Copenhagen

 

Copenhagen was not at all what I expected it to be yet it left me yearning to experience more of the Danish way of life. My friend Kristy and I arrived on a freezing cold Thursday evening and quickly navigated ourselves to our Airbnb in trendy Vesterbro so that we could get some rest. Over the next three days, we toughed out the cold rainy weather and trekked our way across the city. Copenhagen is a perfectly manageable size and we feel like we were able to explore it fairly well in a weekend! Spending more time in Scandinavia (though perhaps, in the summer) is definitely on my travel bucket list.

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A weekend in Copenhagen:

 

Tours

In order to get a feel for the city right away, we signed up for a “Free Tour of Copenhagen” that kicked off at 11am on Friday morning. This tour is rated #1 on Trip Advisor and completely lived up to our expectations! We enjoyed it so much that we ended up signing up for a Pub Crawl and a different walking tour with the same company. The walking tours rely on tips, so it is up to you to decide how much you thought the tour was worth! We took the Grand Tour of Copenhagen to kick off our trip on Friday and the Christianhavn tour on Saturday afternoon. We had great tour guides on both that made our time cheerful even in the freezing cold! I recommend doing a walking tour in any city to get a good feel for the area and learn a lot of history in a little bit of time.

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Unfortunately, Copenhagen has burnt down several times over its long history and is sort of a collection of buildings from various decades. While it does not contain the same ancient architectural feats as Rome or the cohesiveness of Oxford, Copenhagen is still absolutely beautiful. The Danes love efficiency, timeliness, and practicality. We were very surprised at how industrial the city was! I especially loved Nyhavn – an old sailor’s post refurbished into beautiful colorful buildings where Han Christian Anderson once lived.

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Our first tour, The Grand Tour of Copenhagen, lasted 3 hours and took us all around the city. We saw the City Hall, Christiansborg palace, old City Center, Nyhavn harbor, The Royal Opera, and the Royal Palace of Amalienborg. Here are my favorite pictures from around the city! Our tour guide, Biran, also taught us my new favorite word: hygge which describes a general feeling or mood that comes from taking pleasure in every day moments. It can be used to describe clothing, a coffee date, or anything that creates a nice warm atmosphere and is pronounced hue-guh.

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Our second tour, Christianshavn, showed us a different side of Copenhagen life. We walked down cobblestone neighborhood roads, talked about architecture and unique churches, and ended in the Free Town of Christiania. This area was created during a housing shortage in Copenhagen when a bunch of locals moved into abandoned military housing. By the time the government tried to kick them out, it was too late. Today, drugs are basically legal and a few hundred people (including children!) call it home. It is completely safe to walk through and quite a cool area to see. Unfortunately, I do not have any photos, as they are not allowed (for obvious reasons). The neighborhood has a very vibrant and important influence on the art in Copenhagen.

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On Saturday morning while the weather held, Kristy and I decided to sign up for a guided canal boat tour. This is another great way to see a lot in a little bit of time. From the water, we saw the Copenhagen Opera House, Amalienborg Palace, Christianborg Palace, Black Diamond Library, and the very tiny Little Mermaid statue. This is a very relaxing way to see the city.

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Markets

My favorite part about Copenhagen was their cool indoor food markets! We made 2 trips out to the Copenhagen Street Food market on Paper Island, which is unfortunately a temporary set up. I’m so glad that I got to visit while it is still open! I tried a Danish hot dog, pizza, and a cream filled doughnut that was heated with a blowtorch and then covered in ice cream and chocolate syrup. We also got to meet up with our fellow Teaching Fellow Nathan here who is studying in Copenhagen and absolutely loving it!

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On Sunday, we had a relaxing day and visited Torvehallerne, Copenhagen’s glass food market. There are two indoor areas here full of all types of vendors and an outdoor area with a farmer’s market and gorgeous flowers. We ate Denmark’s famous smørrebrød open faced sandwiches for lunch and then stopped by later for a Danish dessert called Romkugler. If I lived here I would visit every week to pick up groceries! There are so many amazing things to try.

