Sunday, December 1, 2013


Holy moly, what a week!  Sorry in advanced for how long this post is going to be!

     Last Wednesday Aunt Leanne arrived and we wasted no time getting started on the Prague experience.  Since we were both starving, our adventures began at my favorite café, Café Ebel, where we scarffed down a mozzarella, tomato, and basil bagel and the best hot chocolate ever made.  Next, we walked through Old Town and into Wenceslas Square.  We stopped for some hot wine then journeyed to a brewery that someone recommended to her, Ufleku.  We sat at a table where we were showered with beers, shots of honey liquor, and divine accordion playing.  The atmosphere was perfectly Czech.  After that we went to my favorite gelato place, Angelato, where we ran into Michelle and Ed.  Prague is a small world. 

    Luckily for Aunt Leanne, this Wednesday was The American Presentation.  Presentations are events that are held for students of a particular country to create a video that brags about how wonderful their country is.  This week’s presentation was held in a new club so we ventured off the beaten path to find it.  After Leanne was attacked by my fellow American friends with hellos, hugs and loud music, we sadly had to go.  Well… not too sadly… we were headed to the midnight premier of Hunger Games: Catching Fire!  So according to the time-change, we saw it 6 hours before anyone in America saw it.  So ha!  It quickly became my new favorite movie.
American presentation



     The next day Aunt Leanne and I ventured to the Charles Bridge, love-lock bridge, the park, and up Petrin Hill.  We ate dinner somewhere (I can’t remember), and headed to the Beer Museum.  This was when the real fun started.  We were sitting at a table with four chairs, but we only used up two, so when a large group of boys (cute boys) needed more chairs, OBVIOUSLY I was going to offer them our extra chairs.  Turns out they are a small group of Canadians and Brits traveling around Europe.  We ended up talking to and drinking with two of the Canadians, Oscar and Kurt, all night.  Kurt had traveled all through Australia and Oscar was about to do the same, so Leanne and them had plenty to talk about!  I expected it to be an early night, since we had to be up early to catch a train, but Leanne thought otherwise.  Thank goodness she persuaded me to go out, because it was one of the best nights I’ve had in Prague.  The Canadians, Brits and us ended up at a bar called James Deans thanks to the suggestion of a very drunk & adorable Czech couple.  This bar appears from the outside to be a diner, but when you go downstairs, the party is bumpin’!  What a great night it was!
Oscar and Kurt!  Sorry it's blurry!

     After finally getting onto the metro at like 5:30am we got about 2 hours of sleep before we had to be up to catch out train to Plzen.  We arrived in Plzen for our tour of the Pilsner Brewery.  Pilsner is a well-known Czech beer.  The tour was extremely interesting and ended with a beer tasting.
    After taking the train home, I took Leanne to another café, Mamma Coffee, for the best hummus in the world.  Although they did not have pitas at the time, the bread sufficed.  Leanne quickly agreed that this is the best hummus in the universe.  We went back to the dorm to get ready for the night.  At like 11:30pm we headed out to PoPo's, our usual underground bar hangout with a cool atmosphere and cheap drinks.  Next we walked to Lucerna, a bar that plays only 80s and 90s hits.  Sometimes the music is hit or miss, but tonight the DJ was spot on!  He even threw in some Britney Spears and Grease to make us feel like we were home.  At 2am, after both of us got creepily hit on by multiple guys of varying ages, we decided to go to another club.  Our Canadian friends were at a club called Harley’s and asked us to join them.  This place was an underground hidden treasure too.  It was packed from wall to wall!  We had a blast with the Canadians again, and it was so hard to say bye to them at the end of the night.  Thanks for an amazing two nights Kurt & Oscar!


