an ode to amsterdam, and other bits and pieces.

{1. view of the Amstel river 2. Sarah, Noelle, Anya and I in front of my favorite Amsterdam restaurant, Greenwoods 3. rainbow outside my glorious window 4. beautiful canalhouses 5. Vondelpark in bloom 6. beer photo shoot 7. standard (and yet still stunning) bridge outside my dormitory 8. proof that we studied while abroad 9. Anya, Noelle, and Skyler at a sunset dinner 10. enjoying a swing in Vondelpark} 

Although I’ve waited more than two weeks to write this post, I can’t begin to articulate how perfect my last days in Amsterdam were. The sun finally triumphed over the cold and rain of the previous four months, and the city never looked more beautiful or felt more alive. 

I left Amsterdam 18 days ago, but it feels like longer. In the past two weeks, I flew back to Los Angeles, unpacked and repacked my life in 48 hours, moved to New York and into a new apartment, started a new job, and have quickly become enamored with Manhattan. But even after all that, I can’t stop thinking about Amsterdam.

Let me rewind to a time long before Amsterdam and make a confession: I had been dreading study abroad since the beginning of college. I knew that studying abroad was a rite of passage—something that, if given the opportunity, one had no choice but to fully embrace. This principle, coupled with the fact that all my friends were planning to go abroad (and what I wanted even less than to study abroad was to be in L.A. without them), were, embarrassingly, the only two factors motivating me to do the damn thing. I was terrified of change, especially given my cozy life at USC, which encompassed everything anyone could want out of a college experience. Before my departure, I had never felt more like Los Angeles was my city: I had all my favorite spots pinned down, had permanently retired the once-requisite GPS in my car, and had just secured my dream house for senior year. 

In the weeks leading up to Amsterdam, I was petrified by the idea of a new city, new people, new home…more succinctly, I feared everything I didn’t know. The fear overpowered everything else, and I had only a small glimmer of excitement about what was ahead of me.

It’s hard to say how much Amsterdam surpassed every expectation I had. Granted, I tend to set my bar quite low- better not to be disappointed, I always think. I had basically set my bar on the ground for Amsterdam; I refused to let myself dream up any scenarios in which I had a grand time abroad, for fear that none of those dreams would materialize.

I’ve been talking for much to long, so I’ll summarize. The rest of the story is history, anyway. I came to Amsterdam. I fell in love with—and created a life in— a city that I new virtually nothing about, a city I had previously had no desire to travel to. I met people I’ll cherish for the rest of my life, made friendships I didn’t think were possible given a five month expiration date. I traveled to destinations I had been waiting all my life to see, as well as ones I had never even considered visiting. I learned the power of independence- how to find it, how to maintain it, and how to genuinely love it. 

Thank you Amsterdam, and everyone I met there, for making study abroad everything I could have ever wanted and more.

{1. view of Prague from peddleboats on the Vltava River 2. Tyn Church 3. Astronomical Clock 4. Skyler and I in Old Town Square 5. gorgeous architecture near our hotel 6. infinity street art 7. beer flights at the Beer Museum Pub 8. peddleboats filled with friends 9. sunset on the Vltava}

Oh, Prague. 

I don’t think this trip could have been any more perfect. I fell in love with a city about which I knew absolutely nothing until I arrived. The uniquely beautiful architecture, ridiculously fun nightlife, perfect weather, and quirky vibe of the city won me over instantly. Prague itself was utterly amazing, but the true highlight of the trip was being able to spend it with all of my best friends from this semester abroad. 

We did quite a few things on our four-day stint, but my favorites included a twilight walk down the Charles Bridge, beer tasting at the Beer Museum Pub, peddleboating at sunset on the Vltava river, and a traditional Czech dinner that included goulash and beer brewed on site, not to mention Sensation White.

I can’t imagine a better way to start the beginning of the very end of my time abroad. 


