All good things must come to an end…

The world is a book and those who do not travel only read one page.
Saint Augustine

A semester abroad…..4 months, 18 weeks, 126 days and a million moments I will never forget.

My Facebook status 4 hours before leaving Florence:
As I spend my last few hours in Florence, I realize how cliche this all is; how students come here step out of their comfort zones, live and fall in love with this city. However, I know one thing and that is that these buildings may or may not last a thousand more years, but the memories and friendships that I’ve made will. Thank you everyone and fly safe. Keep in touch and expect a visit from yours truly. 

I didn’t think this status was that good. But as the likes accumulated and comments came I guess it was pretty good. These last few months have been more than extraordinary. The people I met and the sites I saw will forever be ingrained into my mind. The utter grandeur and amazing people I met will walk with me for a long time if not forever. Going abroad is such a temporary “thing” with such a lifelong impact. It’s kind of crazy. My status in retrospect is perfect in explaining it. Living in a foreign or at least my case, barely foreign place, alone, forces you to step out, forces you to do things you usually don’t. It makes you take initiative. Mom isn’t there to wash your clothes or make your bed or feed you or do groceries or anything. You have you, yourself and the people you meet. I’ve been trying and trying to grasp or put my finger on what it is that could, in one simple thought, describe studying abroad in its entirety and I just can’t.

I think the sites and images in your mind eventually disappear. Everything you saw, smelled and heard. All that fades away, hence why pictures are seen as so essential sometimes even though they never do the scene justice. But what doesn’t fade are the people. The people you meet abroad, whether local or other students, are literally growing as you are. The moments lived with them….will change you. Knowing all these people abroad and all over the US now, opens so many windows. Oh I’m in California, let me see what ______ is up to or hey I’m in Baltimore, I wonder if _______ wants to grab lunch or dinner. Even better, hey I’m going to visit ______ down in Charleston or the Cape for the weekend, ciao! I don’t know what you think but that’s awesome.

I mean, I’ve never been the type to get soft and sappy over things like this because people come and go in your life but this was different. It was so cliche and everyone saw it coming everyone knew it was going to happen. Millions of students that go abroad experience this but it happens anyways. I don’t know, maybe I am overdoing this but, who knows.

All I have to say is I’m more than grateful to have been given the opportunity to study abroad. More than grateful to have met the people I have met, do the things I’ve done and experienced what I’ve experienced. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. And I promise you I’ll be back. AND you best believe I’m planning some type of reunion. Already have a standing agreement with some of the boys that if one of us makes it one day we’ll reunite and buy a place out in Tuscany and open a club in Florence and put all the others out of business. Haha….one day. Nonetheless, I’m almost at a loss for words becuase it hasn’t all happened  or set in yet. Maybe there will be a part II of this post. Anyways, thank you for reading.

Alla prossima.

Ciao

M

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Londontown

Late post but as always, better late than never.

It was funny when I first went to write this. I went to write, Cherrio! As in the English way of saying goodbye? And it auto-corrected to Cheerio’s like the cereal. Found that to be a knee-slapper.

Anywho, a few weeks ago I met my mother in London. It was awesome to see her again since homesickness was starting to set in. So I hopped on a plane, packed some clothes to send back with her and flew out to London.

Well, of course I had no service and found my way to the hotel. There she was sitting in the lobby, slightly uncertain that her 20 year old son that has recently traveled all over Europe would somehow not make it to the hotel. Nonetheless her face breathed a breath of air after she saw me walk through those doors.

First day we hit the city hard. Got on one of those classic red double deckers and hit the streets. Buckingham Palace, Westminster, Trafalgar Square, Tower Bridge and London Bridge just to name a few places. Had lunch and dinner in some pubs and a steak house. English food is pretty terrible but I lucked out on my selections. I actually found it nice that in many of the pubs (Silver Cross @ Trafalgar) you have to pay first then eat etc. So much easier and you’re not stuck waiting for the check like you usually are in Europe. Had a couple cheeky pints with Mom and hit the hay.

