on Friday afternoon. A bunch of other kids from our program were in Belgium also for the weekend for a concert on Saturday night. Right when we stepped off the plane we were bombarded with smells and sights of chocolate and waffles. I knew Belgium was famous for its chocolate but I didn’t realize how much they really love chocolate. We went out to dinner at a really nice restaurant and all split a bunch of entrees to try. Afterward we went to a popular bar called, Delirium which was absolutely packed. Everyone who was in town for the concert (mostly American abroad students) seemed to be at this place. I even saw some friends from high school who I hadn’t seen in a while! People were spilling out into the streets and some people were comparing it to the streets at Mardi Gras.

On Saturday we got waffles in the morning. Our waiter did not seem too enthused by our lacking French but we managed to get our order. Then we wandered into about a thousand chocolate shops and got lots of free samples. In the afternoon, we took the train to a small town called Hassalt. The concert took place there and it was an all- white theme. From the time we got on the train around 4 pm we saw mobs of people walking around in all white. We stayed at a Holiday Inn in Hassalt with a bunch of kids from Vandy and DIS. My roommate luckily reserved 5 rooms a few months ago and we were able to house a lot of our friends in those rooms for the night. The concert started at 9 and went until 6 am (we didn’t stay quite that late…..) but it was a blast and it was really cool to see everyone getting into the spirit in their white clothing…

We traveled all day Sunday which was exhausting! Now two weeks to go until our travel break. Lots of tests and papers till then :/

Hello, all! I just got back to Copenhagen last night after an exhausting but incredible week traveling to the UK.

DAY 1

Our class met at 6am Monday morning at the CPH airport to fly to London. My roommate and I woke up around 4:30 to get there… We settled into our hotel in London in the morning and got our transportation passes so we could use the ‘tube’. In the afternoon we traveled a little bit out of the city to an area called ‘Tooting’. We were guided around the neighborhood by two guides that are part of the transition movement in Tooting. This basically means that they are working towards improving the quality of life for its citizens by moving towards a more sustainable society. They are currently trying to transform their local cemetery into a ‘green space’ that can be used for recreational purposes. The cemetery was about 50 acres of land but mostly unknown to those living in the town because the back gate had been closed after some problems with vandalism. The transition group was trying to reopen this gate and provide a space for children and adults to enjoy the scenery. There was also a small abandoned chapel that had been donated to the group to be used a community space and it was still undetermined what they would do with the building.

After this visit we went to a fabulous dinner at ‘Tom’s Kitchen’ where we had risotto, wine and dessert! The rest of the evening was on our own and a few of us went to a pub for a few drinks.

DAY 2

Following an amazing continental breakfast at the hotel, we took the tube to another part of London where we listened to a talk from a group called ‘Fairfood International’. Basically, this nonprofit works to help food brand owners adopt more sustainable practices. By sending countless emails and phone calls, the staff tries to engage the corporate headquarters of food brand owners. Once contact is made, ‘advocacy managers’ work with the owners to develop new initiatives that will reduce carbon footprint and resource consumption.

After this meeting we had lunch and free time on our own. A group of us set our to explore near the river where we rode the London Eye and saw breathtaking views of the city. This giant ferris wheel was originally constructed as a temporary attraction but was kept around because it was so popular. We walked around a bit more and saw ‘Big Ben’ and then grabbed lunch before our afternoon activity.

In the afternoon we had a walking tour with ‘Cutting-Edge Green Tours’ which explored London’s examples of sustainability. We saw some of their sustainable building projects as well as my favorite part of the tour, Neil’s Alley. This area is full of color, art and sustainable restaurants and shops. In one shoe store we saw how the shop owner nailed old wooden drawers to the wall as a showcase to put the shoes on.

That night we went to a Curry and Quiz Night as part of Climate Week. We had the rest of the night on our own, which for me meant SLEEP.

DAY 3

Another amazing breakfast at the hotel followed by free time to explore the city until our train to Totnes at 11:30. I went with my roommate to meet her friend who was also in London for coffee.

We met back at the hotel and walked in the pouring rain to the tube which we took to Paddington Station to catch our train our to Totnes. The train took about 3 hours but the scenery quickly turned from dreary city scape to blue skies and rolling green hills. When we arrived in Totnes we were greeted by our transition guide, Hal and we all piled into taxis to be transported to our accommodation. Nothing could have prepared us for what we were about to see. We pulled up to an old Georgian mansion which became our home for the next three days.

