Saturday, December 17, 2011

that calls for a Carlsberg

My last week in Copenhagen has been a whirlwind of activity. I had a lovely dinner with the friends of my host parents on Sunday evening. We had the traditional Danish Christmas meal, which included pork and sauerkraut, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, and of course lots of wine. Christmas dessert was rice pudding with warm cherry sauce. The rice pudding also had sliced almonds in it, and the person who got a whole almond in their dish won a special prize! It was a wonderful evening and one of the best I have had in Copenhagen.

a Danish Christmas dinner

On Monday, my roommate Cara and I journeyed to Sweden, only a 25 minute train ride away. Unfortunately, all of the Christmas markets were closed on Monday (which we didn't know), so there wasn't much to do in the city. However, we did see an old fashioned telephone booth and went to the only chocolate producing plant in Sweden for some yummy tea and a dark chocolate tasting.

chocolate violin from the 1920s
hello there! 

tea and a chocolate tasting

one of the Carlsberg horses
The middle of my week was filled with relaxing with my host parents, studying for my only final exam (Nordic Mythology), doing some last minute Christmas shopping in the city, and a brief tour to Carlsberg Brewery.

world's largest unopened beer
bottle collection 

showing the way to Carlsberg

As for Friday, I enjoyed a gourmet dinner at Quote (the restaurant where my host father works) followed by an excelled production of The Nutcracker by the Danish Royal Ballet. While I knew the story line of the ballet, it was my first time seeing it live, and I wouldn't have shared it with anyone but my host parents.

We were early to rise this morning to make preparations for my birthday/going away brunch, which was attended by about 18 people! The brunch was delicious and included the typical brunch-type foods: pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, chicken legs, and carrot cupcakes. Most of our guests were friends of my host parents that (after 4 short months) I can now call my good friends as well. They all wished me the best and sent me home with little presents to remember my time in Denmark by and a promise for my return in the near future.

It is still surreal that I am leaving Denmark tomorrow. While I am certainly excited to travel home and see my family and friends, part of me is not ready to leave yet. I have grown to feel at home in Copenhagen and with my host family and it will be strange not waking up to the sounds of Jonna and Knud tinkering in the kitchen. But as they say, all goods things must come to an end. This past semester has been a life-changing experience, one filled with memories I will have for the rest of my life, and that, my friends, calls for a Carlsberg.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

the hills are alive

This past weekend was the last of my traveling in Europe and I am very glad I chose to visit some friends from Gettysburg in Vienna, Austria. And while I didn't get to see the hills from the Sound of Music, I still had a marvelous time. 

enjoying some schnitzel
I started my weekend in Vienna with an early evening flight out of Copenhagen, arriving at the airport in Vienna around 20:40, where I met my friend Danny. We headed off for dinner with some other friends to a little restaurant near their apartment, which was located in the Turkish area of the city. I had my first wiener schnitzel, which was delicious! We also went to a local bar called the Kangaroo Bar, which specialized in beers, boasting over 150 options. I decided to try a Belgium fruit beer, and was not disappointed. My friend was a little more adventurous and tasted a chocolate beer, which turned out to not be such a good idea after all. 

After that came a day of exploring the city, which was more decked out for Christmas than Copenhagen is (I know, it's hard to believe). There was a Christmas market selling homemade crafts and treats every few blocks. I went to see the Parliament building and the State Hall, as well as various other buildings, including the Hofburg Palace and Stephansdom, a gorgeous Gothic masterpiece. The massive towers and colorful roof of the Stephansdom are supposed to depict the Hapsburg crown. 

State Hall and Christmas market 


Lunch was at an cool brewery called 1516, where luckily all the wait staff spoke great english. The coasters there are actually post cards that you can send to people. So cool! I tried an Austrian kräuter soda (called Almdudler), which tasted like ginger ale mixed with apple juice. A perfect combination. 

After lunch we went to wait in line for standing-room only tickets to the opera, La Bohème. The opera, written by Puccini, essentially follows a love story between Mimi (a seamstress) and Rodolfo (a poet). They fall in love at first sight, but end up parting ways because of Mimi's flirtatious nature. However, Mimi is fatally ill (probably with TB) and their love is too strong with keep them apart for long. The last act ends with Mimi's death and Rodolfo consumed with grief. The production was amazing! The performers had wonderful voices and the set itself was breathtaking, especially the opening of the third act, which was an outdoor scene complete with snow and trees. The audience started applauding the set as soon as the curtain opened. 

