Elizabeth Masi '13

Finally! Another update on my eurotravels, which by now feel ages away… so sad! And I apologize for my delays- but reflecting upon my travels this far after they’ve happened have helped me relive them, actually 🙂 So now for Munich, Brussels/Bruges, and Amsterdam! Katie from HC (and studying at York) joined us for Munich and Brussels which was AWESOME.

So Munich was the biggest surprise of the entire trip. I’m not sure why but I never had big expectations for Germany. It just always seemed low on my radar. In fact, while originally planning it with my friends, I voted no to Germany entirely. That would’ve been a HUGE mistake. Munich was absolutely incredible. It was practically utopian– only 3% unemployment, no graffiti, no homeless people on the streets, immaculate buildings and restorations, clean air, etc. It was stunning, to put it simply.

Marienplatz at night.

On our first night there we went to the Hofbrauhaus, Munich’s most famous (and yes, touristy) beer hall. Kelly, Kar, Ashely, Katie, and I all got liters of their house beer. Now let’s keep in mind- I hate beer. But I was determined to have the real German experience. Low and behold I finished my liter first. YES. It was so much fun. The atmosphere is great- very jolly people singing and hollering and chatting loudly amidst a orchestra/ band in lederhosen playing German traditional songs. I loved it.

The next day we went on a three hour Sandeman’s walking tour which is free (except for tipping our handsome tour guide, Peter,

of course). It was the best tour I went on in all of Europe- Peter was a “born and raised Bavarian” as he put it and happened to speak near-perfect English. It was so cool to get a real perspective on Munich and German history from a German guy my age. We saw pretty much everything Munich has to offer, including St. Mary’s in Marienplatz, the place where Hitler attempted to walk from Munich to Berlin in rebellion, St. Peter’s Church and Tower, and more. The inner history nerd in me was absolutely engrossed in all the details about post WWI Munich and Germany and how Hitler came into power. We also witnessed one of Munich’s 118 subtle memorials that honor Nazi resistance–the one featured in the picture to the right honors the path of resistance those took to avoid honoring a Nazi sign the street over; those people faced Gestapo but did it anyway. We ended our tour in a gorgeous outdoor market with a beer garden. The beer garden was totally packed (including men in legitimate lederhosen). A bunch of us got the most amazing bratwurst weiners and ate in the garden in the best weather we had yet and then we climbed the tower right after to see the best views of the whole city. Aka perfection.

Views from the tower.

That night we went to a rendition of Swan Lake at Munich’s National Theater/ Opera House. We were hoping to get student discounted tickets for 7 euros but they didn’t have enough for all of us. So for the sake of being together, we all purchased €3.50 standing room only tickets. To see a ballet in Munich for €3.50? Incredible. Standing for three hours only able to see about 1/4 of the stage? Not so great. But definitely worth it 🙂

Our last day in Munich was spent mostly at Dachau concentration camp, the first concentration camp in Germany under Hitler’s regime. About 200 people were killed there per day. We took a 2 1/2 hour tour with a German tour guide around the camp and had an incredibly emotional experience. You never know what to expect going into something as profound as Dachau- I will say that it is an experience that I will never forget. To hear the speech they gave those they’d taken against their will- calling them inhuman and worse than shit; to walk past the wall where they executed people; to go through the freezing, prison corridors where people were tortured; to see the watchtowers where Nazi’s stood with guns; to walk through the crematorium and imagine panicking amongst the masses. It was a heartbreaking experience and my words on the issue can’t do it justice. But it’s an experience I urge everyone to take advantage of if they can- it will give you perspective no textbook could ever offer.

Now for Bruges and Brussels! We spent my 21st birthday on March 19th in Bruges- the same place I was with my parents as a 9-month-old  baby. Bruges is so quintessential and gorgeous. We went to a very famous Belgian chocolate store called The Chocolate Line, in addition to roaming around the town, stopping by a market, enjoying the architecture/ scenery/ canals, and eating Belgian waffles to end the day.

A shot of the buildings in the center of Bruges… so gorgeous.

Me enjoying a Belgian waffle on my 21st birthday 🙂

Katie, Sophia, me, Ashley, Kelly, and Kar in front of The Chocolate Line! Yum.

My mom- by the grace of God- got placed in a business trip to Brussels on the 19th and 20th of March so I got to see my mama for my birthday which was absolutely amazing and definitely the highlight 🙂 She and I shared an earlier meal and then I met back up with everyone for a later dinner. It was pretty low-key for a 21st birthday; we ate a delicious Italian restaurant called Abruzzo next to our rented apartment and drank wine in our apartment for the rest of the night. We attempted to play music and dance around and then proceeded to get yelled at by quite the furious French women who-in French- screeched “I AM GOING TO CALL THE POLICE.” Soooo- crazy and wild 21st birthday? Yeah that didn’t happen. But upstairs in one of the bedrooms, we all drank and wine, played games, and chatted. So I’d say it was pretty damn good 🙂

Brussels was a beautiful city and the fact that I got to see my mom made it that much better. But Brussels didn’t have too much to offer compared to some other European cities. The Grand Place- which is the main square- is absolutely stunning and possibly the best square I saw in Europe. But beyond that, there isn’t too much to be seen. We did go to chocolate museum to see how chocolate is made and we also saw Mannekin Piss- a famous status of a little boy peeing over a fountain (featured in the photo to the right). A highlight most definitely. And, of course, I got to see my mom again my last night in Brussels which included good food and better company.

La Grand Place at night- amazing!

Oh and funny story- I officially do not trust suitcase locks. The first one I purchased broke before I even attempted to put it on my suitcase. I bought one at the airport on the way to Budapest and it seemed like sturdy stuff. Yeah, well it was so sturdy it refused to come off. Even though I entered the right code (andthen tried a ton of variations of it) a million times, it refused to unlock. So what did we student travelers resort to? A kitchen knife. Major thanks to Kates for helping out with this one.

Amsterdam was such a pleasant surprise– the only thing I knew about Amsterdam was the Red Light District and all those weed coffee shops. So I didn’t expect it to be as stunning of a city as it is. It has a maze of canals and bridges, gorgeous buildings, and a ton of beautiful Dutch people biking around everywhere (literally. everywhere. got almost run over several times). Not to mention, heated Stroopwaffels are so amazing.  Surprisingly, some of the best food I had in Europe was in Amsterdam. I didn’t try Dutch cuisine but Amsterdam has an eclectic array of restaurants–Thai, Indonesian, Italian, etc.–that all specialize in what they do. I had the most incredible Indonesian food my life. Twice. I still salivate when I think of the peanut sauce over skewered chicken and noodles… Okay I’m digressing. Oh and Chipsy King–the amazing fries place that put fries into a cone-shaped paper holder and dumped ketchup and mayo on them. A heart attack in a bag, but delicious.

Kar, Ashley, Sophia, and me in the famous “I amsterdam” sign!

We got to stay in Sophia’s dad’s apartment while we were there which was right near the Vondelpark and in a gorgeous area of town. He had patio doors right off the kitchen that opened up into a gorgeous garden and see the sun setting. We were so lucky we got such nice accommodation for free (thank you Soph’s dad!) and because of that, I got to stay in Amsterdam a little bit longer than the other places and RELAX. No day was too crammed with stuff which made it so wonderfully leisurely. We hit up the Van Gogh Museum (a ridiculously overpriced 14 euros but worth it), took a canal tour, saw the Anne Frank House (one of the most moving experiences of the entire trip), explored a bunch of flea markets, saw the Botannical Gardens (where my ISIC card provided by Holy Cross actually came in handy and saved me 4 euros. score), ventured into the Red Light District at night (wowza), took a tour at the House of Bols (basically a Dutch liquor museum. With two free shots and a cocktail at the end ayayay!), andddd, last but certainly not least, saw The Hunger Games (with Dutch subtitles). Strolling through the Vondelpark with gelato and cooking breakfast for dinner in the apartment were other highlights. 🙂

The smelling station in the House of Bols for their liqours- SO cool.

One of the views from the many gorgeous canals.

I wrote this while I had a little down time in the Pisa International Airport in Italia and decided to (finally!) post it now that I’m back in the groove at Oxford for third term (AHH!) So here goes part one of euro travels. Where to begin?!? I want to do justice to each of the nine cities I visited so I’ll break this into threeposts. I’ll cover Budapest, Vienna, and Prague for now.

We left for Budapest the morning of March 9th. Sophia, her boyfriend Will, and Kelly had to leave at 1 am to make an 8 am flight out of London Stansted airport- the farthest London airport no less. Be weary of early AM flights- they’re the cheapest but deceiving little bastards. Luckily, Ashley, Kar, and I got a 2 o’clock flight out of London Luton and it all went smoothly! Especially for me since I can apparently sleep on anything that moves. Despite a rowdy group of British guys wearing t-shirts with “I love bacon rolls” on them (what the hell, right??) who were hooting and hollering the whole flight, I was out like a light. And it was only 2.5 hours long or so- flying in Europe is unbelievable. Everything is so close! That would get me to North Carolina in the states. No thanks. I’ll take Hungary.

The apartment we rented was adorable and for 3 nights, I only had to fork over 20 euros. Talk about dirt cheap. We ended up going to a delicious pizza joint our first night there- and let’s just say that will remain as our last good meal in Budapest. the Hungarians are definitely not known for their cuisine. Exploring Budapest was a lot of fun- and a lot of walking. It’s actually a pretty big city. Our first day we walked to the most incredible indoor market that was housed in an old train station. It was gorgeous. It had everything- rows of fruits and vegetables, jewelry, leather, handbags, traditional Hungarian clothing, scarves, and restaurants. I think it was my favorite market in the whole trip.

