On to London, on to Home

07/08/2016

Where to start? For the past week, I’ve been staying with a cousin (my first cousin once removed, on my dad’s side of the family) in Standish, a tiny rural “village” in the west of England. Today I fly home out of London Heathrow, back to the familiar streets of Ann Arbor and the well-known terminals of Detroit Metro Airport. A few days ago I was in London; a week ago I was leaving Germany to start this next and final leg of my travels. There’s still so much left to say.

In this trip, I did as much as I possibly could, spending a day in France, a beautiful weekend in Italy, and many days practicing and solidifying my German. This week, I’ve done my best to cope with the subtle differences between American and British English, and I saw as much of London as could be packed into three days there. I met up with an exchange student I knew from my freshman year of college, and crashed in an American friend’s hotel room with about a week of advance planning. Everything came together perfectly, and all at the last minute, as things tend to do.

This trip has had so many ups and downs, and has challenged me and forced me to grow in so many new and different ways. I could have easily passed these months in Ann Arbor—instead, I’ve had the adventure of a lifetime. I’ve built new connections here, and worked with those I had. And—I’ll miss it. The friends I made and met up with here, the international nature of Europe as a whole, the chance to speak high-level German on a daily basis. I wish it didn’t have to end.

Never fear, though—there are travel grants and unique course offerings at my University that may be just what I need to get myself back over the Atlantic sometime in the coming year. I don’t know exactly what’s waiting for me when I get home, but I know there’s still plenty to be seen in the States. And whatever else happens, now that I’ve had a taste of Europe—even just a small one—I know one thing for sure. I AM coming back.

Okay, enough with the sentimental rambling. Here are the photos of England that you’ve all been waiting for!

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Thanks for reading.

Xoxo,

Susan

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Into the Schwarzwald

6/11/2016

You know that moment when you’re traveling with a group, and then you turn around and find your group isn’t there anymore? Well, that happened to me on Saturday afternoon. My newfound friends (mainly other German students from U of M, and one girl’s hallmate) had spent the morning on an ICE train from Mannheim, and the lunch hour doing—what else?—eating lunch.

Anytime there’s pesto, you can believe that’s what I’m going to order… :)

Anytime there’s pesto, you can believe that’s what I’m going to order… 🙂

After that, we strolled through the Augustinermuseum, where we saw some absolutely beautiful works by a Dutch painter who worked in the 1800s.

They. Were. AMAZING.

They. Were. AMAZING.

A little later, while I was busy and distracted with reading a sign in some really tough German…

A little later, while I was busy and distracted with reading a sign in some really tough German…

My friends ditched me! Can you believe it?

To be honest, though, I wasn’t too disappointed to suddenly find myself alone. There’s something quite nice about traveling by yourself—in a big city, in a small town, whatever.

You get to take your time,

You get to take your time…

...to stroll...

…to stroll…

...and you see things you might not have found otherwise.

…and you see things you might not have found otherwise.

Not sure what my friends got up to all afternoon—quite possibly, they spent the time looking for me—but I passed the afternoon in the lovely University library, right next door to the city’s theater and, like, ice cream. Don’t worry, I restrained myself…

The library was rewarding enough!

The library was rewarding enough!

Xoxo,

Susan

PADOVA + LEAVING

6/5/2016

My last day in Italy! What to do?

Well, spend it in Padova, of course! (Thanks to Sophia for the lovely photo! <3)

Well, spend it in Padova, of course! (Thanks to Sophia for another lovely photo! <3)

The most amazing part of the city—St. Anthony’s church—unfortunately didn’t allow photography, which was a bit disappointing, as there was some amazing art in there. Shrines large and small lined the walls, painted in all sorts of bright colors and decorated with statues and mosaics. The most beautiful, though, was the Tomb of St. Anthony—it’s a three-walled room built of white marble, with angels carved from black stone at the four corners of the coffin, holding up sparkling red candlesticks. What a beautiful juxtaposition of colors! Honestly, I found the whole church on par with the Kölner Dom.

That’s something to aspire to!

That’s something to aspire to!

We window-shopped, we ate some lunch…

Captionpz

I’m sad they are no Montaditos branches in the U.S.!

…and then headed home so I could pack, and say my good-byes.

I had such a lovely weekend with Sophia’s family—it was not only good to get out of my dorm room, but also so important to see another part of the world, to do a short homestay, and to experience some true language-immersion. Everything I ate in Italy was Amazing; everything I saw was Beautiful. The cities are so old—so storied, yet so maintained. The history is respected, even when crumbling structures need to be repaired. The stonework, the Alpini, the umpteen bachelorette parties…and let’s not forget the elegant language! OR THE FOOD.

