Rome, Italy: Day 3

For my third and final day in Rome, I made my way to the Colosseum for a guided tour, which included the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill. I booked this tour through the same website as I did for my tour of the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. Follow this link here to see what I booked!

My group met at the Arch of Constantine to start off and our guide talked about the history of the Arch and the purpose of the Colosseum as a building. I learned that the exterior of the Colosseum used to be covered in marble. Due to the marble being removed, holes can be seen where the marble was once attached. For the Romans, recycling materials, like marble, happened frequently.

After a brief history lesson, my group made our way into the Colosseum. There, our guide debunked every historical inaccuracy of the movie, Gladiator. We were given time to take photographs before we walked around the rest of the perimeter to head towards the exit. I could not believe how different the Colosseum looked on the interior versus the exterior. Not at all what I had expected!

Inside the Colosseum

After touring the Colosseum, the guide led my group towards Palatine Hill, which looks above the Roman Forum and is the center-most of the seven hills that make up Rome. I learned some more history and then went with the rest of the group to look down over the Roman Forum. This area houses many ancient buildings or their remnants (i.e. columns).

A birds-eye view of the Roman Forum

Once viewing the Roman Forum from above, my group made our way down the steps and walked through the area with our guide who explained the significance behind the more important buildings.

The Roman Forum served as the end of the guided tour so I went and took some more photographs of the Colosseum before heading off in search of food. I truly do not think you can appreciate the size of the Colosseum unless you stand next to the structure in person.

Farewell Colosseum!

Per the recommendation of a local, I walked to the Monti area of Rome. There, I found local restaurants and art/clothing shops. This area of Rome did not feel touristy at all and the alleyways charming. I settled on a sandwich from Mizio’s Cibo de Strada. For 7 euros, I received a delicious lunch! The sandwich I ate contained mozzarella, pancetta, and tomatoes on some crunchy bread. If you are in Rome and are after a quick and/or cheap lunch, I cannot recommend this place enough. When I arrived, there was a line out of the door and customers were receiving punches on their rewards cards. A sign of great food!

Still dreaming about this sandwich

I plopped down in a nearby square to eat my sandwich before heading to Come il latte for some gelato, which also came highly recommended from a local. Like La Gelateria Romana, the gelato was superb and local. Eat all the gelato in Rome, but look for the restaurants where you cannot see the gelato in the display case. I promise you the best gelaterias’ product is found in an aluminum canister hidden from your eyes. Furthermore, the prices are not as steep. Do not pay more than 3 euros for two scoops of gelato!

Come il latte gelato. Presentation on point!

After savoring the creamy gelato, I went to my hostel to pick up my stored bag and then headed to the bus stop to catch the bus to the Rome Ciampino airport.

After a couple of hours, I boarded my quick flight to Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy, to see my host brother Enrico and his family. Enri stayed with my family last year as a Rotary Youth Exchange Student.

Graduation May 2018: Mason, Gavin, Enrico, and me

You would think a short, 1-hour flight would go without a hitch. However, myself and fellow plane mates endured the scariest landing ever! Everyone on the flight cheered and clapped when the plane finally came to a standstill.

Enrico and his father, Emilio, picked me up from the airport and whisked me away to a restaurant where I met Enrico’s mother, Marella, and his brother Emilio. To maximize the amount of Italian pizzas to try, Enrico’s family ordered 5 different pizzas! Everyone started with one pizza and then we subsequently passed them around the table, which I found hysterical! Of course, Enrico told me I started off with the “worse” pizza. I found the pizza to taste just fine!

A TRUE Italian pizza. Yum!

After pizza and a beer (I learned IPA is NOT my drink of choice based on the aftertaste), we stopped by the ice cream shop next door to have some dessert. Once Enrico and I finished, he took me back to his house to get some sleep.

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

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Vatican City

Hello and happy Monday!

Due to unreliable WiFi, I am once again behind on blogging about my 2.5-week solo adventure! Now, I am back and ready to get caught up!

Sooo…where was I? Oh yes! May 2nd in Rome!

On my second day in Italy, I headed to Vatican City for a guided tour of the Vatican museums, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. Before beginning my tour, however, I stopped by the Trevi Fountain (for a second time) and Spanish Steps to beat the crowds.