I attempted to haggle when buying a scarf and failed abysmally and it became a running joke the rest of the trip. I picked out a gorgeous gold and purple big scarf and went up to the (unfriendly) old lady at the till and meekly asked her if it was on sale… She responded no, to which I said “Ok, I’ll just get it anyway.” Fail. But I love that scarf so I’m pleased. I also got two pairs of earrings (my obsession with jewelry is borderline unhealthy). That day we also explored the Danube River- which my mom informed me I swam in when I was 11 in Austria! I had forgotten. Too cool. It was beautiful. We also saw the parliament building (including a big protest right near by- apparently the Hungarians feel as though the government is getting too autocratic. And their economy is failing. It’s a sad situation but it was interesting to witness) and St. Stephen’s Basilica. After dinner, we went to a ruin pub, something Budapest is famous for. They’re these pubs housed in dilapidated, old buildings and decorated with… Garbage, basically. But it’s really funky and eclectic. The one we went to has a cracked bath tub as a sofa, graffiti on the wall, tattered lamps, an old motorcycle hanging from the ceiling, etc. It was SO awesome and very unique.

The next day we went to the Castle and to the famous Szechenyi baths. The castle was absolutely stunning. The views were truly gorgeous and it legitimately looked like a castle out of Cinderella, so my inner kid was thrilled. We walked basically the entire length of the city to get to the thermal spring baths but it was worth it. Kelly and I didn’t bring bathing suits so we had to rent bikinis which was… Interesting. And freaking hilarious. And possibly unhygienic? God I hope not. There were indoor and outdoor baths of varying temperatures and it was really relaxing, even if we had to dry ourselves off with a blow-dryer since we also forgot towels. So prepared, right?!

Later that night at dinner I tried to be adventurous and got the Hungarian poppy seed pudding for dessert imagining it to be like a yummy lemon poppy seed muffin. FALSE. It was doused in poppy seeds, resembling an ant pile and turned into mush it was so soggy. Points for trying traditional cuisine though, right? Check out the slop to the right… I still cringe looking at it. Blegh.

Overall Budapest was really cool. Not somewhere I’d necessarily go again and visibly declining but VERY beautiful and unique. Onto Vienna. March 12th 2012 marks the day I was in three countries in one day. UNREAL. To get to Prague our train would pass through Austria which would count as one of the five counties on our eurail pass so we opted to get our money’s worth and basically did Vienna in a whirlwind 4 hours. It was hectic but well worth. We explored the ‘Old City’, saw the Albertina (a beautiful museum but no time/ too expensive to go in), a palace, and St. Steven’s Cathedral. And got wiener dogs. Yum. It was hard traveling around a city with luggage all day but out of the entire trip, it was the time I felt like a backpacking student the most and I loved the authenticity of the experience. And what also made the experience authentic was going to the wrong train station and realizing we had 15 minutes to get to the other station and catch our train. We RACED. And made it. Fewf.

We arrived in Prague around 10 o’clock that night and the receptionist to our hostel was the most adorable old Czech man who showed us around the hostel (which resembled an old apartment) and gave us free towels. He was so friendly (and exuberantly pointed out ‘the biggest dancing club in Europe’ on the map hahaha too bad we never made it!) Our room- which housed all 6 of us- was actually really spacious and overlooked the river. Kelly and I pushed our beds together which was fun 🙂

Let me just say- Prague is without-a-doubt STUNNING. If only we could’ve seen it in the sun. It was cloudy and chilly each day we were there- but it’s an excuse to go back later in life when the weather is good! Our first full day there, we explored the Charles Bridge, the Castle district, and the Old Town area. I had been told the Charles Bridge is iconic and it definitely is. It’s gorgeous and lively, lined with statues on both sides and filled with musicians and jewelry stands. Loved it! The other side of the river is so quaint and authentic too. We loved going through all the little shops, stopping in a cafe, and getting cinnamon dough things off a stand. Mmmm.

We expected to discover a castle similar to the one in Budapest but their ‘castle district’ was more of a random collection of palaces and monuments than a castle. I was also told this by one particularly grumpy Czech man working at the cathedral. When I asked where the castle is he responded- after sighing heavily- “everything is castle”, which sounded more like ‘ev-ry-sing is kestle.’ hahaha it was pretty hilarious. My favorite part of the their castle district was the Golden Lane- it’s like Disney World for adults. It’s a row of colored, small houses that are kept in original condition. It was like Minnie’s house in Disney World, aka adorable. My favorite was seeing Franz Kafka’s house- he’s one of my favorite authors of all time so it was really exciting 🙂

The Old Town of Prague is also an amazing area to explore- we climbed the astronomical clock tower and got to witness a man in costume play the trumpets on the hour from the top. The views of the city were unbelievable. And the main square is really lively with music and food stands. On our second night there we decided to go for a night out after dinner. My guide book suggested a jazz bar- apparently Prague is famous for them. We went to the Jazz Dock, a little place right by the river. It had super cool lighting and a trio of Czech guys improvised jazz all night. So cool. The one downside? When Kar ordered a mango chili cocktail and it was pure chili… But the reaction on everyone’s faces after taking a sip was PRICELESS.

Prague was gorgeous and I really enjoyed it. Perhaps my expectations were a little too high so I might have been a bit underwhelmed- especially because people claim it’s a mini-Paris and I’m not quite sure if it can reach that title (probably because I think nothing beats Paris) but I do think Prague is beautiful and magical its own way.
NEXT POST: Munich, Brussels/Bruges, and Amsterdam! In the meanwhile, I’m beginning my third and final term at Oxford which is absolutely crazy. This year has flown by and I can’t believe it’s two-thirds finished. So much to look forward to this term- specifically warm weather and PUNTING!