Separation Anxiety

I haven’t posted here in a very long while. Time is all of a sudden slipping out of my hands. I have less than a month left abroad, and even less time left in Amsterdam. I’ve been living in denial, so I’m doing this here and now. The countdown: 

24 days left in Europe

7 days left in Amsterdam

That’s even scarier in writing than I thought. 

Since I last posted about Rome, lots of amazing things have happened. I found out I’ll be working my dream job this summer in New York City, I experienced the greatest holiday known to mankind, Queensday, and fell in love with Amsterdam just a little bit more, and I’ve also been hosting my Dad, showing him the life I’ve come to cherish here in Amsterdam (we’re currently in Berlin, the sixth city I’ve traveled to while abroad). 

And now, just a couple of weeks after I was beginning to look forward to returning back home to the grand old U.S.A., I desperately want to dig my heels into the Amsterdam ground (or sink my anchor into a canal) and never let go of my life in this city. 

My group of friends here use the term “separation anxiety” quite liberally: “sepanx,” or, for more emphasis, “sepangssss” happens when we are forced to separate from one another, particularly after a gezellig day or evening. I’m currently having some major sepanx from Amsterdam. Even though I have three trips coming up that I am positive are going to be wonderful (London, Prague, and Barcelona), I’m also getting queasy over the idea of spending any amount of time away from my home. That’s another thing, I have now completely embraced the term “home” for Amsterdam- though I was reticent in the beginning to use that label for my study abroad city, everything about Amsterdam has become just that, my home. The way the canals look while bathed in sunlight, my legitimately perfect loft apartment that I could live in forever (and desperately need to post photos of on this blog), my favorite breakfast spot whose scones have changed my life, the coffee shop that encapsulates everything a perfect study spot should be, my terribly shitty bike that is extraordinarily uncomfortable to ride and yet always gets me from point A to point B, and the group of people I am lucky enough to be with every day in Amsterdam and call my best friends.

The moral of the story? I’m making a promise to myself to spend every day I have left abroad, especially in Amsterdam, doing everything left on that bucket list of mine, resisting the urge to sleep and instead staying out late, visiting all of my beloved haunts until I’m actually sick of them, soaking up the people I’ll eventually have to say goodbye to at the end of this month, and letting study abroad show me everything it has left to offer.

Here goes nothing everything.

{1. view of rome from the top of the St. Peter’s dome 2. the backside of the Colosseum 3. The Arch of Titus 4. Trevi Fountain 5. sculpture in the Vatican 6. ceiling painting in the Vatican 7. Bernini’s Baldachinno in St. Peter’s Basilica 8. a statue on a bridge across the Tiber river}

Unlike my trip to Istanbul, I had five lengthy days to explore Rome. Our apartment was just perfect, located near the Piazza Navona in an adorable square called Piazza del Fico, surrounded by tons of restaurants and bars. We were able to walk everywhere—a good thing considering how much food I consumed during those five days. Though the weather was spotty, we managed to see some of the best Rome has to offer. My favorite moments of the trip were the Vatican (my first time in the Sistine Chapel), and finding our way to an impressive indie/flea market (called Mercatomonti, if you ever have the chance to visit), where lots of local vendors sold everything from vintage trinkets to handmade jewelry to one-of-a kind painted t-shirts. 

Besides seeing the major sights, eating was my main priority in Rome. I can proudly say I indulged in gelato every single day, while getting my fix of the best pizza and pasta the city had to offer, and personally embarking on a Carbonara tour of the city. 

My favorite food moments? Giolitti for the greatest gelato of the trip (seriously, I would live there), Da Francesco for simple yet delicious Italian fare (I managed to visit three times in five days), Enoteca Corsi for the most authentically Italian lunch (best lamb ragu of my my life!), and Dino & Tony’s for a truly unique dining experience (just say the word, and you will be served never-ending plates of antipasti, pastas, meats, and desserts). I’d also like note that it was on this trip that I was officially converted from lattes to capuccinos (first beer and now this?!).