We had a tour around the house, a brief activity and then dinner. Our room was so big we were doing cartwheels in it….

After dinner we walked down to a pub at the bottom of the hill where we met one of the elders who lived in Totnes since she was young. She told us about her experience and how things had changed since then. We stayed a bit longer with our class and then retired to our ‘castle’.

You can read more about Sharpam here: http://www.sharpham.com/

DAY 4

Breakfast at Sharpam, followed by a trip into the town of Totnes. Unfortunately, my camera ran out of battery at this point and all I have is what I snapped on my Iphone camera. We had lunch at a pub and heard a talk from Totnes Renewable Energy Society. The afternoon was filled with various activities related to the transition movement. One of the coolest things was a shoe business called ‘Conkers’. We got a first had view of how they make all of their shoes, right in the back of the shop. Every pair is fitted to the individual person’s foot and record is kept of all the measurements so that adjustments and repairs can be made. All of the shoes are hand cut and made from huge pieces of leather in their workshop. When designing the shoes, customers can actually chose up their different colors, stitching etc. so the shoes are really one of a kind. The shoes generally last 15-20 years and any small repairs can be sent into the shop free of charge. This emphasis on quality is unlike most businesses that design their products with a short lifespan to ensure the consumer will buy more. But the shop owner told us how word of mouth allows them to have an ever expanding client base because of the quality of the shoes.

We finished up the day at a bar called ‘Albert Inn’ which was a microbrewery. We got a tour in the back of the bar to see how they make their beer. Dinner was on our own and a few of us found a ‘fish and chips’ place because we figured we couldn’t leave England without having eaten them.

DAY 5

At this point, we were all pretty delirious from our brains being stuffed with so much information. This day was more about bringing it back to why we were here in the first place. We drove up to Dartmoor National Park and went on a hike ending with a discussion on closing the loops and reconnecting with nature. The views were amazing and we saw why these people were so passionate about conserving nature’s beauty.

Lunch was the most incredible meal of my life. We went to Riverford Field Kitchen which functioned as a restaurant as well as an organic farm- all of the food cooked was grown locally on the farm.

After we all stuffed our faces we went back to Sharpam and went for a walk down the River Dart. We were told that we each had a ‘date with nature’ in which we were to go out on our own and reflect on the beauty around us for about a half hour. When we returned we had a nice little campfire with cake and champagne to celebrate the end of our journey. Dinner again was at Sharpam and we stayed up drinking the local wine in the 17th century ‘drawing room’.

DAY 6

Out of the house by 7am to catch a train back toward London. The stop before London we got off and took a bus to the Windsor Castle where we had about 2 hours to walk around and listen to a guided audio tour. It was amazing to see the architecture that was hand crafted about 1000 years ago. Our last activity was high tea at the Windsor Castle Hotel with finger sandwiches and scones and pastries. We hopped on the bus and rode to the airport for our journey back to Copenhagen.

 

Today

Took this picture today walking by the water, thought I’d share!

Heading to London tomorrow at 6am.. We will be in England for 6 days. I will update when I return!

Birthday Weekend

As many of you know, this past weekend (Feb 25) was my 21st birthday! I was a little disappointed at first that I was celebrating this American milestone in a country where kids start drinking with their parents at age 13 and they are legal to drink at 18. Kind of an anticlimactic event but it was exciting none the less. We started celebrating on Thursday with drinks at a bar followed by dancing and meeting up with some other students in our program. On Friday, a few of the girls on my floor including my roommate took me out to dinner to a restaurant called Panzón which was a Spanish tapas/wine and cheese bar. The food was amazing!

After dinner we went out again for drinks and celebrated turning 21 at midnight! The next morning (my official birthday) I woke up to the most amazing spread of food cooked by my roommate, Abby, including eggs, potatoes, croissants, scones, orange juice and champagne and a whole display of fresh flowers.

We went out during the day to lunch and around the city exploring and then came home and Abby made me yet another delicious meal along with some of our friends on the floor. We sat around eating and drinking for a while in our common room and then some of our other friends from Vanderbilt (and their friends) who live in a different part of the city came over to hang out before we went out. We went to a really fun club called ‘Rust’ located in another bridge of the city called Norreport. I was really spoiled that weekend by not having to buy drinks, which are pretty pricy here in Denmark….

On Sunday we recovered. Abby and I went on a long walk around our neighborhood and caught up on some work. Next week, we will be traveling to London and Devon for our long study tour. More to come then!