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Rosenborg Castle

Finally, we visited the Rosenborg Castle – only a 10 minute walk from the glass market. This gorgeous castle built by the Scandinavian King, Christian the IV in the early 17th century and is surrounded by public parks. We spent a couple hours exploring the gorgeous grounds and the museum located inside the castle itself. I couldn’t believe how grand it was! There are incredible jewel-incrusted crowns and tapestries, beautiful glass collections, and lots of portraits of various royalties. This was an absolutely perfect way to end the trip!

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Denmark Trips

Venice

 

This week is our first school break and in typical European fashion, a few friends and I made the decision to spend it in Italy!

Italy has been on my “travel bucket-list” since I was a kid and I’m so glad that I’m finally getting to experience it with some great friends by my side. I am traveling with fellow Teaching Fellow Rachel, and two friends that I met at St. Clare’s – Morgan, who is from Chicago, and Leonora, who is from Sweden. We are taking Italy on in true backpacker fashion with no set itinerary and only our feet, phones, carry-on baggage and friends’ advice to guide us.

The arrival

We took off EARLY (and I mean early) on Friday morning to hit our first stop, Venice. After a 3:30am wakeup (yikes), 4:40 bus ride to Heathrow (double yikes), and brief layover in Frankfurt (not so bad), we made it to the Marco Polo airport in ITALY! I still cannot believe that I’m here. The four of us sleepwalked through the airport, navigated ourselves into a cab, and into our Airbnb located right outside of centre city Venice.

Sleep deprived and starving for a good ol’ carb-filled Italian meal, the adventures began. Before we get started, let me give you some quick and dirty advice on taking on Italy:

(Semi) Pro-tips

1 – Get some Euros before you arrive to avoid the hefty airport fee and any awkward situations (more on this later).

2 – Be cautious at grocery stores especially when in the fresh produce section (you probably need to weigh your own produce and some stores are picky about touching various things).

3 – Be prepared for a language barrier, even in touristy areas. (Italians are amazing hosts and lovely people but this barrier can be frustrating to both parties involved.)

4 – Book train tickets online in advance (much cheaper).

5 – When traveling, expect nothing to go exactly as planned

6 – We had no problem staying a bit outside the city but be aware that the busses into the city will be PACKED! Keep your eyes on your pockets!

 

Exploring Venice

We chose Venice as a starting point for our Italian adventure because flights in from England are cheap and we figured it would be lovely to chase the warmer weather downwards with the train.

Friday – First night:

Let me repeat – expect nothing to go exactly as you have planned. After we checked into our Airbnb, we decided to take the bus into Venice to grab lunch and explore a bit before calling it a night. Exhausted but excited to see the city, we grabbed our bags and headed out. There was only one problem: we couldn’t get the door open. I am not kidding you folks. We tried EVERYTHING. We turned the handle every direction possible, tried various pressures of pulling, and took turns giving it a go. At one point half of the door even came off the hinges (whoops) and it STILL would not open. Morgan even crawled out a window to see if she could get it open from the front side. We eventually had to call our host and tell her that she was going to have to return. Thankfully, we finally got it open right after we had placed the call and our mission for food continued. We got our bus passes, signed up for a tour for the next day, and headed to Venice!

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Italian pizza fulfilled every expectation I’ve ever had and seeing Venice for the first time was a dream come true. The city is crowded with tourists even in February but we did our best throughout the weekend to get lost and find some hole in the wall places. We didn’t stay in Venice long before heading back to get some much-needed rest! I slept from 7pm-9am and have absolutely no regrets about it.

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Saturday – Full day:

Since we only had one full day to explore Venice, we decided that signing up for a “hop on hop off” boat tour would allow us to see and do the most! Finding the tour’s starting point was a bit stressful, but we managed and eventually began the journey around 11:15. By traveling this way, I really feel that we got to see some of the areas not often “seen” in Venice. During the boat rides, an audio guide plays aloud and tells the stories of the sites you are passing!