Eventually, I arrived at the meeting point for my tour right outside the Vatican Walls.

Now, as we all know, I do not like audio guides for museums and I have never been a part of a guided tour. However, a friend of mine HIGHLY suggested shelling out the money for guided tours for both the Vatican and Colosseum. For her, the guided tours were the highlights of her time in Rome. I booked both of my guided tours (Vatican and Colosseum) through Headout and I thought both seemed reasonably priced and offered cashback if you connected your Facebook account. I am always looking to save some cash! The group altogether was not more than 30 people, which I thought was a great size as it provided intimacy with the guide. Additionally, booking a guided tour allows for skip-the-line tickets. At the both the Vatican and Colosseum, you can wait for HOURS in line to just get a basic admission ticket. Another advantage of shelling out money for a guided tour if you ask me!

Before beginning the tour, I received my headset and radio. Through my headphones, I was able to hear the guide discuss the history of Vatican City (a different “country”), while we passed through the Vatican Walls.

My first stop on my tour was the Vatican Museums. The museums house some of the most beautiful art pieces I have ever laid my eyes on in person. My guide provided history of specific paintings, tapestries, and the building itself. I loved learning about the stories about Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel and other areas of the Vatican Museums. Without a doubt, the Vatican Museums had some of the most beautiful ceilings I have ever seen in my whole entire life!

After hitting the highlights in the Vatican Museums, my group made our way to the Sistine Chapel. Holy crap, friends, the Sistine Chapel is phenomenal! I can safely say I could have sat and stared at the ceiling all day and still would have found something new to see. Unfortunately, my guide had to provide information about the Sistine Chapel outside of the space (quiet area), so I kind of forgot what I was looking for when going into the chapel. Nonetheless, I cannot believe I saw the Sistine Chapel in person. Pictures are not permitted. Boo!

My guide gave my group around 30 minutes in the Sistine Chapel after which we headed to St. Peter’s Basilica for our final stop. Once again, I learned about the history of the building, paintings, statues, etc. I learned that St. Peter’s is the largest church in the entire world! After seeing St. Paul’s Cathedral in London which was built to rival St. Peter’s, I can safely say St. Paul’s does not even compare to St. Peter’s in my opinion.

Once exiting the basilica and turning in my audio guide, I decided to go to St. Peter’s Basilica dome. For 8 euros, visitors ascend 871 steps (one-way) to the dome. If you pay 10 euros, you can take an elevator a portion of the way up and only have to climb 320 steps. Note, all payments have to be in cash!

I felt the view of Rome from the dome was worth the money and the 871 step climb (x 2) was not bad at all! However, brace yourself for claustrophobia once you reach the top. I admired the view for some time, snapped some photos, and headed down again.

Hello, Vatican City and Rome!

I made my way to the exit and said farewell to Pope Francis and Vatican City.

After exiting Vatican City and entering Rome, I made my way to Janiculum Terrace. Along the way, I stumbled into a mosaic shop where artisans were making house numbers and letters. Very neat! With some Google maps trial and error, I finally found myself at the lookout point/park. While in Rome, I went to a few different lookout points and by far this one did not have the most amazing view, in my opinion.

So, I took a few photos and then started walking to a different viewing area called Janiculum Terrace. There were benches, shade, and a water fountain at this spot and I found the view to be 100 times better! I sat for a while on the wall resting my legs and soaking up the sun.

Nearby Janiculum Terrace, was an amazing rose garden free and open to the public. I stopped and walked around for a little bit before continuing onward to look at Roman ruins.

Now, this is where I made the crazy decision to walk an hour to Quatiere Coppede on tired legs. This area of Rome is on the outskirts of the city and has some local stores and food. The architecture was neat in this area. In my opinion, though, I should have done a Google search of the area before walking blindly based off of a recommendation. Otherwise, I probably would have skipped the area entirely. Since I happened to be outside of the city center, I also walked to Ponte Milvio/Collina Fleming where a bridge takes you to some restaurants and a church. I rested on a bench before walking back towards my hostel.

For dinner, I decided on an antipasto platter of sorts from the grocery store as I could not be bothered to eat at a restaurant for 1+ hours. Of course, I HAD to top off my dinner with a gelato from Gelateria La Ramona again. Different flavors and whipped cream this time around! After walking 21.2 miles according to my phone, I earned this gelato!