Day 2&3 were comprised of going on the Eye of London and the Castle/Fort of London, a still standing medieval castle that allowed London to be what it is today. View from the Eye was sick, basically was a Ferris wheel on steroids and the Castle was sick. Saw the Crown Jewels and some sweet English accents. At night we went to Harrods. That place is ridiculous, there is everything. When I say everything, I mean like everything. You can get a haircut, pick up some milk, a Louis Vuitton bag, some tea and crumpets and be on your jolly way in one stop. Literally redefined, “one stop shopping.” What was actually really interesting was the Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed memorial with in the Egyptian staircase in Harrods. As the owner of Harrods, I don’t know the specific details of their relationship but as some may or may not know they both died in a car accident years ago that was pretty controversial. Nonetheless, in the memorial there is a absolutely decked out ring that Dodi was supposedly going to give Diana from what I understood. Sitting there in a solid glass pyramid was this massive shining ring. Impressive, well done Dodi.

Overall the city was awesome. A great combination of old and new. Such an old city with such a new and wealthy history. London was definitely the most pricey, but I could see myself living there. Don’t know why but I just did. Maybe it was being with Mom that gave me that impression. Don’t know. But being with her, she does whatever, pretty go with the flow, was fun because she doesn’t complain when it comes to traveling. We walked in the rain, wanted to kill a couple people and possibly slash the tired to a couple of those double deckers at one point but laughed it off. After all, it isn’t London if it doesn’t rain. Overall great time, would do it again anytime. Can’t thank Mother enough.

 

That was London. This is now. Buona notte.

 

M

10 Days | 5 Cities | 4800 km

Ello folks. Hope all is well. Just dropping in again.

Two weeks ago now I finished my 10 day 5 city tour of Western Europe. 42 hours of bus and 4800 kilometers later and I’ve seen more than 99% of the world has. This is going to be a brief overview of everything I did and saw with a little of my 2 cents of each city. My trip started in Berlin. Berlin was very unique. The mixture of history and German modern architecture/fine engineering made Berlin so memorable. One of my first stops was the historical Reichstag which for a long time in German history simply represented a false promise of democracy. The phony parliamentary building was barely put to actual use during its early years when Germany was still ruled by monarchs. It was used slightly during the Weimar Republic but then was burned down and bombed during the rise of Nazi Germany. During the reconstruction of Berlin after World War II it was reconstructed with meaning and symbolism. It now stands with a steel and glass dome. In this building now, visitors can freely walk up and around the dome, which is situated directly above the elected German parliament. A symbol not only of transparency but also the people standing over the government. This is just a taste of this historical but modern Berlin. Other than that, I visited the Brandenburg Gates, the Holocaust Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin Wall and a myriad of other memorials, gardens and monuments. To sit here and give you a history lesson would be boring and lame so if you’re that interested, let me know and I’d be glad to fill you in. Berlin and most of northern Germany in general has a big rave and metal scene. Your stereotypical guys in black skinny jeans, chains and ridiculous Mohawks are common pedestrians. Likewise goes for nightclubs, they’re your typical stone arch basements with sketchy huge bald bouncers. We went to the most well known club in Berlin named Matrix. Entry is sort of hard but we managed. Place is pretty big. On a packed night, all 7 dance floors are shuffle room only,no room for the Holy Spirit out here boys and girls, and every room is playing a different genre of music. Pretty sick and a must if you can in Berlin. Nonetheless prepare yourself for a good time & try to stay away from the insanely attractive hookers.

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My next stop was Amsterdam. Amsterdam was one of a kind, filled with thousands of canals, it is a unique city. With an aspect of magic and beauty with a splash of mischief in its coffee shops and Red Light District. It’s one of a kind and for stories, you’ll just have to ask me in person. Amsterdam I noticed had an interesting demographic as well, I’m  assuming because it’s government is so tolerant and opens its arms to refugees seeking asylum because I felt like a Dutch person was 1 in 6 people I saw. Possibly due to being in the more touristy areas of the city, nonetheless, just an observation. Last note about Amsterdam, definitely visit the Heineken factory and don’t be out in the Red Light too late, scene gets sketchier than it already may seem. Overall, great impression. Its Europe’s city of sin.

