Best Apps for Traveling Europe

The Apps I used while Studying Abroad:

City Mapper

Unlike Google maps, city mapper shows you multiple routes and times for the type of transportation you’re looking to take. It is also great if you’re looking to take a train because it tells you which platform number to go to.

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Uber

Although Uber is not available throughout all of Europe, I found it was in most locations. In order to avoid the scams of many taxi drivers or the struggle of hauling a cab, Uber was really helpful for getting around.

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What’s App

In need of a way to connect with loved ones or friends from different area codes? What’s App allows you to communicate without WiFi and its ability to create group chats with people from all different countries make it easy to make plans and get around.

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Hopper

I can honestly say I don’t know how I would have made it through studying abroad without this App! Hopper was a lifesaver when trying to find cheap flights and figuring out when was the best time to fly. The App also allows you to be notified when flights go on sale and give you suggestions on places to go based on which flights are currently really cheap! Although I wouldn’t recommend booking the flight directly through the app. Instead, utilize the information and go directly to that airline’s website.

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Hostel World

Helps you find cheap hostels and view all the ratings. Hostels can be great when traveling in small groups when airbnb’s aren’t available, and to really immerse yourself into the city. A lot of hostels offer many amenities such as tours that airbnb’s do not.

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airbnb

I personally prefer air BNBs over hostels because most of the time we were able to get an entire apartment for the same price we would have paid for a hostel. This app allows you to find the perfect airbnb and keep in contact with your host while traveling when you don’t have access to a computer.

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TFL Oyster (London Only)

This app is specifically designed for London’s transit. Similar to New York’s metro card, the Oyster card allows you to touch and pay wherever you are going. The app allows you to top up (reload your card) on the go so you never have to worry about running out of money and is an absolute lifesaver if you are studying in London.

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Disclosure: This post is in no way sponsored and is solely based on my own opinion

Portugal Guide: Lisbon to Lagos

For the last trip of my study abroad experience, my friends and I choose to go to Portugal. During this five day trip, we visited both Lisbon, the stunning capital of Portugal and Lagos, a town in southern Portugal’s Algarve region. Being Lisbon is a pastel-colored city right on the coast and has a vibrant red bridge linking Lisbon to Almada, the city reminds me of a combination between the Almafi Coast and San Fransico, California. Also, right on the Atlantic, Lagos offers breathtaking beaches that are surrounded by colorful sandstone cliffs extending right into the crystal clear water. Here is how we spent our five days traveling from Lisbon to Lagos.

Day 1: Day trip to Sintra

On our first day in Lisbon, we started off by taking a day trip to Sintra to see the brightly painted Pena Palace. Who knew castles came in all different colors!? This trip made for some great photos!

Tip: Purchase the “park ticket,” which is much cheaper and still allows you to go up to the castle and walk around the main area.

Lisbon Night Life:

The Bairro Alto district and Pink Street both feature many little bars perfect for a night out. Some of the locals also recommended going to the LX Factory which is supposedly an underground club. However, since our time in Lisbon was short we didn’t have the opportunity to make it there.

Where to Eat in Lisbon:

If you’re looking to grab a bite to eat, two places I definitely recommend trying are the Time Out Market and Pasteis de Belem. The TimeOut Market features a variety of Portuguese style dishes and is great because you can see what you’re ordering before you get it. Which is especially helpful if your like me and not familiar with any Portugese food. Pasteis de Belem is a traditional Portuguese restaurant featuring the famous Pasteis de Belem (yes, the restaurant and the pastry are the same). It is located right next to the Monastery and hard to miss because of the line of people out the door. Also, while in Belem be sure to visit the Belem Tower.

My Favorite District, Alfama!

While in Lisbon you must check out the Alfama district (The Old Town). It is right on the water and offers some of the best views in all of Lisbon. In my opinion, it looks a lot like the Almafi coast. One of my favorite views was from Castelo de S. Jorge. You have to pay a small fee to get in, but I promise you won’t regret it!

Top Tip:

Take the 28 around Lisbon to explore the area and figure out where you want to go back to. The number 28 Lisbon tram connects Martim Moniz to Campo Ourique and passes through the districts of Graca, Alfama, Baixa, and Estrela. Make sure to start at one of the ends because we made the mistake of starting in the center of Lisbon so we only got to go a few stops, so we ended up just walking the rest.

