Tag Archives: europe


The Perfect Week: First Week in Florence

By Hannah Hardin and Ashleigh Farrar


Monday: After a weekend of traveling, nothing feels better than going to a bar that makes you feel like home. With bartenders that know your name and an atmosphere reminiscent of your favorite college bar, you can’t beat a Lion’s Fountain Monday.
Our favorite drink: Magner’s cider. Don’t forget your wristband (1€) so you get that free shot with every drink.

Tuesday: If there is one thing that will get you out of bed after a wild Monday at Lion’s, it’s Astor breakfast.  That moment when the waiter asks you for your pick of three breakfast items is almost as glorious as finding out it’s only 7 euro. Can’t stomach a full breakfast? Check out their amazing American iced coffee.
What to order: Scrambled eggs, pancakes, and sausage.

Wednesday: For that mid-week pick me up, we suggest running along the Arno. Mainly because of the breathtaking views and lack of cobblestones. Not to mention, it’s hard to get lost when your following the river. #fit #blessed
Best time to go:  8:00 AM, the only time you won’t have to dodge tourists.

Thursday: If we’re spending any significant amount of money, it’s at Brandy Melville. The clothes you want to (and will always) wear.  Once you find that piece that you’re completely obsessed with, you can rest easy knowing that it comes in at least three different colors/patterns.
Our picks: Vintage flannels and one-size-fits-all ruffle shorts (Still unsure as to how the sizing works, but it just does. Trust the process.)

Friday: If you’re living in Florence and you haven’t experienced the Gusta Pizza food coma, you’re doing it wrong. The softest dough, the homemade sauce and DAT CHEESE DOE…dead, dying, dead. Just a heads up, don’t share (it’s weird). The best way to work off that food baby is to mosey on up to Piazzale Michelangelo (aka the best panoramic view of Florence).  Bring a bottle of wine to sweeten the view.
Hannah’s fave: Gustapizza (Arugula, Mozzarella, Parmesan, Fresh Tomatoes)
Ashleigh’s fave: Margherita (Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella, and Basil with a side of spicy oil)

Saturday: Let’s go to the beach, beach (let’s go get away)! Optimize your study abroad weekends by checking five towns off in one day. Cinque Terre (five lands) boasts the most beautiful views of the most colorful houses in Italy.  It’s just a quick train or bus ride from Florence until you’re catching rays and sipping margaritas.
Must eat: Pesto and focaccia
Must do: Hike from Vernazza to Monterosso (4th to 5th town)

Sunday: Finish off the perfect week by sipping on a spritz along the banks of the Arno. Catch the sunset beneath lantern-lit trees with your gal pals and reminisce on what an epic week you had.
Must do: Aperitivo (buy a drink for free access to a buffet of free food)

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Most overrated tourist attractions in the world

Today I am compiling a list of the most overrated tourist attractions in the world. A lot of times we get this image of perfection from movies, TV, and books, but often times they don’t live up to our high expectations. Some tourist attractions leave you really disappointed while others truly blow you away. These are the attractions that left me disappointed along with a short explanation on what you should see and do instead. (Disclaimer: these are completely based on my personal experiences/preferences; everyone has different tastes and likes).

#1 The Mona Lisa (Paris, France)


Everyone who has been to the Louvre in Paris has mixed opinions. Over my five visits to Paris I went to the Louvre a few times and this opinion never changed. You wait in a massive line (unless you have the Paris Pass) and then follow the rushing crowds to see the iconic Mona Lisa or are just too overwhelmed with art to know what to do with yourself. The Mona Lisa is tiny (H: 77 cm; L: 53 cm) and they don’t let you get really that close to it, which is understandable.  My other gripe with the Louvre is that every caption is in French, so to read about the painting you need to purchase an audio guide. Shouldn’t the Italian painters at least have their mother language there to describe their masterpieces? I don’t think everything should cater to be in English, but there should be some better alternatives.

I must admit, I enjoy art…but I can only spend so much time looking at it. In my opinion the Museum Orsay and Pompidou art galleries are a lot more interesting compared to the Louvre. So if you have to choose I would check out one of these as well, but please make sure to check out Saint Chappelle. This is one of the most beautiful interior churches and the 360-degree stained glass just blew me away. Paris can be overwhelming since there is so much to do and see, don’t try and rush it though. Enjoy and savior the beauty that is Paris.

#2 Mannequin Pis (Brussels, Belgium)


This little guy wasn’t that disappointing since it was free to see him taking a piss, literally. Don’t get your hopes up and instead of rushing over to find this little guy head to the Delirium bar, which has hundreds of beers on tap and is a great place to have a few drinks and get delirious.

#3 Hollywood Sign (Los Angeles, California)


I have seen the Hollywood Sign so many times in movies and just expected to see it from the streets near the Chinese Theater and the surrounding area. To see the actual sign you need to drive to a look out and even then it is still pretty far away. There are better places to go though. You can take a hike to get a lot closer and see a better view, which I would recommend.

#4 Astronomical Clock SHOW (Prague, Czech Republic)


The Astronomical clock is one of my favorite attractions in Prague. It is magnificent, but the show every hour is a big letdown. Hundreds of people line up every hour to watch these 600-year-old puppets perform a very short and disappointing show.  This show would have been epic 600 years ago, but now we are just too spoiled. Stay for the show and see for yourself, or head to the top of the tower for a stunning view of the city.

#5 Canal Tour (Venice, Italy)


I have mixed feelings about this tour; it was expensive and short, but it is just one of those things you do in Venice. The first big letdown was the construction and advertisements in the canals. This was disappointing since I was expecting The Italian Job first action scene I guess. We grabbed some wine and hopped aboard the boat, the tour was over fairly quickly, and I think all of us were a bit unimpressed. Venice is a beautiful city, but that Euro could of gone to a lot better use. I don’t regret doing this since I am not sure what else we would have done during the short visit to Venice (probably drank more wine).

#6 London Eye (London, England)


This was the biggest waste of money ever.  Trust me the view is not that great and getting a good photo with YOU in it is impossible with the glare/glass. Still go see the London Eye as it is a cool attraction, but I recommend avoiding the ride.

Instead of riding the London Eye go visit one of London’s FREE museums like my favorite The British Museum (famous things like the Original Rosetta Stone are here)

Although there is a few thousand of people who will disagree with me about the London Eye on Tripadvisior, if you really want to ride it then I would recommend going at night. I still can’t justify riding a glorified ferris wheel for $33.

What are you most disappointing attractions? Leave a comment below. Check out SwigMeetsWorld for more travel tips and stories!


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!


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.


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.

9. They never work
Sure, there might be a few espresso breaks or a strike but Italians are hard workers too!

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.

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.

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

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.

4. All men are Italian stallions
Kiss-y noises aren’t exactly overwhelming the ladies.

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.

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?

Wouldnt fly blog header

10 things that wouldn’t fly in America

By Tierney Smith and Sara Wiseman

10. Constant striking
Strikes are part of the routine here. Why is no one irrationally angry when today’s train got cancelled?


9. Decent wine that costs less than water
Wine this cheap in America was likely made under an inmate’s cot.

8. Moving and working at a sloth’s pace
There is never a situation that can’t be halted for an espresso or a panino. Adjust your schedule accordingly.
glacial pac

7. Tipping is optional
Although, maybe the waitresses at Denny’s would act appropriately if we only tipped when we wanted to.

6. Dogs in places of business, often sans a leash
“Lady and the Tramp” was sweet and all but there’s something unsettling about a schnuzer watching me eat my spaghetti.

5. Eating this much bread and pasta
You can only pray that your metabolism will forgive you for late night pasta binge with a side of an entire baguette covered in Nutella. These are confusing times.

4. Non-existent personal space
There is no more room on this bus.
personal space

3. Two-year-olds riding bikes
Often at 3 a.m.

2. Not being able to buy a week’s worth of groceries
Probably because your new fridge is the size of a Nintendo 64.


1. Fire exits do not exist
Especially in crowded, underground clubs. It adds more excitement to the night. I smell danger.
fire exits

bike feature

WANTED: English speaker to bike with

While home in Philly, I dreamed of learning Italian when I studied abroad in Rome. I would be sitting in a café, drinking coffee and chatting with a local in my perfect Italian accent.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. Most Romans speak English and will pick up that you are an American as soon as you say “Ciao!” So practicing my Italian in everyday life was out of the question.