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After the mischief of Amsterdam we headed out for Brussels. The center of the European Parliament, the grand palaces, Belgian waffles and their renown pommels frites (since saying French fries wouldn’t make any sense in Europe). Brussels was everything I expected. Clean, wealthy with a whisk of sophistication in the air, everything you’d expect from a country stuck in between France and Germany, the best of both worlds.

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My trip only spent half a day in Brussels, plus everyone was anxious for Paris. So that afternoon we shipped off to Paris. After another long and uncomfortable bus ride, we arrived in Paris. We stayed in the Montmartre quarter and to my surprise the bus dropped us off literally right in front of the famous Moulin Rouge. Montmartre is an interesting neighborhood, originally not even a part of Paris it sits on a hill with a beautiful white church (Sacre Croix) on top. From that church you had a beautiful view of east Paris. In Paris I visited Notre Dame, many of the palaces in the city, the famous lovers bridge covered in locks, of course the Eiffel Tour, the Louvre, the Arch of Triumph, the famous Champs Élysées, all of the gardens in between and Versailles. Knowing I wouldn’t have enough time to calmly see the Louvre, I decided to leave that for another time, figuring I wouldn’t do it justice if I rushed through it. Versailles however was impressive, it’s immensity and grandeur was as expected. I was impressed more with the gardens than the actual structure. Versailles interior has been renovated several times, with the possible exception of the famous bedrooms of King Louis, his queen and mistresses. So a lot of the inside simply didn’t seem original. My favorite room was the Hall of Battles, a long hall with huge paintings of Napoleon’s battles. Lastly I noted that the city of Paris, more so the city center, is extremely clean but as soon I stepped outside of the city, that standard completely disappeared. Oh and one more, you wonder why they picked a rat to be the animal cooking in Ratatouille? Because in Paris these things are everywhere and they’re f-$&/&:?! huge. I fed a few under the Eiffel Tour and my God they put New York’s to shame.

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Next stop, Barcelona. Off to the Catalan hub and home of Lionel Messi. After doing the walking tour of Barcelona, seeing the Olympic Park, Gaudi’s Segrada Familia, the Gothic District and all the sites, we had some free time. I ate paella for lunch and hung out by the port and beach, it was much hotter than I expected but it didn’t matter, I was in Barcelona. I wasn’t sure what to expect of Barcelona but it surely didn’t let me down. The first night we went out to a couple well known bars and ended up at club Opium right on the beach, the place was awesome(warning, the drinks are 10-15€ right off the bat so heads up) but the DJ absolutely killed it. We literally couldn’t leave the dance floor because the next song was always the best. It was absurd, we were out until 7 am where we then exited the back of the club and sat on the beach to watch the sun come up. Got back to the hostel around 8:30 and passed out until 2ish. Woke up and had a day to ourselves. I got up and checked out the port a little more but then got in contact with an old high school buddy studying there in Barcelona. Lucky for me, I come to find out il Classico was going on that night, in Barcelona! I don’t use exclamation points that much but, it was a big deal. After meeting my buddy studying there we went to a bar, grabbed an early table and watched the biggest rivalry game in Spain surrounded by Barca fans. It was glorious, granted I wasn’t at the stadium, it was still great. I mean when the game at the bar you’re at is on a projector and there are people on the second floor leaning over the balconies waving Barca flags and cheering, that’s as close as you can get without dropping €350 on a ticket to actually go to the game. However, final result, Barcelona 2 – Real Madrid 1. With one questionable non call for Cristano Ronaldo in the box, Barca fans got away with a 2-1 win over their rivals over in Madrid. After the win we all went to Piazza Catalunya to celebrate. Slightly partial to Barcelona I joined right in. It was unbelievable, wouldn’t have changed a thing. Good company good time, great timing.

 

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And that was my night, called it an early one after stopping in at a bar with a couple of my roommates and then got up for the last 12-15 hour voyage back to Florence.

 

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There you go, a small taste of my fall break. Hope you enjoyed it.

Thanks for reading.
Stay classy

M