Friday, 24 August 2012

Hey all you freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and even seniors who are planning to study abroad, be sure to check out...
They are a great touring group set up by other previous students who have all studied abroad.
If you love adventures and meeting people from all over the world, as well as traveling to some cool places check out their website at
Plus, if you purchase a tour, and punch in the code LIFF, you get 5% off your purchase!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Hello blog,
Sadly this will have to be my last post since I will be leaving Roma in three days and there is still so much to be done! I can't believe it is this time already. The semester flew by but I have learned so much. Honestly my life has been like a dream this past months! I hope this loving life feeling lasts when I go home to Huntington Beach this upcoming week and realize that I won't be traveling to another country by the time the weekend hits or going to Secret Bakery to take home a fresh cannoli. But life has to move on, as hard as that may seem. Truly, I've had an Eat, Pray, Love type of year...from Spain for three weeks this past summer for World Youth Day to Oxford, England to have my butt kicked by the workload and a chance to see tons of celebrities to Roma, Italy where magic and travel has created my obsession with the world, people, and adventurous new experiences. This semester I have bought leather boots in Florence, saw the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, skied for the first time in Switzerland, went to the baths in Budapest, rode a camel and slept in the Sahara Desert in Tunisia, ate pizza in Naples, went on a gondola ride in Venice, ate waffles in Belgium, walked along the Berlin Wall in Berlin, and of course, fell in love in Rome.

These past weeks went so fast that I haven't had time to write about my travels to Belgium and Berlin! So two weekends ago I went to Belgium, one of the most beautiful countries in the world by the way. I went with my friend Nicole and we met her cousin there who is studying in Germany right now. It is true what they say, Belgium really does have amazing waffles, chocolate, beer, and fries. Oh, I also ate horse there :) There's something new. We started in Brussels and ended with Bruges. Brussels was a bigger city than I expected. I loved going around to all the chocolate shops and waffle houses, indulging in everything sweet. I ate four waffles, two things of fries, a couple of chocolate candies, and oh yes, the horse, rabbit, and duck dinner we had the first night. In Brussels we also went to the EU headquarters which was awesome to see since I've seen the UN headquarters in New York as well. We saw the Atomium as well.
In Bruges (I still have to see the movie) we went to the Chocolate Museum, saw the windmills, ate more waffles, saw the beautiful houses, and walked around through flower fields and over rivers. Bruges has got to be one of the prettiest little cities ever.

Then this past weekend, I had my final for theatre class which was a play "The Frogs" in which I played a slave and a frog. It went over better than I thought it would. Anyway, the next day I went to Berlin, Germany where I met up with my friend Angie! We did a lot in a day. We found Starbucks (gulity) and then a free tour. On this tour we saw the Brandenburg Gate, the Holocaust Memorial, the site of Hitler's Bunker, old propaganda art, oldest Nazi building, site of the Nazi book burnings, and part of the Berlin Wall. After the tour we went to the East Side Gallery where the Berlin Wall is painted with different pictures and quotes and graffiti. Such an awesome thing to see! That night we went to a club and stayed there until almost 5am. The next morning we almost missed our flight home because our alarms didn't go off. Angie just happened to wake up at nine and our flight boarded at 9:50. We ran through the airport to get on the plane. Hahaha now its funny.

Last Thursday was our banquet and now I must write an eight page paper and study for my test. Almost done! Just an Italian test after that...and I fly to Chicago on Saturday, staying there a day and checking out the city before making it back to HB! Finally ate at the Eat, Pray, Love restaurant last night! Good times!

Thank you for reading! Keep posted about my other blog Good Gone Girl!
Ciao for now! Rome will will meet again!
-Ilyse :)  

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Dear Blog,

So much has happened lately! Now I feel like I have a strong grasp of Italy. These past three weekends I traveled to Assisi, Pompeii, Naples, and Venice. Of course, I also saw quite a bit of Rome. I finally went back to the Trevi Fountain, drank wine while walking around Piazza Novana, rode on a Vespa, went to the Vatican Museum, climbed to the top of the Vatican where you can see the entire city, and ate at some of the best restaurants in Rome!

I went with some friends to this restaurant called Fluid which they have this deal called Aperitivo where you can get as much food as you want, buffet style, and a cocktail of your choice. The other place we went was called L'Archetto and there I had this lobster pasta that was creamy and just plain delicious!

The night before St. Patty's Day is when I went on my Vespa ride with Lorenzo. First we went to the Chocolate Bar where they serve shots in chocolate cups complete with whip cream and sprinkles. After we rode the vespa around we went to The Abbey, an Irish pub right next to Fridgidarium, the best gelato place in Rome in my opinion. The next day, St. Patty's, we rode around on bikes in Villa Borghese, a beautiful heart-shaped park with stunning views of the entire city. Of course, we got more gelato later and I tried the pear and cheese flavor and I thought it was actually pretty good. Then I finally got a cannoli from the Secret Bakery.

In Theology class these past two weeks we visited a lot of graves in churches around the city, such as the tombs of St. Ignatius and St. Xavier. In my writing class we saw the tombs of Percy Shelley, Gregory Corso, John Keats, and Joseph Severn. Then the Assisi trip fell on that same weekend where we saw the tomb of St. Francis.

Besides all the historic sties, Abby, Angie, and I went to a Roma Calcio game and we won! Then the next week Angie, N'Jameh, Cherrell, and I went salsa dancing with Angie's family friend whose name is Gianluca. Yes, it's true.

Besides all night, Assisi was a beautiful little city overlooking the sea. The cathedral that houses St. Francis' remains was my favorite part of the entire trip. Well, that and the incredible amounts of food we all consumed throughout the day. The next day I went to Pompeii and Naples, in the region Campania. They are two very different cities. Pompeii met its awful fate in 74 A.D. when Mount Vesuvius erupted and covered the whole population in a deadly layer of ash. You could see the dead, frozen bodies on display around the ruins of the city.

Naples, on the other hand, is very much alive, but very filthy. Probably the dirtiest city I have ever seen. There are piles of burned trash in the street and graffiti everywhere, even in public places like the train station. We all were pretty flabbergasted. However, we didn't come to Naples to gawk at the buildings, although the buildings would be pretty if they were clean. No, we came for the pizza because we had heard it was the best ever. Let em tell you that it is definitely one of the best pizzas I have eaten. I got the pizza with pomodoro and bull mozzarella. On top of that we got a Nutella pizza and wine to go with it. One of my best meals here by far!

Finally, this weekend was Venice and it wins the prettiest city I have seen in Italy so far, including Rome. People describe it was a fairy-tale city and they are too right. The canals shimmer in the light and there are hundreds of gondolas waiting around to taking tourists around. They aren't really that expensive if you go with six people, the limit. We went on a gondola ride on Saturday and it was magical. :) I just wish the gondola guy would have sang to us. I matched the man because I had bought a striped Venezia shirt the day before. Besides the ride, we shopped around the island, watched outdoor music concertos, drank bellinis and spitzs at the Westin Hotel, after running out of this expensive restaurant called Harry's, an old favorite of Hemingway. We also went over to Murana, another island within Venice where they specialize in glassmaking. That's where I bought an orange glass vespa ring, another green swirly ring, earrings, and a necklace. Too much cute stuff!

Anyway, right now I have a rehearsal for Vagina Monologues which we will perform on Tuesday night! I will be performing the "Vagina Workshop" monologue! Wish me luck!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Tunisia Spring Break 2012!!! 
Without a doubt, this was easily the best Spring Break I have ever had! Ten days on a planned vacation that took us J-FORCE kids through a country that a year ago had just been through a revolution. It was a remarkable experience! We stayed in four or five star hotels every night, except for the night we spent sleeping in tents in the Sahara Desert. That was an awesome night even though it rained for the first time in like five years there. More about that later...
The first two nights we spent in this hotel that was right along the beach. It kind of made me homesick for Huntington Beach. It was beautiful and some people saw camels roaming around on the beach. 