I could eat Roman food every day for the rest of my life. I can’t wait to go back to experience more of the city and its culinary gems.

P.S. If you’re a foodie, or just love to eat, you should check out the Tumblr of my dear friend and food partner-in-crime, Skyler.

{1. the view of Hagia Sophia from the second floor 2. a detail view of Hagia Sophia 3. Sarah, Skyler and I in Hagia Sophia 4. an outdoor view of The Blue Mosque 5. beautiful mosaic tiling in The Blue Mosque 6. Muslim prayer in The Blue Mosque 7. The Basilica Cistern 8. A new friend found in the Grand Bazaar 9. The Spice Market 10. twilight on The Bosphorus river}

My trip to Istanbul was an absolute whirlwind. I had originally planned to be in Turkey for three full days, but because I unexpectedly had to fly to New York on Monday, I was only able to stay in the city for about 48 hours. Despite the time crunch, I was determined to see as much of Istanbul as possible. 

On Saturday, we managed to get to the five sites I had at the top of my must-see list. We were accompanied by a wonderful tour guide, who gave us invaluable background information for everything we saw (we would have been totally lost without her!). We started out at Hagia Sophia, which blew my mind. The building left me completely speechless- I don’t think any pictures can do it justice. Next, we saw The Blue Mosque, which is renowned for its intricate blue mosaic tiling. This was my first experience in a Mosque, and I was fascinated by the religious ritual we were able to observe. The third sight of the day was Topkapi Palace, the primary royal residence for the Ottoman Sultans for 400 years. Then, we headed to the creepy-cool Basilica Cistern, an ancient cistern built in the 6th century during the reign of Justinian. We spent the rest of the day in the Grand Bazaar, a destination my friends and I had been dying to see. The Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest and largest markets in the world, with somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 shops. We spent hours perusing vendors’ goods, picking up a few treasures throughout our visit. Our favorite shop was a family business that sold beautiful linens (where I picked up an intricately woven tapestry I plan to display prominently in my room next year); here we met our new friend (pictured above), a beautiful Anatolian cat with one blue and one green eye, who performed tricks for us. On Sunday, we went to the Spice Market, where we took in gorgeously vibrant spices and potent teas only found in Istanbul. Next, we took a cruise along the Bosphorus river, which was a fantastic way to see the gems of the city. We finished out the day watching the sun set over the river, then headed over to the Asia side of Istanbul for a traditional Turkish dinner.

Istanbul was unlike any other city I’ve ever seen, and I am so happy I made it a priority for my abroad travel plans. 

{nomming on the best crepes of my life from Le Comptoir; hanging out on Pont-Neuf in the sunshine; Sacré Couer; supplies for a sunset picnic; the view from Sacré Couer}

Paris, Part 3

By now this post is emarrassingly belated— I got back from Paris almost two weeks ago. I’ll sum up the last few parts of the trip:

After the Luxembourg Gardens on Sunday, we stopped for the most delicious crepes I’ve ever had at Le Comptoir’s crepe window (in the Odeon district). Then we wandered toward the Seine, stopping at a little island connected to the Pont Neuf bridge. It was such a lovely micro-oasis in the center of the city. Next we headed for the Musée d’Orsay, before finally making our way over to Montmarte to soak in a new part of town. We ended the day by climbing to the tallest point in Paris, at the Sacré Couer, to take in one last view of the city before the sun went down.

I’m writing this post from Istanbul- my friends and I just arrived this evening! I’m so excited to tackle this city and absorb as much as possible here. 

{all photos taken at Le Petite Suisse and the Luxembourg Gardens}

Paris, Part 2

On Sunday, our first stop was a café called Le Petite Suisse right up the street from our hotel. From the outside, this place could not have looked any more Parisian, so naturally I had to give it a go. The food was just as delicious as it was beautiful. Pictured above: the freshest croissant I enjoyed in Paris, café creme, and a croque mademoiselle.

