Category Archives: Europe

Photo Of The Day 12-21

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Ireland Playlist

When visiting Ireland last summer, I knew that we would be doing a lot of driving from town to town so I packed my iPod full of songs that carried a similar theme. It was mellow, thought-provoking music that had stories to tell.

Like I’ve previously mentioned in my Belize Playlist post, I carry an iPod Shuffle when I travel because it’s super light, is only $49, and can hold hundreds of songs. Mine in particular is pink but I’m positive that they have multiple colors you can chose from.

When it comes to songs that I will want to listen to, I’m all over the map. So this playlist is a bit eccentric. I tried to stay within a general theme but it got a little skewed. It happens.

I know that “The Parting Glass” by Cara Dillon is an Irish song often sung at local pubs and it’s beautifully recreated every time you hear it. It’s often done in a slow, melodic whisper and there have been times I’ve heard it done in an almost thunderous way, showing jubilation. Regardless, it’s a beautiful song.

So, without further ado, here’s the 30 songs that composed my Ireland Playlist!

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Leavesden Studios: My Ultimate Fangirl Experience

For anyone that knows me, I’m a complete and total Harry Potter nut. Growing up on the books is an understatement. I’ve accredited my childhood to a woman who pushed me to be a better person, who instilled a love of reading and who made me want to be brave in the face of adversity. J.K. Rowling is not only a role model but she has shaped my life, and I’m sure many others just like me. My mom started reading them to me when they were first published and we, as well as my sister, read them fervently, taking in every word and joining Harry through his years at Hogwarts. 550591_10151136072598135_790477209_n

Not only did it bring us closer together as family, but it gave us something to look forward to and was a constant source of happiness for us all.

Last summer while in London, my mom and I knew that Leavesden Studios was opening it’s doors to guests and we literally couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Opened in Spring of 2012, we were one of the first groups to take in the magic of the set. 560606_10151136119418135_937076498_n

It’s set up in the most strategic way possible, you purchase a time that your tour officially starts and you’re shuttled into a movie theatre that documents the series as a whole and how it’s affected the world and culture as we know it and I’m 99% sure that everyone in the room was crying.

Then the screen splits in two and the Great Hall appears behind it. It’s one of those moments where you almost seem to be frozen in awe. So many scenes and so many memories that hold a special place in your heart are right in front of you, tangible and breathable. It’s unreal.

The guide tells you a brief history of the room and shows you around a bit then tells you that it is a self-guided tour and that you’re free to take as long as you want to. AHH. This property is huge and every known artifact used in the making of the movies is there, we had arrived mid-morning and didn’t leave until sundown.

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The sets are arranged so you see the different compartments that go into making such a huge production. The sets are still in place, the rafters and lights are still exactly where they stood during filming and costumes are strategically placed throughout.

It winds and curves and is a delight for all senses. Literally.

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There’s  an outside set where the Knight Bus and the larger than life chess pieces are with a backdrop of the houses you’re so accustomed to seeing. They even sell butterbeer to sip while you’re walking along. If you weren’t all that interested in Harry Potter, it would easily take you at least 2 hours to go through it all but for those who love it, expect to be there all day on cloud nine.

I don’t know if I can even properly put in words what it’s like to be there and to be surrounded by the things you’ve only witnessed on screen. It’s definitely a day I won’t soon forget.

My Study Abroad Adventures

I’m a college student. I love to travel. So naturally, I took advantage of the study abroad programs offered at my college. There’s about 9 to choose from, ranging from places like Costa Rica to Ireland. Every trip has a course tied to it that you take while in country. I’ve been on two and will be going on my third in three weeks time.

The first study abroad trip I went on was to Derry, Ireland. I left in early May of 2012 and spent 15 days in country for the class. I then stayed a week and a half later traveling on my own and then my mom met me for a trip to London and Paris. mommaparis

Let me say this; I LOVED my study abroad experience. Granted, every college is different and every trip within that college is different but I have yet to experience or even hear of a trip that wasn’t amazing.