So, I was glad to see a posting in the American University of Rome asking for an English speaker to converse with. It read: “WANTED: English speaker to bike with. In exchange, free mountain biking.”

Finally I could practice some Italian, teach a little English and get a good exercise mountain biking as well. It was a perfect set up. I emailed the man asking when he would be available.

great !

Tell me when I can go university to organized



We wrote back and forth a few times trying to figure out a date. “How about Saturday?” I asked.

Ciao, it’s always a pleasure to resent.

Until Saturday ‘unfortunately’ are skiing in the Dolomites…

we feel when I come back,

good study …..

ciao teachers


We figured out a date and met up a few weeks later. It was incredibly difficult to speak with him. My Italian 101 was falling short in our efforts to exchange pleasantries. His broken English was just about as good as my Italian. But we managed to talk for a good two hours.

We discussed our families and where we would be traveling. He was incredibly nice but it was way too difficult to discuss anything more profound than “Dove lavora?” (Where do you work?).

That alone took 10 minutes of an Italian/English combination for me to finally figure out that he is a professional biking instructor.

We continue to email and bike months later. I am not sure that either of our communication skills has improved, however…

how are my good teachers, how are the exams?

have you seen the weather …. good for cycling …..

See you later



While our language skills are not so refined, one thing will always translate- friendliness.

bike pic

romance feature

This is how all European romances start

The setting sun cast the prettiest glow upon the river, as I made my way down the Charles Bridge, balancing a map in my right hand and greasy meatball sandwich in the other. I don’t think it should cost $10 for something the size of a McDonald’s cheeseburger. And that’s not even a double.

I was essentially minding my own business, when from out of nowhere, I hear a shout from behind and before one can call “Uncle!” map, as well as overpriced-meatball-sandwich, went flying out of my hands. The shout that put me in this precarious situation in the first place was apparently a human individual. “Whoa, watch out!” He shouted, trying to stabilize my frantically waving doll arms.

That particular individual, the instigator of such trauma, was also having a hard time: he had one foot stuck in his bike pedal, while the rest of the bike situated itself like the leaning tower of Pisa against the Charles Bridge. The Japanese tourists were having the time of their lives, snapping pictures of a “classic, European bike accident.”

After registering all of this, I looked over the stranger’s shoulder, turning my head frantically around and shouted, “Oh my God, where is it?” And tried to squeeze past him.

“Where is what?” he asked in equally panicked tones.

The truth was, I had only started on that overpriced sandwich, and despite how old the meatballs tasted,  I was starving.

I turned to look at my attacker, or savior – however you want to look at it – for the first time and balked. It was like looking into the face of Fabio. Except that he had a neck. And his hair wasn’t shoulder-length or billowing out like a fan. Oh, but those blue eyes! Not baby blues – I don’t trust individuals with baby blues – but a delicious, fruity blueberry blue. God, I love blueberries…

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Fabio II asked.

But all I could say was, “My sandwich…”

“Lost in the Charles, if anything,” he answered somewhat perplexed.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” He asked me again, and I nodded feebly.

He looked unconvinced. Sighing, the boy pulled back from me and said, running an agitated hand through his hair.

“I’m really sorry about this,” he took a glance at the watch around his wrist and made a strangled sound, “I’m really, really sorry. I would stay and help you, but I’m late.”

He looked down at me with those blueberry pearls. Not only that, but his English had the slightest accent. Well the point is, accents are pretty irresistible, so what else was I going to say? Ask him to replace my meatball sandwich? Sue him for almost running me over? This wasn’t America.

“It’s fine, no major damage done, please go,” I smiled up at him bravely.

Fabio Jr.’s eyes lit up after hearing my words of forgiveness, and hopping on his bike, he said, “Thank you so much for understanding,” and rode off.

Then he left me to think about the damned sandwich, which was sinking into the river with no return. Whatever. I was in love. Probably.

Check out Chau Le’s full blog here!