Birthright Israel

Some people might ask, why Israel? Well, being a girl who LOVES to travel I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go on a practically free trip. For those of you who don’t know Israel has a program called Birthright (Taglit) that sends ANYONE with a Jewish background to Israel for basically nothing. They cover flight, 2 meals a day, accommodations, and transportation. You don’t even have to be a “practicing” Jew. Many people on my trip even considered themselves more Catholic than Jewish but had one Jewish parent, making them eligible. Birthright Israel is designed so people 18-26 can discover their Jewish identity and feel connected to the land where they’re ancestors once came from. They accomplish this by designing a jam-packed 10-day itinerary that gives you a taste of Israel’s culture, history, and everyday life. Although all the Birthright trips are designed a little different, I thought I would share a little about what we did for anyone looking to go on Birthright or just travel to Israel in general!

10 Day Itinerary:

Day 1: We started in the northern part of Israel visiting the caesarian aqueduct, a national park, and a winery. The aqueduct is an important part of Jewish history because it’s the port where our Jewish ancestors would have left after being kicked out in Israel. So going back to this location is supposed to represent the completion of Zionism or the return to Israel for the Jewish people, making it the perfect spot to start our trip and our journey through Israel!

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Day 2: Tzfat, also known as the old city is one of the more religious cities in Israel and was one of my favorite parts of the trip. In Tzfat we delved into our Jewish history and talked more about the religious practices that still exist today. This included going to a Mikvah, a bath used to achieve ritual purity, and a local artist who taught us about the study of Kabbalah (Jewish Mysticism). I loved Tzfat for many reasons, one being it is the perfect city to wander through! One turn down any of the many cobblestone streets lead you to discover something new and unexpected. In addition to the rich history and mystic charm, another perk of Tzfat is the ice cream! If you’re an ice cream fanatic or just looking for something sweet Taste of Tzfat has the creamiest Cookies and Cream and a must-try in my opinion! Also, the mint chip seemed to be a fan favorite but it was too minty for my taste! Overall, the main reason Tzfat is one of my favorite parts of the trip was that there were so many hidden alleys to explore and it offered the perfect taste of historic Israel and perspective on Jewish life.

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Day 3: ATVing and Golan Heights! If you’re looking for an exhilarating experience going ATVing on Israel’s rough terrain is sure to give you one! At Golan Heights, we discussed some of the struggles that Israel has been through while overlooking the Syrian border, giving us a real perspective on the past and present struggles of Israel.

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Day 4: The Holy City of Jerusalem! Our first day in Jerusalem (we were there for 2) consisted of touring the old city and praying at the western wall. During our tour of the old city, we explored ancient ruins and learned about the history of Jerusalem. A popular custom at the wall is to write a note with a prayer and stick the note in the cracks. We were very lucky and got to visit the wall both during the day and night which yielded a COMPLETELY different experience. Although it may be adequate for women to wear pants during the day, wearing a long skirt is a MUST at night! If you are in Jerusalem and able to go to the wall during both the day and night I definitely recommend it. During the daytime, everyone was quiet to be respectful of those coming to the wall to pray and then at night, the city comes alive and everyone is jumping around singing and dancing celebrating the start of Shabbat. Also, the view overlooking the city was spectacular at night and offered the most calming ambiance.

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Day 5: Our second day in Jerusalem happened to be a Saturday which is a day of rest in the Jewish religion known as Shabbat. On Shabbat driving and really doing anything that involves work is prohibited. We were very fortunate that Birthright set it up so we could spend the day with a host family to give us an authentic feel for what Shabbat is like in Israel compared to America. This experience was extremely unique and enabled me to feel connected with the Israeli culture and Judaism. To mark the end of Shabbat we lit candles, which is custom in the Jewish religion to do at both the start and end of Shabbat. Once the day of rest was officially over went to Mahane Yehuda for dinner and a fun night out! I can not explain how much I loved this market, simply to say this was my favorite part of the trip is an understatement! This market offered a variety of food vendors and bars to choose from and trust me when I say this market really comes alive at night! It is the perfect place to enjoy the Israeli flavors, colors, and vibrant atmosphere.

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Day 6: Our 6th day in Israel we went to Yad Vashem (the Holocaust museum) and Mount Hertzel (were soldiers who were lost serving in the IDF). This was obviously a more emotionally heavy day but I’m grateful for the experience because it offered perspective on the hardship that Jews and Israeli’s have been going through.

Day 7: Tel Aviv ya Habibi Tel Aviv”!! Israel’s most popular city and metropolitan area, Tel Aviv is known for its nightlife, street art, outdoor markets, and beaches. Having only one full day in Tel Aviv we tried to cram in as much as possible. It being December made it a little easier because it was too cold to go to the beaches so we spent the day touring the cities vibrant street art and shopping in outdoor markets. The first market we went to was Shuk Ha’Carmel or Carmel Market. From what I’ve read Carmel is so popular because of the amazing food and boutique stalls. However, I found it to be more produce centered than anything else. For this reason, I definitely preferred the Mechane Yuda market for eating and getting a taste of Israeli food! Despite Carmel not being what I expected, I still enjoyed the outdoor market vibe and getting the chance to sample some of the delicious produce! Some places offer samples and if you find them I recommend trying the halva, cheese, and of course the candy! The second market we went to in Tel Aviv was Jaffa’s flea market which was strictly souvenirs rather than food. At Jaffa’s, we spent about an hour browsing through all the really cool antiques, jewelry, and vintage clothing before heading back on the road.

