When in Rome…

italy, Travel

Study Abroad in Florence at SRISA

If you are studying in Florence it is likely you will find yourself in Rome for at least one weekend. This is a must for any trip to Italy and an absolutely wonderful experience.

So, when in Rome…


DO take photos with the men in Gladiator or Roman Guard uniforms. They will give you a fond memory and make your family and friends laugh!

DON’T eat in the heavy tourist areas, if you have the time seek out a place off the beaten path, do it. This is a reality for all of Italy, look around and find a smaller family-owned “locals eat here” place. The food, service, and most likely the prices will be much better!

DO join a tour, if you go to the big tourist areas, especially on the weekends the guides will be a bit more, BUT they get you in much sooner, and you learn…

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PISA, more than just a leaning tower


Study Abroad in Florence at SRISA

Everyone wants to see the leaning white tower, and it is an icon of not only a city, province or nation but of architects, scientists and Olive Garden coloring pages. Yet, there is so much more to Pisa than jumping off the train or bus, seeing the tower and then running back to your transport. So much more.Image

For a great day in Pisa try a few things. Go see the white tower, climb it if you must, and check out the outlying buildings, such as the Duomo and Baptistry, there is combined tickets for relatively reasonable prices if you want. Or you can just enjoy the splendor from the outside, which we did, and had a lovely time. Try out a local cafe if you have some time and money, for great food choices and very friendly staff. Near the river is a great chance to take two hours…

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Why I LOVE Tuesdays


Study Abroad in Florence at SRISA

Tuesdays aren’t Monday, which is always a bonus, but they are also eventful days in Florence.

Tuesday morning means you can go to the Cascine Market, in the Cascine Park from 7am-1pm and pick up some food, clothes, fabric, a pet turtle, and underwear all in one location. I have gone the last two weeks and been able to find a lot of great deals for not very much money. I bought some gifts for people back home, and some new clothes for myself, and only spending about €20 each day. Image

A lot of the clothing is made in italy, so there is an added appeal and appreciation to it, making them an extra special pair of trousers, or blouse.

Tuesdays also mean that at the club,Be Bop, you can go listen to the Beatles for no charge. In reality, they are the next best thing to the original John…

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Anyone for a Joust?

italy, Travel

Study Abroad in Florence at SRISA

On Saturday I got the treat of watching a medieval reenactment group hold a jousting and sword fighting competition. Which, unlike the Renaissance festival I go to in Colorado, which is a staged theatrical performance, this was actually a competition of skill, training, horsemanship, patience, armor and elegance. Image

By dumb luck I saw a poster around town advertising the event on Friday, and jumped for the chance to go see such a sight. A €10 donation to a local charity got me and a friend in with prime seats for photography and to see all the action. Of course everything was in Italian, but we were just happy to watch the event which was preceded by a parade, dance, drum music and plenty of costumes.

The next day was my second trip to Lucca, my friend and I rented and rode bikes along the Renaissance walls taking in a quiet…

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Tea Makes Me

colorado, geek, musings

Tea is one of those almost bizarre human things that we gather around in ritual and enjoyment. Imagine the first person that decided to take a plant, dry it and throw it in a pot of hot water?

Well I am sure it was nothing that simple or elegant. Likely someone tried eating said plant, noticed it gave them energy, tried drying it, tried eating it, then tried water, tried it as powder, tried it……okay you get the idea.

Tea is this sort of elixir of life, it goes back centuries and it compels the drinker to ponder the world, ponder flavor, wake up, dream, and explore new things. With so many tea blends and kinds there are endless options in the world of tea!

My favorite place in Fort Collins is Happy Lucky’s Teahouse in Old Town. They are one of the first places I found when I moved to Fort Collins and they have become an absolute favorite over the years. I’m even lucky enough that they let me do their social media for them ;). They sell over 180 kinds of tea, which means there is something for everyone. Their funky and modern but relaxing design makes for a lovely sitting and sipping experience and I am friends with almost everyone on the staff. They are wonderful people that do a lot for the community and the world. 10% of their profits goes to Sustainable Schools International which helps educate and empower children in Cambodia. It’s pretty damn cool!

Before Happy Lucky’s I spent hours at Montague’s in Colorado Springs, and before them it was my kitchen and my living room in the mountains of the house I grew up in. Where tea parties were frequent and company split a pot with us.

Tea has been a constant event and enjoyment for myself, and I hope to enjoy it for years to come. As Happy Lucky’s Teahouse suggests, enjoy daily and nourish your happy.


What I’ve Learned From Travelling….

Caribbean, Cruising, History, musings, Photography, Travel, United Kingdom, United States

…to be a better traveler.

A friend posted on Facebook just now…which inspired this post, that she, after travelling part of Europe HATED her massive luggage that she took and never wants to travel with it again. To which I reply….well duh!