YUM, YUM, YUM!

That’s all for my second day in Rome! I will be back tomorrow with my last Rome post and will hopefully have a couple more posts about my time in Cagliari!

Thanks for bearing with my inconsistency. Your loyalty, patience, and comments are much appreciated, friends!

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Rome, Italy: Day 1

Ciao, friends! That means hello or goodbye in Italian!

Today I am recapping my first day in Rome, Italy!

On day 1, I guess you could say I Rome-d around for the most part. Terrible pun? Did I go too far?

I started my day off with heading to the ATM to withdraw some cash to pay my tourist tax that I had been unable to pay upon check-in. Once I paid my debt, I set off to explore Rome.

Now, my first faux pas of this adventure happened to be my decision of wearing shorts. When in Rome, do as the Romans do and do not wear shorts or tank tops. Dress modestly to not only fit in with the local population, but to also adhere to the dress code set forth by many of the churches.

First stop, S. Maria Della Victoria. This church was absolutely stunning! Even though I wore shorts, this church did not have any dress code restrictions.

Next, I made my way to Park Villa Borghese where I came across a pond/statue combo. At the pond, row boats could be rented for use. How fun! During my time at the park, I learned that parks in Rome are not maintained. The grass grows and grows without being mowed.

As I continued to wander, I stumbled upon Terrazza del Pincio and of Rome. I snapped a few photos and then went down to the square. On ground level, a group of handicapped individuals were being filmed while performing a dance routine to YMCA. All of the dancers were having the time of their life, which brought a smile to my face!

The view from Terrazza del Pincio

I left the square and stopped in a few more churches before heading to the Pantheon! Quite honestly, I still do not know the whole history about this magnificent church. I read the information sheets provided inside to guests, however, I mostly looked and took pictures and tried to get out of the crowd as soon as possible! What I found somewhat funny is a recorded voice would periodically go off in different languages asking everyone to be silent while in the church. When you have guided tours going on and a boatload of tourists, I think that wish is a bit unrealistic.

Crazy Pantheon crowd. Truly a magnificent church!

After escaping the Pantheon crowd, I stopped in a couple more churches taking my chances with wearing my shorts in some churches. Then, I walked through the Jewish Quarter thinking I would find some lunch but I instead continued onwards to Isola Tiberina. This is a small island that is in the River Tiber. There is not much on the island, but I found the church pretty and the river views to be nice. I then crossed the bridge into Trastevere and found some lunch at what seemed to be a family-run Italian restaurant. If you are in Rome, I highly recommend hitting up this area for food! Reasonably priced and authentic Italian where locals typically eat.

Once I finished inhaling my lunch, I started walking towards a museum on the outskirts of Rome. However, I was unaware May 1st happened to be Italy’s Labor Day. As a result, I arrived to the museum only to find it closed. I decided to backtrack and found some cool Roman ruins while walking through the rain towards Trevi Fountain, which I found to be underwhelming. Perhaps all the tourists was a big turn-off for me.

After snapping some photos of Trevi Fountain, I stopped in some shops before making my way to Gelateria de Romana for dinner…err…I mean dessert! This particular gelateria came highly recommended from my host brother and it did not disappoint! The coffee whipped cream was to die for!

Gelato #1!

A great first day in Rome!

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Billund, Denmark

My final blog post wrapping up my time in Denmark! Whew! Thanks for sticking with me and my inconsistent posting. Lucky for you, being behind means double the blog posts and photos. Who doesn’t love that?

For my last day (April 30), Louise, Eva, and I headed to the city where my Danish adventure began: Billund. Also known as, LEGO’s headquarters where Louise works!

Our first stop was Louise office where she took Eva up to see her coworkers, while I wandered around the LEGO campus.

After 30 minutes, we met up again and grabbed some Indian food for lunch and headed to LEGO House: Home of the Brick. This is a new LEGO complex (only a couple of years ago) and tells the story of the LEGO Brick.

LEGO House: Home of the brick

For our first stop, we started at the top of the building where LEGO fans’ creations are displayed. The massive dinosaurs were in the same room. Then, we headed down the stairs to check out the LEGO cities. The cities were amazing with moving parts and sounds of real cities. To mimic day turning to night, the lights would dim and crickets would chirp. Simply amazing!