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Day 8: We slept in a tent… yes, I said a tent. On our 8th day in Israel, we experienced what it was like to live in a Beduin community by sleeping in the desert of southern Israel. Dinner was a cool experience, as we sat on the floor with pillows while eating an authentic Beduin community meal. If I could compare it to anything it kinda reminded me of what you see in Japanese homes. After dinner, we spent time reflecting under the stars and enjoying an authentic campfire experience singing songs and roasting marshmallows.

Day 9: We woke up early in the morning to ride camels around the desert before we were back on the road up north to climb Masada and swim in the Dead Sea! Which is called the Dead Sea because it’s so salty that nothing can actually live in it.

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Day 10: Home!

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Thank you Birthright Israel #Mayanot58 ♥

Girls Weekend in Boston

Looking for a fun weekend trip on the east coast? Look no further than Boston Massachusetts. This historic city offers good food, local bars, and of course tons of history.

My recommendations:

Food: Tatte Bakery and anything Italian! Boston has tons of cute cafes but Tatte seems to be a local favorite and a must-try in my opinion! The cute bakery offers tons of delicious makers items and is located all throughout the city. Also, the north end basically has an entire Italian food district where you can get authentic Italian cuisine for a delicious dinner!

Picture spot: The more ritzy part of Boston, Beacon Hill is home to the famous Acorn street which is perfect for taking pictures on cute cobblestone paths and against quaint brick rows of houses!

Others:

  • Fenway Park (we didn’t do because it was SUPER COLD)
  • Faneuil Hall Marketplace for food, shopping, bars, and more!
  • Boston Common

Tip: This may seem obvious to most but if you’re going in the winter don’t forget to pack a coat and scarf because Boston can be extremely cold especially along the water! 

Some Southern Exposure: Savannah​ Georgia & Hilton Head SC

In June, I took a short trip down south to Georgia and South Carolina. Since Hilton Head is an island it was much easier to fly into Savannah rather than directly onto the island. So we made use of the day we arrived and spent the day touring Savannah before heading across the bridge to Hilton Head!

To start our day in Savanah we took a stroll along the water and had lunch at a cute little restaurant overlooking the bay. I absolutely loved this street by the water because there were so many cute shops, restaurants, and bars to choose from! After fueling ourselves with lunch we took the trolly around Savannah which was perfect for seeing all the sights while learning about the history of Savannah without the hassle of trying to figure out where everything is.

Before heading to Hilton Head we had to make some quick stops and grab a bag of candy from one of the old fashioned candy shops where some you can watch them make homemade saltwater taffy! I recommend saving the taffy for later because another foodie staple of Savannah is Leopold’s Ice Cream where you can snag one of their many unique flavors of ice cream!

Hilton Head Island was the perfect little getaway spot with the beautiful beaches, quaint shops, and famous towns spread around the island! To be honest we spent most of the time at the beach but also got our exercise in by biking around the plantations on the island. Besides the beaches, another spot to visit during the day is the Harbour Town Lighthouse which is a staple of Hilton head island and a must-visit on your trip! There are so many shops to go into and romantic restaurants overlooking the water. Where if you time it right you can shop while you wait for your seat and then see the sunset while you enjoy a delicious meal!

 

 

 

Miami: Spring Break Edition

Miami offers all the spring break essentials; warm weather, cheap flights, good food, and great nightlife. My friends and I wanted to be right in the center of all the action so we booked a hotel in South Beach, which was really helpful because we didn’t have to Uber as often. One of the places we ate was called the BIG PINK, which was a diner-style restaurant that was perfect because it had SO MANY options! Perfect if your traveling with a big group of friends and want a cheap but trendy meal! Of course, we also had to get a taste of the more casual nightlife so we hit up Wet Willies for some late-night boozy slushies! WARNING! Be prepared to spend an hour deciding which flavor to get because they have so many delicious combos and well over 10 flavors to choose from! Rather than just staying in South Beach and going to the beaches all day we wanted to explore a bit so we decide to take a trip to Wynwood, which is an up and coming trendy neighborhood just over the bridge. In Wynwood, we stopped at some of the cutest places including Ooh Raw! Poke+Juice Bar where we grabbed these AMAZING pineapple acai bowls! Like can we please stop and take a minute to look at how beautiful they are! After breakfast, being the coffee addict I am, I stopped at Panther Coffee to get some of their freshly roasted iced coffee to give me some energy before going to the Wynwood Walls! Which is basically an outdoor art gallery! Perfect to get those insta worthy pics! Overall, if your looking for a fun spring break spot def check out Miami and some of these non-clubbing options!

 

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 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 Portuguese 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.