I’m sad to be leaving, but these memories will stay with me.

I’m sad to be leaving, but these memories will stay with me.

New life goal: learn Italian? (The current extent of my vocabulary is: Ciao, Italia!)

Xoxo,

Susan

VENICE

6/3/2016

The city of my childhood dreams, a city that my German friends told me was a Märchen, truly a fairy tale…

And I finally made it!

And I finally made it!

HELLO, VENICE!!!

HELLO, VENICE!!!

Sophia (who also took most of the pictures in this post) and I spent most of our day touring the Palazzo Ducale—now a museum, it was the former palace of Venice’s Doge, the city’s chief magistrate. It was beautiful, too lovely to be done justice by pictures and words. The art, the art, the ART…!

Trying to blend in with the other tourists...

Trying to blend in with the other tourists…

Across a canal from the Palace is a jail where, we imagined, many prisoners spent a lot of lonely, LONG long days. The two are connected by the Ponte dei Sospiri, or “Bridge of Sighs,” so named because that’s where the prisoners would catch their last glimpse of the water as they were led down.

And what a last glimpse...

And what a last glimpse…

 It’s called the Suefzerbrücke in German!

It’s called the Suefzerbrücke in German!

A lot of walking and most of the morning was involved in that museum tour, and while it was ABSOLUTELY worth it, we were both really hungry by the end!

Sounds like the right time for a late lunch!

Sounds like the right time for a late lunch!

Our next step was a quick trip to a beautiful bookstore, Alta Acqua Libreria, that Sophia had heard about from a friend. It’s so named (the phrase translates as “high water” or “high tide”) because the back of the store opens into a canal, and every morning the water rushes in!

There were books everywhere, yet I couldn't read any of them... :(

There were books everywhere, yet I couldn’t read any of them… 😦

Our final goal before heading home was to get to one of the islands, and also to buy me a necklace! How can you leave Venice without buying some glass, right? So, one REALLY long boat ride later,

…we stepped off and found ourselves in Burano!

…we stepped off and found ourselves in Burano!

It was evening, the streets were mostly empty of tourists, and the houses were all so bright and beautiful.

The German word would be bunt—colorful!

The German word would be bunt—colorful!

But the best part was the necklace I managed to find. 😀

For just 3€! Score.

For just 3€! Score.

We rode back as the sun set over Venice and rain began to fall, and we took a second boat through the city streets, passing under bridges while everything glowed, wet under the streetlights in the dark. So, I can officially say I’ve taken a boat through Venice, even if it wasn’t a gondola… 😉

Those cost like 80€ per hour, man! Not this time.

Those cost like 80€ per hour, man! Not this time.

It was a little chilly when we got back to the train station, but since when is that a reason to pass on ice cream?

It was a little chilly when we got back to the train station, but since when is that a reason to pass on ice cream?

So, the city of my dreams—did it fulfill? Yes, definitely. And what’s maybe best about the trip was just how much there STILL is to see.

Venice…one day, I’m coming back!

Venice…one day, I’m coming back!

Xoxo,

Susan

WELCOME TO ITALY

6/2/2016

One thing that I’ve always wanted to do is visit Venice. So when my friend in Camposampiero, a tiny town half an hour from the city of my dreams, invited me to come down for a weekend, there was no way I was going to turn that down.

Not even if it meant getting on a train at an ungodly hour of the morning!

Not even if it meant getting on a train at an ungodly hour of the morning!

I arrived in Campsampiero in good time, and Sophia picked me up and whisked me away to grab coffee and pastries. (Has anyone read Relish by Lucy Knisley? One thing I absolutely HAD to eat in Italy was a croissant filled with orange marmalade, something she described with such…er…relish? Anyway, by chance, that was exactly what I ordered!)

IT WAS DELICIOUS.

IT WAS DELICIOUS.

That was the general theme of the meals in Italy—too amazing not to enjoy utterly and completely. On the first afternoon, Sophia and I made our way to Citadella, a beautiful city with ancient walls that you can walk along.

Hi, Citadella! Hi, the corner of Sophia’s red umbrella!

Hi, Citadella! Hi, the corner of Sophia’s red umbrella!

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A little windblown, but having fun!! 🙂

After that, it was time for some exercises in language immersion…I succeeded in ordering my own drink in a bar, and fell in love with peach juice, something which I’m pretty sure exists only in Italy. I didn’t take any photos of it, but it was succulent and smooth as silk. This is the kind of juice you can live off of. I mean, I would come back here just to drink this stuff again.