On my final day in Vienna, I ventured to the Schönbrunn Palace, which has gardens that are said to rival those in Versailles (too bad I didn't see them in bloom). The palace grounds had a great Christmas market where I was able to do some shopping for family and friends at home. Also on the palace grounds were the Fountain of Nepture and the Gloriette, which was built to commemorate the return of Prague to Habsburg rule in 1775. The view of the city from the Gloriette is one of the best in Vienna. 

Schönbrunn Place

Me, Danny, & Madison at the Gloriette

I also had a chance to go the the Prater, which is an amusement park to rival Tivoli here in Denmark. The Prater is home to Vienna's symbolic ferris wheel, the Wiener Reisenrad, and also houses 250 other rides and attractions. The part of the park not used for rides is a peaceful green space formerly used as imperial hunting grounds. 

Madison and I having some cutout fun
the Wiener Reisenrad

That sadly concludes my too short visit to Vienna, the music capital of the world. I would recommend a visit to anyone who is passionate about classical music and wants to see where it all began. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

time for thanks

Things have been busy once again as my last month in Copenhagen is flying by. In the past week, several things of interest have happened.

First, last Saturday I went on a tour of the Danish Parliament with my Buddy Network. I was amazed by the little amount of security we had to go through to enter the building: only one metal detector, unlike the numerous security restrictions necessary to enter the White House. Once inside, we went to the Parliament meeting room, which was tastefully decorated. We also stopped by the important documents, like the Constitutional Act and other ancient agreements.

Parliament meeting room
official document of Parliament

Also on Saturday, I went with my host parents to a farm called Dyssegaardens to pick up our two turkeys for our American Thanksgiving feast on Thursday. The farm was far off the beaten path and included attractions such as donkeys (wearing Santa hats), freshly cut Christmas trees, and a variety of Christmas treats. I tasted "glogg" for the first time, which is mulled wine with almond slivers and raisins. It was quite delicious indeed.

donkey at Dyssegaardens

On Sunday, I went to the DIS Julefrokost (a Christmas lunch). There were over 500 DIS students along with their host families, Danish roommates, and buddies. Each family was asked to bring something to share, so we brought meatballs and potato salad. We also brought small presents to play a fun raffle game called "pakkeleg." In the game, you put all the presents in the center of the table. Then you pass a dice around and whoever rolls a 6 gets to take a present. Once all the presents are gone from the middle of the table, you set a timer and pass the dice again. This time, if you get a 6 you can steal presents from other people sitting near you. It was great fun and I ended up receiving 3 small presents: a hairpin, some Christmas themed close-pins, and a pig-shaped container of body wash. To top it all off, I ended up winning a real Christmas tree for my host family, which we ironically had to go pick up at Dyssegaardens, where we just were the day before for the turkeys.

On Thursday, we had a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration. There were 13 people in total, including two of my friends and friends/family of my host parents. Even though the adults were speaking in Danish for most of the time, everyone still had a lovely time. Thanks to DIS, we were able to pay for two turkeys, which we stuffed with bread, spices, and oxen meat. We also wrapped the outside of the turkey in bacon. I guess you could say that the Danes like their meat. Overall, the evening was a memorable one and I am so thankful for my second family here in Copenhagen. 

table set for 13
Me, Alison, and Molly with our turkey

dinner party (minus me)

Tonight I will be enjoying a second Thanksgiving feast, this time at the First International Baptist Church! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 21, 2011

the coolest place on Earth

Finally, the arrival of the long awaited blog post on my arctic adventures in Greenland!

We stayed for five days  in a lovely little town called Kangerlussuaq, where the main airport in Greenland is located.  Anyone living in the town was either working at the airport or for the tourist organization World of Greenland: Arctic Circle. We had the most wonderful tour guides who also served as our drivers for the duration of our stay.

frozen hair
Let me say this: I knew it was going to be cold, but there was nothing that could have prepared me for my first step off the airplane into the freezing weather of Greenland. Every bit of moisture exhaled immediately froze to my eyelashes, hair, and scarf, giving me the appearance of an ice princess.

On our first day in the Arctic Circle, we had a chance to get out and explore the area surrounding our hostel, which was called Old Camp. I attempted to climb part way up a mountain, but it started to become too steep to climb with the gear I had on, so I turned around and made my descent.