     We headed back to the room at 6:30am for another 2 hours of sleep before we had to pick up Mom from the airport.  Once we picked up Mom, we hit the ground running!  We went to the Castle, then had crepes, then went to the love-lock bridge, then the Lennon Wall, then the Charles Bridge.  After short siesta, we went to dinner at Café Louvre with Gorman joining us.  Man, oh man, dinner was delicious! But more importantly that dinner, dessert was phenomenal.  Gorman thought it was hilarious how important dessert is for our family.  It was a great night filled with great conversation!  We even found out that Gorman’s mom and Gina both went to Sienna and graduated a year apart from one another! To burn off dinner we walked passed the National Theater, then to the Dancing House, then to the Charles Bridge to see it at night.

Me and Maminka in front of Charles University
Dancing House!
Good luck charm
From the Castle
Lennon Wall writing
     The next day (Sunday) we wanted to go to the TV tower for breakfast, but it was closed for a private party.  Instead we traveled to Namesti Miru to check out the Christmas markets!  ‘Tis the season!  Then we went back to the Christmas markets in Mustek to get more souvenirs.  Since Leanne and I wanted Mom to experience the life changing abilities of the hummus at Mamma Coffee we went back there for a late lunch. Then, to get Aunt Leanne to quit bugging me, we found the Cubist lamp post!  Michelle joined us for dinner at a traditional Czech food restaurant.  Another delicious and delightful meal!  Mom and Leanne got goulash so their Prague experience was almost complete.  It wouldn’t totally be complete without trying Becherovka.  Becherovka is a Czech liquor that essentially, believe it or not, tastes like Christmas.  We invited all the Czech Tech boys to come to the downstairs bar to hang out with Mom and Leanne.  We showed Mom some drinking games, Zoomie Zoomie and Cheers Governor.  She caught on pretty quick and it was a hilarious night.  Gina paid for a round of Becherovka shots for us all, which she quickly regretted after tasting it. 
Becherovka shots with some of the boys
     On Monday we headed back into Old Town for breakfast/lunch at the “The Bakery”.  Then we went to the top of the Astronomical Clock Tower, which has become my new favorite view of Prague.  Although it was cold, the scenery was breath-taking!  After running errands and printing out bus/plane tickets we stopped for a lunch/dinner at Café Ebel so Mom could try the amazing hot chocolate.  Then I had class from 5:30-8:30pm so Mom and Leanne ventured on their own through Old Town and found a rooftop bar with a spectacular view.  To wrap up the week together we shared a bottle of Moravian wine while we packed.
one-side view from clock tower

     The next morning we woke up early to drop Leanne off at the Airport shuttle and catch our bus to Bratislava. 

Thanks for a fun and memorable few days in Prague, Aunt Leanne!  So humbled that you came to visit me.  Late nights and a million memories.

     Off to Bratislava to see Alena!  For those of you who don’t know, Alena is Jana’s sister-in-law.  Jana was my nanny growing up.  Alena came to live with us for a few months, then moved in with Aunt Chrissy to help with the kids and learn English.  It had been about 10 years since I have seen her and she hadn’t changed a bit!  Her adorable two-room apartment was on the outskirts of the city.  She showed us photo albums filled with pictures of her American adventure.  She had a bunch of pictures of me and her, which I thought was so cool and special.  I never knew that her time in America impacted her so much, but she was so appreciative of us.  She took us to the Parliament, the Castle, and the Christmas markets.  Bratislava is like a mini Prague.  We even had snow for most of the time we were there!
Bratislava Castle

Me and Alena!


Mom and Alena

Christmas in Bratislava

     The next morning, as quickly as we got there, we were off to Rome!  With the help of a friendly American we found our way to the general area of our apartment.  With no map, it was pretty much a shot in the dark.  After circling around the correct street for about an hour we finally found the apartment!  Luckily the landlord gave us a map as soon as we got there.  Although the apartment didn’t have wifi, it was perfectly adorable.  It even had a rooftop balcony with a beautiful view.
Night time view from our roof while there was a crazy party at Castel Sant Angelo