Then, Louise and I went to the first activity station to build our own LEGO people. Once we built our figures, Louise and I played them on a platform where they got their picture taken for a magazine. So fun!

My beach boy and traveling LEGO gal

To start off, Louise I felt like I was reliving my childhood and the best time!

Next, I built a fish to go in the LEGO fish tank. Similar to the LEGO people, I built my fish and then placed it on a platform where its picture was taken. Then, I added eyes and a mouth before the fish swam into the tank.

My fish! Can you see it swimming in the tank?

After making fish, the three of us walked through some of the other exhibits. I played a game with Louise that involved moving different colored houses around to please the LEGO citizens. Then, I participated in a LEGO robotics battle where I had to free the scientists from the ice to do research on the animals.

Soon after I finished, LEGO House was closing so we headed to the basement to go briefly through the museum. Louise explained to me how the same level of quality the company was founded upon on are still upheld today. I learned too that LEGO originally produced wooden kids toys and not LEGOs. Go figure!

Upon exiting, I scanned my wristband and received a plastic card and 6 red LEGOs. My plastic card gave me a specific combo (#366,167,297) to make. With just 6 red LEGOs, MILLIONS of variations can be created.

Once the museum closed, Eva, Louise, and I headed to the LEGO employee store as Louise needed to purchase some gifts.

Then, we headed to the airport so I could fly to Rome, Italy.

Thank you Louise, Kristian, and Eva, for welcoming me to Denmark and into your home. I cannot wait to come back to Denmark with some other family members in tow to see you all again!

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Silkeborg, Denmark

Are you tired of Denmark blog posts? Well, I promise this is the second to last post. I have fallen behind with traveling and having poor WiFi connection. #thestruggle

Monday morning (April 29) in Denmark began with a nice walk into Herning with Louise and Eva. Upon our return, I had an impromptu photo shoot with little Eva using the delayed timer on my camera. Despite her facial expressions, I can assure you she thinks my peekaboo and patty cake skills are stellar!

After lunch, Louise and I headed to Silkeborg while Eva stayed with grandma.

In Silkborg, Louise took me to Sky Mountain. There, we climbed to the viewpoint and soaked in the view.

Sky Mountain

After snapping some photos, we hiked down to the lake and then hiked back up to the car again to head into Silkeborg to explore.

Hiking through the woods

In town, Louise and I stopped at a couple of stores before sitting down near the lake to have a quick dinner of sandwiches where we chatted about everything and anything.

Once wrapping up dinner, we hopped into the car and headed to the sports arena to watch a handball match!

Handball is the second most popular sport in Denmark after soccer/football. The sport involves passing a volleyball-type ball between players by either a bounce pass or a direct throw of the ball. Points are scored by throwing the ball into a soccer/football goal. Two 30 minute halves are played with a 15 minute halftime break.

Recently, Denmark won the Men’s National Handball Championship. Louise and I watched two local teams play. However, both teams had national players on their teams. Pretty cool!

The game itself was INTENSE! Louise and I were convinced one of the teams were going to win over the other based on their warm-up exercises. One team happened to be in-sync and coordinated while the other team messed around during warm-up. However, the team who happened to be goofing around won the game by one point!

For me, I found handball to be more exciting than American football. I totally would go back to another game!

A great day!

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Hvide Sande, Vedersø Klit, & Ringkøbing, Denmark

After a full Saturday in Copenhagen, my Sunday started out pretty relaxing with a nice breakfast of toast and pancakes with Louise and Kristian.

Soon after, Louise and I hopped into her car to drive to the fishermen village of Hvide Sande. There, various competitions were taking place. Louise and I arrived just in time to see the fishing waders beauty pageant.

Danish models in the making

After the beauty pageant concluded, Louise and I walked to the top of the nearby bunkers and beach. Nothing quite screams Denmark like windmills near the ocean.

Once we wrapped up our seaside walk, Louise drove us to Vedersø Klit, which is a popular area for Danes to have summer houses. Prior to our beach stop, we pulled off the road at a little shop to have some ice cream and to sample some rum. When we arrived at the coast, the sun decided to make an appearance. Perfect weather for a seaside walk!