Then we headed to the local (and only) grocery store to check out the frozen food section, which offered some interesting things.  For sale was narwhal, seal fat, whale, muskoxen, and so much more. We also got a chance to see the husky dogs used for dog-sledding. Unfortunately we were not able to experience dog-sledding for ourselves because the water was not yet completely frozen over. But we still got to see the puppies and play with them for a while.

three adorable husky puppies

Soon it was time for our first dinner at the one and only restaurant in the town, Roklubben.  If you can guess from the name, the building used to be used as a rowing club for families visiting Kangerlussuaq. Our first meal was called reindeer pot, which was kind of like a meat stew with reindeer (aka caribou), mushrooms, tomatoes, and red wine sauce. It was surprisingly delicious!

A perfect first day in Greenland was complete when we came home from dinner to a gorgeous showing of the Northern Lights, in a shade of green. It was spectacular and I am very grateful that I got to experience the show in the Arctic Circle, where the colors are the best.

gorgeous display of Northern Lights
photo credit: Henning Thing

Our second day in Kangerlussuaq started bright and early with a muskoxen safari! While we didn't see any oxen, we saw several caribou (from afar) and one close to the road. Eventually we did see two oxen very far off on the mountain side. Even viewing them through a telescope, they still just looked like rocks (with legs) in the landscape.

sporting my seal mittens

radar at Kellyville
After the safari, we headed to Kellyville, a US National Science Foundation funded research site dealing with upper atmospheric physics and chemistry. The research station has a huge radar that tracks the movements of particles in the atmosphere and measures their density, as well as other relevant things. The woman in charge told us that they have a summer school session every other year there at the station. I would LOVE to be able to go back and spend a summer in Kangerlussuaq researching the aurora borealis.

Dinner was once again at Roklubben, and was fried halibut. Now I am not usually a big fan of fish, but the halibut we ate did not even taste like fish! It was a miracle and I really enjoyed the meal.

The third day of our trip was the most eventful by far. We took an all-day excursion to the Greenland Ice Sheet! The ride to the middle of the ice sheet was very bumpy, but we eventually made it there. Once on the ice sheet, we had a chance to play in the snow and take in the amazing, snowy landscape.

scenic part of the ice sheet

After lunch on the bus, we split up into two smaller, more rugged vehicles to drive to the edge of the ice sheet to see the frozen river and watch the moon rise. While waiting for the moon to rise, it turns out that the vehicle I was riding in decided to break down. Of course, neither our van nor the other had jumper cables to get the car started again. So we had to wait for another vehicle to meet us from the nearest town, about an hours drive away. But we enjoyed ourselves by sliding around on the snow.

enjoying the view (photo credit: Henning Thing)

waiting for the moon
photo credit: Henning Thing

traditional buffet
We also had a great treat at dinner that night: a traditional Greenlandic buffet, which included samples of the following local foods: whale (skin, raw, and cooked meat), shrimp, prawns, caribou, salmon, halibut, trout, and so much more that I can't even remember! I tried a little of everything and have to say that I was not fond of the whale, in any form!

On our second to last day, we ventured out on a fossil and rock hunt. Except it was more of a rock hunt because it had snowed the previous night, so fossils would have been very difficult to uncover. The place where we hunted our rocks was a raised sea bed, beautifully sculpted by 8,000 years of wind erosion and weathering. I grabbed a few rocks for my personal collection as well as for my geology teacher at school.

Then we headed back into town to visit the local history museum. We were able to answer many of the questions on our KAT (Kangerlussuaq Awareness Test) there, as well as learn about the town's history (Kangerlussuaq used to be an old U.S. military base). We also had the opportunity to go into the home of a local Greenlandic family for "kaffemik." Kaffemik is a hybrid Danish-Greenlandic word, which literally means "with coffee," and is used for social gatherings and special occasions, like a child's first day of school.

Molly and I with our friend
Our final dinner was chopped muskoxen patties wrapped in bacon. I am already missing the local cuisine! We even had an extra special surprise that night: Greenlandic coffee! It is very similar to Irish coffee, which a few ingredients changed. Greenlandic coffee is comprised of the following: coffee, whiskey (represents the strong male figure), Kahlua (represents the woman figure), and whipped creme (represents the snow). The final element is a type of orange flavored liquor that is set on fire and poured over the creme (representing the northern lights). I was more impressed by the presentation of the drink than the drink itself!