Ireland was fantastic, a place I’ve always wanted to visit and the group that ended up going was 14 girls. Nuts. We all had serious apprehension before leaving but it was actually one of the better experiences of my life. We grew to be very close, albeit a few cat fights, and actually still keep in very close contact to this day. Two of the girls I went to Ireland with are now some of my best “traveling buddies”.

The way in which the trip was set up was easy to understand. We stayed at a local bed and breakfast, went to class three times a week for four hours a day and then had the rest of our nights free. We had planned “excursions” to places like Giant’s Causeway, Bushmills Whiskey Distillery, Belfast and the Titanic Museum, and only one guided tour of the city (thank goodness). 401711_10151133175688135_246478389_n

What was awesome about this planned trips was that we were still able to see things as tourists even though we were there for school. It also allowed gave us more of Ireland for our money.

Speaking of money; in total I spent $2300 for 15 days in Ireland. This included airfare, the program fee, food and souvenirs. The program fee included hotel, entrance fees, the cost of the class and transportation. Not too shabby.

I mean, I’ve never claimed to be a “thrifty traveler” but I like to save money where I can. Yes, I could have traveled throughout Ireland on my own for cheaper but I was gaining credits while abroad. I think that’s awesome.

Ireland was awe-inspiring. The history was rich and the people seemed to have this unabashed pride for their country. The greenness of it all is almost overwhelming and there are times where you’re silent, for there are no words to accurately describe the beauty of this country.

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My next adventure was to Belize. Belize kind of fell in my lap.
Two weeks before I left for Ireland, one of my professors told me about a scholarship they were giving away to go study abroad in Belize. I figured why not and filled out an application. As luck would have it, I won. All expenses paid (minus airfare) to Belize. SWEET.

So, a month and a half after I got back from Ireland, I began the paperwork for Belize and left two weeks later.

Belize was a complete 180 from Ireland. I frequently get asked about which trip I liked better and there is literally no way to compare the two.

caracolllBelize was a different world. Humid and jungle and animals and no air conditioning and true adventure. It was perfect. We arrived in Belize City and ran at about 100 mph for the next 15 days.

We saw Guatemala, we saw Mayan ruins of all kinds, we stayed in local villages, we went spelunking in an ancient Mayan Offering cave, we jumped from cliffs and rode waterfalls.

The class for this trip was Tropical Ecology and instead of sitting in a classroom for a few hours a day we would go into the jungle and learn from locals how different plants interacted with the environment, their medicinal uses, their spiritual properties. All of it. So if you’re a hands on learner, look for a trip like this.bz

I can honestly say, wholeheartedly, these trips changed my life. They opened my eyes to the endless possibilities that the world offers us that we’re sometimes too afraid to take advantage of. We’re in this world that most people know very little about and studying abroad gave me a chance to completely shift my world view. If you’re thinking about going, do it.

I will forever be grateful I went and I will always value the memories that I have from my time studying abroad.

My New Job And New Dream Destination

Say hello to Stephanee, the Travel Representative/Marketing Director.

Fitting, right? 🙂

I very recently started at a travel agency that focuses primarily on international flights and I absolutely love it. Not only is it my perfect environment (I talk about travel all day, very day) but its an environment that encourages travel. A lot of agencies, unfortunately, are tied to their desk and only get to live vicariously through their clients.

As I’ve gotten to know the company more and as I’m working everyday, I’m starting to dream of new places that I want to go to. I get requests from people looking to go anywhere from Tehran, Iran to Bali, Indonesia. It’s thrilling and always keeps you on your toes but it mostly makes me want to go with them. Norway Fjords Waterfall

The new destination that’s on my mind is definitely the Norway Fjords. I’ve been seeing pictures and it’s absolutely breathtaking. It’s rocks forcing their way out of the sea and standing proud in all of their glory. There’s waterfalls that fall heavily into the surrounding sea and trees clinging to the edge as though they’re deciding on whether to jump.

I’m hooked.

But, if you’re looking for a place to go and want a good deal, call me!