Am I really in Denmark?

With sand in our shoes, Louise drove us to the old Danish town of Ringkøbing. There, we did another seaside walk before heading back to Herning.

Bench views in Ringkøbing

For dinner, Louise cooked some delicious Thai food. Upon sitting down to eat, the food was piping hot. While Kristian, Louise, and I waited for dinner to cool down, we started to play the board game Ticket to Ride. As the game began, I noticed Louise and Kristian were playing by different rules than what my family does at home. I pointed this out to Louise and Kristian explaining how I usually play. Kristian made the executive decision that we play by the “American rules.” As the game progressed, both Louise and Kristian said the “American rules” made a lot more sense which made me laugh. Louise ended up sabotaging one of my routes I needed to complete and I ended up losing terribly to Kristian who came in second and Louise who came in first.

A relaxing Sunday!

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Copenhagen, Denmark

On Saturday, I headed to Denmark’s capital by myself — thanks Louise for sponsoring my ticket!

I boarded a bus at 7:30 am and arrived in Copenhagen around 11:30 am.

As soon as I disembarked, I quickly made my way to Amalienborg Palace to watch the changing of the guards. Quite honestly, I did not stay for the whole thing as I did not have the best view. Arrive earlier if you want to see the changing of the guards!

After snapping a few photos, I walked across the street to the Marble church. Like St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, the Marble Church is Roman-style with its large dome.

Once I finished taking in the beauty of the Marble Church, I headed towards the famous Little Mermaid Statue. Along the way, I made a pit stop at St. Alban’s Church, which is the only Anglican church in all of Denmark. I adored the location of this particular church. Gardens, water, and a fountain surrounded the building which made the area very picturesque!

Finally, I arrived at the Little Mermaid. While waiting to take a photo of the famous statue, a boat drove by with a bunch of Danish (I presume) men drinking for a bachelor party (once again I am presuming). As I am standing on the steps, the men collectively turn around and pull down their shorts mooning everyone with their beers in their hands. Hilarious! I wish I would have snagged a photo of the white butts behind the Little Mermaid, but some things are best not to be photographed!

The Little Mermaid

Once I escaped the swaths of tourists at the Little Mermaid, I began walking in the general direction of the Round Tower. I managed to walk through another beautiful park and through a residential area with some colorful buildings.

After my wanderings, I made it to the Round Tower. I purchased my ticket and began walking up the spiral floor to the top of the building. Throughout the climb, the building had different museum exhibits you could pop in to learn about the tower’s history. Eventually, I arrived at the top and had a beautiful view of Copenhagen. Out of all of the churches and towers I have climbed this semester, the Round Tower had the most space for visitors to spread out so I did not feel claustrophobic at all!

Copenhagen from the Round Tower

Eventually, I climbed down and started walking towards Nyhavn. This is probably the most photographed and iconic area of Copenhagen. The buildings are colorful and the canal is filled with boats, which brings forth thoughts of Amsterdam.

After taking an excessive amount of photos of the buildings and squeezing in a couple camera selfies, I went in search of a boat tour. I purchased a ticket and hopped aboard a boat and listened to Vincent, the guide, enlighten myself and everyone else on the boat with information about Copenhagen and various buildings. Copenhagen is in fact based off of Amsterdam. A past king of Denmark wanted to not only encourage Dutch people to emigrate to Denmark to pay taxes, but also wanted them to recreate Amsterdam. Additionally, the Danish flag is the oldest flag in world. As such, the Danish flag can be seen everywhere. All in all, the boat tour lasted an hour and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Once I disembarked, I walked to Freetown Christiania. This area of Copenhagen lives by its own rules. Most notably, weed/hash is openly sold on the streets. I found the whole area to be very free-spirited and artsy. For me, the murals were neat, but I did not stay long as the smell of weed was overwhelming. Not my scene! If you happen to visit Freetown Christiania, do not take any photos as you will get reprimanded.

Freetown Christiania happened to be the last stop on my Copenhagen “to-do” list so I spent the rest of my time wandering the streets, going in stores that were open (by law stores close early 5:00-6:30 pm), and looking at the architecture before catching my train to Herning.

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo