This weekend I took a second solo trip to Porto, Portugal! Porto is the second largest city in Portugal after Lisbon and it was amazing and gorgeous. Proof:


This bridge is called Dom Luis, and it was designed by a protege of Gustave Eiffel’s. (Doesn’t it look familiar?) Traffic is on the bottom and the Metro runs on the top.


A view from the top of that bridge. I didn’t go all the way out though, because it was windy and I was wearing a skirt..


I went up to the top of a gorgeous church for a 360 view of the city! 3 euros well spent.

The city was wonderful! What these pictures don’t quite convey is how hilly it was, my legs definitely got a workout during my time there. It was a bit confused initially with my impression of the city because it seemed to take a lot of little things from places I’ve already been. There were a lot of ceramic tiles on buildings like Sevilla, the streets reminded me of Athens a little bit, and the hills and vibes reminded me of where I lived in Guatemala. Oh, and I was not expecting to see so many American tourists. They’re pretty easy to spot unfortunately…


Generic picture of me and the view

Probably my favorite thing I got to do in Porto was a free walking tour (I love how so many cities have them! You always meet the coolest people and learn so much). There was an English tour and a Spanish tour, so naturally I chose the one that wasn’t English and it was great. Several hours of being immersed in Spanish again was so very much fun and speaking it always makes me so happy. I still can’t tell which one I like better; whether I like Spanish because it’s still easier for me than French or whether I actually do like it better. I suppose I’ll find out sometime when my French catches up. I also determined that should I decide to learn something else (my French would need lots more work before this would happen), Portuguese interests me more than Italian. I like the sound of it and it would be more useful in the world.


*same caption as above* Sidenote: check out my super chic waterbottle, I think it’s a nice prop

A few other highlights of the city were the train station and a beautiful bookstore. The train station has a ton of blue ceramic tiles that tell the story of Portugal’s history!


It’s actually a pretty small station.

And the bookstore, Lello, is one that I had seen pictures of before because it is supposedly the third most beautiful bookstore in the world. The staircase was incredible.



I really wish I could have gotten better pictures of it, because it really was stunning. Refer here for MUCH better pictures of it in its entirety. My only complaint is the same one as for Shakespeare and Company in Paris: it only sells new books and I think bookstores should have old books.

Well, that’s all I have to report! It was my last weekend trip from Paris and I have now have two more weeks of classes (I actually had my final exams last week, so they are now purely for the love of the language haha) and next week Monday my Mom and Dad come for a few days! As I have said in a previous post, after this one I plan to fill in the gaps with a few posts on some of the specific things I did while in Paris, such as museums and neighborhoods. Stay tuned for those, they will make you want to come to Paris.

Thank you for reading!





I’ve decided that I’m going to write about my last two weekend trips and then a bit later I will recap all of the wonderful things I got to do in Paris (Spoiler: there’s A LOT). I’ve gone to many museums and walked in some really cool places.

Last weekend I flew out on Thursday night from Paris to spend the weekend in Copenhagen! It was the first time I had ever truly traveled by myself; all of other times I have met someone where I was going. Not this time; I was all on my own. I stayed in a hostel a bit of a walking distance from the center of the city, but I like walking quite a lot now, so it wasn’t a big deal. I loved the city, it was beautiful!

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Beautiful harbor.

I started out the weekend with a three hour walking tour of the city, which was so informative! I was able to get oriented with the city and and hear recommendations for what I should come back and see later. Our guide was a young guy in his late 20s named Magnus and he was really funny.

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The litter mermaid is behind me. The Danes don’t like her because she is small and has no story.

I spent the rest of day walking around with a German girl and two American dudes who were there traveling through northern Europe. They were a lot of fun.

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This was my favorite street, the canal was so gorgeous.

The next day I went to the Danish National Gallery, which was wonderful! It has so many amazing pieces of art in its permanent collection. A lot of Rembrandt and Mattise. I have really learned to love art museums this semester, I’ve been to quite a few.


The Danish National Gallery from the outside. A majestic building.


I like to take pictures of paintings I like. This one is by Francesco Guardi of a festival in Venice.


I also was able to tour Rosenburg Palace, which is where the Danish royal residence used to be. It was beyond beautiful (sorry, I think I forgot to take pictures of it); very ornate and huge. The Danish crown jewels are also housed there!

(Sidenote: Our tour guide told us that the Danish really love their royal family. Apparently King Christian X did a lot of good things for the country during WWII, including protecting many of the Jews from the occupying Nazis. Their current princess Mary is from Australia and beloved as well.)