Lagos:

After spending two days in Lisbon we took the train to Lagos for some warmer weather and beautiful beaches. Lagos is a town in the Algarve district of Southern Portugal and is known for its stunning beaches. I can’t even describe how breathtaking the experience of looking out over the cliffs onto the ocean was. The two that we went to were Praia Da Camilo, and Praia Da Anna. Which I recommend checking out both if you’re visiting Lagos!

Tip: Taking the train is a great way to travel throughout a country on a budget and in my opinion, less of a hassle. With taking a train there is no need to arrive two hours before your flight and no dealing with baggage check.

Paris is always a good idea

Audrey Hepburn once said, “Paris is always a good idea”, and I gotta say she was right. This magical city of lights is one of those cities that is on most people’s bucket list (including mine). The romantic atmosphere, history, and the food are all reasons why people flock to Paris. Since this was my first time in Paris doing all the typical touristy things were a must. My Paris bucket list included visiting The Louvre, The Palace of Versaille, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, and Love Lock Bridge. However, once I got to Paris I was super sad to learn that they decided to take the locks off the bridge so it is now love lockless. Besides sightseeing, if your looking to indulge yourself in the Parisian culture a great way to do so is by trying the food. One thing Paris is well known for is their macaroons. I recommend giving trying them from Ladurée. Their macaroons are a favorite among Parisians and after trying them I can definitely see why! One of my favorite things I did while in Paris was picnicking in front of the Eiffel Tower. We grabbed some cheese and a baguette from a market down the street and set up on the main lawn. Then when I thought Paris couldn’t get any more picturesque we saw the Eiffel Tower at night and Paris really is beautiful after midnight because at 1:00am we saw the lights sparkle in a glistening white light. I also highly recommend taking the time to just wander the streets. Paris is a fantastic city with cute shops around every corner and by wandering you never know what you’ll come across next!

Top Tips:

1)Buy tickets to go up the Eiffel Tower beforehand to save yourself some time (because who wants to spend the entire trip waiting on a line?). I recommend this because the line outside is very deceiving since there’s another line even longer after going through security.

2) Purchase tickets for the restaurant to avoid all the lines. The tickets still allow you to go up to the second floor of the tower which I personally enjoyed more than the view from the summit and I didn’t find spending the extra money to go to the summit to be worth it.

3) Eat a late lunch and go light for dinner because even a low-class dinner is very expensive in Paris in the evening.

4) The Eiffel Tower sparkles only on the hour for 5 minutes after dark until 1am. It normally sparkles in the golden yellow but the last one at 1am is special and is white lights.

5) Eat loads of baguettes and Crossaints (they’re better in Paris)!

Best views: The 3 best views are from the Eiffel Tower, Arch De Triumph, and Notre Dame Cathedral.

Affordable​ Afternoon Tea in London

In my opinion, having a traditional afternoon tea is a must do for first timers in London! However, finding the right one that won’t break your bank can be a challenge. As some high-end afternoon teas can be £60 or more for just one person. But as a college student on a budget, I wasn’t about to spend £60 for just one meal. So I did some research to find the best afternoon tea for the best price and that’s when I found Candella Tea Room. Located in Kensington just a 5min walk from Kensington Gardens Candella has the perfect traditional afternoon tea atmosphere with the old English style furniture and wallpaper. The menu also featured a good amount of options for sandwiches and loose leaf teas to choose from. At first, we couldn’t decide which tea to try but ended up choosing the Vanilla Grenadine Black tea which I 100% recommend giving a try! I typically love vanilla black tea and found adding the grenadine to be a nice touch. Therefore, if your ever in London and looking to have that traditional afternoon tea experience without spending a fortune on it I definitely recommend giving this place a try!

Is Santorini worth the Hype?