Day 1 in Rome:  Thanksgiving morning! Up early and at St. Peter’s Basilica by 8:30am!  Wow this church was indescribable.  Easily climbed to the top of my list of favorite churches.  Mom thought she saw the Pope, so we chased down this man who looked like the Pope, but we lost him.  Then we spent hours at the Vatican Museum—there is so much to see!  I’m so happy we got an audio-guide because it gave us a general overview of everything that we were seeing.  Random Fact:  If you spent 1 minute reading about every object in the Vatican Museum you would spend 9 years in the Museum before you finished.  So we can never let Dad go to this museum or we’ll lose him for 9 years. 
Next we went to Castel Sant’ Angelo, a really cool castle with a great view on top!  For Thanksgiving we were invited to eat dinner with the faculty and students at American University of Rome, where Steph studied abroad for a semester.  The counselors there were so welcoming and the dinner had such a family-like atmosphere.  I even ran into a friend from High Point at the dinner!
     Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, peas, cranberry sauce, carrot cake, pumpkin pie… with every bite I felt like I was back in America.  Thank you to everyone at AUR for your wonderful hospitality!
    Since there was no wifi, Mom and I spent the evenings watching Italian television.  I was excited to see how much of the shows I could understand!  Thanks Laquale for being a wonderful Italian professor!
View from rooftop at AUR
Dinner at AUR!

Castel Sant Angelo 

Vatican Museum

St. Peter's Basilica
My new favorite altar
Gina outside St. Peter's Basilica
Day 2 in Rome:  We literally couldn’t have seen more of Rome if we tried
·      Tomb of the Unknown Soldier—with the most amazing view I have ever seen
·      Piazza Venezia
·      Forum
·      Colosseum
·      Arch of Constantine
·      Spanish Steps (real ones and fake ones)
·      Trevi Fountain
·      Via Condotti (shopping central for rich people)
·      Pantheon
·      Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva
·      Piazza Navona
·      Church of San Luigi dei Francesi
    Man, were we exhausted!!  We took a siesta in typical Italian fashion then ate a delicious meal of, you guessed it, pasta!  I had more pasta, pizza, and gelato during this trip than any human should have in a lifetime.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
View from the rooftop of Tomb go the Unknown Soldier

Amazing 360 view of Rome from here 

Arch of Constantine under construction 
Gina at the Colosseum

Spanish Steps

Trevi Fountain wish!

The Pantheon

Piazza Navona 
Crazy street dancer at Piazza Navona

Day 3 in Rome:  We had to be out of our apartment by 11am so we woke up early to check out the markets at Campo dei Fiori and Piazza Navona.  We ate breakfast outside looking out at the hustle and bustle of this fresh food market.  We had a typical “American” breakfast of omelets and pancakes.  Then we went through the market and bought tons of biscotti and souvenirs! Then unfortunately we had to walk back to the apartment to grab our luggage and head to the airport.  Mom and I went out separate ways at the airport, her heading to Heathrow and me back to Prague.  It was such a perfect week before the crunch time of finals!  Two weeks to go! Where does time go?!
Campo dei Fiori open market

Rome, I'll be back.  You have my heart.

Thank you Mom for such an amazing time in Rome and Prague!  I can’t believe we got to see so much in so little time!  I am so thankful to have you in my life!  What an amazing week I will never forget!

    This year I am thankful for so many things.  Although I was sad to not be with my family for Thanksgiving, I am thankful to have such an amazing family to come home to.  I am thankful for this semester.  For how much I have learned about myself and about this crazy world.  I am thankful for technology to keep me connected with the people I love and miss.  I am thankful for my Prague family whom I have grown to love so so much.  I am thankful for this city, filled with romance, adventure, and Christmas spirit.  I am thankful for my camera which captures the beauty of the places and people here so I never forget them.  I am thankful for working showers and hairdryers and wifi and clothes dryers.  I am thankful for my new-found love of cooking.  I am thankful for this travel-bug that has opened my eyes to the world.  I am thankful for love, because without it the world would stop spinning.  I am blessed and I am thankful.

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