These are the things I would most like to steal. 

It was a huge success of a weekend! Copenhagen was the perfect place to travel alone; it was incredibly safe and really clean. So many things to see and not even as expensive as is commonly believed (although maybe I’m used to living in uber-expensive Paris).

Thanks for reading!


Florence, Venice, and Athens


This post is the final post of my Spring Break series. Now I can get back to writing about normal life instances! We only were able to spend one day each Florence and Venice, but the way I see it, that means that I need to come back and see these cities again.

Here we go:

We took a train from Rome to Vicenza (small city in northern Italy) and stopped in Florence on the way. There were a lot of lovely squares and bridges!


Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Breathtaking on the outside, pretty on the inside.

Maeve and Kinza decided to climb the Duomo, but I decided to do some shopping instead. They said it was an incredible view from the top!


Biggest gelato of my life. You bet that I ate every bite. Life’s too short. 


Mini photo shoot in front of the bridge. #sorrynotsorry 

From Florence, we took the train to Vicenza to stay for the weekend. Maeve’s family friend, Karin, graciously let us stay with her for the weekend and it was the best. She is doing a civilian job on the US Army base there for a few years and has a beautiful home! It was so nice to have a couch to sit on and coffee in the morning. I was also able to bake chocolate chip cookies one of the nights, so that was such an amazing taste of home!


View from the top of somewhere that I don’t remember. Close to Vicenza.


Karin’s niece, Gianna, and I after we ran down and then up a huge hill! 

The second day in Vicenza, we took a day trip to Venice, which was only an hour train ride away. It was so beautiful even if it rained a good chunk of our time there. The canals were just as pretty as all of the pictures and movies (Italian Job, anyone? Probably in my top 10 favorite movies) and there was such good shopping too!


I don’t even know what this is. I just hand people my phone and they take a million pics 


Beautiful canals.


Piazza San Marco. Not as many pigeons as they say! 


The Bridge of Sighs. It’s called that because it’s the last glimpse of the outside world convicted prisoners got a before life in prison.

We then flew from Venice to Athens. ATHENS. That was my favorite city on our trip by far. It had its jaded parts, but with all of the history, monuments, food, and everything else, I loved it!


The best gelato I’ve ever had in my entire life. Like cake batter with Oreos in it. Very ice cream-like, which is probably why I liked it so much. I like ice cream better than gelato.


We spent a lot of time inside this site. There were so many things I don’t know all of their names. 


History behind me.


Maeve is a fantastic photographer 🙂 


Such a ridiculously beautiful view, I wish the picture did it justice. Oh, and the sun was really bright and my eyes aren’t good at that.


This is the Acropolis. Touristy pose, but no regrets. 


When I first saw this picture, I wondered why I look different but then I realized it’s the first of me smiling EVER where my eyes are open. 


One of my dinners. Kebab, I love it so much


I had to include this because this is feta that I ordered to go with my kebab. The best I’ve ever had.


Temple of Olympian Zeus.


It was windy in case you were wondering.


Where we ate dinner the second night. How picturesque! 

It is also worth noting that Greece was the first time I’d ever been in a country that didn’t use Aramaic letters. All of the street signs and and business names were in Greek and it was the strangest but coolest thing!

Well, there you have it, two weeks after I get back I finally finish writing about it. Now I only need to catch up on the last two weeks in Paris…

Thanks for reading!




This is the second of four posts about my Spring Break.

I really liked Rome, but I struggled with it at first because it was SO unbelievably touristy. The first day we went to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum and even though they were unreal, every single place I looked I saw Americans or people vacationing. Unfortunately, most of the beautiful places in the city are filled with tourists, but not all of them! (Disclaimer: I am aware that I, too, was a tourist in this context, but I like to think that I’m not as obvious as those who wear floppy hats and wear a camera around their necks.)


The Colosseum (but you knew that)


I know, you’re jealous of my selfie game (and also I don’t know why it looks like I have a nose ring because I most certainly do NOT)


The Roman Forum.

From there, we continued on walking through the streets towards some of the larger squares. The first day we were there was super hot; it was probably 80 degrees, not that we were complaining. The piazza that we stopped in next made me feel like I was really in Rome because it had a fountain, gelato, artists, and musicians! Accordions give places an ambiance.

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My attempt at artsy. Some of the best gelato I’ve ever had.

After that, we made out way there to the Piazza di Trevi where the beautiful Trevi fountain is located. I felt like Lizzie McGuire.

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Every once in a while a picture like this works out…

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Just as pretty as they say. What this picture doesn’t show: how many tourists I had to push past to get this shot

Fun Fact about Rome: There are many churches in Europe that are easy to walk into when you see them (I try to make a habit because I like churches), but Rome’s churches are in a league entirely of their own. We walked into several seemingly random churches while we were walking around, and each was more breathtaking than the last. It was ridiculous. I could’ve spent an hour at each one gazing at the detail.

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A small example. 

My favorite part of Rome I think was a really lovely neighborhood named Trastevere. It had windy streets, good restaurants, and walking along the river at night was the best. We ate dinner in there both nights, and it gave us a break from other Americans around. I felt like I wasn’t in a huge ancient city, but just a smaller Italian town.


River, river.

The second day in Rome, we went to the Vatican, which was amazing. I’ll tell you what, the ceilings in the museum are absurdly ornate. I must have thirty pictures of just ceilings on my phone. There were so many sculptures and things to look at as we were walking through.

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If anyone took Civ Arts with Dr. Drake, we studied this. That’s why I took a picture with it.

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The guards were really attentive here. But really, if they weren’t sleeping, they were on their phones. I found it kind of odd, the Vatican of all places. 

And of course, St. Peter’s Basilica doesn’t really need a description. It was unbelievable.

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The outside of the Basilica. 

Well, that’s all that we did in Rome! We headed to Florence and Venice after that, but I will put that in my next post. Stay tuned!




I told myself at the beginning of the semester that I would be good at posting these, but with my Spring Break trip, I lost a bit of time! I am going to be writing a few different posts about it, so here’s the first one.

My Spring Break here was two weeks long, so I was able to travel for ten days of it with two girls from my program. We went to Germany, Italy, and Greece, and it was really wonderful. So, without further ado:

I really enjoyed Munich. It has really beautiful buildings and churches. Here are a few pictures to prove it:


Fountain in the main square (Feat. a goofy smile by me)


There were several gorgeous churches here.



Anastasiya is a good friend of mine in my program, but she was only able to meet us for this one day of our trip.

We were able to tour the royal residence in Munich too; it was basically never-ending. It was beautiful.


My favorite room.



The other thing we got an opportunity to do while in Munich was Dachau, the first concentration camp. I would put a picture here, but honestly, the whole place made me too uncomfortable to take any photos. Maybe that’s the point. We had a tour around the compound that lasted two and a half hours, but I could’ve listened to our guide for much longer than that. We walked through a replica of a barrack, the crematorium, and a museum. I learned so many interesting but horrible things that I don’t think I can ever really forget.

Our next stop from Munich was Rome. Stay tuned!




Lots of things have been happening lately, but this post would be about a mile long if I included everything, so I’m going to stick to this weekend’s excursion to Provence.

Provence is the beautiful southern region of France, and it was so green! I love opportunities to travel within France because seeing other areas in France gives such a bigger picture to the country as a whole. We visited Aix-en-Provence and Arles, with a few things in between.

We took a train from Gare du Lyon in Paris and arrived in Aix in the morning, so we got quite a lot of time to explore the town. My sister studied abroad here five years ago; it’s such a pretty place.


fountain in the center.


lunch lunch lunch

While we were mostly free to explore the town, we had a walking tour during one of the afternoons, so that was really nice. I learned a lot of history. After that, a few friends and I went up to Cezanne’s studio, which was so cool. Cezanne lived in Aix I think near the end of his life, so there are many things dedicated to him there. We also went up to where we painted his pieces of St. Victoire, a mountain close by.


so many colors!


View of St. Victoire

The next thing our did was my favorite of the whole weekend. We went to Carrières de Lumières, which means boxes of light. It is a man-made quarry that projects images onto huge stone walls to create a show. It was incredible! There was classical music in the background and the images would change every few seconds, so it was impossible not to be entertained by every moment. Pictures do it better justice; remember, all of these are projected onto stone walls!


My favorite segment. Vintage pictures of Paris!


A lot of vibrant color.


This picture and the next are from a short Alice in Wonderland show that happened after the longer one.

We then got an afternoon to explore Arles, where Van Gogh spent some time painting. It was beautiful and right on the Rhone River.


The Rhone.

It was a great weekend overall; I made some new friends in our program as well, so that’s always a good time. I have just this week of classes and then two weeks of Spring Break, so I will have a break from class and get to  travel for ten days. More to come on that next week.

Thanks for reading!


Halfway There.


These last few weeks have been really fun and relaxing! This week marks being here for two months, which is half of my time here in Paris. Time has gone by so fast, it’s crazy. Spring is starting to come here as well, little by little the weather is getting warmer. The sun is making more appearances too!

