This post is near to my heart because it is truly a summary of my entire abroad experience. I knew from the moment I was accepted into the study abroad program that I wanted to find a unique way to document my time traveling. I wanted something I would be able to share with family and friends and keep in an album or scrapbook of sorts. So I made it a goal that every place I visited I had photos taken near monuments or on scenic hikes and I just briefly labeled it “Walking Europe”. I am so excited to share this gallery and hope you enjoy browsing through it!
The last photo in this album is a picture of my flatmate Nate and I. Most of the photos above with the exception of the Iceland pictures were taken on the trips we took together. This amazing memory would not have been possible without him and his incredible (and patient haha) photography skills. So Nate, thank you for creating this memory with me it will certainly last a lifetime and it was such a blast.
So let me paint you a picture, it’s the beginning of December and instead of freezing your you know what off in the frigid North you’re sitting at the edge of a tropical lagoon in the Greek Islands…oh and it’s 80 degrees outside. Winning. Crete is a magical escape away from real life and the only negative is not having more time to stay and explore more. And maybe the fact that public transportation could practically be non-existent and no one would know. So when I say please rent a car if you go…take my word for it. If you’re anything like me and think “oh but it’s so tiny on the map it couldn’t take more than 2 hours to drive it all” think again it takes 8. Ugh. But now onto the good part which is everything else! I flew into Chania Airport and from there drove about 45 minutes southwest to the city center of Chania. I was only able to see the west side of the island due to time but if you have the chance definitely explore the rest especially if you like climbing and hiking. The island is full of gorges, but the west side is known more for its beaches.
I landed late at night and only had a quick day to explore before heading back to Athens so I was as fast paced as possible to see all I could. I explored the town of Chania in the evening and sat down to a giant Greek feast full of gyros, baklava, greek salad and everything else as cliche as possible! The next morning I went back into town for breakfast and explored the waterfront area. The weather was perfect and the sky as clear as could be.
After enjoying the view I drove down the west coast to Balos Lagoon. You can drive down a dirt road along a cliff edge for about 8 miles until you reach a shed where you park. After that its a three mile hike down to the lagoon. It is the most scenic tropical scene hidden away from everyday life. After finally making it to the sand I spent the rest of the day swimming and playing in the water before facing the reality of having to leave the island. It was a trip I will never forget and definitely somewhere I would love to go back to!
Okay so let’s get this out of the way first…I’m way behind on blog posting!! Between finals and Alec arriving in London I have had no time to throw together a post. So in honor of my favorite man being here now i have an amazing adventure update for you from our trip this past weekend to Iceland. I know what you are thinking…”isn’t there a volcano erupting there now” “it’s got to miserably cold in December” “why Iceland??” Unless you are like us where laying on a beach is far too unadventurous maybe this isn’t sounding like your ideal vacation, but before you add Iceland to your places not to go list hear me out because it’s BEAUTIFUL. The weather is as you guessed freezing, but the landscape is unique and snow covered constantly.
We spent our first day in Iceland doing a tour day through Extreme Iceland and Gray Line. We chose the South Coast tour which included two waterfalls, a black sand beach, basalt columns, and a glacier hike! The coach bus took down the coast to the first waterfall where we got out briefly and then carried on to the hike. We geared up with crampons and ice axes and spent about 2 hours hiking on the 4th largest glacier in Iceland. Being December it was entirely snow covered making us hikers a bit nervous about the conditions, but all went smoothly and we saw some of the most beautiful sights on the whole trip. After returning to the bus we continued to the black sand beach and basalt columns where the wind was whipping at hurricane speed in freezing temperatures and the sea looked like something straight out of the movie The Perfect Storm. After 50 attempts at photos on the beach 49 of which my eyes are closed squinting from the harsh wind we headed to our last stop the final waterfall. It was dark but lit up by spotlights since Iceland winters see daylight from roughly 11am to 4pm.
We headed back to Reykjavik and hopped straight on another tour bus which was a 2 hour tour turned to 5 and we finally got back to the hotel at 2am. But let me tell you it was worth every second because we saw the Northern Lights at 3 different locations. I’ve never seen so many shooting stars in my life and the lights were twirling into the sky. As Alec and I stood there we couldn’t help but take in every second in awe. It was magical and romantic in all of the corniest movie ways. We soaked up every moment before heading back and ordering Dominos pizza and cinna stix at 3am haha!
The next day we slept in a little too much but finally got up and packed and headed to the Blue Lagoon before the airport. The Blue Lagoon is a natural hot spring that is a beautiful tropical blue color and around 102 degrees. A natural hot tub! They have complimentary algae masks and drinks plus a great shop to get all of their amazing and natural Icelandic skin products. I may have bought a few! Their mud mask and moisturizer leave your skin baby soft. It was a perfectly relaxing way to end our trip and I couldn’t have asked to spend it with anyone better!
One of my latest trips on this crazy adventure called “studying” abroad (I put studying in quotes because well lets be real we all know its easier than real school, sorry Mom and Dad) was to Chamonix, France. The city is located just across the Switzerland border in France and relatively close to the northwest border of Italy. It is home to a ski resort as well as the tallest mountain in France, Mont Blanc (belonging to the chain of the Swiss Alps of course). I sadly only had one day to explore Chamonix, which was not enough time to hit the slopes and see the city so I chose to see the city. However, it certainly earned a spot at the top of my “Going Back Here” List.
Chamonix is not only home to multiple ski resorts and hotels, but also to the longest glacier in Europe. A small wobbly red train will take you up the side of a mountain to a shack with a long porch. This porch is a lookout over the winding “S” curve the glacier creates through the mountains. When I first reached the look out everything was covered in clouds…literally one big white puff. You could hardly see the person 5 feet away from you. After spending 30 minutes thinking I had wasted 20 euros on the train ride the sky magically cleared and left in its place the most incredible view.
I spent some more time wandering down the cliffside towards the glacier past one or two caution signs and don’t enter cones, but hey what is life if you aren’t living. Just the chance to hike in knee deep snow down the face of the Swiss Alps was the opportunity of a lifetime. After returning on the Mer de Glace train I spent some time exploring the small town and grabbing lunch at a local lodge and by the end of my day I had fallen in love with Chamonix. Every direction you turned was an even more breathtaking view. I am thankful everyday for opportunities like these ones. I have been beyond blessed. Thanks for reading!
For all of those golf players, lovers, and fans this is the post for you. I was in golf heaven on my trip to St. Andrews in Scotland. When I was 5 or 6 years old my dad starting teaching me the game. He used putt putt golf and bribes of driving the golf cart to get me to come play with him. Eventually, I fell in love with the sport and it has been a big part of me ever since. So you can imagine my excitement when I booked my ticket to Edinburgh, Scotland knowing St. Andrew’s was only a short train ride away.
On Sunday morning I arrived at Leuchars train station from Edinburgh and took a short bus ride that dropped me off right in front of Swilcan Bridge on the 18th hole of The Old Course. For those that are not as familiar with golf, the Swilcan Bridge is an iconic bridge that crosses between holes 1 and 18 of the famous Old Course. Many famous golfers have walked on this bridge and the lucky few that have won at St. Andrew’s have their photos with their trophy taken standing on it. Don’t judge I may have gotten a little emotional being on this bridge haha, but hey its a big deal in the golf world.
After spending a totally excessive 45 minutes just staring in awe and taking photos, I finally moved on to see the rest of the course. Sundays happen to be the only day of the week that The Old Course is closed, making it available for the public to see and walk along without paying to play. While I would have handed them my first born son (not really…well maybe ha) to play this course it was incredible to go walk the entire course and see iconic features like the Hell Bunker, the Himalayas putting green, and the Club House.
However, one day when I actually have my clubs, an extra $200 laying around, and a flight back to Edinburgh my dad and I will play this course together. I would have given the world to have him there with me at St. Andrews. He taught me the game, he taught me patience, he taught me how to win and lose, and he made me fall in love with the sport. Bobby Jones once said, “Golf is the closest game to the game we call life. You get bad breaks from good shots; you get good breaks from bad shots-but you have to play the ball where it lies.” I will never stop loving this game and the man who opened my eyes to it. This trip was a dream come true!