Here a few of my favorite pictures from Budapest, Vienna, and Prague!

The incredible market in Budapest! My favorite by far.

The view from the castle in Budapest. Breath-taking.

Ashley, me, and Kar in front of the Danube River.

St. Stephen’s Basilica – another favorite in Budapest.

And here we are, trudging through gorgeous Vienna in four hours with all of our luggage (mine not photographed unfortunately). Left to right, Ashley, Kelly, me, Sophia, and Kar.

Palace in Vienna

Entrance to the iconic Charles Bridge in Prague!

Walking down the Golden Lane in Prague’s Castle District!

In front of Franz Kafka’s house on the Golden Lane- SO overjoyed!

On top of the Astronomical Clock Tower in Prague’s Old Town

The John Lennon Wall – so unique and possibly my favorite part of Prague.

Kelly, me, Ashley, and Kar in front of the mural!

HELLOOOO and my apologies for such a delay! As I mentioned in my previous post, the end of term was crazy and I barely had enough time to pack before I had to jet to Budapest on March 9th. So my intentions to write a post about Ireland before I left failed. 🙁 BUT I’m back in action!! And I have a-plenty updates. I’m going to dedicate this post to Ireland and then write a few others about the INCREDIBLE 19-day euro-trip I just returned from.

So basically… I’m in love with Ireland. And I’m one lucky duck because I got to experience it in sunny, warm weather which, from what I’ve heard, is an absolute rarity. It was only when I was leaving on my bus headed to the airport did it start to rain. And I got to see a rainbow! Over green fields filled with sheep! Such a stereotype but it’s one damn good stereotype.

I left the morning of March 9th to make an early evening flight to Dublin from London Luton Airport. I had gotten 4 hours of sleep the night before trying to finish an essay (yikes) and had approximately 45 minutes to make my bus after my tutorial wrapped up. So stress-free, right?! Not. But by the time I was at the airport, I decompressed and finished a few applications while waiting for my flight. It was such an easy flight- only a little over an hour. Once I landed in Dublin, I was instructed to look for the bus to Galway- either the City Link or the Go Bus. I found City Link right away- but the driver told me he wouldn’t be leaving for another two hours. Pass. Moving on to the Go Bus- trying to find it was… interesting. I must’ve looked like a chicken with my head cut off. I proceeded to ask three separate– and super friendly! — staff members where I could find it and their instructions were abysmal. One guy quipped, “Go that way past the church.” I’m sorry, the church? What church?! Finally, someone gave me far clearer instructions and I found it. And I did have to walk past a church after all- but the Church looked like a YMCA building. Very misleading.

From there, it was a three hour bus ride to Galway. And since I can fall asleep on any moving vehicle, I was a happy camper. I arrived in the pitch black of night so I didn’t really get to see much that night. Felicia picked me up at the bus station and we went back to her apartment/ dorm complex she has through NUI Galway which I thought was so nice! Hardwood floors and new kitchen appliances and everything! Plus I got to sleep on a leather couch… much better than I can offer my friends who visit Oxford. Scratchy, old carpet, anyone?

Felicia and I had a much-needed catch up for a few hours and then crashed. The next morning we bought bus tickets to the Cliffs of Moher and made our way over to these GORGEOUS cliffs a few hours away. Poor Felicia– she’s already been there three or so times already and gets really bad motion sickness. But I’m so glad she took me 🙂 She must have wanted to kill me as she was trying not to vomit and I was fast asleep next to her. Once we got there, my mind was blown. There are no words to describe the beauty of the Cliffs of Moher… I felt like I was in a movie. They were stunning. Check it out.

The Cliffs of Moher… does it get any more gorgeous?!

Felicia and me in front of the castle.

The rest of the trip (I was only there for a total of 2 nights and 2 1/2 days) was spent in Galway! It’s the most adorable village- the quaint streets are bustling with great street musicians and Irish shops. I’ve always dreamed of getting an authentic claddagh ring from Ireland- and considering the claddagh ring originates in Galway, I’d say it was well worth the wait! I got a two-tone, silver & gold ring from a tiny shop (featured in the picture to the below! ) and the loveliest Irish woman made small talk with me, helped me pick out the best ring, and sized me perfectly. She was a great example of the overall impression I got of Irish people- SO unbelievably warm and friendly. I’m truly proud to call myself half Irish. 🙂

Felicia showed me the best of Galway- we got awesome fish and chips, hot chocolate filled with oreos from Butler’s Chocolate Cafe, breakfast baps from Elles Cafe, and cream tea from a traditional tea shop called Cupan Tae. Yummy yummy.

Overall, so awesome to see Feefs, the Holy Cross gang, and some of Ireland. It truly is the Emerald Isle. My mom’s always talked about doing a big tour of Ireland after I graduate HC… it better happen! Two and a half days does not do it justice. Can’t wait to do it with ya, Mom!

These past few weeks have been absolute MAYHEM! Holy Cross applications, internship cover letters, airplane tickets, eurail passes, bus tickets, hostel/ hotel/ apartment reservations… oh and not to mention, still maintaining all the work I have to do at Oxford. I might lose it soon… BUT, I hope I can last until the end of term, which, believe it or not, is next Friday (say whaaaat?) Oh and I’m leaving for Budapest and 19 days of straight euro-tripping then too. And before that I’m doing a weekend getaway to Ireland. My life is the definition of chaos right now but it’s also an incredibly exciting time. I’m definitely concerned with small logistics (if I get an interview for an internship, how will they call me while I’m euro-tripping? put global phone plan research on to-do list…) and I feel like my life is full of a thousand deadlines, but it all get sorted. Despite it all, I have a great sense of calm about stuff… I guess it’s because next Friday I’m about to embark on the most amazing journey EVER.

Oh and just to re-cap some Oxfordian stuff that’s been going on lately! Friday of fifth week I rowed in the IWL race, my first Oxford race representing the Mansfield women’s second boat! It was absolutely incredible. I had forgotten the adrenalin rush you get from racing. Our coxswain Sophie was hilarious and so motivating and for a gaggle of 8 girls who’ve barely been able to practice together and were considered quite unfit after having avoided any outings and ergs with the river frozen for two weeks in January/ February, I say we did pretty well! We didn’t qualify for Torpids, a four-day racing championship during sixth week but it wasn’t disappointing– for us, we won in our own way. And now we’re more excited than ever for Summer VIII’s, a huge race during Trinity Term that we actually have a shot at qualifying for. It’s during the warm weather so everyone from Mansfield comes down to support and celebrate, cooking barbeque food and drinking Pimms. I’m so pumped.

In other sports news, football activity has been decreasing since the official season is over. So, our coach and captain decided to have a friendly against each other. The girls football team is actually a joint endeavor of two colleges, Mansfield and Merton. So we decided splitting us up and battling against each other could be some good fun. We played as if it were a legitimate match too- had refs, wore uniforms (kits, as the Brits call it), and really tried our best. But in the end, it was perfect because it was a draw, 0-0. We Mansfielders love our Merton girls so it was a perfect ending to a fun match on a gorgeous day (it’s been feeling like Spring over here!)

Alright, well I better dash. Before I leave for Budapest, I have to write three more essays, complete three more tutorials, pack for my euro-trip, and apply to a few more programs/ internships. God save me. Hopefully I can post before I leave the country. If I’m alive, of course.


The past two weeks have been pretty low-key (except for the work, of course) especially because it’s been SO cold that football and rowing have been cancelled numerous times- a frozen river and frosted pitch don’t make for happy athletes. I’ve been holed up in my heated room with bowls of oatmeal and tea far more than usual. Let me just say- biking (or cycling, as the Brits say) is absolutely zero fun in this weather. On my way back from the gym I pressed my brakes in the parking lot only to skid on the ice and fall off my bike. That wasn’t embarrassing at all…. Also, cycling in the freezing wind/ frigid air is absolutely miserable. BUT, that doesn’t mean that hilary term isn’t amazing as usual. It just means it’s about ten times colder.

A few highlights of the past few weeks:

  1. Mansfield took a big trip to Gatecrashers, a huge club in Birmingham about an hour and a half away and it was a ton of fun. It’s always nice to take a mini-break from Oxford and experience something new.
  2. I had my first formal-formal! Formal hall occurs every Wednesday and Friday during the week and it’s an excuse to get in a little bit of nicer clothing, wear our college gowns, and get served a 3-to-4 course meal. Definitely a nice break from routine (although I haven’t been to a single one this term… gotta get one that!) What I have been to this term is ‘formal-formal’ which is extra swanky. It’s on the Friday of 2nd and 6th week of each term and Champagne & Chocolates is held afterwards in the chapel. The place-settings are fancier (candles are lit!) and the dress is black-tie instead of semi-formal, business casual during other formal halls. It was very cool–the food was top-notch and it felt like a very quintessential Oxfordian experience that I’ll definitely remember for awhile.
  3. My mom visited the first weekend in February and it was the absolute best. Granted, we got our first snow that weekend so it was a little tricky to take someone on a tour of Oxford while trudging through the snow but so much fun nonetheless. We saw the dining hall and cathedral of Christ Church College (where Harry Potter was filmed!), had a drink at the Eagle & Child (where JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis met nightly), showed off Mansfield’s campus, did some shopping on the High St, Cornmarket, and Queen St, had amazing Indian food at Majliss, had high tea at the fancy Randolph Hotel, and showed off some of Oxford’s best architecture. It was really, really hard to see her go- it was such a nice escape for a few days- but I will see her and my Dad in mid-April where we’ll be jetting off to London and Lisbon, Portugal 🙂
  4. The official euro-trip planning has begun! I have six weeks between the end of this term and the beginning of Trinity Term so that leaves me with lotssss of time to travel! The plan is (drum roll please): Budapest, Prague, Munich, Brussels (where I’ll be celebrating my 21st birthday!!!), Amsterdam, Florence, (and hopefully) Barcelona/ Majorca! Then I’m meeting my parents in London for a tour of London and Lisbon! I am so beyond excited. Planning travels is definitely stressful and definitely not cheap but I can’t believe I’m going to be exploring the world with some amazing friends. We’ve already booked our flight to Budapest and booked a super swanky apartment that will end up only being 60 euros a night (for 6 people at 10 euros each, I’d say we found a steal!) It’s all so unreal… but I have a feeling it’ll become pretty real once I see my bank statement 😛

Off to focus on some work… 5th week is approaching (oh-so-lovingly called “Fifth Week Blues”) but hopefully they won’t be as bad as their nickname suggests!

Much love xxx


If you had told me in early October that the Mansfield-Merton football team I haphazardly joined would be champions of our league by the end of January I would have laughed in your face. But against all odds, we are. Words cannot even begin to describe the match that unfolded Saturday afternoon. I have never seen our offense so skilled and kick so many incredible shots (including 3 corner goals!) and our defense so on top of our game. For the first time in a match, I didn’t miss one ball that went past me. I was completely in the zone, pumping on adrenalin and the girls beside me. In the first half, we scored seven goals. My hands were shaking from excitement, my jaw constantly dropping at what I was seeing on the field. We would set up again and start from the middle only to–30 seconds later–have Ari or Leah score another goal. Our final score was 8-1, our best yet.

I literally have no words…. I have never been apart of such a cohesive team with the most amazing spirit and drive. As my coach Jeff said at the beginning of the match, “You’re no longer a group of girls who play football, you’re a real football team.” What an amazing experience to define my year abroad… in a hundred years, I never thought I’d be on a champion soccer team. Life is full of surprises. Next in store for the football girls is a huge banquet thrown by Merton College in celebration. And rowing is starting to pick up too– the second boat has our first race this Sunday and my mom will be there to watch. She’s arriving Friday night and staying until Monday morning since she’ll be doing a business trip in London and Brussels. I AM SO HAPPY! I can’t wait to see her and show her the city and things I love. Can life get any more awesome?

Check out ma girls.

Mansfield-Merton Women’s Football Team- League Champions!


The defenders! Left to right: Sophia, Jess, Imy, and me. Some solid formation if I do dare say…

P.S. This doesn’t mean football is over! Still have training twice a week for this term, once a week third term, and a few friendly matches thrown in there. WOO!

Second week of Hilary term is just about over! Sigh of relief. I’m not going to lie, it’s definitely not easing getting adjusted into the swing of work after 6 weeks of lounge time. But I think I’m finally in the groove again! This term my primary tutorial is Christian Ethics (meets every week) and my secondary tutorial is Shakespeare (meets every other). I was definitely a little nervous going into this term… theology and ethics is completely outside of my comfort zone and Shakespeare’s works are not exactly the easiest read in the world. This week proved to be a challenge. Last term the weeks I had my secondary were always stressful because I had twice the work but my secondary was creative writing fiction– by no means a piece of cake and something I’m constantly working towards and cultivating but didn’t require primary or secondary readings. Just a good chunk of time to sit down and bang out 10 pages of polished fiction.

This term I have Shakespeare as my secondary which means that every other week I have to read up to three of Shakespeare’s plays, in addition to several secondary sources, and then write my paper. Since I haven’t tackled this before, I have to admit I didn’t prepare well for the amount of time and concentration it would take me. Basically, I had my Shakespeare paper due Wednesday at 4:30 and my Christian Ethics paper due Thursday morning at 11. It was incredibly stressful– writing a total of 5,000 words in a 36 hour timeframe… yeah, not preferable. But as corny as it sounds, finishing felt INCREDIBLE. And I got some super positive feedback from my tutors so I’m really excited about this term. Especially Christian Ethics– I get to study tops that are pertinent and interesting; just did a paper on Just War and will move onto to Abortion and In Vitro Fertilization next. So cool.

Coming up this weekend- a football crewdate, the first Champagne & Chocolates (we even managed to finally get tickets to the “formal-formal” dinner beforehand, YES) of the term, our final football match that decides whether we win the league (AH!!), and my friend Theo will be visiting for the day on Saturday! Lots to look forward to.

Cheers xxx

Term has officially begun! I’m finally in Oxford for good (at least until the end of Hilary Term around mid-March). It feels great to be back- had our welcome-back bop party last night in the common room and first football practice of the season today! My HC friends Christine and Suzanne left this morning after our London and Edinburgh adventures and it was so sad to see them go. It was like having a piece of home in Oxford. Reuniting with my Oxford friends and getting to take two of my closest HC friends with me made Liz one very happy girl.