Next we headed to the Luxembourg Gardens, which I had never visited before. I’m not quite sure how I ever went to Paris and managed not to see these gardens- they are absolutely stunning. And so sprawling! They go on for days. After exploring the grounds for a while, we took a break to lounge in the sun (those chairs stay permanently in the garden for anyone’s use) and do some excellent people watching. 

{gorgeous architecture and a lovely candy stand blocks away from our hotel, wine and baguette picnic on the seine, a boy and his baguette, parisian graffiti, sunbathing at lunch in Le Marais, and the obligatory Eiffel Tower photoshoot}

Paris, Part 1

No matter how much I write about my four-day stint in Paris last weekend, I’ll never do it justice. I will say that it was the best trip of my life. We had absolutely perfect weather (mid-70s everyday and hot sunshine) and enjoyed the ability to sunbathe at every possible junction, our hotel was so centrally located (in the Odeon area) that we walked everywhere, and we were lucky enough to be armed with a homemade guide to Paris from my friend Sarah, who lived there last summer. 

On Friday, after a lovely brunch on the Boulevard Saint-Germain, we strolled over to the Seine, stopping on our way for—what else?—a baguette and a bottle of wine. (This became our ritual for the next three days, consistently picking up wine and bread to inevitably munch on throughout the day.) We stayed on the Seine for a while, soaking up the sun and the joyous crowds of Parisians and tourists, clearly also elated by the unseasonably warm weather. We headed over to Notre Dame afterwards to get a glimpse of the beautiful cathedral. Next, we walked to the Louvre (open late on Friday nights), where I lingered in a hall with my favorite Delacroix and Gericault paintings for quite some time. That night, we restaurant shopped until stumbling upon a hidden gem right off Rue Dauphine, Vins et Terroirs (highly, highly recommended). 

We started off Saturday by walking to Le Marais, a shopping district in the 3rd arrondissment. I was thrilled to find streets upon streets of French boutiques blissfully undiscovered by the hoards of tourists that frequent shopping areas like the Saint-Germain and Champs Élysées. We spent hours popping in and out of stores, admiring beautiful French fashion and wonderfully quirky vintage shops. After lunch in Le Marais, we walked to the Eiffel Tower in time to lay in the late afternoon sun against the iconic backdrop.

at this moment

writing a twenty-page paper seems beyond irrelevant when my immediate future looks like this:

4/6-4/9: Istanbul

4/9-4/12: New York (don’t even get me started on how surreal this is)

4/13-4/18: Rome


Sous le ciel de Paris (by nicolasv)

I just got back from Paris a few days ago, and am ready to turn right back around and stay there forever. I love everything about that city, especially the way the light hits the buildings just so. Why does Paris have to be so unbelievably beautiful? 
(photo diaries from my trip to come soon.)


Sous le ciel de Paris (by nicolasv)

I just got back from Paris a few days ago, and am ready to turn right back around and stay there forever. I love everything about that city, especially the way the light hits the buildings just so. Why does Paris have to be so unbelievably beautiful? 

(photo diaries from my trip to come soon.)

a major discovery

On my most recent trip to London and Dublin, something very important and quite unexpected occured: I developed a love for beer. 

I’m always the girl that chooses a glass of wine over a pint of beer. It’s not that I ever hated the drink, I just lacked any affection for it. 

We were in my favorite pub in London when I chose a beer at random, took a sip, and was shocked to find that I had finally found a beer I loved (it’s called Weihenstephan Hefe, if you’re interested.)

Naturally, this discovery opened the doors for a fantastic opportunity in Dublin: epic pub crawls.

{outside and inside of my favorite pub found in Dublin, The Palace Bar}

{at the Palace Bar: me, enjoying a Galway Hooker, and Alex, taking detailed beer notes}

{pretty pints on St. Patrick’s day}

To say that I am proud of this personal development is an understatement.