Here are a few notable things that happened:

I had a pretty quiet Easter; my host mom was in Greece for the week, so it was just me and Maeve, my host sister. It’s been super fun to have her around the last few weeks; she left today to go back home to Germany.


Philomena surprised me with an Easter egg! She knows I love dark chocolate.

The Eiffel Tower was lit up in Belgium’s colors after the Brussels attacks, so I got a chance to go and see it; it was definitely different seeing it like that rather than its normal lights.


The highlight of the last few weeks, though, was that Sara Smith came to visit! She is a friend of mine from Grove City who is studying this semester in Dubrovnik, Croatia. She was here for four days, so we got to do a lot of fun Paris things.


Meet Sara.

We walked around Montmartre for a long time and saw the Sacre Coeur and other cool things in area (and I can never resist taking pictures of cool street art).


We also explored the isle of the city, the island in the middle of the Seine where Notre Dame is. Inside the Palace of Justice, there is a beautiful chapel called Sainte Chapelle that had some amazing stained glass windows.


A whole lot of scenes are depicted with the stained glass.

Then on Friday, we took the day and went to Versailles! I went there with my brother three years ago, but the day was much nicer this time and we got to walk all around the gorgeous gardens as well as the smaller estate on Versailles’ property, Trianon.


So ornate. Gold-plated EVERYTHING.


The Hall of Mirrors. Of course.

The grounds were unbelievable.


At the base of the canal at Versailles.

To top off her visit, we went up in the Arc de Triomphe, which has a great 360 degree view of Paris. Fortunately, it was a very clear day!


View of the Champs-Elysees.

That’s what I have for this week! I am enjoying Paris more than ever.


The Week of Visitors


This particular weekend, everybody in the world decided to come to Paris, so I got to see lots of familiar faces! Alright, maybe not the whole world..

But before everyone came, API offered us the opportunity to see a film (a documentary) in The Geode. This is a theater in Paris, but it looks like a dome from the outside and is in IMAX 180, so when you’re inside, it’s almost like a planetarium because the screen is all around you. We watched a documentary that had baby polar bears, so safe to say it was worth my time. It was actually an American film with songs composed by Paul McCartney and narrated by Meryl Streep, but it was dubbed in French.


Me and a friend 🙂 

I also got to see some Parisian street art in our outing for my Discovering Paris class, so that was fascinating. There are some talented people out there.




This was my favorite.

Alright, visitors.

I found out on Wednesday that my 18-year-old cousin, David, from St. Louis would be stopping in Paris on his way to Greece for a Spring Break mission trip. He had never been to Paris before, so it was super fun to show him around! We walked around and saw some of the usual sights and ate some good French food. He was a blast to walk around with because he was so fascinated by it all.


David and me.

I also got to see Lisa DiFalco, who is a sophomore at Grove City studying in Florence, Italy. She came to visit Paris with her roommate, Rachel, who was great too. We walked around together and I showed them my favorite restaurant in Montmartre.


Lisa and me! (Please excuse the black bars, I tried for like 20 minutes to cut them out, but I couldn’t)

And then also, Sarah Markley (currently studying in Northern Ireland) and Bethany Thomson (currently studying in Seville, Spain) met each other in Paris this weekend and I got to see them! We also walked around Montmartre and ate some good food.


Sarah, Bethany, and me. 

It was so fun to see so many familiar faces this weekend, it made me miss the fellowship at Grove City a lot.

That’s all I have this week , thanks for reading!


Loire Valley


As you may have noticed, it has been two weeks since I have last posted. I didn’t feel that enough happened last week to merit an entire post, so today’s update is going to focus on this week with a little bit of last week as needed. Without further ado:

I had my first two tests last week in my classes! They both went really well and they made me think a lot about what I’ve learned so far in being here over a month and speaking French every single day. I am really starting to notice how much easier it’s getting to have a conversation or to tell my host mom about my day. Philomena’s daughter got here to Paris last night from Belgium, and she is really nice! I think she was raised here, but since my host mom is Irish, she knows both English and French. It was funny to listen to them talking last night because one would say something in English and then the other would say something in French  and then they would switch. We ate dinner together and spoke French, probably for my benefit, but nevertheless fine by me. Her daughter will be with us for three weeks I think.


I also went with my host mom and some of her friends last week to a museum near the Eiffel Tower, called the Musee du Quai Branly. It is fairly new museum (it has only been open ten years or so) and it has lots of artifacts from all over the world. There were a lot of interesting things to see, and I enjoyed the museum. (And I also may or may not have discretely followed a couple for fifteen minutes through the exhibition who were speaking Italian. First it sounded like Spanish, then French, then a mix, and it made me want to learn Italian! Maybe someday.)