We had an incredible time in London and Edinburgh. Christine spent a Maymester in London studying theater this past year, so we depended on her expertise to get us around the amazing city. Unfortunately, it was pretty cloudy (to be expected) and lots of the city was under construction for the 2012 Olympics but it was wonderful nonetheless. The last time I was in London I was 13 so it was really interesting to have it from an independent, adult perspective. We hit up Portobello Market, Notting Hill, Baker Street, Big Ben, The Eye, The Tate Museum of Modern Art, Harrods, and St. Paul’s Cathedral (our hostel was right near it!). Speaking of 0ur hostel- I’m trying to stifle my laughter as we speak. It was remnant of a prison cell. We had plastic crib-like bunk beds that formed a weird tripod formation. But hey- it was only 20 pounds a night per person so I guess that’s what we deserved in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

We also saw a showing of Hamlet at the Young Vic, a really cool theater Christine introduced us to. It was so exciting to see a piece of London theater and the tickets were only 10 pounds (which I guess explains why we were in the nosebleed section sitting on back-less seats… hahaha) but it was a really interesting interpretation with some awesome acting. Definitely had some frustrating and bizarre sections (the ending left us with a ‘huh’ look plastered on our faces) but I’m really glad we went, if not to at least discuss it/ make fun of it for awhile after. It also got me more excited for my Shakespeare secondary tutorial this term!

After about 2 1/2 days in London we jetted off to Edinburgh on a 4 1/2 hour train ride. After some ticket-printing drama and a really forgiving conductor (thank God), we made it to Edinburgh which absolutely blew my mind. It was stunning- out of a fairy tale. No wonder JK Rowling was inspired to write Harry Potter there. We’re talkin’ castles, statues, cathedrals, the whole nine yards. It was quaint and sprawling at the same time. On our last day there we walked up to the Edinburgh Castle and the views were incredible. It was a combination of distant, rolling, green hills and the beautiful architecture of a centuries-old city. Loved it.

We indulged our inner-Harry-Potter-nerds and went to the Elephant House where JK Rowling wrote the beginnings of Harry Potter. The cafe, although over-priced, was adorable, had great views, and was, to put it simply, SO COOL simply because we were sitting where JK once was. I got a delicious hot chocolate with whip-cream and marshmallows (yum) and a piece of elephant-shaped shortbread. Speaking of food, one of the best (and healthiest, of course) parts of Edinburgh was their deep fried Mars Bars… for those of you who don’t know, Mars Bars are like an English form of Milky Ways and they’re delicious on their own. But then soak it in batter and deep-fry it in a vat? GLORIOUS. To say we ate to our heart’s content (or my thigh’s content…) is an understatement.

Other adventures in Edinburgh include: trips to several museums, a drink at Greyfriar’s Bobby (a quaint pub named after the legend of a small dog named Bobby who laid beside his owner’s grave every day for nine years… a.k.a. I was in heaven), a walk around the Royal Mile and Princes St. (great shopping!), and Calton Hill at night (a haunted area of ruins… also coincidentally lacking a lot of lighting). Also, our hostel was the best hostel EVER. About 100 times better than our London one. It was so funky with really cool decorations (including two knights of shining armor on the staircases), young kids manning the reception with great music, an awesome lounge (with leather seats, a fire, free wifi, and free tea/coffee/hot chocolate), and our room had endearing bunk beds and a sky light with great views of Edinburgh. Not to mention it was right next to the castle! We could not have been happier.

We spent our last two days in Oxford where I got to show them all my favorite things including Ben’s Cookies. We tried to get into Christ Church to see where Harry Potter was filmed (again, we’re kind of fans…) but we decided 7 pounds was a little too steep after a week of traveling. But I still showed them a lot of the city I now call home and took them to the bop at Mansfield where I introduced them to a bunch of my Oxford friends and danced all night. 🙂

I’m back in action now- my first paper due Thursday for my primary tutorial (Christian Ethics) so I better crack out the books. Oh boy. Here’s to another awesome term!

P.S. Picture time!

Suz and me showing off Big Ben.

Westminster Abbey.

One of my favorite installations in the Tate Museum of Modern Art.

The Eye.

A scene of Edinburgh…. ahhhhh.

There, my friends, is a deep-fried Mars Bar.

So content at the Elephant House with elephant shortbread and a hot chocolate.

Outside of the Elephant House where JK Rowling wrote the beginnings of HP!

Christine and me loving our knight in shining armor… best.hostel.ever.

Edinburgh castle!

FYI: When your Eurostar Chunnel ticket says arrive 30 minutes before departure time… they really mean it.

Can you guys sense where I’m going with this? That’s right. Felicia, Katie, and I missed our Chunnel. By two minutes. BUT, I can promise you, we were not as dumb as you may think. For an 8:31 AM chunnel out of London St. Pancras, we planned to take a 5:30 AM train that, with two changes, would arrive at the international station at 7:46. We woke up at 4:30 AM and we raring to go (and by raring to go, I mean dead-tired) except we didn’t get on that 5:30 AM train. In fact, it was not a train at all. It was a bus connecting to a train since the line was down. And due to poor directions and an incorrect employee, we watched our bus drive away while we sat in the wrong spot. Torture.

Long story short, we took the next bus 40 minutes later, endured brutally frustrating delays, and got to St. Pancras absolutely frazzled at 8:28. We decided our plan of action would be to just book it on that train (Oh, did I mention Katie and I forgot to print our tickets?). We would run as quickly as we could, just make it through the sliding doors, and then beg the ticket collector to accept our tickets that were sketchily downloaded onto a Blackberry. Not one of our most brilliant plans. We seemed to forget that—why, yes—France is indeed a separate country, and international transportation usually involves customs and security.  So at 8:28 AM, ticket-less and out of breath, we witnessed massive customs and security check queues and gave up. But it was a valiant effort, ladies. And it was thanks to Fredrique, a ticket representative who took pity on us, that we got tickets (free of charge!) for a chunnel 2 hours later. Thank God.