However, 6 years ago I learned this lesson myself, and have learned it many times since. Travel with less= enjoying more. TRUTH.

I found on my first trip to Europe, 6 YEARS AGO that taking extra crap was a waste of my time and money (you know you have to pay more for heavy bags on planes). I stupidly took books to read (which I never had time to), I took travel guides (now I rip them apart or use my phone) and I took a massive book to put ticket stubs and other crap in (this was EXTRA DUMB) this book weighed about 5lbs and now 6 years past most the ticket stubs have fallen apart or the thermal paper has erased itself….so that was also a waste of time. Anyway my first trip also meant that I bought a shit-ton of books at different places I went, which was well-meaning, but it also meant that I had a hell of a lot of extra weight that I had to ship home or pull all over Europe.


Oh to be 19, young and stupid…

Since then two more trips to Europe have taught me a lot, and mostly by mistakes.

First of all: DO NOT plan on mailing anything home unless you have like $300 extra to spend because international mailing rates have gone up, up, up. That goes for U.S. or Europe and let’s just say you can throw away a lot of money on knick-knacks and then to send them home, and the reality is YOU ARE BUYING CRAP so STOP!!!!!!!! This also goes back to a philosophy of DO NOT buy people souvenirs unless they are SMALL and light weight and squishable.

Second: Invest in good luggage. Luggage that is lightweight, can take some knocks, can stretch and that maybe has a warranty. My first suitcase barely functions (I keep souvenirs in it) and it started to fall apart halfway through a 2.5 month trip. ALSO- buy one with WHEELS and four wheels that are fully rotating. Even if you don’t do much walking with your luggage, the few hours at the airport make it worthwhile. If you are backpacking, then different rules apply.

Third: Plan for the length you will be gone. For 1 week-3 weeks, take a carry-on or medium suitcase, and plan to do laundry, and pack extra undies. For 1 month+ you’re allowed a larger bag, however if you are traveling a lot (in the moving place to place sense) keep in mind that a backpack may make trains and hostels a lot easier. For longer trips I take a larger bag and only pack it half-full, then there is room for gifts/souvenirs/supplies that I may need. For instance, the Hostel I was at last year in Edinburgh left me FREEZING every night, so I bought a wool blanket that not only helped with the cold, but now I use daily as a throw. Having extra space meant I could bring it home.


All you need for a month, minus the kitty.

Fourth: Listen to friends/family that have traveled a lot and don’t be too proud to look stuff up. If I had listened to more Samantha Brown and less grandparents/dad’s friends I would have taken WAY less on my first trip and had a better time.

Fifth: Take a big enough bag. It’s a fine line between too much and not enough, but when I went to Italy for my study abroad and lived in Florence 5 weeks, I accumulated a lot of stuff. Such as clothing….because fashion and street markets….. So taking the train to meet some friends to get to Germany was a nightmare. It was stuffed train+ suitcase+ two bags I bought + other random crap….It was bad, and embarrassing and HEAVY. Lesson learned.


From Paris with Love….

Sixth: Use tech to your advantage. BUY A SMARTPHONE already! Seriously, on my last trip that is all I took was my iphone, leaving back my DSLR and computer. Why? Well usually I LOVE taking lots of photos but for only a week of running around and some extra time with family, my IPhone 6S was PLENTY to take fun photos, stay in touch and pull up maps/directions. Also, buy a GOOD smartphone, and make sure you have international coverage where you go. T-Mobile offers FREE texting and slow data overseas and is about $0.20/min to call. Which is pretty good! If you are going somewhere a long time and think you want to call a lot (I use SKYPE btw) then think about getting an unlocked phone and buying sim cards abroad that you can “top-up” or buy a month-to-month plan. It really helps and in this day a phone can be a lifesaver if you get lost or can’t find a taxi at 3am. Even if you take a DSLR in addition, having the cellphone can lighten your load by leaving the computer at home, and carrying important information (scans of passport etc.) Along with access to people back home. Anyway, just join the 21st century and be savvy. Compared to traveling 6 and even 3 years ago, having a SMARTPHONE make a HUGE difference and is worth the time/headache it saves.


Seventh: Buy disposable entertainment. MEANING: download audio books/digital books (utilize the library), books you can leave at a hostel, movies that are digital, music that is digital etc. This keeps things lightweight and also if you don’t have time to read, then you don’t have to feel guilty about lugging around the weight.

Eight: Pack minimal clothes and buy new things. I try to leave some room in my budget and suitcase to buy some clothes. This is my “backup” for not only weather conditions and “unknowns” on what might be fashionable or more comfortable for the travel conditions. This acts as an awesome souvenir and a great amount of fun.

Happy Travels!