We also visited Sophia’s friends, who spoke mostly Italian and little English. One guy spoke German, and while he wasn’t in the mood to do German with me just then, he was very impressed with my pronunciation of the 2-3 words I knew of Italian!

Can you say “pizza?”

Can you say “pizza?”

What a great first day!!

Xoxo,

Susan

HALLO, KÖLN!

5/14-15/2016

I tagged along with a friend and made it to Cologne this weekend! What a beautiful and amazing city—not to mention it’s the oldest city I’ve ever been in. Catherine, my fellow traveler, studies archaeology, so she was able to give me lots of important background about the city’s Roman roots and history in general. It’s crazy to think that it’s been here for so long!

Of course, being the kinds of travelers we are, we managed to get on the wrong train in the morning, but it ended up working out in our favor when we arrived in the city almost an hour earlier than planned. Thanks to the timing, we just so happened to be there when a big crowd of football fans was marching through the stadium!

Let’s plan on staying in tonight?

Let’s maybe plan on staying in tonight?

From there, of course, the next thing that caught our attention was…

The Dom!

The Dom!!!

Amazing, magnificent, weathered, and partially bombed during WWII, this was probably the biggest and most beautiful building I’ve ever been in. We wandered around inside, then climbed a total of 532 stairs to the top of the right tower!

We were in the one without the scaffolding.

We were in the one without the scaffolding.

Our legs were definitely feeling it, and those tiny spiral staircases are no joke, but there were railings, closed windows, and fencing at the top, so we were in no danger of falling off. 😉

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After posing in front of the cathedral…

Thanks to Catherine for the awesome snapshot!

Thanks to Catherine for the awesome snapshot!

It was time for some lunch!

…It was time for some lunch!

We went to Café Reichard, a restaurant that’s been across from the cathedral for over 150 years (first opening in November of 1855!). The trip was made extra-special, though, by the knowledge that an aunt of mine had worked here for a summer, 22 years ago!

This one’s for you, Danielle!

This one’s for you, Danielle!

The food was delicious, of course—what else would you expect from a business that’s been around for so long? 😉

And, yes, obviously we ate dessert…

And, yes, obviously we ate dessert…

After eating, we continued our walking tour of the city, finally making it to…

The Chocolate Museum!

The Chocolate Museum!

There was…

A LOT of chocolate. :D

A LOT of chocolate. 😀

I bought a bar from a Schokoladautomat (chocolate vending machine) for 1€, but at first the machine just ate my Euro, without dispensing chocolate!

Fortunately, we were able to get it all figured out in the end. Yum!

Fortunately, we were able to get it all figured out in the end. Yum!

Some more walking later, we decided it was time to shop

I’ve wanted to buy a dress since arriving in Europe. Scored at H & M, and for just 15, too!

I’ve wanted to buy a dress since arriving in Europe. Scored at H & M, and for just 15€, too!

This game. Now that it’s being released in the U.S., I don’t NEED to buy it in Europe, but I got to hold it. Euphoria.

This game. Now that it’s being released in the U.S., I don’t NEED to buy it in Europe, but I got to hold it. Euphoria!!

Has anyone out there tried a Butter Laugenstange? Because they are my absolute new favorite things!

Has anyone out there tried a Butter Laugenstange? Because they are my absolute new favorite things!

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My pal Catherine stayed the night with a friend, and I crashed at a cozy little hostel on the outskirts of town.

It was great, but so nondescript that it was hard to spot from the outside!

It was great, but so nondescript that it was hard to spot from the outside!

We’d planned to meet up the following afternoon, so I spent the morning in Museum Ludwig, which the hostel owner had highly recommended. It wasn’t quite what I was in the mood for, but I still got to see some cool things!

Like this—my new favorite out of anything, anywhere. (I stared at it for over ten minutes...)

Like this—my new favorite out of anything, anywhere. (I stared at it for over ten minutes…)

I got to see a Pollack, too!!

I got to see a Pollack, too!!

The rest of the morning was spent strolling the city…

...and staring at its beautiful buildings, like the old Rathaus (city hall)!

…and staring at its beautiful buildings, like the old Rathaus (city hall)!

Some snacks, a late lunch, and a salad-bar stop later, we were on our bus and headed home. Bye to my new favorite city! And thanks for the great times. ❤

Did you miss us, Mannheim?

Did you miss us, Mannheim?

xoxo,

Susan