one step at a time

studying abroad in florence, italy
spring 2011

Last day of the program :(

Today was our last day in the program :(

I started the day with (probably) my last bagel at my favorite bakery, Mama’s Bakery. After that I headed to the Palazzo to study before class. I had my last exam, Art History. We were given three post cards and we had to choose to write about. I ended up getting the Mona Lisa and the David. Seriously? Somebody was looking out for me by giving me the two easiest works that we studied all semester. Once I finished I was officially done with the semester :( I had my first real goodbye with my roommate Emily, appropriately enough it was at a gelateria that we frequented..

After saying a tough goodbye I headed to the train station to pick up my parents, the Raimo’s and the Hand’s! It was so nice to see everyone. We piled into cabs and headed to the B&B. Unfortunately, they were uninformed about our arrival time and nobody was there when we got there! So there we are, complete with tons of bags and nowhere to go. Thankfully the school was very close to the B&B and we dropped them off there while we tried to get in touch with the owners of the B&B. We finally did and agreed to meet in an hour, in the meantime we grabbed a panino at my favorite place (Gusta Panino) and sat on the steps of Santo Spirito and enjoyed it.

From there I walked the whole lot around our side of the river Arno and showed them all the important stuff (Palazzo Pitti, Ponte Vecchio, etc…) and they even met some of the girls in my program when we dropped by the school.

We headed to my homestay where I packed up my final things and said my goodbyes in case I didn’t get a chance to come back later. It was really strange leaving a place that had been my home for 3 months. The 7 of us lugged all my stuff to the B&B- thankfully it was quite close. Then we had to go back to the school and get all of the other bags and lug those to the B&B. We got sick of luggage really quickly.

After settling in a bit at the B&B I finished showing them the main sites around Florence and then we headed to one of my favorite pubs, Lion’s Fountain. Stomachs started grumbling so we headed back towards the B&B and enjoyed a lovely meal at Osteria Santo Spirito. After dinner we bought a few bottles of wine and I went to meet up with my roommates back in my homestay. I said a final goodbye to my homestay “mom” and we headed out to meet some people from our program. A few of the girls had left earlier in the day or had early flights, but a decent sized group of us all went out. It was rough saying goodbye, I’m so glad that we all go to JMU so we can see each other on campus :)

Last week of the program

Even though I have some additional time in Florence, my program is ending on Thursday! It’s actually unreal that everything is wrapping up. ABout half of the people in my program are staying in Italy/Europe to travel and the other half is headed back to the states!

This last week is full of exams, final projects, last glances, goodbyes, and worst of all: packing :(

I can’t believe it’s almost over! It all sneaked up on me!

My parents and company are officially in Italy! I spent Sunday in Rome with them and they will be in Florence on Thursday which is also the last day of my program.

We will spend a few days in Florence, move on to Cinque Terre, and then finish off strong in Amalfi Coast! So excited :)

Monday have become my favorite.

Let’s face it- Monday’s have a bad rep. Even though I’m the one who always dreads the end of the weekend and complains about Mondays all the time, I’m starting to absolutely love them over here. Besides the fact that I have to wake up at 8am (which is actually kind of a positive in this situation) Mondays are absolutely lovely. They have definitely become my favorite day of the week- excluding the weekend of course.

Since the weather has gotten so bella (beautiful) lately, my typical Monday has now become rather enjoyable. Even though I absolutely hate getting up early, I kind of appreciate getting up at 8am and getting my day going. I then have Italian class from 9:00am-10:30am. After Italian I usually head to Piazza Reppublica:

or somewhere else around the city to sit on a bench and read a novel for a couple hours. Then I have to go to the school for 15 minutes for a weekly meeting. This is followed by a bagel at Mama’s Bakery, where I make myself comfortable and sit and read a novel for as long as I please, enjoying a bottomless cup of coffee with my bagel.

After I decide that I’m done at Mama’s I head to the bridge crossing the Arno near my house and sit on the ledge and guess what- I read some more. It’s nice to sit in the sunshine and people watch between chapters.

When 5 o clock rolls around I head back to the school to go to my other class of the day. I’m done with that at 6:30 and I walk back to my house with my roommates. Dinner is at 8:30 and I spend my other time studying and spending time with my roomies.

