Monday, July 27, 2015


Oxford is one of the most intriguing places I have ever visited. I didn't fall in love with the city like I did Amsterdam, but I am downright fascinated by every part of it.  We went 100% tourist on our visit, which i highly recommend. We took a guided walking tour of the city and learned the ins and outs of everything it had to offer.

We were surprised to find out the university is made of of 38 independent colleges. When students apply for Oxford they apply to one of the 38 colleges and do all of their studies through it. These little colleges are stunning "mini campuses" with their own elegant dining halls, living quarters, and chapels. There are gorgeous gardens, intricate iron gates, and cobble stone streets making up every college and every street. It's really a magical place!

You can't read it but through the gates on the building (their examination center) is written the motto of university - Dominus Illuminatio Mea or "The Lord is my Light." I love that. 

 Numerous scenes from the Harry Potter movies were filmed in Oxford. They also took inspiration from the city to build sets for places like the great hall. So technically we walked the staircases and wondered the halls of Hogwarts!

Look familiar?

We also got to see some brilliant ancient artifacts... A chalkboard written by Einstein displaying equations for diameter, expansion, and age of the universe (yes, I had to wikipedia that because I couldn't remember). He lectured at Oxford and someone was smart enough to save the board and frame it. We were also lucky to be in town when the Magna Carta, published in 1217, was on display. Finally, we saw a copy of the Gutenberg Bible. One of the most valuable books in the world! Amazing stuff.

I couldn't get over how amazing this place was so I decided to apply there for my masters!! 
Jokes... I wouldn't get in, so I just bought a sweatshirt instead. 

Also, 4 days until we leave England.... Where has the time gone???

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Our Italian Holiday

We are blessed to have been on quite a few vacations in the past few years. Most of them included loads of walking and site seeing (JapanTurkey & GreeceAmsterdamLondonParis & Barcelona).  I am not complaining by any means! Those trips have all been incredible, but we decided we wanted to take a more relaxing holiday for our last big trip before we leave Europe.

After a little research (because let's be honest... we are all about winging it) we decided on a region of Italy called the Cinque Terre. I say region because the area consists of five charming little villages along the northwest coast of Italy. It looked so magical from the pictures we just couldn't resist. And let me tell you, this place looks exactly like the pictures. It was unbelievable.

The first day we got there it was around 8pm so we decided to head down to the harbor in our "home base" village of Riomaggiore. It is the southern most village in the Cinque Terre so naturally it has the best sunsets. 

The Cinque Terre is also famous for the hiking trails that connect the five villages. Unfortunately, back in 2011 there were intense rains and mud slides that damaged the trails. There were only a few open to us when we went, but it was still beautiful. The trails slice through hill sides covered in grapes which the locals use to make world famous wine. Although we don't drink it made for beautifully green hiking trails!

The beaches there aren't sandy they are more rocky. We cliff jumped, explored little caverns, and just admired the picturesque waters. We also rented a kayak one day and snorkeled in our own private bay. It was beautiful! I even saw a few jelly fish... which caused be to promptly exit the water. 

Without a doubt my favorite part of traveling is the food. I used to be embarrassed about this little obsession of mine but I have now learned to embrace it! Italy did not disappoint on this front. The pasta was HEAVENLY. The region is specifically famous for the pesto. YUMMY! Also, we ate way too much gelato. And pizza. 

The place had such a chill vibe that we never felt the need to be doing something every second of the day. We spent plenty of time hanging out by the ocean, playing cards, and just lazily exploring the villages. It's so dang hot during the day, we were in the water almost every couple hours!

 On our way home we flew out of the Pisa airport. We heard that it was possible to hit the big sites in Pisa in one day so we took the train over a day early and stayed in Pisa for one night. It was HOT HOT HOT. We couldn't imagine doing other spots in Italy such as Rome or Florence in mid July! We were glad we opted for a coastal vacation. Nonetheless, we did enjoy our day in Pisa!

We visited La Piazza dei Miracoli, aka the "square of miracles" which houses the famous leaning tower, among other monuments. We found the baptistry (the big dome building) especially intriguing. Also, we saw the lamp that inspired Galileo's theory of motion. We are still confused if it was the lamp hanging in the cathedral or the one in the monumental cemetery. We took pictures in front of both just in case... We are also unsure if it was the actual lamp or just a replica. Everything was in Italian. Give us a break. A surprising and slightly disturbing find was the shrine of bones in the monumental cemetery. We finished off (and also maybe began) the day with gelato from the famous La Bottega Del Gelato.