An interesting start to our trip but it was amazing nonetheless! Bad luck did follow us (1. Cabs stop running after 2 AM. Subways do too. Just a small piece of advice. 2. Order tickets to museums & monuments in advance. Or bring a really warm jacket to wait in line for hours) — and yet, the magic of Paris did not die for me, not at all. I still felt like the sixteen-year-old version of me who was in awe of the City of Light for the entirety of her month-long study abroad program. This time, I got to revisit the places and sites that made my experience living there so special—and I got to discover things I had not seen before which was such a treat.

Our days were packed which I loved. We saw the Eiffel Tower (day and night!) and the views of the city from the 2nd floor; saw Notre Dame and explored it’s tourist-trap-but-adorable souvenir street nearby; went through Ile-Saint-Louis and got the famous Berthillon ice cream; saw the Musee de Louvre at dusk and again during the day to go inside; climbed the Arc de Triomphe and got the most incredible views of the city that I have ever seen— including a lit-up Champs Elysee (does it get better?); saw Sacre Coeur Basillica in Montmarte and the Red Light District with the Moulin Rouge; saw Hotel de Ville, Saint Michel, Shakespeare & Company, Le Pantheon, St. Germain Des Pres, Cafe Les Deux Magots, Les Jardins des Tuilleries, and the Rue de Rivoli. All the while we laughed a lot, walked a lot, and ate a lot (baguettes, gelato, and of course, nutella crepes).

It was expensive (I have to mentally prepare myself now for my spring break Euro-tripping… youch) but worth every penny. Getting to be under the Eiffel Tower at midnight of New Years with throngs of people from all over the world, a bottle of Rose, and two close friends … it can’t get much better. Oh and one more tip: being a student is a plus. Ask everywhere you go for a discount. You may be surprised- I (in half English, half French) asked the ticket rep at the Louvre for a student discount and got my ticket for free! It’s the small things in life

Here are a few of my favorite pics from the trip… The single most incredible, magical city in the whole entire world:

Me, Felicia, and Katie at the Eiffel Tower for New Years Eve

Les Jardins des Tuilleries

The Louvre at dusk

Back to the Eiffel Tower on New Years Day

Sacre Coeur in Montmarte

Moulin Rouge

Arc de Triomphe

Views from the top of the Arc

Felicia and me in the Louvre with what we dubbed the “smiling lion”… but really, isn’t he so happy?!

Katie and I sharing our final crepe together… definition of despair

The inside of Shakespeare & Company

Our adorable hotel, Hotel Marignan. Even though we were on the 5th floor (No elevator. Enough said) we got a balcony/ mini-terrace– top notch stuff for a one-star hotel!

These pictures can’t begin to sum up the beauty of Paris/ how much fun our trip was. I’m in Oxford now until the 8th and then I’m off to London and Edinburgh with Suzanne and Christine for some more travels! 🙂

What a wonderful day to be at home. Many people suggested that I stick around the UK for Christmas since it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But I’m glad I chose to come to my home on the cul-de-sac in a small, seaside town in Connecticut. Because it feels pretty special right about now. I got to spend the day with good food and even better company in the house I basically grew up in. And that once-in-a-lifetime experience? That’s going to come on New Years where I’ll be in Paris with Felicia and Katie. It’s taken a lot of planning (let’s just say I was delusional when I originally thought the only stress to traveling would be the cost… so.wrong.) but to say I’m excited is the understatement of the century.

I spent a month living in Paris when I was 16- I took art and architecture classes, French classes, and volunteered a Parisian day care center. It was a life-changing experience– one that prepared me very well for my current one abroad. Needless to say, I fell in love with the City of Light, in ways that words can’t justify. Paris is the only place in the world that feels like home while still having mystery, a fantasy-like quality, and a magic that never dies. I can’t wait to be back there again. I’ll be leaving on the a red-eye on the 27th to London where Felicia and Katie will join me in Oxford two days. Then from the 30th on we’ll venture to Paris where we’ll be spending practically a week exploring  everything (and getting to spend New Years Eve under the Eiffel Tower).

Christine and Suzanne are joining me in the good ol’ UK on  Jan. 8th where we’ll be spending some time in London and Edinburgh before my term starts. I just squealed a little from excitement. I feel as though all of this is making my break at home sound rather lackluster. But let me just say, I cherished each of the 17 days I got to spend at home. I spent so much time with friends (Ashton, how will I survive without you living with me?), saw a show in NYC (War Horse is absolutely incredible. I know the movie is coming out but the show … yes, with the puppets… amazing), went to the movies a bunch of times (David Fincher, you are a God), shopped, and even did the little things like talked over a latte at Starbucks, went to my favorite Chinese restaurant more than a few times, and snuggled with my pooches.

Another day and a half at home and then I’m overseas again… this time for close to 7 months. A little terrifying but lots is in store.

Hope everyone’s holiday was lovely xx