Greenlandic coffee presentation
chilling with the polar bear

The next morning we were all very sad to be leaving our home for the past week. Greenland is a beautiful country that I have fallen in love with. I would give anything to return someday, hopefully in the near future to do some research. If you ever get the chance to go there, do not hesitate to take it and run. Their slogan is true, Greenland really is the coolest place on Earth!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

baklava and ancient temples

Part Two: Athens, Greece

Once our flight landed and we successfully navigated the metro all that was left to do was find exactly where our hotel was located. We must have looked like lost tourists because before we could get the map out a man on a motorcycle had ridden up onto the sidewalk and asked if he could take us to where we were going. Looking back, this was probably not the best idea, but we were kind of disoriented and accepted his help quickly.  Soon enough he led us right to the hotel, but then expected us to tip him for his service. Had we known that he would need a tip, we probably would not have accepted his help in the first place.  As it turns out, our hotel was located in the "bad" section of town, right in the area with all the prostitutes and drug dealers. But don't worry, we stayed safe the whole time.

cakes from the specialty store
After unpacking it was time to find a little place to eat lunch. Going off a suggestion in my Let's Go: Europe 2011 book, we found a place called Club Crepe Xarchia, which offered delicious crepes and huge salads. Always the adventurer, I decided to go out on a limb and order a special sounding crepe, which included: cheese, potato sticks, chicken salad, corn, and ham. I know the combination sounds disgusting, but it was actually rather tasty. Also, on the way back to our hotel, we stopped at what was to become our favorite specialty store to purchase some wonderful cakes for dessert.

While we waited for other members of our traveling group to arrive in Athens, I decided to take a nice late afternoon nap to rejuvenate myself for the evenings festivities. As it turns out, the evenings festivities just included wandering around until we found a nice place to eat dinner. We ended up eating at a little Greek restaurant where we enjoyed some good gyros and even tried Ouzo, a traditional Greek alcoholic drink, which tasted like liquified black licorice. To end the evening, we stopped in at our specialty store again to taste some baklava, which we would have many of in the coming days.

restaurant where we ate dinner the first night 

Bright and early the next morning we headed out to see the ruins of Ancient Greece! Our first stop was the Museum of Kerameikos, an archaeological site where the bodies of thousands of Athenians were buried for over 1,500 years. It was the most important and official cemetery of ancient Athens from as far back as the Prehistoric period, and featured private burial plots for Athenian citizens as well as public burials of men fallen in battle. 
the Street of Tombs

bull from tomb of Dionysios of Kollytos

Our next stop was Ancient Agora, which served as the city's marketplace, administrative center, and the focus of daily life from the 6th century BCE through the 6th century CE. The site hosts many attractions, including the Skias (civic offices holding the official weights and measures), the Odeion of Agrippa (a performance structure that once seated nearly 1,000 people), the Church of Holy Apostles, and the Temple of Hephaestus (temple dedicated to Greek god of metal working).

Church of Holy Apostles 

Jackie and I in front of the
Temple of Hephaestus

the Temple of Hephaestus 

After visiting Ancient Agora, we headed to the most famous site, the Acropolis. The Acropolis began as a political center, with the king living atop the hill. However, in 8th century BCE, a temple was built to honor Athena (the patron goddess of Athens) and ever since the Acropolis has been a site of constant construction, demolition, and changing religious orders. Featured attractions include the following:

the Propylaea: the gateway to the Acropolis which was never fully completed because of a series of wars interrupting construction

the Theater of Dionysus: originally constructed in honor of Dionysus, the Greek god of making merry through the aid of dance and wine; the ancient theater boasts steep-steps and a huge stage, which now serves as a fully functional performance space.

Theater of Dionysus 

the Erechtheum: temple divided into two parts - the East portion dedicated to Athena and the West portion to Poseidon (Athena's losing foe in the bid for Athens); The Erechtheum features six Caryatid statues (women standing in a horseshoe shape supporting the roof) and is named after a hero Poseidon supposedly conquered in his losing bid for Athens.

six Caryatid statues of Erechtheum

the Erechtheum

the Parthenon: perhaps the most famous structure in the Acropolis and seen as a symbol of Western culture; The temple features metopes (relief slabs depicting scenes from Greek mythology like the war between the gods and the giants), friezes, and two pediments. The East pediment tells the story of Athena's birth when she sprung from the head of Zeus and the West pediment shows the contest between Athena and Poseidon for Athens, when her olives won out over his salt water.

construction on the Parthenon
the Parthenon

Standing on the top of the hill at the Acropolis also presented us with a breathtaking view of the Athens below. Here is just a little sampling of what I saw down below:

view from the Acropolis
view from the Acropolis

After lunch with a nice view of the Acropolis, we headed towards the National Gardens and Parliament to watch the changing of the guards. On the way, we saw a ton of police officers and discovered that there was going to be a demonstration at the same exact time we were planning on watching the changing of the guards. We spoke to the police officers and they said not to worry, that the demonstration would not be violent, and it wasn't. It was still really cool to see all those people with red flags singing and shouting, though. We staying at Parliament only long enough to see the guards change and we left before the demonstrators started to march.

Temple of Olympian Zeus (near National Gardens)

Parliament building

I also had the best baklava I've ever had in my life after we visited the Acropolis. It was from a little pastry shop called Beneth, located on the same street as the market that we would visit the next morning.  They also had a delicious chocolate cake dessert called a Ferrero, and was like a large, cake version of a Ferrero Roche chocolate.

baklava and Ferrero dessert

On my final morning in Athens, we went to the Athens Flea Market, where I did some serious Christmas shopping for friends and family at home. The market had many homemade stoneware, coin purses, jewelry, and even clothes for sale (I tried on a beautiful toga, but I think 40 euros was a little too expensive for me). My friend Chelsea and I parted ways from the rest of our traveling group to get to the airport in time for our flight back to CPH to get ready to leave again in a day or so for our optional study tours

Stay tuned for my final travel break post on the coolest place on Earth: Greenland!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

good food, good friends, good times

To make reading about my 2 week travel break easier, I am going to split it up into three posts, one for each country I visited.  First up is Italy:

my first gelato: caramel
My first impression of Italy was frustration.  Our flight from CPH to Milan was delayed, which caused us to miss our train from the Milan central station to Florence.  Luckily we were able to cancel our ticket reservations and receive 80% of our money back. However, the next train with available tickets wasn't for four hours, and it was standing room only. By the time we actually got to our first destination (Florence) it was 21:30, much later than anticipated. While waiting forever at the train station, I enjoyed my first Italian gelato of many over the next 5 days.

Although we arrived in Florence rather late, things don't really get started until later in the evening. After dropping our things at the hostel, we changed and headed to a bar called Twice for happy hour: 5 euro cocktails. I experienced first hand how forward and pushy Italian men can be when one tried to dance with me again and again after I'd already walked away from him.

Our first (and only) full day in Florence was wonderful! We purchased some fresh fruit and yogurt from a local supermarket for breakfast and made our way to eat on the Ponte Vecchio, a famous shop-covered bridge.  Remarkably, when the Nazi's invaded Florence during WWII, this was the only bridge they didn't destroy!

on the Ponte Vecchio

statues of Pallazo Vecchio
Next we headed to a touristy area to see some really cool statues outside of the Pallazo Vecchio. Most of the statues feature fighting men and creatures, as well as the ever popular lion. We also went to see the Duomo, the biggest church in Florence. Unfortunately, we couldn't go inside because we were wearing shorts, which are not allowed. But we got to see the humungous dome and colorful facade. 

the Duomo 

beautiful facade of Duomo

We also visited the San Lorenzo market, a huge street market with vendors selling things from homemade crafts to leather sandals to expensive jewelry. Cara and I were also hit on by several Italian men, once again showcasing their forward nature.

Instead of paying the expensive entrance fee to the Galleria Dell'Accadmia to see the original David statue, we spent our euros on white wine and biscuits with pesto, which we took to the Piazzale Michelangelo to watch the sunset. The Piazzale Michelangelo is really just a glorified parking lot on the top of a hill, but it has the very best view of Florence below.  We enjoyed the artistic sunset and even met some students on travel break from their studies in France and a local dog, which we lovingly named Paulo and fed biscuits.

sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo

After a fabulous stay, it was time to say goodbye to Florence and hello to Rome.  We had another mishap at the train station and almost couldn't print our tickets in time. We were just having the worst luck with the Italian transportation system. Regardless, we arrived in Rome three hours later and started searching for our housing, which had many different names, including: Sweet Place in Rome and Korean Apartments.  We checked in at the back of a laundromat, which was kind of sketchy, but the owners were very nice and let us have unlimited internet use on the laundromat computers.  We stayed in the Colosseum room, which featured a massive picture of the Colosseum above the beds. 

Once unpacked, we walked to the Piazza della Repubblica, which featured a fountain in the center and a very busy traffic circle that was very difficult to cross safely. We also went inside a beautiful church, the Santa Maria degli Angeli.  Unfortunately, you were not allowed to take pictures inside the church, but you can trust me that is was wonderful and certainly no pictures that I could have taken would do it justice. 

Jackie and I in our Halloween masks
Halloween in Rome is apparently a big deal. We all bought masks in Florence to wear out on Halloween night. We left for the metro station and came out right by the Colosseum, which is even impressive in the dark.  After orientating ourselves in the right direction, we headed off to the student area of Rome where we were promised cool bars and places to hang out with other students. We met an awesome group of students from Kentucky and a few other states that decided to join us on our quest for Halloween fun.  We ended the evening at a club called the Mansion, which was pretty lame at first because we were a tad early and the party hadn't started yet. But soon enough the club was packed and we need to go outside to breathe. 

Happy Halloween from Rome!

First thing the next morning, we headed to the Fontana di Trevi, the most famous fountain in Italy. Nicolo Salvi's masterfully cut rock fountain features Neptune surrounded by the goddesses of abundance and good health as well as two horsemen. The fountain is always crowded with people throwing in their three coins. As legend goes, the first coin will ensure a return to Rome, the second will bring love in the Eternal City, and the third will bring about a wedding. Of course I had to throw all three of my coins in the fountain. 

Fontana di Trevi
throwing our coins

Next we headed to the Spanish Steps for a quick breather with a nice view while we planned a route to our next stop: Vatican City!  The Vatican was certainly impressive, but the long lines and large crowd was a major turnoff. We managed to get inside St. Peter's Basilica, an enormous church which high ceilings and ornate decorations. Michelangelo's dome in St. Peter's is the largest in the world, an incredible 138 meter height and 42 meter width. Just try to imagine that! 

Cara and I outside St. Peter's Basilica

Michelangelo's dome
inside the Basilica

Although I really wanted to see the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the wait was several hours and with only one more day in Rome, it was unrealistic to spend so much time waiting in line to see one thing.

Exhausted from a day of sight-seeing, we headed to a restaurant way off the beaten path, which ensured delicious, authentic Italian food and few tourists. The pasta was homemade and looked quite tasty, although I wasn't very hungry so Cara and I split a pizza, which was still wonderful. I have been spoiled by all the good Italian food: pasta, pizza, and gelato will never be the same again.

On our final day in Rome we visited all the Ancient ruins. First stop: the Colosseum! We avoided the hour long line by paying 5 extra euros for a tour in English, which was actually very informative and I'm glad we paid a little extra for it.

the Colosseum! 
fighting stage and passages

Inside the Colosseum back in the day, there were morning and afternoon fights as entertainment. The morning fights were hunting games, pitting men against animals (tigers, lions, bears, etc.). In the afternoon, the fights were strictly men versus men. The winner received money, freedom (if he was a slave), or other valuable items, usually made of gold or another precious metal. The underground passages exposed today were transport passages under the main stage for the animals. Also, most of the resources from the Colosseum structure itself were recycled by the Popes in the 1500s, which is the reason for the many holes in the columns and walls. 
lovely ladies at the Colosseum

Next we headed over to Palantine Hill and the Roman Forum. The Palantine will was once the place to live in Rome, but today it is mostly just ruins of buildings and temples along the hillside. 

ruins at Palatine Hill
ruins at Palatine Hill

The Roman Forum was once the headquarters of Ancient Rome. Via Sacra, the oldest street in Rome, runs through the center of the Forum. Other attractions included the Curia (original meeting place of the Senate), the Temple of Saturn, as well as the Arch of Titus. 

enjoying the Roman Forum
ruins in the Roman Forum

After viewing the best of Ancient Rome, we headed to a local panini place for some lunch and then stumbled upon the BEST gelato we'd experienced in Italy. There were so many flavors to choose from that it made ordering very difficult. I decided on three scoops: chocolate cinnamon, philadelphia creme cheese with walnuts, and ricotta cheese with blueberries. They may sound like an odd combination, but it worked, and it was wonderful. 

Sadly we've made it to the end of our Italian adventures. I think I preferred the quiet streets of Florence to the hustle and bustle of Rome, but both cities were fabulous and I do hope to return on day. The pasta was life-changing and it was a true learning experience traveling on my own (without adult supervision). The trip was true to our motto: good food, good friends, good times. 

Check back for the next post all about part two of my travel break: Athens, Greece!