Besides that, the first day we were there we went to the U.S. Embassy and heard some speeches on the state of Tunisia after the revolution. The next day we ate at this fabulous Tunisian restaurant and met Tunisian law students and hung out with them for the rest of the day. I loved talking to them about their lives after the revolution. The thing that struck me the most about their revolution was that it started through facebook and probably would not have continued if it wasn't for social media. It's crazy how somewhat simple things that we take for granted are so important in other areas of the world. 

The third day we were in Tunisia we went to the U.S. Military Cemetery in Carthage. And then by the end of the day we ended up in Sousse. Then we went to Matmata where we visited the Star Wars bar and Luke Skywalker's house. After that, came the town of Douz where we rode camels through the Sahara Desert. One of my friends fell off their camel when it started bucking and almost got trampled. My camel kept digesting its stomach and the camel behind me kept trying to eat my leg. That night we spent the night in the desert in eight-person tents. It happened to be the first time in five years that it rained in the desert. Half of my tent collapsed and some people got soaked. It was actually the best night of sleep I got. 

Besides all that, we went dune diving, visited the salt lake where the English Patient was filmed, took the train through the Seldja Gorge and canyons, the Islamic Great Mosque in Kairouan, the spa complete with massages in Hammamet, some Roman ruins, a few discos, and a few medinas. 

The week went by so quickly and there's so much I learned from simply spending a week in another world. It was an experience I will never forget. 

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Hello blog!
Time is flying by way too fast and I realized tonight that I am leaving for Tunisia tomorrow without even writing about Budapest where I went last weekend. Haha too much traveling? Never!

Anyway, Budapest was great and the flight there and back was really cheap! 9,99 euro there and 30 on the way back! I went with my new friends Katie and Sarah. As soon as we got there though it was clear we were very far away from Rome event hough it was only a two hour flight. I never thought I would ever travel to Budapest, Hungary of all places but I am very glad I did. Besides, I wanted to go somewhere off the usual European path although apparently Budapest is more popular than I thought it was.

When we got to the airport and were trying to find a cab this man who said he was a cab driver tried to get us in his car. Right away we could see that it was not a licensed cab and so we refused thankfully. The next minute this other man tried to get us into his van. Soon enough though we were at our hostel which was actually kind of creepy at first. The hallway we entered was really dark until the lights came on and it looked like an old corridor that had not been used in a long time. However, Sarah had some courage and went up the stairs to find our real hostel--I Love Budapest. It turned out to be a really nice hostel, but I will never forget the look on her face the first time that door opened! Haha

So the money in Budapest is in HUFs and everything goes by 100s. If you wanted to buy a Starbucks (cause there is one there!) it would cost about 950. Crazy huh? We found that 10,000 HUF was about equal to 50 Euro. It was really hard to use the money and everything seemed so much more expensive.

Anyway, on Saturday we took the metro to Hero's Square where there is a famous monument. Then we went to the Budapest baths, which was basically a spa. It was so nice and the bath waters are suppose to be really good for you. There were a lot of old Hungarian men in their speedos and this old women wearing a blue do-rag. Haha. Everyone spoke very good English except at the baths.

Afterwards, we had a great lunch. I think it's one of the best meals I've had so far! We had the Hungarian specialty of Goulash which was a great soup made of beef and vegetables and then this chicken and dumpling dish with paprika sauce. Paprika happens to be a Hungarian specialty as well. It was delicious! After, we went to Starbucks (gulity!). Then we went to St. Stevens' Basilica where we saw the "The Holy Right Hand" of St. Steven, a relic from centuries ago. That night we walked tot he Parliament building which is gorgeous and walked by the lake. Then we met some Argentineans and students from Chile. They were really nice! Then we left for some clubs and they were fun.

This week in Rome I traveled a lot with my onsite classes and went in the Pantheon finally as well as a bunch of other churches.
Now off to Tunisia!!! We leave tomorrow at 6:45 am and will be spending ten days in Africa including a night in the Sahara Desert and camel rides!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Swiss Alps!