Ever since I saw the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants I became obsessed with the idea of traveling to Greece and riding a donkey up the cobblestone stairs along the coastline. Also, I’m slightly addicted to searching new travel destinations on Pinterest and when I saw pictures of the beautiful sunset amidst the blue domes in Santorini it immediately became one of my top travel destinations. My initial thoughts on the island were that it is very deserted, dusty, and nowhere near as picturesque as I had expected. While we were in Santorini we explored the two most popular towns, Fira and Oia, but I found both to be very underwhelming as there wasn’t much to do in either. Both towns have tons of little shops and fancy restaurants but really how much can one person look at the same souvenirs over and over again? And how many times does a person need to eat in a day? On a positive note, the view of the volcano looking out over the water and the and the sunset (weather permitting) is magnificent in both towns. In my opinion, the best view of the island is from the Oia castle. The castle extends off the coast just enough so you get to look back at the entire island at the row of white buildings lining the entire coast. Another positive thing about Santorini is that a lot of the roads are on a cliff so you get to look out over the entire island and the water (if you are not driving of course). During the couple days we were in Santorini we decided to take a boat cruise that was probably the highlight of our trip. The cruise gave us a tour around the island allowing us to see the black, red, and white sand beaches, along with the famous lighthouse. We also got to hop off the boat and swim in a hot spring and simply just relax and soak up the sun. The trip also included lunch and free drinks which were an added bonus. To give my honest opinion (coming from a girl that was super hyped to go to Santorini) is that it isn’t worth the hype that it’s been given. If we didn’t do the boat cruise the only thing that was positive about this island was the view from the coastline and the view from the road. Although I did really enjoy the view I don’t think paying a ton of money (the island isn’t cheap) to go watch a sunset over some pretty white buildings is worth making the trip and if I were to ever go back to Greece I would definitely rather go to Mykonos.

Why Mykonos should be your next getaway

Mykonos was the first out of the three islands we visited while in Greece and it absolutely exceeded my expectations. We choose to stay on the west side of the island in Mykonos town, right by the famous windmills and Little Venice. Which I’m really glad we did because there is the most to do in this part of the island and it’s all within walking distance. The town features a maze of narrow pathways lined with restaurants, shops, and bars perfect for wandering. The one thing this area does lack is a large beach. So to soak up the sun we headed to Paradise beach in the southern part of the island which was a quick 10min drive. The beach was really nice and has cabanas that are free to lay in along with a boardwalk where you can grab a drink or bite to eat. I personally loved this beach because it was super relaxing but when 4 o’clock came around all the bars began to play music loud and the party scene took over. Overall I fell in love with this little island and it’s white cobblestone streets, quaint shops, and restaurant/bars on the water. Mykonos has the textbook island aesthetic with both a relaxing and party atmosphere and I definitely wish we had more time here.

 

 

Visiting Athens Greece

The ancient ruins and rich history are two reasons Athens, Greece should definitely be on everyone’s bucket list. I originally wanted to go to Greece for the gorgeous Greek islands but I’m glad we stopped and toured Athens first. We only spent one full day here, but we still managed to do everything on our bucket list. At the top of our list was to visit the Acropolis. However, we made a few stops before getting there. First on our to-do list was to head to the Monastiraki Market which I loved because it had tons of shops perfect for souvenir shopping and some really nice restaurants to eat at if you happen to work up an appetite from all the shopping. Since we had just had breakfast we decided to wait until later. Our next stop/goal before the Acropolis was to try and find the hidden village of Anafiotika, which unfortunately we were unsuccessful at. So I guess its pretty well hidden. Instead, we stumbled upon this really cute little stairway that had restaurants all along the sides. Which if we had more time it would definitely be a place I would have liked to stop for a drink or bite to eat. The stairway ended up leading us right in front of the entrance to the Acropolis where there was this small rock cliff we climbed allowing us to have a fantastic view of entire city and the Parthenon. Inside the Acropolis, we saw the Parthenon up close, the Theater of Dionysus, and a view of the Arch of Hadrian and Temple of Zeus from a distance. After the Acropolis (which we needed up getting into for free by the way because we were students studying in Europe) we walked to the Plaka village for a late lunch where we ate at Kosmikon. Which was a fantastic restaurant that had authentic Greek dishes. After eating lunch we called it a day and headed back to the apartment to relax for a while before dinner. Which we kept simple and just got gyros from a place down the street. I’m usually not a big fan of gyros but the only ones I’ve ever had are the ones you get at carnivals so I decided to give them another try. Conclusion; they were 100% better! I loved the ancient ruins and all that Athens had to offer but I’m ready for the beach and island hopping. Next stop: Mykonos.

Social Raw

After a busy week spent away in Italy and going to Greece on Monday I spent this weekend running errands, which I had to go to Putney for on Sunday. While in Putney I decided to check out this cafe I always pass on my way to Putney Bridge called Social Brew/Social Raw. Which turned out to be this super cute, hip, raw food cafe that sells vegan baked goods, salads, smoothies, and iced coffee (basically all of my favorite things). I was really excited to see that they had acai bowls on their menu, which are a rare find in London! This was actually the first one I found, so of course, I had to get one! It ended up being so yummy and I was super happy I finally found a place that has acai bowls that happens to only be a 5min bus ride from my university. I can’t wait to go back & try another one of their options (or maybe just get another smoothie bowl). But if you’re ever looking to grab a healthy bite to eat around Putney be sure to check out Social Brew!

Neal’s Yard & Shopping in Covent Garden

Ever since I arrived in London I have been dying to check out Neal’s Yard, which is this small nook of colorful buildings amongst the busy shopping streets in Covent Garden. However, I wanted to wait until it was warm and sunny to go, which happened to be this past Saturday. After getting back from Italy Friday night London greeted us with some super warm and sunny weather. I actually think it was hotter than it was in Italy. Anyways, I wanted to go shopping and grab a few shirts for the warmer weather to wear in Greece and I guess now London too since Saturday was 77°F so I headed to Covent Garden. Whoever told me London doesn’t even get above 70°F until June lied because it’s still April and almost 80°F … Today was actually my first time shopping in Covent Garden because I usually just go to Oxford Street or order online because honestly, I’m not a fan of how busy Oxford Street gets, but I really loved shopping in Covent Garden! Not being on the main street with cars made it a lot more enjoyable and way less overwhelming. It felt more like an outdoor mall whereas oxford street kinda feels like shopping in New York City where you feel like your walking forever to get from one store to the next (unless your lucky and all the stores you want to go to are right next to each other, but that usually not the case in my experience).After shopping for a little bit in Covent Garden I headed to Neal’s Yard to see the colorful nook and omg it was so cute! It was also very packed because I think everyone all had the same idea to go out shopping since London’s shopping is outdoors and it was a such a nice day (which is rare in London) that you couldn’t stay inside. The nook has 2 cute vegan restaurants along with a pizza shop that looks absolutely amazing but after so much pizza in Italy, I needed to cut back on the carbs so I had to save that for another time. But if your looking for a place to sit and relax and take a break from all the shopping this is the perfect place to go!  Therefore, if your ever in London and want a more quaint outdoor shopping scene head to Covent Garden and most certainly don’t forget to stop and check out Neils Garden while you’re at it!

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When In Rome

Ever since I saw The Lizzy McGuire Movie as a little girl I had been dying to go to Rome, ride on a Vespa, and explore the beautiful city. So finally my childhood fantasy came true (well unfortunately not the riding a Vespa part) but the exploring Rome part did! For your first time in Rome, it’s almost required to do all the touristy things so that’s exactly what I did. I explored The Vatican City including the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and St.Peters Basilica, threw a coin in the Trevi Fountain, and sat on the Spanish Steps. I also visited the Pantheon, Roman Forum, Colosseum, Palazzo Venezia, and Piazza Navona. My favorite view was from a rooftop inside the Roman Forum. Oh, and of course I ate TONS of gelato, pasta, and pizza. I don’t think I have ever eaten so many carbs and sugar in my life, but I guess when in Rome you’re bound to forgo your diet at least a little bit. Also, we did tons of walking so I didn’t feel too bad about treating myself just for the couple days we were here. I think my favorite gelato and everyone elses, had to be from II Gelato di San Crispino. The shop had unique flavors and the gelato had a perfect consistency. I also discovered that it featured in the movie Eat Pray Love. For dinner most nights we went to the Trastevere area both because it has tons of restaurants to choose from but also because it offers a great nightlife scene. One of my favorite things about Rome besides its stunning architecture and rich history was the Forno Campo de’ Fiori Market. The market offers food for you to sample along with places to shop for some souvenirs. It is also a place to find some healthy fruit amongst all the pizza and pasta. Even though I may not have had my pop star moment like in the movie I still had an unforgettable time. Ciao Roma.