Venice! pt III

There’s really not much to say about Sunday spent in Venice. We had the day to ourselves so a few of the girls and I spent the day walking around the city, shopping and eating lunch. One of the girls we were with really wanted a famous Venetian mask. Although they are absolutely everywhere we wanted to scope out a legitimate store instead of getting a crappy one at a touristy dive. We found a really cool store with some of the most gorgeous, intricate masks. The woman who worked there watched us oohh and aww over all of them for a solid 20 minutes until Kelly finally bought one.  We continued walking around and shopping until we had to be back at the hotel at 2:30 to meet up and head to the train station to leave.

Window display at the shop where Kelly bought her mask. All the masks were so cool!

Venice! pt II

Up early at 8am to catch breakfast at the hotel- pastries (of course, this is Italy), yoghurt, fruit and coffee to start the day. We met up with the tour guide and since we had seen all of the historical sights the previous day, the tour consisted of walking around the city and just absorbing how absolutely gorgeous it is. The weather was beautiful and all of us were ecstatic about wearing dresses and skirts, finally!

Me, Nathalie, Emily, Katie, Kelly and Alina on the walking tour of Venice.

After the walking tour of the city we bought a 12 hour pass for the water bus to get around to the different parts of Venice and surrounding islands.

Our first stop was Lido- the beach! We went into a grocery store, bought salad, fruit, Pringles, etc and headed to the beach with our picnic. We sat there for several hours just soaking up the sun and enjoying good company.

After Lido we decided to head to Murano- the island where all of the famous Venetian glass is produced. Unfortunately we got there a little later than we should have and things were pretty much closed or getting ready to when we got there. Emily bought a watch and we headed out after taking a lot of pictures.

Katie and me in Murano

After Murano we headed back to the hotel and changed for dinner since it started to get a bit chillier and we needed to put pants on. We found another place for dinner- this one not as good as the night before but still some decent spaghetti al pomodoro and a nice mixed salad. We actually ran into another group of girls from our program there! After dinner we were all beat so we headed back to the hotel and went to sleep. Another wild night in Venice :)


After having a bit too much wine the night before, I got up bright and early on Friday April 1st to head to the train station for our train at 9:30am. Not the best decision to get on a train after a little too much to drink the night before- hello motion sickness. Thankfully I caught some sleep on the train and felt loads better once we arrived in Venice.

Before we left Florence we were told that there was a transportation strike. In Italy apparently they strike all the time to get higher wages- and apparently it gets things done. We were assured that even though there was a strike on Friday our train would not be affected since we were taking the fast train which was a relief. Unfortunately when we got to Venice we found out that even though our train was not affected the vaporetto (water bus) was. Since they vaporetto were what we were depending on for transportation to the hotel from the train station- we were a little outta luck. So we set off through the winding streets of Venice on a 45 min trek to the city center- where our hotel was located. As tired as I was I really enjoyed the walk- it was absolutely breathtaking. It was also nice that there were NO cars so we didn’t have to worry about traffic or anything.

We made it to our hotel, located by St. Mark’s square and were given a substantial amount of time for lunch. A few of the girls and I grabbed a sandwich from a stand and sat by the water near St. Mark’s square- it was absolutely gorgeous!

^Our view while eating lunch :)

After lunch we headed back to the hotel where we met up with our guide. Overall I really didn’t like her to be honest. She took us on a walking tour of the Church of San Marco (Saint Mark) and the Doge’s Palace. The Church of San Marco is very different from all of the churches that I’ve been seeing in Italy- it was cool to see the difference. The Doge’s Palace was basically just rooms full of gold and other crazy stuff.

After our tour (thankfully way shorter than the tours in Rome- there’s not much to see in Venice… especially compared to Rome) a few of my friends and I grabbed gelato and a bottle of the local cocktail- bellinis! They were really good and refreshing. We enjoyed them sitting in the same spot where we ate lunch.

We found a restaurant for dinner that ended up being our best meal in Venice. Venice really shuts down at night but this place was open until 11pm, ecen though we ate at like 7pm. I got some amazing gnocchi al pomodoro (gnocchi with tomato sauce) which was seriously delicious. Oddest part of the meal was when an old Italian man decided to post up at the end of our table and ask us random questions. He was strange.

I was pathetic and exhausted so I headed back to the hotel, took a shower and was asleep in bed by 9:30. Wild college kid right here.


@Caitlin Patterson


posted by my friend neil, these are from the day before i left the states. i miss you guys too!

Roma! pt III

Sunday March 20th

Sunday we decided to take it easy since we had been having pretty crazy days so far. A few of us headed to the famous Trevi fountain to mingle with the masses of tourists and of course make a wish. We took the appropriate amount of pictures, tossed a coin into the fountain and looked for some food.

Unfortunately a few of us weren’t feeling too hot and we took refuge in a McDonalds that probably had the worst service I’ve ever encountered in my life. To sum it up the guy was incompetent and my patient ran really thin.

From there we walked back to the Spanish steps (so I got to see them at night and during the day!) where we had to cross the marathon. It was like crossing traffic on 64 o 95 at rush hour.. except with Italians running straight at you. Interesting, but we all got across intact.

We spent the rest of the afternoon laying on the Spanish steps with all of the couples and a group with literally a dozen King Charles Spaniels. From there we meandered over to the Pantheon, stopping where we wished and stumbling into a church with a gorgeous ceiling.

Once we arrived at the Pantheon we met up with a few more girls and one girl in the program Callie insisted that we go to this gelato place that was recommended by her parent’s friends. We went and thank god we did. This place was incredible, they had literally at least 60 different flavors. One  the stranger ones I spotted was champagne.. but I stuck to the classic crema and chocolate, and even sprung for some banana for once. It was all delicious and definitely a great end to a great trip in Rome.

From there we headed back to the hotel to grab our bags. Unfortunately, since there was a marathon running through the main streets of Rome, the buses were not running. This meant that all 27 of us had to trek through the streets of Rome for a solid 45 minutes with our bags to get to the train station. Even thought it was exhausting, it was worth it to enjoy the city a little bit more before we headed back to Florence.

All in all it was a wonderful trip and I’m excited to go back! I saw so much but I know there is still so much to see. I’m glad I got to go when the weather was mild but not freezing- apparently it gets unbearably hot in the summer. One of my favorite cities so far.

Roma! pt II

Saturday March 19th

We started off the day bright and early with a breakfast provided by the hotel.  When they said breakfast they meant coffee, orange juice, and a ridiculous amount of bread. We got a huge hunk of bread and a little bit of butter and also a pastry that would have been better if it was full of chocolate or something. Nevertheless, it was good and coffee was definitely needed.

We met our tour guide at 9am, the son of our tour guide from the previous day. We walked to ruins that are about 5 minutes from our hotel and is where Caesar was killed. There were cats roaming all over the place on the ruins.

From there we walked to the ruins of the Roman Forum. On the way we saw the balcony where Mussolini announced Italy’s entry into WWII. We probably spent 45 minutes more than necessary sitting on ancient rocks and talking about ol’ Julius Caesar, but it was a lovely day out and I really didn’t mind sitting around in a tank top and listening to The Strokes while people watching.

After the Forum it was a quick walk to the Colosseo. We took the classic necessary pictures in front of it and then for some reason (I guess because we were a tour- but that had never done anything for us before) we got to skip the line and go in without waiting which was awesome. We walked around the top part, snapped some pictures, listened to a quick history lesson and then headed down into the lower part. After walking around in the Colosseo a little more we headed back in the direction of the hotel since our last destination, the Pantheon, was a quick 5 minute walk away from it. 

Even though we were absolutely exhausted from two days of being on our feet and walking around- the Pantheon blew my mind. It is still the biggest dome and Raphael’s tomb is there, so that was neat to see.  There are vendors all over the piazza and it’s always interesting to see what they’re selling.

The tour disbanded and we were left with the rest of the afternoon to do what we pleased. Since it was 2pm and we were starting to feel a slump, my friend Ellie and I got a coffee with our FMIR (faculty member in residence, she teaches a class and comes with us on trips to make sure we don’t kill ourselves or something), her friend that was tagging along and the tour guide. We discussed potential activities for the rest of the afternoon and Sunday which was a free day. We wanted to go to the Borghese Museum on Sunday but once we said that to the tour guide we were informed that if we didn’t have a reservation there was no way that was happening.

We decided that we were not going to take no for an answer and headed to the Borghese to see what the situation was. We got there at about 3:15 and were informed that tickets were sold out until Tuesday evening. Still not taking no for an answer, the man at the ticket counter told us that reservations were at 9am, 11am, 1pm, 3pm, 5pm and 7pm. Since we had just missed the 3pm he told us to come back at 5om because if people don’t show up for their reservations they start selling the tickets. The four of us walked out, planning on walking around the park to kill time. We ended up calling two other students in the program who were interested in going and one of us went back inside to ask a question. When they went back inside the guy miraculously had two tickets and we were told to take them and that it was very likely we would be able to get another 2 at 5:00.

We spent the next hour and a half or so killing time in the park. It was a gorgeous place and the weather was pleasant. We headed back to the ticket office at 5. Long story short there were other people trying to get tickets too, the guy totally knew I was first, I used my skills to box these two guys out and all six of us ended up getting tickets and getting into the museum.

I tend to make hyperbolic statements way too often. Even so, take this as completely true and not hyperbolic at all. The Bernini statues that we saw were literally breathtaking. I stood and stared at each one for at least a solid 15 minutes, impressed at the detail and how magnificent they were. Since they made us leave everything at the coat check, I didn’t get to take pictures. My favorite was the Rape of Persephone, which you can google to see the whole thing, but this is the coolest detail about it:

The way her skin looks underneath his hands is incredible- it’s even cooler in real life. If you’re ever in Rome please please please make a trip to see these amazing sculptures.

After the Borghese we stumbled over the the Spanish steps. After being awake at 8am and touring all day we were so tired and delirious that we were acting kinda tipsy. They did a study that being overtired is the equivalent to being inebriated and now I believe them. We hadn’t had a drop to drink all night and we were definitely acting a little intoxicated.

After seeing the Spanish steps at night we aimlessly wandered around the city until we got back to our hotel (thankfully). Then I went to dinner with a few of the girls from my program and had some gnocchi. That stuff is amazing, I wonder if I can find it in the States…

After dinner a big group of us went out for drinks and headed back to the hotel for the night.


Friday March 18th

After taking the 8:45 fast train, we arrived in Rome at about 10:15am. From the train station we checked in to our hotel near Piazza Navona, so appropriately enough it was named Hotel Navona. I was in a room with three other girls from my program and even though they fit four beds in the room, it was a stretch. We had about 30 minutes to grab a quick bite to eat and then we met our tour guide at the hotel.

Our tour guide met us at the hotel and from there we walked to the Vatican.  The wait was only about 30-40 minutes and the weather was beautiful, so waiting outside in the line wasn’t too terrible.

Once we got into the Vatican Museums, we walked through a small portion of it but it took a solid couple of hours. The place is a giant labyrinth and most rooms were absolutely packed. I’m not going to bore you with all of the details but saying that I saw a huge amount of amazing art will suffice.

From there we finally got to the Sistine Chapel and I was so surprised. Our tour guide told us vehemently that there was to be not talking and no picture taking- he even gave us his little spiel about it before we walked in. With that in mind I was expecting it to be quiet and was shocked when I walked into a huge crowd being quite talkative- some even raising their voices. Not only that but also everyone was snapping pictures and being quite obvious about it, some even using flash. Apparently soon after we left the guards started to quiet everybody down.

At this point it had reached 4:30 and we were all exhausted. We dragged ourselves through St. Peter;s Basilica and even though my feet were killing me and I was starting to get irritable I was amazed. The place is massive and gorgeous- plenty of room to walk around without being squished between people and just admire the beauty without feeling rushed or crowded.

Once we walked out of St. Peter’s there was a storm coming from Rome towards Vatican City, over St. Peter’s Square the sky was still gorgeous and blue and then the other side was this magnificent orange and cloudy. There was even a rainbow! Definitely one of the most intense skies I’ve ever seen and we had to walk towards it. It sprinkled a little bit but it was refreshing and didn’t last very long.