On a completely different note, I am headed to Paris in just a few hours! I could not be more excited.

{1. Trinity College, all lit up for St. Paddy’s 2. the Guinness storehouse 3. Guinness advertisement 4. Alex gettting his chance to pour the perfect pint  5. proud pint-pourers, with a certificate to prove our success 6. float and performer from the St. Patrick’s Day parade 4. parade-goer in all his Irish garb}

St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin was a great success. Though we were only in Ireland for 3 days, we spent our time soaking up everything the holiday had to offer. St. Patrick’s Day, as expected, brought a mass exodus of tourists- mainly American college students- and while the hoards of mostly obnoxious people were less than ideal, they were also prime for a fascinating experience in people watching.

We spent the majority of our time in Dublin pub crawling, which we found a highly effective way to seek out local culture, and of course, local beer. Other highlights included a trip to the Guinness storehouse, and the St. Patrick’s day parade.

Irish people are exceedingly friendly; while other Europeans tend to scoff at Americans, Dubliners didn’t seem to mind the influx of foreigners to their city. I wish we could have stayed in Dublin a few days past St. Paddy’s to see more of the city, but I definitely plan to make it back to Ireland again.

Here Comes The Sun 

Without warning, we awoke on Sunday to the most beautiful weather we’ve seen since arriving in Amsterdam: bright sunshine and 55 degrees farenheit. Wanting to capitalize on our unbelievable luck, we set out to spend the whole day outside. After grabbing lunch on Spui square (where we experienced the flash mob, perhaps performing for the sheer purpose of sun celebration?), we biked to a cafe to grab picnic materials, namely muffins and beer. Then we beelined for Vondelpark, which we had been waiting for perfect weather such as this to enjoy. 

Vondelpark is a stunning oasis near the very middle of Amsterdam. The grass is a gorgeous shade of green—nearly neon—and there is tons of space for biking, walking, laying, and playing. We strategically chose our spot to maximize sun exposure, avoiding all shade whatsoever. (I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not exactly the most nature-oriented person, which is why the force of my feelings about the sun since being abroad has been a surprise even for me. But after living in such a cold, damp place for almost two months, the thing I miss most about California is the perpetual sunshine, and all the beauty and unmistakable optimism it brings with it.)

It was the perfect Sunday. Sitting in the sun with my friends, bare feet in the grass, face to the sky, it was hard not to feel completely at peace. I have a feeling that when these sunny days start to become more frequent, I’ll have to be forcibly removed from Vondelpark. 

As I write this, I’m on the train from London to Wales, on my way to Dublin for St. Patrick’s day! The scenery out the window is quite the opposite of the picture I just described, save the lush green pastures. Despite the rainy forecast for the weekend, I’m pretty thrilled to be on my way to Dublin, which I haven’t visited since living there at the age of 6. Pictures to come!  

{1. Sarah, Skyler, Alex, and I with our chosen drinks at the end of the House of Bols tour 2., 3. room full of Delftware homes 4. obligatory, albeit quite cool, House of Bols promotion 5. multicolored Bols bar 6., 7. sniff-session, during which we picked our favorite flavors to sample in the form of shots at the end of the tour 8. my picks: Red Caiprinha cocktail, and Elderflower, Passion Fruit, and Blood Orange shots}

Over the weekend, we decided to venture to House of Bols, a famed Amsterdam distillery (and the oldest in the world!). Although much lesser known than the Heineken experience, the House of Bols tour was promised by many a guidebook to trump the cheesy, super-commercial Heineken attraction. And, I must say, it did. Filled with tons of cool, quirky features (my favorites included a room filled with adorable Delftware homes, and a rainbow colored sniff-testing session), and ending with a complimentary cocktail and two shots of your choosing, House of Bols turned out to be a worth every penny. Highly recommended to anyone traveling to Amsterdam!