Our first stop was the popular San Pedro and this was definitely the most crowded area that we were in. We spent some time getting lost down windy maze-like alleys, peeping in gorgeous churches, and walking along the water. For lunch, we stopped at another hole in the wall place that again, did not disappoint. I truly believe that you can really not go wrong when it comes to Italians and their Italian food. The ingredients are fresh, delicious, and our meals so far have been very well priced! We had about an hour after lunch to continue our exploration.

Next, we hopped back on the boat for 30 minutes up to the famous glass making island of Murano. It was strangely deserted and at first, we felt quite peaceful here. We bopped in and out of some glass making shops, bought some souvenirs and gifts for family and friends, and quickly found that we had explored most of the island. We ended up with a bit too much extra time and decided to escape the cold by finding a little coffee shop. After one strike out at a small place that didn’t accept credit cards, we found an upscale café at a local hotel to snack at.

Morgan used her card to order at the bar, but the rest of us were directed to sit and be served at a table. We sat, talked, and enjoyed our coffees for a bit. After about 40 minutes, we realized that time was passing quickly and we needed to get our check. We got up to pay and discovered that the girls who had served us originally were gone and only an older Italian man (with 0 bilingual skills) remained to help us pay our tab.

He began demanding that we pay cash, and still had Morgan’s drink (which she had paid for previously) on our tab. Another problem: we did not have enough Euro’s to pay the bill. We panicked and kept trying to hand him credit cards. He continued to insist that their card machine was broken even though Morgan had just used hers to pay for her drink. He insisted that we pay in cash and gave us vague instructions to an ATM on the island. Rachel, Leonora, and I took off running desperately towards the area he described. After some struggles, we found the bank but it seemed to be closed. We ran next door and begged a restaurant employee to help us. Thankfully, he was quick to help us and showed us how to insert our credit card in the door as a “key” to get it to open.

We grabbed our cash, sprinted back towards the café, and then had to loop back the opposite direction of our boat to cross the bridge and take off full speed. This is by far the closest I’ve ever come to dining and dashing and the biggest scene I have ever caused. People were staring and pointing as we huffed and puffed our way across that little island. Our luck finally kicked in and we made it to the dock just as the boat was pulling up. All was well as we did not commit a crime and avoided having to stay on that island another two hours.

After our hour return boat, we decided to treat ourselves to a fine Italian dinner as a small reward for the crazy adventures of the day. This place was exactly what we needed. I ordered seafood risotto and we shared a wonderful bottle of Chardonnay. I got to do my first ever “taste test” to approve our choice!

Overall, the day was entirely successful and we were able to look back on both the struggles and high points as learning experiences. We got to walk through the city just as the sun set and all the lights switched on and it was a moment to remember forever.

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Sunday – Lazy morning/travel day:

This morning, we slept in a bit, had our grocery store breakfast, and got all checked out of our Airbnb before our final trip to the city!

The day was absolutely beautiful and we took the opportunity to eat our brunch outside and soak up the sun. I ordered an omelet with cheese and prosciutto and a cappuccino. As we ate and shared stories about our lives, children and puppies ran around the courtyard laughing and playing. It was the absolute perfect way to end our time in Venice.

 

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We are currently on the train heading towards Florence where we will spend three nights right in centre city! Our Italian adventure has only just begun!

 

Italy Uncategorized

My First Taste of England

Let’s be honest – there isn’t a single thing that could replace queso, fajitas, or kolaches, or my family’s Sunday night dinners…but England is trying its best. In addition to eating my way around Oxford, I am taking advantage of my dorm room kitchen that I share with four other girls by finally learning to cook! Luckily, my roommate Tatjana only makes fun of me a little bit when I ask her basic cooking questions.

While I haven’t found the “food of all foods” here yet, I am still on the hunt. Here’s what has stood out so far!

IMy first meal across the pond obviously had to be fish and chips. The green sauce was questionable, but the fish and chips were divine. As of now, my best effort at ordering a drink requires asking what the waiter recommends, but I’ll get there one day.

The food at our Welcome Dinner, hosted by Trinity College, was unreal. Unfortunately, I failed to get a picture of the delicious duck confit. This room (pictured right) is where students who attend Trinity College eat their daily meals. It sure beats Lakeside at Elon!

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British coffee isn’t quite the same as American coffee, but their cafes sure are cuter. Finding little spots around town to study and have a snack has quickly become my favorite afternoon activity. Oxford is the perfect size: small enough to know well, yet big enough to explore.

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Last night, Elon professor Kevin Boyle took all of us Elon students out to a nice dinner at Portabello! Definitely my best dinner out in Oxford so far with great company.

img_0040Best of all, however, has been nights spent in Logan House and meals cooked with Tatjana. This is the salmon and rice we cooked together tonight! We have been meal planning and making shopping lists together which has been so motivating. Having the opportunity to eat together and share stories about our individual experiences, culture, political systems, family, and friends has been incredibly eye-opening. Through learning about others, you really learn more about yourself. Food has an amazing way of bringing people together and making memories!

This week wrapped up with another St. Clare’s day trip; this time we went to Stonehenge! Stonehenge, thought to be built around 2,000 B.C., is a mystery to this day. No one quite knows its true purpose! Located in the middle of nowhere amidst rolling green open fields (full of cute sheep!), the monument is clearly out of place.

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We braved the cold for some photos!

england taste Trips Uncategorized

Pre-Abroad Feels

My plans –> Oxford, England

For those of you who haven’t heard, in exactly one month and two days I will be headed abroad to Oxford, England! My semester in Oxford at St. Clare’s International runs from January 8th – May 6th with a couple breaks in-between. I will be flying out of DFW on January 7th and returning on May 18th after a visit from my mom! While at St. Clare’s, I will be taking my usual English and Education classes, completing an internship in a local school, and spending my free time immersing myself in English culture and traveling as much as possible.

I cannot believe that my lifelong dream of traveling Europe will actually be set in motion in such a short time! Meanwhile, I have been spending my time procrastinating my finals work by spending my time researching trips.

 

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Travel Plans

As of now, I have a one trip in the works and a couple others on the list. We have two weeks off in the middle of April for Spring Break during which I plan to backpack with a couple friends through Vienna, Prague, Berlin, Hamburg, and Amsterdam over the course of 17 nights.

Several friends and family members have also been kind enough to plan trips with me! My boyfriend, Harrison, will be visiting me during his March Spring Break and my good friends Morgan and Ally are coming the week after! Additionally, extended family in Switzerland have offered to host me for a long weekend – an opportunity I am all too excited to take advantage of. At the end of my semester, my mom and grandparents are visiting and we will be exploring London, Paris, and the surrounding areas.

If you have any connections abroad or will be in Europe from January-May please let me know! I would love to make plans with you.

 

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Visa Applications & Internships

I had absolutely no idea that my Visa application would be such a hassle! This semester has been filled with Study Abroad meetings and numerous hours dedicated to filling out my Visa, going to fingerprint appointments, and getting everything in order. I will be on a Tier 4 Student Visa which allows me to work/intern.

Luckily, Teaching Fellows has hooked us up with awesome teaching internships when I am abroad where I will be working with 15-16 year old second language students at Cherwell Secondary School in Oxford! One day a week we will be spending a full day working in the school. Additionally, I will be enrolled in a comparative education course as part of my studies and am really looking forward to studying a new culture while living there.

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Nerves

Despite being ridiculously pumped to go abroad, I’ll admit that I am a bit nervous too! I don’t think that it has really set in that I will be away from America for a full 4.5 months! Mainly, I am worried that the time difference will create a barrier between those who I have relationships with at home and myself. I know that balancing will be necessary so that I do not spend too much time communicating with those back home to the point of missing out on new things! Furthermore, I really want to make friends with some of the international students which I know will require extra effort since they may not be in my classes. Like any semester, being abroad is full of ups and downs that I must prepare for.

 

Overall, I am extraordinarily excited to embark on this journey! Please feel free to follow this blog to keep up with what I am doing abroad and here at Elon! Again, if you have any advice or insight on what places I must visit, I would love to hear it.

 

Thank you to my family for making this all possible!

Much love,

Courtney

 

 

 

Reflections Study Abroad 2016 Trips