It was also one of my friends’ birthdays the other day, so a group of us went to dinner in Paris to celebrate. We went to a little bistro, which was so good!


Chocolate lava cakes are popular over here and it’s dangerous for me because I love them…

This past weekend was wonderful; my program had an excursion to the Loire Valley, which is about about three hours southwest of Paris and has many castles. There were 50 students, and we got carted around on a big coach bus. Kind of conspicuous, but what can you do I suppose. We got to tour two castles and walk around a third.

The first one was called Chenonceau, and it’s a chateau that is built across the Cher River and is breathtaking. Chances you’ve seen a picture of it before, since it’s on many brochures and book covers about this particular area of France.


Right out of a fairy tale.

We also toured the Chateau d’Amboise, where Leonardo da Vinci spent the last years of his life and was buried. It isn’t out in the country, but rather close to the river and in a little town. It has been around for a long time, and a lot of the original castle is gone, but it was still so beautiful.


This is the view from one of the balconies of Amboise.

The last one was Chambord, which we didn’t go inside, but walking around the grounds was great. This chateau is absolutely massive, it has something like four hundred rooms inside. It’s also one of the most well known chateaus, and even has a liqueur that is made there by the same name.



The weekend also included a tour and lunch at a winery and a boat ride on the Loire river in old fashioned boats. It was a little windy, but the sky was blue, so what more could we ask for! A couple pictures of cool people:


This is Maeve, we’re buds. She is from New York.


This is Kinza. She’s from Maryland and super sweet.

That’s all I have! I hope you enjoyed all of the pictures, I’m trying to get better at taking more of them. I miss you all!




Another week has passed, making it three weeks since I arrived here, how quickly the time goes! My classes were great this week, but I won’t bore you with all of the details because my weekend was so much more exciting: I got to go to Spain to visit Seville and one of my dear friends, Marley!

(She is studying abroad there this semester and was in Northern Ireland last semester, so I hadn’t seen her since last May. Too long.)

The city was absolutely beautiful. There are windy streets, nice squares, and kind people. It’s also very walkable, which I enjoyed a lot since I almost always need to take the Metro to get places in Paris. We walked around the city for a long time on Friday before touring the Real Alcázar, which is an old Moorish Palace. It was huge and so full of color.


In one of the center courtyards of the palace.

Something I really loved about the city was how seemingly unorganized and colorful it was. The narrow streets along with the Moorish architecture everywhere meant there was always something to look at. There were many mosaics and pastel colors on nearly every building, which made walking around so interesting.

The food was also spectacular! Marley made sure I got to try most of the quintessential Spanish foods: we ate tapas, had a menu of the day two course lunch, ate gelato, and stopped at several little cafes to sip coffee and eat cake (okay, we stopped at the same one twice). It was all so good.

On my first night, we decided to go out to a popular bar (that Randy told me about, a super recommendation) that has Flamenco music and dancing, which was such a cool experience. I got a sangria (another typical Spanish thing to check off my list) and we got to listen to some amazing music and watch some amazing talent; flamenco is a very precise art from the looks of it!

On Saturday we toured the Cathedral of Seville (she had already been, great friend award for doing it again) and it was breathtaking. Apparently it had been built during the time of the Moors to be a mosque, but when the Spanish monarchs got back the control of that part of the country, they made it a Catholic cathedral; however, they didn’t destroy very much of the old, which made it a really fascinating mix of both influences. There is a tall tower that we climbed and it had wonderful 360 degree views of the city.


The city from above. There is bullfighting arena in the center!

From there, we also went to the Plaza de España. It was built for the 1929 Ibero-American Exposition World’s Fair and is quite beautiful. There were many people there dressed in fancy costumes and other people selling things. I think it was my favorite part of Seville! But pictures are worth a thousand words:



In the center of the Plaza (too much sunlight)


Spanish flag flying high!


Marls and I goofing around 🙂

We also went to a church study at the same church where Randy went when he studied abroad here three years ago. It was great to meet the same people he spent time with and hear about their ministry; I wish I could’ve stayed for a Sunday service.

All in all, it was such an amazing weekend; getting to see Marley and see where Randy studied abroad was so cool and being able to speak Spanish rather than struggle in French was quite welcome as well, even if it was for just two days! Back to learning French 🙂

That’s all for now! This week is looking pretty normal with class and whatnot. It’s supposed to cold, sad face.

Thank you for reading!