After we left St. Peter’s Basilica we started walking back to the hotel and my friends Ellie and Katie and I decided to get a drink. We ended up getting a drink at one place and sat at the outdoor seating on a pleasant road. From there we walked around trying to pick between dozens of restaurants offering appetizers and a primi piatti for anywhere from 12-20 euro.  We settled on a place where we got a glass of white wine, a bruscetta covered in tomatoes and olive oil and a margherita pizza for only 12 euros! It was a good deal and good food. From there we ended up having another drink at a different bar where we ended up making good friends with the cute bartenders. Most likely because not only are we three girls but also we were the only people in there. They made us three drinks, one was red, one was white and one was green- they made us an Italian flag! It was really cool but the drinks were kinda weird.

From there we headed back to the hotel where we socialized for a bit before heading to bed quite early- we had another tour to wake up for in the morning :)

Things I miss and do not miss about America:

Things I miss about America:

  • My family and friends
  • CHIPOTLE (and various other food, I could go on)
  • Getting free water at restaurants
  • Not having to pay for ketchup at fast food restaurants
  • Being able to do my laundry for free
  • JMU!
  • One stop shopping, i.e.: Target (seriously, buying everything you need in one store is something that you should appreciate. a lot.)
  • Normal sized sidewalks. Seriously the sidewalks here are a JOKE
  • Coffee to go
  • Common courtesy. People do not care if you’re just walking along minding your own business, they will knock you over for no reason.

Things I do not miss:

  • America’s poor excuse for Italian food
  • Lack of (good) public transportation, (at least where I live)
  • American coffee. As much as I love the convenience America has in terms of “to go” (which they don’t really do in Italy but you can get it occasionally) the coffee here is so much better.
  • The way guys dress. It’s true, they’re way more fashionable here
  • Not being able to walk everywhere (it’s seriously convenient. and also free)
  • The drinking age

Yesterday, (Friday March 4th) my friend Nathalie and I went to Perugia to visit her cousin that lives there. We took the train at noon and it took us about two hours to get there. It’s the capital city of the region of Umbria and is set up on a mountain. It oddly reminded me of Harrisonburg in some ways, mostly due to the mountains.

Once we got to the train station, Nathalie’s cousin Fabrizzio picked us up and we drove into the city a little more. It had been so long since I’d actually been in a car! Once we parked we went in search of a place to eat lunch, but apparently everything closes at 3pm and as it was about 3:15 we were outta luck. We found a kebab place and ate there (seriously, kebab places are EVERYWHERE on this continent). I wasn’t hungry since I had eaten on the train so I got something small.

After lunch we walked around a little more but didn’t spend too much time outside because it was really cold! I thought it would be about the same as Florence and when we left the weather was pretty nice. Perugia was a good five to ten degrees colder and I wasn’t dressed very appropriately for the weather. I definitely should have layered more!

Since we wanted to get out of the cold but still see the city, Nathalie’s cousin suggested that we ride their metro. It’s a small system, just one line that is partially inside and partially outside. It’s appropriately named the “MiniMetro”. Apparently it wasn’t necessary for in the city but it was needed for people who live outside of the city and use it to get into the city center for work. We rode it from the city center to the end and then back again. We literally felt like we were on a roller coaster because it didn’t feel like a metro or a train! It was definitely worth it and a quicker, warmer way to see the city. Plus we got awesome views of Perugia!

Through a series of events I ended up exiting the gates of the metro when I wasn’t supposed to, so I had to try to sneak back in. Unfortunately the gates are not like subways at home where you can just hop over the turnstile… they have glass doors that open and close. Nathalie’s cousin put his ticket in as if he was going to exit to allow me to get back in. Unfortunately somehow the gates knew what we were doing and when I tried to run in I guess they have some sort of sensor that made the doors close on me. They go from about my knees to my shoulders and they made a lovely Caitlin sandwich as I squeezed through. I laughed it off but man, they hurt!

This caused another problem because when I actually wanted to exit, my ticket registered that I had already left which means the doors wouldn’t open for me. So when Nathalie put her ticket in and went through the doors I stuck really close behind her and sneaked through as well. Since Nathalie’s cousin had swiped his ticket as well to let me back in we had to buy him another ticket. When we passed it over to him it wouldn’t let him out since it hadn’t been registered as going in. When we put the ticket in on our side so that it would think he was going in, he tried to sneak through and the doors closed on him too! Not the best of luck with the MiniMetro.