Dear Blog,
I just got back at 1:30am from the Swiss Alps where I went skiing for the first time ever! It was difficult, I'm not going to lie, and I basically slid down three mountains, but by the end I think I got the hang of it. We took a 12 hour bus up to Interlaken where we skied for two days and by the end I was, and still am, really sore. I was also with a group of intermediate skiers, but I held my ground. It was definitely the coldest I have ever been in my entire life though! And word to the wise: ski-shoes hurt like nothing else. So does falling with your ski hitting the middle of your back but that doesn't happen to everyone. Haha. But we had the best hot chocolate ever and I took the best pictures. Honestly Switzerland has got to be one of the prettiest places ever! On sunday before we took the 12-hour bus back home to Rome, we walked along the lake and the homes on the mountains.
Here is a link to my facebook pictures:

So far this week in Rome I have been very busy. Today is Valentine's Day and to celebrate I had my first Mars Bar ever. :) My friend from Oxford is visiting Rome this week and I'm planning on seeing her tomorrow or Thursday at some point.

Today I went to get my permisso (spelled something like that), or permission to stay and live in Italy. It's something I never had to for England which is interesting. We had to go to the Police Station and wait around for a few hours so that they could take our fingerprints. So yes very tired tonight, but planning to go out for Valentine's Day to this bar called The Abbey.

Yesterday I had my Onsite Theology of Pilgrimage class and we visited the first church of Rome--San Giovanni Laterano, the Scala Santa, and Santa Maria Maggiore! It was a wonderful experience. In one of the churches there was a copy of the Holy Shroud. So awesome!

Monday, 6 February 2012

It is snowing in Roma!!! Supposedly it's the first time the snow has stuck in thirty years. I have finally gotten my White Christmas..just two months later. This is the third time I have seen snow in my life. Everyone here from Chicago are already over it, but I think it's beautiful. I just got in from playing around in the snow and trying to build a snowman. :)

Speaking of snow, some friends and I went to AMSTERDAM this past weekend and it stands as one of the prettiest cities I have ever seen in my young life. And yes, there was snow! It was cold, but manageable. We stayed at the StayOkay Hostel and it was alright, not the best hostel I've ever stayed in, but not the worst.

The first night we wandered around the city exploring stores and all the food places. We had two dinners that night. As it turns out, Amsterdam, Holland has the best pancakes ever! I got a gigantic pancake with caramel sauce and powered sugar. At one of the stores I tried on the wooden iconic Holland shoes. They hurt my feet way too much to get a pair, so I settled with a shoe magnet and then bought an Amsterdam spoon, of course.

This past Saturday we got up really early so that we could get to the Anne Frank House. It's a good thing we did because as soon as we left, the line was wrapping around the side of the building. It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. I had actually forgotten that Amsterdam was where the Franks had hid. Seeing the actual rooms where the families had hidden together was an emotional experience. The rooms surprised me in that there was more space than I had imagined from reading Anne Frank's Diary back in high school. I never thought I would be able to visit the actual rooms. Made my trip.

Next we visited the Van Gogh Museum and saw all four floors of his amazing artwork. Some beautiful stuff. Then we went to the Heineken Experience where we saw how they make their popular beer. Every bar in Amsterdam usually had a Heineken sign outside. I got a bottle with my name on it as well as a sporty Heineken shirt which I wore last night when we watched the Superbowl! It came on at 12:30am here, so even after traveling some of us stayed up to watch it until 4am. The New York Giants beat the New England Patriots within the last minutes of the game!

Overall, it was a great trip and made me realize how great the weather really is in California. Even with all the snow, people were still riding their bikes everywhere and just leaving them in the snow. Those must get so cold. :/ We did have to wait for our flight in Amsterdam when returning home for about four hours because it never snows this much in Rome and people were going crazy. We were lucky we got a taxi back.

This weekend is skiing in Switzerland and I'm super excited and nervous. It's going to be even colder...
Here is a link to my facebook pictures: