amsterdam

Heavenly travels: Two days, two countries

Video provided by Heaven Quiban.

On this weekend trip, my dear friend, Sophie, and I traveled to Brussels, Belgium and then to Amsterdam, The Netherlands (with a quick adventure around Rotterdam as well). Both cities were so unique and beautiful in their own ways.

I know that Amsterdam is famous for certain reasons, but it was so much more than that! The buildings, canals and people were all so lively and welcoming. It was, dare I say, my favorite city thus far.

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why we ride_blog

“Why We Ride” blog competition: The winners are…

The submissions for the Bus2alps “Why We Ride” blog competition have been turned in, the votes have been tallied and we have our winners!

  1. “How I ended up in Switzerland  my first weekend abroad in Florence” – Greer Hunter
  2. “Bus2alps: Getting lost without getting lost” – Devin Barbaro
  3. “Bus2alps” – Madlyn Thone

Prizes:
3rd place- 50% off French Riviera trip
2nd place- 100% off Interlaken and Lake Como trip AND free Bus2alps t-shirt
1st place- 100% off Bus2alps weekend trip of choice AND free Bus2alps t-shirt and tote

A big thank you to all bloggers that participated in “Why We Ride” and we wish our winners happy travels!

why we ride_blog

“Why We Ride” blog competition: Vote for your favorite!

The submissions for the Bus2alps Why We Ride blog competition are in! And we have chosen the Final 3 for your voting!

Click the links below to read our favorite blog submissions.

Voting on the Final 3 blog posts will take place from Wednesday, April 9 to Friday, April 11 at midnight CET. Winners are announced and notified April 12.

Prizes:
3rd place- 50% off French Riviera trip
2nd place- 100% off Interlaken and Lake Como trip AND free Bus2alps t-shirt
1st place- 100% off Bus2alps weekend trip of choice AND free Bus2alps t-shirt and tote

 

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Joys of Gelato

No matter where you’re walking in Florence, you can’t turn a corner without coming face to face with gelato in all its creamy, decadent, flavorful glory. You might be innocently minding your business, strolling to class, and there it is: piled high and decorated with fresh fruit, staring out at you from glass cases, smelling of freshly baked waffle cones…temptation is everywhere. While doing your own empirical research on the best gelato in Florence (the birthplace of gelato, by the way) is a valuable endeavor, it’s always good to have a starting point to be sure you’re getting the best there is. We’ve put together a quick list of our favorites for your sampling pleasure.

Gelateria dei Neri

Like the 31 flavors of Baskin Robbins, Neri is a veritable goldmine of gelato flavors. From the typical, like stracciatella and nocciola, you’ll also find the best Nutella in town, and a Cookies ‘n Cream flavor that, while perhaps not traditionally authentic, is lip-smackin’ good. Via dei Neri 20/22R, 50122 Firenze, Italy

Vivoli

A gelateria with a generations-old tradition, Vivoli doubles as a cafe, so you can get your caffeine and sugar hit at the same time. One of the few places in the city with lampone (raspberry), the gelato here is so fresh you can taste the berries in each bite. Via Dell’Isola delle Stinche, 7R, 50122 Firenze, Italy

Vestri Cioccolato

A little-known gem, this gelato shop masquerades as a chocolatier–and they do have excellent chocolate. But they also have silver canisters hiding some of the most delectable gelato in town. You’ll find flavors you’ve never even heard of before, like cioccolato gianduia a sale (chocolate hazelnut with salt) and crema con scricchiolio mandorla (vanilla with almond crunch) that might just make you rethink your whole gelato game. Piazza Gaetano Salvemini, 11, 50122 Firenze, Italy

Riva Reno

Right up the street from Vestri is a little gem called Riva Reno. There’s a solid selection of classic flavors here, but the real magic is in Alice, a mascarpone flavor with chocolate sauce. I’ve often wondered if there’s any way to make gelato better, and here is where I found my answer: drizzled with ooey gooey chocolate sauce on both the top and bottom of the serving, gelato gets taken to a whole new level. Borgo degli Albizi, 46, 50122 Firenze, Italy

Cantina del Gelato

You might think that Piazzale Michelangelo and Gusta Pizza are the only reasons to venture across the river, but you would be wrong. Cantina is just to the left of the Ponte Vecchio, and is where you’ll find the coveted flavor of Buontalenti. Bernardo Buontalenti is the inventor of gelato, and he really got it right the first time. This flavor tastes just like sweet morsels of creamy, rich, sugary butter. Spooning butter into your mouth might not sound appealing, but try it once and I dare you to not to develop an addiction. Via dei Bardi, 31, 50125 Firenze, Italy

Gelateria Edoardo

An organic gelateria, this is where I finally tracked down canella, or cinnamon-flavored gelato in Florence. Pair it with gianduia for the perfect complement, and sample a fresh-baked waffle cone to really top it off. Plus it’s all organic, so that means it’s healthy, right? Piazza del Duomo, 50122 Firenze, Italy

Spring break in Taichung’s Heartbreak Hotel

Spring break is the time for the wildest (and worse) things to happen, and while there was no projectile vomiting or sprained ankles, our spring break trip to Taichung 台中 exceeded all levels of bizarreness.

My roommate – the sweetest, most generous and loving individual – can sometimes forget key details, which is why the hostel she booked turned out to be nearly 30 miles outside of the city. After riding in a cab into what seemed like a wasteland, we turned back to the city, thinking we’d have better luck booking a new place there.

We found an ad: Backpackers Hotel 200TWD a night. That’s about $6 a night.

$6 a night? The inner cheapskates came out, causing all four of us to ignore the suspiciously dark, dank hallways as we raced up creaky stairs to the front desk. What luck: the nice Malaysian receptionist informed us that there were more than several rooms available. Red flag #3, but did we listen? Desperate ducklings that we were, we insisted on going ahead and making a payment; the girl shook her head emphatically and told us that we could pay later. Red flag #4.

Enter the hotel itself. Ah, what a sexy smell of mold. And tan-colored sheets? You could go for months without washing! The state of the blankets was reminiscent of your grandmother’s floral nylon comforters. Sticking our noses into the air, we tried to sniff for a source of fresh air, ventilation, something clean to breathe. 

Maybe peeing would relieve some stress, I thought to myself. Oh, no toilet paper? What a shock. Were those…rust stains on the bathroom floor? I turned around without peeing and said stiffly: “Let’s go find something to eat.”

We walked into what at first seemed like a promising Japanese restaurant. No one in the restaurant at noon? No problem! Ripped seats and scraped tables? Signs of use! The appearance of a greasy-haired, pimply teenager wearing a lazily draped Japanese server’s jacket still didn’t deter us. During our orders, there was a scuffling sound followed by the appearance of a scruffy black lab. Dog in a restaurant? No biggie. Our only concern was whether or not there was a professional cook hiding in the back, which was quickly answered as the cooking sounds didn’t start until the boy ran upstairs – with dog in tow – and we realized that he would be making our lunch.

Someone sneezed. We all looked at each other.

“I hope he didn’t sneeze into my curry,” someone said.
“Is he…cooking with the dog in the kitchen?” Another asked.
Once the food arrived, I unenthusiastic-ally picked up chopsticks, poked at the saucy mess for a bit and took a bite. Tepid, flavorless and somewhat reminiscent of hamburger helper, I put my silverware down. There was a pause.

“I don’t want to eat here, or stay in that hotel!” I cried out, voicing what everyone was thinking.

We couldn’t get out of there fast enough, leaving enough change to cover the meal and for the boy to get a haircut – and maybe one for his dog as well – and raced back to the hotel with renewed vigor, appearing wild-eyed and desperate at the front desk.

“Sorry, we’re not staying here,” we told the receptionist.

Instead of trying to hold us back with big promises of a free breakfast, the girl looked relieved, handed over our bags and nearly pushed us out the door and back into light, fresh air and civilization.

Looking back, we saw that the hotel actually had an hourly rate, and realized what kind of place it was.  That is a love hotel? I would not make any kind of love on those sheets…

“It looked more like a very low-end brothel…” someone else said. We all looked at each other. “A…pimp…house?”

We couldn’t make out way fast enough to the safe, sunny, crisp and clean hostel that had clean white sheets, pastel-colored walls, and a shower with zero “rust” stains.

Check out Chau Le’s full blog here!

soccerball

How do I make abroad feel like home? Gioco a calcetto!

Moving to a new city, country and continent is a huge change that would scare anyone. So it’s no surprise that culture shock is one of the most common fears for soon-to-be study abroad students.

Not knowing the language and the customs was one of the hardest parts for me when I arrived in Italy. It’s usually the little things that make you miss home. For instance, I still can not figure out which side of the sidewalk to walk on. Also, I still have trouble deciphering between the detergent and the fabric softener in the grocery store. It’s the little quirks like this that frustrate you and make you wish you were back home where everyone walks on the right side and Tide pods are a plenty.

Now the big question is- how do you connect yourself to your new home? For me, it was joining my school’s soccer team.

Spending time with my teammates both on and off the field helped me make new friends from Italy, Germany and all over the US. Not only do we play twice a week, but we also do cooking lessons, aperitivo and chocolate shots!

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I also picked up a few Italian words like my position- portiere (goalie) and bocca lupo (good game). Additionally, playing against native Italians is a cool experience that I would have never gotten back in the US. Not to mention, I get a little exercise in every week to work off all my pasta I’ve been enjoying.

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So, for all the students at home anxious to go abroad my recommendation is this- join a club, go on the free trips and take advantage of the opportunities around you. It’s difficult to connect to your new home right away. But getting involved will speed up the process.

italian myths blog header

10 myths about Italians that you probably believed

10. Italians have crazy tempers
It takes patience to be surrounded by American tourists constantly.
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9. They never work
Sure, there might be a few espresso breaks or a strike but Italians are hard workers too!
work

8. It’s all spaghetti and pepperoni pizzas
There’s more to eat here than pizza and pasta and cuisines vary greatly by region. Oh, and ordering pepperoni will get you a vegetable.
pizza

7. All prices are negotiable
Not true. You wouldn’t try to bargain with the clerk at Target, so don’t try it here. You’ll make it weird.
bargin

6. They’re a bunch of mafiosos
How many people have actually made an offer you couldn’t refuse?
mafia

5. Food is significantly healthier here
I’ve had my share of sketchy truck stop snacks in this country. Something tells me those off-brand paprika Pringles weren’t organic.
food

4. All men are Italian stallions
Kiss-y noises aren’t exactly overwhelming the ladies.
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3. Italians are total winos
A lot of people think all Italians are lushes constantly taking advantage of cheap wine. Not the case. In fact, some of the most embarrassing drunkards in Italy are American.
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2. A nation of mama’s boys
More likely, living at home is a strategy to save money rather than a Bates-like obsession with Mom.
mamas boy

1. Everyone talks like Mario and Luigi
Where are your overalls? Why aren’t you trying to defeat Bowser? Oh, this isn’t a children’s video game?
mario

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