After that experience we wanted to get out of the cold again and had a couple of hours to kill before out 7:39 train. We sat in a bar and had a drink. I got a coffee drink that was called “After Eight”, named after the cookie I’m assuming. It had espresso, chocolate, mint liquor and whipped cream. It was delicious.

Since Nathalie’s cousin only spoke a little bit of English we tried to mostly speak Italian. My Italian can get me through the day in Florence, mostly because everyone here speaks a good amount of English and humors me. Perfect opportunity to practice. It didn’t go terribly, but it didn’t go that great either… definitely need to learn more!

After that we got a couple sweets to eat on the train and headed to the station. After the two hour train ride home we were back in Florence. I was too exhausted to think about finding a place to eat at 9:45 so I grabbed McDonalds to go and headed back to my house only to find out she had given me chicken nuggets. And I was really craving a burger. Damn.

Prague: Day 2 (25/2/2011)

Started off the morning again with another all you can eat breakfast at the hostel. We decided that we wanted to go to the Prague Market, which was far enough away to definitely constitute a metro ride. Thankfully the metro was fairly easy to navigate and we got to the correct metro stop without a problem. Once we got off of the metro, we didn’t do so well. We started off by going the wrong way because the map was misleading and then we finally got pointed in the wrong direction. Once we arrived it was definitely anticlimactic. I was hoping for some cute little stands with hand made crafts or something of that nature. The whole thing was pretty much a bunch of stands with creepy Vietnamese people trying to sell crappy tshirts, fake designer bags, and random brass knuckles. There was a nice fruit market which was pretty much the only redeeming quality, but we didn’t have a lot of use for fruit at the time. We left pretty soon after our arrival.

From there our group split up in two groups because we had different agendas. My group ended up taking a really cheap cab over to the Jewish Quarter because it cost us a dollar more each than the metro and took about a quarter of the time. We went through the Jewish cemetery and the synagogue. The synagogue’s walls are covered with the names of all of the Jewish people who were killed during WWII in Prague. Also, upstairs they have an exhibit showing artwork that was created by children in one of the concentration camps. The whole thing was really interesting.

From there we went back to the Lennon wall because a couple of the girls hadn’t seen it yet. Exhausted, we walked back to the hostel. We wanted to get some authentic Czech food but we were too tired and it was too cold to leave the hostel. Instead we went downstairs and ate in the bar/restaurant down there. We talked with our British friends that we met and had a couple drinks but went upstairs early because our flight the next morning was at 9am.

After packing all of our stuff we went to bed early, woke up at 6:30am and left the hostel at 7 for the airport.

THe next day was just a day of traveling to the airport by cab, a plane to Milan, a bus to the train station in Milan, a train to Florence and then ended with walking back to our apartment with our heavy bags. It was nice to be back in a familiar city.

Prague: Day 1 (24/2/2011)

We started off the morning right with an all you can eat breakfast at our hostel/hotel which cost about $7 once you convert it from 130 crowns. It was totally worth it. They had eggs, cheese, ham, different types of bread, cereal, yogurt, coffee, tea and it was all you can eat. Heaven.

From there we took a free walking tour that was provided by the hostel that other people were allowed to join as well. It took a solid three hours including a break in the middle to thaw out and get a bagel and soup at their version of a Panera. We walked around in the cold and saw Old Town, New Town, the Jewish Quarter, the Estates Theater, the Rudolfinum as well as a beautiful view of the Prague Castle and probably more that I can’t recall. Our tour guide was Scottish and hysterical and even though we were absolutely freezing (while wearing all of our clothes, hats and gloves) it was a great tour.

The walking tour ended at the Rudolfinum and from there we walked to the Charles Bridge. It’s an incredible pedestrian bridge and it was really nice to walk across. It’s also in the movies Mission Impossible and xXx.

From there we walked up the Prague Castle and walked through the whole thing. At the entrance we met some girls from Boston College and one of them actually lives about 15 minutes from me back at home. What a small world, running into someone that lives so close in the Czech Republic, of all places. After walking through the Castle and seeing some gorgeous views of Prague, we walked to the Lennon Wall. Since the 1980s it has been covered in John-Lennon inspired graffiti, quotes form Beatles songs, random people’s thoughts, names, and quotes. It’s always changing and a really cool thing to see.

