Monday, January 26, 2015


Hey Trendsetters,

As I mentioned in my previous post, A Semester Abroad, I was able to travel a lot outside of my host country during my semester in London. So here are all of the photos, stories, and fashion statements from the rest of my travels and excursions!

Oktoberfest (Munich, Germany)

My first destination was the famous Oktoberfest festival. Everyone has heard stories about the legendary beer tents with an endless amount of beer-filled steins, so I knew that it was an opportunity that I could not miss. I happened to be in Europe in the fall, when Oktoberfest takes place, so it became #1 on my travel list. While I like to tell people that I've been to Germany, I regrettably didn't see much of the country outside of the festival, itself. I would love to revisit the home of many of my ancestors in order to get a better understanding of the culture. However, I did pick up a few things….

First off, I should tell you that I went to Germany by myself. I was the only one from my school in CA who studied abroad in London that semester, and most people in my program that went to Oktoberfest had made plans with other people from their home schools in advance. It was mid-September when I decided that I would go, which is extremely late, since Oktoberfest begins a couple weeks later (it actually starts in September, despite its name). This means that finding hotels/lodging is difficult, and expensive. However, in my web searching, I happened upon a company that sets up temporary hostels for events, called Hostival, the Festival Hostel (Here is their Facebook page).  They had the most reasonable prices that I had seen and were located near a train that can take you directly to the festival every day. The hostel incorporates different themes for each festival, and the theme they had chosen for Oktoberfest was the Hangover Hospital, which seemed all too fitting.

The rooms were essentially tents filled with bunk beds for a total of twelve people in each. My tent was labeled the "Plastic Surgery Room" and I shared it with five men. They were kind and kept to themselves, and did not make me feel intimidated in the least. The hostel also hosted a "club crawl" in the evening, when Oktoberfest had closed, which I took part in the first night. I made friends with a group of Americans who also happened to be studying in London at a different school, and actually kept in touch with them when I got back to the city. We also went with each other to the festival the following day.

However, on the first day, I had boarded a plane to Munich on my own, not knowing what was in store for me. I was a little nervous to be traveling by myself to a German-speaking country where I would be completely foreign and inevitably lost. Luckily, a lovely German man sat next to me on the plane, and we chatted the entire way there. He had been in London for work and was on his way home. Though he didn't even have plans to go to Oktoberfest that day, he offered to accompany me there and help me find my hostel. As soon as we landed he told me that I had to experience a "traditional German breakfast," and treated me to one at the airport. The breakfast consisted of white sausages, a soft pretzel, mustard, and practically a gallon of beer (at 10am, mind you). To top it all off, he helped me to navigate the trains and bought a ticket for me that would last the entire weekend. I have heard a lot of stereotypes about Germans, but all of the ones I have been fortunate to meet have blown me away with their kindness. It just goes to show that you never know who you might meet in your travels, but if you keep an open mind and a warm disposition, it will work out in your favor.

BUT I am not saying that you should not be careful. When I met this man, I received completely good vibes and I wasn't hesitant at all to continue my journey with him. Therefore, my advice would be to follow your gut. I am generally a trusting person, but people are capable of things that I shudder to even think about. You cannot run off with just anyone that you meet in a foreign country and assume that you will be safe. Assess the situation and use your best judgement to make decisions. I would have been hopelessly lost if I had not accepted the guidance of this man, but I can see how the circumstances could have gone drastically differently.

My first night at Oktoberfest, with my native tour guide.
It was late afternoon by the time we actually arrived at Oktoberfest, which means that the beer tents were full. Fortunately, my new guide knew a guy working in one of them, so we were allowed in, despite the fact that it was over capacity. My first few glimpses of the festival were overwhelming, yet exciting. We drank down steins of beer and joined in with the lively and festive atmosphere. The tent was full of live music, singing, and all sorts of merry-making. We made friends with an Australian, who was a riot, and I learned my first German word: PROST! (cheers!)

I was amazed by the waitresses, who could carry five of these heavy steins at a time, in each hand!

After having our fill of beer, we decided to explore other aspects of the festival, like rides:


These are traditional German gingerbread hearts, which are sometimes kept and hung as decorations, rather than eaten.

and, of course, FOOD:

These are two versions of a traditional dumpling soup, one with meat and the other with dough and mushrooms.

This was some sort of doughy-potato thing in a broth that I randomly selected from a German menu… I actually ate this on my second day of Oktoberfest. It was a warm welcome to my hangover and was necessary before I could partake in the drinking activities of that day. 

The giant pretzels are a staple of Oktoberfest, and the German diet. Surprisingly, though, they were served cold.
I searched high and low to find my favorite German dish: spaetzle (a type of german dumpling). This version is made with cheese and topped with crispy onions. 

Not featured here, but highly popular in German cuisine is the Hendl-- an entire roasted chicken. 

Though I was traveling by myself, I went in without any expectations and was willing to take each moment as it came. It really allowed me to branch out and, in the end, I wouldn't have done it any other way. This mindset translated to my other travels, most of which I did by myself.


Too often, people travel to a country and don't venture outside of its capital city. While I stayed in Dublin by night, I took excursions to other parts of the country by day. This way, I got the best of both worlds; I got a taste of the nightlife in Dublin while also seeing the beauty of the countryside that makes up the majority of this magical place. 

In Dublin, I walked around the bar district and popped into The Temple Bar, which is a well-known Irish destination. I stood at the crowded bar, listened to live music, and, of course, tasted the bitter flavor of a tall glass of Guinness. 

Sweater: Forever 21, Necklace: Primark (London, £8!)

During the day, I embarked on guided tours in order to see as much of the country as I could in a long weekend. My first trip was to the Cliffs of Moher, which are featured in the movie The Princess Bride (which I love!). It rained off and on during my trip and, though it was mostly sunny during this particular day, I fell victim to the merciless wind. 

I was really *blown away* by the sights in Ireland. 

We stopped at a couple of old graveyards in Ireland, which were eerie but beautiful.

Scarf: Forever 21, Jacket: Urban Outfitters

Boots: Steve Madden
The next day, I experienced the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge, which is suspended between two cliffs over the ocean. I was happy to find that it was open for climbing, as they told us that it was borderline dangerous to cross with the wind. Though heights aren't my strongpoint, I wasn't phased by this activity and felt pretty safe crossing over to the other side, and back again. 

The same day, I travelled to the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland, and was chilled to the bone by the wind. However, it was worthwhile because it was an amazing sight to see! There is an Irish myth that the origins of the causeway are credited to two dueling giants. The rock in the righthand corner is thus called the Giant's Boot, because of its shape. 

There were a lot of cool rock formations at this site, and you have the option to climb the side of the cliff and see the causeway from an aerial view that is quite breathtaking. 

Scarf: Urban Outfitters, Jacket & Skirt: Forever 21
 On the third day I took a tour of some of the smaller sites and villages. The photo above is from a part of the countryside that was depicted in the movie P.S. I Love You, which happens to be one of my favorites! It is a beyond-beautiful country that I am so lucky to have been able to explore.

I have never seen a place that is so GREEN! (I guess the rain pays off for the Irish)

Last but not least: I could not have gone to Ireland without visiting some of its many castles. Here is Doune Castle, which was utilized several times in Monty Python

It was a windy and rainy trip, but I loved every minute of it. Sometimes you have to get through the rainstorm in order to experience the rainbow at the end. 

Barcelona (Spain)

During the month of November, my university participated in what is known as "Reading Week;" a week in which students are expected to dedicate their time to catching up on the semester's readings and homework. However, to us study abroad students, that meant an opportunity for an extended trip. I chose to stay in Barcelona for 10 days because I had a friend from my home school that was studying there for the semester. Though I was there for a longer amount of time, I managed to find something new to do every day and was sad when it came time to leave... Especially because it was nice to have some warmer weather to bask in! More sunshine meant an opportunity to exercise a less restrictive wardrobe.

One of the first things that I did was go on a walking tour of the Gaudí buildings. Gaudí is a renowned architect who filled Barcelona with his innovative and inspiring masterpieces. Here are a few that stood out:

 This is La Sagrada Familia, which is yet to be completed. You can see by the intricate details that it is not an easy feat, and it is not surprising that Gaudí was unable to finish it within his lifetime. 

This is one of my favorites by Guadí, the Casa Batlló. I just love the bright colors and organic structure of the exterior. 

The Casa Milà is another fantastic piece of architecture. Its curvy, natural shape defies the geometric aesthetics of most buildings. Fun fact: the structures on top served as inspiration for George Lucas in his creation of Star Wars (the two connected structures to the left notably resemble the stormtroopers while the structure to the far right is the influence for Darth Vader's mask).

Even the ground we were walking on was beautiful! These tiles were designed by Gaudí as well and lined the streets along his creations. (I was SO happy to be wearing sandals!)

Top: Topshop, Skirt: boutique ($40), Sunglasses: Urban Outfitters

There's a superstition that if you rub the lizard's nose, it brings good luck. 

Park Güell was another AMAZING place to explore, and was the only Gaudí design that was not visited on the walking tour. After hearing about it, I decided to see it for myself, and it was well worth the metro ride. The park is easily one of Gaudí's most beautiful creations, and the view from the top only adds to its marvel. This was by far one of my favorite attractions in Barcelona. 

I was so grateful for the sunshine and warm weather, and thrilled to be able to dress in more summery attire. I felt right at home in my vibrant floral skirt while walking around this colorful park. It truly was a great day.

The Parc de la Ciutadella was another one of my favorite places in Barcelona. The park is filled with naturally weaving paths surrounded by plants and flowers, and in the center sits this gorgeous fountain, which Gaudí also assisted with. I saw this on one of my last days in Barcelona and it was a wonderful capstone for my little vacation in Spain. 

A little bit of current affairs: Barcelona actually considers itself separate from Spain and is fighting to become its own country. They speak Catalan, which is a mix of languages like Spanish and Portuguese. 

Top: Topshop (love!), Skirt: boutique find (> $30) Pair the top with some nice shorts or pants and it works for a nighttime outfit as well!

This seemingly random mammoth statue sits in the midst of all the other statues in the park, just outside of the zoo (yes, the park has a zoo, too!) The sculpture was designed by sculptor Miguel Dalmau

 I also had the opportunity to partake in a street art walking tour:

Being a lover of art, I enjoyed this tour immensely. Graffiti is a form of art that often gets a bad rep because it is illegal in many places, so it was really cool to see it being both appreciated and celebrated. It was so interesting to hear the stories behind the artists and then being able to recognize a particular artist's style or content. 

And speaking of art….

I visited MANY museums while in Barcelona, the MNAC (above) being one of them. The building of the MNAC itself was a work of art, with its water falling fountain and pillared facade. I also saw the Picasso museum, the Miró museum, and Barcelona's Museum of Modern Art. It was such a privilege to be able to go to all of these places and learn more about the origins of the work that was displayed. For instance, I was mostly familiar with all of Picasso's later, more abstracted artwork, and had no idea that he was also a very talented painter of realism. 

Another grand structure was the Arc de Triumf, similar to the one in Paris. The lampposts surrounding the Arc were another design by Gaudí.

El Gat del Raval was a statue that stood in the middle of one district of Barcelona, called the Raval. It was made by Fernando Botero and has become a landmark of this area. 

During my stay in Barcelona, I treated myself to a fish pedi (which was around 10 euro). You sit with your feet in the water as fish swarm over them to eat the dead skin, leaving them smooth and healthy. It was an intriguing sensation that almost tickled. 

This adorable little cafe and bakery, called Pudding, made me feel like I had jumped straight into a Lewis Carol narrative. The giant mushroom trees paired with the delicious desserts offered here made this a tea-time wonderland. 

On the topic of food: I could not leave Barcelona without visiting La Boqueria, a market filled with fresh food, both cooked and raw. 

 I ate here a couple times, trying food that ranged from traditional tapas to batidos (milkshakes) to pumpkin ravioli! It was a cornucopia of colors and smells (I tried to stay away from the raw fish section), and you could tell that it is a place that is frequented by locals. 

However, when visiting Barcelona, you cannot forget about its nightlife! There are a number of bars, whether you prefer to be inland or beachside. The photos above and below are from a bar called Chupitos, which literally translates to "Shots." Their name is not misleading, as they have 570 different types of shots to choose from. The one I chose is called the Boy Scout, in which they light the bar on fire and make you take a shot as you roast marshmallows to use as a chaser. I definitely enjoyed the novelty of this bar, but it would be excessive to spend your entire night here. Feeling adventurous? Try the Blow-Job shot.

I also checked out several bars on the beach. I got into one for free because it was Ladies' Night, as well as Gay Night which made for a fun crowd. And in Barcelona, they party hard. One night I stayed out until 7 in the morning. A major advantage to partying all night: I was able to take the metro back to my hostel because it had reopened by that point.

After spending 10 days here, I feel like I got to know the city pretty well, and Barcelona will always hold a special place in my heart.

Paris (France)

Paris is a place that I have dreamed of visiting all my life. It is also the only trip that I went on with other people, a group of girls that I had become friendly with, because it seemed like it would be far too depressing to travel to "the City of Love" by myself. While I enjoyed it immensely, I would love to go back one day so that I could experience the romantic aspect of the city (When you're walking around with four other girls, it feels pretty platonic). Maybe with my future husband? 


One of the first things that I did upon my arrival in Paris was visit the Eiffel Tower. I waited an absurd amount of time in order to ride to the top on an elevator (though there is an option to climb an even more absurd amount of stairs to the top), but it definitely wasn't in vain. I could see the whole city and had the chance to really take Paris in. Though I was wearing a thick sweater, I was not prepared for the cold, and it felt as though the wind was blowing through my entire body, chilling me to my core. But that didn't matter. Sometimes you just get a feeling like you're in the right place at the right time, and that's how I felt on the top of that tower.

Ernest Hemingway wrote a novel called An Immoveable Feast, which is all about his life in Paris. There's a quote that always stands out for me, which this picture calls to mind:

“But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there, not even poverty, nor sudden money, nor the moonlight, nor right and wrong nor the breathing of someone who lay beside you in the moonlight.” 

I want to go back to Paris when I can hear the breathing of someone who lays beside me in the moonlight. 

Considering Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge is my all-time favorite movie, I had to visit the place upon which the story was based. Ideally, I would love to see a show there, but I was only in Paris for a short weekend, so there wasn't time. 

The Sacré-Coeur is a beautiful cathedral in Montmarte, the area of Paris where our hotel was located. Parts of it are pretty seedy, but it made for an interesting (and brisk) walk to and from our lodgings. 

Did I mention the incredible view?

Below the cathedral was this charming carousel, though they're located sporadically around the city. We couldn't help but take a photo op!

Striped Shirt: Urban Outfitters, Faux-Fur Coat: Urban Outfitters (on sale!), Scarf: Paris ($5!)

The museums in Paris played a significant role in my stay there. I was over the moon to be able to visit the Louvre and see all of the artwork that I have only seen in pictures. Of course, it was essential to see the Mona Lisa, and we made it our mission to find it as soon as we got inside.

Everyone always says that they're disappointed by its size, but I think that it is still pretty spectacular to see it in person. 

But I paid attention to the lesser known art as well. The painting above was one of my favorites, mainly because of the idea behind it. The old man represents Death, and he is taking the young woman away. The young man loves her so much that he won't let her go and clings to her as she is guided away.

I was pleasantly surprised to see my girl Lady Gaga represented in the Louvre, as I had no idea that she had been collaborating on this project. Artist Robert Wilson cast her as his muse in his neoclassical video portraits. 

….I also took every opportunity to embarrass myself, clearly.

 Somewhat lesser known than the Louvre is the Musee d' Orsay, which is basically right next door.
It contains the work of artists like Monet, Manet, and Van Gogh, specializing mainly in Impressionism.

The Notre Dame Cathedral was another location on my bucket list, due to my avid love of Disney movies (Hunchback of Notre Dame, anyone?) It was neat to see the gargoyles in real life!

The official Love-Lock bridge is located directly behind the Notre Dame. Lovers from all over have come to the bridge to leave a lock as a symbol of their love and commitment to one another. Yet another reason why I need to go to Paris with a man. 

What's Paris without the macarons?! Though they are more expensive than the average pastry, I recommend visiting Ladurée. The macarons were divine and came in a wide array of flavors to choose from. I selected the salted caramel, coconut, and rose flavored ones!

Another (somewhat morbid) thing that we did in Paris was visit the Père Lachaise cemetery. It was kind of spooky walking around all of the tombs and burial sites, made even darker by the gray day. To me, it was hauntingly beautiful.  

One of those cliche sayings is "we'll always have Paris," but I love the poetry and the romance that lies within that cliche. I like to think that I will always have Paris, that it will forever remain a special place for me because it will remind me of my adventurous youth. 


Scotland is a magical place filled with folklore, and castles! You feel like you're back in Medieval times as you walk around the highlands and visit the old landmarks. I made my base in Edinburgh, which feels like a hybrid between old and modern with its cobblestone streets and contemporary shops, but took a 2-day tour through the highlands, up to Loch Ness (home to that infamous monster). 

My first night was spent in Edinburgh, and I arrived at my hostel hungry and exhausted. There was one other person in the 12-bunk room and he immediately asked me if I wanted to explore the nightlife with him and some friends. I thought about it for a minute and finally decided, "why not?!" embracing the spontaneity. After meeting up with his friends at a bar, we ended up at a céili, a traditional Scottish dance known for group and partner dances. I decided to reserve my judgement for the time being and gave in to the culture, which inevitably meant making a fool of myself on the dance floor as I jumped around and linked arms with strangers. 

I've never had more fun dancing in my life.

It reminded me of that scene from Titanic when Jack and Rose are below deck with the crew of the ship. That's what the music sounded like, too. Needless to say I had a blast, while disregarding my inability to dance well/rhythmically.  

Fur Headband: Primark (London), Sweater: Urban Outfitters, Boots: Steve Madden (DSW)
The next morning I set off bright and early, and slightly hungover, for my tour of the highlands. I was captivated by the mountains and the greenery that surrounded us on our drive. It doesn't even matter where you're going in Scotland because the entire view is picturesque. 

On the tour was a group of Germans that were traveling together, and me. They took me in as their honorary companion, making the trip all the more enjoyable. They all happened to be working in London, so I was able to reconnect with a couple of them after the trip. They, too, gave the German people a good name. We explored the sites, had pleasant conversations, and went out together at night. 

Scotland is also the home of my newfound alcoholic love: Crabbie's Ginger Beer. Another point to the Germans because they introduced me to it. While ginger beer is common in the states as a soft drink, Crabbie's is the only brand of alcoholic ginger beer I have ever found. If you like ginger, then this is a drink for you. My brother actually found this brand in the states recently at a Target while visiting me in CA, which shocked me because I can never find it anywhere, though I've looked.

Back in Edinburgh, I went on a walking tour of the city and heard many great stories and histories. 

This cafe is allegedly the place where J. K. Rowling penned the first Harry Potter. Because of her success, the cafe now leaves paper and pens/pencils at every table, in case inspiration strikes. 

This is actually a photo from inside the castle, not the front of the castle, itself.
Another major site to check out was the Edinburgh Castle, which I enjoyed walking around at sunset. There is also a scenic view, as it sits atop a hill. It was extremely convenient because the hostel I was staying at was just below the castle. 

I explored a little more on my own, as I had some free time. I visited a Camera Obscura museum, filled with optical illusions and fun activities. I also walked to the Christmas market, which was filled with rides, food and spiced wine. These markets are modeled after the ones in Germany (another point to the Germans), so many of the rides are German themed and they sell the gingerbread hearts that I saw at Oktoberfest. Several countries adopt these Christmas markets, especially in London, where it gets very festive around the holidays. 


My travels while abroad provided me with an indescribable, life-altering experience. I have grown to appreciate other customs and cultures and have an insatiable desire to imbibe all I can from the world. I have grown a lot as a person through my travels, where I have been forced to be independent and street-smart. Many people ask me what my favorite place to visit was, and I do not have an answer. I loved them all in different ways, for different reasons. I love above all the possibility of travel, and I realize that I am very fortunate to have had that luxury. I hope to be just as lucky in the future, because there is still so much of the world left for me to see. I have been possessed with a spirit of wanderlust, so much so that I feel like travel and adventure and spontaneity are a part of who I am, and who I will forever be.