We walked to the information center where you can buy tickets for the various theaters to see a show. Unfortunately it closed about five minutes before we got there. We really wanted to see Swan Lake and one of our friends had seen it the night before. Apparently it was showing Thursday and Sunday night, so we missed out since we were leaving Saturday morning. After finding out that the only thing playing had already started, we ended up deciding on a Black Light Theater. These theaters are all over Prague and it’s one of the things they are known for. We decided to go to one with a story and ended up steps from the Charles Bridge watching a show called “Aspects of Alice”. They took the character of Alice from the famous Alice in Wonderland and had various scenes that were symbolizing different stages in life (first love, heartbreak, growing up, etc.) The scenes used black lights (hence the name), odd puppets and tricks of the light. Also none of the characters spoke (only an occasional giggle or sob) so you had to depend on nonverbal gestures to figure out what was going on and who Honestly if I tried to explain it I would fail miserably and probably sound delusional. It was all very strange but I definitely enjoyed it and so did the other girls that came with me.

We came back to the hostel and went to sleep after a long day.

Amsterdam: Day 3 (23/2/2011)

For breakfast we went to one of their chain coffee shop (an ACTUAL coffee shop) called the Coffee Company. I had seriously the best muffin I’ve had in my entire life, it was apple cinnamon. (And in case you’re wondering, no it did not have any drugs in it. It was just a really good muffin)

From there we braved the experience of the tram to get to the Van Gogh Museum because it was so far from our hostel. We got on the right line and the lady at the hostel said to just buy tickets from the driver. Well the guy shoots off on the tram and is half selling tickets and half driving this insane tram. And then sometimes he just straight ignored us. Once we got around to all of us buying tickets the last two didn’t even have to. He was like “Don’t worry about it, it’s the next stop.” The whole experience was really strange.

Once we got off the tram we headed to the Van Gogh Museum. It was one of my favorite museums of the whole trip. Not only was all of the work obviously incredible but the museum itself was set up very well. They also had works by people that influenced Van Gogh as well as people he influenced. There was an additional exhibit called Picasso in Paris that I thoroughly enjoyed as well. I bought a few post card sized prints at the museum store and we left again.

The plan was to take a tram to a canal boat tour and end our trip in Amsterdam with that. At one of the tram stops there was a huge commotion that we could see from the tram. A huge group of people had formed and there was music blasting. We decided to get off the tram and figure out what was going on. A famous dutch DJ (who happens to be famous all over the world, not just the Netherlands) had a surprise show that we stumbled across. When we asked a random Dutch guy who he was he was shocked that we had never heard of him. His name is Armin van Buuren. We weren’t able to stay long because we wanted to catch the canal tour but we stayed long enough for a couple of the girls to make it onto a video on youtube.

We got back on the tram and made it to the boat just in time to get on the tour. It was a really peaceful way to see Amsterdam and it was nice to get off of our feet. After the hour long boat tour we went back to the hostel to pick up our things and head to the train station.

After some difficulty with the ticket machine we finally got on a train to the airport, just as it started snowing. By the time we got inside the airport it was coming down pretty hard but thankfully the ground was too warm for it to stick. We grabbed a bite to eat, waited in the slowest moving security line I’ve ever been in and by the time we got to the gate it was almost time to board the plane to Prague. 

We landed in a dark, frigid country and found ourselves a cab to the hostel. Since there were eight of us all together it only cost us 4 euro each for the cab. It was really nice to be dropped off on the doorstep instead of having to take a train or tram and then navigate ourselves to the hostel on foot. We checked in and we lucked out by getting an 8 person room, so all of us were together and there was nobody else in our room. Our hostel looked more like a hotel and after some research I found out that they also provide hotel accommodations on the higher floors. Our room was really nice and spacious with the typical bunk bed setup. The whole design of the place was really modern and the bathroom was incredible. Definitely recommend staying there if you get the chance.

After we checked in we were all hungry but too exhausted to leave the hostel. Thankfully they have a bar/restaurant downstairs and I indulged in a huge plate of nachos and a beer. We met a few Americans and talked to them while we ate and then ended up going upstairs and going to bed.

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